Buttermere

April 18, 2016

We woke up to howling winds, horizontal rain, and low cloud cover—definitely not a day to go walking! So after breakfast we retired to the lounge to wait out the storm. Our whole morning was spent inside, Rosemary finishing off her Nero Wolfe book and Paul reading some of the local magazines. We ate our lunch in the lounge and continued hanging out in the lounge until finally about 2 pm the rain stopped.

The mountain tops were still in cloud, though, so we decided on a low-level walk instead. One of the issues of Cumbria magazine in the lounge had a description of the route around Crummock Water, which is just the other side of Buttermere, so we decided to do that.

Crummock Water outlet

Crummock Water outlet

It wasn’t a bad walk around the lake. The path was easy to follow and for the most part in good shape, at least along the side closest to the road. At the far end was the old pump-house with its metal plaque dating back to 1903, which doesn’t seem to be used any more. On the other side of the lake there were several boggy sections, which we mostly managed to avoid by walking on the larger sedges, but not entirely. There were a lot of birds on that side of the lake: Canada Geese in pairs along the lake shore, a small group of Willow Warblers by one of the streams, and something sounding like two pebbles being tapped together at the base of a boulder slope. That could have been a Ring Ouzel but we couldn’t see it.

Robin in holly bush

Robin in holly bush

By the time we got back to Buttermere the clouds had mostly gone away, as had the wind. At the hostel we ordered our choice of dinner and then went up to change. Dinner tonight was Cumberland sausage with mashed potatoes, but the vegetarian option was a vegetable tart, which Rosemary said was very good. Dessert was a delicious chocolate cake with ice cream.

April 19, 2016

A beautiful morning, blue sky and sunshine, much improved from yesterday. So after breakfast we packed our packs and set off to do some mountain walking.

Past the end of Buttermere Lake we walked, and then found the path leading up Red Pike. It was a stone staircase which followed Sour Milk Gill up to Bleaberry Tarn. Once at the tarn the trail continued steeply up more stone steps to reach a saddle between Dodd and the base of Red Pike. We weren’t sure whether Dodd was one of the Wainwrights (it isn’t, but Dodd near Skiddaw is) so we walked the short distance to its “summit” and admired the views looking down over Buttermere and Crummock Water.

Climbing up to Bleaberry Tarn

Climbing up to Bleaberry Tarn

Back at the saddle we followed the trail, which was mostly a scramble now, up to the top of Red Pike. From there we followed the ridge down to High Stile, where we had lunch and admired the view; from this vantage point we looked down on the Coast to Coast path, which went from Ennerdale Water past the Black Sail hostel and up the Haystacks. We could even see the Irish Sea, but the distant views were quite hazy today even though the weather was clear.

Bleaberry Tarn and Buttermere

Bleaberry Tarn and Buttermere

We carried on to High Crag and dropped down quite a long way to Scarth Gap. Here we debated whether to climb back up to Haystacks, but Rosemary was finding her knee becoming more painful so we decided to give it a rest. The descent to Buttermere Lake was reasonably fast, and we followed the now-familiar lakeshore trail back to Buttermere. Our treat for today was to be homemade ice cream from the Buttermere Ayrshires ice cream shop, but much to our dismay it was closed due to a power outage in the village. For some reason the Croft House Farm café was open, though, so we walked back there to get our cones.

High Crag from below

High Crag from below

Our friend Neil arrived at about 5:30 pm so we spent some time catching up. Unfortunately Christine had a meeting to attend, so she had stayed back in Glasgow. Rather than having the hostel dinner, we walked down to the village to have dinner at the Fish Inn, arriving there just ahead of a 20-person van tour. Both of us had the half roast chicken with veggies, which was really good. We sat after the meal and discussed options for tomorrow’s hike, finally deciding to drive to Honister Pass and hike to Great Gable from there.

April 20, 2016

After breakfast we packed our bags—we would be moving on to Ambleside today—and headed out in Neil’s car up to Honister Pass. Our original plan was to climb up to Grey Knotts and work our way over to Great Gable, but there were a lot of grassy paths to choose from and there was a misleading sign at the exit from the car park so we ended up taking a lower trail which also went in the same general direction. When we had walked the Coast to Coast from Haystacks to Honister Pass all those years ago we had got lost, and now it was clear why—there are no landmarks and a random network of paths.

Navigating with map and GPS

Navigating with map and GPS

Anyway we got ourselves sorted out after a while and arrived at the base of Great Gable, the saddle at Beck Head. The climb up Great Gable was quite steep in places but it didn’t take us too long to attain the summit, where we sat and ate our lunch. The weather was lovely and the views were great in all directions; we could even see the Isle of Man. Neil pointed out various peaks so that we got a better idea of what was where. At Great Gable there is a memorial plaque for members of the local hiking club who died in the war.

On top of Great Gable

On top of Great Gable

Descending the other side of Great Gable we crossed Windy Gap and continued over the small bump which was Green Gable. There were a couple of other small bumps, including Grey Knotts, and soon we were looking down on Honister Pass. Going down the grassy slope towards the slate mine we met a woman with red hiking poles who didn’t like the idea of going down while not on a real path. But after a few minutes we noticed that she seemed to have found one.

Great Gable memorial

Great Gable memorial

At the café we stopped for tea and coffee before heading onwards to Ambleside. As we left we saw the red-poles woman waiting at the bus stop; she was staying near Keswick so we picked her up and took her there, since it wasn’t really out of our way.

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One Response to Buttermere

  1. Neil says:

    It certainly brings back memories of two unusually good days of great walking and weather in one of my favourite parts of the country. It is amazing to remember that the next week the hills were covered with snow and the M6 was closed. I’ll bet that the poor lambs felt rather cold.

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