The Coledale Horseshoe
Approaching Keswick along the A66 rising mightily west of town it’s the North-western Fells, principally Eel Crag and Grisedale Pike, that excite most attention. Visitors seeking a setting sun view of Castlerigg Stone Circle have these fells as a backdrop. This impressive walking tour tightly embraces the skyline of Coledale and includes the summits of Grisedale Pike, Hopegill Head, Eel Crag, Sail and Outerside.
The walk begins from the village of Braithwaite, sited in a broad natural clearing, the origin of the place-name. The apparently large village of today, dominated by the camping ground, holiday lodgings and retirement homes was formerly substantially larger, certainly in terms of population. This had been an industrial community, home to miners, woollen millers and pencil-makers, the Cumberland Pencil Co. having a factory here from 1868- 98, when a fire resulted in its demolition and the transfer of manufacturing to Keswick.
Coledale is a long straight, deeply entrenched, valley surrounded by shapely fells composed of various elements of Skiddaw slate. Where broken underfoot, the shards are angular and don’t have the ball-bearing effect of the Borrowdale Volcanic of the central Lakes.
Eel Crag from Sleet How
Located in the upper end of Coledale, the Force Crag Mine thoroughly merits the attention of fellwalkers and praise accorded the National Trust and English Heritage for their work on this industrial monument. While the buildings have been carefully secured and preserved, with the latterday machinery, visitors are only able to see inside during specific guided tours - pre-booking is essential, contact 017687 74649 [see page three].
These boots were made for walking
Climb the flight of steps rising immediately to the right. NB: The track beyond the barrier leads easily into Coledale proper and can play into your walk, if, later in the day the weather deteriorates and you have to retreat from Coledale Hause. The path gives fine views over the Bassenthwaite Vale to the Skiddaw massif, as it rises to a stile. After this the path climbs a little further before levelling along the Kinn ridge overlooking Coledale, with eyes focused on the headwall drama of Force Crag.
The valley is of simple form, reserving all its visual drama for its upper reaches where a rockband intervenes causing the valley beck to step down two great mares tail falls. Pitching up again onto the heather bank of Sleet How, the ridge now overlooks the diminutive Grisedale Beck valley and Whinlatter Forest Park, where osprey’s now regularly nest. Climb ever more sternly up the conical east ridge to the summit of Grisedale Pike. Path erosion is inevitable on such a singular and popular trod, any splintered rock encountered a minimal hindrance.
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© Mark Richards 2006