Wainwrights: Tarn Crag (Central Fells)
Date walked: 24/04/2021
Time taken: 4.39 hours
“A cold and windy day that allowed Chris to reduce his tally of Wainwright’s by two and now leaving just Tarn Crag and Place Fell to complete his 4 year mission.”
It is nearly 16 months since I typed those words at the end of my WH report of a walk that Chris and I did covering King’s How, Grange Fell/Brund Fell, and Great Crag on Wednesday 8th January 2020, and because it was a bit of a rough descent he spit the dummy out and decided to go all ill on me again for the next 16 months, our last walk together until today, when once again we enjoyed a walk over the fells on a glorious day with weather that was meant to be on his return after a long bout of illness that involved major surgery, a lengthy doss in the ICU, months of treatment, medication, and inactivity that combined to take its toll on him over that 16 months and it did look at one point that he wouldn’t get to the end of his mission and total of the magic number 214.
Chris once jokingly mentioned that he might stop at 213 just to leave himself and others frustrated and wondering why he’d stopped short of the total, well here we are at 213, all done and dusted, but with a reminder that ‘many a true word is spoken in jest’.
During that time we have been in constant touch with each other, albeit at a distance due to Covid-19, with Chris too ill and shielding plus travel restrictions in the pot it was to be contact by social media only. A week or so into April this year he mentioned that he would like to have a go at a ‘training’ walk in the LD, just to get a feel of things, to see how his body would hold up, so I suggested a steady and gentle walk up to Walla Crag from Dodd Wood car park making our way below Walla Crag to Ashness Bridge then a short and easy climb up the fellside and along to Walla Crag that way as the route gives good views all the way around. The reply that I got back was, ”Mmm! was thinking of Tarn Crag myself” so after a moment’s pause and asking him if he was sure I got it organised enlisting the help of Martin in case of emergencies. So it’s been a long hard slog back to this point but meeting him once again in Grasmere in comforting sight of those now having to pay for public toilets was worth the wait especially as he gave me the 20p to gain entry into aforesaid loos. The cost for the same function in Keswick is now 40p which is scandalous especially as they are supposedly ‘public toilets’.
He has had a stroll or two up Roseberry Topping and to Captain Cook’s Monument as dummy runs over the last few weeks but the one who calls the shots insisted that as it’s a long drive for him and his first ‘proper’ walk for a long time he had to take someone along with him ‘just in case’. So the team was organised with me, Martin, and son Connor as today’s minders just to make sure that he didn’t have a rush of blood and do himself an injury in his enthusiasm to get boots back on the fells. The only one missing is Sonny, Chris’s pooch who unfortunately has a problem with his back legs, probably similar to mine after a few pints.
It was a glorious day as we were met with warm sunshine finding its way easily through the scattered clouds as we left a quiet Grasmere and began the walk along Easedale Road on our way to open countryside. There were a few itinerant walkers about, locals with dogs and others with more intent being booted and bagged up like ourselves. It’s a good steady walk along the road up to the old slate footbridge across Easedale Beck into Easedale proper followed by a decent walk in towards Brimmer Head Farm, just what’s needed to get sluggish legs moving in a decent rhythm. Everything was looking spring like with the bright new leaves popping out of fat buds, daffodils fading as other more local plants were just about coming into flower, there was also a song in the air as the birds geared up for love, the hedgerows a hive of hidden activity as they went about their business of home building for the nurturing of the future generations. Spring has certainly sprung in the Lake District and been confirmed when we heard the call of a Cuckoo echoing across the dale.
We stopped for a moment at Steel Bridge to get this shot of Helm Crag.
Martin-Chris-Conner with Helm Crag behind
Once past the farm we were on the fells proper with the path making for an easy ascent along the side of the crystal clear waters of Easedale Beck before it morphed into Sourmilk Gill in its higher reaches and this is where at the 180 metre point we met two chaps that had just climbed out of a sparkling pool below Ecton Crag that is constantly filled by a lovely little waterfall.
Clear and enticing pool at 180 metres but cold
A look back from this point gave way to a great view of the green pastures of Easedale.
Sour Milk Gill and Easedale
We kept up a steady if not fast pace taking about an hour to reach Easedale Tarn, a pace that proved not too challenging for Chris at this point. A couple of stops to take a photo or two seemed in order on this lovely warm and sunny day with Tarn Crag just peeping over the north western skyline ahead and the great western ridge of the Fairfield Round behind us.
Tarn Crag skyline
Fairfield's west ridge behind Helm Crag
Another few minutes and we had arrived at Easedale Tarn with today’s target just across the water, nearly within touching distance, but no touching yet for a while as we are going to gain the top by taking the longer way round and a little more climbing before we get the pleasure of taking in the views from the summit of Tarn Crag. There were a few other walkers either sat or stood around the beautifully calm waters of the tarn where we decided to take a break ourselves as we watched two pairs of walkers toiling up the grassy fellside below Greathead Crag. There are one or two intermittent paths going that way but it can be a toil and it’s much more interesting to carry on past the tarn and take in the scenery of the crags of Blea Rigg, Belle Knot, and Great Castle How.
