Christmas Eve on Wansfell Pike

24th December 2015

Having spied a weather window I took to Ambleside for a festive bimble on Wansfell Pike, I'm not quite sure why Wansfell stood out so much the way it did but it certainly ticked all my festive boxes when really I could have chosen from half a dozen short winter walks that I still had left to do, still, I guess it's still good to have the choice.

It was touch and go at first as I glanced over the forecast the evening before which kinda swayed me to a very wet walk, having come to the terms that I may not walk at all I got on with the festiveness of Christmas staying up later than I would and drinking certainly more than I usually would the night before a walk, the morning came and I checked the forecast once more and hey presto I was looking at two, maybe three hours of overcast split sunshine which saw me heading north just half an hour later.

I would like to very much doubt that this is my last walk of 2015 but with Storm Eva about to hit the northwest and indeed Cumbria all that may change, if I do find that this is the case I couldn't be more pleased to claim three and a half hours above Ambleside as my last walk...

Accompanied today, by Holly dog.

Wainwright Guide Book Two
The Far Eastern Fells

-Wansfell Pike

The main streams flow from the marshy ground east of the ridge - this was the scene of the cloudburst in June 1953 and these the gentle becks that suddenly became raging torrents and caused so much damage in the Troutbeck district.


Ascent: 2,100 Feet - 640 Metres
Wainwrights: Wansfell Pike
Weather: Feeling Very Wintery, Gust Over Exposed Areas, Highs of 10°C Lows of 6°C
Parking: Car Park, Ambleside
Area: Far Eastern
Miles: 7.6
Walking With: Holly Dog
Ordnance Survey: OL7
Time Taken: 3 Hours 20 Minutes
Route: Ambleside – Stockghyll Lane - Stockghyll Force Wansfell Pike – Hundreds Road - Robin Lane - Martins Wood - Holbeck Lane - A591 - Waterhead - Ambleside

Map and Photo Gallery


The Bridge House, Ambleside 11.00am

Thankfully the forecast kept to its word and I arrived in Ambleside around 10.45am. Having read on Social Media that car parks across the district were free to use in an effort to entice custom back into the towns and villages the car park in the centre of Ambleside wasn't one of them, it was only after reading the small print did I reaslise it was five specially chosen car parks as I dropped the best part of seven pound coins into the parking meter having grabbed the last of a handful of spaces, it was fair to say that Ambleside is back to its usual business which was great to see especially on Christmas Eve.

I kit up leaving Holly still inside the car as she peers between the two front seats "come on dad hurry up"! her ears twitch at every passer by some of whom also have dogs which of course sets of the 'dogs chorus' I can only remember on one other occasion when I have kitted up on a busy car park such as here in the centre of Ambleside, it almost feels alien as I get the odd look from passing shoppers, although saying that I still haven't cleaned my boots and gaiters for some weeks now and today, they did look filthy.

Holly is getting more and more impatient causing me to rush as I complete my check list before heading out towards The Bridge House. Ambleside is busier than ever as we find ourselves walking in the road at some points, Holly's lead is kept short and kerbside.

Thats more like it, passing through the woods on route to Stockghyll Force.
With the hustle of Ambleside behind us we took on the quaint lane through the woods with the rush of Stock Ghyll to our flanks, here I take the opportunity to look back along the lane before more walkers are passed, it really is quite busy here with walkers and visitors out to visit Stockghyll Force which is just up ahead.

Stock Ghyll lower falls.

Having left the road at a sign posted 'Stockghyll Force' I head through the woods via a path which flanks Stock Ghyll, here I let Holly off her lead as she springs over rotten leaves pouncing over tree roots and just about poking her wet nose in every nook and cranny that takes her fancy, it is clear she is having a ball and soon gets muddied up, which, on this occasion I don't mind as Holly will be having a bath later before she slips into her Christmas jumper.

I nudge close to the falls for a closer look and reaslise that around the bend a father and young son are in the river up to the tops of their wellies, they scuttle back to dry land as they saw me which left me thinking why on earth would you let your young son paddle so close to waterfall. It beggars belief.

About three hundred yards away are the main falls which is where I'm heading next, a metal fence protects visitors from getting any closer to the waters edge while the path sticks close to it meaning you are never far from view with the exception of the tree branches that partially obscure the view, but after a little perseverance clearings, especially in winter open up when the branches are bare opening up views over the falls such as this one.

Stockghyll Force.
Although as memorising at it was to watch the falls I double back along the path towards a swing gate which opens back onto the road.

Holly poses for a photo as we start the climb.

Highlights of sunshine over Ambleside, Lanty Scar and Nab Scar.
It was around this point after leaving the comfort of the woods did we get a feel for just how wintery the wind felt even at this low height the gusts were quite chilly to say the least, I guess the best thing to do is keep a move on.

