Friday, 2 January 2015

Walla Crag walk, Derwentwater, Cumbria

Walla Crag Cairn  GJC_011307
Walla Crag cairn
I'll start by wishing you all a Happy and Healthy New Year. I'd thought I'd make an early start on the blog this year to ... try and squeeze an extra post in :-)

There's nothing better on occasions to go for a winter walk to escape Christmas food indulgence, lethargy and shopping. Today however was different as it was too windy and this virtual walk will have to do as a reserve.

It seems to me that I now post in Time Tunnels or a Time Hop with consecutive themes either being from last week, last year or maybe 2011. I haven't covered much of what I got up to in the not so happy year of 2012 on this blog but it was a great period of change, un-needful stress and lots of excessive travel on the road (usually in the dark) to South Yorkshire. All of this had to come to a sudden end in late January 2013 when the need to renovate and clear out my Mother's house for rental (nursing care home fees) purposes. Both February and March of that year were tough accepting the change whist constantly working on the house at weekends, late at night after work and then after visiting my Mother.

The day finally arrived when I handed in the house keys to the Estate agent to pass on to the new tenant. As I hadn't been anywhere for months and needed a break, the following saturday I checked and opted for the best available weather conditions in a radius of a two hour drive. This particular day out on 6th April 2013 was momentous in many ways as it was the beginning of a new chapter in my life although I wasn't quite sure what kind of chapter at the time.

The Climb  GJC_011280
Climbing up to Walla Crag
I drove to Keswick in Cumbria and opted to do my favourite walk, details and map are here ...

The Walla Crag / Ashness Bridge circular walk

... heading south on the east side of Derwentwater. This is the walk that I always recommend to any friends who are new to hillwalking in Cumbria / The English Lake District as it is so varied and inspiring.

In fact I get so enthused about it that I am pleased that you are about to join me on this visual feast of walking.

First view of the lake  GJC_011279
Derwentwater and Catbells
The view starts to open out a bit once the path hits the edge of the woods above Keswick. (above two images)

Walla Crag View  GJC_011299
Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite Lake from Walla Crag
 On leaving the trees behind, there is a bit of ascent pain that average walkers manage to deal with for a short time but as they say "No pain. no gain" and the views from the top are spectacular.

Walla Crag view  GJC_011316
Derwentwater and Keswick from Walla Crag
I'm sure you can understand why I am a fair weather walker to capture photographic views like this and share them with you. For those walkers like myself who have followed in the footsteps of Alfred Wainwright will know that the imperial height measurement in feet was easy to remember at 1234 ft, but Ordnance survey seem to have upgraded it in more recent years to 1243 ft (379 metres)

Passing Ships  GJC_011313
Passing Ships, Keswick Launch, Derwentwater
 The Keswick Launch is a ferry company that runs a simultaneous clockwise and anticlockwise service around Derwentwater calling at numerous landing stages on the lakeshore.

Bleaberry Fell   GJC_011322
Bleaberry Fell
Not being one to conform to tradition, I decided to add an extra dog leg into the the walk by covering the higher and more exciting looking wintery Bleaberry Fell at 1936 feet (590 m)

The Path to the top   GJC_011325
Bleaberry Fell path
The path seemed pretty much straightforward to start with so I'd thought I'd give it a go, however ...

Bleaberry Fell ascent  GJC_011350
Bleaberry Fell ascent
The extra dog leg walk was a bit more tricky at one point of ascent as four dog legs found it far easier than the human's two :-)

The cairn  GJC_011349
Skiddaw from Bleaberry Fell
 From experience and what you can observe in this post is that the greatest ascent doesn't usually produce the better views as their is always some undulating crag or mound in the way, but it certainly opens up a different world. Skiddaw in the background being the fourth highest mountain in England at 3054 ft (931 m) ...

Helvellyn GJC_011347
...and then swinging panoramically to the south east, Helvellyn being the third highest at 3118 ft (950m). Brrr, too cold to hang about here, so time to re-join the main path again.

Ashness Bridge  GJC_011359
Ashness Bridge
The path southwards from Walla Crag defends the gradually down the hill until the World Famous Ashness Bridge is reached.

Although Ashness bridge bears a single track road serving the remote and hamlet of Watendlath, it became famous in Victorian times on The Grand Tour as many artists travelled to the area to replicate the scene. A William Linton (1791-1876) example
Comparing the Victorian scene with the 21st century image, it is unfortunate that the trees are starting to obscure Derwentwater with the Bridge gradually becoming more prominent in it's own right with each passing decade.

Derwentwater lakeshore  GJC_011362
Derwentwater Lakeshore
The best way to see the lake of course is to continue with the walk down the road to the lakeshore.

Skiddaw & Derwentwater  GJC_011365
Skiddaw and Derwentwater
and a beautiful and easy stroll back northwards to Keswick with views of the mountain Skiddaw

Friar's Crag  GJC_011384 (2)
Friar's Crag
One of the most famous locations on the shores of Derwentwater is Friar's Crag. It seemed to get it's name from the peninsula that was used to moor boats and transport monks to the nearby St Herbert's Island for a pilgrimage.

Walla Crag  GJC_011390
Walla Crag from Friar's crag
Had this been a summer post, I would have chosen the above image as the title shot, but instead I've just highlighted it from obscurity !!

