Lake District Walk

by nickupton

The Lake District in Cumbria, UK, is a fantastic place for long walks in wild areas. Here is an account of a ridiculously long walk I went on, starting in Eskdale, in July 2007.

Walking in the Lake District is something I first did when I was a small child, perhaps 4 or 5 years old, with my father. I can remember my mother getting very upset because one of our walks turned out to be far longer than expected and the fact that my father had dragged a young child over miles of wild mountains and moorland upset her. Of course I thought it was a very exciting adventure. My father used to carry a pair of binoculars and point out all the different birds to me and this has led me to being a lifelong birdwatcher, an activity from which I derive most of my income! Thanks dad.

Sadly, my father passed away in early 2006 and in summer 2007 I had some spare time in which I decided to go to the Lake District and recreate some of the walks that we had done together many years ago and enjoy some birdwatching.

Alfred Wainwright made Lake District walks famous but for me the pathfinder was my father; here is an account of my meandering walk, revisiting many of the areas I had not been to since walking there with my father when I was a child.

Eskdale - The Scene Of My Family Holidays To The Lake District

Eskdale is the part of the Lake District that my parents used to take me to on family holidays when I was a small child. My mother and father knew a farmer who used to let out one of his old houses and we used to stay in this very basic cottage; it was lovely in fine weather because I could play in the farm with the dogs and cows but when it rained it was a bit restrictive.

Eskdale has some really wonderful scenery with pretty little streams, tiny villages with cottages constructed out of local stone, walks into spectacular mountain scenery and the fantastic  Ravenglass-Eskdale railway which I have enjoyed as a child and as a more mature customer.

The tiny village of Boot is another pretty spot in Eskdale with a quaint little church and a beautiful clear stream, lined with woodland, for picnicking alongside; a place where I used to make stone dams in the water with my mother and father.

The Woolpack Inn and George IV pubs are both great places for a beer and dinner in Eskdale.

Also, somewhere along the valley is my special rock where I used to sit after a long walk and look at the mountains. Unfortunately I can't remember where this is exactly.

Visit Eskdale

Eskdale, The Lake District's Hidden Gem
Information on attractions, events and accommodation in Eskdale.

Eskdale, Cumbria
The Wikipedia entry for Eskdale in the Lake District.

Wha House Farm - A Nice Place To Stay

Wha House Farm

After a three hour drive from my home in Beverley I was keen to find somewhere pleasant to stay in Eskdale quickly so that I had time to enjoy what was left of the day. I knew that I wanted to walk in the upper Eskdale valley so I drove up the narrow, dry stone-walled road towards the formidable Hardknott Pass. Within sight of the pass I came to small sign that announced Bed & Breakfast at a nearby farm. Driving down a small track I came across Wha House Farm where I met with a friendly welcome and was quickly made comfortable in a room with a shared bathroom.

Part 1: Leaving Wha House Farm & Walking Up Eskdale

The morning after my arrival I woke up fairly early and was served a wonderful, large traditional English cooked breakfast. In fact the landlady seemed to relish offering me the challenge of her enormous pile of food. Realizing that I was going to be expending a lot of energy that day, I ate the lot!

I was also supplied with a packed lunch of sandwiches which I was very glad of later in the day. I had also furnished myself with a whole load of snacks purchased from the little store in the nearby village of Eskdale Green as well as a couple of bottles of water. 

From Wha House Farm I walked up the road a little to join a footpath which took me towards Hardknott Pass, meandering through some really beautiful, ancient, mossy woodland, the type of which is rich in wildlife. 

I walked rather slowly, taking in the birds and plants around me; I was very pleased to discover a family of Spotted Flycatchers in a shady spot, with the young noisily flitting around in an attempt to get the parents to feed them. This seemed like a very good spot for small birds to feed as I also observed a small flock of mixed species including a juvenile Redstart, 2 Song Thrushes, 5 Coal Tits and a family of both Great and Blue Tits all of which looked very beautiful against the lush, green, mossy background.

Mossy, twisty tree, Eskdale by Nick Upton

After the birds I went back to admiring the woodland which further on became even more like something from the movie Lord of the Rings with mossy boulders and twisted trees all around me - a pair of Treecreepers feeding on the tree trunks seemed to appreciate the situation as much as I did. 

At about 9.30 am some cloud came in and it began to rain which made me think that I was in for a very wet day - something which is all too common in the Lake District. With the rain was at its hardest I took shelter under some trees and messed around with my camera, taking photos of the mossy trees and craggy bits of bark. Due to the poor light this is about the only photo which was in focus - I pointed the camera up to gather more light.

