Sunday 26th February 2012 – The Upper Rawthey Valley from Sedbergh

A healthy turn out this month from the C.R.A.S.H lads bolstered by another new face on the scene. Rob (Gary’s brother-in-law) who claims to have not ridden since before bike were invented, so is getting used to his Trek Fuel borrowed from his son. Nice one Rob.

So the crew line up is as follows: The neighbours, Alex and Craig, then Gary who’s nearly 50 and Rob who isn’t and yours truly.

Alex piled in with Gary and Rob to catch up on some needed shut eye, while Craig and I lead the way over to Sedbergh, England’s book town at the foot of the Howgills Fells and the Upper Rawthey Valley. You’ll find the area on the Ordnance Survey Map OL 19. We set off from Washington at 07:30 and arrived there around 09:30 and parked up behind the well kept public toilet in the main street.

A quick blast back along the A683 we peel off left down a narrow country lane heading to Thursgill Farm where the climbing starts as the road turns to a well surfaced stony track. Barely giving you much of a warm up we cross our first beck that inevitably drops steeply followed by an equally stiff climb. Gear management was set to be the order of the day as much of this side of the ride at least would see us traverse many waterfalls and becks on this east side of the Howgills.

Rob into Hobdale Beck

From here we all search for the granny ring up Fawcett Bank making every effort to bag the climb on fresh legs.

The weather here was nowhere near as clear as we had left it in the North East. There had been some serious downfalls from the looks of it and we were about to find out how this would shape up the ride.

The trails were drenched. On a technical incline we were all dabbing, searching for traction from the little that was on offer. A series of soggy dabs and false starts, trying  to get some momentum going to be taken out by a wet angled stone or a devilish root, it was bordering frustration. But the frustration soon began to look like a test that we all eventually came to accept as a path for the course for this ride in slippery February conditions.

Alex keeping together in the mud

This whole section was a lesson on riding off-camber mud and Alex was about to show me how to stop spectacularly on wet grass. An innocent 180° skid turned into a cartwheel for Alex and a backflip for his bike leaving them both laid out on the grass. Unfortunately I only saw it but didn’t capture his acrobats in quality HD video for your viewing pleasure. I left without the Go Pro today. It would have been off to Harry Hill like a shot. I think only Alex and I were laughing while all others were busy studying the ground for any morsals of grip.

Craig's crazy off-camber cappers.

The trail did eventually open out into some cracking flowy single track albeit in short bursts into dips and troughs.

Nice singletrack for Alex

 Despite the low cloud there was enough to see that we were in fine surroundings as we bunched up at the plains below Cautley Spout. Crossing the footbridge looking out for the stone trails hugging the River Rawthey I was just pleased to be out. The damp air took nothing away from the enjoyment of messing around and larking about on our bikes getting filthy dirty.

Alex, Gary and Rob cross the footbridge at Cautley Beck

Everytime Gary even looks at water he threatens to just get in. This was a regular  occurrence last year in Morzine. Today he stood up on the footbridge, arms aloft looking as if he’d throw himself into the beck. On a slightly more temperate day he’d have been in there for sure.

We crossed to the River Rawthey onto the A683 again at the Cross Keys and proceed on tarmac on the look out for a bridle-way on the left. To cut a long story short, neither of us could locate a bridle-way squeezed between the road and the river because on closer inspection there was no bridle way. The dashed line that seemed to be in the river was in fact a boundary and not a bridle-way. Needless to say we got a bit off the intended route and pressed onwards up steeply to Murthwaite. This steep push a bit ride a bit trail was a good excuse to break out the Soreen and my recent trail snack of choice Banana and Peanut butter wrap.  No one was keen to share it. I wasn’t complaining. Our (my) navigational mishap, meant we had to find some way back down onto the road again. The only option was a quick shoot  down a footpath to pick up a BW part way down that would spit us out on the road. With no real trail to make out it was each to their own on how they got down. Bums hanging out back to avoid any over the bar bailouts was the obvious approach.

