Monday, 16 July 2012

Biggest Isn't Best: Castle Crag

They say that biggest isn't always the best. That the best things come in small packages. Castle Crag is the smallest of the Wainwright's, and at 951feet, it is pretty small. But for what it lacks in height, it makes up for in it's sheer picturesque quality. It also has a couple of surprises to keep you on your toes.

The approach to Castle Crag is possible from a small village located a mile or so south of Derwentwater.  About halfway though the village is a cafe with the path to Castle Crag going up the right side of the cafe. This is initially a Bridleway passing Holmcrag Wood and eventually would lead to Hollows Farm. Before you reach the farm there is a signposted turn to the left for Castle Crag.

The path leads through Scarbrow Wood down to the Derwent River. The river is a nice spot for a quick break. The water is clear and some wildlife can be spotted here on occasion. Amazingly I spotted a small brown bat feeding here, a Pipistrelle I believe, which have been known to feed in the day if needs be. Unfortunately I don't have a camera capable of taking photos of such activity.

From the River you pass through Dalt Wood and across a couple of wooden bridges. As you go up hill from the river there is a turn off to the left, this will take you to the east side of Castle Crag, for the easier access you need to continue straight on up the hill.

The path continues past Low Hows Wood and up to the base of Castle Crag. The base of Castle Crag allows you to see were 'Crag' comes into the name.

You continue a little further up the path and as you look to your left the path leading up the back of Castle Crag comes into view.

Initially the path is a normal stony hillside path, just what you would generally expect. This first stage of the ascent passes a memorial bench and plaque. The plaque is to Sir William Hamer for whom the land surrounding Castle Crag was donated to the nation after his death. The bench is to commemorate his wife Agnes who ensured the land was passed on to the nation. It's a nice spot for a break with a view across the small valley.

From here the path carries on up to small outcropping where the views start to appear.

After around another 30 foot ascent you come to a path that makes you think for a short while. The scree that can be seen on the side of Castle Crag is to all appearances defying gravity and clinging to the hillside. It caused me to take the first few steps tentatively until I realised there is actual soil under the path. It's a very uneasy experience walking up this section of the path, although I did have worse to come later on the descent.

This section of the path leads to another outcropping where someone has taken a liking to stacking piles of slate. To be quite honest, due to the location of many of these piles of slate, especially with sharp spikes pointing upwards, it looked a little dangerous should you fall over. The small path up to the summit is a little tricky if wet, but as long as care is taken there shouldn't be an issue.

The views from the summit, considering Castle Crags lowly height are really great. You can see out over Derwentwater to the north, and what I believe would be Haystacks etc on the opposite side.

The summit is also the home to another memorial, this one dedicated to local men who gave up their lives to fight in the Great War (World War One for those that don't know). The First name is John Hamer, so I imagine he was the father of Sir William Hamer.

The Summit of Castle Crag has as much character as the rest of it. Some trees were screaming out for their photographs taking.

It's nice on the summit for a break, plenty of places to put your posterior while you have a rest.

I decided for my descent that I would go down the east side of Castle Crag. If I thought the stones were defying gravity on the west side, the stones on the east side must have been floating in air. I could feel movement in the slabs as I descended.  I couldn't wait to get onto a normal path.

Once of the scree covered path you come to a normal forest path that works it's way down through High Hows Wood. The Wood is very photogenic and I couldn't resist taking a few.

The path eventually leads down to the Cumbrian Way where I turned left to head north back to Grange. It's worth looking out for a cave at the foot of Castle Crag as you work your way around it's base. The cave had only my footprints in it and it had an atmosphere that sent a shiver down my back. I wouldn't want to go their at night. Following on the path being careful not to deviate left back up the base of Castle Crag leads you back to the Derwent River as seen earlier.

Not a big walk, not a big ascent, but huge on looks for a small hill. Castle Crag.

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