Walla Crag

Published 19 August 2015

In July 2015 I spent a week staying with some good friends in the beautiful town of Keswick. And when you’re in the area, what better to do than take in a few fells? Well one morning, my friend Tal and I decided to do just that. Well I did and he came at the last minute. Still, we started with a beauty, known as Walla Crag.

“I hear you’re planning a cheeky fell,” said Tal as we met at the entrance to the holiday house’s living room.

Quite how he knew this given he’d only just got out of bed, I didn’t ask, instead preferring to simply nod the affirmative.

“When are you going?”

“About ten, fifteen minutes time,” I replied.

“Okay, I’ll join you,” and he disappeared to throw some things in a rucksack.

It was the morning after our Scafell Pike/Great End adventure, and our final day in Keswick. Most of the house was planning something simple for the morning, in order to rest weary limbs. The Pencil Museum was being discussed, as was a place full of optical illusions. The suggestion that a toddler might be introduced to the madcap world of crazy golf was also put out there. But with a mighty warm-up from the day before, my legs were feeling in the mood for more exploration, and over breakfast I formulated my own plan for the morning. And it involved Walla Crag.

Unlike its local contemporaries, Walla Crag doesn’t look much from a afar. From the other side of the lake it appears merely as a bit of a lump, lacking the elegant definition of, say, Catbells, or the dominating presence of Latrigg. Indeed, as Wainwright comments in his Pictorial Guide to the Central Fells, it’s not really a fell at all; just a secondary (and far lower) summit of Bleaberry Fell. However its popularity, especially as part of a half day walk, and its views meant that Walla Crag got a chapter of the guide all to itself.

Before we could really get going though, a stop at an opticians was required. The previous evening we’d arrived back at the car at Seathwaite where I’d taken my sunglasses off and reached in to the case for my normal ones. I opened it to find the right arm completely disconnected and with no sign of the screw. Tal, in a wonder of engineering, had managed to make a hasty field repair using a broken safety pin found in my rucksack (and don’t ask me why there was a broken safety pin in my pack because frankly I have absolutely no idea how it got there), however I’d managed to stab myself on the pointed end several times during the evening making it abundantly clear a longer term fix was needed. And so it was that our ascent of a fell was delayed by the requirement for someone to insert a self taping screw into my eye wear.

That done, and we could be on our way.

Wainwright’s recommended route from Keswick is to head up to Rakefoot Farm, walking through Springs Wood and over Castlerigg. Unlike the woods on the side of Latrigg, Springs Wood was clearly well used; with the local dog walkers if no one else. However passing a small cafe and gift shop, just setting up for the day’s trading, suggested this was a place that got a little busy at times.

About half way through, a signpost directed us to follow it if we wanted to get to the Crag, or perhaps the Castlerigg Stone Circle, although the latter – with its ring of large stones created sometime between 3,300 and 900 BC – was perhaps a bit too much of a detour for us. Indeed, looking at the map, the signpost also seemed to be pointing in completely the wrong direction. Although if that wasn’t enough, the whole name of the place has an air of confusion about it, with the stone circle actually being over a mile away from Castlerigg itself anyway.

Our signposted path took us along a path on the edge of the woods, with views of Derwent Water opening up through the trees, as well as a glimpse of the Keswick TV transmitter from which just over 3,000 homes pick up their Freeview TV signal. We certainly made time to check out the important stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree.

The path joined a road just short of Rakefoot Farm, and then it was time to join open hillside on our way up to the summit. The official mile long route from the farm closely follows a stone wall, however Wainwright noted that the best views could be had by following the unofficial path on the other side. It’s a path that these days has a bit more status than AW implies. It may not be a firm public right of way, however the gates in the wall and the firm, solid and official looking path on the other side were so inviting that it seemed rude not too.

That this new path had the better views, was hard to deny. Closer to the action, and with less getting in the way, it was a delight look out at Keswick, Catbells and beyond as we bounced along an undulating track that led us to the summit. The flora and fauna were noticeably more interesting too. The main path merely went long grass, but here were heathers, trees and wild flowers too.

As Tal lingered taking photos, I pushed on up the slight climb that would take us to the summit. I say climb – we’re talking just a few metres here. Hardly the most exhausting amount of effort required. A few steps were about all that was required.

I hadn’t expected that much from the summit. That’s not to say I wasn’t expecting great views for I knew there would be plenty. It was just that we had seen so many good ones on the way there, that I wasn’t expecting it to be bettered. Yet somehow the top of Walla Crag managed it. That extra boost in height, and perhaps a fewer trees in the way, managed to open up the vista quite spectacularly, with Basenthwaite Lake now being added to the views as well.

The star though was without doubt Derwent Water; a lake I was now beginning to rate far more highly than its rival, Windermere. Windermere may be big, yet it doesn’t have the grand skyline around it that Derwent Water has. The hills around Windermere are low, whilst Derwent Water gets a surround of majestic fell tops; most impressively with the curves and swoops of Catbells.

Staring out at it all from the top, it wasn’t hard to understand why Walla Crag was so popular. For a little effort, you got a stunning reward.

“I could stay here all day,” I said as Tal joined me on the top. “If there was time.”

There wasn’t. I had to get back to town for lunch to take over child care duties whilst Catherine joined the rest of the gang on an ascent of Latrigg.

Still, there was enough time to admire the view for a little longer.

Next fell: Bleaberry Fell. View all 25 of my Walla Crag/Bleaberry Fell walk photos on flickr

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