Weekend wanderings

Fells, clouds, and parsnip soup

Miles travelled: 857.6
Height climbed: 1480ft/451m (Catbells) 1165ft/355m (Rannerdale Knotts)
Friends made: lots of bold robins, a million pheasants, 2 inquisitive pointer dogs and an elusive black duck.

Saturday was an unseasonably warm, dry day, so we jumped on the opportunity to tackle a decent fell walk. The trail up Catbells is a really well-trodden route so we were concerned that a Saturday afternoon wouldn’t be the best time to go up for a quiet walk. But perhaps due to the time of year and the huge, ominous clouds lurking on top of all peaks in every direction, thankfully we weren’t fighting crowds of people. We did meet a few more folks trudging up the path, which was nice as everyone offers little words of encouragement as you pass each other.


We scrambled up both summits and enjoyed a proper Cumbrian bracing breeze at the top, then descended South towards the road by Manesty. We’d had such a great time on the high bits  enjoying views over Borrowdale and Newlands valley, we’d sort of forgotten that you start to lose the light up here around 3pm, and we had another 3.5(ish) miles to walk back to the van. So we pressed on, down a path leading through marsh, then woods, until eventually bringing us right alongside Derwentwater. (Slightly nerdy fact: the Lake District actually only contains one lake – Bassenthwaite lake. Every other body of water is technically a mere, a water, or a tarn.) This sheltered, quiet path was a nice change from the blustery, busy fell top, and as the light really began to fade we were glad to be back at the bottom of the valley near the van.  We’d spent more time out walking than we’d anticipated, and our bellies were looking forward to the prospect of a hot bowl of soup.


Back at the van, we got our muddy boots off and settled on the sofa in the back of Big Red. Stove fired up, fairy lights on, we sat and looked out across the fells in the waning light as the smell of seasonal parsnip soup filled the van. Pretty satisfying, albeit simple start to cooking lunch on our little stove. At 5pm it was dark, and time to head off.

Sunday morning, we were surprised by the most amazing sunrise which prompted us to get up and out into the fells again. Both of us felt pretty sore and stiff in our legs so we were after a little bimble, rather than another steep walk. We decided on a National Trust trail from Buttermere up to Rannerdale Knotts. Only 3 miles long, it promised big views without taking us the whole day to do. The drive over from Penrith to Buttermere is beautiful enough – winding roads following valleys deeper into the Lakes until it feels like you’re really in the middle of nowhere.

The walk started from the National Trust car park just North of the village centre (free parking: bonus) so we parked, geared up and headed out. The grass paths ascending the fellside crisscross each other through the bracken, sometimes making it less obvious which route we were supposed to be following. But we headed up towards the rocky ridge top of the Knott, ignoring paths spiking out towards Whiteless Pike towering over us. We realised pretty quickly that the incline was much steeper than the little gentle stroll we had planned for, but as the views got more dramatic and impressive down into Rannerdale valley, it became apparent that the effort was worth it.


The view is unusual, as from the cairn at the summit you can see  Buttermere, Crummock Water and Loweswater in the distance: three lakes in one view! Also, looking back down to the road, we could see Big Red left in the car park. It’s quite surreal to see the van from up high; at a distance, you see the rectangular box which contains your entire life… and you see how tiny your tiny home really is. At the top, we took some time to enjoy the spectacular surroundings, feeling very grateful that once again, we’d escaped the rain.


The wind was getting steadily chillier, so we started picking our way down the North side of the fell. It’s much steeper that way, but a stone-pitched path cut into the path made it a little easier, and eventually we ended up at the shore side of Crummock Water. This is a really picturesque place on any day, but as we walked along the beach, the clouds over the dark water made it feel particularly moody and beautiful.  We followed the route through Nether How woods leading back to the car park. Both of us felt pretty rubbish at how knackered we felt after only a 3 mile walk, and decided it was a good opportunity to check out a little pub in the village which our friends had recommended. We made our way to The Fish, and sat in the warmth of the pub nursing our half pints, looking out of the windows towards Scale Force waterfall. This is, in my opinion, the right and proper way to finish any fell walk.