Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Patterdale, St Sunday Crag, Fairfield and Priest's Hole.

Having written my first blog on walking in lakeland, after two days rest it's time for another. It was commented on with some surprise that I hadn't mentioned a pint after the walk, though I don't like being Billynomates in the corner of the pub, but I do like a pint or two. Solution? Pick a mate up this time! We both live within 35 miles of Patterdale so reached the small car park opposite The White Lion Public House with the intention of doing a St. Sunday Crag walk. The weather forecasts had appeared promising and the journey past Ullswater showed the remnants of a cloud inversion still filtering away; this boded well for the walk and we set off for the Crag.

A photograph of Place Fell from the Glenamara Park path.

My walking partner knew the area but had never himself been on the Fairfield section of the Helvelyn range so I decided to show him all the fell tops en route to Fairfield these being Arnison Crag, Birks, St. Sunday Crag and onto Fairfield for a bait stop. We followed the wall to the left of Glenamara Park, which is a leg stretcher, though Arnison is a summit of only 433m and you start from 149m.

This is the view we got looking back to Ullswater from the wall skirting Glenamara Park. Great Mell is in the distance.

 Still, the quick ascent clears the cobwebs out for the morning walk ahead. It is a relatively simple walk toward Birks, though again this steepens prior to the summit of 622m. There were a few stops along the way as the low morning sun was playing magic on the clouds over Hartsop and it's Dodd. I could not resist the play of the rays beaming onto the morning mist in the valley.


In a very short space of time we were treated to two quiet separate displays of nature on Hartsop Dodd, with the light then the loss of it, on Hartsop above How. These are two quiet separate views though spectacular in their own right.

I have to say here that I am a point & shoot man myself & don't hang around too long for 'The Shot'. There were many other photographs taken but now it's time to crack on for St. Sunday, though I did see my route off the fells and at this point I had finalised my walking plan, to head for Priests Hole after Fairfield and come off Hartsop above How. We began our climb up St. Sunday and as we all know on such a climb you're just looking at the track in front of you, the real view is going on behind. No matter how often you turn round the view changes.

Here the higher sun, more ascent and a slanting move deeper along the path, gives a different image to the Ullswater valley. We walk into nature to live, to enhance our lives and although I want the strenuous exercise that a fast walk gives it is not at the expense of appreciating what is around you. Walkers who don't know the area should move through 360 degrees and in their minds eye work out the different groups and/or individual fells. There is a great deal of confidence to be found in that ability. I had once met a man on the Helvelyn range who pointed at Skiddaw and called it Scafell Pike, even though he knew he was looking north. He was well through the list of Wainwrights yet couldn't distinguish in his minds eye, what should be north of Helvelyn.
 We continued up the steep section of St. Sunday but prior to the summit decided to arc round to Gavel Pike for the view into Deepdale, before heading to the summit of St. Sunday which stands at 841m. This seems a relatively safe fell and in general these broad ridges are safe as there is usually the one path, though on it's faces are a number of gulleys and scrambles, Pinnacle Ridge perhaps being the biggest draw for those more adventurous. There was an avalanche on this about three years ago where two men suffered serious injury ascending by this route. We continued on for the small hump that is Cofa Pike before the final ascent of Fairfield.

It is a dramatic vista of the Helvelyn range to the right and Striding Edge is easily picked out along with Dollywagon and Nethermost Pike on full view. Here you can also see Ruthwaite Lodge resting at the base of it's namesake cove.

The views just keep coming; here is Seat Sandal edging out from the left as the backdrop to Grisedale |Tarn. On the horizon, the hill with 'shoulders' is High Pike with High Crag (left shoulder as viewed) and Red Pike on the right. To the groups left is Pillar so you are getting a view down the Coast to Coast walk of Ennerdale. It goes through Windy Gap, Great Gable is also in view and eventually you will reach Grisedale Tarn, however not on the same day! Wordsworth's Brothers Parting Stone is just down stream of Grisedale Tarn, but perhaps for another blog, we're not passing this today. The weather kept off though you could tell the cloud was beginning to descend when we reached Fairfield's summit. A flask of coffee, a couple of sandwiches, Flapjack and a Bounty gave me enough time to admire the 360 degree view you get on a good day on this high fell of 873m, our highest point of the walk.
 Here is our route off toward Hart Crag. This plain barren landscape is all the more striking for it's sentinel cairns guiding the route. These make such a good contrasting picture in a light dust of snow.

