Rydal Cave

The big cave at Rydal quarries.

Date completed: 5th September 2015 (with Joe).

Weather conditions: Although there was a fairly chilly breeze at some points, basically another warm, sunny day. I have managed to go through the whole of 2015 thus far without doing a walk in anything like poor weather (except for a couple of half-days on Kilimanjaro).



Summits bagged: Loughrigg Fell (1101’ above sea level). Number 19 of the second round.

Start and end point: Rydal village. The bus stops are at the end of the lane that goes up to Rydal Mount, and are served by regular buses to and from Windermere station, that run every 20 minutes in the summer.

Distance walked: 4 miles approximately.

Total ascent: 1000 feet approximately.

Pub at end: Like its sibling, walk 104A, we ended at the Badger Bar at the Glen Rothay hotel, Rydal. Generally it seems a good place and certainly serves good beer.

Crossing the Rothay

Joe crosses the River Rothay at the start of the walk.

Route: We didn’t end up doing the walk that I originally intended, and nor did we the ascent of Loughrigg from Rydal that is documented on Wainwright’s page Loughrigg Fell 7. As explained in the heading to page 5 of the chapter: “…although of insignificant altitude, the fell has an extensive and confusing top, the ultimate objective remains hidden on the approach, and the maze of paths needs careful unravelling…”. To be honest, on this walk the 1:25,000 OS Outdoor Leisure map, usually so indispensable, was pretty useless, and even Wainwright’s map didn’t help great deal when we really needed it (see below). Whatever you normally think of these route guides, then, my advice is to take this one with a pinch of salt.

Let’s get as far as the quarries, at least… done by walking up the road a bit from the bus stop, to a gap in the wall directly opposite the main entrance to the Badger Bar. This drops you down to a bridge over the River Rothay (pictured above). At the far end, bear right, ignoring a path which heads upward into the wood, and instead sticking close to the shore of Rydal Water, a lake which is so monumentally cute one could almost believe it was crafted by some 19th century landscape gardener with grand ambitions.

Nab Scar

Nab Scar above Rydal Water

After going through a second kissing gate and coming out of the wood into open lakeshore again, bear left up the hill; there is a sign showing the way to “Grasmere via Rydal Caves”, but it is not helpfully placed on the lakeshore at this point, rather it is up the hill a bit. But from there it is a straightforward walk up to the quarries. A small, and inaccessible cave is seen first; keep going up the hill to the right of this and you will soon come to the big cave, the highlight of the walk. It is an impressive hole; easily the biggest cave in the Lake District (though artificial — the Lakes doesn’t have natural caves, being the wrong type of rock for them). You can go quite a way inside, albeit with the risk of wet feet.

From here, Wainwright’s ascent diagram seems to suggest returning to the lower cave and taking the path that heads uphill from there. But there is a clear path heading uphill from the upper cave as well, not marked on the ascent diagram, but seeming to correspond to a path shown on the map (page 3). This took us uphill without much incident and with only one further route finding choice to make, at a point where we crossed a boggy area and bore right, though could have gone straight on. We then reached the top about 40 minutes after leaving the cave.

Windermere from the summit

View of Windermere from the summit. The walkers are on what is, in theory, the beginning of the descent to Ambleside.

On the way down, the plan was to head for Ambleside, which is clearly visible. In theory this would have ended up the reverse of the route by which I ascended Loughrigg back on walk 8. Leaving the summit was clear enough — the picture here shows walkers on the path which one should take — but nevertheless we did not make Ambleside.

I think the point of divergence came when we dipped into a narrow valley, with the choices being a path up a steep slope ahead, or bearing left along the valley. Not feeling like more climbing, we bore left. This was the wrong decision. The path started out OK, but became more and more choked by bracken.  When it began descending properly, it did so in a narrow little valley that was steep and muddy, and the bracken became head-high. This wasn’t a great half hour and I am impressed Joe didn’t complain more (I was certainly grouching). Reviewing this on the map, we certainly turned left too soon; the bracken-choked path did eventually break out onto a better one, which turned out to be the path mentioned above, leading us back to the quarry near Rydal. So from there we just returned to the village.

Dunmail Raise

View north to Dunmail raise. Skiddaw and Lonscale Fell in the background with High Rigg in front and Steel Fell on the left.

Notes: When Joe and I did walk 104A three weeks ago, the original plan had been to go up Loughrigg Fell as well as Silver How, but that day was a hot one, Joe’s boots were giving him gyp, and in the end I was happy to let Loughrigg go on the day with a deal that we would return before he restarted school to bag it then. The promise of the big cave was another encouraging factor.

Well, he still hasn’t restarted school — here in Calderdale they go back on Tuesday, the 8th — and so off we went today to undertake this walk, a kind of sibling to that Silver How walk so with the numbering system for these ‘second round only’ walks far from yet being fixed, it seems appropriate to call it walk 104B.

Loughrigg summit

Loughrigg summit. Crinkle Crags, Bowfell and the Langdale Pikes in the background.

I did want to get out into the Lakes today, having felt rather stuck at home for the last couple of weeks, but I must admit that for various reasons I have been a bit unwell lately and didn’t have any energy. That was another reason this short walk was desirable, but even then I felt overly fatigued at the end. It was good to bag the fell for the second time and see its impressive view properly, as the last time I came here I got only parts of it thanks to cloud. But the descent was a pain in the butt, frankly; and from conversations had with other walkers (particularly this party with two dogs who ended up following us down, and doubtless regretting it as much as we did), it seemed clear we were not the only ones who found Loughrigg a confusing place, even in clear weather.

Rydal cave

Rydal cave again.

I will shortly return to the main walking project — meaning, getting the first round done — never fear. Assuming I do get some energy back, the plan is to head for the wilds of West Cumbria next week to bag the remaining Devoke Water summits then, before things get too busy again at work, a two-day walk in the Shap Fells (staying at Mosedale Cottage). After those two I should only have four summits left.

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