As I reached the cairn on top of the large flattish summit plateau of Brim Fell, in the middle of the Coniston Fells, I stopped to congratulate myself! I had just reached my 100th Wainwright in a little over two years worth of trips from London, and a year on from bagging number 50 on Blea Rigg after a similarly long walk around the Langdale Pikes.
It was on that autumn trip of 2015 that my planned trip top Coniston was shelved due to the fact I needed a rest day in the middle of an eight night stay (and time to wash my muddy trousers!)
But a year later, here I was, with the seven fells of Coniston, and one of the two prime targets for this autumn’s trip to Ambleside.
I caught the first 505 Ambleside to Coniston bus at around 9:45 am for the little over half hour journey. The bus, nearly full with passengers made its way south via Skelwith Bridge, and then the village of Hawkshead, before reaching the northern tip of Coniston Water, and shortly afterwards, the town itself.
With a busy day planned – attempting all seven Wainwrights within the Coniston area, I didn’t want to hang around too much at the start, and I headed straight for the track out of town and into the Coppermines Valley, where scars of the area’s mining past where everywhere in the form of quarries and spoil heaps, giving the place a unique feel.
I walked up towards Miner’s Bridge, along a wide gravelled path next to Church Beck. I crossed the bridge to head up for the “High Lad Stones” route up to Wetherlam, my proffered choice over the Red Dell approach which I had also mapped out in advance on my Satmap GPS device. But either route would see me attempting an anticlockwise round, beginning with Wetherlam, and ending with Dow Crag, before taking the long, wide Walna Scar road back into town at the day’s end.
Passing Lad Stones, a nice view appeared back down on the full length of Coniston, and across the valley to the Old Man.
By noon I was making my final approach to the 762 m top of Wetherlam, offering views back to Ambleside, over to the fells visited yesterday – Cold Pike and Pike O’ Blisco, beyond to the Sca Fells and over the rest of the Coniston range, invitingly laid out ahead of me.
The onward route was west, along the top of Keld Gill Head and down towards the Swirl Hause, the col between Wetherlam and Swirl How, while down below, a view of Levers Water reservoir appeared. From Swirl Hause, the path was now upwards towards Swirl How’s 802 m summit, along the Prison Band ridge.
Reaching the summit at a little after 1 pm, a group of older people on a guided walk were gathered around the cairn, admiring the great all round views in the early afternoon sun. I could now see ahead to my next two headings – Great Carrs a little to the north, and Grey Friar to the west.
A short walk led down and then up to the summit of Great Carrs within the half hour, offering a nice glimpse down into Greenburn to Greenburn reservoir and Little Langdale Tarn beyond.
Continuing back, and then onto Grey Friar, I passed the cairn and plane wreckage, memorializing the Royal Canadian Air Force crew of the Halifax bomber that crashed here in 1944. The plaque revealing I was standing there just two days before the 72nd anniversary of the sad event.
The walk up to Grey Friar gave views south to Dow Crag, The Old Man of Coniston and down to Seathwaite Tarn, while the 770 m rocky summit plateau offered lots of choice of seats for a lunch stop.
Kicking off the second half if the day, I made my way back to the pass at Fairfield. I took the fainter, right hand path that would eventually meet up with Swirl Band, the ridge connecting Swirl How with Levers Hause and onwards to Brim Fell. I continued on towards the 796 m top of Brim Fell, with a good view over to Harter Fell and beyond, out to sea.
After taking in Wainwright number 100 on Brim Fell, I proceeded on towards The Old Man of Coniston with the time now past 3 pm. Even from Brim Fell, the clear view showed the Old Man’s summit was clearly packed with people, as expected for such a popular fell on a lovely autumn afternoon.
The final approach to the day’s high point of 803 m gave views down to both Low Water and Levers Water, and to the town of Coniston itself.
I reached the large summit cairn as a large group was just departing, and for awhile I was alone with just a few fellow walkers, one snapping away on his tripod mounted camera.
One more fell remained – Dow Crag, directly to the west with its impressive crags for which it is named, on display. I descended down to Goat’s Hause above Goat’s Water, where a group were undergoing some type of fell navigation training. I pressed on for the last of the days big climbs – the final 100 m of ascent to Dow Crag’s 778 m high point.
I scrambled up the last few metres to the rocky summit directly above the big crags giving the fell its name, allowing a few minutes satisfaction with the day and gazing out into the distance. But with the time now past 4 pm and several kilometres left to walk back down to Coniston, I was soon on my way south to meet up with the Walna Scar Road.
The ridge took in the two smaller summits of Buck Pike and Brown Pike, and a view down to yet another piece of water! This time it was little Blind Tarn.
By 4:40 pm I was on the Walna Scar Road. Time preventing an additional detour up the non Wainwrights of Walna Scar and White Maiden, but I shall no doubt return this way someday.
The remaining walk back was straightforward on the clear path eastwards, past some of Coniston’s lower rock scenery such as The Bell.
By 5:30 pm I was back in town, with enough time before the final bus to take a look around town and get a rewarding pint in the Crown Inn pub opposite the bus stop.
After such an epic day, the next was calling for something a little easier and I had just the thing in mind with a walk to the Southern Fells lowest two Wainwrights – Black Fell and Holme Fell from Skelwith Bridge.
Time: ~ 7 Hours
Altitude: High: ~803 m/ 2635 ft
Low: ~50 m / 164 ft
Distance: ~ 14 Miles / 22.5 Km
Wainwrights: 7 – Wetherlam, Swirl How, Great Carrs, Grey Friar, Brim Fell, Coniston Old Man, Dow Crag