Contrary to advice the track was superb, it was wide well gravelled and initially very dry. A few hundred meters along the loch was an optional fork ascending 100m to the top of a small spur, it would mean detouring a tiny fraction off the trail but in reward a spectacular vista awaited.
The track on the way up
Sure enough from the top where the grassy slope gave way to craggy buttresses and near shear drops to the track below the view was remarkable. Looking to the far end of Ennerdale lake which shone dazzlingly bright under beams of sunlight striking through the cloud I could see the valley to which I would walk. Below hikers wandered like ants along the little trail toward the end.
A short stumbling slide back to the path and I was again walking in company. Filtering between groups of young cadets, D.O.E groups, middle aged hikers and young ramblers there was always the chance to seek social hiking rather than alone. A steady stream of Thank yous were passed to the maintenance team as we teetered past in turn.
Following in gentle undulations the trail followed the waters edge, it gently lapped on the shore and scattered in cats paws under gusts from above. From a sheltered vantage in warm dappled sunlight beneath a birch wood the cool water looked inviting. Thankfully the endless puddles and already soggy boots were a keen reminder of how cold it really was.
Arriving at the end of the Lake I sat to enjoy a snack and make a tough choice. Ahead the trail would split into two equally enticing options. Option A: The lowland route, or Option B: The high route.
My instinct urged to clamber high and relish the views over the valley from the craggy ridge line, unfortunately there would be no view. The ridge was a thick band of cloud shrouding the summit out of view, it would of course be more challenging than the valley but also would leave little but mist to the memories. Instead I opted to tackle the forestry trails leading through the woods, the original and more trekked alternative.
The route described in the guide a ‘a long plod’ seemed to under appreciate a different beauty in the woodland walk. Keenly glancing through the mossy trees in search of a red squirrel which remains in a final stronghold in the Ennerdale valley I ambled on.
Although no squirrels appeared I was delighted to see a Jay fly past with a burst of blue in its wing, waterfalls rumbled through gaps in the trees. The Pillar, a huge rocky buttress and popular climb dominated the skyline above through wisps of mist, there was a certain temptation to try and reach the top but I reminded myself there was still quite a way to go.
Fun for the whole family
Again in company with a group of friendly middle aged hikers I emerged from the trees to settle in the shelter behind Black Sail YHA. It is one of the more remote youth hostels and had a wonderfully wild feel about it, the small stone home reminded me of the much loved Scottish Bothies. Sipping a cup of tea from my flask I gazed around at the mountains, they seemed to surround us entirely looming over the valley floor with their craggy scree covered slopes.
Of course the steep surrounding slopes meant one thing, it was time to climb. A short section of steep ascent on superbly laid steps lead upward to the northern ridge. As I climbed I was delighted to watch the cloud suddenly part before disappearing entirely from the ridges to the west. I could see delighted walkers one by one scrambling down the high route ecstatically looking around to the view.
I too was high upon the ridge, the rewarding view from the steep ridges down to the lakes below was well worth the effort to climb the steps. It was somewhat similar to Scotland only more vibrant in colour. Cairns lead the way ever five to ten meters, it would be difficult to get lost along the wide and well trodden trail leading toward the descent to Borrowdale.
Strung out in little groups were numerous other walkers to lead the way down to Honister quarry. Grass turned to slate underfoot as the path widened. Far below black and white sheep dotted the fields which in the words of one young girl looked ‘like rice crispies and coco pops.’
Honister quarry was filled with cars, people and the sound of still running slate cutters slicing through the rock behind closed doors. Filtration pools, shattered stone and a small iron train dotted the carpark outside. To my surprise there was a cafe inside which prompted a cheeky stop for tea and cake.
Contentedly refuelled I set off with nothing but a gentle amble down the hill to the valley floor before reaching camp. I joined another Duke of Edinburgh group who were also heading to the grass below for a well deserved rest. It was a pleasure to walk and talk while taking in the increasingly stunning views as the little town of Seatoller approached.
Seatoller was a quiet little town, its white walled stone houses nestled amongst the trees as if they had belonged there as long as the landscape itself. We giggled at the sight of some baby lambs in the field,amusing not for their playful bounds but for their attire. You can tell it is one of the wettest places in England when the lambs wear raincoats…yes really, little orange raincoats! Check out the pic at the top of this post.
We parted ways and following the road along tall stone walls I ventured onto a final gravel track into Stonethwaite itself. A small narrow road wound between the tall stone farm houses, above the crags hung over the town which seemed tiny in their impressive stature. The Knott B&B was where I sheltered for the night, a wonderfully rustic country house which more like a home than a hotel. Just down the road was the Lanstrath Country House Inn which waited for a well earned pint and the best barman sense of humour I have ever seen.