Hello people and pooches. Joe the Cocker here reporting on a two-day hike in the Lake District. In March 2019 me and my dad were preparing to walk the West Highland Way so, we did a few overnight backpacking trips. The one that looked like it had a fair amount in common with the Scottish trip is the Ullswater Way. It has its fair share of ups and downs, lowland and fells, lakeside walking and some fantastic scenery. The decision was made to have a go at this 21 mile route over two days carrying a full West Highland Way rucksack.
It is a 115 mile drive to Pooley Bridge so we set off early to give us plenty of time to walk to Glenridding where we planned to camp for the night. We parked at the back of the Sun Inn for the excellent price of £5 for an overnight stay. Pooley Bridge was built in 1764 over the River Eamont but was destroyed in the flooding caused by Storm Desmond in 2015. The river is crossed by a temporary replacement that was opened a few months later. The village is a busy tourist attraction, in its own right but, is also a focal point for people wanting to sail on the lake. The pier serves the Ullswater Steamers boats that sail to Glenridding and Howtown.
It was 9:15 am when we left Pooley Bridge and initially, we walked uphill along High Street. There was a convenient viewpoint overlooking Ullswater for my dad to take a few photographs. I say convenient because my human was starting to realise how much he was carrying both on his back and in fat on his bones! He needed to lose a few kilograms. Again, from his rucksack and from his body. So, onwards and upwards, as they say. I think that he was using me as his ‘husky’ as my lead was attached to his rucksack and I seemed to be hauling him up the incline. We soon left the road onto a track that branched off to our right at the small hamlet of Roehead, heading still uphill to open moorland.
We plodded uphill on the stony footpath over marshy land, passing Ridding How and towards Askham Fell. Roughly a mile from Roehead we arrived at the ‘Cockpit’ stone circle. The circle contains twenty stones in a twenty-metre diameter circle. It is somewhere between 3500 and 5000 years old and was reputedly used as a meeting place but could also have a religious significance. My dad stood and stared at it for a while, taking photographs and pondering its ancient uses. He said that it was probably the landing site for alien spacecraft. Dope! When he checked his photographs he saw a beam of light shining into the circle (from an alien spacecraft!) I think that he needs to have a word with himself!
I was wearing my backpack for the first time on a two-day trip. I had worn it before for a few times on single day hikes and I was used to the feel of it. I only had my coat, food, treats and bowl in it so, it wasn’t unduly heavy and it seemed to be well balanced. I hardly noticed that it was on my back.
The route for the next hour was along an undulating good surfaced path as we contoured the fellside and then we dropped down towards the shore of Ullswater. The trail was easy under foot, or should I say paw, as we passed Auterstone Wood and crossed Swarth Beck. We passed Wainwright’s Sitting Stone before the high trail met up with the low trail near to Howtown. This would be our spot for a lunch break.
Howtown is the site of one of the piers serving the Ullswater Steamers. We sat on a small pebbly beach on the shore of the lake with beautiful views back towards Pooley Bridge. I had a paddle in the ice-cold water while my dad heated his chilli con carne and rice. He fed me my kibble and cooked chicken which I gobbled down before I returned to the lake. He had a freshly brewed coffee while we sat in the glorious sunny Cumbrian outdoors. Life doesn’t get much better for me and my human.
We set off after our relaxation in the sunshine on a path along the shoreline. Tree roots and rocks slowed us down as we clambered over them. I am talking about my dad here. The path simply made the adventure more exciting for me. Soon we came across Kathleen Raine’s Poetry Stones nestled in Hallinghad Wood. The next couple of miles were undulating as we passed in and out of the oaks and birches. The path remained close to the shoreline as we skirted Birkfell Earth with its steep wooded slopes. When we reached Silver Bay we found a place for another short food stop. My dad took his boots off while he rested. I spent the time having a good sniff around the area. I could smell birds and as I had just peed on the rocks this was now my kingdom and not theirs. I had no luck finding any of these pesky critters so, I had to settle for scrounging a bite of my dad’s pasty.
Immortality by Pearl Jam was my dad’s tune for the day. What a fantastic song. But, as usual, he massacred it. Out of tune, mixed up lyrics, hopeless American accent etc. Need I say more?
Once he appeared to be refreshed and rested, boots back on, we continued on our journey. We had taken our time on this hike, possibly due to the lakeside terrain or more likely the weight of my dad’s rucksack was slowing him down. It was late in the afternoon but, we were not in a rush. As we rounded Silver Point we were gifted with our first views of Glenridding, which was to be our overnight halt. It still appeared to be some distance away as we had to walk to the head of the lake and then onwards to the village. We could see Helvellyn in the distance towering above the lower lying fells. The lane passed through boggy land and across a bridge over Goldrill Beck before we reached the A592 leading into Patterdale. Patterdale and Glenridding were extensively filmed in the TV series The Lakes.
After a short lakeside stroll we arrived in Glenridding where we left the Ullswater Way to climb up the steep Greenside Road to Gillside Farm Campsite. This spacious, quiet campsite is close to Glenridding Beck with paths leading to Helvellyn. We found a suitably level pitch under a drystone wall. My dad cooked some food and made a coffee immediately after he pitched the tent. Then he left me to guard the tent while he went for a quick shower. By that time it was almost dark and the temperature was dropping rapidly.
We decided to have an early night as the temperature dropped to near freezing. I think that we both slept really soundly that night after our exertions of the day. It hadn’t been a particularly long hike but, it was the big feller’s first time for a long while carrying a large and heavy rucksack. The weather had been kind to Joe the Cocker and his human and it had been a fun day but we were both tired. The walk had been about 13 miles according to my dads GPS and we had a similar distance to hike the next day so as we lay snuggled up in the tent, we pondered our first long distance trail, the West Highland Way, that we would soon be attempting. Till tomorrow folks!