Scafell and Slight Side, viewed through rainbow

Scafell and (to the left) Slight Side, viewed from Dow Crag

Date completed: 24th September 2010

Weather conditions:  As the pictures show, it was a bright, sunny day., with excellent visibility – the Isle of Man was clearly seen, which is the best test of this.  What the pictures cannot show is the phenomenal wind.  This was easily the windiest walk so far, most of it (until the final descent to Coniston) spent being buffeted by a very strong northeasterly gale.

Fells climbedDow Crag (2555 feet above sea level, no. 80), Brim Fell (2611’, no. 81), Coniston Old Man (2633’, no. 82).

Distance:  7.5 miles approximately.

Total ascent:  3050 feet approx.

Family of walkers on the horizon

A family of walkers near the summit of Coniston Old Man

Start and end points:  Started at Torver, specifically the road junction at SD285945 (what’s this?). Ended at Coniston. Both are served by the X12 bus from Ulverston. This is just as convenient a service as the #505 which links Coniston to Ambleside (and doesn’t serve Torver anyway) – and with the X12 being run by a local company rather than Stagecoach, who are a crypto-fascist organisation, it’s much friendlier and half the price.

Pub at end:  I would have happily returned to the Black Bull (see walk 6) but in the interests of fairness I tried somewhere else, namely the Crown Inn in Coniston. It’s OK, it lacks a bit of character but the beer (Hartley’s XB) was fine and it has an outside seating area that catches the sun.

Route card: Click here to download a route card which includes an elevation profile (how hilly the walk is), waypoints with grid references, and a summary map. Route card for Walk 25: The Coniston Fells (south)

Route Dow Crag and the Old Man dominate the skyline for the whole bus ride in from Ulverston so the objective is always clear and route finding was never a problem in clear weather. The walk is also surprisingly gently-graded considering how fearsome Dow Crag looks from the front. The only steep uphill bits are the final ascent to Dow Crag summit and the pull up to Brim Fell from Goat’s Hause.

Ask the bus driver to drop you at the end of the lane and head past Banishead Quarries (a pretty sight: see the picture) up to the Walna Scar Road. There is a choice of paths through the bracken towards the end but it doesn’t matter which you take. Once you hit the obvious Walna Scar Road, turn left, and ascend to the top of the pass. Great views of Coniston Water and the south Cumbrian coast open up (and remain visible for the rest of the walk).

Water falling into Banishead Quarry

Water falling into Banishead Quarry

The path along the top of Dow Crag is obvious once you reach the top of the pass, as is the subsequent descent to Goat’s Hause. But do note the climb to the very summit of Dow Crag requires some scrambling – and in the very high winds which I experienced, it’s not a safe place to be!

From Goat’s Hause there is no path direct to Brim Fell but though the climb is steep, the slope is grassy so it shouldn’t be a problem. (Most people on this walk will not do this summit anyway.) From there, the route to Coniston Old Man is very clear as is the descent by the tourist path to Coniston. However, there is one point on this descent where there is a choice of route, that is, where the quarry road swings off to the south: that does get you down to Coniston eventually but it’s a longer route than if you take the path to the left, which comes out in Coppermines Valley. Cross Miner’s Bridge and then the descent is easy, down the road which comes out past the Ruskin Museum into Coniston village.

Blown away commentary stuff: So I have reached the quarter-century of walks. The last one, 23 days ago, was done in high summer, but on this one I was fully wrapped and glad I brought a woolly hat because the defining feature of this ‘silver jubilee’ hike was the unbelievable wind. Previously I would have said that the windiest places I’ve been are either the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland or Cabo de Roca in Portugal, both of which are headlands exposed to the full width of the Atlantic Ocean. This walk was like walking on the Cliffs of Moher for three hours.  A northeasterly gale, which must be blowing at at least 50 mph on average, was full in my face for almost the whole way round from Banishead Quarries, a mile out of Torver, and only lessened when I got down to Low Water and into the shelter of Wetherlam.

Dow Crag and rainbow

Another rainbow, in front of Dow Crag (caused by the gale blowing spray off Goat’s Water, out of sight below the crag)

Still, the northerly air flow which it brought meant clear weather and excellent visibility and there were a couple of points at which rainbows turned the views into something magical – although my attempts to get pictures of them (as with anything else today) were often frustrated by the gale, which buffeted me and made many photos blurred. The one of Scafell and Slight Side through the rainbow is probably my favourite, though I like the one of the family (with dog) silhouetted on the skyline as I approach the summit of the Old Man (see above).

Path repairs near Low Water

Sacks of stones to be used in path repairs, on the way down by Low Water

I only discovered the existence of the X12 bus from Ulverston to Coniston the night before, and this is a very useful alternative to the usual Windermere station run. The train ride to Ulverston runs along the Cumbrian coast line which is amongst the world’s most beautiful railway lines and Ulverston is a pleasant enough place. The lady in the tea shop by the bus station is very helpful as is the bus driver. The whole trip is £3.30 return, which wouldn’t even pay to get you a single from Windermere to Ambleside on a Stagecoach bus, and those guys would probably get fired for chatting to the passengers in this amiable fashion. As we come past Coniston Water, however, even the locals are moved to comment on the unusually choppy lake surface, covered in little whitecaps. ‘It’ll be windy up there’, says the old bloke to my left. He’s not kidding either.

Coppermines Valley

Coppermines Valley in autumn colours

The wind defined the walk, and it was hard work and – especially on the top of Dow Crag, one of Wainwright’s Top 6 Summits – rather unsafe at times, but it didn’t spoil what is an excellent hike through fine scenery and with superb views in all directions. I made the descent from the Old Man to Coniston village in exactly 45 minutes – you’d be surprised how fast I can move when I am in need of a beer – and I was back in Hebden Bridge by 6pm, once again, glad that the opportunity exists to spend a day in such wonderful surroundings, tired but content and with plenty more to do yet.

One Response to “Walk 25: Coniston Fells (south)”

  1. Chryssa said

    Wonderful!!!!!

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

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