Ashness Bridge & Walla Crag – Keswick – Saturday 21st Jan

S.M.A.S.H. Get Pasted again on Keswick Classic 

January heralds the first walk of 2012 for the S.M.A.S.H. team and this time we go back to Keswick to bag that little Wainwright overlooking the town. Walla Crag is another of those much loved walks that proves you don’t have to get to the dizzy heights of the big summits of Skiddaw or Blencathra and the Helvellyn’s to really appreciate the beauty that surrounds.  I was here in the summer of 2011 when Jack and I picked up Walla Crag on the way to Bleaberry Fell and High Seat for our first wild camp. The scene this time would like very different in the bleakness of January.

S.M.A.S.H. were very pleased to welcome on board Umar. Abs’s younger and equally charming brother sporting the same dark locks and shiny beard it promised to be a good day if only for the company. So what weather would January 2012 serve up. Well one thing was certain, changeable and lots of water all around and the previous days rain would race down off the mountain gullies into Derwent Water.

The three of us eventually found each other in the darkness of the EDF car park desperate to get the journey started as early as possible. The rain was well set in and the outlook was a dreak looking kind of day however the forecast for Keswick was suggesting a mix of showers and sunshine but very high winds from the North West. We arrived at the Headlands Car park in Keswick around 09:20 and layered up for a walk that was one of two halves. Starting out along the shore of Derwent heading south to find Ashness Bridge and then climb North East towards Walla Crag.

Going soft

We all figured we may as well put on the water proof trousers now rather than battle with them in the wind. The last two walks we attempted to put trousers on you’d think we were trying to fly them rather than wear them. We picked up the clear footpath from the Borrowdale Road which lead down toward the lake shore into the edge of Great Wood on a rooty single track that squeezed us against the road and then against the shore line.The rock being wet forced one or two pre steps before really set your foot down just in case of a slip and an early bath.  I remarked I was already the number one suspect to take a fall as I didn’t even make my own stairs on Friday without braying my knee so hard it made me dance about on the landing for a while.  I’ll start wearing my boots at home more often I think. The view across to Catbells was very murky, dull and grey you could breath the moisture in the air. Derwent Water looked choppy, a lone pleasure boat was out obviously pleasure can still be found if just to see the mountains from the lake in complete solitude. I can appreciate that.

Still, we made it back onto the Borrowdale Road again after hopping over the small stone wall at Barrow Bay and crossed over to join the lane climbing steady we began to warm up we took off our hats. White water falling from the Falcon Crag, (popular with climbers) and Brown Knotts one must always remark on the sound. We all agreed that it’s the best sound for anyone looking to de-stress and for me nothing captures natures sound better. In no time at all we arrived at picturesque Ashness Bridge. Turn back and you see one of finest views in Lakeland. One that has graced postcards and calenders for years.

A couple of Hobbits from the Shire

Ashness Bridge is a quaint little pack horse bridge wide enough for just one car. It wouldn’t look out of place on the Shire as Umar rightly observed. Barrow Beck run underneath, over masses of  smoothed stone creating dramatic falls and of course that wonderful sound. We stood and admired the view down to Derwent and to Skiddaw and took up suitable posing positions for the family album. Then Umar took up the lens duty and began snapping franticly as Abs and I did our best to ‘work the camera’ as Umar was clearly get a kick from directing us for best effect.

The Brothers Beyoned – Skiddaw and Derwent Water

Now it was time to get a bit of altitude. A walk without it just would be right in the S.M.A.S.H. diary so we turned back to pick up the footpath and traverse the fells below Brown Knotts through the gate with the high tech rock on a  chain closing device. Since we  were not so far from the Bob Graham memorial it would only right we should come by a fell runner. They never fail to make you feel comparatively lame as we stood to take a breath, pretending we were just admiring the view as he jogged by in running shorts and waist bag. “He’ll catch his death.”

As we gained height the wind began to bite and gain strength. Now with nothing in it way, the crags we walked above were acting as a wind accelerator as the wind rams into the steep fell-side it has to go over the op and comes at you with huge force. Umar already looking like a ninja in his face buff tightened his hood and Abs battened down everything, refusing to look towards the wind incase his windows blew in. Umar started jumping up with his arms out hoping to be blown to some far flung destination. Then went chasing his headgear across the rough heather. The wind was immense. The view was ever changing, the clouds racing from the Newlands Valley across the lake in seconds. I lead us on towards Lady’s Rake shouldering the gale.

