The Harry Griffin 2,000 footers Walk 17 -The Fairfield Horseshoe

20th June 2015

With the unsettled weather continuing this week I find myself once again eyeing up my weather options against which walk would be suited best. Having passed the half way mark of the two thousand footers I could only assume that the ten remaining walks command the respect of clear conditions if not only to keep safe on the hill, but to also enjoy a full day on the fells.

There's nothing I can do about the weather which is causing a little frustration right now, more so as the worst of the weather seems to be reserved for the weekends, and the fairer, when we are all cooped up in work. At this moment in time I'm working around the weather yet as my tally closes in some walks will simply have to be put on hold until I am guaranteed clearer weather, todays walk around the Fairfield Horseshoe, isn't one of them.

Today I am joined by my old walking buddy Tim who I haven't seen for six months due to Tim's relocation from the Wirral to Saltburn situated on the east coast, despite Tim is still managing to keep active with his marathon runs but today will be Tim's first visit back to Lakeland since January, so you can imagine, this walk was going ahead whatever the weather.

Today's walk, as Harry's did one evening back in May 77 sets its routes from Ambleside although it wasn't made particularly clear where exactly from in Ambleside so I chose to start the walk along the River Rothay at Miller Bridge. Francis Faulkingham stated that no less than ten two thousand summits can be found around the Fairfield Horseshoe excluding Low and High Pike for obvious reasons, first collecting the two summits of Hart and Dove Crag, thereafter Fairfield before collecting Great Rigg and the four 'silly summits' as described by Harry found along the Rydal Fell ridge, whereafter, Erne Crag and Heron Pike complete the tally before a real ale is consumed back at The Golden Rule, Ambleside, just as Harry had.

Freeman of the Hills
'The Fairfield Horseshoe'

The walk took us four hours which left us with sufficient time at the end to enjoy some ale, brewed in the wood, at the Golden Rule, Ambleside - a fitting conclusion to any round on the fells.

Harry Griffin

Ascent: 3,558 Feet - 1,085 Metres
Summits Over 2,000Ft: 10, Dove Crag - Hart Crag - Fairfield - Great Rigg - Rydal Fell (NY 356 095) - Rydal Fell (NY 356 093) Rydal Fell (NY 356 092) - Rydal Fell (NY 356 091) - Erne Crag - Heron Pike
Weather: Overcast, light rain and persistant hill fog. Highs of 16°C Lows of 13°C
Parking: Miller Bridge, Ambleside
Area: Eastern
Miles: 11.3
Walking With: Tim Oxburgh
Ordnance Survey: OL5
Time Taken: 6 Hours 15 Minutes
Route: Miller Bridge – Rothay Park – Ambleside – Nook Lane - Nook End Farm - Low Sweden Bridge - Low Pike - High Pike – Dove Crag – Hart Crag – Link Hause – Fairfield – Great Rigg – Heron Pike – Erne Crag - Nab Scar – Rydal Hall – Rydal Park – Scandale Bridge – Ambleside – Miller Bridge

Map and Photo Gallery


Miller Bridge over the River Rathay 9:00am 13°C

We had agreed to meet at Miller Bridge at 9:00am but both managed to arrive by around 8:45am. Tim was there first as I swung my car around and parked in front of his, having not met since January a handshake soon followed by a 'man hug' made up for six months of not seeing each other as the conversation soon switched to todays route, and of course the weather.

Tim is wearing shorts which is turning out to be his year long attire not changing much since our last walk back on a cold day on the Skiddaw fells back in January. One of Tim's first words were 'you've lost weight Paul' which is always a great start to any conversation and would also explain why I keep having to pull up my walking trousers up every ten minutes, and why my backside looks lost in the back of them, as I said, a good start to the day.

Under a canopy of trees we soon find ourselves kitting up while a light rain shower turns persistently heavier just like someone from above had turned the taps fully open. My baseball cap is lying on the parcel shelf of the car which gets secured firmly on my head. A dog walker passes and smiles and passes on her good morning, after which, both cars are locked as we head out through Rothay Park, the skies, still emptying down.

