Little Gems – Troutbeck Tongue

Windermere from Troutbeck Tongue

Troutbeck Tongue (or The Tongue, Troutbeck Park, to give it its formal title) is not really thought of among the Lakeland Fells. Geographically, it is a long, grassy, tongue of land, situated in the middle of the Troutbeck valley, surrounded on three sides by higher fells that do not present especially exciting aspects, and which offers only a pleasing prospect of middle and lower Windermere, highlighting the islands, as a view. Nor is the Troutbeck valley high on attractions in itself. It’s one of a trio of south-eastern valleys, primarily rural, narrow, remote from the hills except by walking, and relatively quiet. Troutbeck, though very beautiful in its lower stages, is notable mostly for the main road climbing up the western flank of the valley before crossing the ridge and rising to Kirkstone Pass. The Tongue occupies the middle valley, defined by narrow becks, and concealing a wide, desolate upper valley that rises to Threshthwaite (Threshet) Mouth. But though it doesn’t sound the most enticing of experiences, what makes Troutbeck Tongue a little gem is it’s sharp-nosed, rocky prow, offering walkers a simple, danger-free but still exhilarating miniature scramble. For older walkers, who can no longer summon the stamina, for families with young children bursting with excess energy, this is a walk to remind or to introduce to hand and foot scrambling in a safe environment. Indeed, the biggest obstacle on this walk is man-made. Drive through the Troutbeck valley on the Kirkstone road, signposted at a mini-roundabout on the Ambleside – Windermere road about a mile north of Windermere Village. The road itself is one of the gentlest approaches to a road pass in the Lakes, and its early stages, through the sylvan delights of the lower valley should be taken slowly. Car parking will be noted near the bridge by the Church and this is an ideal stopping place for a relaxing hour, before or after the walk. Beyond this area, car parking is difficult. The walk starts near the Mortal Man pub, left, whose car park is the only feasible stopping place. A placatory drink is suggested, ideally before setting out. Walk back about 100 yards and take an unsignposted road, Ings Lane, descending steeply into the valley. This drops 100′ or so rapidly, before levelling out into a long walk through the fields, tedious but inescapable. Use the time to study the prow of the Tongue as it rises steadily before you, filling the valley bottom. The road leads to Troutbeck Park Farm and veers off to the right. Cross it and take a narrow path leading steeply uphill along the edge of encroaching gorse. A way may need to be forced to make progress alongside a wall, When the wall ends, bear right onto the grassy prow of the fell. There is no path, but the ridge is narrow enough for there to be no concerns about route-finding, whilst broad enough to offer no concerns about falling. From here, just start uphill, at whatever pace is comfortable to you, taking a direct line over the rocks embedded in the surface. The rocks are not continuous but outcrop succeeds outcrop, and the kids will love scrambling over them and always more delights to follow. The only obstacle is about halfway up, when the way is blocked by a wire fence, topped by a strand of barbed wire. Kids can be lifted over with no trouble, but should be told to keep their heels up. Adults will need to be a little more circumspect, but the fence is easily passable if an anorak has been stuffed into a rucksack, irrespective of how sunny and calm the weather may be. Simply fold the anorak across the evil top strand and straddle across the fence using the anorak as padding for the sensitive areas thus brought into contact with the wire. From here, the ridge continues until it tops out about a hundred yards from the highest point. Stay to admire the fell-length view of the Troutbeck valley, including sparkling Windermere at its foot, before completing the ascent. The upper valley comes as something of a surprise from here. The Tongue’s top is at the best height to enhance the perspective, giving the impression of a vast, lonely, wild place beyond, trackless and empty, with Threshthwaite Mouth at its furthest end. This, the impression suggests, is not country for amateurs. Apart from that, there’s little spectacular to be seen around, nor much to detain visitors on the ground. A return by the ridge seems favourite, especially given the view of Windermere ahead – indeed, there are many who will recommend reversing the walk and saving the ridge for descent for that very reason. Normally, I would sympathise, but the scramble is always more fun uphill, and as the primary attraction of the walk, I think it should be given its proper prominence. Make a leisurely return by walking forward into that vast, empty bowl, until the wire fence is met on the other half of its route round the fell. Cross it by the same means, after which the faint path quickly peters out, so bear down on the right, towards the high wall of the Ill Bell range, until steepening slopes deliver you down to the beck. A good path accompanies this back, through narrow, woody confines, until you return to the farm at the foot of the ridge. Walk back to the main road and the car. Another drink at the Mortal Man will probably be very welcome on both sides.


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