Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Buttermere valley walk, The scecret Valley and battle.

Saturday 12th January 2013 was a day for a leisurely walk in The Lakes, a family day with my wife and it was never going to be a high fell walk. At the point of climbing into the car with the sandwiches and dog now stowed, a final decision was made to head for Buttermere and a stroll around the lake. It's a decent 7.2km walk in stunning countryside and although the snow had receded to nothing and the day a little overcast and cold, I was rightly confident of the weather holding out so it should be a good easy fulfilling day. We parked on the Newlands Road above the church and walked down to the lake passing as always, The Bridge Hotel and The Fish Hotel.

The Bridge Hotel, Buttermere.
From here it's a path to the left after The Fish Hotel, tracking toward Buttermere itself, heading to Burtness Wood on the side of High Stile. I took the time here to divert to the lake shore as this gives the classic shot of Fleetwith Pike, view of many a photograph and painting, in the right weather this is an iconic image on a par with Ashness Bridge and Skiddaw.

Fleetwith Pike from the Lakeside path

Fleetwith Pike with Burtness wood on the right, Robinson to the left.
By this time The Beast( or Hollydog to my grandson) is loose and has already been in Buttermere Dubs at the bridge crossing. The joy of any walk is as much to see a thing you love having the time of it's life, but diving into a stream on a cold winters day doesn't float my boat.

'I'm a tad wet and couldn't find the stick''
The walk continues along the base of High Stile and the views across the lake are to the Robinson range and Dalegarth. There is an excellent steep ascent(Hassnesshow Beck) onto Robinson from Dalegarth that misses out Buttermere moss, a place to be avoided in the wettest season on record. Take my word for it, people always seem to go on this route for Robinson as it is the one from the car park, but you get two boots full of peat water.
 Looking back on a walk is every bit as interesting as the view forward and to turn here you get the full view of the Grasmoor range with Whiteless Pike, Grasmoor, Crag Hill and Rannerdale Knotts in view.

Looking back on Grasmoor
This range along with Buttermere valley really does have it's place in the history of England and from what I've managed to read was a sore in the side of the Normans, being the last place in What is called England to be captured by them. Earl(Norse Yarl, meaning Warrior King) Boethar (giving the area the name Boetharmere) had turned the valley into a fortress and following one massacre of the Normans in Newlands valley a later attempt was made from Cockermouth. The road into Buttermere ran over the shoulder between Hause Point and Rannerdale Knotts but this was hidden by Boethar and another 'road made up the Squat Beck valley. To anyone that knows this route it is perfect ambush country and the Normans were drawn in, cut off from behind and annihilated. King Stephen ceded the land to Scotland through his reign. From what I have read even phrases within our language come from this area. Ari Knudson even ventured as far as Alston and Brough (toward Scotch Corner on A1) and was a constant wound in the Normans side, hence the expression 'Fighting like old Harry'. We walk an area not really realising what we walk on or through but we walk through history.

 The path continues on to the end of the lake at the beginning of Scarth Gap Pass where we stopped and had our sandwiches (your 'bait' in Cumbria). You can take in the deep valley head here with Robinson, Dale Head, Fleetwith Pike, Haystacks and the High Stile range virtually closing you in on three sides and understand in a fertile valley, in the days of woods and bows, why this would be a perfect place of defence. We moved on toward Gatesgarth Farm and the Cockermouth mountain rescue cabin, passing over Peggy's Bridge at Warnscale Beck and an opportunity to look right out of the valley from the top of it's pasture.

Warnscale Beck and Buttermere.

Left to right, Fleetwith Pike, Green Crag and Haystacks.

Buttermere with Melbreak beyond.

To move to the road side of the Lake or Mere you now get the view of your previous track below High Stile. Looking to this fell, most take in the full ridge from Red Pike, but there is in my view the best, yet little walked route to the summit of High Stile passing to the right of Burtness Comb.

Left to right, High Crag, Burtness Comb and High Stile. (You can just make the peak of Red Crag to the far right)
I love trees and how they find an existence in difficult terrain. This one always captivates me as it grips the rock clawing deep for hold as much as for nutrients, to continue it's existence. I'll have to go up to it one day as I think it will be a Yew, though that will need closer checking. It makes my day to see something like this, making it go beyond just a lake or mountain walk.

Hassness and Crag Wood, tree clinging on

Same tree but looking back to Haystacks.
We are now three quarters way around the walk and after a a short while we will come across the tunnel section through the crag at Dalegarth. This is believed to have been carved by the employee of George Benson, a mill owner. when he built the original Hassness House. The house has always looked odd on the landscape and views of the original one seem to have been more in keeping with the areas beauty.

Tree root exposed by countless footfall.
If she's anything, she's inquisitive.

The tunnel.

Looking back.
This tunnel ( I assume put there by The Victorians) makes a full leisurely lake walk possible without recourse to scrambling over crag, or a long road section. It marks the near end of the walk but a last opportunity to encourage The Beast to take a bath with a big stick throw.

Buttermere, a wet dog and High Crag.
Journey's end(Buttermere) and Melbreak beyond.
This takes you through the farm and you come out at The Bridge Hotel. A short walk, not up a mountain, but among them. If you're in The Lakes and don't fancy a fell top, try this, you'll enjoy it.


  1. Great story Ray...Enjoyed it. Never knew so much happened around here in the past..

    1. Thanks Jim, many won't which is why I included it. A lot of the area isn't mentioned in The Magna Carta as it wasn't then England.

  2. I wonder if that is why the word "glen" is used in the Ullswater area? Can't remember the reference but I am sure Wainwright mentions it use somewhere (Glencoyne?)
    I love the Buttermere walk. Carried my nephew around it once when he was a baby...

    1. Tanya, this is Border country with many houses & churches being firstly fortifications. A lot of the place names have a scottish lean, Kirkandrews on Eden, being one such. Braithwaite is a 'clearing by the hill' and a brae is a scottish hill. My view is we aren't different, we're just mixed up in different proportions. Penrith was found to have the most norse origins in Britain among it's farming communities on DNA tests by a programme on telly. Glencoyne is the farm below Seldom Seen.