It must have been quite a battle – if the legend is true – that a bluebell grows for each Norman invader killed by the soldiers under Earl Boethar. The skirmish, beneath the crags of Rannerdale Knotts, occurred in the 11th century – in case you are wondering – just after the Norman Conquest.
A carpet of bluebells
The scent of millions of bluebells, floating over the almost treeless Rannerdale Wood, fill our nostrils as we walk through the gate into the valley. A gorgeous blue carpet, the indication of a much richer woodland in days gone by, flows over the foothills of mighty Grasmoor towering above the serene beauty of Crummock Water. Vikings once settled here at the confluence of Squat Beck and Rannerdale Beck. The Norse word, ‘ranner’ means, the shieling frequented by ravens.
This is the day we have been waiting for through the months of snow and high winds. A golden sun beams from a clear-blue sky. Faint contrails weave through the sky. On each side of the valley, hills rise up, their crags in shadow, hidden from the early morning sun. Our route today, after much discussion amongst the bluebells, will take us reet up Rannerdale, to coin a phrase from the local Cumbrian dialect.
Reet up Rannerdale
There is no path, reet up Rannerdale, but there is a line that winds its way behind a fallen tree and up through a small gully. We reject the usual ascents, or rather Hannah and Mark do, and after following the wall back towards the lake, we turn sharply uphill and into the shadow of Rannerdale Knott’s north facing crags.
The climb through grass and heather gets steeper, and a glance backwards reveals why. We are climbing at about 45 degrees, a near vertical ascent. It is best not to lean backwards because you begin to topple, and a roll down the hill and the climb back up again would be purgatory.
After negotiating the small gully we stand in sunshine. I agree to Hannah’s request for a snack stop, and why not, what better place to sit and admire the beauty of God’s creation. A canoe glides over Crummock Water’s mirror-like surface, its reflection shimmering in the slight wind that is blowing over the water. A long-distance swimmer splashes beside it, having now reached the half-way point.
In the distance, Low Fell sits at the head of the lake. Behind it the land runs out to the sea. We walked over Fellbarrow and Low Fell last week in driving rain and wind, with no views of the place we sit now – what a contrast.
There are scrambles ahead, much to Hannah’s delight. The pitched path from Hause Point winds below us. A couple with their children lean into the hill, sweating under the steepness of the climb. We move left and onto a rocky outcrop. It is exposed, but safe, unless you slip!
Quite a squeeze
Hannah and Mark squeeze behind a flake of rock, reminiscent of the ‘The Squeeze’ on Side Pike in Langdale. I ask Hannah to name this, she says, ‘Hannah’s Squeeze’ but it isn’t, she passes through it easily. Mark however, gets jammed and has to use a knee to extricate himself, with a little push from Hannah. Then it’s my turn on our pioneering route up Rannerdale Knott, proudly I manage to keep my knees off the rock. I wonder if anyone else, apart from a shepherd rescuing his crag-fast sheep, has ever passed this way. I doubt it. Why would they?
A short scramble over some more little crags and we emerge on a small outcrop. An arete leads into crags; obviously we climb it. Hannah is away first, full of the spirit of adventure, sniffing out new routes. The view is impressive, as the bulk of Melbreak rises behind her.
Another scramble, another outcrop, and we are on the top, in time for our lunch. It is exciting to have loads of time on such a beautiful day as this. We had climbed Latrigg during the morning so that it wouldn’t be just one Wainwright today. I wouldn’t have been happy with a round trip of a 100 miles or so just for one hill, better two, it makes the journey more justifiable.
Lazy days on Rannerdale Knott
Mark is fast asleep, and Hannah pads out her rucksack, puts her fleece on the ground and curls up in the sunshine. Such a lazy day. The distant days of blizzards and snow now just a memory. It seems surreal to be lying here, roasting in the sun. Fell days like this are to be treasured.
With each trip I am growing to love these Western fells more and more. Their grandeur is so breath-taking. The steep sided valleys, the rising height of the mountains, the sense of exposure and their vastness, are in complete contrast to the gentler fells of the Central and Southern lakes. They remind me so much of my big days among the Scottish hills years ago.
I awaken Mark and reluctantly we set out for the summit. We have climbed Rannerdale Knott without setting foot on a path. Along Low Bank, our constant guardians, Grasmoor and Whiteless Pike, watch over us, biding their time. Ahead of us four paragliders ride the thermals above Robinson. Their canopies saturated in translucent colours against the sunlight.
In the valley we walk among heaven-scent fields of bluebells. Above us, a group of walkers line the ridge to Whiteless Pike, silhouetted against the sky. We make way for walkers climbing out of the valley. I feel like I am driving along a one-way street, the wrong way!
Tourists enjoy the scenery. People sit on each side of the path. A small child runs over the hillside, waving a wooden sword, and jumping rocks. Families on a day out, picnic by Squat Back.
Shadows drift over us, not clouds, but the paragliders coming in to land. As we leave this serene setting and head for the tearoom in Buttermere, a crowd gathers to watch them. I had promised Hannah homemade ice cream. We all had one, of course!