Claife Heights

Date: 6 July 2020 Weather: 15’C, cloudy
Height gain: 879 ft Distance: 5.1 miles
Time taken: 2 hours 50 mins Wainwrights: Outlying 12 of 110 

Route:  From the car park at the village hall in Far Sawrey taking the footpath to Moss Eccles Tarn and Wise Een Tarn then turning right at Hollin Band plantation and following footpaths in a roundabout way to the top.  Head south from the top and follow a clear path back to Far Sawrey.


The weather got hotter after our last walk on 20 June, reaching 28’C on 25 June before the rain swept in for days and days on end.  Better weather had been forecast for this week but it seems to keep running away by a day.  Pubs and restaurants were finally allowed to open again on 4 July and we had planned lunch in a pub garden as soon as the weather would let us.  Today is cool with sunny spells and we decide that a smaller hill walk will get us warm enough to be able to sit outside for lunch afterwards.

We decide to tackle an outlying fell from Far Sawrey, a place we haven’t often (if ever) visited.  We decide not to take the ferry across Windermere (not sure if it’s running yet) and the sat-nav takes us to the bottom of Lake Windermere at Newby Bridge before heading back up the lake on ever smaller and more windy roads before we finally reach our destination.

There is a big car park at the village hall which asks for a donation of £2 which we’re happy to make.  There are already a lot of cars parked up and with the gate being fixed only just open enough to let the car in and the only space being almost at the end of the car park it’s a bit of an ordeal to squeeze ourselves into the available slot.

We’re finally in and we get our boots on and rucksacks loaded and set off passed the pub to pick up the footpath signposted to Moss Eccles Tarn.  The path is wide and the gradient shallow as we make our way through fields of contented sheep:

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We reach a gate with a number of footpaths leading from it but keep straight on towards the tarn.  The gradient becomes a little steeper and the countryside opens out around us:

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It’s not long before we reach the tarn and it looks lovely against the slate grey sky with good light filtering through the clouds:

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After taking far too many photos we press on and as we gain height and turn a little bit left we reach Wise Een tarn with stunning views of Crinkle Crags, Bowfell and the Langdales behind it:

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This is proving to be an unexpectedly good walk so far ….. but as we’ll soon find out we haven’t saved the best for last on this one.

We reach the the line of Hollin Band plantation with a wall to our right which S says is AW’s route but he warned about the challenges of getting through the thick trees on steep terrain.  There doesn’t seem to be any obvious way across these days so we decide to carry on following the wide track which should turn right shortly.

S is unsettled as we seem to be going too far out of our way and any obvious paths are heading straight on or left rather than right.  Finally we reach the end of the path and a right hand turn does appear.  We’re just out of the trees and can now see the Kentmere round laid out in the distance:

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The picture doesn’t do it justice – it did look good and was worth the detour not to be missed (well one of us thought so anyway).

The path takes us up into the trees and becomes very steep.  The recent wet weather and the spots of rain we had earlier make the going surprisingly slippery – the rock is not the good sticky rock you find on most of the higher mountains and the tree roots have the grip of an ice-rink.

The slickness of the path and the steep gradient mean the going becomes very slow before we finally pop out of the trees to closer views of those Kentmere hills:

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….. but we seem to be at the highest point around but know we have at least another 300 feet to climb.  S consults the map and decides we aren’t very lost but we need to follow the path to the right and downwards before heading up again.  Going down on the slippery terrain is of course worse than going up and the path meanders back into the trees and I start to feel completely lost.  Finally we pop out of the trees again to reach a wide forest road which we cross.  A few hundred metres takes us to a footpath off to our left sign-posted to Far Sawrey.

We follow the footpath and it is wide and shallow as it heads back towards the village.  We know we have to head right up through the trees sometime soon but nothing is obvious.  Finally we see a path off and we take it.  We need to head left now to get to the top but we can’t see anything in the thick trees.  Losing patience we make a turn up a sheep track through the ferns and finally we find the top of Claife Heights:

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We’re surrounded by tall trees with only enough clearing for the trig point and a rock to sit on.  After all those beautiful views on the way up this is all we can see in every direction:

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One of us is having a distinct sense of humour failure after all that fighting through slick and winding paths in the dense trees.  However, the sun is now shining on us and in fact it feels baking hot.  I persuade S to sit on a rock and admire the …. erm …. ferns and pine trees for a while.

We sit, we bake, we don’t have suntan lotion on, so it isn’t long before we turn around to head back down.  We retrace our steps back to the footpath where we turn left to continue our journey back to Far Sawrey.

The path winds through interesting terrain that feels a bit Mediterranean in parts, some in the trees, other parts in wider spaces with slabs of rock.  We seem to keep heading upwards and finally reach a point with good views across to Lake Windermere:

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The path starts heading downwards and quickly becomes a wide path for most of the way back to the village:

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It was a good call to do it this way round – we may have got the best of the walk in the first two miles but at least we don’t have many miles of descent on that steep and very slippery path through the woods.

By the time we reach the car we’re hot, sweaty and tired and it’s much later than we had anticipated due to the slow and wiggly route to the top.  We decide today is not the day to try and find a good pub garden and hop in the car and head straight home.  We try for the ferry, which we’ve seen is running a limited service, but we can’t find it and we end up back on that interminable road back to Newby Bridge before good dual carriageways take us the rest of the way home.