Hats off to Helm Crag
Studious tourists and serious trekkers have long paid homage to Grasmere. The village means a variety of things to a variety of folk, but whether you’re a devoted Wordsworthite, Heaton-Cooperite or dedicated Wainwrightite, the green vale with its sparking lake owes its ultimate charm to its glorious encirclement of fells. William Wordsworth and the Heaton-Coopers were inveterate fellwalkers, their respective study centres and art galleries creative acknowledgement of the village’s beautiful setting.
The speedy A591 main road through the vale follows an age-old path, a trade and travel highway from time immemorial. Its course defined by the natural break in the high fell guard north to south through the district made by the pass of Dunmail Raise. Ancient travellers doffed their caps to the mighty cairn at its crest and knew well the striking rock-topped fell to the west en route south. Helm Crag is one of Lakeland’s most distinct heights, the term helm meaning ‘cloud-capped hill’. Two rock tors stand at either end of its summit ridge lending scope for tourist guides of former years to offer a plethora of descriptive names to entertain their passengers: lion and lamb, the howitzer, old lady playing an organ. These tops are hard for the average hill-goer to climb notably the tilted summit tor, the Lion couchant, which probably receives the attention of barely one in every hundred visitors.
An eagle's eye view of the walk
I have conquered this peak on three occasions, but not on my most recent visit, time was pressing as I was distracted by multifarious conversations, most notably with Mr Riley the shepherd from Underhelm Farm. He was working his dogs gathering the sheep in a sweep over the summit to separate the ewes and lambs. When I finished the walk there was much plaintive bleating in the in-bye pastures! The cold damp Spring had been a bad time for the flock and numbers were seriously down. Mr Riley’s one beam of light the milk from his small dairy herd of fifty Friesians.
The Calf Crag/Helm Crag ridge is more often followed eastwards so there’ll be many encounters with fellow fellwanderers. Some will be tackling the Coast to Coast Walk, while others engaged in the greater Easedale Round. The latter walk leaves Grasmere heading for Sour Milk Gill, Easedale Tarn and Sergeant Man before tracking north either via High Raise and Greenup Edge, or more directly by the old fenceline over Codale Head
Stridus insistus... let the walking begin
The defining start point of this walk, is Sam Read’s Bookshop, right at the heart of the village. An appropriate shop-name, indeed it was founded as a bookshop a hundred years ago. If, like me, you simply can’t walk past such fountains of the imagination then you’ll probably start the walk, by walking in and promptly be wrested out by your walking companions – I walk alone so don’t have such constraints, though even I know the compelling insistence of tempus fugit with a walk to do! Opposite the shop is a bus stop with a tidal flow of Stagecoach buses, so this is definitely a walk you can entertain minus your car… ‘park, ride and stride’ being very much in order.
Head off up Easedale Road, traffic along this cul-de-sac road has descreased in the last two years since the small car park beyond Butharlyp How youth hostel was built upon! Keep to the tarmac roadway through the open meadow to Little Parrock, fork right upon the bridleway which promptly becomes a narrow, slate cobbled path close by a cottage. Reaching a gate, note the wicket-gate right for later reference; the signed path leads through woodland to Lancrigg Hotel where ‘walkers’ teas’ in graceous surrounds may be enjoyed – at walk’s end.
This is an excerpt from Mark's original article. To see the full article, you will need to download the PDF using the link below
Download complete PDF (102KB)
© Mark Richards 2006