Gowbarrow Circuit – the Ullswater Way

When we last walked the Ullswater Way, we circuited Gowbarrow Fell by way of the Terrace Path on the way to Watermillock. But now having acquired Mark Richards’ excellent guidebook, we became aware that you can go on the other side of Gowbarrow as well – a Panorama Path as well as a Terrace Path. Combining the two as a circular walk made for a pleasant morning outing.

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Ullswater (c) John Bainbridge 2020

We started from the National Trust car park at Aira Force, not far from where Dorothy Wordsworth recorded the presence of daffodils, as immortalised in brother William’s famous poem. To me Dorothy was the real genius of the family – just by the cafe at Aira Force is a stoup and hazel-rail gate in her honour.

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Aira Force (c) John Bainbridge 2020

Later in the day Aira Force was crowded, but when we arrived there early in the morning there were few people around as we followed the paths up to the waterfalls. Worth seeing at the moment after all the rain we’ve had.

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The Force (c) John Bainbridge 2020

After a while the path leads away from the Aira Beck, to circuit around the northern side of Gowbarrow Fell. A steep and rocky climb, with the stones quite icy, which played hell with my arthritic feet. But never mind. The view up towards Helvellyn and along the lake were quite superb, and got better as we ascended. A long while since we’d been atop Gowbarrow (a short diversion off the way), but it is a marvellous viewpoint.

The icy ground was hard too – I did slip on a path below Gowbarrow, but fortunately landed on a well-padded part of my anatomy. No other damage but, like I said, hard ground.

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We didn’t continue to Watermillock this time, as we had something to do on our way home, but followed the Terrace Path section of the Ullswater Way back to Aira Force. A great many walkers now coming in the opposite direction – and no wonder, it was a most beautiful January day.

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Ullswater from the Terrace Path (c) John Bainbridge 2020

Too early in the year for daffodils by the lakeshore, but Dorothy Wordsworth would still have recognised much of the scenery along this section of the Ullswater Way.

And did she feel peeved that her brother exploited her idea so famously?

I wander’d lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretch’d in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: –
A poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company!
I gazed – and gazed – but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought.

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills
And dances with the daffodils.

Published by John Bainbridge

Rambler, hillwalker, stravaiger and trespasser, access campaigner. Novelist writing historical and period crime fiction.

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