Fell Walking in The Lake District. Part Three.
Patterdale to Shap. 16 miles.
Our last day in the Lakes, but, certainly for the first half of the day, it was a memorable one. We awoke to more bright and hot sunshine and remembering how hard much of yesterday was, we decided to enjoy a somewhat drawn out breakfast and eat and drink as much as we could manage before donning the faithful caps and sunglasses, dousing ourselves in sun lotion and, eventually leaving Patterdale behind and heading for the hills. Which didn’t take long in finding.
In reality, we found the walk up Patterdale Common the hardest part of the day. The ascent was a slow burner that in the hot sunshine we took our time on and anyway, we didn’t have much of a choice such was the volume of people heading up the same route. I was quite glad to get the early climb out of the way, and the 1000 odd feet of ascent we’d completed was added to when we decided to leave the easy walking on Boredale Hause and clamber up to Angletarn Pike where we enjoyed spectacular panoramic views back down to Ullswater, and in the distance were St Sunday Crag and the looming Helvellyn, still carpeted in snow at it’s summit. We hung around long enough to cool down and enjoy a snack, before the realisation hit us that we had yet to complete two miles since leaving Patterdale and with further climbs in store to The Knott and then Kidsty Pike, we descended down the rocky path and eventually rejoined the trail as the tarn emerged. Its two central islands sitting serenely below the two pikes that the tarns name derives from.
Thankfully, the numbers of walkers declined once we left the tarn behind, and began the walk up to The Knott at 2425 feet via Buck Crag, though the turn on to the path that eventually led to The Knott was nearly missed due to it only being noticeable by a tiny cairn shortly after crossing Satura Crag. Nevertheless, the climb up to the summit was slow, rocky, yet not too taxing and we continued along a high route onwards from The Knott that looked down to Hayeswater, and being up high meant there was a gentle breeze helping to cool us down from the midday heat. The map in the book that shows the gradients for each day looked much worse than the reality was for the last climb of the day to Kidsty Pike. Seeing the summit in the far distance didn’t look the least bit intimidating, and indeed that proved to be the case as the path took a gentle route that only climaxed into a slightly steep section as we hit the rocky summit at 2560 feet. There were half a dozen people up there lunching and sunbathing, and we decided to join them by managing to nab a fantastic spot for lunch in the shape of a small pitch of grass that was a step down from the summit and overlooking incredible views down Riggindale to Haweswater, though we had to have our wits about us as one slip and we’d have been over the edge. Due to this location, and the lovely sun, I dried my sweaty t-shirt on a rock, and we used my new stove for the first time, boiling up a chicken stew which was an odd choice of lunch on a hot a day as today, as was the tea we brewed up afterwards. The views were so good that we could have stayed all afternoon, but unfortunately we had to eventually make a move, down a steep and rocky descent off the mountain, and down to the giant reservoir of Haweswater, that was our backdrop for the next couple of hours.
Haweswater was just a small lake up to the 1930’s, at about the point where we first saw it on the descent from Kidsty. Then the developers took over, flooding the corresponding valley and wiping out houses, cottages, businesses, churches and all sorts to turn it into a four mile-long reservoir to serve the growing population of Manchester and though strong opposition at the time was thwarted, thankfully attempts to flood more villages in the district in later years were overruled. After an annoying early and steep climb upon joining the waters edge, we found the four miles of flat walking along the side of the lake were somewhat tiring and also somewhat anticlimactic after the previous days spent up in the mountains. We’d soon be leaving the Lake District and entering Yorkshire; from fells to fields. Before that, though, getting around Haweswater was the immediate priority and the lengthy path soon took its toll and with around a mile of the lake to go we found ourselves besides a little fresh water pool. I decided to remove my boots and socks and cool my boiling hot feet down, and Alex soon followed. The water was ice cold and I’d probably have turned blue if I’d gone all in, but goodness me my feet felt good in there. We spent ten minutes there just chilling out, quite literally, before moving on and upon doing so, I feel the stirrings of a ruddy blister on the bottom of my right foot though typically, Alex had a load on both of his feet already. More pressing though was the realisation we’d both completely run out of water, and we’d still four miles to go after leaving the lake behind to reach Shap.
It was still baking hot even in the late afternoon and due to the concern of us being completely bone dry of water, we were debating knocking on someones door as we finally left the lake behind and entered the little village of Burbanks, notable only for the scattering of houses there were before we walked to a narrow lane that that contained steep steps either side of the road. We hadn’t pestered anyone for water whilst walking through Burbanks mainly because we got happily distracted chatting to a family who were walking the Coast to Coast with two young boys, aged eight and six who were incredibly chatty and engaging, and even after we’d parted company they wanted to continue walking with us. Our thoughts returned to the water situation. Life can be odd sometimes, as though something has been sent to us in our hour of need - fate, if you will. But crossing the narrow road above Haweswater Beck, next to the little bridge underneath beside the steps, was an honesty box from someone called Thomas. Lifting the black lid, we were stared back at by shining beacons of light, namely ice-cold bottles of water. I couldn’t have been more happier if we’d stumbled across bullions of gold. I chucked a ten pound note in the pot and we emptied most of the water into our packs. Thank you, Thomas - your water went down an absolute treat. Pressure now off, we continued on our way to Shap. Not that we were yet in Yorkshire, but the views suddenly changed, leaving the mountains behind us as we entered the spongy green fields bordered by drystone walls and full of cows and sheep. And so off we plodded through those, and farms and over stiles, and in front of us were our shadows cast by the late afternoon sun setting behind us. Rarely on our walks have we finished so late, so this was a new and refreshing addition by walking into a sunset. Shap seemed to take an eternity to reach. Eventually the Abbey appeared on the horizon, its ruins glistening in the low afternoon spring sunshine.