Friar's Crag View  GJC_011392
Friar's Crag view
Not only did the view south from Friar's Crag attract the monks for their onward journey but the tourists came later, although maybe not before Canon Rawnsley set the scene as a founding member of The National Trust. The Canon was influential as vicar of Crosthwaite in preserving large areas of Borrowdale from the developers. Brandlehow Woods was the first on the far side of the lake towards the right of the image.
Friar's Crag was handed over to the National Trust in 1920 following Rawnsley's death.

Keswick Launch  GJC_011395
Keswick Launch
It might be romance and speculation to suggest that the Monks inspired boat travel on Derwentwater but boat owners didn't miss a trick and hired out their craft for pleasure use on the lake. That was all blown out of the water by the arrival of a super ferry of it's day called The May Queen. Everyone wanted to travel on it and a lot of surrounding business was lost. The Keswick Launch company commenced operations around the same time in 1935 with big plans for the imminent launch of a second boat.

Annie Mellor  GJC_011397
Annie Mellor
There was much controversy in the town of Keswick as many locals didn't think that there would be enough business for the Annie Mellor. As you can see, it is still operational today along with other classical vessels in the fleet. Unfortunately due to regulation changes as a result of a fire on a boat in The River Thames (Marchioness Disaster 1989), two of the fleet including The May Queen that were taken out of service were beyond repair and broken up. The vessels that survived and were rebuilt to the new required standards were Annie Mellor, Princess Margaret Rose, Lady Derwentwater and Iris.

Boats for Hire Derwentwater
Just to complete the story ... It's nice to know that some of the classical smaller boats are still available for hire.

The Heads    GJC_011405
The Heads, Keswick
The walk back into Keswick passes the unusual street name where the Victorians first built their hotels that overlooked the lake and some of the scenes depicted above. The mountain backdrop is Skiddaw to the north once again.

Hi  GJC_011267
Hi... Robin, Keswick
Lastly there were no comedy shots today but a bird bonus at the both the start and end of the walk as I changed in and out of my walking boots in the passenger seat of my car. Those that know Keswick and The Lake District will understand that car parking fees can be expensive as the authorities seek to encourage longer stay visitors and the use of public transport such as the one I have hinted at in this post. However as a long stay day visitor, I have a secret parking location in Keswick and with a visual treat like this, I'll be returning there again !! It was good he came back to see me at the end of the day.

Robin  GJC_011273
Robin, Keswick


  1. Happy New Year. This is indeed a great walk. I usually do it the other way round. I don't know why.

    1. I suppose there's a more gradual ascent the other way around and the parking might be easier out of town.

  2. Oh, J, this post is so different from the previous one that it seems like coming from a different world. It's a beautiful area and it makes me look forward to next hiking trips! For the time being I'll gladly stay behind the bench at the Friar's Crag view and enjoy the scenery. :)

    Good you had someone to guard your car. No fees required? ;)

    1. Thanks Petra, It was great to do a walk like this, an average challenge for the majority although the less fit might find it more so. Not sure why I covered the extra snow leg of the walk but it kept my interest away from the classical route. The good thing about this route is that apart from the bird shots, the last seven shots are accessible to everyone on a short amble from town.

  3. J, I really enjoyed the story, the photos and your new friend. Best wishes in 2015!

    1. Thanks JoLynne, I couldn't believe the Robin was still there when I came back to the car, although to be truthful, the later scenes missed the cut for the post.

  4. You have given us some wonderfully different views with this post. Wishing you a fantastic 2015!

    1. Thanks Michelle, I was looking forward to publishing this set, wishing you a great 2015 also.

  5. Beautiful crystal clear shots of such a fresh and amazing landscape! It has been about 20 years since I visited this area so thank you so much for the wonderful memories! Wishing you all the best for 2015!! xx

    1. Thanks Chel, Hope that the post, walk and photography was inspirational in a variety of ways. One of the things I have constantly worked hard at on this blog both in text and photography is to try and make people like they are there. A lot of viewers haven't got the access or the time to the real thing in the the same manner that I get inspired by images and text from other blogs like your own.

  6. Beautiful scenic images J, great photography.

    1. Thanks for your visit Roy, pleased you enjoyed it.

  7. A fabulous series of photos of you walk. I also enjoyed the more personal account of you life that led up to you walking escape.

    I hope that 2015 is a good year for you :-)

    1. Thanks CherryPie, always look forward to your comments. I may never have done this walk had it not been for the preceding personal account. Not many people do, but you're getting the point of this blog :-)

  8. As always, I love all the shots. But the boats at Derwentwater's edge is my favorite. I would hang that on the wall. So serene. It's especially nice to see photos of this area because we had wanted to go this year, but March doesn't seem like the time to visit the Lake District. Cute, fat little Robin. Great that he found you that parking space. I know the past couple years have been difficult, J. I pray that 2015 will bring contentment and joy.

    1. Thanks Cranberry Morning, I had "contre jour" (shooting into the sun) difficulties with the image you mentioned and nearly left it out. I felt I had to use it for sake of the text which is what happens a lot. I always start with a small set and it expands to enhance the text. Images added later were 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 19. 20 and I couldn't decide on 21or 22 so left them both in. Appreciate your prayers very much.


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