Not all water falls!

The falls near Cat Gill were a sign of how windy it was as the water was lifted up and back on itself spraying us as we made up to the last press up onto Walla Crag.

Walla Crag is not so much of a summit but view point made of a great baldy stone plateaux with plenty of room to run around. In the sunnier months this place would be filled with family’s on day trips from Keswick. Everyone and his frog would be up here. Today we had the place to ourselves.

I made straight for the outward view over Derwent  across to Cat Bells and behind the snow capped summit of Grisedale Pike.

Catbells, Maiden Moor and Grisedale Pike from Walla Crag

I then retreated as my cheeks were being hooked over my ears by the continued gusts. Umar and Abs holding onto their hats searched out a shelter round the back looking over Keswick. Calm at last and place to break out the Earl Grey and sarnies. A toast to those friends that couldn’t make it we S.M.A.S.H.ed Walla Crag and took in the view of toy town Keswick and Skiddaw wearing a grey hat. The clouds above were wrecked and chewed by the prevailing winds and broke up occasionally by clear blue sky. Then it would change again.

A break in the clouds behind Keswick.

A pool of light gathered just behind Keswick and a lonely beam of sunshine made its way from Bassenthwaite across the feet of Skiddaw, so sharp and bright one could easily imagine some kind of UFO was searching for a landing place. I’d never seen anything like it. We took more photos of us messing about on the crag and then packed up for the descent to Keswick. We took in a few precarious steps towards the edge of the crag looking down in the wood below.  A shear drop leaning into the wind. If Abs had control of the wind he would have switched it off to see of I went over.

We went through the wall and onto the grassy slopes toward Castle Rigg. The grass looked like it might be quite suitable for a round of GrArse sliding. Umar was up for it so I gave him a quick demonstration. A good first attempt from the new boy wonder with a rolley polley finish. It was good for a 6 each from Abs and I for comic value, but the stone wall faced Swedish judge was having none of it and marked him down for a poor line and distance. A couple more attempts were a mix of slides and trips. On one run I veered off the grass into the rocky trail and decided to call it a day in case I wouldn’t make it to the finals in the summer. Umar showed good technical ability. He’ll return again I’m sure with kevlar pants.Click here:

We sauntered down to the bridge over Brockle Beck knattering about growing up, bikes and games we played as kids inspired by our newest favourite game of sliding on your arse down a mountain side aiming for Keswick. We turned into Keswick onto the high street and market place. We made a visit to the Pitlochry for a quick feel for a Harris Tweed jacket that Abs and Umar have had their eye on for while and then we shortcut to the car now realising how clam it was compared to the pasting we took on Walla Crag. Again we paid our dues to the weather man, banking on some payback in the summer.

Great views of Keswick and Derwent WaterWalk Route Summary:– Keswick, Friar’s Crag, Calfclose Bay, Barrow Bay, Ashness Bridge, Walla Crag, Rakefoot, Castlerigg, Brockle Beck, Spring Farm, Keswick.Vital Statistics for this Walk

  • Length/Distance: 10.00km (6.25 miles)
  • Total Ascent: 375m (1230ft)
  • Allow at least: 3.50hrs
  • Walk Grade: 

Saturday 14th January 2012 – Limestone Plateaux between Kirkby Stephen & Crosby Garrett

The best thing about starting out early in the winter is that you can  catch the Sunrise. The sky was glowing by the time I was heading past Bishop Auckland on the way to my first planned outing of 2012.

I arrived at the free carpark in Kirkby Stephen at 09:00 and into what looked like a scene from David Attenborough’s Frozen Planet. I geared up and found the news agent and stocked up on a couple of munchies and checked to map over for some vague idea of were I was heading.

Tarmac to Smardale Fell

I’ve never ridden in this neck of the woods known as the Upper Eden Valley which is neither in the Yorkshire Dales National park or the Lake District but that space before the Howgill Fells just off the A66. So I figured it was long overdue. Of course this time of year one would be wise to choose a route that didn’t swallow you whole in a muddy quagmire but one that had plenty of stoney tracks.