After passing through Rothay Park we emerge on the High Street which is busy with traffic, early morning shoppers and people on the go, shops are passed and windows are glanced through as we take a left turn towards The Bridge House where I would normally stop to take a photo, but sadly not in this heavy rain. Once the Bridge House is passed we cross the road at the mini round-about and head steeply up towards The Golden Rule, a pub we would visit upon our return some six hours later, but for now, we make a left sign posted Nook Lane.

Nook Lane.

Although I walked The Fairfield Horseshoe with David last November also in a anti-clockwise direction, back then we altered our route adding on Snarker Pike and Red Screes which saw us walk past the Golden Rule pub before picking up the Snarker Ridge some miles further ahead, however todays route will see us take in Nook Lane towards Nook End Farm, a route than I have never used before, but is quite beneficial to the Fairfield Horseshoe no matter your line of direction.

Nook lane rises steadily passing Ambleside Library and several pay and display car parks tucked away on spare land. Further ahead we pass through Nook End Farm which housed half a dozen Land Rovers fully equipped for off-road fun. Shortly afterwards we are presented by a gate and a fork in the path, we head left accompanied by the sound of Scandale Beck before crossing over Low Sweden Bridge, from where our track continues to rise steadily towards Low Pike.

Following the Stone Wall towards the Rock Step below Low Pike.
Once we are on open fell side it became immediately clear just what we were dealing with in terms of how low the cloud is, behind us Ambleside falls away gently while up ahead and to our flanks lower Scandale and the High Pike ridge is already under a cloak of hill fog with absolute no wind to push it along means we were in for some limited views indeed.

Tim, picks his way up the Rock Step.

Low Pike ahead.

After scrambling the Rock Step we eased ourselves back into the walk following well worn soft grassy paths towards Low Pike whose summit was submerged by hill fog. Despite the hill fog and our conditions today; the first section of the walk was a real highlight as at one point, the hill fog seemed to be moving with us thus giving us clear views of the ridge ahead, however all that was about to change.

We soon reached Low Pike which was as predicted closed in by thick hill fog. Tim had brought with him two packs of Haribo sweets which we opened at the summit scoffing handfuls as we down layer due to incredible humidity were at a point where I too, wished I'd worn shorts. From no-where a solo walker tops out at the summit also, he carries a map in one hand and is wearing a thick fleece, we share a 'morning' and a general laugh about our conditions before he continues on his way towards High Pike leaving myself and Tim in conversation still chomping away at our Haribo's.

Heading towards High Pike.

We couldn't escape the fact that we had left all our views behind, with no wind and high humidity we tramped on sweating towards High Pike summit which was reached after a short steep pull via twisting path. No photo was taken here as both High and Low Pikes fail to reach the two thousand foot marks, although this would have been highly different had I had any views.

We press on.

Continuing to follow the stone wall towards Dove Crag.

The stone wall offers great navigational aid on this section of the Horseshoe when walking in conditions as we are - by following the stone wall which will lead you all the way to Hart Crag summit, adding to this, the wall also offers protection from high winds, not that we are experiencing any mind.

Up ahead the wall switches in a notable north easterly direction, Tim confirms this by an 'aye aye' meaning this is the bend in the wall Paul, and the summit is just up ahead!

Dove Crag summit cairn.

I wouldn't say that it was cold by the time we reached Dove Crag summit but there was definitely a nip in the air accompanied by that wetness that had started to cling to our mid-layers. I guess we were both thinking it when Tim mentioned he was putting his waterproof jacket back on, shortly followed by myself, visibility at which point was down to eighty metres and closing in.

Tim wandered off into the mist as I was still faffing about with what not, I soon caught Tim up as we descended Dove Crag before the rocky scramble that was waiting beneath Hart Crag. Out of the mist two figures emerge who turns out to be a father and daughter duo, what stoked next was just how young this girl is wearing her favorite boy band T-shirt (I forget who) accompanied by two walking poles and well worn boots, we get chatting noting that the young lass is no older than twelve years of age, her hair is wet through and her skin is red but she looks to be enjoying herself immensely 'up Skidda last week weren't we' she nods politely as her Dad goes onto say they are on their way to visit the Priest Hole found beneath Dove Crag summit.

It's not everyday you find such a young lady on the fells, especially enjoying the conditions that we were experiencing, good on yer young un.

Picking our way over rock towards Hart Crag summit.

