Published 29 July 2015

Bench near the summit of Latrigg with a view of Keswick and Derwent Water

A bench with a fine view

On 7 July 2015 I made good use of an afternoon in Keswick, as I made my way to the top of a fell that dominates the town’s skyline.

A week can easily fly by. A week in the Lake District even more so.

We were in Keswick for seven days; a large group of us staying in a cottage in the heart of the town. And we were busy.

On the Sunday most of the party headed up Catbells. Meanwhile a couple of us stayed on the edge of the lake at Hawes End, having a picnic with the children who were, if we’re brutally honest, far more interested in throwing stones in the water.

Day 2 saw people traversing the woods and summit of Dodd. Meanwhile I was in the woods of Mirehouse with a two year old and a three year old who were running around the adventure playground happily. And Tuesday morning found me splashing around in the excitement of Keswick Leisure Pool.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love spending time with my son, and it was great fun watching him enjoy himself at each of the above places, but you can’t stay in a town surrounded by fells without wanting to pull on your hiking boots, tie the laces and start clumping around. And on Tuesday afternoon, whilst Sam took a rare afternoon nap, I spied my opportunity and ran out of the door. (Those at this point considering calling the council’s child services team may be reassured to learn I didn’t leave him alone.)

Signpost pointing up Latrigg

With an afternoon to spend, there was only one obvious destination. A fell that had been staring me in the face ever since I’d arrived in the town.

It’s fair to say that every major Lake District town has at least one fell that is intrinsically linked with the place; close enough to the centre to bring out the crowds. Grasmere’s is Helm Crag. Ambleside manages two with Loughrigg and Wansfell. Windermere has the diminutive Orrest Head, and Keswick has Latrigg. It overlooks the whole town, looming over the shops and houses.

The way to get to it is to head up by the same Leisure Pool I’d been splashing around in that morning, and then over the bustling A66 as it bypasses the town, before finally entering the woods. It was a recognisable route, and one I’d followed before six years earlier as the slopes of Latrigg are used by the Cumbria Way as it journeys on to Caldbeck. And unlike the last time I’d walked along that track, it wasn’t pouring down with rain. Instead I was treated to the sight of the sun bursting through the trees, dappling the ground wherever I walked.

Footpath into Brundholme Woods

Tracks led off deeper into the woods at regular intervals, three of which Wainwright notes as shortcuts to the summit. Assuming you can spot the right turn-off as you head through the trees. The crowds however do what Wainwright recommends, and what I did: turn off the Cumbria Way at the clear signpost, and head over Mallen Dodd.

The crowds in this case turned out to be a substantial number of teenage school girls, all heading down from the summit on what was presumably some sort of school outing. None of them seemed particularly well dressed for walking. Skirts and dresses were in vogue, as were trainers. Not a single one was wearing trousers, leading to me to wonder if the school in question had some sort of “policy” on the matter. Even the two teachers accompanying them had cloth flapping around their ankles.

Not that Latrigg needs or deserves serious equipment. The path was easy going, and walkers with flailing limbs can even drive up to the car park near the top and walk the short way to the viewpoint. With accessibility like that, there’s a part of you that reaches the summit and expects to find a coach load of senior citizens with walking sticks, but instead I found myself near the top with just a few dog walkers.

Near a bench I stopped and admired the view. Down below stood the town of Keswick, getting on with its thing, whilst the sun twinkled gently on Derwent Water, whilst Catbells stood magnificently nearby. It was captivating, and I could easily imagine myself in my old age, sitting up here for hours.

The summit of Latrigg.  Probably.

Most people visiting will never go further than the bench. Well, why would they? But the true fell walker will need to wander a little further on, for the bench is shy of the summit. Not that it’s easy to find. It’s somewhere near the path but little more I can tell you. I wandered over the top for a bit, had a look around at what I thought might be the highest point, and eventually settled on a small clump that seemed to be fractionally higher than the surrounding rocks, and dutifully bagged it for King and Country.

The walk did at least allow me to admire another view. The northern fells could be seen in the distance: Causey Pike, Grassmoor, Blencathra and more. All waiting for some other day. But I didn’t have the time, and besides, Latrigg’s on no ridge. It was time to head down, and I did so by talking a turn-off at the point where the path met a stile. Off to the right, almost invisible, lay a small track through Brundholme Wood. A stile at the wood boundary was the only indication this was no sheep track, but a proper footpath, and I dutifully headed to it.

The dense trees saw all light blocked out; I was walking in the gloom, and descending at a rapid rate until my path came to a junction, and a forest track that would lead me back to the Cumbria Way.

Brundholme Woods

In contrast to the number of people on the main path, the woods were utterly deserted. Despite their proximity to the town centre, it didn’t look like many people came this way. Could this really be the Lake District, I wondered as I skipped along to the sound of birdsong. It certainly felt odd, like there was some magic forcefield to keep visitors out, and hiding the place from view. A secret, enchanting woodland so close to one of the Lake District’s main towns, and on the town’s busiest fell? How fantastic.

Returning to town, I resolved to keep its secret safe, telling only those I could trust not to spoil it. Everyone would continue to admire the fantastic views from the top for sure, but the woods needed to be kept special. And I’m sure you will.

View all 16 of my Latrigg walk photos on flickr

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