Raven Crag

Date: 26 June 2019                      Weather: 21’C, sunny, very little wind

Height gain: 1,073ft                    Distance: 6.0 miles

Time taken: 3 hours 20 mins    Wainwright count:  87 of 214

Route:  From layby on A591 just beyond Bridge End Farm along the road to Rough How Bridge then left onto a footpath through wood and ferns joining the forest road at the stream crossing and back the same way.

It was a very warm day so we decided to do the short walk up Raven Crag at Thirlmere.  Access to this mountain has been an issue for years – it was one of our last on our first round as the routes up were so often closed.  We knew there were yet more road and path closures in place now, but S had consulted various websites and maps and devised a route up, with just one concern about a few feet of path seeming to be closed but that didn’t look logical.

We arrived and parked in the layby with no problem.  Another couple arrived just before us and headed off in the direction of Bridge End Farm.  Boots on, we followed a short time later.  As we were walking through the farm the couple were coming back towards us and said the route ahead was closed.  They too were heading for Raven Crag and were going to walk along the road and pick up an alternative route.

Given the map had said only a very short distance of path was closed we decided to carry on and see for ourselves.  A lady in one of the caravans opened her window to let us know the path was closed as we passed – we thanked her and said we wanted to have a look anyway.

A huge padlocked gate met us with big signs saying route closed – pretty conclusive and no way to circumvent it so we turn around and decided to head for the alternative path the couple ahead of us were after.  S had scoped out that route and had been concerned about being able to cross the river, but we decided to try anyway.

It was a mile slogging up the A591 in the heat – but great views as the last of the early morning cloud lifted from the hills around us:


We could see the couple quarter of a mile ahead of us and saw them make the left hand turn to the path.  We followed, turning left initially taking the path which climbs a 100ft or so then turns left again and runs parallel with the road as we walk the mile back towards Bridge End Farm –  gently gaining height as we go.  It’s very pretty as we walk through trees then out into the fern strewn hillside with the foxgloves in full bloom:


But although pretty it isn’t all that easy to walk on and S is getting grumpy.  The couple make much faster progress (although I’d guess they were in their sixties, they have the look of fit people) and we soon lose sight of them.  We finally reach the river which at this point is a trickle which is easy to step over.  We then get to a bridge where our path carries on around the edge of Raven Crag and the forest road is over the bridge to our left.  The gate has path closed and warning signs all over it but isn’t padlocked.  Two young women are dipping their feet in the stream and tell us we’ll be fine using the forest road, just watch out for falling trees (!)  There’s no sign of any forestry work going on so we head through the gate and onto the forest track.

We see the couple who were ahead of us continuing along the path we had been on – it’s not immediately obvious how that gains height and reaches Raven Crag, so we’re glad not to be on it.

It’s very easy going as the track winds up the hillside with the shade of trees most of the way – a good job as we hadn’t put on sun-tan lotion thinking we’d be in trees all the way and only out for an hour or so – big mistake in retrospect.  I’m really lacking energy today so the walk takes longer than it should.

We reach another gate at the end of the track and head up the last steeper 200ft.  This was muddy and slippery last time we were here (2014) but now wooden steps have been put in all the way to the top:


When we reach the top we find a viewing platform has been built as well – not your usual mountain experience!  I didn’t take a photo of it as I’m distracted by the views – which are fantastic from this little mountain:


We had read about the wildfires on Raven Crag in July 2018 and we can see the effects today with the burnt trees to our right.  However, the loss of so many trees has in fact improved the views and you can now see the Armboth fells to the right of Thirlmere and the Fairfield range ahead of us:


The views of the Helvellyn range to the left are as spectacular as ever, complete with RAF plane doing a spot of training (near centre of picture, just above the tree covered hill):


We sit on the edge of the wooden stairway to soak up the views, drink some water and try to cool down a bit – it really is a very warm day.  We consult AW’s book to name all the mountains we can now see and sit some more.  We could have stayed all day, but conscious of our unprotected skin we decide to start our way down.

Just as we start down the steps we meet the couple from earlier just reaching the top – they have been on a very circuitous route but made it eventually.  We stop and chat – his running club plan to have a member on every Wainwright on the following Saturday and he got volunteered for Raven Crag as they knew it would be a route finding challenge.  He made the trip today to make sure he could find a way up.  We tell them about our decision to join the forest road through the no-entry signs earlier and said it was fine – he’s very pleased to hear this and they say they’ll check it out on the way down – it will save him a lot of time on Saturday.

We retrace our steps – the views down the valley as we approach the forest road again are lovely:


The going is quick, but as we get close to the “path closed” gate we hear signs of forestry activity and sure enough see a big vehicle and two men starting work below us.  I’m worried about the reception we’ll get given we ignored the road closed signs, and also feeling guilty that we’ve led the couple behind us into a potential confrontation, but the lads are fine and are friendly as they signal the way past them.  S stops to chat and they say they are putting up posts to help protect the deer, and definitely not building a super big fence to keep people out.

We get back to the bridge and the same two young women are dipping their feet again – they have been to the top and back, steaming past us as I huffed and puffed my way up.  The older couple catch up with us here as well, thank us again for the much easier route, and we let them overtake us (we now know they are fit running club members!).

We follow the same route back, S getting frustrated again by the challenges of the ferns and uneven ground, especially in the hot weather.  We finally get back to the road and march the mile back to the car.

It should have been a quick and easy walk but turned into a slower six miler – but a very beautiful walk.  The fit couple were long gone when we reached the car – how I envy their excellent aerobic fitness.

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