Gary (who's nearly 50) free-riding off Murthwaite Rigg

We’re spat out onto the A683 finally and look up the road for a BW. However we first negotiate a fast flowing Sally Beck. I think we all managed to get across with relatively dry feet. Though the faintest BW was in such a soft and boggy state this would soon change that. A G.O.A.P stint followed, where I nearly lost a leg in the mud. Alex also to a dive and got an arm full of mud. Gary likened him to Cockle picker,It took me a while to suss the full extent of his humorous observation. Onto the lane leading us to Udale House there was nothing in front of us but the vastness of Baugh Fell. Another short BW signposted Bluecaster (very soft) which looked like a good downhill blast, forced me to make a rapid dismount or risk being buried in the squelchy mulch track.

We crossed a bridge over the source of the infant River Rawthey.  It was here we or I decided to get a group photo to send to Keith, our absent friend .

Rob - Gary - Craig - Alex

The next section was a moorland ride that skirts Bluecaster. A singletrack crossing dozens of gills.  A mix of boggy grass and wet trail that really did drain the legs in parts. This section felt more like a hard training session that I felt was about making it pay for those long summer rides we all have our sights on. Which ever way you look at it we were riding and that’s all that mattered.


Alex crossing another gill.

From here on we got our heads down and made our way down to the road where we would make a dash back to the carpark in Sedberg around 14:45. But before returning home we dropped into the ‘dry pub’ that is the Cross Keys with no beer, ridiculously low ceiling beams for a mid-afternoon lunch and a coffee next to an open fire served by a bloke nearly 7 foot tall. Suitably wiped out we slumped by the range fire. No one felt like moving, dispite the relatively short 16mile ride it felt like we had put in twice the effort.

In March we go to Reeth…

Baystones & Wansfell Pike from Ambleside – Ambleside – Sunday 19th Feb – Week 4

 Finally! A Walk with a View for the S.M.A.S.H Crew.

It was all change for S.M.A.S.H this weekend. We’ve changed our outings from Saturday to Sunday and today for the first time we head to the Far Eastern Fells. We also introduce Nichol, who fancied a look out too. We call met up at 08:00am at Doxford when just as we were about to leave, Paul AKA Heppers, AKA Cherry Cheeks pulls up completely unannounced, last seen out with us when we SMASHed Latrigg in October so a welcome return.

So our walking companions today are SMASH veteran, Abs, Paul, Nichol, Anth back in the fold, myself (Dean) and the small people Jack and Emily aged 9 and 7 respectively.

We arrived in the main car park in Ambleside at 10:15 after a long drive from Sunderland via the A66 turning south past Ullswater. The temperature now was a balmy 10° with very promising clear blue sky. The last time we were blessed with good weather was way back in October. Paul (Heppers) was with us then so he could turn out to be our sunshine mascot.

We set off toward the Stockghyll waterfalls by picking up the lane besides Barclay’s bank in to the woods to reach the base of Wansfell.

Everyone seemed to be making the most of the sunshine. Parents wrapping up the kids and taking them into the woods and some of them using a dog as an excuse to go fell walking. There was a sense that we should make the most of it because summer was still months away. Tripping over a few roots, slipping on steps and getting slightly wayward we backed up to find the exit through the penitentiary style gate.

All criminals were clear of the woods after 30mins, gaining height we could clearly see Wansfell Pike and the path leading the way. This is very popular walk from Ambleside and over the years the path had suffered terrible erosion. As responsible walkers we swapped our rugged hiking boots for some soft carpet slippers (not really). In the 1990’s the path was restored with massive stone blocks and now it takes on the look of a giant staircase. Today it was a frozen water feature, thick in solid ice which made the going a bit tricky. Abs dared me to try some grArse sliding but I thought it best to pass it up this time.

No one thought to pack the ice axe.

Already the view from part way up was spectacular. Ambleside and Loughrigg dominating the foreground with the Langdales and Coniston fells behind wearing snow caps it looked almost alpine in the clean cool air.

Ambleside and Snowcapped Langdales

Such was the effort required on this steep path meant we had to peel off a layer or two. Hats and gloves were promptly stuffed packed away, with heads down we pushed up towards the summit.

Role up the sleeves for an early workout.