A lonely shadow of a bloke on a bike

Setting off then away from Kirkby Stephen climbing towards Smardale in a -3° face biting temperature I donned a balaclava to block the chill. My fingers were numb before I even got going. I was wondering if I would get cold to the core or worse still trampled by Alaskan buffalo. The scene was quite spectacular though, like a Christmas card. A robin perched in a frost covered bramble, and sheep being ushered across the field to pasture. Poor things, I hope they have gloves. But I was warming up as the climb stiffened past Waitby onto Smardale Fell offering up some fantastic panoramic views back towards the North York Dales, and over to the west the Howgills Fells. The Howgills are a very distinctive collection of hills immediately identifiable by their rounded layered appearance. Alfred Wainwright accurately described them as looking like a heard of sleeping elephants. Today they were lit perfect by the low winter sun and fronting a crisp blue sky.

'ave ye got owt t'eat?

Click here: I dropped down using a choice of lines that crossed and joined again, rising and bending down to Smardale Bridge where I found signs of what was clearly a Limestone Plateaux shared with Scandal Beck flowing over it. From here on the tracks were hard from the stone and very dry, so a good choice of route for sure. Of course any grassy or bog sections were solid due to the subzero temperatures that even after about 8 miles there wasn’t a spit of mud to be seen on me or the  bike. Bonus!

Looks like a Limestone Plateaux at Smardale bridge

This part of the route makes up the C2C. I was taking it only as far as Browber were I climbed again to Bent Hill but not before scoffing a refrigerated Snickers and mending a rear puncture. Normally this would have dampened the spirit but the sun shone so intensely it just made stopping for a bit a pleasure, a chance to take in the atmosphere .  I remember thinking this is the most enjoyable winter ride and in terms of the conditions and quality of the trails, perfect. Just the kind of day I’ve been longing for.

Passing through Bent Farm I was amused by the sheep being hearded into feed by the Farmer on his quad bike and two tireless black and white collies doing a stirling job of keeping them in a tight pack. Though at one point the farmer shouted some sheep dog type abuse at one who had what looked like it had deliberately left 2 sheep separated at the back of the pack. The dog  ran back and got behind the two sheep and harrassed them up towards the farm with the rest. Once they were clear of the trail I cracked on climbing up to Bent Hill where I passed the farmers son giving it the beans on his quad bike, chucking in some jumps and doing doughnuts. He was having blast, you could tell.  Must be great to have all that space to play on and an engine. I wanted a go!

Bringing the sheep home from Bent Hill

Click here: This descent was the second and last of the short ride into Crosby Garrett. Starting on a broad short grass track leading onto a fine stone double track that had some nice stone kickers and drops. Hopping and skipping over the frozen puddles I swerved under the viaduct and into the small hamlet of Crosby Garrett to catch my breath and check the map. One last quick climb up to the church and pick up the return lane back down to Kirkby Stephen at around 12:30.

October 29th 2011 – High Rigg

Low Clouds greet S.M.A.S.H. on High Rigg

For anyone who ventures into the great outdoors has to love the month of October. How can it be that this month can deal the 3rd hottest day of the year on our last walk onto Latrigg where it topped 28° then 28 days later blown over in 11° on High Rigg just a few miles away. October will be known forevermore as the box of chocolates month. Today the SMASH crew were down on their numbers as well as their luck for fine weather. The dreaded man flu was attacking the female variety too, Of course all who made it out last time were going to be missed on this outing, another lone peak squashed between the fell of Clough and the town of Keswick. As we approach Legburthwaite our starting location we are dwarfed by the range of the Dodds leading eventually to the Helvellyn massive, a mighty wall of scree and bare rock spotted with some very hardy looking sheep. We geared up for a not too wet day, the shelter of the car park low down is a poor indication of what lie ahead. The small people (Jack and Emily) joined Angela, Abs and Dean to ascend 357meters at High Rigg or given it’s alternative Birkett name Naddle Fell via Wren Crag. The climb starts steep within 5 minutes and already we feel a cold breeze on our backs. Emily starts out leading an obvious narrow path through the mature oaks and Scott’s Pine trees upwards to Wren Crag. Turning back we can see Thirlmere Lake and the A591 running through the valley. Thirlmere was once two lakes, Leathes Water and Wythburn Water before they were flooded and dammed to meet the increasing demand for water in Manchester. The path peaked and troughed and snaked along the ridge forcing a few ‘hands on the rock’ moments and the occasional bog jumping or stepping stone antics. You choose carefully or risk a booty. Abs and I broke out the wet trouser-ware. We knew they’d come in and glad we brought them. Jack traded the lead with Emily while Angela just stomped on with a tight hood and kindly lent Emily her woolly hat. That fine rain was actually just low cloud blown by a stiff wind to make it feel like rain. At least it was behind us. The extremities were beginning to feel the pinch of the wind chill, I wish I brought gloves. High Rigg soon loomed, displaying a boulder garden before it. A quick bound up to meet a stumpy cairn surrounded by puddles and an even spikier wind that made it almost painful to take in a full 360° view from the top. Angela wrapped tight couldn’t hear my gesture of “well done.” We made good time helped along by a south westerly that blew Abs off the summit to a quieter spot were he accidentally located the Geocache Jack and Emily we were searching for under a stone slab. SMASH took their name in the soggy log book.

