Ard Crags

Published 13 December 2020

The grass of Knott Rigg abruptly turned to heather as I passed onto Ard Crags.

It’s September 2020 and after a year full of lockdowns, cancelled holidays and just general chaos, I rather unexpectedly found myself having a week of carefree fell-walking in the Lake District. The first day saw me explore two fells with “High” in their name. My second day was spent around the Newlands Valley, visiting Robinson, Knott Rigg, and finally Ard Crags.

A couple of years earlier I received a present of a book called “Walking the Wainwrights.”

“36 circular walks covering all the peaks in A.Wainwright’s Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells” said the cover. Follow its instructions and you too could bag all 214 of the Wainwrights in only 36 walks.

Reading it, I what I discovered was that you’d need to be superhuman, or a sadist, to do all the fells in only 36 walks. Take route 27 for example – The Newlands Watershed. This one walk would see you visit ten summit tops in a walk of 15 miles. With a lot of going up and down. That’s hard going.

Now the author recognised that not everyone is capable of walking 15 miles in the Lake District in one go. I am have a good level of fitness, and I tend to stick to a limit of twelve when climbing fells. With this in mind the book splits most of its walks into two.

I’d walked the first half of the Newlands Watershed the year before, taking in Catbells, and Dale Head. I’d visited five fells that day. Today my intent was to do the remaining five. I’d already ticked off Robinson and Knott Rigg. Ard Crags would be the third.

Near the summit of Ard Crags

The walk on the ridge from Knott Rigg was pretty straightforward. There was so little height difference that it was hard to believe I’d changed fell. The only clue was that the green grass of Knott Rigg abruptly changed to browning heather of Ard Crags.

By the way, am I the only one who sees that name and keeps thinking of the dog from EastEnders? No, not Roly. Wellard. No? Oh…

Anyway back to the plot. And not the one that saw Wellard is put on trial after biting Ian Beale’s rear end. Ard Crags.

Like Knott Rigg it had a tiny summit cairn. A few stones clumsily lumped together. Almost like no one could be bothered building one.

After a a strenuous walk from Knott Rigg, I flopped myself down on a clump of springy heather. It had been a whole mile on relatively flat ground. I was exhausted.

The summit of Ard Crags has an extremely small cairn

The heather was so comfortable I didn’t feel like getting up. The sun was shining, it was warm and nice. Why move?

Yep Walking the Wainwrights had other ideas. It wanted me to go over to Scar Crags and Causey Pike and get another two fells.

I looked behind me in their direction. To visit them I’d need to descend steeply down the side of Ard Crags on a route where there was no path. At the bottom I would, at least, find a proper path. But there would be even more climbing required. None of it looked particularly easy.

I stared at the steep descent down. I glared at the steep climb up again. It all seemed far too much work. Too much effort. And I couldn’t be bothered. Much nicer to follow the gentle ridge of Ard Crags and make my way back to the car.

The descent of Ard Crags is one with a fine view

Books like Walking the Wainwrights have their benefits. They give you a planned out walk. A structure to follow. They recommend how to link fells together in a sensible way.

But they also add an element of speed. That getting stuff done as quickly as possible is what is important. Some people buy into that. That’s what they want.

Now I’m a right one for wanting to bag as many fells as I can. If I can do eight in a day, without breaking too much of a sweat, brilliant! But I also want to enjoy myself. And for me, completing the Wainwrights isn’t a race. It’s a nice think to do. And on this day, three fells was more than enough. Scar Crags and Causey Pike could wait. It would be another walk to enjoy.

So I sat at the top of Ard Crags for a bit longer. Enjoying the weather. Enjoying the views. Enjoying the chance to relax. And then, and only when I really and truly ready, I set off again. Not on some steep climbs to get two more fells. But along a lovely gentle ridge. Back down to the valley floor. Back down to my car. And that was more than enough for me.

The splendid Newlands Valley, seen from Ard Crags

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