Always start off with a good breakfast
On the plan today was our first mountain walking expedition of the holiday. Just outside Ambleside is the moderately-sized Baystones. It can be reached (for us) without needing to use the car, which was a Brucie Bonus. I decided the key to successful walking was a good breakfast, so I got up nice and early to make some sauges, mushrooms and bacon.
We were all ready to leave at about 9am, which was remarkable. The route to Baystones from where we were staying involved walking through the twon centre and (almost) past a nice-looking sandwich shop we’d spotted. We’d provisioned ourselves with drinks, crisps and fudge already. That meant we only needed some sandwiches to make lunch complete (and to fill up the remaining space in our rucksacks).
Anyway, the route up to Baystones goes up the road that leads to Stockghyll Force. That’s somewhere which seems to be on our “every trip” roster for the Lake District. We went there in 2019 and 2021. We are creatures of habit really. But back at the plot, walking that way was a little more interesting than walking up the road. The waterfall was, as ever, watery and falling. We took a few photos before beginning the serious business of trying to get up the hill.
We made a slight error at the top of the waterfall. It looked likethere might be an exit out onto the road if we followed the path around the top. There wasn’t. So we had to go back down a bit and follow the sign (who’da thought it).
Up We Go
Once past the waterfall, the ascent starts with a short walk along a road. It then turns right onto a steep path that can be seen from most of Ambleside (if you know what you’re looking for). And by steep, I mean really steep. Baystones might not be very big, but the sides are steep and from Ambleside there isn’t really any other way.
We’d made a plan that we would try to walk for 45 minutes and then break for 15 rather than just walking until everyone was tired. Our first break came, very conveniently, at a gate alongside a wall that was good to sit on. There was also a geocache right nearby. Kas and me went to find it while the kids sat for a while.
It became clear as we were walking that the 45 minute / 15 minute policy was not adequate. We were basically having to stop for a breather every 5 minutes or so, and as a result we switched to walking for 10 minutes and then having a standing rest for a couple. By the time we reached the end of the second 45 minutes were were maybe two-thirds of the way up from the road and we decided it would be a good time to sit in the shelter of some rocks and have some pringles and fudge.
We were also slowed down, to be honest, by the constant need to adjust clothing as the weather swapped between sunshine, cloud and rain. The rain was heavy enough to warrant a coat, but the sunshine was strong enough to warrant no coat. There was a shower about every 15 minutes, and as a result, one or other of us was stopping to change clothing every few steps, or so it seemed.
Surprisingly, the top took us just another half hour from this point. The first “top” you reach from Ambleside is actually Wansfell Pike, at an altitude of 482m. For some reason, Alfred Wainwright decided that this particular hill is only notable for Baystones – a second peak a mile to the north and a few metres higher. Wansfell doesn’t get much of a mention, despite many fell walkers (apparently) thinking Wansfell is much the nicer of the two. Anyway, back at the plot, the view from Wansfell Pike is awesome. You get glimpses of Windermere as you’re walking up but from the top you can see the whole thing, as well as excellent vistas across most of the fells in the south-east, south and south-west. The view to the north is rather obscured by the peaks of the Fairfield Horseshoe. Basically, you can’t see Helvellyn or Skiddaw because Fairfield is in the way. Ho hum!
Baystones peak is, as I said, about a mile to the north. On Google streetview it looks like a short and easy walk, but it’s far from that. We made our first mistake of the day here by trying to walk there before lunch, rather than taking lunch where we were. It was only about 11:30 so we figured it wasn’t really lunchtime. So off we went, across an undulating and boggy surface. It took us maybe an hour to get to Baystones, by which time we’d had enough. We should really have taken a break but the lure of the next peak took over from any commonsense. This lead to a slightly grumpy child for a while. Fair enough. We said we’d keep stopping, and then we didn’t.
At the top of Baystones the weather seemed to have settled into being sunny and windy, but the threat of rain seemed to have gone. We joined a bunch of other walkers and sat down on the grass near the summit cairn for our lunch. We took time to pick a spot in the lee of the wind, which meant we were facing east towards Yoke and the Kentmere Horseshoe. The view was pretty good for such an average-sized mountain. And to be honest, once you got down out of the wind it was lovely weather and I could have stayed there for ages.
However, we had other appointments to be getting on with. First up was the walk back to Wansfell. On the return, we split into two parties. Kas and Venus walked straight there, and discovered it was much quicker and easier if you know the route. Ami and me ducked downhill towards Troutbeck halfway along while i attempted a geocache. It proved to be a steep descent to get to it and quite a tricky find. It also meant we were now 60m or so below the other two, but at least we had a good path to walk up.
You’ve gotta get up to get down, as it were. We’d done the getting up, so we were suitably positioned for getting down. As we were staying in Ambleside we had little choice but to go back the way we came. Descending the path seemed just as hard as climbing, although we did go a little quicker. I think mainly we were taking fewer and shorter breaks.
Once we were back on the road we were accosted by a family in a car that was looking for the waterfall. We showed them the route, but as can be the case in Cumbria, there was no nearby parking. They parked up at the cafe we were about to walk into, but discovered quickly that they weren’t supposed to park there. So they left again.
The cafe concerned was The Force – a place so new that the attached hotel and car park were still a building site. However the cafe was open and had a fine terrace overlooking the town. By this time the sun had been out for a while and it was quite warm. The girls wanted to sit in the shade, which seemed a waste to me, but they’re in the majority. i snuck over for a peer over the edge though. The cafe treated us to drinks and some chips, which we felt we’d earned. I had beer, because I knew we only had downhill walking to do. A rather nice, locally-brewed stout, as it happened.
Back to Town
The walk back down was all along roads, so we got through it quickly. We gave the kids the key so they could go home, but Kas wanted to do a bit of retail therapy. I decided to stay with her. She wanted some new walking shoes. I was in the mood for a purchase too. First thing in the morning I’d tried my walking boots on but they were hurting, so I went up in walking shoes. These were OK but not ideal, so I decided to discuss boots with a guy in a “proper” shop.
His recommendation was that I’d been wearing boots that are way too small for me. The trick, apparently, is to take the insole out and stand on it. The insole should be about a finger’s width longer than your foot. That allows your feet to spread and move while you are walking, and prevents your toes from impacting in the front of the boot when you’re going downhill. The key to success though, is that you also need to be able to tighten the bridge of the foot and the ankles so that your feet don’t move. That causes me a problem because I have long, thin feet and narrow ankles. As a result it took me a while to get a boot that felt OK. And, of course, the ones they had in my size weren’t in the sale.
Oh bum to it! I wasn’t going to do a lot of hill walking without good boots, so I went for it. They had a policy of being able to return boots within 30 days so long as you’ve only worn them indoors. Given the location and the fact that it’s a tourist town, I suspect very few people exercise that option.
While we’d been up on the mountain, Ami had been exchanging emails with an Italian restaurant called Luigi’s and she’d managed to get us a table reservation. So after the retail therapy there was a bit of snooze time available before we had to get dressed and go out.
The restaurant turned out to be really good. So good, in fact, that we picked it for our final night meal, and booked a table while we were in there.
And then we went back home. The family dispersed, as they usually do when we’ve been out. I sat in the lounge and read a book for a while before hitting the hay. It had been an excellent day. Baystones was an excellent little mountain on which to test our levels of fitness.