As a special treat to myself, I thought I’d have a bash at walking a big mountain. The only problem is that I don’t necessarily have all the skills to scale a high mountain in The Lake District, especially in winter they can be snowy or icy.
The miracles of google told me about this great company called ‘Adventure Peaks‘ in Cumbria.
What do they do?
I had romantic visions of hiking something like Scafell Pike or Blencathra in a peaceful meditation of semi-solitude. It makes me smile just thinking about it however, sadly I wasn’t able to do a big mountain as my available dates didn’t coincide with their walks so I decided to walk Wansfell Pike above Windermere.
Two of our kids really wanted to come and as my husband was around as well it seemed foolish not to turn it into a family walk. After mercilessly teasing me for hiring ‘a friend’ to walk with they decided to hijack my friend!! Oh the irony.
We were allocated Nathan as a guide and he was lovely. He was great with kids, so much more patient than I am, helpful too in playing pooh sticks with them and pointing out other mountains and things to see.
At 487 metres Wansfell Pike is much smaller than many other mountains I’ve climbed however it offers brilliant views across Windermere, the Troutbeck Valley and all the way out to Morecambe Bay. It is just 1½ miles east of Ambleside and this meant I could park in the town of Ambleside (next to Adventure Peaks shop) and walk up the fell which is part of the ridge of Caudale Moor.
We opted to start with the steeper incline (on a good path) and end on the quicker descent. The route was a mixture of grassy paths, reinforced stone paths, quiet lanes and woodland tracks, as well as a few concrete roads. It’s a circular walk of 4.5 miles suitable for children but not for pushchairs or people with mobility problems.
Starting in Ambleside
The walk starts in Ambleside at Old Lake Road just opposite the shop. Passing Skelghyll Lane, a residential area, and through to the beginning of Skelghyll Woods and the walk.
You can make a slight detour by turning right off the path to Jenkin’s Crag for this view.
Lots of mini water cascades
In most places the path (which was extensively re-built in the late 90s) is wide and stoney with the odd tree root across it. You will cross a number (five?) of little water ways, the one below is Stencher Beck.
The Old hunting lodge
The path will lead to what I think is an old hunting lodge although I can’t find any proof of its existence anywhere. There are farms locally so they could just be old out buildings.
After this derelict building you will cross Hol Beck which gushes water over the pathway. Have no fear though, it is unlikely to wash you away and it makes a great stepping stone for kids to jump.
The path will meet a much wider (vehicle able) path that suddenly breaks to the north (Hundreds Road) and climbs up towards Wansfell Pike. We met one man and his car on this route. I am not sure if he was a farmer though as he seemed to be counting sheep. It’s not a tarmac road so traffic shouldn’t be an issue.
The pathway starts to climb upwards, steadily and gradually, it isn’t excessively steep and it’s perfect for little legs or an afternoon stroll.
Around Windermere 420 million years ago, sedimentary mudstones, sandstones, siltstones and some limestone, formed in the sea. These were later folded and faulted, pushed up and eroded down to their present levels which stand around the area.
Just besides the road were a collection of different rocks, one of which we think might be slate. We photographed the rocks in a bid to discover more later. We are still trying to discover what the rock below is?
Hundreds road continues to climb north. It becomes slightly more rocky and in places more boggy. Avoid these unless you want wet socks!
Discovering a waterfall
I have no idea what this waterfall is called however as we were close to its source, we decided to stop for a drink. The water was wonderfully cold and fresh and Nathan played pooh-sticks with the kids!
One of our kids (the boy) decided (despite begging to come on the walk) to have a sulk and refused to walk very quickly – on the sole basis that he wanted to climb the easy side of the mountain first. Nathan was great with him (whereas I would have walked off and left) and played games with him.
Our map told us we were close to the source of the water and as we couldn’t see any dead sheep in it, we drank it. Never drink any water that isn’t fast flowing or that has a chance to stagnate in any way.
Straddling the water
Once you have crossed the waterfall, heading further north you leave Hundreds Road and take a narrow path. the path will eventually fork into a T-Junction and you have the choice as to turn left up towards Wansfell Pike or right towards Troutbeck. At this point the path becomes more man-made (to prevent erosion) and consists of a flat stone pathway.
There are lots of little mounds along the way that those with too much energy can climb. The path becomes steeper as you climb towards the summit and you’ll break out into a little sweat but really nothing major.
Reaching the summit
From here to the west you can see the Langdales (Bow Fell, Crinkle Crags and the Pike of Blisco), to the North there is the Kirkstone Pass and Fairfield Horseshoe, to the East is High Street and Windermere to the South.
There are some flat rocks to enjoy the view and maybe a quick lunch. There was a cold wind (in November) but really mild in comparison to what I was expecting. Your best bet is to wear lots of thin layers that can be removed if necessary.
As one of the smaller Wainwrights it can be busy and even though we went during a school-day, there were a fair number of people up there. It seems to be a popular fell to run as well.
Admiring the view
For a walk that requires only a bit of sweat and effort, the views are breathtaking. You have Windermere & Loughrigg to the west, the sea of Morecambe Bay to the south and Troutbeck and Sallows to the east.
It isn’t wansfell
Wansfell Pike (484m) should not be confused with its slightly bigger brother of Wansfell also known as Baystones (487m). The fell’s two summits are linked by a dry stone wall. Although Wansfell Pike is the lower of the two it definitely has the better views.
The descent back down to Ambleside is much steeper than the ascent and at the beginning there is no flattened, man-made path, just rocks descending. Watch your footing and you’ll be fine. After a short distance the pathway becomes paved with stones again but is still steep.
the view over ambleside
Below in the valley is the bustling town of Ambleside. Situated at the north of Windermere it caters well for hikers and has a huge number of outdoor-clothes shops, lots of restaurants, cafes and bakeries as well as pubs and shops. The town dates back to at least the 1600s and is home to the ‘bridge House’ a building that straddles Stock Ghyll. It is estimated to be at least 300 years old.
The path takes you down to a wooden footbridge and down onto Stock ghyll lane. Wandering down the lane you will soon hear the water from the falls, Stockghyll force.
stock ghyll lane
The walk back to Ambleside takes you onto stock ghyll lane, through the woods and turning right you can see the waterfall, stock ghyll force.
Stock Ghyll Force
Stock Ghyll Force is a 70 foot waterfall which drains into Windermere.
stock ghyll park
Stock Ghyll Park is a wooded, relatively flat area encompassing the river.
The river has a heavily industrialised past and used to be nicknamed Rattle Ghyll. Many of the old mill buildings can still be seen along the route back into town, although they’ve now been renovated into houses and apartments. They used to produce bobbins for silk and cotton thread, to process wool so it was warm and tough, as well as grinding corn.
Take a deviation through the town and find the house that straddles the river.
A big thank you to Nathan from ‘Adventure Peaks‘ for tolerating us for three hours.
Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: Sigma 24-70mm