When the rain eased off a little I strolled along the valley, stopping often to watch the woodland birds; a Garden Warbler, some more Spotted Flycatchers and a European Nuthatch were interesting to watch.

The picturesque, mossy woodland began to thin out and was replaced by bracken and open country, however, just before I reached the bottom of Hardknott Pass I passed through a small plantation of conifers where a beautiful male Siskin briefly came into view before flying across the valley.

Spotted Flycatcher

Spotted Flycatcher perched on tree stump.

Common Redstart

Male Redstart perched on a branch.

Only $29.99
Coal Tit

Coal Tit perched on larch.

Eurasian Nuthatch

Nuthatch in typical pose.

Only $15.99
Siskin

Male Siskin perched.

Woodland birds are having a hard time in the United Kingdom. Species that were formerly common are disappearing from large parts of the country, and increasingly ancient, moist, mossy woodland of western UK is where they are retreating to. I can remember a number of these species being very common throughout Britain when I was young, sadly, no longer.

The woodland along Eskdale is very old, of high quality and quite rich in woodland birds. Anyone who wishes to see woodland flora and fauna in Britain will do well to visit this area.

I was happy to see the woodland species of birds that I have mentioned on my Lake District walk and I have put together a little gallery of some of them here so that others can see how beautiful they are too and to compensate for my photographic deficiencies.

Birds of Europe: (Second Edition) (Princeton Field Guides)

If you want to do some birdwatching of your own in Eskdale or anywhere else in Britain you will want to get your hands on the best bird field guide.

$29.95  $18.72

Part 2: Walking In Upper Eskdale

By the time I reached the bottom of Hardknott Pass the rain had stopped so I followed my original plan of walking along Upper Eskdale to where the biggest mountains of England are situated. My memory from walking up there with my father was of spectacular scenery so even with the threat of further rain I was eager to press on. 

Open oak woodland, Eskdale by Nick UptonFrom this point the footpath followed the stream closely and I stopped to watch a Grey Wagtail. The stream here was still lined with beautiful open, oak woodland; still impressed with this scenery I took another photograph.

Birdwatching at this spot revealed 2 Garden Warblers, a Mistle Thrush and more Spotted Flycatchers. The abundance of this last species was nice to see. When I was in my early teens, Spotted Flycatchers were so common back home that I would hardly stop to look at them, now they are mostly gone, but it was nice to see them so common here - if only British woodlands were always this good. 

Heading further up the valley the woodland began to disappear and I gained height quite quickly with the scenery dominated by rocks, crags and streams rather than trees. The open aspect meant that I started to see different wildlife; lichens on rocks, aquatic vegetation and one of the commonest birds of British uplands put in its first appearance of the day - Meadow Pipit. 

Mountain stream, Eskdale by Nick Upton

As one goes further up Eskdale the number of species of birds thins out, but the views become progressively more spectacular with waterfalls and high mountains all around.
 At this small waterfall I watched 
Grey Wagtail busily feeding two very recently fledged chicks - a scene typical of this valley. WheatearYellowhammer and a juvenile Whinchat were all nice birds that I was pleased to see too. 

The only problem is that getting to all this great scenery involves hiking up loads of steep and wet trails, by this time my feet were already soaked so that I was simply taking the shortest route to where I wanted to go, whether that was straight through a bog or not. I had to spare a thought for an old friend of mine who used to accompany me on hiking trips in the past. I was very fit at the time and used to leap up the mountains while he huffed and puffed away; now that I am not quite so fit I have some idea of how he felt. Bogs and steep climbs aside there was still some time to stop and look at the birds with a pair of Ravens calling from some crags and a male Stonechat amongst the bracken.

Lake District Walks
Walks in the Lake District: 50 Walks of 3-8 Miles

If you wish to visit the Lake District and go on beautiful walks then this book containing 50 walks of three to eight miles gives you some nice ideas. These walks are long enough to be interesting but not too long to make you collapse.

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Part 3: Lunch With A Spectacular View

Towards the upper limits of Eskdale there is a waterfall and an old stone bridge - Lingove Beck falls and Lingcove bridge. I remember this area vividly from a walk with my father; he called the area "Throstle Garth" which I think means "Thrush Gorge" and refers to the area just below the waterfall.

Lingcove falls & bridge by Nick Upton
Lingcove falls & bridge by Nick Upton

The waterfall itself is quite nice but by this time I was ravenously hungry, tired and made very hard work of getting to the top of it!

