A Coniston Round

14th October 2015

Three days into my holiday and the high pressure continues to sweep the country making October feel much more like Spring. Today I am returning to the Coniston Fells on what should have been a much shorter walk than it turned out, I put this down to the gorgeous blue skies and the crisp air despite my legs having not fully recovered from Mondays walk there was no way I was going to cut this walk short because of my aching bones.

Another reason for returning back to the Coniston Fells is because over the summer when normally I would be scrambling up Dow Crag's South Rake or descending the Old Man at dusk something of which I didn't get to do because of my two thousand footer project, I guess what I'm trying to say is, I've simply missed these fells and today, I'm here to change all that.

This is A Coniston Round.

Wainwright Guide Book Four
The Southern Fells

-Coniston Old Man

The Old Man is no Matterhorn, nor is Coniston a Zermatt, but an affinity is there in the same close links between mountain and village, and the history of one is the history of the other. Coniston without its Old Man is unthinkable.


Ascent: 3'967 Feet - 1,209 Meters
Wainwrights: 5, Wetherlam - Swirl How - Great Carrs - Brim Fell - Coniston Old Man
Weather: Bright and Sunny to Start Turning Overcast Towards the Afternoon. Highs of 12°C Lows of 2°C
Parking: Ruskin Museum, Coniston
Area: Southern
Miles: 10.1
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL6
Time Taken: 5 Hours 20 Minutes
Route: Ruskin Museum - Church Beck - Miners Bridge – Coppermines Valley – Simons Nick – Levers Water – Black Sails – Red Dell Head Moss – Wetherlam – Prison Band - Swirl How - Top of Broad Slack - Great Carrs - Top of Broad Slack - Swirl Band - Levers Hawse - Brim Fell - Coniston Old Man - Low Water - Coppermines Valley - Miners Bridge - Church Beck - Ruskin Museum

Map and Photo Gallery


Sunlight breaking through trees as I pass through Clappersgate.

Miners Bridge over Church Beck 9.00am 2°C

There was no doubt about it, this morning despite the clear skies and a strong sun the temperature had noticeably dropped to just 2°C which was a stark contrast to the 24°C that I had been traveling in my car, with this extra layers are added as I billow warm air into cupped fist soon after leaving the car. To my left Church Beck fills my ears as my eyes are blessed with sunlight as it passes through a canopy of trees that line the old mining road, to my right the fields and pastures of Coniston have a coating of light frost which already is starting to burn away. Ahead workmen are renovating a property and by the looks of it, it's brew time.

The old mining path rises steeply flanked by B&B's and the type of properties that can only be described as lottery wins, once passed these I pass over a cattle grid which once had a sign attached to noting that "Any dogs caught worrying sheep will be shot" that was a few years ago and the sign has long gone, funny how you remember things especially the ones designed to shock.

The path rises steadily now flanked by vertical crags to my right and an almost vertical drop all the way down to Church Beck to my left which now can only be heard and not seen due to a thick canopy of trees where every now and again, waterfalls capture the eyes attention. Miners Bridge is soon reached as I question why is that I'm totally crap at taking pictures of bridges! The sound of diesel engines are heard as four Utilities Landrovers pass by leaving a dust cloud behind them, the dust settles as I make my way towards Miners Row, a distinctive row of cottages that were once home to men who mined Coppermines Valley which have now been converted to B&B Cottages.

Coniston Old Man and Brim Fell over Coppermines Valley.
I was already starting to regret adding the extra layers as the sun beat down through a cloudless sky, this caused some clamminess but I didn't want to stop just yet as I decided I would stop once I had reached Simons Nick which is the name given to the crags high above Levers Water Beck.

Coniston Old Man and Brim Fell from Church Beck.

Having passed Miners Row I continued along the mine track passing Coniston Youth Hostel where, through a net curtain it appeared I was being spied upon, that was until I spotted the offender who quickly twitched the nets back into place, they were probably thinking why was I wearing a Jacket when the sun is beaming down like an oven, because I was thinking the same.

