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The Old Man and his animals

The Old Man and his animals

Postby nigheandonn » Sat Oct 24, 2015 4:25 pm

Wainwrights included on this walk: Brim Fell, Coniston Old Man, Dow Crag

Hewitts included on this walk: Dow Crag, The Old Man of Coniston

Date walked: 20/09/2015

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On first impression, Coniston reminded me more of Wooler than of any of the lakes villages - something about actually having a straight main street, and the church just downhill round the corner.

It was a grey, dreich autumn morning, not wet, but always looking like it was about to rain, and with the mist sitting on the hills - quite reminiscent of Grasmere a year ago, and a real change from the almost August of the day before. It had been a wet night, and wet verges always look Octoberish, even if the leaves are green and the brambles red.

I took much the same lazy morning approach, pottering round the village and hoping things would clear up a bit. It proved a little bit more Grasmere-like on further exploration, with a few shops hidden round the corner, but still less obviously touristy than I'd expected.

It was about 11 when I set off for the Walna Scar road. I got in a bit of a muddle at the junction, with two roads going uphill - I knew I didn't want the main Old Man path so took the less obvious route, and found myself on a kind of terrace looking over the lake - not quite where I wanted to be, but it was nice to get to see the lake.

A view of the lake

As I was quite a bit along it by the time I realised what I’d done, I went on along the farm road before heading back to the road I should have been on. The road here had a very lonely back of beyond feeling which I really didn’t expect to find around the bottom of the Old Man of Coniston, of all places - but looking at the hills themselves it wasn’t surprising that this had once been Lancashire, which I think of as a very industrial kind of place!

Lonely road

The car park was fairly busy, but it seemed like most people had cut across to the main Old Man path, although I did meet a few on the Walna Scar road - walking, running, cycling and camping. Up here I almost felt that I could have been in the Western Isles - something about the combination of bracken, short grass and thistles, and the way the wind blows over as if there’s not much between you and the sea.

The road was easy walking, although a bit stony, for a long way, past the turn off for Goat’s Water and the nice bridge over Torver Beck, and then suddenly it wasn’t - I found the pull up to the pass really hard work, and much longer than I expected, maybe because I was tired from the day before, or maybe just because I haven’t been out enough!

Walna Scar road

I got there in the end, though, and could suddenly see everything that was between me and the sea - far more than Wainwright is willing to admit to! I could also see an Ominous Cloud looming, although it wasn't obvious yet if it was going to hit me or just pass by me as the wind was swinging a bit.

Over the pass

Ominous Cloud

The climb from the top of the pass to the summit of Brown Pike was just as steep but mysteriously easier, in the way that the last bit to a summit sometimes is, and I was up onto the Dow Crag ridge, a nice defined one with a good path along it.

The Ominous Cloud caught up with me here and turned out to be thick mist rather than rain - I climbed up towards Buck Pike barely able to see the slope ahead, and was quite a way along before I suddenly got a view back to Blind Tarn.

Blind Tarn and Brown Pike

Towards Dow Crag the surroundings got more dramatic, with gullies dropping down to Goat's Water far below.

(There seem to be quite a lot of animals around here - Buck Pike, a possible Doe for Dow Crag, Goat’s Water… plus I always picture Brim Fell as inhabited by small demons and Lever’s Water by large hares - I suppose because leverets are little ones! So the Old Man must be Noah, really…)


The summit of Dow Crag was a proper climbing one, or at least a scramble up a nice rocky place. There was probably quite a good view in theory, but there wasn't, really.

Dow Crag summit

Heading on with things clearing a bit the geography got slightly confusing - it looked like the clearest link should be with the hills to the north, but instead there was a great valley in between, and I was heading east and then south.

Over Goat's Hawse

So I dropped down into Goat's Hawse, where there were good views back to the face of Dow Crag, and started climbing again, with even better views of Goat's Water below the crag.

Climbing again

Goat's Water and Dow Crag

It had been pretty clear for a while, but from here on again it really wasn't - the pictures make it look much clearer than it was, because every time there was a break in the fog I rushed to take pictures while I could!

I'd originally been planning to go over Brim Fell and down by Levers Hawse and Boulder Valley, but with the mist, and the time getting on, and the fact that it didn't matter any more which order I did the hills in (it had when I thought the Old Man would be the 107th), it seemed to make more sense to detour to Brim Fell first and head down by the main Old Man path. According to the map there was a path leading off towards the summit of Brim Fell on the way up, but there wasn't, so as the ground levelled off I just left the path and cut across towards it anyway.

The summit of Brim Fell reminded me a lot of the summit of Nethermost Pike, except that it had a better cairn - broad flat ridge, wide path, grass speckled with spiky white rocks, and nothing else visible in the world! Its main merit was that it was quick and easy.

Brim Fell summit

Fortunately there was never any chance of getting lost - I followed the path along from Brim Fell to where it joined up with the path coming from Goat's Hawse again, and was rewarded with one brief glimpse of the summit ahead.

Old Man of Coniston

The summit was well provided with a) a trig point, b) a cairn, and c) a large stone platform for the cairn to sit on, which also acted as a windbreak if you sat against the bottom of it. And there were a handful of other people there, but presumably not as many as there'd have been on a nicer day.

Old Man trig point

Old Man summit

There wasn't much of a view in the traditional sense, but there was a decent view into the valley below - having been pushed up to the summit the cloud seemed to have decided to stay there, instead of falling down into the valley below.

Looking down the valley

The first part of the path, dropping to Low Water, was quite a mix - sometimes ordinary old path, sometimes good new stone staircase, and sometimes a mess where they'd unmade the old path but not made the new one yet - but even so it took me quite a long way down quite quickly.

Low Water

Below that the path got more interesting in a different way, passing tunnel entrances and ruins and bits of abandoned machinery, and further down again a bigger ruin with the remains of old tracks.

Quarry remains

Old tracks

Below that everything became less industrial again, and after a while the path split, with one part going off to the Boulder Valley and one back to the carpark on the Walna Scar road - I kept straight on, down past Coppermines Valley, which reminded me of upper Glenridding, and down by Church Beck to the village to eat icecream and get the bus back to Ambleside and then Windermere.

Coppermines Valley

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Re: The Old Man and his animals

Postby trailmasher » Sat Oct 24, 2015 6:50 pm

A good report and photos made the best of a poor visibility day out :clap: so well done you. And you're right about the sharp last pull up to the top of Walna Scar Road as I don't think the underfoot conditions help any either :?
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Re: The Old Man and his animals

Postby ChrisW » Sat Oct 24, 2015 11:23 pm

That looks like a great hike nigheandonn..... once you find the start point :lol:

It's always a shame when the weather conspires to rob you of the views but at least it was fog and not heavy rain which would have done the same as well as soaking you along with it :roll: I'm surprised that the old rails and sundry items are still lying around given the price that scrap steel reached not so long ago :crazy: I guess it was too far to haul it out :lol:
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