The Inn Way to the Lake District, England – Part 6

Day 7 – Coniston to Ambleside – 15 miles (24km) – 8 hours

Today is to be the longest day and has the highest climb of the hike, while it is 200m short of Snowdon, I have two further climbs today, plus a lot of road walking. But it is the final day of the hike, and I will be pushing it at the end.

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I set out from the hostel climbing a fairly steady road until it merged with a dirt one. This rose steadily into the mountains, past an old copper mine to where the YHA Coniston Coppermines. A remote hostel for those wanting to be out in nature. Beyond it, the next stage of my climb.

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I cut up the hill on a vague trail which didn’t seem to match my OS map and GPS locator. But it eventually caught up, and I climbed steeply up the hill until I came to a prominent trail. It was about here that it decided to try to rain. I stopped and put on my pack cover, but the rain didn’t make it past a light drizzle and eventually stopped.

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I made it to the Levers Water reservoir to find a group of female hikers studying a map. I joined in a discussion on the various crags around the basin. They were doing a circuit of the basin, while I was climbing to the top.

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I pushed on past the reservoir and into boggy ground. The top of the valley was ahead of me, and I presumed it would be the top of my climb, boy was I wrong.

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At the top of the valley, there is a large cairn. But this is not the top, the trail cuts steeply up the rocky face of Swirl How. To add to the fun, the mist had rolled in, and the drizzle continued. Thankful I had worn my long sleeve hiking shirt today, I turned down the sleeves and began the long climb up the mountain.
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Each time I thought I had arrived at the top, the mountain continued higher, until I eventually could see the cairn at the top in the mist. I climbed on, but as it was cold and I couldn’t see much at the top, I didn’t hang around.

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The trail cut around to the north, dipping and climbing past the Great Carrs, Little Carrs, Hell Gill Pike and several crags as it slowly made its way down over the course of three kilometres.

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Once I could see the bottom point of the mountain – where the cars are – I realised that my next climb was right across the road. It was a little chilly, and the wind had a slight bite to it. But I found a sheltered rock and sat to eat my lunch.

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The climb up to Red Tarn was easy, although I am not sure where the name came from. Perhaps the mist and rain hid some redness?

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While the climb up to Red Tarn was easy, the climb down the other side was not so fun. For a start, it was wet and rocky, but it seemed to go on forever. Descending is hard on the knees, and by the time I got to the bottom, I was hurting quite a lot.

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By the time I reached the valley, the mist had moved enough to take a good photo. For the next 3 kilometres, I walked along a flat valley on a stone road. The road continued for some time through the middle of the valley until eventually coming to a farmstead where it met a real road.

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I followed the trail to the left and over a bridge. It led into a paddock along the river where I walked for a kilometre to a pub where I took the opportunity to stop for a cider. The trail then merged with the Cumbria Way and made its way up the hill a little. I paused and looked back down to the Inn in a valley with the mountains behind it.

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I then followed a quiet road behind many of the farms and quarries for several miles through the forest. This area was quiet, and I only passed one couple as I walked.

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Eventually, I made it to a major road and then on through the town of Elterwater and up to another major highway on the other side. I then crossed several fields and walkways until I came around the back of Loughrigg Tarn to a caravan site and beyond.

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Finally, I climbed beneath Ivy Crag, my last climb of the hike and the final Fell. The trail led only 500 metres across until it came down onto farm roads.

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From there, I got a good view down into Ambleside.

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For the next 2 kilometres, I walked down farm roads onto more distinct roads and finally into the town itself. Then it was the last kilometre from Ambleside to the YHA I had left 7 days earlier.

Overall, the 7-day, 90-mile loop that is the Innway of the English Lake District has been by one of the better hikes I have walked in the UK. Finally, I found the right balance of nature and civilisation. There is much beauty in the region, days where I just looked back, and all I could see was nature.

Next time I push further north and into Scotland to find some true wild country in these Isles, but that won’t be until the next hiking season, next year.

Until then,

The Lone Trail Wanderer.

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The Inn Way to the Lake District, England – Part 5

Day 5 – Boot to Broughton-in-Furness – 14 miles (22.5km) – 6.25 Hours

After the hard climbs of yesterday, today is longer but with less climbing. With the sun out, today should be an easy and glorious day.

