Thursday, 31 May 2012

Carron Crag & Grizedale Forest

Sixty six days. That is how long its been since I last went for a walk. I've become a right part time walker recently after dedicating most of my outdoor time to cycling since I got my new mountain bike. So when my sister said she was going to celebrate her birthday and their wedding anniversary with a week away in a self catering cottage near Grizedale Forest and wanted me to tag along for a few nights, I was well up for it. It was also a celebration of my 26th birthday a few days before... well okay 36th then. Unfortunately Nicky couldn't come as she had a university lecture on Saturday afternoon and wanted to spend time with her own family who were heading back to Australia on Sunday. The plan was to drive up to Satterthwaite on Saturday morning and get out on my mountain bike then go for a long walk on Sunday. I wanted to do them both early and spend some rare quality time with my family. Unfortunately I didn't get out on my bike on Saturday but we did manage a small walk in the afternoon and on Sunday managed a fantastic nine mile walk around Grizedale Forest including the outlying fell of Carron Crag. The weather all weekend was perfect. Blue skies, sunshine and a warm breeze. I had never been to the Grizedale Forest area before this weekend. Why? I don't really know, but it is probably because most trips to the Lake District involve climbing big mountains, of which there are none in the area between Lake Windermere and Coniston Water. I expected an over crowded, boring and flat pine forested landscape with too many people and not enough to see or do. Instead what I found was a beautiful wooded landscape with quaint villages, rolling ridges, loads to explore and surprisingly few people.


Tim on Panopticon sculpture on Carron Crag in Grizedale Forest


I set off early on Saturday morning and got to the Lakes in no time at all. The Lake District on a day like this is just absolutely stunning. The view across Windermere with the Langdale Pikes in the far background was awesome. I nipped into Gaynor Sports in Ambleside for a few items including a lovely Berghaus Argentium red short sleeved zipped T-Shirt that I have found it almost impossible to get hold of. I also needed another pair of Ronhill Tracksters as I use them for cycling which I am doing a lot of at the moment. We all met up in Hawkshead and I was quickly reminded of why I rarely stop in such lovely tourist honey pots. The masses of friendly people doesn't bother me, its the extortionate parking charges. We had tasty Wensleydale Cheese sandwiches in the sun at Hawkshead then made our way through Grizedale to Satterthwaite. Satterthwaite is a small picturesque hamlet with impressive old stone buildings everywhere including All Saints Parish Church, The Parish Room, The Eagles Head pub and our rather lovely accommodation Honeysuckle Cottage. We opened the car door and found ourselves looking skyward as dozens of House Martins and Sparrows flew through the perfect blue sky above the neighbouring stone cottage which backs onto green fields, themselves backed by ridges of lush green woodland. We went for a short two mile walk from the front door of the cottage in the afternoon before  returning to the cottage for a barbecue. Whilst out walking I told the guys of my plans for the next day and much to my delight my brother-in-law Tim said he wanted to join me for my early morning walk. I had got some route ideas by printing off route maps for biking and walking in Grizedale Forest from the Visit Lakland Forests website. The route I planned to do was named the Silurian Way. I chose that one as it circled almost the entire forest and involved the Visitor Centre, Grizedale Tarn and the summit of Carron Crag.


Roe Deer in Grizedale Forest

I set my alarm incorrectly on Saturday night so wouldn't have woken up had it not been for the sudden thuds and crying of my nephew Adam who decided to get up early and fling himself down the last few steps of the stairs on Sunday morning. After the unplanned and unfortunate yet also fortunate wake up call Tim and myself had a quick breakfast and set off in the warm sunshine for our walk. The House Martins and Sparrows were also outside flying around and making lots of noise above our heads. We headed south out of the village, crossing the Grizedale Beck then turning right up a bridleway on the right known as Moor Lane. We had walked this same route during our short walk on Saturday afternoon. The rough track is flanked by woodland on the left and views out over fields to the right. There was the constant pungent smell and white flowers of Wild Garlic. When we reached the edge of the forest we crossed the bridges at Farra Grain Gill before turning left to ascend a footpath through woodland on Scale Green. The footpath crossed over the North Face sponsored MTB trail that looked scary in places. We found ourselves passing through a wooden arch sculpture, one of hundreds of wooden sculptures placed around Grizedale Forest. The path reached the top of the woods and opened up at an old car park or turning area at the end of a forestry track. We then followed that forestry track north along the top of the ridge through Scale Green Intake. We saw a Buzzard to our left stalking something. At a crossroads we went straight ahead for twenty metres then turned left to ascend the steep path to Carron Crag.