“Don’t ask me why I enjoy walking.”

We set off for the return leg steeply down aiming for the youth centre. A sudden slip from Jack on wet grass spawned a new sport we proudly call Grarse Sliding. Amateurs now, but think of the future possibilities when one can steer their well trained buttocks to descend all Wainwrights. Is High Rigg No.210 the first of many? Almost certainly. We picked up the bridleway skirting around the base of High Rigg and happened upon the Tea Shop which was not unlike a house with Tea in. We helped ourselves to coffee and hot chocolate, dropped some change into the honesty box and left the lean-to conservatory to head back to the car for dry clothes and a warm, quiet journey home after an honest and spirited walk.

October 1st 2011 – Latrigg

S.M.A.S.H take Latrigg on the Warmest October Day on Record  

Latrigg Summit with Derwent Water , Catbells, Maiden Moor Backdrop. Angela; Paul; Katy; Annie; Anthony; Abs; Dean; John; Small people Emily; Jack and Lesley on Lens

After September’s drowning on Castle Crag anyone would be forgiven for thinking October was going to see more of the same. The SMASH crew prepped with wet weather gear set on sealing themselves from the slightest signs of moisture. The sun spat a solar flare at England on Tuesday just in time for SMASH to return to the Lake District. This time they aim for a little more altitude and distance. Keswick’s favourite and most accessible Wainwright Latrigg is one of the lowest fells in the district and has long been a popular people’s peak due to its beautiful views down the valley of Borrowdale from the summit. It’s the least mountainous of the Skiddaw fells and is almost devoid of rock. SMASH set off from the old railway station and in no time were on the trail headed skyward into the woods flanking Latrigg. It was fairly arduous along Spooney Green Lane which served up some nice views early on towards Bassenthwaite Lake. SMASH pressed on up, snapping camera shots of the massive Skiddaw range which was now beginning to glow from the morning sunshine and along with it the growing SMASH team which had some small people to show them the way. One walker commented as he passed “you’ve brought half of Keswick with you.” No just some reprobates from the dream factory and a couple of ankle bitters incase we get peckish. We swung around the back heading north via Mallen Dodd with the sense of summit. Latrigg has an unremarkable summit prompting a premature peak smashing celebration at the memorial bench. Just a little further east saw us all safely sprawled out in sheep pasture that is Latrigg at 368m, 1203ft overlooking Keswick.

Number 206 on Wainwright’s list he was moved to describe the view from Latrigg  “a panorama of crowded detail, all of it of great beauty: indeed this scene is one of the gems of the district…The far horizon is a jumbled upheaval of peaks, with many dear old friends standing up proudly.”  We all sat for a while soaking in the fine view and picking out the peaks while scoffing sarnies and throwing sheep droppings at the small people. We huddled for the group photo (see above) all looking quite chuffed we had bagged another peak in the name of just getting out with some good company in beautiful surroundings.

“They’re’s that way!”

