The Dovedale horseshoe

by backpackingbongos

My planned ‘campsite’ for the night was the car park at Cow Bridge near the village of Hartsop.  The drive over the Kirkstone pass was spectacular in the early evening light, stars beginning to make an appearance.  I chose a pleasant spot next to the river to park, noting that there were already three vans who looked like they would be there until the morning.  The evening and night passed peacefully and I woke up at 7.00am to a slight frost and sunshine filtering down into the valley.

7 miles with 830 metres ascent

Even after getting up early I still managed to faff around for far too long and it was 8.30am before I set off with Reuben.  The climb started immediately from the car park, a narrow path branching up into the woods.  I was soon sweating buckets in the still air of Low Wood, even though the sun was low in the sky.  I was very proud of Reuben as we rounded a corner and surprised a very woolly sheep, he looked with interest but resisted the temptation to go and investigate.  He received lots of praise for that.  Exiting the woods onto open pasture we found a spot to rest and take in the views.

The first objective of the day was the summit on the knobbly ridge of Hartsop above How.  Once the ridge itself was gained the walking was easy and the views fantastic in the morning light.  In front was a sense of mountain drama, the area around Link Cove looking particularly inviting and possibly worth exploring for its wild camping potential.

St Sunday Crag across Deepdale had its head firmly hidden in the clouds, its summit being a mist magnet under reasonably clear skies.  Past the summit of Hartsop above Howe there was a small descent and then a long slow plod across grassy slopes towards Hart Crag.  The reward was the panorama opening up behind me with every step.  A great excuse to stop and look, nothing to do with trying to catch my breath!

The final pull onto the summit of Hart Crag was steep, although this means that height is gained relatively quickly.  I could not decide which of the two cairns was the true summit so we visited both.  The views to the west were impressive and I stood for a while attempting to identify the array of well know peaks.  Sadly the light was not at its best in that direction which means that it was almost impossible to photograph.

We left the deserted summit and walked the gentle slopes to Dove Crag.  A drystone wall runs along the summit and we used it as shelter from the wind whilst we ate an early lunch.  I saw ‘we’ but in reality this involved Reuben watching me eat and then him hoovering the ground for any stray crumbs.  I noticed that just about every male that had passed was wearing shorts.  Although warm in the valleys it was pretty chilly on the fell tops, emphasised by the fact that I soon had to get moving to keep warm.

The well-worn path was left as we branched off towards Little Hart Crag and started the steep descent down to Bakestones Moss.  I was struck by the views across to High Street, wave upon wave of hills, each one getting progressively higher.

Before the final rise to Little Hart Crag I went to peer over the edge and down into Dovedale, the steep slopes gave me a real perspective of height.

Signs of spring were evident as we passed a boggy pool full of frog spawn.  The fluffy white clouds drifting across a soft blue sky were reflected in the dark surface of the water.

It was windy on the summit but it was still a place to linger as the views of the crags at the heads of the valleys were impressive.  As we sat there a man approached the summit cairn with his Jack Russell and I told Reuben to stay at my side.  However after a few minutes the sheer excitement of another dog being in close proximity meant that he broke ranks to say hello.  He did not get the greeting he was looking for and I had to sheepishly apologise to the owner of a cross Jack Russell.

As I was about to start my descent towards High Hartsop Dodd I overheard a woman inform her walking partner that she was unhappy and pissed off that he was making her detour to its summit.  I followed at a short distance behind, their body language telling more of a story than words ever could.  As I reached the tiny cairn they had turned around to reascend Little Hart Crag and he mentioned that it had not been worth the effort of their detour!

The tight contours of my map were confirmed by the steep slopes on the ground as I started the descent towards Brothers Water.

It was hard going on the knees and it got warmer and warmer the closer we got to the valley floor.  The Kirkstone pass far below us was busy with Sunday traffic, although the only sound that carried upwards was that of powerful motorbikes.

It was with relief that we reached the valley bottom and I selected a boulder to sit on for a rest and to finish the last of my water.  I was regretting wearing my leather boots as my feet were cooking within the confines of a waterproof lining.  Time to put them away for a few months and go back to the freedom of unlined mesh trail shoes I think.  I enjoyed the easy walk along the shore of Brothers Water, passing a family having a picnic in the sun on a stony beach.  What I was not prepared for was the car park where I had left the Bongo.  At 8.30am when I departed there were only a handful of vehicles but on returning the place was heaving and the van was firmly wedged in with only inches to spare either side.  It took me ages to manoeuvre myself out.  I do wish that people would realise that vans are more difficult to get out of tight spots than cars and they have numerous blind spots.  With the stereo on and the windows down I started the slow scenic drive home along the shores of Ullswater.

24 Comments to “The Dovedale horseshoe”

  1. Looks like you had a good day for it. An excellent walk in my opinion. Did you visit priests hole, the cave below Dove Crag? Well worth a visit

    • That walk has been on my to do list for a while now Ian, well worth doing. Sadly I did not visit Priests hole as was not sure if too difficult to get to with Reuben. His scrambling skills leaving something to be desired!

