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The Ullswater Way - a Jekyll and Hyde route.

The Ullswater Way - a Jekyll and Hyde route.

Postby trailmasher » Sat Jul 20, 2019 3:45 pm

Date walked: 27/06/2019

Time taken: 8.56

Distance: 34.62 km

Ascent: 962m

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This is a report of our walk along the Ullswater Way, a walk that Elizabeth had been contemplating doing for the last 2 years and not really having the focus or determination to get on with it as she was concerned that she wouldn't have the stamina or will power to complete this circuit of the lake. The year of 2019 was the year that she bit the bullet and named one of two days that the walk was to be made, or not. The month of June on either Wednesday 26th or Thursday 27th, days that she allocated 2 months ago when the weather was far from good and unpredictable but as it happened the runes landed the right way up as both days were gloriously sunny and hot. So Thursday it was to be.

Some would say that this is a long distance walk, it is not, it is merely a long walk along undulating paths, tracks, metalled lanes and a short stretch of road walking, described in the paperwork as a stunning 32 kilometre - 20 mile - walking route around Ullswater, and it is stunning, there's no doubt about that. However, what they fail to mention is that there is quite a lot of height gain, 962 metre in fact - 3,156 feet - that for regular walkers may not be an issue, but for people who are 'just out for the day' engaging on this walk in its entirety it may be too much for the system and a thought must be given as to where the next ferry landing is. They have also been economical with the truth as to how long this walk actually is, it is in reality 35.5 kilometres - 22 miles - and we ourselves lost a half mile due to not walking to the summit of Gowbarrow Fell but instead electing to take the lower path down to Aira Force.

The route around Ullswater has two different routes, or ways of going. On the southwest side there is a climb up to Swinburn Park and upon exiting the woodland you can either take the higher route over Gowbarrow Fell summit or take the lower path that will take you directly to the Aira Force car park and café. On the northeast side a choice can again be made as to whether the higher or lower route is right for you. From Howtown the walk can be continued either along the shore of Ullswater or the rising path that passes beneath Bonscale Pike and Arthur's Pike. The route along the southwest side - 'Jekyll' - is more civilised than its opposite partner as it passes through fields and woodland on good paths whilst the northeast - 'Hyde' - path is of a more rugged nature with a lot of energy sapping ups and downs.

The last three paragraphs have just been a short indication of what the route conditions are like and are not to be found in the official Tourist Information guides that are available. On the guide there is also a list of places that serve food and drink but this is now out of date as some of these named places are no longer operating so an update on the flyers may be a good thing so that anyone undertaking this walk would not be caught out with s shortage of food or drink, especially on a hot day as it was when we walked this route. As I walk around this area fairly frequently I was aware of the closures so we compensated by taking more food and drink with us.

Now that I've got that out of the way I'll begin the report that will not be at all exciting but a somewhat photographic view of what can be seen on this walk. The nature of this walk is such that as one walks the views across Ullswater change very slowly on either side and even when turning to the south the same fells and mountains are prominent and the views don't change much so taking wonderful photos of the high fells are somewhat limited. All that I can do here is show the differing varieties of landscape walked through on what is undeniably a beautiful walk around a beautiful lake.

We elected to begin the walk at the small cluster of houses that are at Roehead - NY47844 23643 - that sits below the western corner of Heughscar Hill purely because we didn't want the climb back up and along the metalled track after leaving Pooley Bridge behind at the end of the walk, preferring a downhill walk to end the day.

There is a long strip of parking space at the end of the track to Roehead, enough for quite a few cars sensibly parked although most people that do park up there are short term only as it's a favourite doggy walking start onto Askham Fell.
As the car park is at an elevated 215 metres there are good views to be had along Ullswater and the surrounding fells and the walk begins by walking along the narrow metalled lane that we had just driven up…

ImageStart of the walk from Roehead

with a multitude of fells making up the skyline.

ImageA view to the Eastern Fells

The weather was glorious, clear blue skies and already very warm at this earlyish - sorry, made up word - time of 8:45am as we walked down the wooded lane birds chirping and singing everywhere. Ten minutes of walking along tarmac soon had us in the village of Pooley Bridge…

ImagePooley Bridge

set in its picturesque setting at the outflow end of Ullswater that forms the start of the River Eamont that eventually after a long and winding course through the countryside bonds with the River Eden.

