Saturday, 16 June 2018

A Circuit of Wast Water

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Route: Brackenclose, The Screes, Lund Bridge, Low Wood, The Lodge, Greendale, Netherbeck Bridge, Overbeck Bridge, Brackenclose

Date: 16/06/2018
From: Wasdale Head

Parking: Brackenclose
Start Point: Wasdale Head
Region: Western Fells

Route length: 7.5 miles (12 km)
Time taken: 03:20
Average speed: 2.2 mph
Ascent: 243m
Descent: 257m

Summits: None

Other points of interest: The Screes

Wastwater (or Wast Water) is England's deepest Lake and home to some of the most famous views in the Lake District. In fact, the National Park's logo is made up of the image of Great Gable, flanked by Yewbarrow and Lingmell - the iconic Wastwater view. Interestingly, it is a classic example of a glacially 'over-deepened' lake meaning the bed level is actually below sea level.

Perhaps its most defining feature are the immense Screes - a 2,000ft curtain of rocks and boulders that tumble into the lake from the fells above. A path crosses the foot of the screes allowing you to complete a grand circuit of the lake as we did on a damp summer afternoon.

Arriving mid-morning to a deluge, we booked in at the campsite and pondered our options. A low-level walk in the rain didn't particularly appeal. Instead, we decamped to the pub at Wasdale Head With the worst of the day's rain starting to ease, we emerged from the pub, ready for a swift afternoon outing.
Lingmell Gill
Wast Water and Middle Fell
We set off the National Trust campsite, passing through the Brackenclose car park and out to the farm where directions to the screes path are signposted.
Illgill Head
Kirk Fell
Starting out along the screes path
The screes and Wast Water
Knott Ends and Yewbarrow
After an undulating section of narrow path, reminiscent of a low-level climbers traverse, the path crosses the first area of fallen stone. For the most part, the route is fairly distinct and the fact that the path is guarded on either side by the steep scree and a short tumble in the water prevents any travelling 'off piste'. The screes actually extend below the surface of the water for another 60m before they come to an end.
Bowderdale and Knott Ends
The screes
The screes
Looking up the screes to Bell Rib
The screes
The screes
Looking back along the screes
The crags of Whin Rigg
After crossing the area of smaller scree and gaining a bit of altitude, the path regains its grassy nature and continues along to the real star of the day; the boulder field. From here it's a navigational free-for-all as the path disappears and is replaced by a jumbled pile of rocks and boulders. I really enjoyed this part of the walk, hopping across the boulders while working up a decent sweat in the process. Before long, the path reappears and the boulders begin to subside as you reach the very end of Wastwater.
The boulders
Broken Rib
The boulder field below Broad Crag
Wast Water
Clouds part over Yewbarrow
The boulders
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Wast Water panorama
Here there is a pumping station which feeds water from the lake to the nearby nuclear facility at Sellafield. Passing the brick building sends you alongside the River Irt for a short distance, crossing it at Lund Bridge. The path cuts through Low Wood to the Youth Hostel where you can find a shoreside path that starts the return towards Wasdale Head.
The southern end of Wast Water
The River Irt at Low Wood
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The screes
The screes
The walk back to Wasdale Head is largely along the road but it is fairly quiet and offers ample opportunities to leave it to admire the views. We passed the Greendale junction, where the iconic view of Great Gable is, well, it most iconic. Passing beneath the immense slopes of Yewbarrow is also impressive. The only downside of the route at this time of day is the number of minibuses arriving with the Three Peaks crowds.
The Wast Water view from the Greendale landing stage
Middle Fell
Greendale junction
Clouds linger atop Illgill Head
Great Gable
Wast Water
It was drizzling lightly by the time we made it back to the campsite - we had managed to squeeze in a walk during the best of the weather. We were treated to some fine views of Kirk Fell and Great Gable as we inevitably ended up back in the pub at Wasdale Head. I'm starting to see the appeal of circumnavigating all of the Lake District's lakes, within reason - Windermere is over 10 miles long.
Kirk Fell and Great Gable
Wasdale Head Inn

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