Still on the same miners road which has now started to climb steadily towards Simons Nick, ahead I arrive at a fork in the road, heading left here will take you towards one of the remaining working quarries which today, has a plant machinery working to and forth, the latter being that when ever the driver put his vehicle into reverse a loud beep would sound which after a while kind of got a little repetitive, soon thought, I would be out of ear shot of the quarry.

Simons Nick seen as the high crags on the skyline.

Having been here previously I knew what to expect, ahead awaits a steep climb flanked by Church Beck/Levers Water Beck and to accompany me, its many waterfalls. First though I really need to de-shoulder and take the jacket off, Spring has passed and it's now starting to feel like mid Summer.

The name Simons Nick derives from an old folklore legend when Simon, a poor miner extracted vast amounts of Copper Ore from the seam above Levers Water Beck, when asked (under the influence of alcohol) about how he knew there would be so much Copper he told the authorities that the Fairies had told him were to dig, his good fortune was instantly ceased.

Levers Water Beck cascades.

I took in hand the spate of the waterfalls and with this made the decision to cross Levers Water Beck here rather than at the outflow close to Levers Water itself, the reason for this was the last time I was here I had to travel a considerable distance downstream in order to find a safe crossing. Crossing the falls was much easier than it looks as I have left out a narrow part of the river bed where I could cross with ease. However, on reaching Levers Water a short time later I found that the outflow was completely dry which prompted me to think I needn't have made my earlier detour after all.

Oh well not to worry.

Great How Crags and Prison Band from Levers Water.
An overwhelming calm had descended over Levers Water which was absorbed as I stared over the calm water which hadn't a ripple in its surface. From the shoreline I could only ponder, hands on hips at the tranquility before me, leaving Levers Water was going to be difficult as I eye up possible alternative routes for todays walk, the one which struck me most was to shelf ascent by Black Sails in favour of an ascent of Raven Tor instead, the kind of decision that I almost went for, however, something told me to stick to my original route as in three days time I will be walking again on a more ardouus route with David, Raven Tor for now, will have to wait.

Here, looking back on Coniston Old Man (left) and Raven Tor (right)

Raven Tor and Brim Fell over Levers Water.

Coniston Old Man, Raven Tor and Brim Fell as I start my ascent on the Black Sails Ridge.
It was no use, despite wanting to spend more time at Levers Water I broke away on a singular grass track which leads first over Erin Crag and Blake How, from where the Black Sails ridge begins to take effect.

The Black Sails Ridge with Red Dell Head and Wetherlam over on the right.
Spectacular walking territory.

The Black Sails Ridge and Red Dell Head.
During the initially ascent and despite blue skies up head behind me the sun had been shielded by passing cloud, this would all change the moment the sun came back out illuminating the ridge in an autumnal afterglow.

The annual selfie.

A host of southern fells including the Scafells and Bowfell from Wetherlam summit.

After crossing the top of Red Dell Moss all that was needed to reach Wetherlam summit was a short climb, it was here I could again feel windchill biting at my arms so the first thing I did was roll my sleeves down which is just temporary, soon I'm going to have to add my jacket again.

Feeling notably colder I spend as much time as I can scouring the Horizon through the slightest of hazes, beyond the southern fells I can see the whole Helvellyn range from Clough Head all the way to Nab Scar completing the Fairfield Horseshoe, sadly however my camera despite my efforts cannot distort through the haze, but still, a fantastic setting where you can name a whole region of fells stood miles away.

The windchill is nipping and I must keep moving as I retrace my footsteps before heading back over Red Dell Moss.

Prison Band, Swirl How and Great Carrs over Red Dell Moss.
This is where my walk alters in mind although not yet in foot, my only intention was to climb Wetherlam via Blacksails, then maybe head down via Lad Hows, that idea was soon scrapped given the forecast, as I re-jiggle my route including Swirl How, Brim Fell and Coniston Old Man, Great Carrs was questionable but I think I knew who was going to win that one.


Prison Band and Swirl How over Swirl Hawse.
If any ascent was going to remind my legs how tender they might be feeling it's by the ascent of Prison Band which I must add, always looks a lot harder than it actually is. Somewhere on the low section of the ascent is the first person I've seen all day, a chap who was taking in the views from the stone cairn until I showed up which must have prompted him to start his ascent, soon I am also following the chap who I spot through different sections of the ascent, however he is soon about to get much more ground on me.