During the devastating floods the centuries old bridge was destroyed by the force of nature and a temporary Bailey Bridge was erected in the short term. Well, after a few years of waiting for an acceptable design to be decided upon the new bridge works has finally started with the car park at the end of the temporary bridge being sidelined for the use of the civil engineering contractors.

Pooley Bridge is overlooked by the tree covered Dunmallard Hill that has signs of an old settlement upon its summit. There is a bit of a long standing argument as to whether there was a Roman Fort on its summit and one good thing in favour of that deduction is that the Roman Road from High Street makes its way close to Pooley Bridge as it heads north for Penrith and Carlisle. It would certainly have been in the perfect position to keep an eye on the surrounding countryside and the movements of troops along their roads.

We crossed over the temporary bridge and entered the dappled sunlight of woodland below Dunmallard Hill to walk along a pleasantly shaded path through the trees.

ImageWoodland path below Dunmallard Hill

A few minutes later we left the trees behind for now and there were now open views across Ullswater from one of the few places that are actually very near the water's edge.

ImageA view southwest across Ullswater

With this weather, views of the mountains and the waters of the lake being a deep blue why would we want to be anywhere else today but in the Lake District? As we walked the lake changed colour, always blue but in a variety of different shades depending on how the light hit it. Sometimes it was a light blue in colour whilst at others it would be a deep cobalt blue with every shade in between.

Arthur's Pike, Bonscale Pike, Gowbarrow, the fells of Hartsop and the Helvellyn Range just to name a few are all to be seen spread out before us. This is just one of the reasons why we do this, it is just delectable to look at. The traffic on the road just below us at this point was nothing but a slight distraction from what we could see and enjoy, but we wouldn't have to tolerate it for too long as when we reach the A592 in a few more metres we shall leave the shoreline behind and start the climb into the pasturelands that dress this side of the walk.

ImageUllswater view to some Eastern Fells

Crossing over the road we entered the startling green fields that are scattered with trees and whilst some were feeding herds of cattle some were just waiting to be cut for next winter's fodder.

ImageAcross the fields to Waterfoot

We crossed the field and made our way to the Waterfoot Hotel Farm where there is a caravan site in beautiful surroundings.

ImageThe Waterfoot Hotel

There's one of those large boards bearing a picture of a red squirrel alongside a hole for sticking your head in to have your smiling photo taken, just like one of those at the seaside.

We continued on across more meadows as we made our way towards the site of the Brigantian earthworks of Maiden Castle where the circular ditch, earthen ramparts and a number of small depressions can be seen under an area of grass that now covers the spot and which sat on the top of a small flat topped hillock that would have afforded no defence whatsoever. It causes some confusion as to its purpose then as it was almost certainly a defended settlement probably of small family group of the 1st millenium BC. As we have been there before we didn't make the short walk up the hill but instead continued around the base of it as we passed it by on our way to the farm of Wreay passing through more fields before walking through the trees at the top end of Rumney's Plantation and just below the head of Ramps Beck.


The farm looks like it is having a long term makeover as a lot of the 'new' work looks quite old and unfinished but they do have tremendous views across to the far side of the lake.

Next on is Bennethead, a small neat hamlet with lovely houses spread out alongside the metalled lanes. As we approached the first of the buildings we came across the 'Shop'…

ImageSelf service shop just before reaching Bennethead

a small wooden hut with various small snacks, drinks and a honesty box for the weary traveller to stock up on something to keep them going as this is the last chance before reaching the café and toilets at the Aira Force car park.

ImageArthur's Pike and Bonscale Pike from Bennethead

And a little further on.

ImageAcross the fields towards High Street

We are passing through some glorious countryside and we could see well in front of ourselves with the purple foxglove covered sides of Swinburn's Park and Priest's Crag now in view which means we are closing in on Gowbarrow Fell.

ImageFrom Bennethead to Priest's Crag

After walking through hay meadows for about 10 minutes we were passing an old stone built barn with Priest's Crag right before us.

