A Coniston Circular.
Another planned trip to the Lake District for Jan’s first big walk for some years. Yet again the fine English weather was trying to put an end to it before it started but if you never tried to do anything here based on the weather you would never do anything!!! The kids were resting up at my Mums due to lack of enthusiasm and we set out for Coniston after breakfast as rain was forecast for 4 ish.
We got to Coniston at about 10.15, tried to park in the local car park , £6.50 the robbing sods, but didn’t have a card to pay for it so dumped the car on a local street for nothing, result!! Who ever heard of such a stupid idea in a public car park than making it so expensive that you have to use a card to pay for it. Rant over !!!
We set off and the top of Coniston Old Man was shrouded in cloud, but there was just enough bright weather and wind to keep it moving along nicely. The road to the old copper mines was the route start and we soon started to climb with Church Beck to our left up to the cattle grid where the route proper started off to the right. Our first peak was a scramble up to Yew Pike which to be honest I hadn’t looked properly at Jan doesn’t like heights at the best of times.
We were straight into 6 foot high bracken with no discernable path to follow but the peak loomed large in a general UP direction so no getting lost! I ploughed the way helping Jan follow when the going got a bit steep and we soon had plenty of height under our belts and then we hit the rock !!! Our first sight of the Old Man out of the cloud was had here as Jan had a rest to catch her breath.
This first scramble was about 900feet, described in the guide notes as grade one in places and getting steeper all the time. Jan was not happy and threatened to divorce me several times as I pushed her along the route. For a woman not at ease at height she did very well but it took it’s toll on her legs and energy levels.
As we reached the top, the clouds lifted nicely from the homeward half of the route and Swiril How to Old Man was clearly visible as were the far fells from the scrub land on the plateau towards Wetherlam.
We headed in a NW direction looking for the old miners path past Wetherlam and after a little searching we found it right at the point where the path set off up to Wetherlam , our next peak.
Coniston Old Man was now in bright sunlight, as were we and the going was all uphill and warm. The views, although spectacular, were not enough to draw Jan’s attention away from her aching legs. The views were as far reaching as I have seen for some time with the High Fells and Langdales looking fabulous and in the other direction the Lake District coast and Selafield.
We stopped on the top of Wetherlam which was very windy and we escaped round the far side, found a flat rock and opened up the butties and tea! Jan had a good rest and a few sandwiches to get her energy levels back up and we set off again. More great views over Scafell Pike, Bowfell etc and then Prison Band came in to view.
We lost about a quarter of our height gained and Jan was not impressed with the next climb ahead, about another 500 ft up to the summit cairn of Swiril How. There were lots of dogs out, and it made me think of how I will be walking in about a years time when my dog will be, strong enough to come along with me. I suspect it will be me pausing to catch my breath then!!!
More climbing over rocks in three stages to reach the summit with views back over Wetherlam. Swiril How had a great cairn on top and views across the fells. Our route to Old Man was laid out in front of us, a gently rolling path with only gentle falls and climbs alongside Great and Little How Crags.
Views back along the route back to Swiril How remained good , all the way over the fells in the distance and Wetherlam. As we neared Old Man we had reached about 3.45 and as predicted the rain came. Not heavy at all, but just enough to make us put coats on and protect my camera, the weather forecast had been just about spot on today. Again the summit cairn on Coniston Old Man was impressive, not just your average pile of stones. The obligatory trig point picture followed before we moved on to the descent.
The descent was steep, relentless, in places slippy, as the rain wetted the polished slate flags. There is a lot of restoration work planned on this path as the gabs of stone had been air lifted in place for the work to commence. I think that every step was like walking on jelly for Jan now and we unfortunately had about an hour of descent to go before hitting the valley floor.
The copper mines left their mark on the landscape here with abandoned buildings dotted along the path. Also the once much used cable car was lying in ruin both alongside and over the path, slowly rusting away. The slate spoil heaps were immense, and surrounded the path on both sides, whilst disused mine entrances were dotted around and not really secured from exploration. From the bottom of the valley the mine workings looked like they do all over the world, a scar on the landscape, but all this happened before conservation and national parks were ever thought about and were the main if not sole source of income for many people in the area.
Tired and a little damp we got back to the car and headed back for tea at my Mums, the rain lashing down, but in the car we didn’t mind! Another great walk under my belt, but it will be a while before Jan ventures out with me again!!!