Cats and Maidens

24th April 2011
Well, to be exact, I’d done half of Cat bells before. Circumstances meant I took the path down rather than continue up to the top. No such issue this time. Starting at 10 am from outside Moot Hall with the Keswick Rambles we made our way down to the shore of Derwentwater to board the Keswick Launch. This would take us to the opposite shore of the lake to start our walk.

Normally, you’d disembark at Hawes End from where it’s a short walk through the trees to the start of the footpath up the fell. Instead, we got off at Brandlehow, which is the next landing stage down the western side of Derwentwater. This meant a longer walk through the woods at the side of the lake. Despite the hard winter and cold dry start to the year, the recent unseasonably warm weather had enabled the trees and plants to burst forth and it felt more like the end of May rather than the end of April.

I hadn’t done as much walking over the past year than I’d have liked so I did find getting up Cat Bells harder than I expected. The trick is to pace yourself and not rush up the path. Talking of which, it’s important to keep to the path otherwise the path widens, grass is worn away and erosion occurs. This is particularly important on such a popular walk. And busy it was too. Not only was this Easter Sunday, so more people were out and about, but the weather was superb, which brought many people out walking. It was warm and sunny, so not that good for photography if you’re after mood and drama. There was a continuous string of people up and down the fell for most of the day.

Nevertheless, excellent views could be had, as the short spell of drizzle late on Saturday had cleared the air wonderfully. Even at the top of Cat Bells there was only a light wind, and that was not cold. This was one of those few occasions when the weather was not going to take a turn for the worse.

We carried on past Cat Bells and up on to Maiden Moor, where we stopped for lunch. Looking down into Newlands valley, the fall out from lead mines could be clearly seen. The weeks of relatively dry weather meant that the pools of water that form in the boggy areas on top of the fells were much reduced, if not absent, much to the dismay of Skye the dog who was with us. After retracing our steps a little way, we came back down the western slope of Cat bells into Newlands valley down a little used path. More evidence of mining could be seen there. This is an industrial landscape, but I doubt many actually notice or even know.

After stopping for a welcome cup of tea at a farm in the valley, we walked back passed the footpath up the fell and down to catch the launch at Hawes End – jogging the last hundred metres as the timing was that tight! Approaching the landing stages at Keswick, the boatman had to ease off to allow some rowing boats to move out of the way. Clearly not our Olympic hopefuls.
Once back in the town, after all the fresh air and exercise it was time for a good meal and a pint.

All text and images © Keith Rowley 2011

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