ImagePriest's Crag from near Crag House

Another few minutes saw us nearer to Swinburn's Park where it has been denuded of trees on its east side and allowed a multitude of foxgloves to carpet the ground in a deep purple.

ImageApproaching the Rectory of Watermillock Church

Elizabeth's walking well despite the heat of the day and we were making good time along the good paths, tracks and lanes. There has been a lot of work into providing this walk around this side of Ullswater with many new gates and paths constructed and needing the consent of many land owners where new path have had to be laid. There has of course been similar works done on the opposite side but nowhere near as much as this north westerly one as most of the paths were already there for the use of and these are only on a few parts of the lower level section of the walk that can be accessed from Howtown and then walked all the way back to Pooley Bridge.

Looking back over to Watermillock that is hidden in the trees just above the shore of Ullswater, Watermillock Church can be seen much higher up the hillside and one would wonder why it wasn't built in the village as it and the Rectory are a long way from it.

ImageA view towards Watermillock from above Hagg Wood

The foxglove lined path soon led us to the small humps of Gate Crags…

ImageGate Crags

and we were soon to enter Swinburn's Park, an area of pine trees that has had all the trees on the left of the path cut down therefore opening up the views across Ullswater with a plethora of Eastern Fells just across the way. It's a beautiful sight with the green pastures of Sandwick tucked in below Hallin Fell and Sleet Fell the outlier of Place Fell. Beda Fell and the ridge that carried the old Roman Road are sat just a little further back with the only distraction from this lovely scene being the left over's from the de-forestation programme with the usual left over stumps and branches littering the foreground and the tubes of the newly planted trees stuck up in no particular order. The forest of trees has now been taken over by a forest of deep purple foxgloves, welcome patches of colour amongst the dry grey littering of dead wood.

ImageFar Eastern Fells

The green flanks of Gowbarrow Fell are now coming into view…

ImageApproaching Gowbarrow Fell

and we would soon be entering into the shade of the remaining trees for a short while but before we do we take one last look at the carpet of foxgloves.

ImageFoxgloves in Swinburn's Park

As we exited the trees we were aware of the fire beating equipment propped up by the side of the gate and we then made our way across a small area of grass to arrive at the regular Gowbarrow path very near to the remains of the old shooting lodge.

From the old lodge we began the descent down to the Memorial Seat that sits on the top of Yew Crag enjoying the wide open views as we made our way steadily down.

ImageA view northeast from near the Memorial Seat above Yew Crag

ImageSouth along Ullswater

ImageSouth towards Glenridding and Patterdale

The path is good and steadily descends in an undulating fashion as it winds its way around the fellside.

ImageA good path skirts the higher slopes of Glenridding Fell

ImageLyulph's Tower from Hind Crag

It's very hot and we were nearing the trees at the Aira Force car park from which we would get some welcome shade. We have seen only a couple of other walkers since we set off this morning but now we were amongst the throngs of people that make a beeline for this beauty spot on almost any day of the year. First stop was at one of the picnic benches that are beneath the trees just before entering the car park where we had a welcome cold drink and some well received food. Despite her earlier concerns Elizabeth is walking well and as it's her own personal mission I am letting her take the lead and it seems to be inspiring her and urging herself on at a good steady pace.

After our short break it was time for the 'comfort' break in the nearby toilets from where we then made our way to the café for another short rest and a mug of tea before setting off to cross the A5091 road to pick up where we left off to now walk nearer the shoreline than at any time on our walk apart from when we passed through Pooley Bridge. We are now on one of the 'new' paths that would take us through changing and varying landscapes from open meadows to woodlands and a short stretch of road walking.

Now in our sights across the water are Birks Fell on the lower slopes of Place Fell and Silver Crag sat behind Silver Bay from where Outward Bound pupils launch their canoes and a place that we shall be passing through later on today.

ImageBirk Fell and Silver Crag

ImageA long view towards Arnison Crag - Birks and St Sunday Crag

ImageWalking through shoreline woodland

ImageA gap in the trees in Martin Howe Wood

ImageA veritable maze of tree roots

We left the shoreline path by the steps leading out of Martin Howe Wood that put us onto the main road for a short while as we began the approach to Glenridding. We passed a recently built modern house that doesn't seem to fit into this environment at all, but if you've got the money then I suppose it opens all sorts of doors in County Council Planning Offices…

ImageGlenridding 2019

and just next door to that oversized conservatory we were back to basics.

