A poor forecast today but from my front door the weather looked better in the Southern Lakes - a good excuse to drive down the Lyth Valley and walk a circuit of Whitbarrow from Mill Side. I parked in dry but overcast weather just 50 yards from the A590, walked 50 yards up the road towards Mill Side and then turned right at a signpost signed Whitbarrow. For the ascent I didn't follow the Wainwright route as I wanted a longer walk, but headed through the low part of the wood past Raven's Lodge and then turned west at Rawson's Farm and headed up to the top of the fell. The woodland paths had limestone pavement underfoot, there were orchids in the clearings and in several places I saw sink holes where once streams had gone underground long ago. Limestone country is a great change from the slate and volcanic geology of most of the Lakes. Once out of the wood I came out onto the limestone summit plateau which is a walled nature reserve.
It really is beautiful up there. There is more (rare) limestone pavement than you can shake a stick at. In the cracks between the limestone are ferns and every few yards is a dwarf juniper or a stunted windblown yew. Almost like a Lakes version of Conan Doyle's "Lost World". When you do this walk (and you should do it) then pick a decent day not a rainy one. The views I had were great and it was warm enough to linger for a leisurely lunch on the summit. Great views towards the Pennines and the Howgills and south over the Kent estuary and Arnside. I couldn't see much to the north, too much rain cloud building up.
To descend, I headed north to Bell Rake and then turned south to descend into High Park Wood. At the start of the descent I saw the old mine level pictured by Wainwright in his description of the walk. Once at the bottom of the slope I could hear thunder crackling about the summit. My path took me through the grounds of Witherslack Hall (a school) and eventually brough me to the Hamlet of Beck Head right by the "resurgence" described by Wainwright where the beck suddenly appears from undergroud. Then past the superb garden of Beck Head house and down a lane to my start point at Mill Side.
8.5 miles in 4 hours including a leisurely lunch. A smashing walk - Wainwright felt it was the best of the outlying fell walks.
5 minutes after I started my drive up the Lyth Valley the rain started! Enjoy the pictures, I was lucky with the weather.
Some pictures from the day
See the full Webshots album http://outdoors.webshots.com/album/559576734FIFSLQ