Walking the Dog

Suburban Walks > Cumbria


Now for a diversion on The Lakes District in Cumbria.

For several years now, I have enjoyed walking (without my dog) in The Lakes District of Cumbria in northwest England. The activity in which I engage is termed fell walking; fells are mountains. In Cumbria, the land is treeless — somewhat like it used to be in the United States in the 1800's. Consequently, as you walk, you enjoy wonderful views of distant places. There are no bears or wolves. There are no bugs. Sometimes, there is a bit of rain.

Each winter, I plan my fell-walking routes for the following spring/summer. Since I do not drive in England, I plan circular walks from my hotel or cross country walks that start with a bus ride and end up back at the hotel. I have, of course, purchased mapping software with a seamless map of The Lakes District. With this software, I can create routes that I can upload to my gps. Being well over 65, I try for walks that are 10 miles or less. Since I am a very slow walker (because of a previous skydiving accident), my walks often take six to ten hours to complete.

I use two principal references when planning a route. First, there is stridingedge.net which is maintained by Sean McMahon. He has climbed all of the "Wainwrights" with his bearded collies multiple times and in all kinds of weather. His walks often start before sunrise, and no matter what the hour, Sean takes spectacular photgraphs. After I climb each fell, I can review his photos and can recognize the trail sections and the views.

My second reference source is the Alfred Wainwright Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells in seven volumes. The revised editions by Chris Jesty have updated trail maps. I will not try to describe these classics other than to say that they contain the best detailed reference for each of the 214 "Wainwright Fells" in The Lakes District.


I have included here 15 photos. These photos are selected from my walks in the Eastern, Central, and Southern Fells as defined by Wainwright.

Langdale Pikes from The Band

This photo, taken from "The Band" (west), shows Harrison Stickle, Pike O'Stickle, and Loft Crag. Pike O'Stickle is the site of the "Stone Age Axe Factory" that you can search for with Google.

Langdale Pikes from Loughrigg Tarn

Langdale Pikes from Loughrigg Tarn (east) on a cloudy rainy walk. From left to right, you can see Pike O'Stickle, Harrison Stickle, and Pavey Ark.

Dungeon Ghyll Sheep

Near the top of the Dungeon Ghyll path on my way to Pike O'Stickle. Dungeon Ghyll is an exceedingly steep ravine. There is a 300 foot or so section where a mis-step to the left would yield a 1000 foot fall into a rocky ravine. I was terrified, but I made it past this section by holding on to the rocks on the right and moving either one hand or one foot at a time.

Mickleden Sheep Fold

Taken when descending from Stake Pass on my way to the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel in Great Langdale. A sheep fold is a (usually stone) enclosure where sheep are kept when they are gathered from the fells for shearing or for sale.

Sheep Worrying

A sign at Stool End Farm near "The Band" in Mickleden explains one of the reasons that I do not bring my dog, Juliet, to Cumbria.

Scafell Pike

Scafell Pike taken from Bowell. Scafell Pike is England's highest mountain. There is a large circular cairn on top that offers shelter from wind.

Bluebells Along the Roadside

Wild bluebells along the roadside. Bluebells as well as yellow poppies and foxglove are common along many trails and roads.

Helm Crag from Gibson Knott

Helm Crag from Gibson Knott in Easedale. Helm Crag is well known for a summit rock formation known as The Howitzer on the north (left) side of the summit.

The Howitzer

A closeup of The Howitzer

Place Fell

Glenridding valley, the southern end of Ullswater, and Place Fell.

Striding Edge

Striding Edge is the knife edge approach to Helvellyn. The walk progresses from the left edge of this picture, along the knife edge, and then up a 500 foot screen slope to the top of Helvellyn. Those, who are sure of foot and willing, walk along the top of the edge. You can see a walker with a red jacket toward the lower left section of the photo. More cautious walkers use the paths along the sides of the edge. I used a combination of the two methods.

I was inspired to walk climb Helvellyn via Striding Edge when I saw Sean McMahon's photos of a winter ascent.

Helvellyn Cross Shelter

Some of the higher fells have cross shelters, such as this one on Helvellyn, to protect climbers no matter which way the wind blows. The exception is the winter when the lee portions of the cross shelters tend to be filled with snow.

Steam Launch on Coniston Water

I tried to pick three images from my trip to Brantwood on Coniston Water. In this, the first image, a steam launch passes a sail boat.

Rhododendron Petals

Brantwood is the former estate of John Ruskin. The estate includes well-kept gardens which are a delight to view. Rhododendrons grow as tall as thirty feet. Here is a photo of fallen blossoms mingled with leaves from past years.


Finally, there is the Brantwood residence.