Saturday, 5 July 2014

Coniston Old Man and Swirl How

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The Old Man of Coniston.  Sounds like a hermit mebbe?  Grey, grubby and bearded, hiding in a cave somewhere?  I love the name and the images it conjures up.  Love of the name is a good enough reason to go see what's at the top as far as I'm concerned, and that's one of the reasons why we were here this weekend.

The other reason was Le Tour d' France.  Fantastic event that it is, it threatened to completely scupper our weekend by making it impossible to drive anywhere in the Dales.  We did think about going to the Peak District, and then realised that all the cycling (nuts) enthusiasts would be heading south after the first leg, so we decided to get out of the way and go west.

And like all brilliant ideas, this one was mine.
The view from just outside our caravan site.  How gorgeous is that?
Peter has moments of brilliance too, and finding the caravan site was his.  Pier Cottage Caravan Park was idyllic and perfect for us with our little camping van.  Each pitch is separated by loose hedges and trees and the site is right on the edge of Coniston Water.  We were worried about midges, but even they weren't a problem.  It was gorgeous. 

So we arrived Friday night, and Saturday morning we set off on a beautiful morning on a date with the Old Man of Coniston.  Our route up was dotted with wonderful sights that no photograph can ever show properly.
Church Beck has so many waterfalls, most of them you can only hear, not being able to get close enough to to admire.  This one is right alongside the path though. 
One of my favourite points of the walk.  This is the Miners Bridge across Church Beck.  Just beautiful. 
Further along the path we start to climb towards Crowberry Haws (another wonderful name). The foxgloves were just begging to be photographed.  How could you not with a back drop like that?
As we reached Crowberry Haws, we were joined by what Peter described as a motorway of people traffic.  They had parked just above Heathwaite and walked up Big Hill to join the path.   
Onwards and upwards.  Along with the hordes, we climbed Stubthwaite and Colt Crags respectively.  (Not literally, there is a nice steep, rocky and windy path around them).  We then reached the old abandoned quarries and levels.
As so often happens, the leftovers of man's destruction take on a beauty of their own. 
Next stop, Low Water, which isn't very low at all at 1795ft.  A lovely place for a snack stop. 
Going up and looking down.  That's Low Water below us.  The highest point of the hill in the near distance (I didn't really just type that did I?), is Wetherlam.  
Top of the world.  Or in this case, the top of The Old Man of Coniston. 
Our route to Swirl How.  It's a nice walk.  Most of the people who'd reached the summit of Coniston Old Man turned to go back the way they'd come.  Now the path got quieter, and all you could hear was the wind..........   And  by 'eck it was flamin' loud......!  And cold!  Hats, gloves, extra layers and coats....  we had everything on! 
We paused at Levers Hawse for a drink, enjoying the view of Levers Water and Coniston Water in the distance.  So blue. 
Still a little way to go to get to the summit of Swirl How though. 
Nearly there.  Aren't the views fantastic?  That's Black Sails to the right, and the ridge behind leading to Wetherlam.  I loved the luminescent green lichen on the rocks up here too, it added so much character to the place.  I think I like Swirl How.
Swirl How summit cairn. 
OK.  So we've done the up, and now we're going down.  It's warmer in the shelter of the mountains.  Our path took us under Black Sails down to Levers Water.  
From Levers Water the path is clear easy to follow over Kennel Crag and Tongue Brow.  

As we continued downhill, the sunlight played on the old coppermines.  It looks lovely doesn't it.  These are crepuscular rays apparently.  Peter teaches people how to paint them in his classes. 
After the coppermines we reached the Miners Bridge and followed our footsteps back through Coniston to our caravan site.  10 miles and nearly 3000 ft of up and down.  Not an easy walk but worth it.

Here's a map.


  1. Another great read and photo's. Used to go to coniston when I was a lad, alright a kid. Not been round there for forty years!! I bet it's changed :-)

    1. Well I can't tell you if it's changed Andy, but I bet it's busier now. We'll probably be back though, we really liked the place.

  2. Simply stunning Tracey, especially the Crowberry Haws and Foxgloves shot :)

    1. Thanks Rich, I really liked that photo too. | think the Miners Bridge is my favourite though. :-)