The Lakes in November

It’s officially Autumn now, and in keeping with that decree, the recent Indian summer of September seems to have done a runner, leaving grey skies, cloud and persistent if not heavy rain. And my thoughts turn to Cumbria and the Lake District.

In about six weeks time, I celebrate my birthday, though it takes an elastic definition of the word ‘celebrate’ to cover the situation. Nevertheless, it has now become a tradition that when my birthday comes up, I take a week off work and, on the Thursday, I catch the train north for a day in the Lakes.

It is, of course entirely the wrong time of year to visit the Lakes, especially if that visit has to be conducted by train from Manchester. I ought to start a parallel tradition of going to Cumbria in, say, May, when skies have a decent chance of being blue, and cloud-free and, at the very least, light until 6.00pm and longer.

But my parents were inconsiderate enough to have had me in November, condemning me to be a Scorpio (as if that nonsense means anything) and an annual reminder of where my spirit lives has to be made in my natal month, or what else is it worth?

Given the cost of train tickets, especially if you leave buyng them until the last minute, it’s time to start laying plans and crossing fingers that, this year perhaps, it might actually stay dry, and maybe clear enough to enable me to get out onto the fells and toil upwards a few hundred feet above valley level.

So, where will we go this year, and what will we plan?

Four times out of the past five years, I’ve set my aim for Windermere, and Ambleside, with or without a side-trip to Grasmere. The other occasion, I disembarked at Penrith and caught the bus over to Keswick, which was considerably less successful. For one thing, the additional stretch from Windermere to Penrith adds a disproportionate amount to the trainfare. For another, it takes a hell of a lot longer from Penrith to Keswick than it does from Windermere to even Grasmere.

And if you have ambitions to get into the fells in even the most minimal degree, it’s a bloody sight easier to do so from Ambleside and Grasmere than it is from Keswick.

So the pragmatics of the situation come down very heavily in favour of Windermere again.

In the hope of getting good Lake District grass, earth and rock under my feet again, and subject to the timetable for 2016, I’m thinking of reviving last year’s plan that was so badly buggered about by BT and others. This is to take an earlier train (but not so early that the fares start to escalate) so as to arrive in a) Windermere and b) Grasmere with a longer period of daylight ahead.

I will then, subject to the great unpredictable that is the British weather, set off with a view to climbing Helm Crag from Grasmere village. It’s not as if I’m spoilt for choice, given my circumstances. Black Fell and Holme Fell on either side of the Ambleside – Coniston road would be ideal, and the former has a view out of all proportion to the effort required to reach its summit, but that then means coordinating with another bus, to Coniston, finding bus stops and having to be very rigid about timing to make sure of being back in time for the return bus – and given my paranoia, that would put a serious crimp in the day.

What do I want in November? Sunshine? Sunshine would be nice, it would make the photographs I can take look much better if everything isn’t tending towards the same shade of grey. But this is November, and I’m not going in hoping for anything greater than clear, and dry. No clouds clinging to the fells on either side, and a clear run – or walk – down Easedale Road, to the bottom of that climb up Helm Crag.

And I’d maim to have the kind of early start I missed out on in 2015, because if I’m to stand any chance of getting to the Lion and the Lamb, I need the biggest allowance of time I can get. It’s already four years since the last time I actually got into the fells, that utterly wonderful day I scrambled up to Heron Crag, part of Loughrigg Fell, out of Ambleside. And I’m slower, and with less stamina than even then.

I need all the time in the world, which put a thought into my head that I neeeds to test out for viability (which, as it usually does, translates into how much it might cost.) Was there any reason why I could not travel up on Wednesday instead, stay overnight in, say, Ambleside, so as to be free first thing Thursday morning to either catch an early bus to Grasmere for the biggest allowance of daylight possible or, if it’s pissing down, take a bus trip to either Coniston or Keswick, with ample time for me to return to Windermere for the train home?

That was definitely a case of breaking out of tunnel thinking, but unfortunately, the price gradient is against me, not to mention availability. You’d think hotels and guests houses would be at least inclining in a backwards direction to attract visitor in mid-November, but if those are winter prices, I doubt I’ll ever get to stay in the Lake District again!

