Walking in the Lake District - Ullswater, Glenridding and Helvellyn
My second trip to the Lakes District last year was to Ullswater. One of the best trips ever! I met so many lovely people along the way. Including all the ones I’d asked about Swirral Edge while sat nervously at the bottom.
I was so inspired by the landscape. There was something about Helvellyn that captured my heart. It seemed to have a really magnetic pull on me. My day spent walking up to its peak, sparked something about being back in Tibet.
Read to the end to find out how I’m facing my fears this June!
I camped at the Gillside Farm Ullswater. The campsite is on a working farm, a short walk from Glenridding village. A simple campsite with clean facilities. The undulating field is surrounded by the fells and trees. I found the perfect spot where patches of grass had been left wild and wildflowers grow freely. I slept to the sound of Glenridding Beck, as it flowed down from Red Tarn to Ullswater lake.
I love to be able to walk straight out of my tent each day and just forget about the car. This was the perfect spot for that. The village shops close by are very well stocked for campers.
Angle Tarn, Glenridding
Monday 26 June 2021 - 11 mile walk
After pitching my tent I put my walking boots on for a walk to Angle Tarn.
Shortly after Patterdale Mountain Rescue I took a left, walking down a track surrounded by flower meadows. This led to a stone path leading towards Angle Tarn or Place Fell. The views over Ullswater and towards Brothers Water are spectacular. In the distance, the Kirkstone Pass snakes towards Windermere.
At the top, I took the right hand path to Angle Tarn. These photos don’t do it justice at all. It’s like a Japanese water garden. The Islands only became noticeable as I walked around it. It’s a Tranquil, peaceful place. soft clouds, trees and the surrounding fells reflected in its slate blue waters.
To anyone else it's roughly a 6 mile walk. By the time I’d wandered to see other things, it became 11 miles!
Place fell and Ullswater way
29 June 2021 - 14 mile walk
I set off early in the same direction as the previous day. This time taking a left towards Place Fell. I met a lovely retired couple on the way up. When asked, they were brimming with stories about their favourite fells and walks. “I’m not going up Helvellyn”, I said. Me and mountains don’t go. They recommended and encouraged me to at least walk up to Red Tarn, saying that this alone was worth it.
Reaching the summit of Place Fell, with views down towards my campsite and Ullswater, it was the perfect spot for a second breakfast. I became mesmerised by the view across to Helvellyn. With my OS map, naked eye and 20x camera zoom, I could see the various paths. While I wasn’t going to walk upto the summit of Helvellyn, weather permitting, I’d definitely go to Red Tarn.
The path carried on across the top of the fell, with Ullswater not far from view on my left. To the right of Great Dodd, I dropped down towards Boredale Beck. By now it was roasting hot. Reaching Sandwick, I followed the lakeshore path of the Ullswater Way back to Glenridding. Enroute I just had to stop for a cooling paddle.
Helvellyn via Red Tarn and Swirral Edge
30 june 2021 - 10 mile walk
Camping at the foot of Helvellyn and with weather this good, I couldn’t not go to Red Tarn. To anyone that happily climbs mountains without fear, I expect it sounds silly that I was nervous about even doing that. I woke up to light clouds, the type that burns off. But that made me more nervous.
The plan was to set off as soon as I was ready, around 7am. Deciding to wait until the clouds burnt off a little, I set off at 8am. The path initially follows Mires Beck, leading towards what’s known as The Hole in the Wall. Red Tarn was visible but the peak of Helvellyn remained hidden in the clouds. Everyone else on the path carried on towards Striding Edge, while I peeled off to the right, to Red Tarn.
I wasn’t disappointed. Sitting on the edge of the tarn, I watched dots of hikers navigate Striding Edge. What a treat to have a spot like this to myself. The perfect place to just chill out in the sunshine. Time for early lunch before heading back down.
Except the view got the better of me. I might just get a better view for inspiration for a print further up the path.
The path towards Swirral Edge drew me in. Before long I reached the foot of the scramble up Swirral Edge to the summit of Helvellyn. “There’s no way on this planet that I’m climbing up that”, I thought. But as I watched regular people going up and down it, I was frustrated by my fear. I’m not into summit bagging but it wasn’t far to the top.
I decided to ask people coming down how it was. I’ll be honest, I mainly asked the people that didn’t look like mountain goats. It started to settle my mind. “If they can do it, why can’t I.”
The last pair of walkers I asked, gave me the final push. I saw something in her, that I did in myself and decided that I’d give it a go. I could go so far and come back down if I got scared. Off I set, knees shaking. I looked back to see her sitting watching and willing me on. If you ever read this, thank you! I was doing it.
Solo waking is a very different experience. You have to be 100% confident in your abilities. I’d had absolutely no intention of scrambling along Striding Edge or Swirral Edge.
There’s no one to coax you along if you have a wobble. No second option of which is the right or best way.
Going up mountains and scrambling up Swirral Edge solo was way out of my comfort zone.
I can’t begin to explain the elation I felt when I reached the top. I was shaking like a leaf and happy tears rolled down my cheeks as I squealed “Am I really at the top” to the first people I saw. It’s nothing to do with reaching the summit. That doesn’t do it for me. It was all about the sense of achievement of doing something I didn’t think I was capable of. And on my own!
Walking down I thought about confidence. We all have different levels. Some people are perhaps over confident, others strike the right balance. Me? The bar on my abilities is set very low. Particularly with things like this.
On reflection. I enjoyed scrambling up Swirral Edge. I think it released my inner child. I may have made coming down look hard work but that was fine too. I returned via the path that follows Red Tarn Beck and Glenridding Beck, stopping for a much needed paddle enroute.
Lanty's Tarn, Glenridding
30 June 2021
Still buzzing, I didn't want the day to end. I love late evening sun, so did a short walk up to Lanty’s Tarn fpr news over Ullswater.
Pooley Bridge and Ullswater Way
1 July 2021 - 8 mile walk
This was my last day. I didn’t want to leave. After packing up my tent, I drove up to Pooley Bridge. From the village, I followed the Ullswater Way along the east side of the lake.
Leaving the lakeshore the path climbed up beneath Auterstone Crag. At the fork I decided to take a detour upto Arthur’s Pike, before picking up High Street, an old Roman Road, to Barton Fell, then back down to Pooley Bridge. Time for one last paddle and an ice cream before the sweltering drive home.
Although this was a research trip for some new prints, it did feel like a proper holiday. Four days felt like 2 weeks. By the end of the trip I had a complete state of zen and inner calm. I definitely need to find a way to hold onto this more often.
Back home, the perfect thing to do was rewatch Terry Abraham’s, Life of a Mountain: Helvellyn. Even more glorious when it had cast its spell over me.