Ullswater path

Date: 15 Jan 2020 Weather: 6’C, cloudy, windy
Height gain: 981 ft Distance: 6.8 miles
Time taken: 3 hours 12 mins Wainwrights: n/a

Route:  Ullswater steamer from Glenridding Pier to Howtown then following the Ullswater path back to Glenridding Pier.

The wind has howled and the rain has poured so far in 2020.  The forecast today was for a short respite between storms with sunny spells expected and lighter winds at ground level but continuing gale force winds at height.

We’re itching for a good walk so decide we’ll be tourists for the day and head for the Ullswater Steamer and a walk along the path around Ullswater.  We look up the winter timetable for the steamers and are pleased to see that they do still run at this time of year but only once every two hours.  If we want to start our walk in the morning then we’ll need to catch the 9.30am sailing.  Gulp – that’s an early start for us these days to get up and out of the door with breakfast eaten, lunch packed and water bottles cleaned and filled and drive all the way to Glenridding.

We successfully manage to get up in the dark and be out of the door just as daylight has dawned.  The drive to Glenridding is straightforward and we arrive at the Pier at 9.20am.  We pay for the car-park and head for the ticket office.  There are six other intrepid people planning to sail – a couple and a party of four with three enthusiastic dogs.

The party of four all order coffees and by the time they’ve been served we manage to buy our tickets on the dot of 9.30am.  All eight of us make our way out to the steamer we’re told is on duty today.  The crew come out and after a couple of minutes tell us it’s not fit to sail and they need to prepare one of the other boats.  The wind is bitterly cold out here on the jetty and the sky has become very grey – the crew encourage us all to wait inside and we don’t argue.

As we sit in the cosy café spots of rain start to appear on the windows – so much for our sunny spells.  After 20 minutes our boat is ready and we all get on board.  Sadly it’s so cold we decide to head downstairs to the enclosed part of the boat – not quite the same experience but still decent views from the windows.  We pull away from Glenridding Pier and get underway:


The boat feels quite speedy as we head up Ullswater.  There are small patches of blue sky between the clouds ahead of us and I’m hopeful the rain won’t be with us for the whole walk.  The party of four and their dogs are obviously made of hearty stuff and they sit outside during the journey.

The other couple are inside with us, although after about five minutes the man heads out to the foredeck to take photos.  His wife/partner starts to chat – they came up from Gloucestershire yesterday in driving wind and rain and are glad to see better weather today.  I ask where they’re from as we have recently moved from that part of the world – they live near Tewkesbury.  She asks if we’re here for the week – we say we live locally.  The pleasure of saying that hasn’t worn off yet.

The steamer misses out its first stop at Aira Force, presumably to make up some time from our late start, and we arrive at Howtown only about 10 minutes later than expected:


The couple are staying on the boat for the whole journey to Pooley Bridge and intend to get off here on the way back for their walk.  The party of four and their dogs all get off with us.

We walk down the jetty and easily find the right path – not geographically difficult even for me, just keep the lake to the right.  We hang back a bit playing with gadgets to let the party of four and their now rather boisterous dogs get away from us.

The wind is howling and it’s bitterly cold and we wonder if we’ve made a mistake coming out today.  The path heads upwards to start with and we soon get a good view over Ullswater with our boat heading off to Pooley Bridge:


The strength of the wind is usually difficult to capture in a photo but here you can see how it’s whipping up the lake.

The path continues upwards and we go through a gate.  The party of four have stopped just beyond it – they seem keen for us to go ahead of them, claiming they will be slower than us.  We take over the lead and in fact they are right – we pull away from them as they sort themselves out and we don’t see them again on the walk.

The path changes from being a wide stony track which is easy to walk on to more undulating ground with tree roots and slippery rocks to look out for.  As we walk the surrounding mountains give us some protection from the wind and we’re plenty warm enough in all our winter kit.

The path meanders up and then down again as we make progress around the lake and the views are always good as we move past the different mountains.  As we get closer to Patterdale the Helvellyn range starts to come into view in the distance with its topping of snow:


The path starts to even out again and the walking is very pleasant – here looking back towards Place Fell and the start of the route we did last June:


We pass a lone woman and her dog coming the other way – she comments that the lake is a lot closer to the path than it usually is after all the recent rain.  It certainly is creeping up the surrounding fields on parts of the route:



The views towards Helvellyn get better and better as we approach Patterdale.  We can see our endpoint, Glenridding Pier, jutting out into the lake opposite us:



We’re nearly at the head of the lake now and look down on Patterdale with the full Helvellyn range behind it:


We reach Side Farm and turn right and into Patterdale.  We then have a final mile of walking along the road back to Glenridding Pier.  There’s now a sign outside the ticket office saying sailings have been cancelled for the day – too windy or not enough customers?

The weather didn’t quite live up to expectations today but we made a good choice as the mountains protected us from the worst of the winds.  It was great to get out for a decent walk in beautiful surroundings and be holiday-makers for the day.

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