Dove Crag

Dove Crag, above Hunsett Cove

Date completed: 5th November 2016.

Weather conditions:  Although not as fine as 10 days ago (walk 119), it was still pretty good for November. Much chillier however — particularly on the tops.  Full winter gear was required.

Descent of High Pike

On the descent to Ambleside, dropping off High Pike.

Summits bagged: Dove Crag (2598 feet above sea level, number 79 of my second round), High Pike (2155’, no. 80), Low Pike (1667’, no 81).

Dove Crag was last bagged on walk 36, 4/6/11. The other two were last bagged on walk 5, 9/9/09.

Start and end points: Started in Patterdale, finished in Ambleside.  Patterdale can be reached on a #508 bus from Penrith rail station, these run all year, and there are plenty of buses back from Ambleside to Windermere rail station. The walk fitted with plenty of time to spare between the 10:15 arrival at Patterdale (9:20 departure from Penrith station) and the 15:55 bus from Ambleside.

Note that when the #508 bus runs its full route to Windermere station, instead of terminating at Patterdale, you can shave a couple of miles off the walk by starting at the Cow Bridge car park, near Hartsop. This longer version of that bus route operates weekends from April to late October and daily in the summer holiday. But not in November, hence my having to start at Patterdale.

High Bakestones and Little Hart Crag

Looking east from the ridge. High Bakestones (with cairn) and Little Hart Crag are lit up.

Distance walked: 11 miles approximately (it would be 8.5 miles approx. if starting at Cow Bridge).

Total ascent: 2500 feet approx.

Pub at end: About time I brought this four-walk publess run to an end, so finishing in Ambleside provided plenty of options. I had never particularly found a pub of choice there before, but think I have done so now, as just above the end of Nook Lane (where I finally entered the town) stands the Golden Rule, and this turned out to be a fine pub. Excellent beer, lots of nooks and crannies, helpful bar staff, busy with locals and visitors — what’s not to like?

Route: Although various parts of it feel a lot longer than anticipated, this is basically a fine and straightforward walk, on good paths, with some excellent views.  Despite the warning given on Wainwright’s page Dove Crag 4, I cannot see that this would be a problematic walk even in poorer weather, because the paths are very clear throughout.

Hartsop Dodd

Hartsop Dodd, and a rather amazingly-sited cottage

If the #508 bus is running its full route, start at Cow Bridge car park instead of Patterdale, saving the first couple of miles and about 50 minutes of walking. But if you end up having to do the Patterdale – Hartsop stretch, don’t walk down the main road.  I took the back way via the hamlet of Rooking and Crookabeck farm, which is obvious on the map; to get to it, go left down the lane just past the White Lion pub and then follow the signs to Hartsop.

However, there was one issue with this path, which is where it crosses Angletarn Beck. The bridge at the bottom is still not repaired since the floods 11 months ago.  It probably is OK to wade across the beck but I ended up deflected onto the higher path at this point, which leads to more climbing and a longer walk as it takes you up to the clutch of remarkably-sited cottages above Hartsop (see the picture above of Hartsop Dodd). You then have to come down and back through the village whereas the way should just lead to the ‘Adventure Centre’ near the main road.  Either way, walk back along the A592 towards Patterdale for a couple of hundred yards (there is a pavement) to get to the Cow Bridge car park. As I said, when the #508 runs to the summer timetable there is no need for all this anyway.

High Hartsop Dodd

High Hartsop Dodd, and the perfect drumlin mentioned in the text

From Cow Bridge then, take the path that runs along the western side of Brothers Water, through pleasant woods to Hartsop Hall.  Past this point, there is a path bearing up to the right and according to the ascent diagram [see ‘Commentary’ below], I should have taken it, but it doesn’t make any difference in the end if you stick to the path through the valley. Dovedale is a beautiful enclave in the hills: look out for the absolutely perfect drumlin on the left, a low egg-shaped hill that is a remnant of the glacier that once formed this valley.

Stick on the path as it crosses the beck and then ascends past the waterfalls and up into Hunsett Cove. Dove Crag looks dramatic from this point (see picture at top of page). The path ascends to the right of the crag via an engineered stairway that is easy on the body but a bit tiresome after a while, and there’s still quite a way to go to the summit, as the path loops round to the col between Dove Crag and Hart Crag then follows the ridge. Looking at it on the ground, and going on the map in Wainwright, it probably is possible to get to the summit by a shortcut up the steep grass to the left but I didn’t try this.

