Another day, another fell26th November 2008
Last Saturday saw me venture out into hill country again with a trip to explore the fells near Ambleside. The last time that I was up around those parts, it struck me that I hadn’t been around Ambleside for a few years so the seeds were sown for a future outing. Being that time of year when shorter days are visited upon us, I was after a hike that I could complete in the available hours of daylight and ended up ascending Red Screes before descending to Scandale Pass and then down Scandale itself while returning to Ambleside.
My visits to Ambleside seem to alternative between grey days and those with an altogether more sunny aspect. Last Saturday was to prove to be one of those grey days as was the one when I first went to Ambleside. Then, I plied a short circular route around by High Sweden Bridge and then Low Sweden Bridge. Next time, the sunshine of a crisp clear cold February really showed the landscape at its best as I made my way up Scandale, over Scandale Pass and then back to Ambleside by way of the Kirkstone Pass and down The Struggle; I was enjoying good moonlight on the final stretch of the stroll. A mixture of greyness and sunny breaks were what greeted me while on a round of the Fairfield horseshoe with a start at Rydal to ascend Heron Pike and Great Rigg to continue to Fairfield (the summit was deserted when I reached it so it isn’t always crowded) before dropping down to Ambleside again. When a trip to North Wales proved unworkable after a train cancellation, I found my way back to Ambleside and was consoled by the delights of a sunny day and a fabulous evening as I went over and around Loughrigg Fell on a circular hike.
The sun did peep out near the end of the day last Saturday but it was frigid, breezy and bracing greyness for most of the time. There were signs of blue skies in the distance as I left Ambleside to go up the narrow Kirkstone Road. There were sufficient cars passing the way to make me appreciate the off road travel when at last I started up a public footpath traversing the often soft ground.
Eventually, that softness began to the hardness of well frozen terrain but there was a fair amount of ascent among stone walls before that transition was encountered. Apart from a momentary spot of confusion due to overestimation of progress near Snarker Pike, navigation was a straightforward affair. On lower reaches, I was sheltered from the cold biting breeze from which there was no escape once headier heights were reached and especially as the gradients eased between Snarker Pike and the summit of Red Screes. It was no day to linger on that summit and, very appropriately, it was bedecked with frozen tarns. This was hardly the time and place for conversation but I was asked by a lady where the path that I had following started out; it went too near to Ambleside for her and those with her (there is another possible way down but even Wainwright suggested that to be too steep for a descent; that might have been how they made their way up).
With the inhospitable conditions on the top of Red Screes, it should come as little surprise that I started my descent with no delay. The greyness was one limitation of photographic exploits but it was the cold that capped it all. Production of anything worthwhile was to await another day and I picked out my path down the slopes to Scandale Pass. A wall provided a useful navigational handrail and Scandale Tarn was in view too. Eventually, I was to lose that biting breeze on the return to more familiar surroundings.
The way down from Scandale Pass was easy walking and softer ground was met as I plied the banks of Scandale Beck until I reached High Sweden Bridge. It was then that sun escaped from its cloudy hideout and I got to acquire more pleasing results, to my eyes at least. That appearance of sunshine caused me to diverted around by Low Sweden Bridge but it was soon to disappear again. A goodly number was descending this way to Ambleside, including a sizeable group of students; I wonder if they were attached to the University of Cumbria, whose campus I passed also.
I was easily back in Ambleside before daylight was fade for the day. The town was chock-a-block with people, making any aspiration of having a look in outdoor gear shops utterly impractical. The mercury was really dropping by now as I made for the bus stop for my bus back to Windermere, retracing the journey made that morning by train to Windermere and bus to Ambleside. However, I was left waiting in the cold for up to an hour due to the turning on of Ambleside’s Christmas lights and its concomitant disruption of any passing bus services (I wish that I knew about this beforehand so that I could have planned accordingly). I still managed to catch my intended train from Windermere to Oxenholme only to have an hour’s delay in Oxenholme due to an incident on the line; being able to wait in the warmth of the indoors helped here. Even so, I was back home before 21:30 after a good day out that might yet be the progenitor of more like it.