 My walking buddy, his first time on Fairfield. Sheltering in the cairn from the light, but bitingly cold breeze.

The western view from Fairfield; it leaps out as you crest the summit.
If I sound overly romanticising up to now, you should know that I'm becoming aware we may be eating into pub time, so we cracked on for Hart Crag and aimed for Priest's Hole.
You can see the lowering cloud in this shot of Rydal Beck looking toward Windermere.
We branched off after Hart Crag heading toward Houndshope Cove and the erratic stone that is the natural marker for Priest's Hole.

I saw this many many years ago and it had such an influence on me, unexplained yet deliberate in the landscape. Here the backdrop is the High Street range. Looking to the right here, you take a track up to the cave which is two thirds up the cliff face, safely accessed in dry weather, even for those of unsure footing.

This is the view from the cave, looking to Hartsop above How. A more direct route up to this has been highlighted recently in a very good blog by http://heelwalker1.blogspot.com a cumbrian fell lover from the south, worth following.
This is the cave just visible as we journey on, the extra height just brings it into view. Hartsop above How can be a peaty fell path and so it proved in the wetter recent weather conditions preceding our day on it. The journey is coming to a conclusion though and it is all downhill now. The afternoon views quiet altered in the different sun position.
Now if the lake district is anything other than lakes and fells it is sheep country and specifically the home of the Herdwick. These can go anywhere, eat anything and survive in any conditions. They are hefted flock & don't move off their own fell. I love to see them in such contrast against a sky, it just says 'I belong here' and it does.
 The route off this fell is relatively simple though there is a Stile going to the right which would take you to Cow Bridge car park and that is not our route. We headed on straight down the full yet broad ridge, well marked and arrived at A592 at Deepdale Bridge. The quicker route would have been a road walk but this is a fell walk so we crossed over and took the path for Beckstones on the Boredale Hause side. I wasn't disappointed with the route as a view of Hartsop Dodd jumped out and makes my last camera shot of the day.
 This was a simple path and a perfect gentle walk back to the car with only the quiet tarmac road from Side Farm to Patterdale to walk once off the rock. A cracking walk of 19km with 1300m ascent, taking 6hrs 20mins. We went for a couple of pints for fluid replacement but the first was disappointing. A won't say where as it may be a blip, but if I get a bad one there again it will be mentioned. We moved on to Brackenrigg Inn at Watermillock and had our final, pint there and it was a good Black Sheep one. They had about eight pumps going. Now looking forward to this Thursday and the weather is looking ok.


  1. Cracking shots, fab blog and a wonderful walk!

    1. Thanks Beth, I hadn't previously considered it as a route due to the road walk on A592, but the last section toward Boredale Hause makes it.

  2. Great blog Ray - the view from the Priest's Hole was much better than when I was there - the cloud shadows make it really striking.
    Thanks for the blog mention :-)
    Fab photos. Point and shoot rules!

    1. It was good weather for walking & photos, not too much sunshine for haze and plenty of whispy cloud for heavenly shots. See what I mean about that erratic as a shot?

  3. Great blog Ray congratulations

    1. Thanks Paul, I've been watching your photos since you got back & they are very good. We're filling in our time well enough in retirement!

  4. Some fabulous photos there and it must be great to know lakeland as well as you do - when are you starting as a tour guide?! Flapjack AND a Bounty...? Proud :-)

    1. Aww, thanks Karen & only the one reference to Wordsworth. A brilliant day weatherwise. My wife makes brill flapjack - Fellfood. Bountys I just love, I'm off out with another today, to be washed down with a pint or two of couse.

  5. Great stuff Ray, looks like a good days company.

  6. You were bob on Ben and good to test myself against a young boys legs. I hope I passed the test.