  2. James – did you change some settings? – the new camera now makes a big difference. Sorry to keep on about the equipment, but it is a choice to be made here – LX3 – LX5 or go up a size? We are passing many long distance walks here – the GR60 yesterday and a lot of pilgrim routes – any thoughts on those? W

    • What settings do you refer to Warren, the blog or camera? When I got my new camera I changed the size of photos on the blog, they now display at 700 across, up from the previous 600. I am hoping that the photos are much better with the new camera which is still a challenge to use. Not heard of those routes. May go to spain for a long weekend in the summer as Corrina’s mum has now moved out there.

      • J – The display resolution I guess. These are stunning. I had hoped that the Panasonic family would have common features. Every time I use my Nikon I have to relearn – which is a pain when you do not want the thinking to get in the way of the photography. The dogs here continue to break our hearts. W

    • Thanks Warren. The actual settings and layout of the G3 are pretty similar to those on the LX3, so easy to find your way around. If you have used the LX3 for a while you will soon find your way around the G3. The challenge comes from getting good photos from it once you step away from the auto modes. Setting the aperture etc and learning the technical side of photography. Very easy to mess up photos!

      Sad to hear about the dogs out there, it was similar when we were in Sri Lanka.

  3. Superb conditions there, great photos.
    I remember that descent from High Hartsop Dodd from years ago, a right knee-wobbler even back then!.
    The Lakes car parks are magnets for thoughtless idiots shoe-horning cars into ridiculously tight spaces: if it can be done, it will be done.
    Actually I’m becoming less and less enamoured with the Lakes of late, except maybe Eskdale (out of season only). Too many people and increasingly like a theme park.

    • Cheers Geoff. I know what you mean about the Lakes being like a theme park. You could compare some of the more popular hills with the bigger rides at Alton Towers, you have to queue to get on them!

      I could barely open the doors of the van let alone actually drive out, thankfully I managed to do so without any scrapes. Cars were jammed in everywhere.

      Still, the Lakes are rather lovely though.

  4. Another fantastic day out there coupled with excellent photography to showcase it!
    Poor Reuben, saying hello to a grumpy Jack Russell. I bet Reuben never says anything unkind to anyone!

    • Thanks Chrissie. I do like Jack Russells but every single one I have ever met has been a bit grumpy! Reuben just wants to make friends with everybody.

  5. Very nice walk James on a very nice day. I once came down from the tops via Dovedale and found a fantastic camp spot near the waterfalls. I was just having my meal when i was approached by the farmer and politely told to move on. Shame, it was a beautiful spot.

    • A real shame about being asked to move on, was this down low in the valley? Was there no way that you could sweet talk the farmer round to letting you camp for the night? Where did you end up camping?

      • I came across a brilliant spot down there too, just off the path by the river, lovely grass, trees…Just within the access area. I guess Skyeside being just a short walk further down the valley would make it harder to convince the farmer. You can see it on my Dovecrag 2010 album on FB btw.

    • Sounds good Yuri, Dovedale itself sounds worthy of exploration.

  6. Looks like a fine area to walk I have tended to walk mainly around Wasdale and Eskdale, with a trip up and around High Street. I not been in this area before, so always good to look at other areas.

  7. Poor Reuben…You seem to have a talent to bump into arguing/annoyed looking couples James… 😉

    Re the Lakes, aside from Helvellyn and Scafell Pike, I never really felt overwhelmed by the crowds and there are many hills, particularly the less sexy ones, that remain really, really quiet even on a perfect summer day. Just to stay in the area you visited, Place Fell is a good example of that and when I was last up there, it was as perfect a week-end as you could get so bumper crowds down in Patterdale and Glenridding.

    The reaction you get when you bump into someone on a particularly quiet hill roughly divide in two, either a nod of appreciation for being a fellow lover of the lonely places or a furious look for spoiling the illusion. I’m firmly in the first category 😉

    • I found myself chuckling to myself whilst following that couple Yuri as it was obvious that he was being given a hard time. I visited Place fell one June Sunday many years ago, it was quiet but not quiet enough! I just prefer my hills deserted, passing more than a couple of people in a day spoils the illusion of wildness for me!

  8. Great photos, love Reuben’s patterning on his back, so lovely.

  9. If you look on the os map1:25000 where it says waterfalls. I camped near the “W”.
    The farmer said he wasn’t against wild camping but because Sykeside was only at the valley head he had to move me on otherwise he would have everybody here.
    I can understand and if i ever go there again i will be less visible.

    • Perhaps a bit higher up the valley and you would have been fine. I would much prefer to wild camp than stay at Sykeside to be honest.

  10. Some great photos there James, although I swear judging by some of the posing going on that Reuben is letting fame go to his head a little. I expect some arty video footage to follow with Reuben giving us a wistful & moody flick of of his head 🙂

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