An eagle's eye view of the walk
Sticks and Stones
Most fellwalkers leave Glenridding with their minds filled with the anticipation of Helvellyn, but today’s expedition turns face on the ancient Sticks Pass to traverse Stybarrow Dodd, backtracking via the handsome rocky summit of Sheffield Pike. At 2,420ft Sticks Pass, for all its simplicity, is the highest historic foot pass in the Lake District.
This walk takes pleasure in following the steady eastern approach of this old route from Glenridding, via the remnants of the old Greenside lead mine. Stepping onto Stybarrow Dodd, to revel in fine views from this 843 metre height, the first of the Dodds, enjoying extensive views along the Helvellyn range, as too north and westward. The walk then turn’s tail following the grassy ridge east onto Green Side and down by Nick Head from where mounting the notable rocky crest of Sheffield Pike. Begin the descent by visiting the subsiduary top of Heron Pike resplendant with heather and commanding a sumptuous view over Ullswater. Now venturing helter-skelter down towards Glenridding, via the south-east ridge. At Rake Head one has the option of stepping onto Glenridding Dodd, providing a notable bird’s eye view upon the village, a joyous scene in any season of the year.
Let’s make strides
Leave the car park at its upper end passing the health centre. Notice the sign decreeing ‘no smoking anywhere’. Quite right, not here, not on Stybarrow Dodd, not anywhere! Joining the village street turning left up by the Travellers Rest. The pub-name a reminder that this is an age-old thoroughfare, traversing the Helvellyn range via Sticks Pass, venturing westward into the Thirlmere vale.
The present sturdy cottages built as homes for lead miners, follow their ghostly clogs on up the metalled way, bearing up right passing a terraced row and cross a cattle grid. Follow on by a further two rows upon what is known as Greenside Road. Concrete tracks ensure a level way for traffic heading up to the former mine complex. Notice several stone piles in the pasture across the valley, like the walls themselves, the labour of farmers gathering the litter of natural stone to make better pasture. The valley-name Glenridding is of pre-conquest origin, and means ‘the valley beset with bracken’, some things don’t change!
However, the Greenside mine has changed. In its heyday one of the largest lead mines in Britain. A going concern from 1820 until 1962, at which point the Atomic Weapon Research Establishment expoited its ultimate closure, conducting a series of trial explosions in the depths of the mine. One can deduce those galleries are now a little less accessible. Mind you the mine was 1,400 feet deep, reaching below the level of Ullswater. Just think of the lives of those miners, we sweat in just walking up past their workings, they had to clamber up and down repeatedly on a diet of bread and lard. Those buildings that were in a viable state survived the mine’s demise, one is a self-catering cottage, another became the Helvellyn Youth Hostel and two others outdoor pursuits lodgings for the youth of Blackpool and Bury. See the huge spoil banks, those beneath Glenridding Screes though grassed over at its top, the sides have broken requiring the installation of multiple retaining boards. Woe betide the day a cloudburst undermines them and releases a body of the lifeless mass, this will smother the hostel environs utterly. Swart Beck cascades in a turbulent chaos of stone, an impressive sight looking up from the bridge.
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 (124KB)
© Mark Richards 2007