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Glaciers on High Street

Not being tied to a job, I can select my days in the hills according to the weather. This week, Wednesday 2nd October was promising sunshine all day so I went for it. I wanted a good route that would take me six or seven hours, so I opted for High Street from the head of Haweswater. My departure was delayed as there was frost on the windscreen, but soon I was off up the dreaded M6. I turned off for Shap and was soon on narrow lanes bounded by limestone walls. Leaving that I was in woodland with Haweswater on my right. highstreet was straight ahead, but it’s a slow road. After the rain I was surprised how little standing water there was.

As I made a late start it was gone ten when I arrived and the carpark was filling up. It was still chilly and remained that way most of the day.

Just below the carpark was a good clump of juniper

which attracted some of the lowlife which visit the hills. You wonder what mentality these squalid people have as they seem happy to wreck what they love.

However I left Mardale Head for the plod up to Small Water Crag and found bog asphodel in their dying golden moments.

Looking back at the valley , glacial activity in the form of small drumlins was evident.

I always look down as well as up and soon found some Butterwort,

which at times was assocaited with Bog Asphodel. Sandly I found no other carniverous plants as in sundew or drosera. To me mountains are far more than saying “wow” at the grandeur and involves considering the more subtle aspects of flora and scenery. Maybe I should not have read Frank Smythe’s The Spirit of the Hills at sixteen and flipping though my father’s copy of The valley of flowers, which was riddled with Indian bookworm!

Going upwards I soon reached the vomitory of Small Water Crag. Yes, no joke. In 1842 Charles Darwin called the icefall below Llyn Ogwen a vomitory. I long thought he meant it was where the glacier vomitted forth ice over a steep cliff, but recently found out that a vomitorium is where Romans exited from the amphitheatre. I love the term and feel it should be in every school text.

There were some good examples of glacial grooves.

Nearing the top, I found what Darwin called mammified or bossified rocks, which had been smoothed off by the glacier, which retreated some 20,000 years ago.

And so to the top of the vomitory. On the knoll were small trees protected by wire mesh from Monbiot’s favourite animal – sheep.

Some of the trees were struggling, others had given up.

Crossing over the lip of the vomitory I was presented with glacial lake and headwall behind.

By the lake were two unusual shelters. According to Mark Richards these pre-date fellwalkers so must be in excess of 200 years old.

Maybe trolls lived in them. From there it was up the headwall to Nan Bield Pass. When here in July I met two mountain bikers, but I cannot see the point of carrying a heavy bike up such impossible terrain.

The view to Haweswater was fantastic, with first small Water Lake and then looking beyond to Cross Fell, with its hat on.

The view south was to Kentmere and Illbell. In July I kept seeing Painted Ladies at this height.d

Another view looking down to Haweswater, which shows its beauty and grandeur as well as being a text0book view of glaciation.

As I plodded up to Mardale Ill Bell, where I had my lunch , I noticed these small fungi, which were quite common. I could not identify them.

And so to the top of High Street with views all round., looking over to Great Gable and Fairfield and St Sunday Crag in the middle ground,

Hellvelyn, with Striding Edge and Catsty Cam to the north,


and far less dramatically, Great Mell Fell, a midget at 537 metres, which is capped by late Devonian Mell Fell Conglomerate and is about the only showing of Devonian strata in the Lakes. If you prefer Devonian rocks then go to the Brecon Beacons.

and so I hit the Roman Road of High Street. It must have been fun for roman soldiers traversing this in winter. For me it was easy walking without boulders to trip over!

I curved down to Kidsty Pike and looked down another text-book U-shaped valley. some people I met were unaware it was carved by a glacier.

Two sheep and two Americans on Kidsty Pike

For me it was all downhill from then

but there was a long way to go.

Much of the way it was easy grass meaning I descended at a good rate but shortly after this I got to Kidsty Howes, which is rocky and tricky to descend. However I found it easier than two backpackers, who seemed smaller than their packs.

The gradient eased off and it became boggy after leaving the bracken, but I didn’t mind as there were a lot of golden Bog Asphodel going to seed, which must have been a picture some weeks ago. Pretty well all had gone beyond the flowering stage, but not all,

as I found one plant in flower. It was worth paddling in a bog for that one flower.

The bog had a golden tinge now, but this would have been a sheet of yellow. I was now almost down to Haweswater.

But I still had a little climb, when I looked back at my descent from Kidsty

There weren’t many flowers but there were numbers of Hawkweed (or similar) around at this altitude.

Haweswater was full and the bracken and leaves were turning.

Just before wading through Small Water Beck I found some more ice smoothed rock, which may be a poor example of a roche moutonnee.

And a final look back at Kidsty Pike.

That was a great day in perfect sunshine, with fantastic views. If you want to know it was 8 miles(12 km), 720 m (2360ft) of ascent. It took me a leisurely 6 and a bit hours. It was not the most strenuous day, but the beauty and interest were phenomenal. I suppose simple botanising is not conducive to keeping to Naismith’s Rule. Nor is age.

So I drove home noting the glacial on the west side of the M6 south of Tebay.

 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
    from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved

I am not absolutely sure of the last line!!


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