Stonethwaite to Grasmere- Will Copestake - Coast to Coast Day 4
Breakfast in Knotts view was a unique way to start the day, how often can you enjoy local eggs on toast while watching red squirrels eat just meters out of the window! The rustic home which only joined the electric grid in the 1960's was such a part of the landscape the squirrels simply saw it as an extension of their woodland home.
Red Squirrels at Knotts View Guest House
As the squirrels departed so did I. Waving farewell to owner Mrs Jackson I set off along the puddled roads to follow the mossy stone walls and head uphill to Grasmere. I was starting to discover that in an area where rain is the norm there was beauty to be found even in weather which might be off-putting to some. A light drizzle drifted mist like through the valleys and around the nearby Eagles crag looming across the trail. The thin veil of moisture clung in crystal droplets on the mossy stone walls and drooping branches in the native woods. Duke of Edinburgh groups past along the way who new to hiking they were dressed in cheap plastic ponchos, which as they were staying low were adequate to explore the valley floors.
Leaving Stonethwaite alone the walls
Looking ahead past the river Greenup Gill
Passing the drumlins
The trail wound upward past a gurgling brooke. Waterfalls rumbled as I climbed into pools hidden below huge boulders, I often strayed aside the well cobbled trail to peer down to see what was there. As the route ascended I joined with another couple on the trail, Ian & Mary. Poor Mary had taken quite ill and was struggling to keep balanced, she insisted on continuing to find a bed in Grasmere with an irish determination. There is a wonderful sense of community along the coast to coast trail, should you get into trouble there is seldom long to wait until someone wanders by. It just so happened that someone this time was me, Mary's going to hate me for this, but do you mind helping us up the steps? Ian asked. So at a slow but steady pace we helped each other rise into the mist.
Lending a hand up the steep edge
Up the steps into the cloud.
The trail steepened into steps to reach the top of the climb before flattening into flat blog. There was a remarkable similarity to the Scottish moors, I felt contently at home wandering the peat hags between occasional cairns leading the way.
Navigating the upland moors
Delighted to discover that the cloud shrouded only upon the top stretch of the path we descended together to tantalising glimpses below. Reaching the junction between the low or high route to town Ian & Mary joined another small group to descend together, I would proceed to explore the recommended high route to Helm Crag.
The view appearing
Far below a criss cross network of expertly crafted stone walls spread like a spiders web across the lush pasture. From the rocky ridge I was in a different world entirely. Wainwright described the route as having 'many geological and geographical features of unusual interest' but the crags, tarns and cairns along the way seemed to beg differently. Seldom was there nothing to explore or enjoy, even when the mist descended.
Looking down (Note low track to left of river)
Looking on to the crags
It was a pleasant ridge to follow, from Calf Crag the trail undulates in intriguing changes between grassy levels, rocky rises and shattered craggy bumps. Despite the saturated ground there was seldom a bog to navigate between and little chance of loosing the route. With good ground and high spirits I arrived onto the summit of my first ever Wainwright! Perhaps a dangerous thing to be starting a whole new list of mountains to dream of achieving someday in the future, the worst that might happen would be years of fun and exploration to come. Gibson Knott was a stunning start to the 214 other peaks to tick. To add to the reward two peregrine falcons soared in rising circles around the summit.
Summit of Gibson Knott
From the first Wainwright it was a short down and up hop to reach the summit of Helm Crag. The famous pinnacle standing on the top pointed upward in the sunlight.
Looking ahead to Helms Crag
As soon as I reached the top I dropped pack and scrambled to the summit. Reaching the top of the pinnacle was a short scramble with little technicality but sufficient exposure to render exciting. Click Here for a Video. Known as The Lion & The Lamb after the crags appearance from the valley below the pinnacle is also often referred to as The Howitzer. The views back to where I had come had cleared entirely of mist and offered a grand vista to the ridge I had followed. Alone on the summit I lingered to explore the boulders in the warmth of the sun for over an hour before starting to descend.
Triumphant on the summit
View from the summit and ridge following up to the left
Looking back to The Lion and the Lamb from second summit
Looking down to Grasmere
Rested and somewhat on a vertigo induced high I decided to jog to the valley floor. Once off the ridge the trail became wide, cobbled and fast underfoot. Within a few fast minutes I arrived into the dense woods below.
The trail on the way down.
To end the day I meandered along The Poets Walk where many a verse was written by such poets as Wordsworth. Winding between the Lancrigg woods between some of the tallest and mossiest walls I had seen yet the air was filled with birdsong and the pungent smell of wild garlic.
The last stretch to Grasmere
Garlic in the woods
Picking twigs from my hair after a short detour into the woods to watch another red squirrel I wandered down the narrow cobbled streets into Grasmere itself. The town is the first larger village since St.Bees and felt like a bustling metropolis despite being relatively small. Cafes, bars and hotels lined the pretty streets which were filled with fellow walkers ending their days in the fells. Grabbing a pastie and an ice cream I headed for The Chestnut Villa.
On the way into town
The Chestnut Villa
With boots drying in the guest house care of the friendly owner Mike I headed 50m down the road to spend the evening in The Swan. A grand portion of Fish & Chips paid tribute to my Scottish food heritage before a cool pint, I was surprised to discover that by announcing I was staying in the Chestnut villa that a 10% discount was placed upon my charge... a good excuse for another pint to prepare for the journey toward Patterdale in the morning.