Above Finsthwaite

Above the village of Finsthwaite

Date completed: 28th October 2013 (with Joe). An ‘anniversary’ walk — two years to the day since walk 46, up Grasmoor, in similar conditions.

Weather conditions: On its own terms, mixed: we had most things today at some point. But no problems were caused, and any rain was light.

Rainbow over Windermere

Rainbow over Windermere, as seen from the ‘Swan’ steamer heading for Bowness

Laughably good, however, bearing in mind that a newspaper headline seen this morning read, “KILLER STORM STOPS BRITAIN” — er, no, you mean ‘the South-East of England’. If that storm had been heading for Stranraer no one would have heard about it.  I can assure all concerned that in the Lake District today things were reasonable enough.

Summits bagged: Finsthwaite Heights (quoted as being 590’, though see the note on that fell’s page about the altitude). This turns out to be number 230 of the 330 – so there are one hundred Outlying Fells to go.

Joe at Finsthwaite Tower

Joe inspects one of the ‘arrow slits’ in the walls of Finsthwaite Tower

Start and end point: Started at Newby Bridge. The X6 bus from Grange-over-Sands railway station will drop you at the end of the bridge itself, but you still have the problem of then getting over the road — don’t try crossing it anywhere other than the traffic island.

Ended at Lakeside, from where there are two distinctive ‘public transport’ options: first, the Lakeside and Haverthwaite steam railway, which can connect you back to Newby Bridge and thus Grange (the X6 bus also runs to Kendal, Ulverston and Barrow) and boats operated by Windermere Cruises, which run to Bowness and Ambleside. From Bowness one could easily reach Winderemere railway station.  Joe & I took the boat, and stayed the night in Bowness.

Distance walked: 5 miles approx [exact distance to follow]

Great Knott Wood

Autumn colours in Great Knott Wood

Total ascent: 900 feet approx [exact amount to follow]

Pub at end: Ruskin’s Bar at the Lakeside Hotel was lushly furnished, with dark wood panelling and a roaring fire. It also had expensive beer and was completely devoid of other life while we waited 25 minutes for the next boat. It doubtless gets busier, but I doubt it gets any cheaper.

It should be noted that the Windermere Cruise boats also serve refreshments, including beer, and at Lakeside there are also many other options for refreshments at the station and aquarium there.

To make it a hat trick today, we also had our dinner and evening drinks in the Albert, Bowness-on-Windermere. The food and drink were pretty good, but the whole vibe was one of a busy tourist-oriented place rather than a cosier and more intimate establishment.

Route card: TO FOLLOW

Pine woods on Finsthwaite Heights

Joe in the pine woods on the top of Finsthwaite Heights

Route: This is a woodland ramble, not a fellwalk, and certainly not a mountain climb.  Nevertheless it is a very beautiful one, and while probably not meaty enough to warrant a long day trip, it can easily be combined with one or more of the various other activities available at the southern tip of Windermere, such as the steam railway, the lake cruises and consuming various food products accompanied by alcoholic beverages. For reasons which should be obvious from the photos on this page, autumn is a very good time to do it.

Gummer's How and Staveley Fell

Looking to Gummer’s How (left) and Staveley Fell, two as-yet-unclimbed OFs,

Joe and I did not, however, do exactly the walk as described in the Wainwright chapter. We went wrong after leaving Finsthwaite (see below) and once on the Heights were too far south to find the High Dam. The route map and stats reflect this. However, seeing as there is no clearly-defined summit to the fell, I think that morally we can still claim to have bagged it. Finsthwaite Tower is a better point to treat as the summit, anyway.

The first problem on getting off the bus at Newby Bridge is to get across the road, which is horrendously busy. Use the traffic island. The bridge itself also carries its fair share of traffic and there are pedestrian refuges which need to be used. Keep the hotel on your right, take the right-hand fork and then, immediately over the railway bridge, escape from the road (with relief) into the path on your left. Very shortly afterwards, turn right, signposted ‘Finsthwaite Tower’.

Finsthwaite Tower

Finsthwaite Tower

The path climbs steeply but easily up to another signpost which advises that you might want to look to the right where there is a viewpoint. It’s probably worth a visit, as it is one of the few places on the walk where the view opens up, but you don’t see a great deal (Newton Fell and the A590, basically). After doing so, follow the other fork upwards and Finsthwaite Tower will soon be reached. You can’t go inside it, but it’s an atmospheric spot.

Carry on in the same general direction after visiting the tower. There are plenty of arrows on posts to show you the way and you will eventually drop down on to the forest road at the northern side of Great Knott Wood.  Turning left leads you across fields and into the village of Finsthwaite, wrongly described as a ‘hamlet’ in Wainwright — but a hamlet doesn’t have a church, a village does. However, it doesn’t have a pub, so no reason to linger except perhaps to eat your sandwiches on the seats of the churchyard, as Joe and I did.

