It’s rather pleasant to retrace the footsteps of years ago, seeing if your memories measure the lie of the land – and even better to do so when you use an ancient track, and a very picturesque one at that.
On a bright but rather blowy day, we set out from Ambleside to walk up to the Scandale Pass, before passing on to Little Hart Crag, then returning over Dove Crag and the last bits of the Fairfield Horseshoe – High and Low Pikes.
I haven’t walked the Fairfield Horseshoe in its entirety for a dozen years, and it was twenty-two years since I last stood on the top of Little Hart Crag.
Actually, I remember that occasion well – it was 26th June 1997, on a very wild day.
I noted that:
The rain had eased off, but the wind was ferocious as I climbed this Dartmoor tor plonked on top of a Lakeland mountain – a wonderful brooding guardian of the fells. I had to climb over the summit crouched down to avoid being blown off. A brilliant rocky world is revealed from the top.
I remember very well being buffeted as I returned to Ambleside, and dripping with rain in a tea-shop afterward. As it was my last day in the Lake District, I bought a rather pricey rucksack to take away with me.
The weather was a tad calmer the other day, though there was enough easterly wind to make it interesting. We followed the path to High Sweden Bridge, surely one of the most picturesque river spans in Britain, and sat there for a while admiring the Scandale Beck. This path, from Ambleside to the top of the Scandale Pass, is particularly old, used for centuries by people passing over the fells to Patterdale. It is, in itself, well worth walking, though we followed it only to the head of the Pass.
The track runs through some very fine scenery, first alongside the beck in woodland, then through intakes, where it is enclosed by stone walls, then out on to more open fellside as it crests the ridge.
Little Hart Crag was as magnificent as I remembered, a good burst of rock coming from a dramatic position on the ridge – a good viewpoint too, over Brothers Water and towards Place Fell. And it’s a very good viewpoint for the stunning cliffs of Dove Crag, where so many rock climbers put up routes over so many years.
We climbed there before turning down to High Pike and then Low Pike, admiring the views over the northern end of Windermere. The descent took longer than I remembered, perhaps because I’ve got older and was bothered my arthritic ankle. Rougher too than I recalled. Funny how the memory plays tricks.
But the two Pikes are the usual end (or beginning) of the Fairfield Horseshoe and worthy tops for that adventure – though trampers in the earlier years of the last century favoured finishing the route down Red Screes to the east.
However, the Pikes do offer terrific views down into Scandale, and it was interesting seeing the way we had come earlier in the day.
And grand too visiting a top I hadn’t been to for twenty-two years – Little Hart Crag.
I recall that last time as if it were yesterday. Where have all those years gone?
I’ve noticed that whenever I walk somewhere I haven’t been for years, it doesn’t seem possible that so much time has fled by…