Arnison Crag

Published 26 November 2017

The rocky top of Arnison Crag

The rocky top of Arnison Crag

Want to do a horseshoe shaped walk that takes in Fairfield? And that starts at Patterdale? And takes in St Sunday Crag? You do? So did I, and I did on my third day spent in Patterdale. And it all started with Arnison Crag.

The sun was shining and the few clouds to be seen were so very high in the sky that, well, that they were very high. This appeared to make rather a mockery of the Mountain Weather forecast that gloomily predicted a mere 30% chance of having a cloud free summit.

It was my last day in Patterdale. After a good walk, I’d need to make my way to Penrith, and catch a train home. Once there I would remind the children of my existence, and admire the new decking that had been installed in the garden in my absence. But first there were fells to consider. And if the weather held, there would be lots of them. And if it didn’t, well an early train would beckon after a sharp exit.

First on the agenda was Arnison Crag, a diminutive fell that overlooks, Patterdale. It’s not a big one, just a mere 433m in height. However a certain Alfred Wainwright described it as having “a summit worthy of a mountain.” Praise indeed, and definitely a good way to start a day.

Two walkers next to gate at the beginning of the path up to St Sunday Crag

Two walkers chat at at a gate.

The path up it set off opposite the White Lion public house in the village; a fine pub inside which I’d spent the previous two nights. In the original 1955 version of the Pictorial Guide to the Eastern Fells, Wainwright describes the area as an old tarn, that was being used as a rubbish dump. Anyone walking there would be picking their way through an area of tin cans and old tyres. His description reminded me of a section of the Pennine Way near Garrigill that also added old machinery into the mix for good measure. Patterdale however has cleaned up its act in the intervening 60 years. Now everything appeared to be much neater, and very much in order. No doubt Wainwright would have approved.

Just outside the village, the path began to climb uphill, in a sea of bracken. Suddenly my mind was filled with thoughts of ticks and the trauma of lyme disease, given the little critters like to lurk in the undergrowth. Perhaps this wasn’t the best place to be wandering around with legs that were clad only in shorts. I stared at my bare legs and did by best to keep to the clearing.

For some reason, I’d assumed that the climb up Arnison Crag would be easy. Polished off in half an hour. That sort of thing. Quite why I thought that, I really don’t know. Perhaps, I was lulled into a false sense of security by knowing the summit was a mere mile’s walk from Patterdale. And it can’t take too long to walk a mile, can it?

Oxford Crag, on the way up to Arnison Crag

It's rocky and wonderful but it's Oxford's Crag, and not Arnison's.

Well yes, if the climb is steep. And whilst Arnison Crag isn’t high, it’s slopes certainly aren’t gradual. I huffed and puffed my way up them, wondering with every step just how far off this confounded summit was.

At one point I spotted a promising looking candidate. It was a very bold and interesting rock formation. Full of drama and excitement, and with an outstanding view of Ullswaster and the neighbouring fills. The kind of view that brings joy to your heart and puts a spring in your step. Shame then that this was merely a minor edifice known as Oxford Crag, and that I’d only walked half a mile.

The summit cairn at Arnison Crag

After a little scramble, you too can enjoy this cairn on Arnison Crag

It was a place too where the hard work seemed to end, and as the bracken began to clear, Arnison Crag’s summit was finally revealed in all its glory. Now I could see it’s sturdy rock platform, and that reaching the very top would even required a minor scramble. And the views at the top were a fine reward for the effort. Oxford Crag, it transpired, was merely a warm up. For now there was an even finer panorama of the mighty Ullswater, with the water twinkling in the bright sunlight.

If the weather stayed like this, I was sure to be in for an absolute corker of a day.

Next time: to Birks! You can see all of my photographs from my three days in Patterdale over on flickr.

View of Ullswater from the top of Arnison Crag

The fantastic view at the top of Arnison Crag.

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