Emily was setting a good pace, a little too enthusiastic though, we knew she’d burnout later. This walk was a change to a grade 6 for the extra height and distance over previous grade 4’s. The struggle to the summit was well worth it. For the first time we could see over the fell straight along Windemere, Blackpool and to the Irish sea. Anth and Abs agreed the view was breath taking. The prominence of Wansfell Pike is excellent and little wonder it’s such a popular walk. It was said that Wansfell Pike is to Ambleside what St. Paul’s is to London.

Looking South down Windemere from Wansfell Pike

We sat down on the craggy top and searched out lunch from our packs while Jack and Emily continued smashing ice with stones and generally amusing themselves. It was easy to imagine being here on a summers day this would be a great spot to sit and read, maybe write a book or just ponder a little. But with only a slight breeze added a chill that invoked a far from relaxed mode. We jostled about taking photos of each other, ate lunch then set off along the ridge to Baystones.

Small people - doing Big arms.

Nichol - Wansfell Pike

The ridge from Wansfell Pike to Baystones follows a dry stone wall over crags and gingerly across icy bogs. Nichol took a booty call, she measured the depth of the bog and found it to be exactly knee deep and pretty cold too. Fully equipped though she took out a towel to dry off a soggy foot and pressed on.

From the ridge you can look towards the Kirkstone Pass and the struggle down to Ambleside. Baystones is higher than Wansfell Pike, technically it is the true summit of Wansfell, but due to the pike’s prominence and fine views most people consider the lower Pike to be the summit.

Wansfell Pike - SMASHed!

The boundary wall to Baystones

 We head towards the wall at Baystones and then drop steeply on a fairly faint track. It was faint enough to completely miss, I used another wall to track us toward Nanny Lane

Dean, Jack and Emily do Big Arms on Baystones with Kirkstone Pass and Kentmere Fells behind. SMASH!

Nanny lane is a wide footpath that leads you to Troutbeck. In my opinion I would like to see it reclassified as a bridleway but then I know nothing of the reasons why it isn’t. I do know that it would be a lot of fun to ride a mountain bike down.  Emily remarked her boots were giving her some grief so I carried Emily on my shoulders and we took off running while she giggled comparing the ride to that of her favourite horse Bramble. “Bumpy to say the least” she said! This trail is loose and very stony with jagged rock as Anth found out when he took a slide on the ice and cut his hand. Nothing too serious though, more of take home memorial of the terrain than a proper injury. I continued to survey the trail for a mountain bike line the whole way down.

In Troutbeck we tried to sniff out a Tea shop. I knew there was one here. We turned left along the road to quickly find the village end and the Mortal Man pub,is amusing pub sign that reads “O mortal man. That lives by bread. What is it maks thy nose so red thou silly fool. That lookst so pale. ‘Tis drinking Sally Birkett’s ale.”  Realising the village was right at the road. We turned up at the post office housing the tea pots to find it closed in true English Sunday tradition . I guess this was one downsides of walking on Sunday, so we would have to stifle our thirst until Ambleside.

Gutted - tea shop closed - no cake!

Emily spotted a Robin as we entered Robin Lane, I’m not kidding! But as we began climbing, the distance we had walked was now evident in our faces, this is the farthest we had walked. But the sun shone and we took in the continued panoramic view across Windemere.

Robin Lane

What was on everyones mind now was, “how far had we walked and how far was it to Ambleside?” and further more,”what walk was next?” Given that we knew the diary held walks higher in altitude, there was a sense of trepidation about future exploits. Haystacks and Fleetwith Pike in Buttermere were next  and a few testing big peaks like Green and Great Gable in June would be a bench mark for anyone looking to SMASH Scafell Pike in July.

We headed into Skelghyll Wood and took one last rest for a group shot before the comfort of a nice cosy tea shop in Ambleside. Earl Grey anyone?


Paul(Heppers) Nichol, Anth, Jack, Abs and Emily

Walk Route Summary:– Ambleside, Stockghyll Force, Wansfell Pike, Baystones (Wansfell), The Hundreds, Nanny Lane, Troutbeck, Robin Lane, High Skelghyll Farm, Skelghyll Wood, Jenkin Crag, Ambleside.

Wansfell Pike & Baystones

Vital Statistics for this Walk

  • Length/Distance: 12.5km – 7 3⁄4  miles)
  • Total Ascent: 668m (2192ft)
  • Allow at least: 5.00hrs
  • Walk Grade: