New: The Ullswater Walking Companion
Our first title of '22 is The Ullswater Walking Companion, featuring 20 ambles, rambles and scrambles in the iconic Ullswater valley.
The third in our Countrystride podcast series of walking guidebooks, it was one of the most enjoyable projects I've worked on in years.
Because I do all the walk testing for Mark Richards' routes, I spent most of November and December last year crossing into the Ullswater valley to re-acquaint myself with the countryside surrounding this queen of the Lakes....
...Which meant not just many happy days roaming the fells, meadows and riverside paths – some of them well-known, many I'd not walked before – but also lots of cake in Pooley Bridge tearoom and at least one too many ales in the Travellers Rest.
For all those who don't know the valley – and even for those who're regular visitors – I recommend the book, which features not only route instructions, maps and Mark's lovely linescapes, but also a wealth of history and heritage information. (We also supply the GPX routes).
You can find out more about the book here... But before going there, scroll down for some of Mark's words of wisdom...
For the first time in one of our guidebooks I asked Mark – who walked with Alfred Wainwright half-a-lifetime ago – to pay tribute to him with some gentle 'Notes in conclusion' to reflect on his favourite walks and places in the valley. Here's what he wrote...
Mark Richards – Notes in conclusion
Fashioning The Ullswater Walking Companion has been a joy from start to end. Over and again I have been reminded why I love not just the fells, but the totality of Lakeland: the oft-dancing waters of lakes, meres and becks; the textural diversity of wall-bounded pasture, trees and woodland; most of all the heights that soar above this one great lake.
It was on the Helvellyn range that research for Fellranger, my magnum opus guidebook series, took route (sic) some 24 years ago. And it is on those same heights that my spirit of adventure has been reinvigorated over decades.
As such I needed little persuasion to return, this time to map and draw scenes that have given me such pleasure over the years, wandering pen following eager feet as I stitched together these 20 fine walks.
A yearning to rediscover fell pastures of old and take pleasures new from the landscapes was one I share with millions who hold this corner of Cumbria close to their heart. Ullswater crowds in so much of what makes Lakeland the most loved mountain landscape in England; tree-dappled dales in the lower reaches rise to stately crags and iconic ridges at the lake’s head.
My wanders confirmed a few must-visit viewpoints for walkers new to the area. The beacon on Hallin Fell above Howtown (Walk 3) delivers views far beyond those typically earned from so gentle a climb, and the beacons on Arthur’s and Bonscale Pikes (Walk 2) are wonderfully gifted in their perspective over the lower reach of Ullswater. The rocky crest of Place Fell (Walk 16) holds a special place in my heart as it gives one of the most comprehensive westward views over the Helvellyn massif.
The view from Spying How – Walk 8.
For a fine perspective of the upper reach of the lake, delight in the view from the Ullswater Way on Gowbarrow Fell (Walk 7) coming above Lyulph’s Tower. Edging further into hill country, Glenridding Dodd offers the definitive bird’s-eye-view over Glenridding (Walk 10), while Arnison Crag (Walk 18) and Keldas (Walk 11) – a spot to linger long – cannot be beaten for their perspectives on the head of the lake.
Higher up, I harbour a great memory of standing on Gavel Pike (Walk 19) and soaking up the majestic craggy head of Deepdale. On the same walk, drama abounds on the scramble over Deepdale Hause onto Cofa Pike, from where there is a most handsome view of Helvellyn’s southern escarpment, glowering over the wild coves of Dollywaggon and Nethermost Pikes. If pushed I would rate Walk 19 as my favourite in this collection.
One of the bigger surprises researching this guidebook was rediscovering Catstycam, a fell apart, deserving of the unique Keppel Cove ascent described in Walk 12, while especially fun was walking again the popular edges over Helvellyn (Walk 14) anticlockwise. Few walkers contemplate the horseshoe this way, but it gives the most security for hands and feet on the edges’ bare, exposed and over-burdened rocks. If you’re to recommend a route onto one of England’s most iconic fells, this is the one.
Approaching Catstycam – Walk 12.
When it comes to memories, the most enduring for me are those from the least populated trails: tracking down lonely Fusedale (Walk 3) and sweeping over and through neglected Dowthwaitehead (Walk 8). A similarly lonesome feel is sensed at Glencoyne Head (Walk 9); this is a landscape populated by ghosts of long-departed industry.
The dale-floor wander visiting Hartsop and Brothers Water forms a fitting end to this guide (Walk 20). The walk not only reasserts the fell/dale relationship that defines this superlative valley, but, tracking newly rewiggled Goldrill Beck, it shows that this loveliest of valleys, shaped over generations by human hand, is adapting still, this time to help slow flood waters and restore biodiversity.
One of the challenges of collating a guidebook is deciding which routes to include and which don’t quite reach the mark. Quirkily, Heughscar Hill, gifted with the best overall perspective of the Ullswater valley, does not feature. I recommend those new to the area making a point of venturing up from Pooley Bridge, via Roehead, and, while on that open tract of limestone country, seeking out the ancient monuments on Moor Divock.
Finally, I have been at pains to show how you can explore the valley without resorting to a car – using the regular bus and lake steamers to start and finish each expedition. As tourist numbers continue to grow, car-free walking – or ‘roaming from home’ – needs champions inside the National Park Authority and also among guidebook writers; we enthusiastically back the ambition.
Walk 20 – A Brotherswater round.