The Fairfield horseshoe, seen as the boat came into Bowness. From left: Nab Scar, Heron Pike, Great Rigg, Fairfield and -- just -- Hart Crag: Low PIke has then caught the single shaft of sunlight.

The Fairfield horseshoe, seen as the boat came into Bowness. From left: Nab Scar, Heron Pike, Great Rigg, Fairfield and — just — Hart Crag: Low PIke has then caught the single shaft of sunlight.

From the church take the left-hand lane up to the road, turn right along it but then almost immediately left up what looks like a driveway but is a public footpath. Follow this across the field and then look carefully for the small sign poked into the ground that says ‘High Dam’. This sign was completely missed by Joe and I, which is why we ended up doing a walk that was slightly different to that described in Wainwright. It seems a bit pointless to provide any more specific directions; Joe and I got up to about point SD362879 (what’s this?), at which point the view opened up to the south and I realised we had missed High Dam, the point at which Wainwright suggests you turn back to Finsthwaite. So we did that anyway.

Leaves and bracken

Autumn leaves and bracken

To get from Finsthwaite to Lakeside, retrace steps from the church back across the field and into the woods, and then just go straight on. You will come out on the road about half a mile later, at which point just turn right and you will see the Lakeside complex (hotel, railway, boats, aquarium and probably several other things) within a few minutes.

Snippet commentary: Just a short one today — a short commentary I mean, but also a pretty short walk. Joe is on his half-term holiday this week and Clare’s away, so I am on child care duties for the first two days at least. Seemed like a good opportunity to come away somewhere pleasant and polish off some of the Outlying Fells that are probably not worth a full day trip from home. This was today’s trip but there’ll be another one tomorrow, if the weather stays OK.

Finsthwaite church

Finsthwaite church. Damn that telephone wire!

On that subject, compared to how awful the weather was throughout most of 2012, this year remains a pretty good one on the whole, above average I would say. Today was one of mixed weather, some drizzle and grey but also sunnier periods, and blasts of great light for photography. Mix with the rich autumn colours and there were some good ingredients for the walk.

View from Grange station

View from Grange-over-Sands railway station this morning

Such weather news may come as a surprise to those in the London-based media who would only today have seen the big storm that hit the south of England. Much as I appreciate it was a biggie, headlines seen this morning like “Killer Storm Stops Britain!” just annoy because of the way the whole country is equated with just a small part of it. Up in Cumbria it was fairly pleasant.

Finsthwaite Heights was a pleasant walk although Joe and I took a wrong turn on the second leg and that meant there wasn’t a punchline to the later section. Joe did seem to take the view that simply walking to some indefinable point on the eastern slopes of a very minor fell, then turning back and going down again, was a kind of eccentric thing to do. And probably he has a point. However, Finsthwaite Tower earlier was a neat spot and there were also very good views to be had on the boat ride up to Bowness.

Highest section of Finsthwaite Heights

Up on Finsthwaite Heights — the point at which we called it a day and turned back

I’ve never actually been to Bowness before, this being where we are staying tonight. It feels massive, bigger even than Keswick or Ambleside. You forget how many people actually live in the Lake District sometimes, let alone all the tourists. We are two doors away from a two-screen cinema, and there’s an Italian restaurant across the road, halfway up a high street that would do justice to any large town in England. Remote and rustic here we are not. But there are still those autumn colours to admire. More to come tomorrow.

3 Responses to “Walk 75: Finsthwaite Heights”

  1. […] Walk 75 took place today, in the company of my son Joe. Southern England currently recovers from a severe storm (though perhaps not quite as bad as one imagined — eh?); in the remote north-west things were pretty good today. With Joe on half-term holidays there was the need to keep him occupied, what better way than to go to the Lakes and pick off one of the easier remaining Outlying Fells, Finsthwaite Heights, on walk 75. A ramble through golden woodland colours, rainbows, trains, buses, boats and beer… […]

  2. Hazel Edwards said

    Love your blog Drew and it keeps our beloved Lake District firmly in our minds as we do our daily jobs in middle England. I keep dipping in and out and have over the months read all your posts. Especially love this and walk 76; we have recently spent 10 days in the Lakes and are already planning our next visit. We also enjoyed lovely weather, but then, then is no such thing as bad weather, only bad attire!!
    Please keep blogging.

  3. Angela Bell said

    The picture of where you turned back on finsthwaite height. Before you meet the wall on the left there is a path to the left. Follow that path which takes you round the back to the summit.

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