High Pressure Hills
A perfect day for walking, maybe. High pressure and temperatures of 27°C plus, with a gentle breeze.
The Coniston area was once a mining village and the industrial heritage is still very much on view. We walked from the top of Walna Scar road, passing the imposing crags of The Bell then turning left up to Low Water and The Old Man. Just emerging bracken and spring grass spread deep rich green down to the lake and beyond to Grizedale Forest.
Ahead and left the grey quarry and slate remain from the old mines. The slate projects through the undulating peaks as the trail winds upwards and the debris of recent history remains scattered over the hillside. Steel cables and pylons remain in testimony on how harsh it was to work these mines. The scrap value must surely be quite high. The disused shafts mark the trail amid the cable tendrils.
From the quarry to the peak, slate dominates the ascent but looking back the green unfolded until the Furness sands splashed across the horizon.
The breeze, which had been welcome and slight, as we set off, was strong and gusting as we hit the peak and well built cairn. We ate lunch among the inevitable congregation of walkers as they emerged from various trails.
The plan was to return via Dow crag and Walna Scar Road in an anti-clockwise circuit, but the weather, yes the weather, was against us. As we dropped down Goat Hawse the breeze was developing into storm force. As we crossed the Hawse I regretted emptying the weight out of my backpack. The wind gusted and I was lifted completely off my feet and deposited unceremoniously in a heap, a metre or so to the north. The wind funneled up the valley from the sea with little in the way. Not to be deterred we continued for a couple of hundred metres up towards Dow Crag when another gust lifted me up! Sometimes being small and light does have its disadvantages. After this second tussle with the wind we decided we were not going to be responsible for calling the Mountain Rescue and headed back down the Hawse and Goats Water. Heading straight into the wind. Logic being we would only be blown back into the hill and not off a ridge. What is often a calm tarn sheltered on three sides and turned into an inland sea with white horses racing.
The wind made an easy descent far more challenging and it was not until we were on the flat of the Walna Scar Road that it was possible to hold more than a snatched conversation.
Coniston Old Man is one of the first peaks on the southern edge of the Lake District fells and though the southern winds are bringing us welcome warmth, the hills managed to provide unexpected challenges.
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