LAKELAND 600 PHOTOGUIDE DAY 10 CONISTON TO HAWKSHEAD (via Hodge Close, Uskdale Gap and Tarn Hows)
Day 10 is a day of transition, as we move from the rocky fells of the central Lakes to the softer landscape of the wooded hills fringing Morecambe Bay. For the first couple of kilometres (mile and a quarter or so) of today’s walk, we follow the route of the Cumbria Way (CW) so, if in doubt as to the way, you can follow the CW waymarks – but only as far as the bridge over Low Yewdale Beck (see below).
Leave Coniston village along Tilberthwaite Avenue and, after 350m, turn left onto Shepherds Bridge Lane. After passing the sports centre/ playing fields take a waymarked footpath on the right. This crosses Sheperds Bridge and immediately turns left to run alongside Yewdale Beck before bending away right along a line of trees.
Soon come to an ornate stone shelter known as the Dog House – with good reason, as this was built by wealthy landowner James Marshall in the 19th century as the kennels for the Coniston foxhounds. What you see now is a restored version of the original building – good old the National Trust.
Keep ahead, climbing steadily (view back to Coniston Water)…
…and pass through an area of gorse…
…to come to a gate into woodland (Back Guards Plantation). After just 100m the now level path leaves the plantation and the view opens up ahead to the rocky front of Holme Fell. To the left is the craggy wall of the Yewdale Fells (Day 9) and the White Lady waterfall (official title White Gill), which is impressive only after a fair bit of rain.
For the next quarter of a mile it’s just a case of following the sometimes faint path across grassland, aided by the occasional waymark post. In order to stay above wet ground the path approaches the Guards Wood boundary wall on your right and then drops down past a tree to go through a muddy gateway.
Keep ahead across the next field and leave it at a signposted junction next to a small wood. Turn left (signposted Tarn Hows and Low Yewdale) along the stony track that soon comes alongside Low Yewdale Beck. In 250m we leave the Cumbria Way by staying with the main track as it bends away left to cross a stone bridge over the beck: (the CW bears right across a field and does not cross the beck).
Ever since we left Back Guards Plantation Holme Fell has looked very impressive and that continues to be the case as we pass Low Yewdale farm.
Reach and cross the main Coniston – Ambleside road (A593) and turn right onto a broad permitted bridleway (watch out for bikes!) that runs parallel to the road for 5 minutes or so to come to the minor road heading for Tilberthwaite. Go straight across and, just after the main road and our path part company, arrive at another minor road. This one is bound for Hodge Close so turn left along it, soon crossing a bridge over Yewdale Beck. The (highly) recommended route continues along the road towards Hodge Close but, if time and/ or energy is short you can turn right and follow the footpath (signposted to Yew Tree Tarn), rejoining the main route at Yew Tree Farm.
There is an excellent view from the bridge of the relatively easy-angled buttress of Raven Crag on Holme Fell which offers a well known scramble, but not today, if you want to see Hodge Close.
To stay with the main route follow the road for about a kilometre (10 – 15 mins) and leave it through a waymarked gate on the right (public bridleway signpost).
The track climbs gently and in a few minutes comes to a fork. Go right maintaining the general upwardness of the walk. There are views left to Low Tilberthwaite and, closer to hand, the buildings at Holme Ground.
Just stay with the main path (wall on left), ignoring a path branching away right uphill at a gate. There is a view down to a fine terrace of houses…
…and the path continues through woodland to pass what looks like a large grizzly bear.
Soon after this arrive at a junction with a waymark post pointing right uphill. Ignore this for now but we will return here after our visit to Hodge Close. So stay straight ahead and pass through to come to Hodge Close. This massive hole is truly awe-inspiring and, until recently there was no perimeter fence. A small post and wire fence has now been erected which will prevent people from accidentally getting too close to the edge but would not stop a dog.
