At the end of last week I spent a couple of days in the Lake District before collecting our daughter from university. I based myself in Keswick at the C&CC camp site in my camper van. Unfortunately, on the first day, the weather was poor with the tops under clag and high winds, so I mooched around Keswick.
On the second day, the weather improved a bit and the forecast was a bit more optimistic, so I decided to do a day walk up the Newlands valley to Dalehead Tarn and then back over the High Spy/Maiden Moor ridge.
From Keswick, there’s an enclosed footpath across fields to a rather impressive suspension footbridge to Portinscale. Spurning the attractions of the hotel and cafe in Portinscale, I followed the road south to Fawe Park, where I cut over the hill, through a wood, flanked by rhododendrons, where a number of pheasants were wandering aimlessly around the woods.
Then I followed a good path past Lingholm and over Silver Hill, past a field of Llamas, which was a bit of a surprise. Emerging from the woods into a rough field, Cat Bells loomed ahead of me. I toyed with the idea of reversing the walk and going over Cat Bells, but the forecast was for improving weather in the afternoon, and the photographic opportunities were likely to be better heading back to Keswick, so I continued with my plan to walk along Newlands.
After reaching Skelgill, I followed the bridleway that skirts along the flank of Cat Bells along the Newlands valley. Newlands is one of the prettiest Lake District valleys. Even when the weather is not very good, it still looks beautiful. The clouds were still thick over the fells and provided some moody pictures.
Just above Little Town, there’s some mine workings. I noted that there’s some decent wild camping spots there, amongst the levels. The wooden bridge across the beck had been washed away, but it was easy to cross on the stones. If it was in spate, you’d have to go down to the road to cross.
Beyond Little Town, the valley, narrows, enclosed by the slopes of Maiden Moor on one side and Scope End on the other.
After the end of the fields, there’s another mine spoil heap, Castlenook Mine. Thus far the weather had been OK with only the odd spot of moisture in the air. Amongst the spoil, it was relatively sheltered, so I decide to sit down and have some lunch. While it was tempting to dawdle a bit, the prospect of losing daylight by four o’clock meant I had to push on as it was already well past midday.
Just beyond the mine, the path begins to contour up the fellside. Ironically, looking back there were some patches of blue sky, but over Dale Head the cloud was the cloud was thickening.
Tantalisingly, as I reached the waterfalls, it looked like the cloud might lift. Frustratingly, just as I reached the beck before Dale Head Tarn, the clag came down.
I wanted to take a quick look at the sheepfolds by the tarn to check whether they might be good for camping (they are), but I was dismayed to find excrement and tissue paper left by one of the walls.
By now, it was nearly two o’clock and I knew I had to get a move on to make it along the ridge and down to the valley by dark. As I ascended the slope towards High Spy, the wind picked up and it started to rain, scuppering my chances of good views of Derwent Water and Keswick.
Even with poor visibilty, it was easy to follow the path and eventually, the summit cairn of High Spy came into view. Behind the cairn, I sheltered from the wind, putting on my overtrousers.
Every so often the mist would lift briefly, to reveal the path ahead. I bypassed the summit of Maiden Moor, as I’d been there before and carried on to the col before Cat Bells.
Very briefly, Cat Bells emerged out of the clag for a photo opportunity, before disappearing again. I decided not to bother to go over Cat Bells as I only had an hour more of daylight at most and took the track down to Skelgill.
By the time I got to Skelgill, dusk was falling. I reversed my route of the morning, although I bypassed Fawe Park, using a track. By the time I was at Portinscale it was fully dark and I had to find my way back to Keswick by head torch, eventually getting back just after five o’clock.
Total distance for the day was about 15 miles with 828m of ascent, taking just under seven hours.