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Summer Walk - 11th July 2004

By Helen Richardson

This July, Dave Taylor led a walk up Coniston Old Man, and I'd like to tell you about this really memorable day.

As a change from the drive from Windermere around the head of the lake via Skelwith Bridge towards Hawkshead and Coniston, Brian and I took the ferry across Windermere from Bowness to Far Sawrey, then drove alongside Esthwaite Water. The weather was calm and the sun was trying to break through the clouds. We waited only a few minutes for the ferry, and were surprised that when it started, it moved so gently, we didn't even realise we had set off! After greeting the cyclists at Hawkshead. I left Brian to cycle, and drove on to Coniston Village for the walk.

What a select group of walkers we were - just five of us! We waited a few minutes in the main car park opposite the Crown Hotel, in case any more walkers might join us, and then set off - initially, not for the walk, but to drive to a nearby "overspill" car park, at the John Ruskin school, where the £6 National Park charge was replaced by a "contribution to suit your pocket" box. Amazingly, there were only a very few cars there, whereas the main car park had been pretty full.

We set off up the hill from the village, passing through some pleasant woodland, and soon crossed a gate onto the fell. Some cars were parked there, and some walkers started from this point - so we immediately felt self-righteous and "acclimatised"! Most people were setting off in an anticlockwise direction, but Dave took us on a clockwise route, and this was excellent, as we were away from the crowds throughout the day, except at the summit.

Our ascent took us along the Walna Scar Road, and we were rewarded along the way with fine views to the west and out to sea. We could see Heysham power station, and with a little help from binoculars, identified Blackpool Tower and other coastal features. The going was easy, and we carried on with lots of chatting until we arrived at Goat's Water, where we stopped for a picnic lunch. This is a relatively sheltered spot, opposite the cliffs and screes of Dow Crag, where rock climbers were pursuing their sport high above the tarn. By now, it was greyer and rather chilly, but our spirits were high, and even the rather more laborious and steeper walking to the summit of Old Man (approx 800m), didn't dampen them. We were lucky that the sky brightened enough for us to get good views in every direction from the summit, and could see peaks such as Scafell Pike and the Langdales to the N-W and N, as well as Morecambe Bay to the S. We thought we could even make out the Isle of Man, or perhaps Northern Island. The only down side was that it was a bit like Piccadilly Circus on top! But we soon left the crowds behind, and enjoyed peaceful walking once more as we started down hill. There was a bit of scrambling here and there, so I felt that the walk was rather akin to a red run: mostly straightforward, but with occasional steep patches to take more care on.

Shortly after passing the old quarries, a phone call from Brian told us that the cycle ride had finished, and that he was heading for Coniston to meet us. This added quite a challenging hill climb to his cycle route, so perhaps it wasn't surprising that he was enjoying a snooze in the late afternoon sun, with a pint on the table in front of him, when we arrived at the garden of the (aptly named) Sun Hotel. We completed our day with more chat and drinks all round, before setting off for home.

I must pass on this tip from Dave, who recommended "Zest" a recently opened café at Ings a few miles before Windermere on the A592 (it used to be a Little Chef), for a good breakfast served from 7am, for walkers arriving on the day.

Thank you, Dave, for a really great walk. Those of you who didn't come, missed a really enjoyable day.