ImageOld style Glenridding

As expected Glenridding was busy with car parks full and visitors scurrying about from shop to shop, walkers returning from the fells whilst passing cars took care not to hit any of the people strolling across the road. Leaving this hive of activity behind we were once again glad to be in the relevant peace and quiet of the outskirts of the village and before too long we were passing the St Patricks Boat Landing and café.

ImageSt Patricks Boat Landing - Ullswater

Another short stretch of shoreline walking ensued before we met the road again for a short time passing the Patterdale Mountain Rescue Centre to finally reach the George Starkey Hut or Chalet as it is also known. This then is the start of the 'Hyde' side of the walk as we were now to walk along the lane to Side Farm from where the paths, in contrast to what we have already walked, are now of the typical Lake District format, rough, stony with lots of ups and downs and well above the shore of Ullswater.

We were by now about halfway along our route - 17 kilometres (11 miles) the easy half - and before we embark upon this next 17 kilometres of strenuous leg work with the many rises and falls along the way starting with a 100 metre climb from Side Farm to Silver Crag there was but only one thing to do and that was to call at the small café at the farm and savour a final mug of tea before setting off once more on our way. I wanted E to have a decent break before taking on this side of the walk. We had plenty of food and drink left in our bags that would see us to the end of the journey.

Break over we set off once again after visiting the old stone built building that's set in the corner of the field just opposite where one leaves the farm yard and which houses the well maintained unisex 'rest room' and is a place that is easily missed through its lack of signage.

Just a short distance after leaving the farm we took the rather short but steep path that put us on the higher level walk from where there are, and can be expected, more wonderful and open views of the surrounding mountains. A few metres along this path there is an old metal bench seat that we used to eat some of our supplies not wanting to upset the lady in the café by hauling out our own food whilst having a drink there.

As we walked along this decent path we enjoyed the scenery…

ImageA view south towards the Hartsop Fells with Side Farm below

ImageMaking hay while the sun shines

ImageGlenridding below Sheffield Pike and Glenridding Dodd

This stretch of path is a fair length but before too long we were getting a decent view of the back of Silver Crag…

ImageSilver Crag ahead

and E commented that she hadn't realised how much this path climbed from the farm to the crag. She has been on it before but I think that tiring legs have begun to realise that as she keeps up her steady pace.

A quick look back and a swift photo showed me this view…

ImageLooking back to Arnison Crag and Hart Crag from Silver Crag

and the other way as we passed between Silver Crag and Birk Fell on the northern corner of Place Fell…

ImageGreat Mell Fell on the centre skyline

then a few steps further on the deep blue of Ullswater was once more in full view.

ImageLooking down on Silver Bay

It's been very hot today and although it's now 3:45pm it doesn't seem to have cooled down any and I would be glad to get under the trees once again for a short while as we walk along the undulating section through the woods below Birkfell Earth. After many miles of walking in this heat E is now feeling the strain of all the ups and downs of this part of the walk so we stop now and again to fuel up and let her rest the legs for a few minutes.

The next photo was taken from just below Low Birk Fell…

ImageA scene of shimmering silver on Ullswater

before we descended to Sandwick and then the walk through Hallinhag Wood with the next one taken from the north end of Hallin Fell.

ImageUllswater from Geordie's Crag

We passed by Howtown Pier that by now was closed for business before starting the long and steady climb of around 200 metres - 650 feet - that would normally be taken in ones stride but after having now walked around 32 kilometres - 20 miles - E is tiring and despite drinking plenty of water has been suffering from cramp in her right thigh for the last couple of miles but I have to keep her moving to try and walk it out and so that she won't seize up completely.

We walked by Swarthbeck Gill where a couple of lads were practicing their rock climbing skills on a large boulder further up the fellside then beneath Arthur's Pike before stopping for a quick break below Long Crag…

ImageSouthwest along Ullswater

and just a few metres further on a large stone block has been set commemorating the beauty of this fantastic lake.

ImageUllswater etching in stone below Long Crag

This next photo across to Pooley Bridge was taken from the highest point - 350 metres - of the walk on this side of the lake.