Maybe in 2017, I can plan a bit further ahead. At least I can do the trains dirt cheap if I pay now…

How does it feel?

We had New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’ on the radio yesterday, when it was tuned to an Absolute Eighties channel that, for the most part, seemed doggedly determined to ignore the fact that we did have good music in the Eighties as well. It brought back a memory of a specific play on Radio 1, in the days when I still listened to it, on the car radio heading north on the way to the Lakes.

It was 1983, of course. I had finished my first post-qualification job as a Solicitor on the Friday leaving unnoticed, and the following Monday I would take up my new job at a City Centre firm that would be a delight to work for for three of the next three and three-quarter years, but my last twelve months at my old firm had been stressful in the extreme, and the first signs of grey hairs were visible in amongst the dark brown, even though I was only 27, and I’d arranged to leave a week’s gap between jobs and take a few days out to go on holiday in the Lakes.

It wasn’t my first solo trip. Some eighteen months earlier, in October 1981, having not long since bought my first car, I had taken off for a couple of days in the late Autumn. It was cold, it was grey, I had my walking boots with me but had no real intention to use them, and I had spent a couple of days moving round, seeing places I had not seen since my last family holiday, six years previously, that had ended with my solo climb of Helvellyn.

A night in Ambleside, a night in Keswick, establishing bases that I would return to several times until their inflated prices for singles would make them prohibitive, and then home. Useful for refreshing memories, reawakening my attachment, and learning the technique of driving on narrow, winding, undulating roads and lanes, when they were all but empty.

That time I’d just gone straight up the A6, stopping off in a pub in Preston for some lunch and a dreary pint, Laurie Anderson’s ‘O Superman’ high in the chart and impressive on the radio. Jump forward eighteen months and I was determined to follow our old route northwards, Manchester to the Lake District avoiding the A6, as solicited long before from the AA.

There was a change, near Rawtenstall, a new, short motorway section, diverting me away from the town onto dual-carriageways across the moors, by-passing the road over the hill and into Burnley. As I came upon the choice whether to follow this new, previously untried route, or not, New Order stole out of the speakers, that precise, metronomic beat that was a world away from the Joy Division they’d been and who I had loved so much.

I took the motorway.

In Ambleside, I stopped at the same Hotel, overlooking the park, ate at the same old restaurant we’d patronised in the past, and which I would visit unfailingly on each holiday, until it was taken over and disappeared. I was still restless, and booked out the next day, heading north towards a night in Keswick, but I stopped in Grasmere and, with a sense of adventure, donned my boots and proceeded to walk out on my own for the very first time.

It was a few months short of eight years since I’d last walked, last worn these old boots, romped up the face of Helvellyn from the end of Striding Edge. I played squash every week, five a side football semi-regularly. I was nearing my physical prime and I was only setting out to climb Helm Crag, and I was ashamed and angry about how much I struggled getting up its steep prow, on that old path long since closed and relaid elsewhere.

But I got to the summit, climbed to the top of the official Lion and the Lamb, but not the rocks that are Helm Crag’s real highest point. I didn’t have the skills then, nor the nerve, and I never have had the nerve.

The ridge towards Gibson Knott stretched out before me and I contemplated it dubiously. It was windy, the weather was uncertain. I had made no plans beyond Helm Crag. Every step was further away from the way back, the car. It was early yet, not even midday. And this was the first time I’d been on the fells in eight years, and the first time I’d been completely alone, my own master, answerable to no-one in my course. And completely unprepared.

So I turned back to Grasmere, back at the car for about 12.30pm, stepping out of my boots and anorak and locking these in the boot just as the heavens opened and the rains came down: the right decision, then, by accident.

And it rained nonstop from then until Thursday morning.

I stayed two nights in Keswick, wandering around in the wet on Wednesday, driving from place to place, and coming back to the hotel I’d used before, which, like my choice in Ambleside, overlooked the Park.