Hart Crag summit.
More walkers some in large groups are passed, most of whom are heard long before they are seen which kinda set the scene through out the whole of the walk. Despite passing two large groups we arrived at Hart Crag finding the summit to ourselves. Paths break away in all directions as we assign ourselves for Fairfield and Link Hause due east as we start to round Rydal Head.

From where, visibilty decreases to around thirty metres.

One of the many attractions of walking the Fairfield Horseshoe is Link Hause, because it's from here you would get fantastic views back over Link Cove and Greenhow End, however, not today.

Voices carry over Link Hause, some of whom are passed some are still ahead, walking in the hill fog isn't without its calm that was until I suffer a painful calf cramp in two successions, the second of which, brought me to my knees. I haven't suffered with cramp for roughly four months, but when I do, it's the kind that can bring a man to tears, well almost. On this occasion we are just beneath Fairfield summit (a good spot to get cramp as this spot was sheltered) when suddenly without warning my right calf cramped up making the muscle feel like concrete, give it a minute, give it a minute...

You ok Paul Tim asked? think so...

We carry on no less than a few feet when my right calf cramps again, this time the pain was so severe it brings me down, but there's a problem, I'm half on, half of a section of climb where I have nowhere to fall...couple this with the fact that I am going down no matter what as my walking poles become entangled around the back of me as I seemlessly fall cross legged throwing my walking pole like a javelin then proceeding to roll around on my back not daring to touch my calf.

Tim's worst nightmare was unfolding as he jokingly said, I know I said you've lost weight Paul, but how the hell am I gonna carry you off here!

All of which happened within a split second as cramp does, Tim I'm ok, but my bloody calf feels like its a lead weight, and the pain is excruciating...fiftteen minutes pass as we decide to crack open lunch while I attend to rubbing my calf until it relaxes and I am able to put weight on it again, dear god what with last weeks fall and this weeks cramp I'm not safe to be left out, let alone on the fells.

We continue our extended break for lunch as I apologise to Tim for those first few seconds suspected to see an open fracture when really it was something as little as cramp.

Paul? yes mate? so, what do we tell the other walkers who might ask did we hear a girl scream?


Fairfield summit cairn.

With a rather tender right calf we soon found ourselves at Fairfield summit whose visibility is down to almost twenty feet, I spot a stone cairn which we will use after leaving the summit but for now, we have a wee wonder about hearing voices making their way towards us. Out of the mist four walkers appear, I say walkers non of them are equipped for the hills all wearing jeans and trainers would you believe, by this time we had almost walked in a complete circle with our explorations, I capture the eye of one of the group if only to get a take on things (to see if they're ok) or even a 'morning' but get nothing but a blank look.

With this we head on through the thick mist picking up the path leading us towards our Great Rigg descent.

Calm takes over as we make our way towards Great Rigg.

Great Rigg summit cairn.

Great Rigg marks the fourth two thousander of the day, beyond await six more as I went on to explain to Tim that I'm going to need a little patience locating the four summits found between the Rydal Fell and Heron Pike ridge.

One of the most appealing things about the Harry Griffin two thousanders was at first, the challenge of the new routes, locating the summits was of course part and parcel of the walk but I don't think back then I really put as much thought into the summits themselves as I do now as for me, collecting the summits is as rewarding as the route itself.

When I first read the chapter on The Fairfield Horseshoe I had to agree with Harry, why on earth would Faulkingham claim four separate summits along the Rydal Fell ridge, these are merely high spots but claim them he did. Harry went onto say that despite the 'silly summits' he and his companion for the day Ted Stacey had fun finding them, thankfully Harry has printed the Grid References in the back of his book for all 203 two thousand foot summits which on a day like today, can only be of a huge advantage, but as I'm about to find out, having a keen eye for the lay of the land helps too.

We press on.

Despite the drab weather, Great Rigg and the ridge ahead was still very busy.

I locate the first of the four summits, Grid Reference (NY 356 095)

The second summit is Rydal Fell, Grid Reference (NY 356 093)

The third is found close by, Grid Reference (NY 356 092)

And finally the fourth summit along the ridge Grid Reference (NY 356 091)

A small pool confirms on my map that the respected 'silly summits' are behind me and that all summits have been collected.
The question is however, is did I have as much fun as Harry did locating the 'silly summits' If I'm totally honest it was nice to collect them as are all the summits within the challenge, however it did leave me looking rather odd to the other walkers who must have wondered why was I taking pictures and making grid reference after grid reference of the high spots found along the ridge, more so as I couldn't see twenty feet in front of me...a little frustrating to say the least.

