A weekend spent around Buttermere8th February 2017
The last few trips to the Lake District have had the same thing in common: overnight stays at a YHA hostel. The latest was last December when I stayed in Ambleside and walked from Great Langdale to Grasmere. Before that, I need to cast my mind back to the summer of 2014 when there were three trips to the Lake District. The last of them saw me revisit Orrest Head before heading to Ambleside for a walk from there over Loughrigg Fell to Langdale YHA. Before that, it was the turn of Patterdale from where I walked over St. Sunday Crag en route to Grasmere.
The first of the lot took me to Buttermere and that is the subject of this long-overdue entry. It was the first weekend in July and Le Tour de France had its Grand Départ in Yorkshire. As someone drawn to quieter spots, Cumbria was my choice and some sunny weather was promised. The frenzy about the cycle race meant that witnessing the thing took more organisation and more exposure to crowds than was to my taste. After all, life then was such that a spot of peace was in order.
It must have been near enough the middle of the day when I arrived, but that did nothing to stop me having designs on walking along the ridge comprising Seat, High Crag, High Stile and Red Pike. While I made for Scarth Gap, I eventually thought better of such a scheme and stuck with Haystacks instead. It was not to be a waste of a day with plenty of sunny weather.
It had been August 2003 when I last visited Buttermere, so a return visit was long overdue. Then, I struck on along the road to Honistor Pass before following paths and tracks towards Grange and the shores of Derwentwater, along which I returned to Keswick where I stayed the night.
This time, I followed the track to the northern end of Buttermere with views of Fleetwith Pike looming large beyond it. Next, I picked up a higher track through Burtness Wood, though it later dropped down to the lake shore. It was at Peggy’s Bridge where I picked up the track leading to Scarth Gap. In the afternoon sunshine, my surroundings looked resplendent.
There may have been designs on cutting out Seat altogether in favour of a more direct route to High Crag, but there was no obvious path to see so I continued to Scarth Gap. It was when I reached that saddle that I reviewed my plans against the time of day after peering down towards Ennerdale and chose an ascent of Haystacks instead.
That decision was the cause of my needing to scramble up a few sets of rocky crags, thinking that it certainly was not going to be my way down again. If I had designs on a cheeky side trip before going along the intended ridge, this could have been a spanner in the works. It was just as well that good sense had thwarted that idea.
Once I was past those crags, the going became gentler and Great Gable lay in shadow. Innominate Tarn was passed and I sought out Blackbeck Tarn, my next landmark. After that, I was set to cross Warnscale Beck before starting a steep relentless descent down the slopes of Fleetwith Pike. Eventually, the gradients relented around Warnscale Bottom so I had gentler progress from there to Gatesgarth Farm. There, I joined the road for a short stretch before finding the track to Peggy’s Bridge for a repeat stroll along the banks of Buttermere in the still evening air.
With most gone about their evening business elsewhere, one could dawdle and enjoy the uninterrupted peace. When I finally got to the YHA, I sorted out my bed for the night before heading out again. With the evening peace and the sound of Sour Milk Gill and of Herdwick sheep filling the air, I scarcely could withdraw from being out of doors until it was well dark. Doubts over interior lighting was the only thing that could draw me indoors from such a soothing ambience.
The morning dawned with a mixture of clouds and sun. After breakfast, I started pottering about to make the most of it. The shore of Buttermere was revisited while I soaked in views of the surrounding fells. Though clouds continued to build, I paid a visit to Crummock Water. Though the bus had followed its shores the day before, my stroll showed its setting to even more pleasant than that of Buttermere itself and it helped that my vantage point was as good as deserted.
Looking around me before I left for home again, ideas began to coalesce that yet could lead to new trips. Traipsing up the steep sides of High Crag, High Stile and Red Pike one at a time would make for multiple trips or a pleasant longer stay and nearby Grasmoor and Robinson offer additional temptation too. It was a weekend that offered so much: pleasant weather, wonderful scenery and plenty of peace and quiet. Given my current state, a return seems long overdue.
Return train trip between Macclesfield and Penrith. Bus service X4 or X5 between Penrith and Keswick. Bus service 77 or 77A between Keswick and Buttermere.
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