Selfie on Wansfell

Self-portrait on Wansfell. In the background, left-to-right — Red Screes, Caudale Moor, Thornthwaite Crag.

Date completed: 2nd November 2018.

Weather conditions: Very good indeed, for the time of year. It being November, I packed fleece, scarf, gloves and hat but all of them were consigned to the backpack for the entire walk. About the worst that can be said is that it did get a little chillier in the afternoon.

Summits bagged: Troutbeck Tongue (1191 feet above sea level, number 169 of my second round), Wansfell (1597’, no. 170).

Windermere and sheep from Troutbeck Tongue

View from Troutbeck Tongue — Windermere, and a sheep trying to stay incognito

Troutbeck Tongue was first bagged ages ago now, on walk 7 (October 2009), Wansfell slightly more recently on walk 57, May 2012.

Start and end points: Started walking direct from Windermere train station. Finished in Ambleside town centre, from which, in winter anyway, there are half-hourly buses back to the station. In summer these run more frequently.

The walk took me four hours and forty-five minutes, though thanks to the train fail on the way in (see commentary), I was behind schedule so set a brisk pace, particularly for the yomp up the Troutbeck valley. 5:30 would be a reasonable and more leisurely schedule.

Distance walked: 11.4 miles approximately.

Total ascent: 2000 feet approximately.

Woodland near Windermere

Woodland near Windermere school, at the start of the walk

Pub at end: The Royal Oak in Ambleside town centre, and its very wide collection of real ales. Probably the second-best pub in the town, after the Golden Rule.

Route: This is a fairly easy walk in terms of the terrain, but it is a longer one than you might expect. It starts quite well and the views from the Wansfell ridge are very fine, but the section in the middle, between the two summits, is a little awkward and the northern part of Wansfell, frankly, rather dull. Also, bear in mind that if you follow my route exactly (there are alternatives), the descent off Troutbeck Tongue will, in summer, be a bracken-choked jungle safari. I would consider it impassable from, at least, mid-June to late September.

Bowfell and Lingmoor Fell

View to Bowfell, with Lingmoor Fell in front. The Band is prominent.

Use the traffic island to cross the main road outside Windermere station and take the path signposted first to Orrest Head, but unless you want to add that summit to the walk, bear immediately left onto a prominent path that heads through the woods behind Windermere School and its profusion of ‘Private’ and ‘Keep Out’ notices. Keep following the signs to the A592, but once you reach that main road, bear immediately right up the lane until reaching Crosses Farm, at which point take the footpath signposted on the left. This path has some superb views to the west, though like me, you will wish the telegraph and power lines weren’t in the way. The shot of Bowfell here is taken from this section.

View up Troutbeck Valley

View up the Troutbeck valley, from Longmire Lane

At the farm of Far Orrest, ignore the first path on the left, instead rounding the buildings at the far side and taking the path that eventually comes out on another lane, at which point you should be near the end (or start) of Longmire Lane, a track that begins as a tarmac road but which has plenty of signs on it warning drivers to ignore their sat-navs, as soon it deteriorates into a track. This provides very rapid and good walking north, however. It took me an hour to get to the start of this lane from the station, but only another hour to then get all the way north to the footbridge below Troutbeck Tongue — looking at these two distances on the map shows how much faster progress I made in that second hour, than the first. Just keep going straight on.

When the Tongue is close at hand on the left, look for the footbridge, which to reach you have to go through one gate and the double back through a second. The climb up to the summit is then about ten minutes of very steep but otherwise unproblematic ascent.

Ancient bridge

The ancient clapper-bridge over Trout Beck

Outside of bracken season it is then easy enough to descend the pathless western slope of the Tongue. Head more-or-less in the direction of the quarry you see on the side of Red Screes. There is a gate to take you through the first fence, though still no path on the other side of it, and here, bear more to the right, going upstream somewhat and round the stand of little trees: the ground here is awkward and a bit boggy but you do eventually come to the ancient clapper-bridge that is pictured by Wainwright on page Troutbeck Tongue 3, and a very fine construction it is (although the top does have a hole in it at one point). This bridge is obviously centuries old, and it seems a shame it is rather neglected nowadays, if the lack of decent paths on each side of it is anything to go by.

Once over it, you need to be bearing left, climbing through this enclosure and heading for the Kirkstone road above. There are no paths here. Once up to it, crossing Woundale Beck is also a problem, though bear in mind you don’t need to do it straight away. I found a spot to cross a couple of hundred yards upstream where a large piece of wood facilitated a crossing (it’s not a bridge, though). There is a gate here which allows access onto the A592.

