St John's in the Vale

Nine Cumbria LDWA regulars (Allan, Andy, Chris, Helen, Louise, Martyn, Neil, Pat and Trish) turned up in the parking area opposite High Row (Grid Reference NY 380219) for a pleasant walk around Matterdale in good dry conditions. The route was interesting in that it did not include any summits!


The walk started with an 8 km stroll along the Old Coach Road with Blencathra and Skiddaw, to the north, obscured by mist. It might be assumed that this was the track along which the Penrith to Whitehaven coach used to run. There is, however, no authenticated evidence or legend to suggest it was a coach road at all, and that the road probably had its origins as a peat track in the days when commoners had the right to dig fuel on the fell. Also between Penrith and Keswick there is one sizable settlement - the village of Threlkeld. This would have been a handy staging post on the coach route, one would assume. However, the Old Coach Road passes the village 1.5 km to the south and at a height of 300 metres on the fell. Indeed High Row, the starting point of the walk, is at a height of 418 metres. That would require a lot of effort for horses pulling a stagecoach!


The walk then continued over Wanthwaite Bridge and into St John’s in the Vale with a welcome stop next to the beck. The route then followed south down the valley past Sosgill Bridge and Low Bridge End Farm, below Wren Crag and onto Stanah and a significant cardiovascular stretch rising from 200 metres at the hamlet to 750 metres at Sticks Pass. The temperature had dropped significantly! The group carried on down Sticks Gill to seek refuge in a small gully and have a well-deserved lunch. It was then down to the disused quarries and the Glencoyne balcony path below Glencoyne Head. The sun came out and the view of Ullswater was magnificent. A left turn was taken then down to Dowthwaitehead and back to High Row on the road.


A splendid day out enjoyed by all involved. The vital statistics were 23.6 km (14.7 miles), 1,027 metres (3,370 feet) of ascent and a total time of just under seven hours.