Dove Crag summit view

View south-west from Dove Crag summit

Either way, at the summit of Dove Crag you are now on the Fairfield Horseshoe path and most further route finding advice is now superfluous as this is one of Lakeland’s most popular walking routes. Head for Windermere which is clearly visible to the south, to drop down past High Pike and Low Pike. Further up, it seems there is a path on both sides of the wall but just after High Pike’s summit I would cut through to the right hand side, if you’re not already on it, as this will provide much easier passage over Low Pike.

Eventually, the path drops off the ridge to the left. When you hit the surfaced lane you could turn left for High Sweden Bridge and come down the valley (Scandale) that way, but turning right is just as good, although the final couple of miles to Ambleside are longer than expected. The lane leads over Low Sweden Bridge and then past the little campus of the University of Cumbria (it is rather unexpected to walk past what is obviously the campus library at the end of a walk in the fells).

Near Low Sweden Bridge

Near Low Sweden Bridge

This turns into Nook Lane and leads into the town proper, at which point look up to the left for the excellent Golden Rule pub. The bus station is another few minutes’ walk from there.

Wainwright’s First Walk commentary:  My walk 1 was not, of course, the first time I visited or walked in the Lakes. Had I felt like doing so I could have counted fells like Helvellyn, Great Gable, Castle Crag (my very first Wainwright, aged about 9) and Harrison Stickle as already forming part of my first round, as I had bagged them at various points in the 30 or so years which preceded July 2009.

Similarly, Alfred Wainwright had been coming to the Lakes for many years before November 1952. You can buy a little book called ‘The Wainwright Memorial Walk’ in which a 6-day round of the whole District is mapped out, which was apparently a walk he undertook with some friends in 1931.

Dovedale

Dovedale

To call the walk mapped out on page Dove Crag 4 of The Eastern Fells ‘Wainwright’s first’, then, is true only if you fall into that mild trap which is hard to avoid in discussions of the man’s work — to treat the seven original volumes of The Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells as somehow being the only valid representation of the Lake District for walkers. Which of course it is not. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that, according to his biographer Hunter Davies, this was the page, and the fell, where Wainwright began the monumental, 13-year fieldwork project that became the guidebooks, apparently on 9th November 1952.

View from High Pike

View over to the Irish Sea, from High Pike

I hadn’t somehow meticulously planned this so I went up Dove Crag by that first route on nearly the 64th anniversary of that date, but that’s how it turned out. I doubt that a great deal has changed in Dovedale since then, and so the scenes which greeted me today were probably much the same as when AW walked up through the sylvan valley scenery to the crags above, a beautiful contrast that he tries to capture on the page — though it’s true to say (and other commentators agree with me here, like Clive Hutchby in his Wainwright companion) that in The Eastern Fells he hadn’t quite got his hand in yet: some of the diagrams and writing style are still a little awkward and  there isn’t quite the richness of detail in this volume that all the later ones had. But then again no one had really tried doing anything like this before, which is what makes the guidebooks so unique and popular.

So it was nice to pay homage today in a small way. It’s still a good walk, even if you don’t quite get as intimate with Dove Crag itself (that is, the crag, rather than the fell) as might be expected.

High Pike

High Pike from above

As with my last walk (walk 119), I’m glad the weather co-operated, because this was about the only chance I had to do one for weeks.This time last year I was trying to get out to Flat Fell and Dent (walk 103), the last of my first round, and was forced on two consecutive weekends to postpone because of rain. We are approaching the anniversary of the devastating December 5/6 floods, the consequences of which still scar Glenridding and points around. Note the footbridge which remains damaged up at the entrance to Hunsett Cove, and then think what a limited catchment area there is for the water which flows underneath it (Dovedale Beck). Think then what the rain must have been like in this specific little spot on that day. No wonder the clean-up has taken so long. Let’s hope there is nothing similar this year.

Hartsop above How

Hartsop above How. Note the two walkers on the ridge, in the col on the left.

Talking of unfortunate events, one final thing about today’s walk — it was nice to exorcise at least one or two of the ghosts of walk 5, which out of all the 120+ done so far was the one I disliked the most. Dove Crag’s other claim to personal fame was as being the summit I failed to reach on that walk due to being quite badly dehydrated. Not only that I then lost my camera (or had it stolen from me) at the end in Ambleside. So I didn’t mind so much that I came down High Pike and Low Pike the same way as last time — I barely remembered doing it that way the first time and had no photos of it.

A welcome lack of eventfulness on my return then — but still a good walk. They all are, really. Here’s to many more yet.

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