Last weekend’s late blast of summer weather prompted us to make a quick trip over to the Lake District, for some walking and a night away in the van.
Our target was Helvellyn, which is variously referred to as England’s second or third-highest mountain, depending on whether you are a Marilyn or a Hewitt!
In either case, it’s 950m high and provides terrific views of the surrounding area, although as it turned out, we didn’t really get to see them…
We set off on Friday night, and upon leaving the A66, we headed towards the village of Glenridding, which sits at the side of Ullswater and is the main starting off point for the walking routes up Helvellyn.
On a previous trip, several years ago, we stayed overnight in the Ullswater steamer car park, as it appeared to allow overnight parking, as long as you paid the fee.
This time, we decided not to, as the ticket machine now carries a warning about ‘no camping’. Although we don’t consider sleeping inside a motorhome to be camping, many people might, and we always try to avoid doing anything that could cause existing motorhome parking regulations to be tightened even further.
In any case, the A592 to the north of Glenridding has several large, restriction-free laybys that are right by the lake, and provide ample space for safe overnight parking, so we used one of those. The next morning, we moved into the visitor centre car park in Glenridding and paid up for the day (£7 in Sept 2013, cards accepted), before heading into the hills.
Our plan was to take the classic Striding Edge/Swirral Edge route to and from the summit of Helvellyn, but on advice from our guide book (the most excellent Collins Ramblers: The Lake District), we reversed the normal route so that we went up Swirral Edge and then down Striding Edge.
This turned out to be a great decision — not least because I think that Swirral Edge would have been a lot harder to go down than it was to go up. We did learn a couple of things, though:
- If you want to walk along the top of Striding Edge, you may experience traffic problems during the middle of the day. If you are heading up, then you can shuffle along with the queue, but if you want to go down, then you may need to wait for it to quieten down. The number of visitors is simply incredible.
- Swirral Edge is much harder and involves much more scrambling than Striding Edge.
- There’s an awful lot of macho posturing about walking along the top of Striding Edge, but it’s not actually that difficult as long as it isn’t too windy and you don’t suffer from vertigo. There’s also an easier path down the side of the ridge, which makes much more sense, really…
- If it’s foggy, the easiest way to find the route off the summit onto Striding Edge (descending) is to find the Charles Gough memorial and then look over the edge! (Charles Gough was the first person to fall off Striding Edge and die, in 1805. His dog was found, still guarding his skeleton, three months later…)
The round trip took us about 5.5 hours, including a stop for lunch and an amble around the top of Helvellyn. It was a terrific, memorable experience, albeit a bit foggy above 600m or so, so we didn’t get the full benefit of the views.
Book & Map tip: OS maps are essential for walking in the Lake District, but if you also want a guide to some of the best walks, I’d strongly recommend the Collins Ramblers Guide: The Lake District. We’ve used our copy several times and not only are the routes good — often slightly better than the standard choices — but the authors are obviously knowledgeable and passionate about the area and its history. Highly recommended and available on Amazon.
Title: The Lake District (Collins Ramblers Guide)
Authors: John Gillham and Ronald Turnbull
Edition: We used the 1 March 2012 edition.