It certainly feels like spring has come early. What a contrast to last week’s blasts of snow and wind on Wansfell. Today, there is no wind. The sun shines out of a clear blue sky, and it seems as though we have fast-forwarded a month or so, and jumped into spring. I feel over-dressed as we walk through Mary Glen heading towards Tarn Hows.
Our plan is to ‘do’ a circular walk over Black Fell and Holme Fell, claim two more Wainwrights, and bring us into double figures – although still a long way from 214.
No ice skating today
Tarn Hows is frozen over. We wisely avoid the temptation to try some ice-skating. Swimming in a frozen tarn is not my idea of a good start to the day! Climbing up Tom Heights, we shed layers of clothing like onion skins. Hannah is soon down to a t-shirt. It seems surreal: from digging snow caves a week ago on Wansfell, to be sweating, and ramming jackets, hats and gloves into our sacks. The brilliant golden sun glares at us, as we walk through dead, brown bracken.We sweat as we climb – our first experience of heat this year – as the sunshine beat down on our necks.
A hidden gem
I was totally unprepared for what happened next. We crested the first of the summit knolls, and the view stopped me in my tracks.
We sit down amazed, and star at the fantastic whaleback mountains of Coniston Old Man and Wetherlam that fill the sky before us. The lighting is just right: a low sun behind me, over my left shoulder, and stunning clarity. Hannah, glad of a rest, is soon eating sandwiches, as I run over to a knoll on the western side to get pictures of these majestic mountains. The recent winds had blasted away most of the snow on the ridges, yet the flanks are still white.
Tom Heights is indeed a gem. Obviously we do not need to go onto the higher mountains to get amazing views; I can’t wait to reach the summit of Black Fell. I can see it in the distance; if the views are so fantastic from here, they must be even better from there.
Enthusiastically, we head north over Tom Heights, towards the cairn and summit at 269metres – this is turning into a fantastic walk. I feel like a train stopping at stations. Click, click, another picture. I can’t take enough pictures. Each minute tremendous views appear around me. On the summit, we stop, rest, sunbath, and gaze at the views. Today’s walk is going to be slow; not the dash we are used to in avoiding blizzards and wind. What a contrast. We are just loving it. We delay the inevitable descent, but finally have to give in and head towards Black Fell.
A herd of sheep busily eat their breakfast as we walk past them. Hannah opens the gate, and we turn right along the Mountain Road. The path to Black Fell, bears left and heads through Iron Keld Plantation. Another gate, turn right, and we start to climb the fell to the summit. The cairn soon comes into view. There are a few more walkers about now.
I cannot believe that, in all the time I have lived here, I have never been onto this fell before; it is truly one of the gems of the Lake District.
In a 360-degree turn, most of the major mountains are visible. From Coniston Old Man, I gaze over Wetherlam, then Crinkle Crags. Scafell peeps over the shoulder of Bowfell. I look into the head of the Langdale Valley, then wander across the Langdale Pikes, moving past Silver Howe. In the distance, Fairfield looms over Grasmere, and the horseshoe ridge points towards Red Screes. My gaze crosses High Street and into Kentmere. Behind me lies Windermere, glistening in the morning sunlight. It is a photographer’s heaven. We gaze at the mountains and bask in their serenity. Hannah sunbathes, eating her lunch, wearing only a t-shirt. We can’t believe it: the blizzards, fierce winds and snow caves seem a world away.
Thinking about the children
We say a little prayer and think about the children around the world whose only view each day is the inside of rooms and bars. We
are blessed to be able to sit here and look around at the beauty of God’s creation. We thank God. I want to stay here, and so does Hannah, but sadly, we have to move on. In our hearts, we leave the children on the summit, alive and free, gazing upon the mountains.
We had stayed too long; there was much farther to go. Retracing our steps back to the bridleway, we turn right towards Elterwater. At Low Arnside Farm, we turn off the bridleway and follow the footpath to the road, and down to High Colwith. Today is turning into a walk of surprises. The roar of water echoes among the rocks. Colwith Force appears before us. Water from Little Langdale Tarn, thunders over the waterfall, like the wind-blown plumes of white horses. The water splits and crashes over a succession of crags, before running out into Elterwater. Hannah is delighted, not only with the waterfall, but because she has discovered a money tree: a fallen trunk impregnated with hundreds of coins, probably by tourists with hopes and wishes for fame and fortune, a contrast to our prayers on the summit of Black Crag.
The path continues through beautiful woodland. I make a mental note to come back in spring. By now I had realised that, even though the sun is beating down on us, the ice and my nipped fingers confirm that winter is still with us.
After High Park, we head for Stang End. Turn left and pass by Little Fell and The Dubs. The knobbly dark summit of Great How rises menacingly into the blue sky before us.
Hodge close and Holme Fell
Hodge Close quarry is impressive. Now disused, it once provided the characteristic green slate for most of the houses and walls around us. Today, it is mainly the haunt of climbers and explorers. Unfortunately, we haven’t the time to explore, maybe one day? Passing the quarry, we take the path about two hundred yards farther on and head across the fell towards our second Wainwright of the day: Holme Fell.
On our left, reservoirs, which once supplied water for the quarries, sit in the middle of an area of bog. The summit of Holme Fell, at 317m, is just slightly lower than Black Crag, but nowhere near as impressive. I find the ascent tiresome and dull. The descent needs careful navigation. I have to make sure that we follow the path through Uskdale Gap.
We walk over Ivy Crag, just because it is here, then squelch across bog to reach the Uskdale Gap path; this is the safest, and easiest, way to descend. Other routes go through crags and woodland and, apart from being tedious to navigate, are also dangerous.
The final kilometre of path passes along the side of Yew Tree Tarn. Turning left onto the road, we cross Glen Mary Bridge – our starting point – before finally reaching the car and the end of our walk. The views on the walk were tremendous. The walk itself a superb day out. And, apart from the messy bogs around Holme Fell, it was great walking, over paths, bridleways and delightfully small knolls and summits.