Barf, from the climb to Lord’s Seat, with the Vale of Keswick behind.

Date completed: 2nd October 2020. The second anniversary of walk 153 in the far south of the District, meaning that in the last two years and including today, I have done 32 walks and bagged 95 Wainwrights.

Weather conditions: Sunny early on, and though it clouded over, it stayed dry. It was not warm, though. Full autumn is not here yet, but it’s definitely in the post.

Walker on the western summit of Whinlatter.

Summits bagged: Barf (1536 feet above sea level, number 259 of my second round), Lord’s Seat (1811’, no. 260) and Whinlatter (1722’ [*], no. 261).

Whinlatter was last bagged, with a very tiny Joe in tow, more than ten years ago now on walk 18, and the other two on walk 52 in March 2012.

[*] See Whinlatter’s fell page for observations on its altitude. The eastern top counts as a Birkett, as does the rather undefinable point of Tarbarrel Moss (1,617 feet: see the route notes).

Start and end point: Started and finished at the Whinlatter Forest visitor centre. This is served by the little #77 buses that run round the Keswick – Buttermere – Honister circuit. These run each year from Easter to late October. They are running at the moment, but with even more limited capacity than usual, and my only advice is — the best of luck to you.

The walk took me about three hours and ten minutes.

A sheep chills out on Whinlatter. Causey Pike behind.

Distance walked: 7 miles approximately.

Total ascent: 1,300 feet approx. The Visitor Centre is over 1,000 feet up and this greatly reduces the amount of climbing needed today.

Pub at end: The Centre has a café, but it is not licensed. The nearest pubs are down the hill in Braithwaite. I had a pint today at the Coledale Inn. The first time I visited here, 10 years ago, I did not like it at all, but I must just have had a bad experience on the day; it has also been refurbished since then and looks a lot smarter. It’s therefore now on the recommended list. If catching a bus, leave about ten minutes to walk down to the stop.

Looking south from Lord’s Seat.

Route: This is a pleasant and surprisingly easy walk. There are only a couple of bouts of awkwardness, when getting on and off Whinlatter (the fell); this last summit could be omitted but it does make for a more interesting hike to include it. I worried in advance that it would be a walk oppressed by trees but there are plenty of open-air sections and excellent views, and in fact this mix gives it an attractive diversity of scenery. Its only defect is that there are some boggy bits. The walk is probably OK in mist, though be careful on the summit of Barf, remembering that there is never any need to negotiate steep or rocky ground.

The paper OS map is not a huge amount of help today and you are best off both bringing along Wainwright’s volume 6, and also picking up a map of the Forest Park trails from the shop (though bear in mind this does not open until 10am — but you could print off this page before you go).

View to Derwentwater, backed by Bleaberry Fell and High Seat, over the woods of Whinlatter Forest.

A good chunk of the walk takes place along the ‘Seat How trail’, marked by the green arrows. The first main routefinding task is to leave the Centre in the right direction, as following these arrows at first will naturally lead you up a slope past a kids’ play area — but this is the way you want to come back down. So repress that urge and instead start the walk by going slightly downhill, keeping the mountain bike cabin on your left and also ignoring the next main forest road going up.

The green arrows then point you the right way, and you will not get lost for the next couple of miles as the route follows the very-well graded forest road. At one point there is a spectacular view over the Keswick/Braithwaite district below.

Barf shows off its rugged aspect.

The point to leave this marked route is at junction 54 (these numbers correspond to those on the Park map, and can be seen at the top of each little signpost), where the green arrow points away from the forest road into the trees. Ignore this and go straight on, but then bear right at the next junction (number 8).

This path drops downhill a little, and Barf comes into view ahead, looking very rugged and steep and making one incredulous that anyone would consider its direct ascent (see the note on the Barf page). I saw a kestrel hunting here, but could get only a rather fuzzy photo of it, unfortunately. The path ends at the forest fence, and ahead is clear ground and an obvious track up to the summit of Barf, which has a brilliant view of the Skiddaw range and Bassenthwaite Lake.

Bassenthwaite Lake (and Binsey, in the distance) from Barf summit.

From here the path to Lord’s Seat can be seen picking its way uphill through the heather. This is a straightforward but rather boggy climb. From the summit, descend to the stile visible below and re-enter the territory of the Forest Park. Stick to the gravel-topped path, bear right at the first main junction, and drop down through the trees — this is the gloomiest section — until reaching a broad three-way junction.

Lord’s Seat summit. Grisedale Pike is the peak to the left.