Thursday dawned dry. I booked out, intent on moving on. It was dry and clear and I had another walk in mind, an intriguing fell, the Northern Fells outlier, Binsey, with its views south. Wainwright had praised its unique situation, the unexpected vista, and I followed his recommendation on a dull, unexciting ascent from small lanes and hamlets at the back, keeping the view to the last moment on crossing the crest of the hill.

It was dark in the interior, so I wandered back and removed my boots for the day, lunchtime again, so early. I motored off to Cockermouth, had lunch in a pub, a strong cheese and onion sandwich, with a strong, reddish cheese that I wasn’t entirely happy about, and then off, southwards down the coast.

Via Buttermere and Loweswater, the mouth of Ennerdale, the Cold Fell road, Nether Wasdale, gradually moving towards Ravenglass. I’d planned to stay there overnight, but there wasn’t a guest house that felt right, that didn’t look too costly or too comfortable.

Speaking of which, I wasn’t feeling too comfortable myself. My stomach was beginning to feel off, and it only got worse. Ravenglass didn’t feel right: I pressed on, growing weaker and more painful as I drove, set on Coniston, and when I got there I checked into the first Hotel I could find, went to my room, undressed and curled up in bed.

Unless it was the cheese, I don’t know what brought it on, but I was in pain all evening. I knew it couldn’t be the onset of appendicitis, because I’d had that, and my appendix removed, in the summer of 1977, but in all other respects it was a familiar sensation. I didn’t tell anyone, didn’t seek assistance, didn’t even have aspirin on me. I just suffered it through the night, barely slept, but reached the morning feeling weak and empty but free of my gastric difficulties.

The hotel were solicitous when I refused breakfast, just a cup of tea, and I went home quietly, the holiday marred by my experience – and my inexperience in dealing with it.

But I had gotten my boots on again, twice. I had walked out and reached two more summits, taken my collection of Wainwrights into double figures. I had walked alone and I had come back. I had begun.

‘Blue Monday’. How does it feel? Sick to my stomach, but bloody wonderful.

One Day Like This A Year

Next time...
Next time…

On the train up from Manchester, Elbow’s majestic, shambolic, anthemic ‘One Day Like This’ came on my mp3 player and I turned my face to the carriage window and strained to look at the beginnings of low, green fells and temporary lakes in low-lying fields, and silently bellowed along, trying to keep the tears from coming into my eyes. Guy Garvey sings about a day, and a night, with someone he loves, which comes along not often and which is so rich and wonderful that his gratitude leads him to ask for no more.

Much as I’d rather it be, the one day that has to see me right is my traditional trip to the Lakes, for it’s Thursday, and my birthday just gone (Wednesday, 60, in case you’re asking), and that’s the cue to head north by train and bus, not dwelling on what else the day used to mean.

My plan, this year, is one that has already been frustrated once, by weather. I have carefully (and cheaply) bought my tickets a month earlier, selecting an earlier train that might leave Manchester only twenty minutes before my usual departure but which will get me to Windermere almost fifty minutes earlier than usual.

A near hour’s gain on a day when light may be precious means Grasmere, and Helm Crag.

I climbed it once before from Grasmere, in absurdly quick time, scrambling into my boots at 10.30am, back to the car by 12.00. It was my first solo walk, on my first solo holiday, a few October days made possible by my first car: I shut the boot on my boots just before it set into rain for 48 hours solid.

I doubt I can manage those sort of times again, but the weather’s on my side for once, dry where it’s been wet all week, light where it’s been grey, even blue, and the low fells green and brown under sunlight.

But if the weather’s being cooperative, the transport’s not. That earlier train is five minutes late reaching Piccadilly, and even more leaving it, and it doesn’t make any of that back so, when I descend at Oxenholme, the connection is eight minutes gone and the fifty minutes gain follows it, waiting for the train I could have gotten direct from Piccadilly, like always.

