Through the Viewfinder
And What Alice Found There
It's been a while since my last blog post but things have been so busy lately that I just haven't had the time to sit and type anything up! My first solo exhibition 'Deluge' has now finished but what a great experience that has been. I've also started thorough research into my next project about stone circles, found myself a new full time job (starting next week), booked flights for my next global adventure to Australia (more on that coming soon) and in amongst everything I've found some time to do another hike! After a short break from Wainwright walking, Greg and I jumped straight back in at the deep end for a 10 mile hike taking in Barf, Lord's Seat, Broom Fell, Graystones and Whinlatter...
The first half of the hike went really well, despite the mixed weather that we encountered. Parking at a small spot just north of Thornthwaite we followed the footpath signs across the road and joined onto a route that went up through the woodland. It was a nice route but quite steep, but at least that meant we gained height quickly and before we knew it we were up on the top of Barf - the first Wainwright of the day. When we started the walk it was a lovely, crisp day and we wandered through the forest just in our fleeces, but on emerging at the top of the woodland we saw that a thin blanket of snow was still lying in places so the coats and gloves quickly went on! Within minutes the fog had descended and by the time we got to the summit of Barf the visibility was terrible and we had no surrounding views. This was Greg's 100th Wainwright (we'll soon be level at last!) but we didn't stick around long to celebrate as the wind quickly picked up so we made our way through the mist towards the summit of Lord's Seat.
The walk to Lord's seat was fairly easy despite a few large areas of boggy ground that we came across! When we reached the summit (marked by a small cairn and a tall metal pole) the mist cleared for a brief moment revealing the fantastic, snow-capped peak of Grisedale Pike looming straight ahead. I frantically took some photos through the clouds before the view had disappeared again, but as we made our way along to our third summit on Broom Fell the clouds cleared away for good and revealed the beautiful panoramic views all round.
Broom Fell was our next destination which was a very special experience - it was my 107th Wainwright fell which marked the halfway point for me! Finally, after what seems like forever, I now feel that the end is in sight! Not only was Broom Fell special for this reason, it also offered some great views and had an really good shelter next to the summit cairn! A few fells now have shelters on the top but quite often in my experience they don't actually shelter you that well from the wind. However, the one on Broom Fell was surprisingly good and once inside you couldn't feel the wind at all - I definitely made a mental note of this for a future picnic spot! After our usual summit photos and a mini celebration of both our achievements so far, we then headed off for Wainwright number four...
Our next aim was the summit of Graystones, which involved a slight descent along the ridge before climbing back up again to reach the top. We also passed by a large area of Whinlatter Forest where the trees had been felled - the area is owned by the Forestry Commission so no doubt the trees will be replanted but I couldn't help feeling saddened by the sight of such a large area of forest wiped out. On reaching the summit of Graystones we were offered better views of the full forest with Whinlatter Pass snaking in between, with Grisedale Pike watching over the valley. The sight was breathtaking - it's an area of the Lakes we don't often come to but we both agreed it's somewhere we need to visit more often as it is truly beautiful, and doesn't seem as busy as the South Lakes. The sun was still out so we set up the picnic blanket and stopped for a break, feeling surprisingly warm and cosy once the wind had died down again.
After lunch we began our descent of Graystones aiming for the forest, where we hoped to follow a footpath to Spout Force waterfall, join up with a forest road, and eventually end up on the fell of Whinlatter. However, this was not a simple task. We headed down Graystones and found the path to Spout Force as planned, but it turns out OS Maps are not entirely accurate and the path actually ended at the waterfall. On the map it appeared that there was a path crossing the river (we assumed there would be a bridge) which then lead to one of the many forest roads on the Darling Plantation, but we quickly discovered that this path did not exist. At this point we had two options; give up and do Whinlatter another day along a different route, or make up our own way across the river. Naturally we chose option number two and proceeded to clamber up the steep woodland to the top of the very fast flowing waterfall, and then had to try figure out how to cross the river without getting washed away. We ended up crossing by using a fallen tree which was very conveniently lying there, but the problems didn't stop there. We then had to fight through thick woodland which was so dark in places that it felt like night time, with really boggy ground under foot. Finally we emerged from the foliage onto a forest road that appeared from nowhere and followed this along until we reached the original forest road that we had planned to take. Looking once again at the map it told us this forest road would continue until it reached a wall, where we could then climb over onto the side of Whinlatter fell with a short walk up to the summit - sounds easy enough. It was not. After only about 5 minutes of walking a fallen tree blocked our way - not a problem, we could climb over it. However, the forest road had completely disappeared once we got on the other side of the tree and we were once again back in thick woodland. We had to push branches out of the way, climb over massive fallen tree trunks and fell numerous times into little ditches hidden by the thick coating of moss on the ground. We had no idea where we were or what direction we needed to go, until we saw a small crack of sunlight breaking through the trees. We decided to follow the light - even if it didn't bring out on on the fell at least it was a way out of the wilderness! Luckily for us it was the right direction and soon enough we were out of the trees and back onto the open fell, finally heading for the summit of Whinlatter. By this point my legs were so tired from the extra effort it took to fight through the forest, that it felt like Whinlatter was the tallest mountain I had ever climbed! I was so happy to see the summit cairn come into view! We snapped a few photos, took one last look at the views, then called it a day and headed down into Whinlatter Forest Park and back to the car, spotting the Gruffalo on our way!
This walk was quite challenging and I wouldn't really recommend the second half of our route, but the first few fells make a great ridge walk with lovely views, and Whinlatter itself would be a nice and easy hike if you went up from the visitor centre! All in all it was a great day out with some moments that felt like we were in the real wilderness - if you want your own crazy adventure then our route is below (but I recommend finding a better way up Whinlatter)!