I mentioned “The Struggle” in the latest Great Walks, and it recalled to me a verse from an old postcard we used to have in my family, the memory of which still amuses me. So when I found this splendid aerial photo, it provided me with the excuse to talk about it further.
“The Struggle” is the ages-old popular name for the fell road linking Ambleside Village with the top of Kirkstone Pass. The Pass links the Patterdale valley (in which tiny Brothers Water is here visible) with Windermere and Bowness, and is a busy, popular route northwards. Its upper stages are seen to the right of the picture here, with the summit of the Pass – crowned by the splendid presence of a pub over 1,400′ above sea level! – lying beneath the cliffs of Red Screes, the substantial fell in the centre of the picture.
Geographically, it’s an odd approach from the south, though it’s one of the easiest to drive from that end. The route starts along, and spends most of its time in, the Troutbeck Valley, gaining in height until it crosses the western side of the valley and emerges above the valley of Stock Ghyll.
Of course, the Patterdale side is much steeper, and unrelentingly so, requiring a good engine and good fell road experience to negotiate.
“The Struggle” descends the Stock Ghyll valley, running across the picture from right to left, and passing under Red Screes’ quarries. It offers views of Windermere the lake throughout most of the descent, unlike the main Troutbeck road, which is wooded and green, and utterly delightful with it. But “the Struggle” is steep, especially in its upper reaches, on the section seen here, and just below it. I’ve never tried to drive up it yet, and though it’s a fine run it a lightweight car, if you are heavy laden, then be very sure of your brakes: and don’t get up speed.
The Kirkstone Pass Inn is very tempting on a sunny evening, when the shadows are beginning to lengthen, and after a long day’s walking, when the urge to be out won’t go away, I’ve driven up to the Inn for a pint and the view. And the memory of that old postcard and its verse:
If I were a lover and loved a lass
Who lived at the top of Kirkstone Pass
I swear by all that’s true and tried
Whilst I abide in Ambleside
To love and cherish her, ever and ever.
But go up and visit her? Never, no never!