Troutbeck Tongue from side

Troutbeck Tongue seen from the side, below the Ill Bell/Yoke ridge

How you get from the road onto Wansfell is a question of whether you want to clamber over the wall straight away, or keep walking on the main road until reaching a stile depicted on Wainwright’s maps of the ridge route between Wansfell and Caudale Moor. The road is not unsafe — as long as you keep your ears open (more useful than eyes here) — but it is also rather tedious. Then again, the terrain over the wall, Wansfell’s northernmost bulge, is not very welcoming either, being an expanse of moorland with no obvious paths and little else to offer, though at least it’s not as boggy as it might be. I would check the map at this point to make sure you are heading for the right enclosure. Expect to have to climb the occasional wall, fence and unopenable gate. (The picture at the top of the page was taken in this region.)

Wansfell Pike

Looking along the ridge to Wansfell Pike

Eventually the shape of the ridge ahead starts to resolve itself and once it does the rest of the route should be obvious. The true summit of Wansfell is up to the left as you look at it. The ridge between there and Wansfell Pike is more undulating, and boggier, than expected, but compensation comes with the magnificent views, particularly of Windermere.

On Wansfell Pike there will be more walkers than you’ll have encountered all day, and the route down from here to Ambleside is obvious, although, again, longer than expected and I found it tough on the knees. You will come out right in the town centre behind the White Lion pub, but my advice is to ignore that, and cross the road to the Royal Oak instead. The bus station is a couple of minutes further away on Kelsick Road.

Walkers and Windermere

Windermere, and walkers heading off Wansfell for Troutbeck

Sense of resignation commentary: The thing about the incompetence that spreads like a fog over the UK rail network is not so much that things occasionally go wrong with journeys but that it has reached the point where failure and ineptitude have become normalised. I actually expected today’s journey to fuck up. It’s ‘leaf fall season’, which the rail companies use as a kind of catch-all excuse for them running just about everything a few minutes late, and this comes on top of the continuing farce that is Northern Rail right now. Relations between staff and management in that organisation have almost entirely disintegrated, and as a result, a seemingly endless series of strikes on Saturdays began in late August and are going to continue until at least Christmas and, I suspect, more-or-less indefinitely. As a result I have had to find weekdays on which to walk.

Thornthwaite Crag

Looking up to Thornthwaite Crag, from near the old bridge

Today, Friday, was available thanks to it being school half-term and my having sorted out what amounts to a three-day weekend — Thursday to Saturday (I’m working this coming Sunday). Although the forecast for Saturday was poor, today’s was very good, and it lived up to it as well — maybe not the finest day of November walking ever (for that, see either walk 27 or walk 121), but certainly the mildest that I recall. But I was also committed to a family evening out in Lancaster in the evening, meaning I could not venture into the further reaches of the District and had to select one of my ‘reserve’, easy-to-access walks, namely this foray up the Troutbeck valley from Windermere.

Kirkstone Pass

Kirkstone Pass, from Wansfell. The inn and its turbines are visible: an Angletarn Pike pokes up in the background.

But, you know. Virgin, and Northern. These two bastions of inefficiency failed, as they so frequently have done, to co-ordinate The Oxenholme Connection, leaving me with a three-quarter hour wait at said station. Not to mention a couple of dozen other people who might also have preferred to get on with their days a little earlier. Like I said, the sad thing is that I mostly expected it, had almost prepared for it.

As a result I set a brisk pace on this walk, particularly the very straight-line hike up the valley: looking at it on the map, the miles (about 3.5, I reckon) from Crosses Farm to the bridge below Troutbeck Tongue may even be the longest, straightest line I’ve managed to draw in my perambulations around Cumbria in the last 9 years.

Red Screes and rainbow

Red Screes and a somewhat anomalous rainbow

It is more than that, in fact, since I last came up the Tongue on walk 7. I didn’t manage to fulfil my brief of doing that fell at a different time of year, but did so with Wansfell, previously bagged (as something of a bolt-on) with Clare and Joe, the day after I first climbed Scafell Pike in May 2012. It certainly does have a fine view, although the descent to Ambleside whacked my knees rather. But I did make my evening out.

Next walk? Oh, I don’t know. Could be this coming week if the weather’s good, could be late November, could be December some time — the work diary is filling up, as it always does at this time of year, and with no Saturdays available I will just have to take what comes. Thanks, train companies. Do I get a discount on your services for my patience? No? Thought not.

Troutbeck Valley

One more view up the Troutbeck valley: Froswick, Ill Bell and Yoke on the right

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