|Outline Map →||Route file →|
Date: 15 Oct 2006
Start / Finish: Coniston. Roadside parking on the A593 at the northern end of the town.
Maps: Explorer OL6: English Lakes South West and OL7 South East.
|Day 1||Wetherlam, Swirl How & Grey Friar||6.6 miles / 3610 feet (10.6km / 1100m)|
|Day 2||Old Man, Dow Crag & Beacon Tarn||10.7 miles / 1840 feet (17.3km / 560m)|
|Day 3||Top o'Selside||9.9 miles / 1390 feet (16.0km / 423m)|
A route encircling Coniston Water, covering most of the mountain summits on the North and West sides and some previously unexplored areas to the South and East, including another unclimbed Marilyn Top O'Selside.
We approached the mountains via Steel Edge as in the last trip but varied the line with a brief exploration of Goat's Crag and Penny Rigg. There was the usual culture shock of seeing so many people on our Autumn return to the Lakes, but the third day brought solitude most of the way.
From the main street at 304980, the Youth Hostel track cuts off a bit of the main road and rejoins it at Far End, where a few yards further along, a good woodland track parallels the road as far as the narrow lane to Tilberthwaite. The lane climbs and levels out, and a short way further a path climbs L to curve S around Goat's Crag and follows a stream. Higher up the path became indistinct and petered out, but we enjoyed exploring this seldom visited area of rocky outcrops which was clear below the murky mist shrouding Wetherlam. An easy descent NW brought us to the good stepping stones across Crook Beck.
Climbing Steel Edge to Wetherlam Tarn, the mist had cleared but the views were very thick and murky and improved little at the summit, showing merely the pale shapes of the peaks to the North. Most people stick to the main highway and few visit Black Sails, a brief diversion with a good view down to Levers Water. The steep climb to Swirl How always turns out easier than it looks and the sun made a welcome breakthrough at the top. As we collected water near the Grey Friar col there was a roundup in progress and the sheep were running in all directions, swerving to avoid both us and the three dogs, but all were herded successfully in the end.
At Grey Friar we had a good walk around the summit area to enjoy the views, though hazy, that had eluded us last time in the mist. We made a good pitch a short distance from the summit and the sun sank towards Harter Fell.
The forecast had suggested the possibility of an inversion by morning and the sky was indeed clear in the night, and it almost came true. There was a weak inversion but it was not cold enough to keep all the moist air down and the dawn was plagued by rising mist. Just like last time we walked around the ridge to the Old Man with a strong wind, but at least this time we could see intermittent hazy views and some inverted mist in the valleys. The wind eased as we continued to Dow Crag and the Walna Scar road track but the mist persisted.
Leaving the track at the bridge for the bridleway SE, we came to the gaping rocky holes of the old quarries which were quite a surprise and are gradually being reclaimed by nature. Threading our way through the ruins and embankments we arrived at the farm track that leads past a climbing hut down to Torver. From the A5084 a surfaced track gives quick progress to Mill Bridge and the bridleway onto Torver Common and the reservoir, an attractive walk except perhaps for the intrusive telegraph poles that march across the land near the path. The Cumbria Way joins from the left and the path winds around the wet expanse of Stable Harvey Moss which looked quite vibrant in Autumn colours. Climbing past a large bog to a saddle in the hills, Beacon Tarn comes into view and the path follows the western shore. At the southern end we ascended the slopes and found a good shelf overlooking the tarn.
It rained a little in the night but the forecast deluge would fortunately not arrive until the journey home on the M6. It was unusually warm for mid October and we walked most of the day in base layers, there were still butterflies and dragonflies about. An attractive walk E on a good path leads down to Greenholme farm and the A5084 at Water Yeat. We took the riverside footpath and lane to High Nibthwaite and began the ascent of the eastern side.
The footpath follows the edge of the wood and we forked L on another path that ascends to the wall surrounding Brock Barrow. Two of the outlying fells lie just beyond, Low Light Haw and High Light Haw, which give a grand view of Coniston Water but it was still very hazy. Bethecar Moor lies ahead, an appealing and little trodden wilderness of rocky outcrops, boggy areas and bracken. The striking Arnsbarrow Hill appears to dominate the high ground but Top O'Selside is the highest point, and it was a case of picking our way North following our instincts until we spotted a good grassy path heading W of the summit. A trackless but easy climb from the path quickly gained the cairn with Arnsbarrow Tarn below.
A thin path heads out across Heel Toe Hill to the forest edge which we followed down to the forest road bridleway. The forest tracks make easy walking N to the footpath at 321948, that descends towards the Lake. Beyond Lawson Park the path gives a last elevated view of the lake before entering pleasant deciduous woodland and emerging on the road back into Coniston.