Black Sails and Wetherlam after the rain

21st May 2017

It was up in the air whether I would have actually walked today after attending my brother's wedding yesterday where the merriment flowed past the midnight hour which was my time to wish the bride and groom all the best for the future. It wasn't particularly late by the time we arrived home and after four rounds of toast I put myself to bed half wondering where, if at all I was going to walk the next day.

Morning came and I thought it best to plan my arrival in Lakeland until around Lunchtime which coincided with the morning showers which were due to fade by midday. By now I had two walks in mind, one was the III Bell ridge from Troutbeck and the second was this one, a favoured route that I hadn't walked for a couple of years, despite my continuous presence along the Black Sails ridge over the years it was Wetherlam's Lad Hows which enticed me the most.

So, after filling up my travel mug full of hot coffee I set off for Lakeland not before visiting my local Tesco where I bought a bunch of bananas for breakfast and a packet of BLT sandwiches for lunch, and just in case you were I didn't eat the whole bunch of bananas, but I easily could have.

Wainwright Guide Book Four
The Southern Fells


Quite apart from an unusual shape of structure, however, and in addition to its merit both as a climb and a viewpoint, Wetherlam has one great claim deserving of close attention.


Ascent: 2,400 Feet - 712 Metres
Wainwrights: Wetherlam
Weather: Overcast With Sunny Intervals, Wind Increasing Over The Summits. Highs of 18°C Lows of 13°C
Parking: Roadside Parking, Ruskin Museum, Coniston
Area: Southern
Miles: 7.3
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL6
Time Taken: 3 Hours
Route: Ruskin Museum – Miners Bridge – Church Beck – Coppermines Valley – Simons Nick – Levers Water – Black Sails – Red Dell Head Moss – Wetherlam – Lad Stones – Hole Rake – Church Beck – Miners Bridge – Ruskin Museum

Map and Photo Gallery


Heading for Miners Bridge The Ruskin Museum 12.30pm 13°C

My drive north was uneventful, in fact I had hoped for the same sunshine that I left behind at home but by the time I had passed Lancaster along the M6 I could see dark clouds already looming over Coniston Fells. Junction 36 came and the cloud thickened and the inevitable highlights of rain started to hit the windscreen which caused me to turn to my plan B walk from Troutbeck but as the low cloud peaked over the Staveley rooftops I decided to continue to Coniston with my windscreen wipers set on the intermittent setting. Ambleside came and I could see large chunks of white making way for grey cloud which told me they might have got the timing of this forecast just right. By the time I was driving though Skelwith Bridge it had stopped raining completely and slowly the skies started to lighten.

I had by now committed to Coniston and my next concern was parking which I needn't have worried about after arriving to find at least three parking spaces left alongside Church Beck not far form Ruskin Museum. Church Beck gurgled on the other side of a stone wall and I set about getting myself ready for a spurt on the fells opting to walk in shorts and a mid-layer with my jacket tucked under the lid of my pack just in case those showers hadn't completely passed. The greenery looked magical after the rain and provided the perfect start to my walk. Up ahead a young family all wearing wellies make their way towards the Coppermines YHA who I pass before arriving at Miners Bridge.

Miners Bridge.
The road gives way for the former miners track and starts to rise steadily before a cattle grid is passed, to my left Church Beck flows at the bottom of a steep ravine partially hidden by a canopy of trees who's tops are almost at head to head. From Miners Bridge I continue straight ahead as the Old Man and Coppermines Valley come into view, the Old Man is still shrouded in cloud but there's promise in the skies, especially at the rate of knots those clouds are moving.

Ghyll scrambling.
Close to the new Hydro Dam I thought I heard something in the ravine below before spotting two ghyll scramblers making their way down stream which looked mighty fun if you don't mind the cold, oh and the large waterfall which I hoped they knew about.

Irish Row.
Named after the Irish labourers who worked the Coppermines.

Stubthwaite Crag, Coniston Old Man and Raven Tor from Boulder Valley.

After passing Irish Row I continue along the mine track towards Coppermines YHA where my mind had been occupied over the last few minutes by which route I would reach Levers Water by. Judging by Church Beck and Levers Water Beck which was never out of ear shot and in steady flow my assumption was the outflow would be flowing and I didn't want to run the risk of having to track back downstream to find a safe place to cross having already been stopped on one occasion before.

Simon's Nick and Levers Water Beck.

