View towards Long Crag

Looking towards Long Crag, with the one other hiker I saw today.

Date completed: 10th March 2015.

Weather conditions:  Breezy on the tops, but otherwise very good for the time of year.

Summits bagged: All nine of the summits in the Bannisdale Horseshoe chapter, to wit: Whiteside Pike (1302 feet above sea level); Todd Fell (1313’); Capplebarrow (1683’); two nameless summits at 1819’ and 1771’; Long Crag (1602’); White Howe (1737’); another nameless summit at 1736’ and Lamb Pasture (1205’). Thus, numbers 290-298 of the 330 Wainwrights.

Whiteside Pike

Whiteside Pike

Start and end points: Started and finished at Burneside railway station. This is on the Oxenholme – Windermere line, and on occasion sees direct trains to Manchester, although note that not all services along the branch line stop there.

The walk fitted with about half an hour to spare between 09.19, when the 09.11 departure from Oxenholme dropped me off, and the 17.01 departure from Burneside back to Oxenholme.

Distance walked: 17.5 miles. This is the second-longest walk I have done, only walk 35 was longer.

Total ascent: 2,600 feet approximately.

View to Kentmere Pike

View north from Capplebarrow, to Kentmere Pike

Pub at end: The Jolly Anglers, Burneside. This is just along the road from the large church in the centre of the village. Burneside is not the most picturesque village in the National Park, it has to be said, and the pub kind of reflects this. There was no real ale on the day I visited, and not much custom. But at the end of a 17.5-mile walk, you’ll take anything.

Route: This walk is worth doing for the views, the exercise, and the senses of isolation and achievement that it will engender. But be in no doubt — it is a long walk, a very long one in fact, and (without a car) there are no ways to shorten it. The gradients are easy throughout, but you still need to allow a whole day for it, and make it a day with a clear and fine weather forecast as well, because I would not want to do this in the rain.

View from the road to Garnett Bridge

A view from the road to Garnett Bridge, north of Burneside

Coming out of Burneside station, turn right, follow the road past the church and pub (noting its location for later), then turn left past the convenience store and over the bridge. The road develops a pathway on its left-hand side, which though muddy, should be used because I doubt walking on the road at this point is that safe. Follow the road round to the right as it passes an impressive fortified farm (Burneside Hall), then take the road on the left signposted Longsleddale.

This takes you all the way to the very pretty hamlet of Garnett Bridge, where the walk starts properly — it took me about an hour to reach it from Burneside, though I was taking a lot of photos; on the way back, with beer on my mind, I did it in 45 minutes. There was a bit of traffic on the road but not enough to make the experience uncomfortable.

View to Whinfell beacon

View towards Whinfell Beacon, from the ascent of Whiteside Pike

To get onto the Bannisdale Horseshoe from Garnett Bridge there is a choice of route. I decided to stick to the tarmac for a bit longer, following the road up Longsleddale until the farm of Mursthwaite where a public bridleway is seen slanting up the fell above — take this. I followed it round and up until the dome of Whiteside Pike became visible ahead, but this did force me to climb a high wall, the one apparent on the map on page 265 of volume 8. Perhaps then this is not the best way to start the walk, though the wall is not that hard to get over.

Anyway, from this point I might as well let the walk description in Wainwright suffice, because I followed it as closely as possible. A few additional points however.

View of Longsleddale

Ill Bell (left) and Froswick tower over Longsleddale

The western of the two ridges is wide, and provides neither the views of Longsleddale or Bannisdale that you might expect: instead, the best views are found to the south and east. Ill Bell and Froswick look impressive too, like Alpine peaks (see picture). Better valley views come from the eastern, second ridge, and there is also an extraordinary vista of Borrowdale Moss, which stands behind Long Crag and looks completely desolate (see picture below).