Looking back over Prison Band towards Black Sails and Wetherlam.
In good stead I start to rattle the ascent off, the windchill is still apparent but for now my ascent is dealing with it just nicely, ahead a couple are making an descent, it's possibly the same two people that I had spotted on the Old Man from the Black Sails ridge, we instantly strike up conversation and continue to do so for the next half hour swapping stories and routes, sadly I didn't get their names only that they were from the Fylde Coast but it was great to talk to complete strangers then to walk away feeling that you've known them much longer than the half hour we stood there chatting, jolly nice folk.

Swirl How summit cairn.
Was duly reached, not before adding my jacket during the last part of the ascent, one of the subjects I had spoken about with the couple was how warm it was below in the valley and how chilly it was across the summits, this is of course stating the obvious but finding a happy medium to walk in was becoming somewhat difficult.

Distant Scafell views as I traverse The top of Broad Slack towards Great Carrs.
It's only a short walk with not much effort involved but this short traverse across the Top of Broad Slack is a great highlight taken from the route, I guess Great Carrs did win in the end.

Views over Fairfield towards Grey Friar with Black Combe and Harter Fell (Eskdale) in the distance.
The fellow who I had been following over Prison Band was now making an ascent on Grey Friar, at the summit there are already two walkers standing on the high ground which lead me to think, that's the busiest I've ever seen Grey Friar look.

Views back over Swirl Hawse towards Black Sails and Wetherlam.

Great Carrs summit cairn.
Having traversed the Top of Broad Slack I pass the Halifax Bomber War Memorial and I decided that after summiting Great Carrs I shall find myself a nice flat rock and set about eating lunch.

Long distant views over the Greenburn Valley towards Little Langdale Tarn and a host of eastern fells.

Grey Friar from the Halifax Bomber Memorial Site.

On October 22nd 1944 eight airmen were killed when their Halifax Bomber crashed into the side of the fell, what was left of the wreckage was pushed over the Top of Broad Slack & still remains there to this day.

Lunch time views of the Slight Side and the Scafells.
Having left the summit of Great Carrs passing a solo walker from a distance hands are raised as a gesture of hello, despite my surroundings here at the memorial the sun is hidden behind cloud causing the temperature to feel much cooler than it actually is, with this I de-shoulder and take out lunch whilst gazing over the valley of Mosedale remembering my time there just two days earlier.

Brim Fell, Coniston Old Man and Dow Crag from Swirl Band.
The sun had come back out by the time I had packed up lunch, ahead my last two summits of the day in Brim Fell and Coniston Old Man, and, by the looks of it I shall be enjoying them in bright afternoon sunshine.

A close of Seathwaite Tarn from Levers Hawse.

Here looking back on Swirl How, Great Carrs and Black Sails and Wetherlam from Levers Hawse.
By the time I reached Levers Hawse I had passed around fifteen walkers, some of whom were walking solo, as couples or in groups which made me ponder why was I the only one walking in an anti-clockwise direction.

Views over the Black Sails Ridge, Wetherlam and Levers Water from my Brim Fell ascent.
I'm not sure why but I always enjoy the ascent of Brim Fell from Levers Hawse, perhaps it's because there isn't too much hard work involved, and the views are always rewarding, then again perhaps it's knowing that from Brim Fell, Coniston Old Man is just a short distance away over some very favoured ground of mine.

Slight Side and the Scafells from Brim Fell summit cairn while over on the right is Bowfell.
The huge stone cairn appeared over the shoulder of Brim Fell while at the same time two walkers who were approaching were silloutted as the sun shone bright directly behind them, this made for some great scenery but not for the camera hence this photo being taken with my back to the sun.

Coniston Old Man from Brim Fell.
It's less than half a mile to reach the Old Man from Brim Fell, but it's one of the best half miles in Lakeland.

