Black Crag, Holme Fell & a Gurt Hole!

21 12 2013

I’m afraid I’ve run right out of tales of derring-do since ceasing my Scottish trips for the year – I haven’t been doing anything daring at all but have just been helping Richard to ‘bag’ all the Wainwrights. Although the weather has been pretty much awful, and the walking not exciting, I have to say I’ve been very pleased to get back to my beloved Lake District.

Two of the Wainwrights Richard had yet to bag were near to our usual pre-Christmas favourite, Broughton-in-Furness. We particularly like Broughton leading up to Christmas as we stay at the pub in the square and the Christmas lights are usually great. This year they had totally surpassed themselves and every tree in the square was lit up beautifully and some of the houses – one had even put a Christmas lights ‘face’ on the front of it. I took a couple of photos with Richard’s digi-camera but we didn’t know how to turn the flash off and the only one which really came out was this – even this doesn’t look a patch on the beautiful multi-coloured lights twinkling away all night!

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(All photos with Richard’s digi-camera except where indicated)
The walk for the day, as it was going to be gale-force winds, was two very low fells of Holme Fell and Black Crag. I hadn’t actually done these hills since I did the Wainwrights years ago so it would be a welcome return to them for me.

Initially I thought we’d have to drive to both fells separately but I hate doing short journeys in my cars (very bad for them) so, just before I set off towards Coniston, I had a quick look at the map and saw a very convenient route from the road between the two hills – I assumed there would be some parking around there.

Just after Yew Tree Tarn, about a mile further on and at the brow of the hill before the road drops down towards Ambleside, a lane takes off each side of the road. We drove up the hill and found a small (free) layby just over the brow.

We decided we’d do Black Crag first and headed off across the road for the, hitherto unknown to me, good track to Tarn Hows. After around 3/4 mile, a track turned off towards Tarn Hows but we continued on around an uphill corner for around another quarter of a mile where the Iron Keld bridleway took off left. When I was 14, I used to work at Sunnybrow Farm pony trekking centre and we usually took rides out this way so it was nice to see it again.

The track heads gently uphill through a felled woodland which now shelters hardy cattle and, at the end of the wood, passes through a wall. At this point we turned off the bridleway on a little track to the right which reaches the summit trig of Black Crag pretty quickly and with little extra climbing or effort. Black Crag has to be the easiest of all the Wainwrights!

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The weather had been fine up till this point but suddenly, at the summit the wind hit us, battering us about, and it started to rain hard. Although it meant heading into it, I was determined to go over to the tall stone ‘man’ just before the summit overlooking Sunnybrow – it was pretty squally though so it was a quick visit. We then pelted back down for the shelter of the bridleway and the wall.

I decided it was silly to cover the same ground twice and a quick glance at the map suggested a much better alternative. We would continue along the bridleway from where we turned off (in the company of a large group of mountain bikers) and follow it for nearly another mile. At this point there was a very soggy footpath down a field running with water which headed back to the road.

We slithered our way down the path and soon reached the road where a very small lane set off immediately opposite to join the one we’d originally planned to use to reach Holme Fell. The tiny lane was very pleasant and met the other in quarter of a mile or so. This lane was equally pleasant, unlike the weather which was now pelting it down – at least we were sheltered from the gale – a quick glance at the map had confirmed that we were unlikely to meet the wind again as we were sheltered by the fell.

In another half mile or so, just before we reached the hamlet of Hodge Close, we turned off left along a level path through the woodland. This took us, in less than half a mile, to the path which headed off up towards the old reservoir under the fell summit. My Mum and Dad had been with me last time I did this fell on another day with horrendous weather and my Dad had waited for us at the dam while we went for the summit.

We soon reached the little reservoir and the slippery crossing of the stream by the dam.

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Holme Fell Summit from the Dam

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There were several Belted Galloway cows grazing up here – I just love to see them – they weren’t particularly bothered about us though and ignored us. A good, but steep, path set off up the short ascent to the summit and we puffed our way up – both commenting how much harder than Black Crag this fell was.

The wind wasn’t too bad at the summit and we went for a promenade around the top looking at the views. I pointed out various parts of Wetherlam which, surprisingly, was fully out of the cloud. I also pointed out Tilberthwaite Gill and the two paths which go through to Little Langdale’s Slaters Bridge – a walk we often used to make in bad weather.

Fairfield Horseshoe fm Tilberthwaite
What the Tilberthwaite Area Looks Like in Good Weather! (my photo)

We then took off straight from the summit down the west side of the fell as we could see a different path heading below the fell and descending to the main Hodge Close-Holme Ground track before the reservoir – I don’t like taking the same route twice on a walk. The descent was rough and very soggy however so not really to be recommended. The new path was equally soggy until it rejoined the path to Holme Ground.

I then decided we should re-visit Hodge Close quarry as I remembered the huge quarry hole there and could remember I’d actually managed to get down to the lake in it years ago – couldn’t remember how though, just that it involved a short tunnel.

We walked all around the edge of the huge and scary hole with its deep lake frequented by divers and reputedly vary dangerous. I could see huge, dark holes at the far end but had no idea how to get down there.