Easedale Tarn with Tarn Crag behind
Blea Rigg - Eagle Crag to Belle Knot skyline
A decent break and a catch up with Chris made for a pleasant 15 minutes of laziness with Chris and Connor getting to know Martin a bit better as they had never met before this walk. Soon enough we were off again following the waterside path that if followed to its end would find you at either Sergeant Man, the Langdale Pikes, High Raise etc, the options are limitless and as we neared the western end of the tarn we espied a Heron perched on a rock, the first time that I have ever seen one up here.
Continuing the steady pace we came across two small teams of Fix the Fells digging drainage ditches to help run the water away from the soft spots on the path.
Fix the fells team below Slapestone Edge
The path which runs more or less west begins to slowly swing around to the north as we passed over the wet area that has been paved with large flat stones with a great view of the southeast craggy face of Belle Knot before us...
and turning around is the dark and fractured face of Blea Rigg sat above the unnamed area of a moss, soft ground that from higher up looks as though it is the remnants of a drying out tarn.
A short while after the paved length of path the path starts to rise steadily enough but getting steeper and rougher in places as height is gained...
A view back to some Eastern Fells
with Belle Knot grows ever larger and looking like a proper mountain with its craggy face and pointed shape as we climbed one of the sections of pitched stone path and the few hardy trees that are growing alongside the gill would be a welcome shade of green against the stark grey of the surrounding rocks and crags although there are a few stunted junipers growing in there also. Trees at this height tend to leaf up later than those in the valley bottom.
Belle Knot looms ever larger
A little further along the path and the scene below and across has opened up beautifully with the gill and path like two scars across the rough grass of the combe below with what I suspect are drumlins in an untidy heap below Blea Rigg.
An Eastern Fells skyline from the 382 metre contour
Blea Rigg and Great Castle How
As we climbed higher we reached the short scramble and we were by now surrounded by crags aplenty...
Crags are in abundance around here
and Belle Knot is looking like a near perfect triangle of rocky crag.
South face of Belle Knot
Chris had slowed up a tad but was showing no signs of stress as we approached and clambered up the bare rock face that now faced us. It’s easy enough but requires a little more effort to negotiate.
Martin with Chris on a rocky section of path
Steady as you want
From just above the scramble I couldn’t resist taking another photo back the way we had just walked.
Great Castle How and Easedale Tarn
At about the 450 metre point we met the path for Coledale Tarn crossing the gill as it broke away to the north showing the mass of Lang Crag as a background...
Path to Coledale Tarn
and giving us an altogether different aspect of Belle Knot that now showed its west face as a mere crag of vertical and shattered grey rocks poking out of the green of the fell.
Lang Crag comes into view
Just a few minutes later we got our first glimpse of the tarns smooth waters with a small group of walkers already sat by its side taking in the pleasant warmth of the sun. On its western shore there is a stunted tree growing and it makes one wonder just how old this tree is as it has surely had a hard life up here.
This is their first visit here and my first for a few years, the last time being when caught in a blizzard whilst leaving High Raise for Tarn Crag and took this route by dropping down from the path at the north end of the tarn, our way out to Tarn Crag today.
Belle Knot at 485 metres is like so many other Lakeland crags and mountains, rough and savage on its front and a big pussy at its back with easy grassy slopes that entail no danger or adventure and gives easy access to a marvellous viewpoint. We were surprised to find it a pathless climb to its summit in spite of all the walkers who must find their way to the top of this delectable little crag.
A short climb to the top of Belle Knot
As we climbed, the bowl in which the tarn sits unfolded beneath us exposing the semi-circle of crags with many easy looking grassy rakes climbing up towards High Raise between them...
Coledale Tarn from Belle Knot
whilst over to the east the rounded shape of Slapestone Edge was clear to see.
The top of Belle Knot has a few large weather pitted rounded lumps of rock protruding from its grassy top and looking down onto the paths that we had not long ago climbed up it made one feel ever so tiny against the immensity of the surrounding crags.
The path from Easedale Tarn
Route to the Langdale Pikes and beyond
I’ve tried to get a decent photo of the face of Blea Rigg but it was always in shadow, throwing a darkness into the craggy face that I couldn’t penetrate with my camera. No doubt JKLL would have no problem in sorting that one out.
Blea Rigg and Great Castle How from Belle Knot
An eastern view from Belle Knot
There’s a kind of rough ring of rocks on the summit surrounding and sheltering a lovely carpet of green grass and this is where we elected to park up for a break whilst enjoying the views. It was warm from the sun’s rays trapped in this sheltered spot where not a breath of a breeze made itself known, a place where we chatted and put the world to rights. Connor was getting sore from sunburn so a decent application of Factor 30 was applied to his neck and Chris was reminiscing on past walks that we had done together and already thinking of when he could do his last Wainwright and continuing with round two of same. This bodes well with his intensions of reaching full fitness and continuing to make his way over to the LD from the northeast in the near future.
