Travelling North-westerly from the Southern Lakes along the A591, described as the most beautiful drive in all England, en-route to Keswick and the Northern fells, climbing Dunmail Raise from the pretty village of Grasmere, beneath the mighty Helvellyn, twisting by the monstrous Thirlmere, you reach the heights of Castlerigg with the splendid views of the Northern Fells before you as you plummet towards the town of Keswick above the shores of Derwent Water. Before you the Mighty Skiddaw massif, to the left the peaks of Newland and Borrowdale and to the right the mysterious buttresses of Blencathra, curled like an ancient sleeping Behemoth. How easy to overlook those minor volcanic outbursts that are so dwarfed by the larger fells.
Replete with crags, scree, indeterminate peaks and depressions, tarns, bogs and pastures, High Rigg is like the Lakeland in miniature. It is a fell I have overlooked for many years, in both senses of the word. The view from the studio guest house I stay at when I visit the area is of the Naddle Valley defined by High Rigg. But I too, have overlooked this and neglected it for the surrounding larger fells for over 8 years. The peak can be reached in a short 20-minute walk from the church of St John’s, or you can traverse the three-mile ridge returning either the way you came, taking time to explore all the various depressions and peaks of this craggy mass, or descend into St John’s vale and walk around the base of the fell.
After a couple of really fine days, the morning sky filled with clouds, the temperature dropped and the winds got up. The forecast for later in the day was for rain, so only time for a short walk. With these constraints in mind, and the start of the ascent only three fields away, High Rigg seemed an obvious choice. I decided to leave Heidi and the buggy behind and to make rare excursion into the wilds with Max.
Roughly following a public footpath from the A591 towards the northerly base of the ridge where lies the Church of St John, you cross two streams, step over one walled stile and through a kissing gate to reach a farm road. You can choose any way up to the fell but we made a little detour along the road, past the Carlisle Diocesan Youth Centre to walk round the Grade 11 listed building.
With a glance towards Low Rigg and the path to Tewet Tarn, we turned toward High Rigg to decide on where to begin out descent. I was joined on my walk by my friend Stefan and Bill, his four-legged companion. Bill, still a puppy, tried pouncing on Max to entice him to play while Max, good-naturedly, ignored him.
At times we hit upon a clear and obvious path, but for the most part we casually explored the ridges, bumps and depressions of the fell, skirting round icy bogs and stopping frequently to admire the views of the distant fells and lakes opening up before us. The wind was fresh and feisty at times and having spent as long as we wished at the end of the ridge, we decided to turn round and return along the ridge.
Finding our way home was a piece of cake. We just followed Bill. He was clearly keen to get back and shot off ahead of us. Whether he was missing Amanda, the warmth of the studio or the dinner that would be waiting for him, we can only guess, But he had an unswerving nose for the return route. He even invented a short cut across a steeper incline that we had circumvented on the way up!