On St. Sunday Crag

On a fresher day in this long heatwave, we left Patterdale for the dramatic height of St. Sunday Crag (and does anyone know how it acquired such a lovely name?)

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Deepdale Hause and Grisedale Tarn (c) John Bainbridge 2018

There was an absence of the now familiar blue skies, but clear views across the Lake District as far as Morecambe Bay.

In fact, as we ascended Arnison Crag, there were about twenty intermittent – and very welcome – drops of rain. These soon vanished like a sorceror’s illusion, though a pleasant light breeze was very welcome.

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Summit Fever (c) John Bainbridge 2018

Arnison Crag’s a modest height, and easily attained from Patterdale, but it does offer some splendid views over Ullswater. It must be a couple of years since we were last up there – and I must be a lot fitter for we made the little height in half the time.

Then on to Trough Head, where we followed the ruined wall up to the top of Birks, admiring the scene over Deepdale and Hartsop. So many fells – so many memories.

Onwards up the steep and rocky path to the top of St Sunday Crag.

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St Sunday Crag from Birks (c) John Bainbridge 2018

There were just a couple of fellwalkers about – surprisingly few given that we’d seen hordes on the road between Glenridding and Patterdale.

St Sunday Crag doesn’t have the most dramatic of Lake District summits, but the views from the top are wonderful, particularly towards Fairfield and Helvellyn, with its rocky cliffs.

We wandered a little way down the narrowing ridge to Deepdale Hause, so that we might drink tea with a view over Grisedale Tarn. This tarn was supposedly where King Dunmail threw his sword and treasure before his battle death and burial on what is now Dunmail Raise.

A Terrific story, though old Dunmail probably died in his bed in Rome…

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Ullswater from the ridge path (c) John Bainbridge 2018

Deepdale Hause is very dramatic – indeed it was a popular ascent for Victorian travellers in the Lakes. My 1872 guidebook, Jenkinson’s Practical Guide to the English Lakes, suggests that this ridge between St. Sunday Crag and Fairfield “is in places very narrow, but not dangerous to one accustomed to mountain work.”

We strolled back to the summit, then to the more dramatic subsidiary height of Gavel Pike, which offers good views down into Deepdale.

We descended by the path leading around the flanks of Birks to Thornhow End, passing several fellwalkers coming up for the afternoon. We usually start early in the mornings, and find that we get the fells more or less to ourselves. I commend the practice to you if you don’t like crowds.

An easy path, with views down into Grisedale, and then Patterdale. It steepens as it descends to Glemara Park, where we encountered our first larger group of walkers – young people out for a day on the fells.

I sometimes look at the young and wonder what their lives will be like when they get to my age? I’m glad I had the youth I did in the times I’ve lived through. I’m glad I’m not young any more.

Young ramblers never seem anywhere like as militant about the countryside and access as my generation did…

And yet these lovely wild places are under more threat than ever…

 

 

 

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Sticks Pass to Raise and White Side

Sticks Pass is the second highest mountain pass in the Lake District, one of those old ways used in past days to link Glenridding and Patterdale with the areas around St Johns-in-the-Vale and Wythburn. The ancient track takes its name from the sticks used to mark the route – though none survive today.

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Going up to Raise (c) John Bainbridge 2018

As you walk these mountain passes, particularly in wild weather, you can see just why they came about. It doesn’t take much to imagine herders driving sheep and cattle across them, or mineral workers bringing fell ponies through, loaded with mineral ore from the area’s mines.

 

Sunday was a fine day for walking, the Lake District looking magnificent with the mountains still dappled with broad fields of glistening snow.

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We set out from Stanah Village Hall (£2 honesty box parking) to walks up to the topmost part of the Sticks Pass, then along the ridge towards the two Wainwright heights of Raise and White Side.

The first part of the track is undoubtedly quite steep, a hardy task for herders and ponies. But it does offer wonderful views over Thirlmere and the Northern Fells. The dramatic gully of Stanah Gill runs alongside and it wasn’t long before we glimpsed the placid waters of Bassenthwaite.

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Head of the Pass (c) John Bainbridge 2018

 

Thirlmere itself was half-frozen, the long stretches of ice stilling its water.

The last time we walked up to Sticks Pass I was incredibly unfit and it seemed to give the impression of going on for ever. But the fitter and lighter me did much better this time, feeling much as I did over twenty years ago.

A good sunny day as we hit the top of the Pass, just a few other walkers about. A bit more snow here, adding to the excitement of the day.

The lingering clouds cleared as we followed the path up to Raise, with some nice stands of snow to negotiate on the way.

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Raise Summit (c) John Bainbridge 2018

 

Grand and very clear views from the top, right across Lakeland to Gable and Scafell Pike in one direction, Skiddaw and Blencathra to the north, then across Ullswater to the North Pennines. So many familiar and walked heights.

The three quarters of a mile across to White Side, offers some of the easiest walking in the district. A delight walking in this southerly direction because of the fine views you get towards Helvellyn and its Lower Man – still looking positively Alpine with its greater stretches of snow.

From White Side we descended along the line of the bridleway to Brown Crag, a minor summit that has some nice craggy rocks on its northern edge. The remnants of cairns on its top are clearly prehistoric. Another terrific viewpoint over the head of Thirlmere.

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A View from Raise (c) John Bainbridge 2018

 

The bridleway winds back on itself down towards Thirlspot. This too was a track for men and women with fell ponies in times agone.

We crossed the little wooden bridge across Fisherplace Gill, with its dramatic waterfalls, and then the footpath to Stanah.

Walking in the footsteps of so many journeyers along the old ways, who would, even today, recognise this landscape – even if the reservoired Thirlmere is bigger than it once was.

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Helvellyn and Lower Man (c) John Bainbridge 2018