The next Windermere train is late, and it gets later at each stop. The sun persists to the Village and throughout the twenty minute wait for the Grasmere bus (which is late). Beyond the Village, the near fellsides are bright, but the interior is not so encouraging. There’s cloud on the Langdales, the Conistons, Bowfell. Crinkle Crags shows its serrated edge briefly, and then is gone. The Fairfield Horseshoe disappears under the shadow of some grey kingdom, cloud poised as if planning a sneak, outflanking attack down Rydale.

But Helm Crag is clear, blessedly clear, when I step off the bus in Grasmere Village.

Except that: I don’t need the unfavourable forecast for this, I have been here too many times to be kidded. I can practically smell the rain and sure enough, forty minutes later as I polish off a very nice (but expensive) lemon chicken salad roll, it smashes down like a parachute brigade on offensive manoeuvres.

Grasmere (and the bus before it) seems to having nothing but old people wandering around it, though I am forced to admit that this is appropriate since the appellation belongs to me as well, now, even if the bus driver did address me as ‘young man’. One notable exception is a handsome blonde woman in no more than her  early forties, with a strong Canadian accent. She dogs my footsteps from the Heaton Cooper Studios to Sam Read’s Bookshop, though I doubt she’s following me with any conscious intent, considering she’s also dragging around with her an equally-Canadian ten year old daughter, plus two English parents, whose accents I can’t place but they’re not Cumbrian.

I don’t overstay my welcome in Grasmere: if I’m going to get stuck somewhere in the rain on a wet Thursday afternoon, Ambleside has more choice and better pubs. I do my usual bookshops: Wearings has shrunk to half the size it’s been since I first knew it and I converse about hard financial times and the second of Clive Hutchby’s Wainwrights, which has been published just last week, and which I buy as a gesture of solidarity.

Then it’s off to the Sportsman (I’m sorry, the Ambleside Tavern) for something hot to eat and something cold to drink.

The main problem – apart from my parent’s thoughtlessness all those years ago in not delivering me into a sunny and dry month of the year – is time. I can only go so far by train and bus, and I am prisoner of their times and tables. I hole up in the pub, sat in the window, eating burger and chips, drinking my third pint of lager and lime in twenty hours, I read something long and slow, but at every moment I an conscious of time building backwards. I must be at Windermere Station by such a time, so I must be at Ambleside Bus Station by such a time, so I must leave here by such a time and I am paranoid about being late, about being stranded, and though the first such a time is a long way off, the thought of getting engrossed, of losing track of time, haunts me.

After a while, the rain starts to really lash it down again. Inside the pub, a bearded guy in his late forties picks up the acoustic guitar leaning against the fireplace and launches into a quite pleasant version of that old folk ballad, Elvis Presley’s ‘The Wonder of You’ (six weeks a number 1 in 1970, immediately following seven weeks of Mungo Jerry and separated by a single Smokey Robinson week from six weeks of Freda Payne: try that on the kids of today and there’d be mass suicides).

A smattering of applause encourages him into another number, which I don’t recognise. The old couple by the fire promptly get up and leave but as he’s just about drowning out Phil Collins, I’m not complaining.

Time wore down. It got dark outside. The hour of the bus approached. The pub’s in-house MTV equivalent threw up Erasure’s ‘Sometimes’ and I sat it out, admiring the fact that it was raining on Andy and Vince’s rooftop as well, then headed out. I had conquered my paranoia so well that there were only eight minutes before the bus was due (it was late).

I’ve not been sleeping well this past week or so and on the dark-night bus to Windermere, the effect began to catch up on me. The Lake was invisible. I wandered into Booth’s Cafe for the usual wind-down flat white coffee, though I’m afraid to say that the usual sumptuous choice of cake was not as sumptuous as I am used to and I had to make do with a Bakewell Tart.

Not until I was on the train could I really begin to relax, knowing that everything was certain now from here to home. My headphones took over my ears again and I waited for the train to leave. It was late.

But the train being late, and getting later at every station, ended up a nightmare. There were delayed trains queuing to get into Piccadilly Station and by the time mine reached the subsidiary stations, our progress could be measured in phases of the moon. Having taken ages already just to reach Oxford Road, our train shut up shop, grimly determined not to move for an official six more minutes, at which point I got off and walked to Piccadilly, beating it hands down.