I have always favoured this path in relation to the more prominent path on the other side of Levers Water Beck (which can be gained behind Coppermines YHA) mainly because the path brings the walker much closer to the falls and indeed Simons Nick which is the multi-shaft seen in the upper left of the photograph.

The waterfalls, even after rainfall (although please use your own discretion) can be crossed between the mid and upper falls where the beck narrows around a collection of large boulders from where I ascend steeply below the craggy outcrop in the top right of the photograph.

Views from the climb to Levers Water over Boulder Valley and Simons Nick.
It's a steep pull to in order to gain Levers Water but the view back over Boulder Valley is well worth the extra effort.

Great How Crags and Prison Band from Levers Water.

I had been wondering how quiet my walk was turning out to be despite the masses who were collecting around the summit the Old Man which by now only wisps of cloud remained. The shoreline at Levers Water has always been a special place and today was starting to feel no different yet as I approached I was a little shocked to find a large group of D.O.E children having a group talk with their instructor.

Well, I suppose thats the quietude gone, oh well never mind.

Views back over Levers Water towards Raven Tor, Brim Fell and Coniston Old Man.

You may be able to make out the large group close to the outflow, by the time I took this photograph more children had arrived by the prominent mine track I had spoken about earlier.

Views over the Red Dell Valley from Blake How towards Coniston Lake.

Sunlight captures the spoil heaps below the Old Man.

Black Sails and Wetherlam from Blake How.
The ascent of Black Sails is first gained from Erin Crag and Blake How from where the ridge truely takes on effect.The ridge takes on a steady grassy ascent all the way towards the summit and with views as good as this it's really rewarding too.

Black Sails and Wetherlam.
I'm shocked at having to say...

The Black Sails Ridge.
That Black Sails is never usually busy meaning you can walk all the way to the summit at times without seeing anyone.

Swirl How, Prison Band and Swirl Hawse.

Let's keep it that way shall we.

Perched Boulder.
Found around the High Fell area of the ridge with Great How Crags in the distance.

The the head of Great Langdale and the Scafell group from Black Sails summit cairn.

The light was sporadic to say the least sometimes illuminating the wild grasses and others, not. The wind by now was also starting to build in strength leaving quite a nippy bite to it.

We're not quite over those Spring temperatures I thowt, not by a long chance.

Swirl How, Broad Slack and Great Carrs seen over Red Dell Head.

Wetherlam summit cairn.

I had expected to get my boots wet during the crossing of Red Dell Moss but only managed to wet my toe caps of which came as a surprise after the recent rains. I gained the summit after joining the path from below the summit crags still feeling that bite from the wind which caused me to roll my sleeves down. At the summit, no one with the exception of a solo walker who is walking towards the Lad Stones ridge then soon out of sight.

Time for something to eat I think.

For anyone who knows the summit of Wetherlam will understand, even during a calm day how windy and 'cool like' the summit can feel and today was no different, beyond the summit cairn a favoured spot lay empty behind a rocky outcrop, a place I always hoped no-one else would occupy owing to how protected one feels when sat within its shadow.

Its Tesco's finest BLT today washed down with mixed fruit juice.

Leaving the summit of Wetherlam as I head along the Lad Stones ridge.
And it looks like the sun is trying to come out.

Leaving superb light over the Lad Stones ridge.
Here as I arrive at two of the three tarns all of which appear to be at different heights.

No need to worry about the dark clouds, they soon pass by.
Wetherlam's Steel Edge can be gained from the three tarns here at Lad Stones, this tarn being the smallest of the three.

Coniston Old Man and Coppermines Valley with Irish Row in the foreground.
That's the track I used earlier seen passing the spoil heap on the left and Coppermines YHA over on the right.

Views towards Raven Tor, Great How Crags, Swirl How and Black Sails from Irish Row.

Sadly the sunshine that I had experienced over Lad Stones was short lived and the bite from the wind soon started to take over, I opted to hurry my pace rather than to stop and add more layers, feeling confident in descent I picked up a trot and descended confidently passing two couples who I hadn't seen along the ridge.

The further I descended however, and once back in the warmth I slowed my pace and rejoined the track alongside Church Beck, my ears feeling pleased they were out of the wind. I took one long continuous sip through my bite valve to a point when I had to stop just to breathe. Families walk back into Coniston one of whom's children bicker as mum tells them off.

By the time I arrived back at my car is covered in little acorns and seedlings which have dropped from a canopy of trees above and once again the sound of Church Beck just over the wall accompanies my last few moments here in Coniston as I kneel down and begin to untie my boot laces.


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