Paths are intermittent throughout, but route finding never a particular problem on a clear day (and as I said, if it isn’t a clear day, don’t do the walk). For the first half of it I thought Wainwright’s warnings about its wetness had been exaggerated, but the second ridge, heading back south, particularly around Long Crag, is where the swampiness kicks in. This comes just after lunch and when it starts to get tiring, and will be the low point. Incidentally, the summit of Long Crag is the cairn to the left — you will see three cairns lined up on the horizon as you approach.

Borrowdale Moss

View over Borrowdale Moss. Not a place to blunder into on a wet day.

Don’t follow the wall too closely for too long when heading south from Long Crag; the summit of White Howe (which has an OS column on it) is not visible from the wall. You will need to bear right up the slope at some point. There is no path here.

From point 1736’ down to Lamb Pasture, the final summit of the day, is the steepest gradient, and there are some low crags which might cause difficulties. Bear more to the left to avoid them.

Coming off Low Pasture I broke from the route as described in the book, heading for the tarmac at Dryhowe Bridge instead. Though I made a point of crossing the fence below, via a gate visible from the summit, with hindsight this was not actually necessary. Following that fence straight down to valley level would have worked. Check the map at this point. The farm track marked on it, which goes round to the bridge, is in very bad condition (more mud), but it can be followed.

Summit of Long Crag

Looking back to the summit of Long Crag

From Dryhowe Bridge one can follow this road back to the A6. At this point there seemed little alternative but to walk alongside the main road for a short way, like about 400 yards. It’s just about safe I guess, but be careful.

Escape with relief at the next public footpath sign on the right, and then turn almost immediately left, down a narrow lane which drops back to Garnett Bridge. Here turn right, then left over the eponymous bridge and you are back on the road that you came up this morning, which follow all the way back to Burneside.

There you are, 17.5 miles and 9 Wainwrights in one day. Well done.

Near Garnett Bridge

Near Garnett Bridge

Being nice to oneself commentary: Having committed to picking up the pace on these walks a bit and aiming to finish them by the end of this summer, before Worktober, I got so frustrated through February. I had limited opportunities to do walks in that month, but I did have a couple, yet each time there was just forecast chill, fog, damp, all the least pleasant weather conditions for walking. The fells were apparently cloaked in snow for much of this time and looking great, but I never got the chance to see them in this winter plumage.

So March came, and I had managed to block out four days of time this week from the Wednesday through to Saturday in order to take advantage of one of them and go and do this walk. I needed to do it, obviously — I need to do them all — and the Bannisdale Horseshoe was always going to be done this way, this very long hike from Burneside station. This isn’t a victim of the recent bus route cuts: there never was a bus that would help me with this one. (Perhaps Longsleddale had a bus fifty years ago, but not in recent history.) Because of its length, and having a sense of what the terrain was going to be like from other visits to the general area (e.g. walk 53, walk 80), I was holding out for a clear, fine day.

Thistle

Thistle, taken at Oxenholme station while I waited out Virgin’s failure to once again make the connection

So when the forecast seemed to suggest that today, Tuesday, was the only day of the week which might turn out like that — a mild crisis of conscience ensued. But it was quickly resolved by telling myself that some things are just more important than work. I rearranged a few meetings, put it that way.

It did indeed turn out to be good weather, not constant sun and a bit chilly when it was behind cloud, but certainly the best kind of day to be romping 17.5 miles across lonely territory. I didn’t expect to see anyone else out round there to be honest, but did in the end come across one other lone male hiker (who appears in three of the pictures on this page: two easy to spot but see if you can find the other). I was coming up behind him for a good ten minutes before passing him, coughing and treading loudly so as not to shock, and still made him jump in the end.

Nine summits bagged in one day then. Thirty-two to go, which I reckon clump into 10 more walks. I might still manage another one this weekend, if my knees feel up to it (the left one was suffering a bit by the end of this one, though not as bad as it has been at times in the past), but no promises: if not then, then it’ll be after Easter before I get out again.

One Response to “Walk 93: The Bannisdale Horseshoe”

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