Cat Bells, Maiden Moor and High Spy

A Scenic Walk in Borrowdale.

pic Climbing out of Portinscale in the early hours of Friday morning following the track which will take us along the western shore of Derwentwater and up onto Cat Bells, Maiden Moor and High Spy high above the Borrowdale valley, we are looking forward to a good days walking and hoping the mist clears to enable us to see where we are going (and where we’ve been). As we gain height the views looking back through the gloom towards Keswick and Bassenthwaite and to our left over Derwentwater look quite promising, infinitely better than the view ahead which indicates a long hard uphill slog. Gradually the mist clears and gives way to bright sunshine, we start to be overtaken by other walkers who seem to be able to cope with the exertion better than we can, we make ever more frequent stops supposedly to admire the scenery but really to take a desperately needed breather.
     We sit down for a drink and a Mars bar just below the summit of Cat Bells and before long we are exchanging notes with fellow walkers and admiring the landscape, imagining the contrast between the scene below and the dark stories related in the Herries books of Hugh Walpole, set around Borrowdale, in particular Watendlath, Rosthwaite and Seatoller. Looking across over Grange in Borrowdale to Watendlath on the other side of the valley, although we can’t see the tarn we imagine the scene still a magnet for local artists who set up their easels amongst the sheep and occasional cow. Our companions tell us their life stories about where they’ve been and where they’re going, the highlights illuminated with graphic details of injuries and dramatic rescues. It turns out the gentleman was having kidney problems and spent the whole of the previous day on dialysis, they were taking the opportunity to enjoy one of their favourite walks between treatments. On reaching the summit they start to descend, every now and then we turn to wave as we continue our travels with renewed spring in our step, a little more humility and a better appreciation of the world. Somehow the path ahead onto Maiden Moor and High Spy looks less steep and we soon achieve our objective. Far from being easy the return journey descending to the right onto the upper slopes of the Newlands valley turned out to be quite a challenge, mainly due to the indistinct footpath and our readiness to confuse it with sheep trails, compensation however comes in the form of a break at the foot of a magnificent waterfall, the kind for which the Borrowdale area is quite famous. Managing eventually to reach the valley floor without alerting the mountain rescue we follow the river and a nice broad bridleway back to Portinscale where it takes us exactly thirty seconds to conclude we'll have to find a scruffy eating place in keeping with our dishevelled appearance – Ah well we’ll have to give the White Horse a miss and get a takeaway.

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PALFREYMAN - 12TH AUGUST 2004