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From the hostel, a mile out of Boot, the trail quickly crossed to the other side of the river cutting more than a mile off the trail should I have stayed in Boot. From across the river, I could see the rocky ridge I had come down the day before. The little building in the middle is the hostel.

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I crossed farmland for a short distance before the trail cut up onto Harter Fell. There was plenty of sheep, so I spent much time avoiding their droppings as I walked through the paddocks. As I climbed higher, I got a better look along the valley I had stayed in overnight.
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At only 350m above sea level, the climb quickly came to an end, and I got my first look beyond and into Ulpha Fell, a crag dotted area. It was here that the bogginess began again and I spent much time stepping around the flows of water hoping not to sink ankle-deep in the slush. I failed several times, thankfully my boots are mostly waterproof, so I did not suffer the wet feet of earlier days. Ahead I could see the beginning of Dunner Forest, one of the few real wooded areas on this hike.

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Unfortunately, the trail through the forest was also boggy in many places.

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But, it still gave good views across the Dunnerdale-with-Seathwaite range. You have to love these English place names.

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As I came out of the forest, I came out at a farmstead where I found a nice place to sit and have lunch. A family with two young boys came past laden with full camping gear. They stopped for a brief chat, and I discovered the wife had grown up in the town I would be staying at overnight – Broughton-in-Furness. After my early lunch, I followed them along a grassy road, through several sets of gates before I got my first look down on the valley of High Wallowbarrow.

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I passed the family as they ambled, and headed steeply down a curving rocky trail that just seemed to go on forever.

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The curved trail ended at a farm where I turned left and headed into a wood where I crossed a river on stepping-stones before eventually coming to the Newfield Inn, where I stopped for a well-deserved cider.

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After my break at the Inn, I walked on quickly and headed back up into the fells. With a mountain called Caw on my left, I worked my way up to 355m above sea-level.

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As I followed the Park Head Road path I quickly came to the top and a view out over the Irish Sea in the distance.

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From here the trail led me downhill towards the Broughton West Flats, and again a view of the Irish Sea.

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The trail came down to a road for a couple of hundred metres before coming to a farmstead called Hoses. The path then cut back up the hill sharply and steeply, along the fence line. It cut through fields of ferns scratching at my legs as I walked, with the occasional nettle hidden beneath it.

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Eventually, I came down into the flat farmland where I crossed paddocks for several kilometres until I was forced to walk through a thin trail covered in bramble and nettle. As much as I tried, there was no avoiding it. Hours later, and my legs are still tingling from the nettle stings.

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I finally came out onto a major road and was forced to climb a steep hill on a footpath. But on the other side was Broughton-in-Furness, the first place I could get a signal for my phone in days. I located my BnB, my first of this trip, where the owner was away, and I would have the place to myself.

Day 6 – Broughton-in-Furness to Coniston – 13 miles (21km) – 6 hours

When I woke this morning, there was brilliant sunlight coming in through the B&B’s sky-light. When I went downstairs to confirm, I found a perfect blue sky. According to the maps, today is to be a fairly average length day with few climbs, an easy one in the sun.

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As Broughton-in-Furness is just outside the mountainous region of the Lake District, there is plenty of farmland around. For the first two miles or so I crossed paddocks, some that were once public walkways, but have been blocked off. This did not stop me crossing, I just had to be quick.

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I crossed a small Moss called Middlescough which was still not much of a climb, but had a fair amount of ferns covering it, both living and dried out.

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I then pushed up into Thornthwaite Latter Rigg, a small rolling hillock that was an easy climb which barely got the heart pumping. The only annoyance was the number of brambles hidden within the ferns, so climbing up the thin trail caused me to come away with many scratches up both arms. Battle scars of hiking.

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I followed the trail up Woodland Fell. I’m not sure where this name came from as there is no woodlands, trees or similar, just boggy tall grass. This led me to my first proper climb of the day, but only to 150m.

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The path then joined the Greater Cumbria Way Trail and headed north towards the Beacon Tarn, but before I reached it, I found a spot to rest and eat the lunch I had prepared.

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My next stage would be to walk around the Tarn, but when I got to it, it was very boggy, so I took the option to climb Beacon – the hill beside the tarn. At 255m it was not particularly strenuous but the view of the surrounding land and nearby reservoir was well worth the minimal effort.