Approaching the Coniston Old Man summit.
I could see that the summit area was quite busy with people stood on the large cairn, from the direction of Goats Water more and more walkers are approaching most of which, seem to be organised groups of school children.

Dow Crag and Buck Pike from Coniston Old Man.

Here, I pause just before I summit to look back on Brim Fell, Swirl How and a distant Great Carrs.
The paraglyder just seemed to appear from nowhere.

Views of Low Water and the Red Dell valley shouldered by the Black Sails Ridge and Wetherlam.
Almost at the summit now.

This guy makes it look so easy.

Coniston Old Man summit cairn.
Out of all todays summits Coniston Old Man, the grandest of them all was the only one I didn't reach out and touch due to just how busy the whole area was, instead I strike away finding a spot of clear ground from where I will finish the remainder of my lunch.


The Duddon Estuary and Morecambe Bay from Coniston Old Man summit.

More school children arrive looking exhausted, at the summit a group of school girls are directed by their tutor towards Dow Crag and the South Rake, by the sounds of the conversation they made a night ascent on it which is more than what I got to do on any of my school trips.

A group of school boys settle close by who are lead by a guide, he talks about how well they have done as they sit on the grass, one boy sits alone not really joining in perhaps 'the quiet one' the leader sees this and starts to ask the young chap about his brothers and sisters and even if they had a dog, I thought to myself that this was good leadership.

With my back to the cairn I finish off lunch, it's lovely and warm and I am transfixed by my view over the Duddon Estuary and Morecambe Bay.

The Black Sails Ridge, Red Dell Head, Wetherlam and Levers Water as I start my descent towards Low Water.

Low Water.

Coppermines Valley.

Two walkers had stopped for lunch as Low Water was reached we smile and say hello before I descend to the old workings through the disused quarries, the path is steep and dusty yet this was once the miners workplace and had to be trodden perhaps hundreds of times per week. Soon I will catch up on two gents, they are brothers and of experience and their acsents tell me they're from the Lancaster area, they form quite a funny duo as we stop and chat about the weather and how 'a young lad like me' should make the best of the day and repeat my walk one laughed "what do you make of them sticks they ask" well I only wish I had used them from the start of my walking career as every now and again my right hip goes to sleep, we're in our sixties they reply 'never used em' but I think it might be time now.

Where's parked they ask? I'm just outside Coniston, one of the brothers produces a folded map with someone's telephone number written in red biro across the top, aye ah see, you head down there and we head right back to Walna Scar, correct I reply.

Anyway, how much for the sticks, I tell them and they laugh, blimey, I'd want em to carry me round for that price! We part laughing.

Soon after I pass a young couple who are sat taking a rest just off the path, how long to top mate? do you want me to lie I laugh looking at the girl who appears to be tired, you've quite a bit to go yet I reply, they appear to drinking some sort of energy drink from a red can but I can't see which because they are cleverly hiding the brand, until I spot the Budweiser sign, they are both light hearted but my attitude changes, I can forgive the jeans and trainers and the strapless top but drinking and walking do not mix, and is solely the reason they're feeling tired no doubt, but I do not let it show. They went on to tell me they were from Dalton in Furness and had got here by bus, first time here the young chap says, I can't believe I live on the edge of all this. I make up my excuses and leave but before I do I offer them a piece of advice, look mate, it's going to start getting dark in a little over three hours, make sure you leave enough time to get down before it does, what time do you reckon the girl asked? I'd set my watch for four if I were you guys, with that I leave.

Soon after the two gents make their pass on the couple, and by the sounds of things, there words are a lot unfriendlier than mine were.

I pass the junction in the path for Coppermines and Walna Scar, the two brothers are still talking to the young couple as I look back up 'wouldn't want to be in their shoes I laugh'

I pass through a wooden gate taking a mental note of my last half hour of fell time, the sun is bright and although it's only mid afternoon it's starting to feel later, almost like the fells are preparing for dusk to arrive where quietude will once again be set upon. Miners Bridge is reached as cars travelling from the holiday cottages create dust clouds along the old mine track, I start my descent back into Coniston passing over the Cattle Grid where half a dozen sheep, seemly have dozed off and let me pass without so much of a blink.


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