The valley of Threshthwaite.

The valley of Threshthwaite. The walk goes around it, starting with Gray Crag on the left.

Date completed: 28th May 2019, with Joe. Just shy of a year (29/5/18) since he and I went up Scafell Pike on walk 146.

Weather conditions: Not bad, although nowhere near as good as the last two walks. Quite sunny in the morning but it cooled down considerably from Caudale Moor onwards and in the end we were glad we brought the coats that, in the morning, seemed just like excess baggage. Dry though, despite occasional threatening clouds.

Summits bagged: Gray Crag (2286 feet above sea level, number 201 of my second round), Caudale Moor (2502’, no. 202), Hartsop Dodd (2028’, no. 203).

Caudale Moor summit

The summit cairn of Caudale Moor

Gray Crag was first bagged on walk 12, in April 2010, the other two on walk 66 in September 2012.

Start and end point: Started at the Hartsop bus stop, which is on the main Kirkstone road, at the end of the lane that leads to Hartsop village. Finished at the Brotherswater Inn, which is about half a mile south from this point on the same main road.

In the summer only (Easter – late October), both points are served by the #508 Penrith – Windermere bus. This walk was done at Joe’s pace, thus fairly leisurely. It took us just over five hours, starting with a 10.30am drop off at Hartsop (this bus had left Penrith station at about 9.20, though was running a little late), and arriving in time for a pint and the 16.12 bus back to Penrith.

View of Froswick (left) and Ill Bell, from Caudale Moor

Distance walked: 8 miles approximately.

Total ascent: 2500 feet approximately.

Pub at end: Having first visited the Brotherswater Inn only a few weeks ago, but liked it, I said I should go back, so here we are. Still a good place to finish the walk, though somewhat marred today by a couple with a colossal trophy dog who had no real idea how to handle it. (The dog was more sensible about things than its owners, most of the time.)

Route: This walk is relatively short but there are three bouts of steepness, two going up and one down, which are unavoidable. Routefinding is simple and — while you should always pack one, of course — you probably won’t need to consult a map. The views of the Brothers Water/Kirkstone district, and the Fairfield range, are magnificent, and as an added bonus this is a walk wholly free of bog and swamp. However, in bracken season (June – October) you should probably vary the ending — see the route notes below.


Hayeswater and a pointy rock

From the bus stop take the lane through Hartsop village (which remains impossibly pretty, almost like a film set) and through the gate onto the Hayeswater access road. When I came here back in August 2016 (walk 115), this road was undergoing repairs and was unpleasant to walk on, but it’s all been done now.

On page Gray Crag 3, Wainwright suggests that though one can climb directly to the ridge as soon as one is past the intake walls, “it is easier and more interesting to continue first to Hayeswater and gain the ridge from there”. We tried this latter tactic, and while it may well be “more interesting”, if you’re into reservoirs anyway, after Joe and I hauled ourselves up a very steep grassy bank, it would be a surprise if this were actually any easier. Going to Hayeswater seems to do little other than add at least half a mile to the distance. The direct route up Gray Crag looks obvious enough from the bottom and to be honest I see little reason not to take this.

Gray Crag

Looking back along the ridge to Gray Crag

However you do it, once on top of Gray Crag, it is obvious that you just have to keep going in the direction of Thornthwaite Crag ahead. Add this fell to the walk if you want, but there is no actual need to do so. Once over the nameless little rise at 2331’ it is obvious that a simple traverse can bring you to Threshthwaite Mouth without needing further climbing — this is also implied on the diagram on Gray Crag 3. Taking this traverse also saves you from what looks like an awkward descent off Thornthwaite Crag. (And I’ve already bagged it twice, anyway.)

Not that the climb out of the Mouth and up Caudale Moor looks any easier as you survey it from below. It’s a steep, semi-scramble for sure, though not a severe one. Try not to get too far away from the crumbling wall that accompanies you up the slope, as once things level out this also points the right way to the summit, which is then slightly to the left. Looking back, it is odd how completely Threshthwaite Mouth disappears from the view, and the walk from Caudale Moor to Thornthwaite Crag looks rather straightforward — there must be many hikers who have embarked on this trip unaware of the Mouth below, and had a much harder time of it than they anticipated.

Joe and Hartsop Dodd

Joe on the way to Hartsop Dodd

From Caudale Moor’s summit cairn, head back north to Hartsop Dodd. Wainwright suggests sticking to the edge of the escarpment to the right, but keeping to the wall gives easier walking and also allows enjoyment of the view opening up to the left. Hartsop Dodd is otherwise an unremarkable fell but this really is one of the best views in the District, with almost the whole of the Eastern Fells visible, and marvellously grouped as if for a big wedding photograph. Fairfield and its satellites look particularly handsome.