All of which farrago, which is nothing new, ensured that I finally got back to Piccadilly after the point when my bus home dramatically plummeted from every ten minutes to every thirty. I keep forgetting that it’s hell trying to get out of Central Manchester after 8.00pm.

I ended up catching a different bus, one that would take me to Stockport itself whereupon I can have the pleasure of turning back on myself and coming back. But as it was now getting late, I got off, cut through along Tiviot Way and started walking back from the top of Lancashire Hill. Naturally, before I could reach my stop, the bus I could have stood around in the rain and waited for shot past me, having on this occasion done a forty-five minute journey in just under thirty. It was the same last year: I am going to have to seriously rethink this before next year because it’s a lot of traveling and this bit at the end seriously pisses me off, because I can’t afford to pay for a taxi from Manchester to get home.

One day like this a year will see me right? Not this year.

Frustration and the Wet Dishrag Effect

Helm Crag as I didn't see it
Helm Crag as I didn’t see it

It’s four months after my visit to Ambleside, and the lower buttresses of Loughrigg Fell, and feeling more alive and happy than I’ve done in a long time. Having done it once, I could surely do it again, and with more ambition.

The great and gorgeous weather on Monday put the idea in my head, and the crappy morning I had at work on Tuesday cemented it there. The sky was clear, the sun was out and the forecast promised it would last until Friday, which I’d already booked off as holiday.

So I bought a return to Windermere and laid my plans. I would arrive about 11.40 am, catch the bus through to Grasmere and tackle Helm Crag, which would surely not be beyond the capability of my worn-out body and knackered knees. A few hours up and down – surely three would be enough? – and a free choice of trains back come the evening.

And a proper expedition this time, like the old days, no floundering around in trainers and coat, shoulder bag bumping all over the place. I dug out one of my rucksacks (I say ‘my’, but these are fifty years old, bought by and for my Dad and his elder brother: I am their inheritor). I even bought new (though cheap) boots, my last pair having been uncomfortably cramped when I wore them last, a decade ago.

I’ve only once before gone straight onto the fells in new boots, without having any chance to break them in first, having discovered on the morning of a drive to Ambleside for a week’s walking that the soles had caved in on my old pair, requiring me to book in and race round the climbing shops as soon as I arrived.

But the years have taken more than my stamina. First, I forgot to recharge my mp3 player (for the train) overnight, so I dug out my old portable MiniDisc player, scrabbled for a replacement battery and pushed it into a rucksack pocket, only to find, when we were pulling out of Piccadilly, that I had no headphones.

I’d already realised, halfway into Manchester, that I’ve forgotten to pack Wainwright’s Central Fells. Mind you, if I can’t get up and down Helm Crag without needing a guide, I really do have to give up on the idea of getting back to real walking again!

However, there are worse problems. One is that, almost as soon as I’d paid for the train tickets, a very familiar soreness had settled into the back of my throat and, over the last couple of days, it’s been building into a serious nuisance that hot Lemsip and paracetemol is doing nothing to shift. The other is that, between Tuesday and Thursday, the weather forecast for the Lakes has practically reversed itself.

But I’ve paid for the tickets, and surely just being in the Lakes again is worth it?

It was not too bad a start in Manchester, but as the train approached Preston, we ran into a land-fog that accompanies us all the rest of the way. There was no Black Combe over Morecambe Bay – there was no Morecambe Bay visible.  There was no Kentmere Horseshoe overlooking Kendal. Passing Staveley, the cloud lifted far enough to see 3 – 400 feet of lower slopes, but even that was gone by Windermere. When I got off the train, it wasn’t actually raining.

I bought a Dayrider, still determined to pursue my plans, and the bus headed north alongside the Lake. Things got a little better: just before Troutbeck, the dingy clinginess of the mist seemed to go out of the air, though nothing more was visible of the fells.

