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  • Writer's pictureHiker Heather

Walking the Wainwright's: Volume 1

Trip Reports & Routes : The Greenburn Round, Walla Crag, Bleaberry Fell & High Seat & The Fairfield Horseshoe

Introduction

On 31st December '22, I made the last minute decision to head up to the Lake District to spend some time hiking in the fells over the New Year. I had booked into a little camping pod at Low Wray Campsite near Ambleside for 2 nights', which would serve as my base. My plan would be to hike some of the Wainwright's in the area, the Wainwright's being the 214 hills/ mountains as described in Sir Alfred Wainwright's seven-volume Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells. Whilst I had previously hiked some of the Wainwright's in the past, some on multiple occasions, I had never made a formal record. I had, however, bought a little log-book months earlier, which remained empty on my shelf and so I decided that I would start logging (and blogging!) my Wainwright's and for the sake of the log (and blog) I would start at 0/214 Wainwrights, disregarding my previous hikes. In terms of my routes and planning, I am very roughly following the routes as set out in Walking the Wainwrights book by Stuart Marshall, which I had also bought some months earlier, however, I have modified some of the routes, either in advance or on the day, due to weather conditions. This blog post will cover the 15 Wainwrights' that I hiked over the 3 days that I spent in the Lake District over the New Year...


The Greenburn Round : Steel Fell, Calf Crag, Gibson Knott & Helm Crag

Distance

8.11 miles/ 13km

Start/ Finish

Grasmere Village - Main Car Park

Navigation

It was dark and overcast as I arrived in Grasmere at around 11am on New Year's Eve. Leaving my car at the Main Car Park, I made my way through the quaint little village, which was bustling with even more tourists than usual, making my way past the famous Grasmere Gingerbread Shop, before heading out of the village along Easedale Road, toward Goody Bridge and onward toward the beautiful little area is known as Greenburn, which is looked after by the National Trust. Below is a picture of Helm Crag taken from the beginning of the ascent up Steel Feel.

The path to the summit of the first Wainwright of the day, Steel Fell (553m), is short but steep in places but over mainly grassy slopes, which offers no real difficulty, however, upon arriving at the summit, the weather quickly deteriorated to very wet, low clag, offering very little visibility. It should be noted that this route is not recommended in mist or fog, without good navigation skills as there are some extremely wet, boggy and pretty pathless sections. The wet and boggy ground began not long after leaving the summit of Steel Fell, I imagine that these sections are probably boggy even in summer, let alone the middle of winter... The rain thrashed as I went but luckily didn't serve to dampen my spirits...

After navigating through the bog, I soon arrived at the rocky summit of the second Wainwright of the day, Calf Crag (537m). The weather was relentless and so I quickly continued on, through the wind and rain, over bog and peat hags, eventually arriving at the third Wainwright, Gibson Knott, the summit marked by a small cairn. Again, I didn't stick around as the weather was only continuing to deteriorate, I dropped down to the col before starting the steep zig-zag ascent up toward the fourth and final Wainwright of the day, Helm Crag (405m). The weather wasn't really allowing for photos but here are a couple from when I last hiked Helm Crag back in May '19 with my sister -

I quickly made my way down off Helm Crag, eventually arriving back at my car in Grasmere...


The Central Fells : Walla Crag, Bleaberry Fell & High Seat

Distance

5.7 miles/ 9.3km

Start/ Finish

Ashness Bridge

Navigation

Having spent the previous evening, New Year's Eve, in my modest little pod at Low Wray Campsite, where I had enjoyed a fine meal of Heinz tomato soup and bread, followed by an insurmountable amount of snacks, sweets and chocolate before getting my head down for an early night - let it be known, I am always in bed before midnight on New Year's Eve! hahaha! No shame over here, just the little old biddy that I am! Needless to say, I woke rested and ready for another day in the fells, although today was set to be another wet one, again with little visibility. My initial plan for the day had been to hike the Fairfield Horseshoe, however, I decided that I would leave that for tomorrow as it was promising better weather for what would be my last day in the Lakes and so I decided to head up and hike some of the Central Fells from the beautiful Ashness Bridge...