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Eventually we met the lane again and houses at Hodge Close – there were no caravans that I could see – years ago, the area had many caravans tucked amongst the quarries. I was always pleased to see them but very surprised they were tolerated by the overbearing Lake District National Park Authority. There were lots of vans and scrambling motorbikes though…

Just as we were leaving the houses, I noticed a little path heading down some spoil heaps in the direction of the huge hole – I wondered if that’s where I’d accessed it from before. It was hard to tell as the hole the path descended into was full of trees and you couldn’t really see the far end. We set off down for an explore…

Sure enough, we soon came to a tunnel entrance lurking ahead – this is my photo of it from years ago, the nice man in yellow lending it some colour!

Hodge Close Quarry

I was excited to have found the entrance again and urged Richard to take some photos of the tunnels. Due to the bad weather, the photos are rather dark but it’s an exciting place and well worth a visit. There were quite a lot of large (and sharp) blocks of slate scattered around and I worried slightly about rockfall but we continued to explore the short tunnels to the lake. Before it splits into the two tunnels, there is a huge, dry cavern…

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Looking back out from the cavern to the route in

The twin tunnels – the right-hand one with the old trackway out through it is the one the divers go from. I edged towards the end of the trackway but warned Richard to be extremely careful in following as there is a very short lip and then the water goes straight down to very great depths…

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The huge, sheer rockface just outside the second tunnel had a long waterslide running down it (but it has been a pretty wet autumn)…

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I was by now getting agitated at the length of time we’d been exploring and the possiblity of further rockfall so hurried Richard back out into the daylight and the path back up to Hodge Close and the lane back to the car. In just less than a mile we were back at the car, soaking wet, and heading for the cafe in Coniston to warm up with some hot food and drink.

Passing Yew Tree Tarn again, I related an amusing little story to Richard which I’ll reproduce here.

Yew Tree Tarn
Yew Tree Tarn with Holme Fell behind (my photo)

On the day in the photo, my mother and I had parked up in her old Renault to have a look at the tarn. I was stood on the wall at the edge of the tarn taking photographs facing my mother but with my back to some oncoming traffic. Suddenly I heard racing engines and squealing tyres and saw a sudden look of horror on my mother’s face. Thinking the cars were coming straight for me and out of control, I promptly leapt into the tarn with my camera.

After she’d finished having hysterics and asking why I’d jumped into the tarn and I’d told her it was because of the look of horror on her face, she explained… All that had happened is that one car decided to overtake a slow car in front and, at the same time, someone also decided to overtake him – so the cars were coming along the road three abreast. I’d been in no danger at all – there was just some rash driving going on behind me!

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15 responses

9 08 2014
Daniel

Hi,

I have a strange question, but well… Here we go! You have this image in a better resolution? this image is just perfect for a work in my school, but is a little small

if you can send me this in the original size would be really helpful.

Thanks a lot in advance!

Daniel

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10 08 2014
mountaincoward

Hi Daniel,
I’ve sent you the, unfortunately compressed, original via e-mail but I don’t think it will be much better resolution unfortunately,
Carol.

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23 12 2013
lanceleuven

That last story did make me chuckle. It reminds of the idiom “Look before you leap”. ๐Ÿ™‚

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24 12 2013
mountaincoward

I did look… at my Mum’s face! Enough to make anyone jump ๐Ÿ˜‰

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24 12 2013
lanceleuven

Hah! ๐Ÿ˜€

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22 12 2013
Paul Shorrock

Great post Carol – good to be back in the Lakes!

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23 12 2013
mountaincoward

It certainly is – I only managed to get maybe 4 trips in this year until I finished in Scotland at the end of October!

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22 12 2013
bob

Looks a nice area Carol and I always love exploring caves and tunnels. One of the reasons I like the Lakes is the way its been shaped by the people that live there over the centuries. I always take night shots without a flash and try to pick a clear dry night or wait for a wet one for good pavement reflections.

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22 12 2013
mountaincoward

It was Richard’s camera and we didn’t have the instructions – mine would only have taken the photo with a time exposure and I don’t know what I’m doing with those to be honest…

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21 12 2013
McEff

Hi Carol. You took me back with that one. My mother used to work as a secretary for Burlington Slate, at Kirkby, and I remember my parents โ€“ with my brother an me in the back of the Consul โ€“ driving up to Hodge Close when it was a working quarry, on some business or other. That must have been in the early 1960s.
There’s another tunnel into the big hole. If you walk down the tips towards the river, it leads in at right-angles to the way you entered and emerges right in the middle. If I remember correctly, there’s about a 10ft drop to the water.
Hope your camera survived the dip in the tarn.
Cheers, Alen

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21 12 2013
mountaincoward

Well none of my cameras have any kind of batteries so, once they’ve dried out, no amount of water bothers them really ๐Ÿ™‚

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21 12 2013
smackedpentax

WOW! Hodge Close Quarry looks and sounds really spooky – sort of place I would love to see…it is now on my to do list! Great post as always Carol! I really enjoyed this

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21 12 2013
mountaincoward

Probably best to take a hard hat!

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21 12 2013
fedupofuserids

Those two hills make a nice combination and are great as a ‘bad’ weather alternative, which seems pretty much the norm at the moment! A day full of reminisce about days past ๐Ÿ™‚

I usually start from Yew Tree Tarn, and include the waterfalls in Tom Gill & Tarn Hows for a slightly longer walk. Although I avoid the area in summer!!

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21 12 2013
mountaincoward

I’ve decided that’s a much better way to Tarn Hows – and it’s free ๐Ÿ™‚

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