The first pale glitter of the Lake was visible at Brockholes, but despite a surprise of sun, there was no Black Fell, let alone the Langdale Pikes. The most I could see was Todd Crag, that part of Loughrigg that had given me so much pleasure last November.

The fact that Loughrigg’s flank overlooking Ambleside was free of cloud aroused a skein of hope in me that was dashed when we emerged by Rydal Water and the all-pervading insubstantiality returned. The tin hat was finally fixed on things on the first sight of Grasmere’s chill waters: No Lion, no Lamb, no climb.

In Grasmere Village, it’s not actually raining slightly harder. The Village is as I remember it for all my life. Sam Reid’s bookshop still sits on the corner of the Green, and whilst it’s now the Grasmere Tearooms, and correspondingly more expensive, there’s still the cafe on the other side of the beck, opposite the church, with the terrace we occupied many a time, for teas ‘n’ fizzy oranges, the adults smoking and talking, my sister and I watching minnows flick and dart in the contained bed of the beck.

The terrace was shut, so I ate inside, cheered by the accompaniment of a brief burst of Fleet Foxes, sounding as ever like ritual chanting by men of the deep woods, a sort of forest Beach Boys. Perfect for a tuna melt panini and an Americano (though as I drank it, I was already looking forward to a Gold Blend back home.)

Naturally the moment you abandon hope, the cloud starts messing with your head. The Lion and the Lamb slid into view beneath the cloud: not by much, a tall man on the Lion’s head might still be enveloped. All the time I was in the tearoom, it grew steadily lighter, though the sky never changed. Silver How and Stone Arthur, on opposite sides of the Rothay Valley, also slipped into view, suddenly restoring the planned walk to feasibility.

But the food suddenly started to weigh heavily on my stomach, and the head-cold chose to turn my head fuzzy and drain my legs. I’m not the 38 year old with a stubborn streak and a gaggle of Wainwrights to collect, who’ll put his head down and determine to walk it off, and I’m not in practice for struggling, and besides, Grasmere is as close to empty of visitors – walking visitors – as I’ve ever seen it. And I’m supposed to be back to work at 9.00am on Saturday.

I couldn’t leave Grasmere without paying a first visit in years to the Heaton Cooper Studio. I admired new copies of prints that hung on our walls for years, and which are in a cupboard right now, waiting for a place with enough walls to hang them upon. Looking round, I realised they were all William, not Alfred, though a colourful print by the latter caught my eye. But I’ve already spent enough this month, nor could I have fitted it into my rucksack without damaging it, and I don’t need any more things to not go on the walls.

What did surprise me was that there were no prints by, nor mention of Julian Cooper, the third generation, and ‘my’ Cooper, nor of his mother, Ophelia Gordon Bell, both of whom used to be featured here. My own, latter-day acquisitions from the Heaton Cooper Studio have almost exclusively been of his work, starting with my favourite, Reading the White Goddess above Windermere, whose setting must be at, or close to, you’ve guessed it, Todd Crag.

(c) Julian Cooper

With my head getting slowly worse, and feeling more and more like a wet dishrag every minute, I returned to Ambleside. The day was turning from frustration into a disaster. I joylessly tramped around my usual haunts, tentatively negotiated in Fred Houldsworth’s bookshop about the possibility of their taking my three Lake District novels on a Sale or Return basis (I’ll make a loss on them, but the exposure may be worth it, and I didn’t get into writing to make money off it – not that I wouldn’t rip your hands off if you offered it).

But I’d gotten so bad now that sitting in the Sportsman’s Arms over a pint was unwelcome. I just wanted to get home and lie down, and wrap the walls around me. Which I did, along with fish’n’chips, though it took nearly four hours to do so.

All in all, probably one of my worst days ever in the Lakes, the only real bright point being that I spent the best part of eleven hours tramping around in those new boots without feeling any discomfort at all, although their uphill capabilities were tested by nothing worse than Ambleside main street. The weather was frustrating, but it was the cold that really irritated me, coming along at this exact time, in beautiful weather, just when I’d planned something I meant to enjoy for a change. No wonder I have a certain paranoia about my relationship with the Universe.