We set off down the ridge toward Brundholme Wood which looked a lot like Mario land, there were all manner of different mushrooms everywhere. We followed the river and the old railway stopping occasionally to bunch up or cool down at the waters edge. The scene was one of a balmy autumn day, hard to believe it was October. By the time we arrived back in Keswick we had all walked over 6 miles. We needed a well earned cuppa and a slice of cake so we dumped our gear in the cars, changed clothes and headed into Keswick to search out the Temporary Measure with it’s disturbing blend of haberdashery, photographic canvases and stories, commissions, cards, accessories and a lovely cup of tea… SMASHing!

September 2011 – Castle Crag

Smiles Prevail in Driving Rain as S.M.A.S.H do Castle Crag

Annie(not of moons past) Cummings, Dean(long lens)Bowen, Anthony(wet whistle) Murray take two for the camera held by Abs(wet beard) Jabbar with a murky Castle Crag backdrop.

So is summer over?Of course not! Walking in rain has to be expected in the England’s Lake District. As the newly initiated members of S.M.A.S.H will tell you,’ there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.’ And they should know because the first outing into the Borrowdale Fells in low clouds and ‘that fine rain that soaks ya through’ was bound to expose us as newbies to this walking mallarky. Undeterred by the moistness we geared for the worst and head straight along the bridleway through the woods towards Castle Crag which could clearly be seen but only just. Stream jumping quickly became a test of skill but in fairness, if one judged wrong and got wet then you were no wetter. Ant provided a much needed service to us all by trying to soak up all the water in the Lake District into his shoes and jeans while Annie stepped fairy like upon the stones to avoid the ‘rising damp effect’. Castle Crag’s summit was reached by crossing the wall by a stile and following a steep zig zag path through the slate workings to the summit.

Dean, Annie, Abs and Anth on a Wet lap around Castle Crag Summit

The summit is a relatively flat grassy area above the trees and the odd rocky outcrop; one has a metal war memorial attached to it. Castle Crag provides impressive views, though not on this day. Not to say that what we could see was still satisfying, to hold such a lofty position overlooking the jaws of Borrowdale, still breath taking. The only sound was that of gushing becks that fell fast down the sides of Honister pass. Windy on top, we experienced the ‘refrigeration affect’ so we quickly hoovered our lunch in preparation for the descent. Annie spotted something on the ground. We still don’t know what but must have been interesting. We ventured further past the caves and had a squire at the Bowderstone. A large 2000 tonne single fragment of stone. Then returned to the Grange for cream teas, dry off and warm our cockles. Reflecting over the day, talk turned towards the plans for the next S.M.A.S.H walk and who else would like to join us. It was a perfect end to a perfect ‘wet’ day.

2012 C.R.A.S.H Ride Diary

Limestone Plateaux between Kirkby Stephen & Crosby Garrett -20km/12.4miles Kirkby Stephen – Saturday 14th Jan – Week 3

Sedbergh and the Upper Rawthey Valley -23km/14.2miles- Sedbergh – Saturday 25th Feb – Week 1

Reeth & Reeth High Moor -20km/12.4miles – Reeth – Saturday 24th March – Week 1

Horcum Loop – 27.1km/16.8miles – Horcum – Saturday 21st April – Week 1

High Street North -30km/18.6miles – Hartsop – Saturday 19th May – Week 1

Tour of Helvellyn – 45km/28miles – Grasmere – Saturday June 16th – Week 1

Hell & High Water The Big Epic – 214km/133miles – Pooley Bridge to Saltaire – Thursday 12th – Sunday 15th July –Week 1

High Street & Swindale – Staveley – Saturday 11th August – Week 1

Big Day Out – Clappersgate – Saturday 8th September – Week 1

Gary Law’s 50th – Aviemore – Thursday 20th – Sunday 23rd September – Week 3

Parkamoor & Tilberthwaite – Coniston – Saturday 6th October – Week 1

Askrigg & Thornton Rust Moor – Askrigg – Saturday 3rd November – Week 1

Scafell Pike from Wasdale Head, Wast Water – Saturday 25th August – Week 3

The direct route up and down England’s Highest

Walk Route Summary:– Wasdale Head, Lingmell Gill, Brown Tongue, Hollow Stones, Mickledore,Scafell Pike, Mickledore, Lingmell Beck, Wasdale Head, Wast Water.

Vital Statistics for this Walk

  • Length/Distance: 10.00km (6.25 miles)
  • Total Ascent: 971m (3187ft)
  • Allow at least: 5.50hrs
  • Walk Grade: