(Cumbria Way. 14th March 2014 – 14 miles)
As much as I like Keswick, I was keen to escape the traffic and return to the solitude of the fells.
On another beautiful spring morning, I was out of my B&B by 8.30 and shortly afterwards I’d crossed the A66 and was climbing above the town.
This was warm, steep work – and a little taxing so early in the day – but at least I wasn’t climbing Skiddaw. Today, unlike Day 2, I had no silly plans to leave the ‘Way to bag an extra mountain.
The views over Keswick and Derwent Water were stunning. And I was reminded of the path’s greatest failing: hurrying through this marvellous landscape too quickly.
I paused frequently to gaze back. (I was stopping for no other reason. It had absolutely nothing at all to do with being out of breath. Nope).
On such a perfect day there were a few people about but this group of lads soon veered off on a path to the summit of Skiddaw
and I was left to myself: just the way I like it.
Before I turned north and became enveloped in a fold of the fells, I had one last look south. I try to remember to pinch myself on days like this; to remind myself to be appreciative. The Lake District is my favourite part of England but its weather, like any mountainous area, is often miserable: a cold, grey and soggy squib. And yet in five days walking from Ulverston to Carlisle, it didn’t rain once. And for that, I was very appreciative.
I remember this section fondly from four years ago (when I walked the CW from Carlisle to Great Langdale). On that occasion, I was heading south, through snow-capped hills and getting my first, exciting glimpse of the Central Fells.
This is how it looked on that day in February 2010.
The next length of track – cutting high across the flank of Lonscale Fell – is one of the loveliest miles on the Cumbria Way and I slowed down to savour it.
The weather forecast was for cloud and rain but as I approached remote Skiddaw House Youth Hostel, I was still walking in a tee-shirt, still wearing shades, still applying sunblock.
From the hostel, the Cumbria Way splits into two, giving you a choice between the eastern and western routes.
In 2010, I followed the longer, lower, western path. This circles away from High Pike – the highest point on the CW – and though it is a couple of miles longer at 16½ miles, it’s useful if cloud is low, rain is blowing into your face or you simply want to avoid a steep climb up the Pike. But today the weather was still fine and as I could clearly see the summit of High Pike, I plumped for the 14 mile, more direct, eastern route to Caldbeck.
I dropped into a wide valley to meet the infant River Caldew – a companion I would rejoin tomorrow and then follow for most of the way to Carlisle.
Despite the open hostel, there was no-one about and I met only one other walker before Caldbeck.
Frogs had been busy here too. I shook my head sadly and wished them good luck.
As I approached the Pike
cloud rushed up the valley behind me. I speeded up hoping to reach the summit before it could be smudged out.
Too late. I wasn’t quick enough and as I approached the foot of the climb, the summit was already lost from view.
It was here that I experienced the worst weather on the ‘Way. Climbing up the rocky sides of Grainsgill Beck, I was hit by a fearsome wind that roared down the rocky gully and tried earnestly to lift me off my feet. For a moment, worried at how much stronger the wind might be on the top, I considered retracing my steps all the way back to the Youth Hostel to pick up the western, longer route. But that now seemed a ridiculously long alternative. I struggled on up the steep, finicky sides of the stream, over wet, mossy boulders and boggy tussocks. I expected heavy rain and, pulling on waterproofs, I stashed away my camera. Sadly, therefore, I have no photos of the ascent. It didn’t rain after all but it was wet – spray blew up off the beck and the thick mist was sopping.
At 2000 feet, I emerged from the gully and collapsed out of the wind behind a lonely, un-pretty hut. The enclosed walls of the stream had served as a funnel, accelerating the wind into strong eddies and gusts. But up here in the open, though the wind was still strong, it wasn’t as powerful as I had feared.
In poor visibility, I left that sad, solitary hut and following a compass bearing almost due north, I set out for the summit. (I now know that the hut is a mountain bothy, Great Lingy Hut and you may wish to consider using it if camping).
The top of the Pike at 2159 feet was, let’s face it, a disappointment. The wind was blowing hard and I struggled to stand upright. The views from here are supposedly glorious and perhaps they are … but not for me.
With nothing to see, I hardly paused before heading back down the far side following a handy arrow from the summit cairn plaque.
I was still walking on a northerly compass bearing and soon dipped below the cloud and got my first glimpse of Caldbeck. It was 2.30.
I regained the main path
and a little later was back amongst habitation and at the joining of the eastern and western alternative routes.
My stop for the night was ‘The Old Rectory’ – my favourite B&B of the sixteen I used in walking from Ulverston to Berwick. Anne and Tim made me very welcome indeed and I sat in their kitchen drinking tea, eating cake, chatting and gently steaming.
I murmured sweet thanks when I saw my room
and continued murmuring into the bathroom.
A few hours later, returning from an excellent pub supper at Caldbeck’s The Oddfellow Arms, (and with Anne and Tim out at an am-dram performance) I was warmly, if not ecstatically, welcomed home by the other householders. There were no other guests.
There is a limited choice of accommodation in Caldbeck (the B&B I stayed at in 2010 has now closed) but even if there were twenty B&B’s in the village, ‘The Old Rectory’ is the only place to stay … and one of my favourites in the country.
10 thoughts on “The Cumbria Way: Day 4 – Keswick to Caldbeck”
Sometimes spam is fascinating. You can’t help wondering why on earth someone produces it!
I think most of it is random generated, Charles and there is so much it is driving me nuts. This morning for example, I had 76 comments in my spam folder – I emptied it last night. WordPress is generally very good at filtering comments … but more and more spam is getting through the filter recently.
Yes, a lot is random. But why on earth is it there at all in such quantity? I’ve been finding more getting through the spam filter,too.
There has to be the quantity I guess so that only a tiny proportion need to succeed in order to make it worthwhile for the spammer. I’ve just found a way (on WordPress) to stop any comments from appearing without authorisation – if the author hasn’t had a comment published before. Handy. D
Super post, Dave, enjoyed on my new tablet, which makes your pics even more splendid than when viewed on the iPhone. (Mind new the extra dimensions of the 6 are eagerly awaited). So much I enjoyed and wanted to pick you up on. Is it fair to blame the path for rushing through the landscape? I reckon you just walk too fast. And that hut! Who or what is it for? Did you try the door? It might have been for you. Loved the interior pics, too.
Hi Charles, I shall try not to betray my jealously at your new tablet. Unfair on the Cumbria Way perhaps but a zig, a zag and another zig would show off so much more (which is why when I’ve walked it before I’ve both times left it in Borrowdale or Langdale in order to spend more days in the central Lakes). The hut ought to have been a tea-room – that would’ve worked. No idea what it was and the door was firmly locked. For a shepherd perhaps? Dave
I have read that “tadpoles more rapidly undergo metamorphosis when at risk of desiccation from pond drying”. I hope this helps…. 🙂
Lovely photos all. I particularly love those of Keswick and Derwentwater from high above. Thank you for sharing! …Jan
Hi Jan, interesting. So harsh conditions breed super frogs. Excellent. I am always surprised at the altitude at which I sometimes see spawn and wonder how they survive the Arctic winter conditions. Glad you liked the photos – it was a smashing day’s walk. Dave
You are a trooper to brave the winds and everything that came with it. and what a nice place to end up with to recover from the day’s events.
Hi Meta, The Old Rectory really was very special and the pub wasn’t half bad either. D