Great Moss, Upper Eskdale by Nick UptonOnce at the top of my climb, the valley opened out into one of the most spectacular views in England. Here the valley is wide and boggy, with a rocky stream through the middle and high mountains all around, like an ampitheatre - I felt very small sitting there on my own. This was a good place to have lunch and an even better place for those wishing to overdose on Meadow Pipits, although anyone wishing for more than fabulous views and Meadow Pipits should stay away! Here are a few pictures from my lunch spot, but they hardly do the area justice.

Upper Eskdale scenery by Nick Upton
Upper Eskdale scenery by Nick Upton
Great Moss & Skafell Pike by Nick Upton
Great Moss & Skafell Pike by Nick Upton

Despite my extremely large breakfast my exertions of the morning had made me very hungry indeed. I sat, taking in my view, eating my sandwiches. Then I ate some of the snacks I had packed. Then I ate some more snacks. Then I ate some fruit. Then I realized that I had brought nowhere near enough food for the length of walk that was before me. Anyone who has ever been on a hike with me will know that this is not the first time my provision planning was left in tatters; an ascent of Skafell Pike with just a single chocolate bar, 3 days in the bush in Australia with just a cheese sandwich per person per day and 2 days hiking on the Isle of Skye with only a cake baked by my mother and a bottle of whiskey between two people immediately come to mind.

Thoughts of another ascent of Skafell Pike were scrapped due to the lack of sustenance that the exertions would require so I took a long look at my Lake District Ordnance Survey maps of the area to find a route whereby I did not have to retrace my steps. I found a suitable route over a pass and down Mosedale which would take me to the opposite side of Hardknott Pass to where I was staying, from there I could walk the hair-raising road that crosses the mountains back to my accommodation.

Part 4: Down Mosedale To The Foot Of Hardknott Pass

Hardknott Pass by Nick UptonSearching for the trail towards Mosedale I came across a Skylark, which I usually think of as a bird of the lowlands, and a distant flock of 15 Ravens swooping around a mountain top. Watching this airborne flock I noticed that the weather had changed for the better and now there were blue skies and sunshine to brighten up the beautiful mountains - an unexpected bonus.

After finding the way I began slogging down Mosedale which was pretty rough with no real track so it was a case of splashing through more bogs. By this time I was fairly tired and I even stopped looking at the birds, knowing that every last one that flew away from me was either a Meadow Pipit or Wheatear.

Finally, with the sun now fully out and very hot, I reached the eastern side of Hardknott Pass and stopped a while to watch the cars going up and down this crazy road. It can be very exciting driving up this pass, or scary, depending on your point of view: the picture above is the view I had of the zig-zagging road.

Having reached this point I had planned to walk over the pass, but as it was still early and the mid summer days in the Lake District were lasting until 10pm I decided to extend my walk as the energy from my lunchtime sandwiches had kicked in. Consulting my map I made the dubious decision to head down the Duddon valley, where my family used to have picnics when I was young, and make my way around Harter Fell back to Eskdale. I calculated that this would keep me occupied until it was time for dinner which I intended to take in a local pub along with a specially calculated quantity of local beer. I also had the idea that this route might turn up a few more interesting birds.

Herdwick sheep are as much a part of the landscape of the Lake District as the mountains and stone villages and on my walk, although I saw some, there were nowhere near as many as I remembered from walks with my father in the past.

I later found out that this was due to slaughtering large numbers of them in 2001 during the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak.

Part 5: The Duddon Valley, Harter Fell & Near Collapse

Heath Spotted Orchid, Duddon Valley by Nick UptonThe walking along the Duddon valley was easy, along a nicely marked footpath through fields and alongside the stream. The scenery was very beautiful in the sunshine. The boggy meadows I was walking through made me look down and I found some nice plants growing, including yellow Bog Asphodel and pink Heath Spotted Orchid (pictured left).

The birds along the stream were also more abundant than in the higher areas and a male Redpoll landing on a fence in front of me was very nice. A Grey Heron fishing in the River Duddon, a pair of Buzzards mewing on a crag, many Swallows, 4 Wheatears and a party of Long-tailed Tits all did their part to create a peaceful and beautiful scene although 5 Carrion Crows feeding on a dead sheep in the river was perhaps less idyllic.

My fresh interest in wildlife did not make me immune from feeling very tired from my extended hike and I was not relishing the very long walk around Harter Fell to get back to Wha House Farm and a shower. With this in mind I decided to take the more direct route via the summit of Harter Fell, which in hindsight wasn't the best choice I've ever made. The trail was horribly steep and difficult to follow and I had to constantly consult the map and try and work out where I should be heading. Somehow I eventually made it to the right place, but not before making several stops to admire the fantastic views of the mountains in the sunshine. I have been up here many times in the past with my father but I was still mesmerized by the scenery.