There used to be a cafe at Hodge Close but, sadly, no longer so retrace your steps to that junction with the waymark post and turn sharp left uphill. The path is initially clear as it climbs up through trees to come to a disused reservoir, which is a zillion times more picturesque than it sounds.
Turn right and cross what’s left of the dam. Although the path has now all but disappeared for the time being it’s not difficult to forge a route uphill towards the obvious col of Uskdale Gap. Soon rejoin the original path we were on before the reservoir and walk up beneath a rock outcrop to reach Uskdale Gap, a natural place to have a rest and a brew. While you’re relaxing, you can enjoy the views, including those back to the Langdale Pikes.
If you have the time and energy, you could always make the short diversion to the top of Holme Fell. To do this take the path heading away right uphill and you will come to a flatter area with two knobbly tops ahead of you. Ivy Crag is the first one and the real summit of Holme Fell the one a little further away. Our onward route leaves Uskdale Gap by taking the clear but stony path quite steeply downhill (roughly south east). The descent is straightforward but the loose stones mean that, as with all descents, you have to take a little care. There are waymarks where needed and the path eventually leads us left through a gate and across a rough field, where there may be horses or cattle. Come out onto a lane (where we rejoin the shortcut from that bridge over Yewdale Beck) and turn left to reach the main road. Turn right and walk past the much-photographed Yew Tree Farm.
Cross the road and go through a kissing gate into a field. Turn left and walk parallel to the road to arrive at the National Trust Glen Mary car parks. Head over to the ticket machine where there is a Welcome to Glen Mary signboard and a National Trust sign. Cross a little footbridge and go through the small gate to start the short climb up the glen, at first alongside a stream. The path is never in doubt and there are glimpses of the stream a little higher up, especially from the foot of the waterfall of Tom Gill.
A steeper section of path with steps leads to flatter ground and a final walk across a rock slab brings us to the dam on the shore of the lake of Tarn Hows.
Turn right, go through the gate and take the middle one of three paths – not the one that goes ahead past a bench and not the one that goes sharp left towards the lakeshore, but the one that rises across grass to meet a road. Walk along the road and, when it bends away to the right, keep straight ahead on grass and climb to a track near a gate. We are now on the upper one of the two paths that run along the south-eastern side of the lake and the views are outstanding with a wide sweep of fells from Wetherlam to Fairfield via the Langdale Pikes.
About 5 minutes from the gate keep straight ahead at a junction (signposted for Rose Castle). The broad path swings right and soon comes to a very attractive cottage with many interesting architectural features . This, believe it or not, is Rose Castle – sometimes called Rose Castle Cottage – and is in the care of the National Trust who use it for holiday lets.
The path now fades as it descends gently as a line in the grass to come to a stile in the bottom left-hand corner of the field. Cross this and in just a few paces go straight across a much wider track. Follow the obvious way alongside the wall and go through a gate onto a walled lane which leads down to a collection of buildings (part of the Yewfield Guest House grounds it seems). Follow the access road to these buildings down to a road and turn right to come to a road junction at a house with sculptures and a summer house in the garden. Turn left here and come to the main road B5285 at Hawkshead Hill. Turn left past the welcoming Baptist Chapel…
…and after 200m not very pleasant walking along the busy road come to a kissing gate on the right. Take this (signposted Hawkshead) and follow the path through a couple of fields with views left to Fairfield, Red Screes and the Kentmere fells. Go through a kissing gate into a wooded dell (are there any dells that aren’t wooded?)
Drop down across a couple of bridges and continue with the clear path. Where the path and fence bend left towards an ornate doorway, keep ahead through an unusual kissing gate with upright stone flags.
With the hill of Latterbarrow dominating the view ahead…
…some of the the houses of Hawkshead begin to appear, and then the church over to the right.
A walk down a lane brings us very suddenly into the town/ village centre of Hawkshead, reckoned by many to be the best-preserved settlement in the Lakes. The next day’s walk is a circular one so you have plenty of time to meander about and soak up the atmosphere of this splendid place.