Tim dwarfed by Braithwaite Plantation

The path opened up above the forest and up to our left was the striking wooden sculpture known as the Panopitcon. We walked up to the Panopticon to take a look and of course take a few obligatory photos of us stood in it. Looking south through it were views as far as the sands of Morecombe Bay. Looking north the Panopticon perfectly frames the rocky knoll of Carron Crag topped by an OS trig point pillar. We walked up to the summit of Carron crag which is a small pyramid shaped rocky knoll. The views from this viewpoint are awesome. To the west is the mighty Coniston Fells, from left to right Dow Crag, Coniston Old Man, Brim Fell, Swirl How and Wetherlam. To the north and north east the higher Central Fells and Eastern fells. And all around in close proximity the roof of Grizedale Forest. From Carron Crag we headed north to reach the descent path to the Grizedale Forest Visitor Centre. On the way down through the forest we saw the new Grizedale Black MTB route which looked even scarier than the North Face route. The day before we arrived in Grizedale a biker had been airlifted and was in a critical condition. We crossed the road to reach the visitor centre which at 9am on a Sunday morning was fairly quiet. As we left the Visitor Centre and headed towards Priest Wood there was an abundance of Rabbits darting away into the undergrowth. I looked up towards the fence on the edge of the wood and field by the Visitor Centre and realised just twenty metres from us was a beautiful Roe Deer grazing in the sun. He posed for a photograph then ran of into the woods. A fabulous sight.

The enchanting Breasty Haws woodland

The path through Priest Wood was littered with fantastic sculptures and crosses a wobbly wooden suspension bridge of a deep wooded ravine. The path then switched back north at Ridding Wood and ascended a long straight route through the Braithwaite plantation. The trees in the upper sections were so tall that I took a photo of Tim walking through them to show how they dwarfed a human being. There was a strange man made water course half way up that looked like it may have been the site of an old water wheel. We passed some lovely boggy ponds that buzzed with the sound of Dragonflies on the left then at the top of the path found a large wooden sculpture which from a distance had us struggling to guess what it was. As we got closer we realised it was a huge wooden Pine Martin. We turned right at the top of the Braithwaite Plantation path and headed south to reach Grizedale Tarn. There was a couple having a quiet moment at the tarn so we didn't impose for too long. The tarn was teeming with tadpoles and just after the tarn Tim spotted a Toad on the track. We headed east then turned right to head south along a forestry track that took us above Low Scar Wood and Great Wood. The track passed the New South Wales plantation and the Bogle Crag Trail on the right before reaching the comically named Breasty Haws. In order to complete the planned Silurian Way route we would have had to have carried on here over Bowkerstead and another few miles, at the Visitor Centre earlier however we saw a sign warning that that part of the route was closed due to foresting activities. So instead we cut the route short and turned right down another of the Bogle Crag Trail paths which would take us through the Breasty Haws woodlands straight back down into Satterthwaite. That last mile through Breasty Haws woodland was great, the sun was beaming through the green trees and the whole scene was extremely enchanting. We got back in time to have a shower and then we all walked the short distance to The Eagles Head pub for Sunday roast in the sun to celebrate my sisters birthday. Later that day we found a quiet spot by a river where I got to be a big kid again and teach my nephew Adam how to build his first dam. A great weekend away in a place that exceeded my expectations. It was great to spend rare quality time with my family and I was really glad to have shared the fabulous walk with my brother in law Tim.

I have uploaded the photos from the day here.

Route Map...

1 comment:

  1. The 'dangerous' diversion of the bike, eh Jamie! I have a feeling I should rename my blog. Hillwalking/backpacking will make a long overdue return soon ;-)Grizedale is a great place for a wander and a ride. Had a pretty wild afternoon rattling around the trails here.

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