However, by this time I was so knackered that the birds could be damned, particularly the, by now, quite tiresome Meadow Pipits and Wheatears. Although a Buzzard being chased by a Raven did make me pay attention in one weary-free moment.

The view from the summit was great, particularly the view down upon Mediobogdum Fort, an old Roman encampment. From this height all the rooms of the fort could quite clearly be seen in the soft afternoon sunlight.

Mediobogdum Roman Fort from the Summit of Harter Fell by Nick Upton
Mediobogdum Roman Fort from the Summit of Harter Fell by Nick Upton

The descent from Harter Fell back to Wha House Farm was torture, every step was exhausting and I thought my knees were going to explode; by this time a Dodo could have flown past and I wouldn't have paid it any attention.

As I came over every ridge I hoped it would be the last, only to be presented with more downhill marching. When the trail finally began to level out I felt like dancing a celebratory jig, only I did not have the energy to do so.

The shower was like something from heaven. Dinner and beer in a pub was something way beyond anything that which heaven has to offer.

Kendal Mint Cake
Romney's Kendal Mint Cake 5.9 oz / 170g

Traditional hiker's energy food - a Lake District special.

Only $16.13

I took some Kendal mint cake along as a sentimental decision - my father always used to give it me when we were on Lake District walks. Without it I would have run out of things to nibble on and give me energy on this marathon trek.

Kendal is in the Lake District region so the mint cake is sold in every local shop.

Part 6: Dinner & Beer

George IV Inn from Wikimedia CommonsAfter my stupendous shower I made the journey to the George IV Inn further down Eskdale. I have vivid memories of my parents taking me to this pub on a bright sunny day; they drank their beer and G&T whilst I sipped very sophisticatedly on orange juice.

On this occasion I sat in the rear garden in the evening sunshine and ordered steak and kidney pie with chips, a traditional English pub meal, and a pint of Sneck Lifter, the local ale.

By this time it was about 8.30-9pm but still pleasantly light and I was sufficiently rested to watch a Black-headed Gull cruising over a recently cut hay field, catching emerging insects.

Carefully calculated quantities of beer
I mentioned previously that a carefully calculated amount of beer was to be consumed. I lied. I drank just as much as I felt like and after such a crippling walk I felt like drinking quite a lot!

Other Eskdale Lake District Walks

Eel Tarn by Nick UptonA walk in Upper Eskdale
This page describes a walk very similar to mine into Upper Eskdale and back. It contains a lot of wonderful photographs of the area including Throstle Garth, the Roman Fort at Hardknott, Lingcove Bridge and the waterfall of Lingcove Beck.

Eskdale Valley from Boot
Map and route description available for download plus photographs from along the walk.

Sca Fell from Wha House Farm
A long walk which follows many of the same footpaths as I walked on my trek. Maps, instructions and photographs.

Eel Tarn from Boot
A nice little walk away from the crowds and some spectacular scenery. This is the first lake District walk that my father took me on that I can remember in detail. This page describes the route and supplies an OS map.

Some Beautiful Lake District Views

Elterwater Village with Langdale Pikes, Lake District National Park, Cumbria, EnglandStonethwaite, Lake District, Cumbria, England, United Kingdom, EuropeWasdale Head and Great Gable Reflected in Wastwater, Lake District National Park, Cumbria, England
The High Stile Group From Honister Valley, Lake District National Park, Cumbria, England, UkThe River Esk, Eskdale, Lake District National Park, Cumbria, England, UKSlaters Bridge, Little Langdale, Lake District, Cumbria, England, United Kingdom, Europe
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Stuck in a Bangkok Traffic Jam
My account of being stuck in one of Bangkok's worst traffic jams. In a city where the traffic problems are legendary, this means it was bad.

Khao Yai Elephant Attack
My sister came to visit me in Thailand and wanted to see a wild elephant. She got a lot closer look at one than she expected.

Hardknott Pass - Driving Adventures On A Roman Road
Driving up this extremely steep road can be quite a challenge; read the stories of three of my trips up the road.

Updated: 05/09/2013, nickupton
 
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whitemoss on 10/17/2014

Lovely walk- not far from my home. Excellent photos too.

Tolovaj on 05/05/2012

Photos are astonishing. Landscape looks like a small piece of paradise... The scenery is quite similar to some places in our Slovenia. Thanks for sharing your experience!

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