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And off to the right from the top of Beacon, the five-mile long Coniston Water. When I eventually arrived at the hostel, it was filling with people who would be swimming the length of the lake for a charity event.

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I walked quickly down the hill along the trail and quickly came to the tarn that simply had the name ‘reservoir’. Before I crossed the farmland for about a kilometre to arrive at Torver, a small township which looked to have had mass-produced housing, all in grey.

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From Torver, I began climbing a stony road as I ascended slowly towards the mountain known as the Old Man of Coniston.

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As I followed the trail steadily towards the base of The Old Man, I came to a hidden pool sunken into the rock fed by a waterfall.

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At the base of the mountain, the trail turned to a road and lead towards the town of Coniston.

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Behind The Old Man is a horseshoe valley called the Coniston Fells. This would be a great place to come back and hike around.

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I took the advice of a guy I met at the Buttermere YHA and modified my route to climb around to Miners Bridge which gave me a good view across the valley to Coniston town and lake.

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While it was an easy day, my last day looks to be the hardest and longest yet. I will start the day with the highest climb of the circuit and with the hike coming to an end late tomorrow.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

The Inn Way to the Lake District, England – Part 3

Day 3 – Braithwaite to Buttermere – 11 miles (17.7km) – 5 hours

The good news today is that it didn’t rain. It did think about it a couple of times, but the waterworks never eventuated. I was thankful, as my boots had struggled to fully dry during both of the previous nights, even in the hostel’s dry rooms. And, on another positive note, today will be the shortest and easiest day of this hike.

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My overnight hotel had a late check-out, but I still managed to get away at 10. I walked though the village and found a place to buy a sandwich for lunch. Then, 100m out of the town I found the trail and headed out along it. At a suitable point, not far along the path, I stopped and looked back to Braithwaite.

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The trail was thin with brambles and thorn bushes on either side, but I came away unscratched. After some time the thin path met a road that followed the valley around to the right following Coledale Beck.

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One part of hiking I enjoy is the mystery of what I find along the way and as I followed the road around I was met with Force Crag at the end of the valley. The thought that crossed my mind was, ‘I have to climb that?’

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Things at a distance always look worse than they really are and as I got closer to the valley’s end, I could see the trail leading up the hill beside it. It still looked rather thin and precarious, but again, things appear worse from a distance.

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To follow the trail, I had to cross the river on stepping-stones, before climbing the hill, which I found easier than I had expected. While it had looked thin from a distance, you could have driven a 4×4 vehicle up the rocky trail. At the top, I looked back along the valley.

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And once at the top, the trail continues up the hill beyond, zigzagging to the top of the pass between Sand Hill and Crag Hill.

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A series of people came over the top as I climbed, and one guy told me it was very windy at the top. I took heed and near the top put my jacket on. I wear my coat backwards unless it’s raining heavily. This is to mainly protect against the wind and keep me warm, while not adding to the sweat running down my back. And, should I get too warm, I can pull my arms out without losing the wind protection at the front.

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When I got to the top, it was indeed very windy. I looked down the other side and could see Liza Beck as it made its way along Gasgale Gill. I followed the trail down, fighting against the wind as I went.

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The trail was not an easy walk, at many places was covered in slate, and with parts that had slipped away. While I was not very high above the stream, at many places I was still forced to hang on to whatever I could just to get past.

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Two-thirds of the way down Loweswater and the peak beyond came into view. Finally, I exited the valley and came out on green paddocks. I crossed a major road and followed a trail through a small wood. I came out at a carpark at the other end and followed the road for a short distance to Loweswater village, where there’s an inn.

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The sky decided it might be a good time to rain, so I stopped for a break and a cider. By the time I’d finished, the sun was out again, so I wasted little time heading off again. Across the valley, I could see the Gill I had come from beginning to look menaced by clouds.

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Ahead of me, Crummock Water came into view as I came over a small hill. The trail cut along the base of a ridge line, although the path itself was straightforward to follow and not particularly difficult.

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Towards the end, I passed the Low Long Crag that jutted out into the lake, a mini peninsula with a beach on each side.