Views over Troutbeck towards Heron Pike, Snarker Pike and Red Screes.
All I want for Christmas is a gadget that could read the temperature and tell me how windy it was.

Then I realised...
...I already have one

The Fairfield Horseshoe with Snarker Pike.
There is a fine rocky staircase that leads you most of the way towards the summit, which in places can be steep at times. Holly now has come to the conclusion that if she waits under the little rock steps 'dad will help me up' which of course I do, then she trots off on her merry way...

Dove Crag, Snarker Pike, Red Screes and Caudale Moor.
The burst of sunlight provide an uplift on an otherwise cold day.

Windermere views from the summit of Wansfell Pike.

The summit was soon reached as I pass more walkers having just left the summit, one group of Austrailians laughed that I might have to hold onto your dog because it was that windy at the top, we shared a laugh before arriving at the summit which was breezy to say the least, Holly explored the summit and found two walkers using an outcrop of crags as a windbreak, she soon arrives to greet them, ears pinned back looking for attention.

I however was left to look at this amazing view of Windermere.

Great timing.
Now it certainly does feel like Christmas with a view like that.

Golden Windermere.

Views over towards Baystones and the III Bell ridge.
My intention was to maybe have a wander over to Baystones then descend into Troutbeck via Nanny Lane, but a split second decision saw me head away from Wansfell Pike instead after realising that Nanny Lane may possibly be flooded, if not extremely muddy.

Looking back upto Wansfell Pike summit over in the left of the photo.

The ground was completely sodden underfoot as I arrive at the stone wall having just descending from the summit, I hadn't given my route any thought having just gone through a hail shower which lasted around five minutes, I couldn't help spare a thought for poor Hollys head as we took shelter behind the wall.

Soon the hail shower had stopped and we were back on our feet again, now I could see behind the hail waves of rain heading over Windermere towards Ambleside and Grasmere, for now we were safe but for how long I didn't know.

Who's just turned out the lights?

Heading out towards Robin Lane.

The rain had cleared across Windermere but a very wintery aftertaste had been left behind, Holly is looking rather chilled so I down pack and add her coat which I'm sure my wife would have been pleased about, soon after I receive a phone call from my brother who is doing a Christmas present drop 'you in Paul' no sorry Andy (my brother) I'm in the Lakes, where else he laughed!

Holly had dropped behind and a one point she was out of sight until I called her name before she came running around the bend almost tripping through a puddle at full speed, her face is covered in mud and she looks like shes been up to mischief!


Views over Cringlemire, Skelghyll Woods and Wansfell Pike from Holbeck Lane.
There was quite abit of standing water between Low and High Skellghyll which prompted me to change my route once more, now instead of heading for High Skelghyll I head for the A591 via Holbeck Lane, not before going through more hail showers than I care to mention, some of which left us caught out in some rather exposed areas with no shelter but the hedgerows.

Down on the A591

The rain and hail had eased off by the time we reached the A591 which would hopefully see us keep dry as we take in the last two miles back to Ambleside. I am transfixed by the debris seen floating in Windermere from traffic cones to full grown trees and even half a dozen old type milk bottle crates, it's something that you wouldn't normally pick up on if travelling by car I guess.

Everynow and again the sun would appear from behind the clouds leaving a streak of light across the waters surface.
It didn't last long, but was great while it did.

Windermere as I pass through Jenkins Field.

I soon arrive at Jenkins Field, a National Trust hot spot which I always glance over from the car as I drive along the A591. Sadly the field is recovering from flooding which is extreamly sodden underfoot, if you look around the edge of the bay and then out towards the debris field left behind from retreating flood waters which at its most, is a good fifty feet away from where you seethe shoreline today. Ahead is Waterhead and Ambleside Pier.

Waterhead Jetty.

Ambleside Pier.

Although it was only approaching mid afternoon if felt much later by the time I was ready to head back into Ambleside, what usually is a tourist hot spot was almost deserted only for myself and an elderly couple who were taking photos, I stride out passing Waterhead Carpark which is still submerged under a foot of water, only a coach had braved the flooding and was parked up at the far side of the car park with its engine running. Instead of heading back to the A591 where the road is narrow I take the back streets back to Ambleside only passing half a dozen people in doing so. The Bridge House is passed under Christmas lights as people fill the streets buying last minute gifts.

I kit down behind my car first making sure that a very mucky Holly is seated where again, she waits for me, ears pointed between the two front seats, I throw a cover on the passenger seat and I tuck into my flavoured rice for a late lunch, Holly looks on through the window leaving wet nose marks all over the glass which, I still need to clean away. I leave a small amount of rice for Holly as she finishes lunch off safe in the knowledge that once fed she can sleep all the way back to Wigan, me, I use the time to reflect on a perfect Christmas Eve walk.

Merry Christmas everyone.


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