I’d been watching the forecast all week. The line of weather icons on my desktop iGoogle weather service had said anything from heavy rain to bright sunshine as the weekend approached. I wanted it to be dry, though, as I was going to sleep high in the bivvy bag.
If I had one eye on the weather, then the other was on a range of Ordnance Survey sheets covering the Lakes. I didn’t know where to go but had criteria to satisfy.
Firstly, I needed to rendezvous with the other half in Grizedale for a couple of lazy days on a campsite to see out the Bank Holiday weekend. Secondly, I wanted to avoid public transport as waiting for buses just gets in the way of the journey. Finally, I wanted to avoid people if I could… tricky, given the weekend.
Spreading the maps on the dining room table, I decided to wander from the train to Ambleside, walk bridleways to Langdale, head over Bowfell and find somewhere quiet to rest my head the other side of the ridge north of Moasdale. I’d peered into the lonely valley Lingcove Beck while clambering over Crinkle Crags many a time, but never had reason to head that way.
From my overnight camp, I could walk down Moasdale, scale the steep side of Grey Friar and then hit the ridge serving the Old Man of Coniston, which I’d never traversed before.
Dropping into Coniston, it would then be simple trek through the network of trails that bisect Grizedale Forest and deliver walkers to its sculptures and abandoned quarries before dropping into Satterthwaite and the campsite.
This may seem like an odd choice, but this stroll has always been my entrée to time spent in Cumbria as invariably I arrive by train. It also affords great views of the Langdales and the Coniston fells across Windermere, whetting the appetite on this sunny day for what was to come.
Ambleside was already crawling with weekend tourists, but I managed to get a table at the Apple Pie Eating House and wolfed down a large bowl of chips and a hefty slice of their excellent homemade pies. Essential calories to tied me over later.
I pottered around for a while and then walked through lazy couples whiling away the afternoon in Rothay Park before finding the bridleway heading over the southern edges of Loughrigg Fell to its namesake tarn. The trail was hot, yet quiet, and the grassy fellsides dripped chlorophyll against the drenched blue sky.
Passing the campsite, already filling with flapping, bright nylon, I tuned into a shaded path and immediately felt relief from the full sun. The depression of the tarn was soon reached and anglers sheltered in the lee of a slope and cast hopefully into Loughrigg’s shimmering waters.
I followed a country lane to Elterwater and resisted the temptation to catch the bus to the head of the valley. The pubs were packed too, so the afternoon beer would have to wait until I reached the Old Dungeon Ghyl.
No matter how many times I visit Great Langdale, I never grow tired of its towering skyline.
The ‘Pikes guard the north, impressive as ever, while to the south the low ridge of Lingmoor Fell gradually recedes to reveal loftier neighbours.
The thimble cairn on top of Pike o’ Blisco came into view, then the Crinkles and, finally, the shattered pyramid of Bowfell.With eyes upward I soon reached the ODG.
Black bold capital letters on a large white sign shouted that the National Trust campsite was full. I was glad I’d be up high tonight thus avoiding the nocturnal symphony of farts and snores that have disturbed my slumber previously when camped in this mini Glastonbury.
I dropped into the Hiker’s Bar for a pint-of-water-pint-of-Cumberland and enjoyed another first… sitting outside in the sunshine.
It was tempting to linger but I had The Band to negotiate, and woozy footsteps and steep fell side do not mix. I glanced at my watch: 5.30pm, a perfect time to leave.
I passed the last stragglers coming off the fell as I made my way to Stool End. I opened the gate for one walker and was asked where I was going.
‘To watch the sun go down,’ I replied. Always good to keep things cryptic where a wild camp is concerned.
The higher I progressed, the windier it became. Views to the left and right took the chill off, though.
I reached the junction with the Climber’s Traverse and was tempted to get my hands on the slabs. Reminding myself of the objective, I pressed on to the tumble of boulders that constitute Bowfell’s top. I sat and drank in Lakeland’s tops.
Heading towards Esk Pike, I soon found the ruddy soils of Ore Gap and then took a left over the lip of the ridge and followed Lingcove Beck. I dropped quickly out of the wind and was enveloped in stillness.
With little flat ground available, I spotted a rocky knoll where the gill widened. Progress further down the valley reacquainted me with the breeze but this rocky knuckle would give me shelter.
Climbing the windward side, I peered over the edge and smiled broadly. Below was a perfect near flat-bottomed cove: My bedroom- with-a view for the night.