Unlike with the Fairfield Horseshoe, today's route would offer plenty of options in terms of escape routes, the full route that I had planned would take in 6 Wainwright's but it was also possible to take various different escape routes, therefore giving you the option to hike as many or as little as you want... After taking a few obligatory pictures of Ashness Bridge, I crossed the road and started the ascent toward the first Wainwright of the day, Walla Crag (379m). Whilst the weather had been consistently damp all morning, by the time I had reached the summit of Walla Crag, the weather had fully closed in, bringing heavy rain and poor visibility once again. I decided that despite the weather, it was still too early in the day to call it quits, I was content and happy being out in the wet anyway and so I decided that I would head over to the second Wainwright, Bleaberry Fell (590m). The path from Walla Crag to Bleaberry Fell was across very wet and boggy moorland before another short but steep ascent up to the summit of Bleaberry Fell, where the weather was still continuing to deteriorate, it was here that I decided I would head over to bag one last Wainwright, High Seat (608m), before taking one of the paths back down to Ashness Bridge. The path from Bleaberry Fell to High Seat was once again a pure bog fest which made for some of that weird kind of fun! From the summit of High Seat, I took the path down by the side of Ashness Gill back down to Ashness Bridge and my car! Another wet but happy day in the fells!


The Fairfield Horseshoe: Nab Scar, Heron Pike, Great Rigg, Fairfield, Hart Crag, Dove Crag, High Pike & Low Pike

Distance

10.4 miles/ 16.9 km

Start/ Finish

Car park at Rydal Road, Ambleside

Navigation

It was 2nd January 2023 and my last of 3 days spent in the Lake District, the previous 2 days had been spent hiking some of The Central Fells in extremely wet and dark weather, however, the forecast had promised that today would be bright and filled with lots of winter sun and so it looked like a grand opportunity to hike the Fairfield Horseshoe which I had been meaning to hike for very many years but for some reason or other, hadn't found the chance. I left my car at the car park in Ambleside which was extremely busy despite it only being 8am, I had wanted to try and an early start as I'd still have 2.5 hour drive back down to my home in Yorkshire after the hike. Leaving the car, I made my way toward Rydal (another common starting point for this route) before making the steep ascent up toward the first Wainwright of the day, Nab Scar (455m). Upon arriving at the summit, I was shocked at the amount people that I was also joined by, I don't think I had appreciated or anticipated how popular this route would be, or perhaps maybe the Lake District generally, which just like most of our outdoor spaces, seems to be gaining more popularity and the fells were indeed bustling today and so whilst today would not be a day of solitude, it would be a beautiful day nonetheless with plenty of winter sun, just as the forecast had promised...

After spending a little time marvelling at the most beautiful panoramic views surrounding me, I left Nab Scar before heading toward the second Wainwright of the day, the twin-topped Heron Pike (612m). The views upon reaching Heron Pike reveal much of the days walk ahead, with Fairfield dominating the head of the valley, as can be seen in the photo below...

The next section is ridge walking at it's finest, between Heron Pike and Fairfield lies Great Rigg (766m) which is linked by a high grassy ridge. Just be sure to stick to the ridge here, ignoring the many different paths that lead back down into the valley. The final climb from Great Rigg eventually leads you to Fairfield's flat and featureless summit which could be very difficult to navigate in bad weather...

From the summit of Fairfield (873m), the horseshoe continues east initially before turning south east toward Hart Crag (822m). This section of walking is along the spectacular cliffs that line Fairfield's north face. Soon dropping down to the col, I made the short but steep ascent up to the summit of Hart Crag which is marked by a large stone cairn. Descending from Hart Crag, I made the last real ascent for the day up to Dove Crag (792m) before starting the descent back down into Ambleside which takes in both High Pike (658m) and Low Pike (508m) on the way. After bagging the final summit of Low Pike for the day, I continued to follow the path which hugs the side of the dry stone wall before descending down to High Sweden Bridge and eventually back down into Ambleside...

I'd spent very little time in the Lakes since hiking the Cumbria Way back in Spring of 2021, needless to say, I enjoyed my time very much despite the wind and rain, it was just amazing to be back out dancing with the mountains once again....




If you have any questions about the Wainwright's or anything else then please do use the contact form to drop me a line, I will get back to you as soon as possible.


You can follow my adventures live over on my Instagram @hiker_heather


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