ImageThe tree covered Dunmallard Hill

Just after taking the last photo a young lad on a mountain bike passed us going the same way as us, but walking towards us was a chap who was stark naked apart from his boots and glasses and was carrying his shorts and tee shirt in his right hand. E was just in front of me and I couldn't see whether her eyes sparkled at the sight of what was below his navel but he did ask her if she wanted to join him on his walk which she politely declined and scuttled off into the distance. It didn't go unnoticed that he didn't offer me the same deal. He stopped and we had a chat with him telling me that he was a naturist, on holiday at Pooley Bridge and was walking until he got cold and that he did this every day. He wasn't backwards in coming forwards as he posed for a photo but then stopped me so that he could get into a better position for the sunlight shining on him. Talk about a poser. Well it was a full frontal and so unfortunately ladies it can't be published on this family friendly site, but it is one for the album and a great reminder of what can unexpectedly turn up when out for a walk.

We're nearly there, the end is in sight as we reached the old standing stones circle of The Cockpit of which its origin is not really clear but as its name implies was - due to its isolated position - used in its later years as a place that was used for the cruel sport of cock fighting.

ImageThe fallen stones of The Cockpit on Askham Fell

ImageLooking back to Arthur's Pike

Its 7:50pm as we started the walk down the track back to the car at Roehead and it's still hot despite the time and the sun was shining the last of its rays across the waters of Ullswater…

ImageOnly a few more metres back to Roehead

forming a wide bright lane of light from east to west. E is tired but elated as the car appeared at the end of the dirt track and she was glad to get her boots off when we arrived back. She's done well as it's quite a haul for someone who doesn't usually walk so far in one stint and after first walking 17 kilometres - 11 miles - before taking on the hardest part of the walk with its two long climbs and many tiresome ups and downs below Place Fell/Birk Fell etc one is entitled be a little leg weary. No complaints were uttered although she did admit to looking longingly at the ferry as we passed through Glenridding and the only things that she suffered from was that spell of cramp in her thigh and tiredness on the latter part of the walk.

We couldn't have asked for a better day for this walk with its glorious sunshine and blue skies enhancing what is already a beautiful place to be. Okay, it was quite a tough walk in today's heat but nevertheless very enjoyable. We were surprised at how few other walkers we saw apart from the mob at Aira Force but that made it all the better somehow and I'm not so sure that everyone would like to bump into a naked chap walking across Askham Fell following the trail of the old Roman Road. He called himself the Naked Hiker, well I suppose it takes all sorts to make life interesting and the world is running short of eccentric characters.
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Re: The Ullswater Way - a Jekyll and Hyde route.

Postby Sgurr » Sun Jul 21, 2019 6:07 pm

Thanks for this informative report. We did Bonscale Pike and Arthur's Pike last week before doing an Ullswater cruise the next (gloomy) day, so were doing the reverse of the short bit below Arthur's Pike back to Howton. We didn't see any naturists, or climbers. Some people got off the cruise at Howton to enable them to walk back to Glenridding, or on to Pooley Bridge, but nobody as ambitious as you. It is a lovely lake and I am glad it is now possible to walk all round it, though I'm afraid it would be a 2 day job if we did it. Below, ascending Bonscale
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Re: The Ullswater Way - a Jekyll and Hyde route.

Postby trailmasher » Wed Jul 24, 2019 12:18 pm

Sgurr wrote:Thanks for this informative report. We did Bonscale Pike and Arthur's Pike last week before doing an Ullswater cruise the next (gloomy) day, so were doing the reverse of the short bit below Arthur's Pike back to Howton. We didn't see any naturists, or climbers. Some people got off the cruise at Howton to enable them to walk back to Glenridding, or on to Pooley Bridge, but nobody as ambitious as you. It is a lovely lake and I am glad it is now possible to walk all round it, though I'm afraid it would be a 2 day job if we did it. Below, ascending Bonscale

Oh! Sgurr, looks like you went up to Bonscale the hard way, shorter but also a lot steeper from Howtown so well done for that :clap: A lot of people do the UW in a variety of ways and transport other than legs alone but you're right, it is a lovely lake 8). Thanks for your comments, much appreciated :D
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