There always comes a time when we must give ourselves a shake, to stir up the get up and go from a beautiful position such as this and get going again, especially when the crack and the company is as good as this was. So we set off back down the fell to meet up with the shoreline path and walking north towards the old sheepfold and the short easy climb out from the tarn.
The path zigzags along the face of the unnamed knot
The path works its way up the fellside and passes behind a small rocky knoll to join up with the main drag that comes down from High Raise, Greenup Edge, and Deep Slack following the line of the old fence posts of the Co Const & CP Boundary.
The old sheepfold is quite a large affair and must have taken quite a while to build it and I ask myself the question, who and why would anyone build a sheepfold in this most isolated of places, even more isolated back in the day than now. Yes there’s water there, but there’s also water much lower down so this leaves yet another mystery of days gone by although those that did build it must have had quite valid and practical reasons according to the days that they lived in.
Sheepfold below Lang Crag
Still climbing at just below the 500 metre point
The isolation of Coledale Tarn and sheepfold
Reaching the ‘plateau’ we were now in sight of Tarn Crag sat amongst the many other smaller crags that inhabit this fell...
Tarn Crag is to the left of the photo
and a short and easy stroll soon had us at the short climb onto it from where the views once again are fantastic.
Grasmere - Rydal Water and Windermere from Tarn Crag
We crossed over to the south top and a better viewpoint...
Another side to Tarn Crag
from where we all took copious amounts of photos such was the beauty of the scenery.
Grasmere from Tarn Crag
Easedale Tarn lay sullen and brooding below us amongst the sun painted fells with a dark spattering of cloud moving across them.
Another picture of Blea Rigg with the hazy Coniston Fells behind and a hint of the Langdales over to the right didn’t make the bowels of Blea Rigg’s crags look any lighter than on any of the previous shots of it.
Once again and after being sated by the marvellous views we set off on our way down to Stythwaite Steps and Far Easedale with a look back at No. 213. Both Chris and Connor – who is not in the habit of fell walking – are doing well with no complaints from either of them, in fact Connor - I suspect through not wanting to feel like a wimp – had to be told, nay ordered to apply more of the Factor 30 to his neck that by this point looked as though it was hot enough to boil a kettle on.
Looking back at Tarn Crag
It’s now just a case of some steady walking down the fellside and enjoying the views as we descended stopping on Greathead Crag for a refuel and a rest.
Seat Sandal behind Gibson Knott
Tarn Crag from a distance
Silver How and Loughrigg
A carpet of green in the valley bottom
Some steady walking and around an hour later we arrived at Far Easedale Gill and Stythwaite Steps, the footbridge and stepping stones making for an easy crossing, not as though there was much water in the gill today after these good few days of dry weather. Looking northwest along the valley gave a good view of Calf Crag.
Calf Crag from Stythwaite Steps
Well the walk was all but over as we walked along the stony lane below Gibson Knott and Helm Crag on our way back to the greener pastures and farms of Easedale passing bright green leaved Larch trees adorned with their small cone shaped dark pink flowers soon to become small brown cones.
Larch tree flowers
Silver How from the lane below Jackdaw Crag
Just before the lane that runs past the house called Kitty Crag we espied this carving of an owl on the remains of a chopped down tree.
Owl carving 2
Owl carving 4
We then proceeded along the well paved lane past Kitty Crag that is an annexe of Lancrigg, the hotel, and is currently up for sale for just over £1.4 million. I couldn’t get any more photos of it but there are plenty on-line to be looking at.
Paved lane by Kitty Crag
A final shot of some eastern fells was taken before we arrived back at Grasmere where Martin and I parted company with Chris and Conner to travel our separate ways back to Martin’s for drinks in the garden after a great days walking in glorious sunshine.
A good part of the Fairfield Round in view
Well in conclusion this has been a great walk on a great weather day in great company made all the better to be walking with Chris again after 16 months. How life and circumstances can change in the blink of an eye, who knows what is in store for them just around the corner? There we were, Chris and I planning our next walk with nothing to indicate that a new affliction would beset us all in the shape of Covid-19 or there was anything wrong with him, so it came as a bombshell when E and I got the latest news about his illness but fortunately he’s pulled through and is recovering well as today’s walk has proved. Obviously he’s not at his best yet but he’s coming on great and a few more ‘training’ walks should see him completing his now 5½ year mission. He’s already booked in for B&B at our house so that we can at last celebrate No. 214 with a good few beers at our local village hostelry. Here’s, and cheers to 214.
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- Location: Near Appleby - Cumbria
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