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Not long after I arrived at Buttermere village and spent some time wandering around trying to find the YHA. When I got there, I found I could not check in until 5, so I headed back down into the village for a cider.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

The Inn Way to the Lake District, England – Part 1

Day 1 – Ambleside to Rosthwaite – 13 miles (21km) – 8 hours

There is only one word that can describe today, drizzle. This was the forecast for the day, and that’s it turned out. While I’ve had spells of rain on other hikes, such as when I climbed Snowdon, today it rained all day. This constant wetness put some of my gear to the test, but I’m glad I invested in dry bags, as my pack cover did a fairly average job at keeping things in my pack dry.

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I left my accommodation late this morning, my packing taking longer than I had hoped. When I did get away, there was already a slight drizzle. The YHA Ambleside is a kilometre from central Ambleside, and this added extra distance to the day. When I got into town, I found more adventure stores than I could count. I stopped at the local Tesco to pick up some zip lock bags to protect my phone, then I headed north following a major road. After a while, I was led across Rydal Park and with some of the fells just beginning to be covered in clouds.

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At the far end of the park is Rydal, a quaint little village that I swept quickly through. I followed a stony trail, gently gaining altitude as I climbed around a hill called Nab Scar. To my left, I began to see Rydal Water coming more into view, with Heron Island in the centre.

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The trail continued to ascend slowly, passing the occasional cottage. The path then cut north and began to climb towards Alcock Tarn, a small mountain lake. As I got higher, I looked down onto Grasmere Lake.

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Alongside the lake near the village of Town End there was a gathering of some kind, a race day perhaps, based on the voices coming off the PA system.

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In the weather, my GPS tracker seemed on the fritz, so I followed the map as best as I could in the weather. At one point, as I climbed, I could hear the baying of dogs from above. I stopped, and more than a dozen dogs, all of the same breed, came screaming down the hill, leaping the trail as it went. I am not sure where they were going, but they were going there in a hurry. After some time and much climbing, I eventually make it to Alcock Tarn.

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While the climb was fairly steep, the descent was worse as the stones were slippery. This forced me to take my time as I made my way down. After a time I eventually came down into the township of Grassmere. Like Ambleside, it was bloated with tourists, with many cafes and other places tourists like to go. It is, after all, school holidays and a bank holiday weekend.

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As I passed through Grassmere, I came across a paddock filled with black sheep. I had seen the occasional black sheep during my many walks in England, but this one paddock looked like something had gone wrong. A sheep death march or something.

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At the other side of the village, I crossed a footbridge over Basedale Beck and out onto a path made from large cobbles. In the distance, I got my first sight of where another Beck came down out of the hills.

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I cross some paddocks, and then followed a trail along a stonewall under Jackdaw Crag, again the Beck coming down out of the hills was visible in the distance.

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The climb was long and somewhat arduous, but in the ever-present rain, I slogged on, my little umbrella doing wonders. I climbed higher up Far Easedale Gill, the rain coming harder and the hills around me disappearing into the mist. I pushed on unable to see how much further I had to go. When I got to the top, it was a brief flat area before I began climbing Greenup Edge. In the rain, it was not difficult, only long. Eventually, I did get to the top to a long plateau of boggy ground.

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It was here I got a little lost, my GPS was working, but in the mist, I could not find the correct trail. I followed the path ahead of me, but the squelching of my boots that were by now completely filled with water was not fun.

I did eventually find the trail and found that there was a series of cairns set up by previous walkers. As I walked, I heard a shout and looked up to see five people rushing towards me, so I stopped. When they arrived, they were very pleased to see me. It seems, they had been lost for a couple of hours in the mist, and I was the first person they had seen. Thankfully, I was on the correct trail and gave them some advice on how to get to Grassmere.

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At the top of a crag, I looked down the Greenup Gill. As I began my descent into the valley, I noticed someone climbing towards me. When he arrived, I stopped for a chat. It was a South African guy who had lived in New Zealand for several years. I gave him the same ‘follow the cairns’ advice I had given the previous group, and he set off again. The wind had picked up, so I put down my umbrella and for the first time in the day, took out my walking poles. Slippery stones are dangerous, and I did not wish to hurt myself on my first day of seven.

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The Stonethwaite Beck was running fast due to recent rain. I crossed on a footbridge where another river joined it, crossed that second river and followed a stony road around past a cottage.

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After another kilometre, and passing through Stonethwaite, I finally arrived at my accommodation for the night. A long hard walk in the rain, but that’s what you sometimes get, at least it was not as bad as it could have been.

The Lone Trail Wanderer