Clear weather and the chance of a rare midweek Lake District trip;- it doesn’t get much better than this. A 12 mile circuit over 7 Wainwrights with 3,800 ft of ascent starting from the car park at Hartsop village. After an initial sharp pull up to Hartsop Dodd, it’s mainly gradual gradients with cracking views. The highlight was sitting by Thornthwaite Beacon with not a sole in sight.
- Distance = 12 miles (19.3 km)
- Duration = 6 hrs 45 mins
- Total Ascent = 3,800 ft (1,160m)
- Start/Finish = Hartsop Village car park off A592
- Wainwrights = Hartsop Dodd 2,028′, Stony Cove Pike 2,503′, Gray Crag 2,293′, Thornthwaite Crag 2,572′, High St 2,717′, Rampsgill Head 2,598′ & The Knott 2,425′
- Date = 4th September 2013, start 11.20 am, finish 6.10 pm
- Click on Route Map below to zoom in/out
We were determined to take advantage of only the second midweek Lakes trip of the year. Route options were still being discussed whilst driving down the M6 and were decided at the last minute whilst passing Rhegged on the A69. I’d done my back in again with the long handled pruners (must stop using them), so we needed something with easier gradients. Alan had done most of this route before and reckoned once you were up it was no bother. He was right too; though not right about there being a pub in Hartsop village.
Parking at the popular Brothers Water car park would be an option however we drove carefully through Hartsop village to a parking area past a narrow entrance at the end. Only a few cars were in on a Wednesday, I suspect there’d be many more at weekend.
We left a donation in the box before walking through the gate and turning south along a footbridge over the stream. The route simply follows the wall straight up, as seen in the photo above my head. This has the advantage of gaining height quickly & the disadvantage of being straight up, straight away.
As usual the top is always a bit further than expected with a false summit on the edge of the ascent just to lull you in. Once at the top I collapsed sideways with back weariness and needed a ten min lie down in the grass. Not a great start but at least the worst of the ascent was already over on this walk. Very breezy up here and we had to get the windproofs out for the next section. From Hartsop it’s a steady incline across the skyline following another wall up to Stony Cove Pike which is just out of site.
Alans last visit up here was way back in the 1980’s with the Peterlee Fellwalking Club. He couldn’t remember much waht with him being so old, but reckoned they had come up via John Bells Banner, so Hartsop Dodd was a new top for both of us. My mind was now wondering about this John Bells Banner which I’d never heard of, it was clearly marked on the map and it felt like I was missing something. I also fancied views down to the Kirkstone Pass, so as we reached Stony Cove Pike we decided to divert west to Caudale Head, after all you never know if or when you will be back up a hill.
The initial large cairn was ok but the best view was from a smaller cairn a little further out.
I’d seen a Monument marked on the map so we nipped a short distance south, maybe this could be a clue to John Bells Banner? The monument soon came into view on a slope looking down over the Kirkstone Pass & Inn. The names on the cairn weren’t John Bell.
There are 2 inscribed plaques; “Hic jacet Mark Atkinson of Kirkstone Pass Inn, died 14 June 1930 aged 69 years” and “Also his son William Ion Atkinson, died 2nd April 1987 aged 83 years”. Turns out the Atkinson family ran the Kirkstone Pass Inn and as well as looking down over the Inn the memorial can be clearly seen from the pub (on a good day).
We gave up on the John Bells bloomin Banner thing and nipped back to Stony Cove Pike to continue the main route east. Still it had actually been a worthwhile diversion.
Now the route suddenly dips/plunges down to Threshthwaite Mouth which must be difficult to say when drunk. There’s even a couple of ‘hands on’ rocky moments on the way down, though nothing difficult or exposed.
After starting back up the other side we diverted off north to head diagonally to the skyline stretching out to Grey Crag. It’s an awkwardly placed Wainwright although some walkers were descending back to Hartsop village this way. We had to walk right out then double back. On a day like this though, it’s very pleasant and you can see why it’s a Wainwright.
After a short pull up we arrived at a deserted, I repeat, a deserted Thornthwaite Crag. Not only was it deserted but there was no one to be seen, which actually is the same as deserted. What I mean is you couldn’t even see any walkers anywhere in the distance anywhere, pretty amazing for this popular crossing point. We sat against the wall sheltering from the strong breeze (as you do) then took lots of piccies.
Eventually some walkers came into view on High Street our next destination. So we left Thornthwaite (still deserted) and followed the gently rising path to the remains of the Roman Road, more easy walking on good ground.
Quote from Wikipedia; “the quite gentle slopes with a flat summit plateau persuaded Roman surveyors to build their road over the fell tops rather than through the valleys which, at the time, were densely forested and marshy thus making them susceptible to ambushes. The fell’s flat summit was also used as a venue for summer fairs by the local population in the 18th and 19th centuries. People from the surrounding valleys would gather every year on 12 July to return stray sheep to their owners; games and wrestling would also take place as well as horse racing“. Hence the name Racecourse Hill, so something to ponder next time you’re up here in cloud, gales & horizontal hail 🙂 Luckily the weather for us was the best of the day, not too hot, nice breeze, great views.
From the trig pillar we soon regained the Roman road for the gentle descent northwards.
Now it was time to resolve one of those little ‘did we do that top or what’ issues; the curious case of Rampsgill Head. Both of us had ticked it off previously, but I suspected we hadn’t got this one right. My two times were on long walks including a snowy Haweswater skyline where we were too pushed for both time and energy to mess around querying tops. This time would be different and after diverting off the main path to Kidsty Pike and checking the GPS we managed to correctly locate the real Rampsgill Head, which sensibly overlooks the Head of the Rampsgill Beck. It all fits into place now 🙂 There’s a main cairn and a smaller cairn with far better views than we’d imagined.
Ok now time to turn back to the car at last, following a grassy path to rejoin the path from High Street, up and over the Knott, last Wainwright of the day.
We followed the path above for a short distance as it turned north west then veered off west, keeping high before taking a better line for a direct descent on smooth grassy slopes down to the Hayswater Dam. Never been down there before, deserted and slightly eerie.
Interesting to read afterwards that this dam sight will soon disappear! It’s due to be removed in 2014, hopefully gradually otherwise Hartsop would be washed away:-). It will reduce by 6ft depth & 3/4 of its size back to the original Tarn, giving walkers a view not seen since 1908 (when I was a kid). There’s a pretty dam interesting article on this here.
From the dam we crossed over a small bridge up to a land rover track which snakes back down to Hartsop village making for swift and easy progress, just what my knees prefer at the end of the day.
Back at the car at 6.10 pm in warm sunshine after a 6hrs 45mins including a few rests along the way. On a day like this any route would have been a good choice however we were well pleased with this one, a high level walk in a normally busy area. Met Office forecast was spot on with some near 30mph winds on top keeping the heat & flies away.
Oh and to resolve John Bell’s Banner, apparently Rev John Bell was an Ambleside 16th century curate & schoolteacher whose parish boundary (banner) extended to Caudale Head. Thank goodness for the wonders of the tinternet 🙂
And turns out there IS a pub in Hartsop, but it’s just south of the village on the A592, the Brotherswater Inn at Sykeside Camping Park. Thanks to Ray Greenhow who recommends it for a decent pint. Also mentioned in the ever reliable 2014 Good Pub Guide.
Yet another great day in the hills, when I win the lottery I’ll walk the hills only on weekdays. Thanks for reading:-)