lake districtI had driven up to Blackpool for the Manchester to Blackpool Cycle Ride, but as I found myself with a couple of free days with my sister and brother-in-law both working, I took advantage of their fairly close proximity to the Lake District and took myself off for a day’s fell walking.

As I pointed my car towards Coniston, it looked like it was going to be a lovely day, and it felt so good to be in the Lakes again- it’s been far too long! Going back was like meeting up with an old friend you haven’t seen for years, but that old familiarity is still there and once you start talking it’s as though you were only in each other’s company yesterday…
I had decided on the classic ‘horseshoe’ route of The Old Man of Coniston, Swirl How and Wetherlam as I’d only been up the Old Man once before, in winter, with a distinct lack of a view.

I set off from the main car park in Coniston and passing a slate workshop decided to call in and buy a coaster bearing the legend ‘I climbed Coniston Old Man and Survived’. I said to the lady who served me that my purchase may be a tad premature as I hadn’t actually climbed it yet, but she said that she was sure I would.

The path climbs towards the head of a valley, with evidence of mining activity in the form of extensive slag heaps and metalled tracks. Fortunately this is soon left behind as the path snakes around the lower slopes of the Old Man and starts to climb. The remains of older slate mining activity is passed, with ruined buildings, rusting cables and track ways providing an interesting little detour.

Old mine workings

Old mine workings

Leaving the old mine workings behind, the track now ascends to Low Water, with the rocky wall of the Old Man towering protectively above. I could see the path zigzagging steeply upwards so stopped for a coffee and flap jack to gird my loins for the climb.

Coffee with a view!

Coffee with a view!

It is a bit of a slog, and I passed a group of volunteers carrying out much needed repair work to the path. This is a popular fell- indeed Wainwright said of the Old Man; “there are few days when the Old Man does not play host to visitors and in summer the blazed path to the top carries processions of pedestrians young and old, and there is often a noisy congregation at the summit“.

This was certainly the case today as when I reached the broad summit cairn there were so many people sitting there eating sarnies that it felt a bit like being in a café! It was a perfect day in the fells- warm, sunny and clear, and the views from the top are second to none- the Isle of Man and the Forest of Bowland fells can be seen on a clear day.

lake district

lake districtThe sheer crags of Dow Crag made an impressive back drop as I crossed the lovely ridge towards Swirl How.

Dow Crag from the Old Man of Coniston

Dow Crag from the Old Man of Coniston

It’s views like this that I have missed and I spent quite a lot of time just gazing in open mouthed awe and appreciation.

lake district

lake districtThe summit of Swirl How is quite small but still magnificent- it’s the descent to Swirl Hause that’s quite, erm, interesting. Known as ‘Prison Band’ it’s steep, exposed and rocky- all the things I am not to great at negotiating, so it was a very slow hands and feet effort.

It was time for some lunch at Swirl Hause… I usually eat lunch at work at my desk, but today I had to put up with looking at this… it’s a tough life!!

lake districtIt’s a fairly easy pull from the Hause onto Wetherlam’s broad and sprawling summit and I dithered a bit here as I wasn’t sure I was on the path back down to Coniston. I decided to follow it as it seemed to be going in the right direction, and after some muddy and rocky zig zagging it joined up with an old mining track before taking me back down into the valley. The clouds had melted away and it was red hot- I felt quite lucky as having a day like this in the Lakes is purely chance, and I am not so great at route finding when the clouds are down…

View from Wetherlam

View from Wetherlam

A perfect day in the Lakes

A perfect day in the Lakes

A short hop back down to Coniston brought me back to the Sun Inn, where I had coffee sitting on a terrace looking back up at Wetherlam’s green and grey bulk.

lake districtCar parking can be a bit pricey- it cost me £8 to park all day in the main car park in the village centre, in fact I have noticed that a lot of these car parks now offer the facility to pay by debit or credit card, but as long as the money goes towards maintaining the fells I’m happy with it.

I drove back to Blackpool tired but extremely happy, with some great photos on my memory card and memories of a perfect day out in one of my most favourite places. Lake District- let’s not leave it so long next time!!

lake district

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