Approaching Erne Crag summit.
The main ridge path generally doesn't approach Erne Crag as most walkers flank it, I have been guilty of it on several occasions myself. From the ridge a short muddy path rises approximately seventy feet to where the summit is found, the crag itself drops away steeply and is a great vantage point to look back on the ridge where the whole section of the Horseshoe can be seen from, although as already mentioned, not today.

The gentle approach to Heron Pike.

Heron Pike summit.

I'm not quite sure what happened here, maybe I was still feeling frustrated with collecting those four summits back on Rydal Fell, but seeing as Heron Pike was my last two thousander of the day I would have quite liked to have been able to at least photograph it easily, and as always give the summit a tap from my hand and walking pole, but seeing as this family decided to eat lunch sat right on top of the cairn itself I was left equally frustrated causing a few choice words uttered beneath my breath.

I apologise to Tim, who went onto say, Paul your passion is showing through, no need to apologies.

Nab Scar summit cairn.

Having gained all ten two thousanders all that was left was to summit, yet not collect was Nab Scar. Ahead streams of children are making their way up towards the summit all in T-shirts and Wellington Boots, it has stopped raining and I'm hoping that the lack of views don't put the kids of a return to the fells on another day. It would seem that the hill fog is clinging on well into the afternoon as we start to make our descent on Rydal via the steep stone path which despite being wet, still offers plenty of grip underfoot.

We round the path zig zagging our way down when we are suddenly greeted with the sight of young vibrant bracken, it's been six hours since we last saw anything as deep as the colour green as it fills the eyes below the stillness of the lingering hill fog which is still confined to the tops of the trees, and anything thereafter.

Looking back on Nab Scar from the sty.
Instead of making our way back to Ambleside by the A591 we decide to head through Rydal Hall.

Rydal Hall.

Rydal Hall from the gardens.

After passing Rydal Hall we take head through the gardens which after recent rains, were looking very green and lush indeed.

After taking in the views from the main garden we head down onto the track below which after a smooth mile, will lead us out onto Scandale Bridge, not before a view over 'The Grot' from the bridge above.

'The Grot'

Looking back on Nab Scar from the grounds of Rydal Hall.

While Tim took in views over The Grot I downed pack and took out the remainder of my lunch which I ate while on the move through Rydal Hall passing walkers and tourists all out for an afternoon. Behind us the hill fog particularly over Nab Scar had started to clear enabling us to see the summit, as it turns out between Rydal and Ambleside the hill fog would completly lift enabling us to see the Fairfield Horseshoe from begining to end.

Once we had crossed the A591 at Scandale Bridge we walk the last mile back towards Ambleside safe in knowledge that a pint is waiting for us at the Golden Rule.

There had never been a good enough reason for us to pick up our pace.

The Golden Rule, Ambleside.

'Beer from the wood'

Just has Harry had we end our tour of the Fairfield Horseshoe in the Golden Rule staring at an array of Cask Beers as we quickly eye up and down the bar looking for something familiar, perhaps a pint of Loweswater Gold. We decide on a light golden ale named the Cumbrian Way which gave Loweswater Gold a sure run for its money in the taste department.

The bar has around six people sat down talking, food is being served as we gather we are not not the nicest of sights, nor smells for that matter (wet dog comes to mind) we pick up our pints along with two packets of ready salted crisps and take our drinks around the side to the beer garden. Outside it's bright as four other people accompany us, we sit down on an old wooden bench as a mix of bright sun and light rain begins to fall, no one does anything as it is merely a sun shower.

I hold the pint of the Cumbrian Way in my right hand and take a large gulp necking almost half in one go, a refreshing pint followed by a fantastic after-taste goes down far too well. We are joined by more people all out for a drink yet it's only me and Tim who have been on the fells able to see nowt but the hands in front of our faces to which we toast as another great day on the fells, and that's where this walk ends with two empty packets of ready salted crisp and two empty pint glasses.


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