During coronavirus [what I am referring to as DC] and once we were able to travel to places other than the supermarket, we have sought out some of the quieter areas of the Lake District, as these are easily accessible from our home for the day. Until it was taken away from me I hadn’t realised just how important being able to get away camping and hiking was to my wellbeing. While working friends still had a pattern to their week that wasn’t dissimilar to that BC [Before coronavirus], without the commute, I lost the month we planned in Scotland and the two months travelling around Hungary and Germany, walking around Morecambe, while enjoyable, couldn’t replace these activities. When we were allowed out for the day I was out like a wild animal from a cage.
The hills to the west of Thirlmere, a reservoir between Grasmere and Keswick, are notorious for being boggy and are not everyone’s first choice of mountain. The dry DC spring, open car parks and our search for social distance made these perfect places to walk. We never had the hills completely to ourselves but it was easy to keep our distance from the one or two people we met.
Harrop Tarn, Castle Crag and Ullscarf
The short walk up to Harrop Tarn from the Dob Gill car park on the narrow road along the west side of Thirlmere is worth doing for its own sake. This picturesque tarn, surrounded by crags and pine trees, has an Alpine feel about it that will make you want to sit and enjoy. Of course, we were here so that my partner could tick off some Wainwright fells so after a brief stop we carried on uphill. On the way to Castle Crag we had stunning views along the length of Thirlmere and we then wandered between small lumps of land trying to work out which was the highest and therefore the summit of Castle Crag. At least the dry spring meant that we could easily cross the ground which is often sodden. Ullscarf is also only a pimple of a hill but it is a great viewpoint on a clear day; we could see most of the central fells in a panorama before us. We returned by the lovely Harrop Tarn again and down a steep woodland path to the car park.
Armboth Fell, High Tove and Raven Crag
The road along the west side of Thirlmere is narrow and although quiet you will meet other cars. We decided not to drive to the Armboth car park in our campervan and instead parked below Raven Crag at the northern end of Thirlmere and walked along the road. From Armboth car park we took a rough path through the woods and by the stream, picking up a track. Hidden among the trees near the track is Armboth Hall’s charming summerhouse, now a bothy. The construction of the dam at Thirlmere to provide water to Manchester meant the flooding of two villages, Wythburn and Armboth and Armboth Hall is now under water.
Once on the open fell it was an easy walk up to the rocky outcrop of Armboth Fell, skirting around the wetter areas that had reappeared after recent rain. At High Tove we once again had 360 degree views of surrounding fells. You could decide two are sufficient summits for the day and head back down to the car park but we opted to carry on to Raven Crag and headed for the treeline. We skirted around the area marked on the OS map as The Pewits, notorious as a boggy section of the Lake District fells and followed the ups and downs of the conifer plantation until we picked up a path into the trees to Raven Crag. Confusingly there is also another Castle Crag here. The path up to the viewpoint on Raven Crag is in good condition with steps and work is being carried out on the steep path down to Thirlmere.
You might have been avoiding these hills to the west of Thirlmere as they certainly don’t look exciting on the map but these central hills have panoramic views and give the few walkers who head there a special sense of isolation.
If I have learnt anything in DC it is that just being out hiking in the fells can never be taken for granted in the future and that every hill has something to offer and appreciate.