Sunday, 17 July 2016

Elterwater & Little Langdale

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Route: Elter Water, Yew Crags Quarry, Yew Crags, Sawrey's Wood, Howe Banks, Dale End, Brow, Little Langdale, Slater Bridge, Cathedral Cavern, Stang End, High Park, Colwith Force, Park Farm, Park House, Skelwith Force, Birk Rigg Park, Elter Water, Elterwater

Date: 17/07/2016
From: Elter Water

Parking: Car park in Elter Water
Start Point: Elter Water
Region: Lake District

Route length: 6.3 miles (10.1 km)
Time Taken: 2:51
Average speed: 2.2 mph
Ascent: 405m
Descent: 400m

Summits: None

Other points of interest: Slater Bridge, Cathedral Cavern, Colwith Force, Skelwith Force

We were out and about around Little Langdale this weekend, bucking a recent trend of scaling Lake District peaks. No fells on this walk but plenty of interest none the less. Sights on this easy circuit include the waterfalls of Colwith Force and Skelwith Force, the delightful Slater Bridge and the dramatic Cathedral Quarry / Cavern which is an absolute must.

We parked in Elterwater - already busy by the time we arrived late in the morning. Still, the National Trust car park does have a number of spaces and, being members, parking was free. We started by crossing the bridge over Great Langdale Beck to join the Cumbria Way, following it beneath heaps of quarry spoil and along the river to another footbridge close to Chapel Stile. Instead of crossing again, a signpost directs you towards Little Langdale through the quarry at Yew Crags, home of the green Burlington Stone.
Discussing the route for the day
The road bridge in Elterwater
Sara on the footbridge near Chapel Stile
The Langdale Pikes
The quarry at Yew Crags
The path heads right through the yard
After passing through the quarry, the only significant climb of the day is tackled as the path heads up through Sawrey's Wood over the eastern terminus of Lingmoor Fell. As the path emerges from the woods, a fine view along Little Langdale is revealed with Wetherlam and Pike O'Blisco towering over Little Langdale Tarn - a feature that Little Langdale can claim over its more illustrious neighbour.
Signs guide the way
Sara climbs into Sawrey's Wood
Sawrey's Wood
Wetherlam comes into view
We were treated to some impromptu cakes on sale from Dale End Farm and made our way down into Little Langdale towards the River Brathay. Here, spanning the river, is the delightful Slater Bridge.
Bield Crag on Lingmoor Fell
Little Langdale
Little Langdale Tarn, Wet Side Edge and Great Carrs
Slater Bridge is an old pedestrian bridge, connecting the hamlet of Little Langdale with the many slate quarries in the Tilberthwaite area, including Cathedral Quarry and the Hodge Close Quarry. The two part bridge takes advantage of a central large rock and a very long slate slab to cross the river on its way from Little Langdale Tarn to Elterwater. It may well be one of the most photographed bridges in the National Park, perhaps second only to Ashness Bridge (which is accessible by car).
Slater Bridge
Slater Bridge
Slater Bridge beneath Busk Pike on Lingmoor Fell
Once across the river, we turned left where, a short distance along the path, is a gated track which heads up into the woods. This leads to the Little Langdale Quarry or, as it is more widely known, Cathedral Quarry (or Cathedral Cave).
A notice board sits at the entrance to Cathedral Quarry
The stone tunnel doesn't quite prepare you for the main cavern
The quarry is in the possession of National Trust, accessed through a 40m tunnel. It's not until you enter the main chamber that you can really appreciate the scale of the cavern and how it gets its name. Standing proud in the centre is a dramatic spire of rock, deliberately left to support the roof as the quarrymen worked around it and backlit by a huge opening in the cavern roof. It's fair to say that the cavern is every bit as impressive as a natural cave. Several other passages can be reached by wandering around the quarry though these all require a torch to explore further.
The main chamber - Catherdral Cave
Cathedral Cave from the other angle
The quarry workings continue through another passage
Cathedral Cave
Looking down into the cavern from the hole in the ceiling
Having had our brief exploration, the silence we had enjoyed was shattered by a noisy group of children so we beat a hasty retreat back into the daylight of Little Langdale to continue on.

We made our way to the farm at Stang End and joined the Cumbria Way a short distance later at High Park. The Cumbria Way would lead us all the way back to Elterwater though we still have a few diversion planned, the first of which was Colwith Force.
Lingmoor Fell over Little Langdale
Stang End
The woods that hide Colwith Force
Colwith Force resides in the woods along the River Brathay where the river tumbles over a series of cascades. It can be a little difficult to see the full height off the falls but the main fall at the bottom is easy enough to reach after a little effort.
The upper cascades of Colwith Force
The middle portion of the falls
The lower falls
Yours truly after a brief exploration
Once past Colwith Force, the path exits the woods and crosses open fields, still following the Cumbria Way. It heads through the grounds of Park Farm and Park House before it reaches the wooded realm of Skelwith Force. Unlike Colwith Force, you can up close and personal with the falls, standing on the edge of the narrow gap in the rock through which the water is forced. Though not as high, Skelwith Force is no less impressive that Colwith Force and is worth a visit after a spell of heavy rain. A relatively new footbridge spans the river, removing the requirement to walk on the road.
Park Farm
Loughrigg Fell
The footbridge over the River Brathay
Skelwith Force
Skelwith Force
Skelwith Force
The return to Elterwater consists of an easy stroll along the valley floor around the edge of Elter Water, still on the Cumbria Way. The name Elterwater means either "Lake of the Swan" or "Lake of Alder" - Alder being a native British tree. The paths were busy now as we approached the middle of the afternoon in the first week of the summer holidays. Thew views across the tarn are superb with the Langdale Pikes making an appearance once again.
Elter Water
The Langdale Pikes over Elter Water
The final sight of the Langdale Pikes as we approach the village
Despite not scaling any notable mountains, this walk is just as interesting and probably has more points of interest that your average day out in the Lake District, beginning with the quarry at Yew Crags. Slater Bridge is a charming spot - the polar opposite of the dramatic Cathedral Cavern. The waterfalls on the River Brathay ensure that you are never more that a short walk from something to draw the attention.