Little Gems: Helm Crag

The Lion and the Lamb, with Grasmere beyond

If you’re staying in the South Lakes, and it’s a sunny day, and there’s an afternoon before you, and you want to take advantage and yet not be committed to anything too strenuous, the Lion and the Lamb is ideal for you.
It’s mainly the fellwalkers who use the name of Helm Crag. Those less urgent to be up in the sky, and those with children to delight, will tell their youngsters to look up to the small, but steep-sided fell, in the centre of the view across Grasmere, from the main road from Ambleside, to the peak where the rocks take the shape of a Lion Couchant, and a smaller outline just below it may be imagined into being as a trusting Lamb, sheltering between the Lion’s paws.
It’s a childish myth, passed on generation to generation, though there is no record of how many eager young kids, dragged by or dragging their parents to the top, have been horribly disappointed by the absence of a summit menagerie. Only the short but daring scramble to the Lion’s head, and its perfect view of the Vale of Grasmere, may placate them.
I’ve climbed Helm Crag three times, one of them as the natural end to the descent of the low, curling ridge of which it is the terminus, which meant a dull approach from the back, and a descent the same route, to my car. For an expedition in its own right, only one approach is possible.
Cars should be parked in Grasmere Village, preferably at the north end. Begin along Easedale Road, leading away from the green. There is a small car park a quarter mile along, the only place cars may be left, but unless you are doing this walk in the early morning, it is not worth even visiting in hope of a space.
Easedale Road marches steadily on towards the fell. It is a shady, tree-lined affair, for much of its length, going beyond the gate where many turn off for the equally popular route to Easedale Tarn, just after the narrow road itself veers right. Carry on ahead, coming out into an open stretch, as far as Kitty Crag, and leave the road where it turns sharply left.
Half the distance of the walk has been covered for no significant gain in height, so what follows is unavoidably steep. The path turns uphill, through trees, and emerges on the rock-overhung fellside via a gate.
Originally, the path bore right at this point, rising gently before making a direct turn uphill alongside a wall, which curved round to reach the prow of the fell after a short, but intense struggle. The way then followed the ridge uphill at a slightly easier gradient, veering to the right of White Crag, before traversing to the left to bypass the rocks gathering on the eastern flank of the fell. I came that way a long time ago, cursing myself at how unfit I was.
Not long after, that path, badly eroded from the years, was blocked off by the National Trust, and a new, purpose-made path was created to divert the hordes over easier, and undamaged ground. Instead of turning right at the gate above Kitty Crag, turn left and, after a short distance, take a set of steep-zig-zags uphill, again accompanying a wall. This section is less strenuous than the old path, but still takes the breath away.
Once above this, the path takes a wide loop right, along the Far Easedale flank of the fell, crossing above Jackdaw Crag, and zig-zagging broadly onto a higher level for a long swoop out in the open, before doubling back towards the prow on an easy gradient, and joining the old path at 1,050′, and thence to the summit ridge. Path-finding will not be an issue.
The rocks constituting the ‘official’ Lion and Lamb are the first to be met on the summit ridge. The Lion’s head is the official summit and can be reached by an easy, but not reckless scramble. Keep children under a watchful eye.
However, the highest point is a black finger of rock, also known as the Lion and the Lamb form some viewpoints, but more appropriately the Howitzer in views from the descent of Dunmail Raise Pass. Beyond this is a further set of striated and broken rocks that are known, in views, as the Old Woman Playing The Organ.
I’ve no advice on reaching the highest point, at the peak of the Howitzer, and whilst it is actually reachable without specialist skills, few who have come here for an easy afternoon will tackle it, and none will allow kids to make the attempt.
Return by the same route. There is an alternative: by following the ridge north, and descending to the col, a narrow, curving path can be found turning down eastward. When you come to the road, turn back towards Grasmere, and you will, after a long walk, rejoin Easedale Road. It has nothing to offer but variety, whilst the route of ascent has Grasmere ahead in descent. The case is conclusive.