View north to Place Fell

View north: Place Fell in shadow, Angletarn Pikes (in front) and Great Mell Fell (behind), lit up

Descent from Hartsop Dodd straight down to the road (and pub) visible below is possible as long as you find the zig-zag groove that heads down that way. We found it, but it took a few minutes. The descent is steep but not too bad; there are at least a dozen zigs and zags. Note, though, that the last few hundred feet of this lie in bracken-land. In the summer this may well be impassable — at best, it will be unpleasant. From June to October then, your best descent is probably straight ahead, and heading back down to Hartsop instead, but that is a village without a pub. Or, traverse around the little valley of Caudale below and take the bracken-free path that you can see descending from the old quarries: this involves quite a bit of backtracking, however.

The zigzags eventually deposit you on the road by the Brotherswater Inn. The bus stop is a hundred yards or so further on, and accessible by the campsite access road at the back of the pub, to save you having to walk on the road.

Caudale Moor from below

Caudale Moor, looking back from the ridge to Hartsop Dodd

Half-term commentary: The tradition of the “late May walk with Joe” has been reasonably well maintained throughout the whole project. Starting in 2010 (walk 18), today was our sixth out of ten available: this week always being the half-term holiday from school. Looking at the picture of the little munchkin in Thornthwaite Forest on the walk 18 page you wouldn’t believe now that 2019 is his last year at secondary school — this holiday coming in the middle of his GCSE exams.

Whatever he does go on to do next year and in the future, it’s pleasing that he still occasionally has the desire to accompany his old man on one of his ultimately illogical yomps around Cumbria. And I’m happy still to have him on them. He does slow me down and sometimes complains about his bad feet but despite that he’s still good company.

View over Hayeswater

View over Hayeswater from Gray Crag, to The Knott and Rampsgill Head

I did work out today, though, that to pay the price for two adult train tickets that I get quoted online for Hebden Bridge to Penrith, plus the bus tickets to Hartsop, would have cost me something like £120 today. Now there are many ways to reduce this price, and believe me I have learned, and apply, them: but even with these I reckon that two adults, without further discounts of some kind, could not realistically have done today for much under £85. We paid £57 all told, a consequence of waving the Friends and Family Railcard, but that runs out early next year and Joe is now too old to renew it. Even £57 is pretty expensive however, at least for some families.

View towards Kirkstone

Looking towards Kirkstone Pass, with Middle Dodd prominent on the right

It’s not just the expense of bus and train travel up to, and around, Cumbria that bothers me, it’s the labyrinthine way in which prices are calculated. Discount cards or day tickets, like the very useful Lakes Day Ranger, are available, but (especially in the case of the latter) are not advertised at all and/or very difficult to actually buy. On top of that, while connections on the way to walks have greatly improved since I began all this nearly ten years ago, coming home they have once again deteriorated. Our journey home today took 90 minutes longer than the journey there thanks to buses and trains failing to mesh with each other.

Sheep on Gray Crag

Today’s sheep picture (on Gray Crag)

The fact that I’d already bagged Thornthwaite Crag twice was the main reason we didn’t add it to today’s walk, but it did cause me to again reflect on my decision that I am not going to complete, or even be tempted to start, a third round of the 330. There are all sorts of reasons for this, which I could discuss for pages more yet, but I will spare you that. But one reason is that I’ve simply gotten tired of battling with the idiosyncrasies and expense of public transport in Cumbria. Whomever it is who is responsible, whether it’s the operators or national and local government, and whether it’s bad planning, bad management, financial neglect or all of the above — I’m getting tired of it. I want to finish the last 127 (after today) fells before the mooted deadline of late 2021, and then get out and see some other parts of the country, walking-wise. I may well find similar problems afflicting me there, of course, but at least they’ll take a different form.

Arnison Crag

Arnison Crag poses for the camera in the middle distance

Don’t get me wrong though, today was a good day and I enjoyed it. The view from Hartsop Dodd is surely one of the District’s unsung marvels: if there’s a better panorama of the whole Eastern Fells, from Red Screes round, well, I don’t know where to find it. (Angletarn Pikes has a good view, but this is better.) Threshthwaite Mouth was an interesting and dramatic cleft in the landscape. And despite some cloud and chill in the afternoon it was still a better (and certainly drier) day than was forecast. Moving on…. Joe goes back to his exams, I go back to work (well, sort of) and I hope the next walk will be in three weeks’ time.

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