Here arises the first little problem of the day. The route on to Whinlatter is indicated in Wainwright (see the map on Lord’s Seat 6 for example) as heading up a short path through the trees and then coming out at a corner of the fence that separates the woods from the open moor of Whinlatter. All this does exist, but the trouble is that the path is indicated as being only for mountain bikes, with walkers prohibited.

This kind of segregation does exist throughout the Park and I do get the point, but that’s of little help when it’s the designated route onwards: I did look to see if there was an alternative but nothing was apparent. In the end I waited until the coast seemed clear and negotiated the track as quickly as I could. There were plenty of signs other walkers had done the same.

The shelter on Whinlatter’s western top.

Once out of the trees, one apparently attains the Birkett of Tarbarrel Moss, though you wouldn’t know this. The path becomes sketchy. It follows the fence closely for a while then veers right, through the heather, to attain the eastern of Whinlatter’s two tops from the back. Decide whether you want to bag the western top as well (pictured), which is the ‘Wainwright summit’ but marginally lower; it does have a better view, however. If you do bag it, it adds maybe 20 minutes’ walking to your day, and you have to come back the same way.

To return to the Visitor Centre head east, along the crest of the ridge until reattaining the forest fence, then descend down an awkward little section until reaching a big gate. Go through this and then along the wide forest road ahead until reaching the junction with the Gruffalo sculpture skulking in the trees (pictured). Here you are back on the Seat How trail and can let the green arrows once more direct you, past the play area mentioned at the start of my route description and back to the Visitor Centre.

Why the Gruffalo? Why not? Apparently there are several of these dotted through the woods.

Not Worktober Commentary: Anyone following my parallel County Tops blog may have noted that in July and August I did a series of three walks that were all rather oppressed by woodland. I have nothing against trees of course — we need them, and plenty of them — but one reason I walk is for the views, and in that regard, forests are never going to be helpful.

Nor were my last few visits to the Whinlatter Forest area trouble-free. I was reluctant to either have to battle with forestry operations closing the route (see walk 116), wade through oceans of bracken (walk 151) or simply get lost (walk 168). So it was pleasing to have an almost entirely grief-free walk today, and one where the trees not only relented in terms of their cover, but I would say, definitely added to the variety of scenery. I therefore nominate today the best of the five walks I’ve done around Whinlatter.

Walker on the eastern part of Whinlatter.

October, or Worktober as I’ve begun calling it down the years, is playing out quite differently for me in 2020. I’ve not been furloughed (though frankly, I wonder whether I’d have objected), but the start of teaching has been postponed four weeks and my October diary looks remarkably clean as a result. November and December: that’s a different matter, but we will just have to handle those weeks as they arrive.

In fact, public transport to the Lakes seems mostly back to normal. Mostly, however, is not entirely. For some reason the former 08:05 Preston – Penrith train service, which, when it was introduced a few years ago finally sealed a particularly irritating gap in the Cumbrian transport infrastructure, has not returned. This has two main impacts on access. First, the whole Ullswater district is now once again effectively inaccessible on a morning. Second, to reach the District at a reasonable hour by train requires coming in through Windermere, and that exposes one to the vagaries of The Oxenholme Connection — that is, whether Virgin deign to run their 07:53 Preston – Oxenholme service on time. This has always been a lottery. (Of course these trains are not actually run by Virgin any more but in the case of this service, for me, the branding has stuck.)

As good a way as any to boost the immune system.

Capacity constraints on buses are not helping either. We can argue about whether the measures are justified or not — despite Our Glorious Leader declaring on TV the other night that ‘There is no alternative!’, actually, there are several. But I am too tired of it, beaten down by months of fear and paranoia and Authority’s desperate need to be seen to Be Doing Something. I got to do my walk today, and it was a good one, and I am sure it boosted my immune system where it needed boosting.

The summit of Barf, with Lord’s Seat behind.

One final thing — sadly it looks as if today was the swan song of my present pair of hiking boots, as a big hole has opened up where the left upper meets the sole. They were first used on walk 142 in February 2018, so have only managed just over two and a half years, which was a lot less than the last pair. But maybe I just jabbed that weak point on a stone at some stage. Anyway, new boots and work and transport and weather and fear (not mine) permitting — I will be back when I can. I have done nearly 80% of my second round now and am now looking at 2022 as an end date.


One Response to “Walk 184: Whinlatter Forest Park”

  1. The capacity constraints on buses are one of the reasons I’ve not been using public transport for hill bagging recently. Would hate to find I couldn’t get on the last bus and get stuck somewhere or have to fork out for a taxi.

It's always nice to hear what you think....

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