Along the High Street

SEVEN Wainwright walk - with a return by bus: Thornthwaite Crag, High Street, Rampsgill Head, High Raise (High Street), Wether Hill, Loadpot Hill, Arthur's Pike 

Walk Rating:⭐⭐⭐

Time: 6 - 7 hours (then return by bus)

Parking: roadside by the entrance to the Limefitt Holiday Park (free)

High Street under a rainbow (October 2021)

The old trail running across the aptly named 'High Street', labelled 'Roman Road' on the Ordnance Survey maps, allows a hiker to retrace ancient footsteps right across the tops of the Far Eastern fells. It's a long walk, but over mainly easy gradients, and, when they are operating over the Honister Pass in the summer, a return by bus allows a satisfying day's circuit to be completed.

The exact history of the 'High Street' is a matter for some archaeological debate. The steepness of the route climbing out of the Troutbeck valley is one of the doubts that has been raised about whether this section of the trail is really where Roman legions would have marched. However, there certainly were Roman camps outside both today's Ambleside (Galava) and Penrith (Brocavum), and it is, by any account, a route that goes far back into Cumbrian history and is still here to be enjoyed in the twenty-first century.

Strava estimates a walking distance of around 27km

1. The hike starts, rather oddly, heading through the middle of the Limefitt Holiday Park to the start of the trail above the park's 'Haybarn Inn'. (See photo on the route described for 'Troutbeck Tongue')' After taking the site's road over the Trout Beck and up to the top of the holiday park, start the trail on the clear path going left behind the pub. Ignore the track going south, off to the right, and carry on north along the track. At a rise in the path, the ridge of hills that the route is going to climb is laid out before you at the head of the valley ahead. 

Looking north on the track from Limefitt 

2. Continue along the obvious track, past a farm, across a ford by an old barn across a stream joining from the right, and on past a wooded ravine to your left. Soon after the wood, you reach a gate in a stone wall. You can either continue on straight up the valley or head down left, back through the wall, and down to the small footbridge (this is also the way to go if you are heading up Troutbeck Tongue). Either way, you will need to join the compacted road heading on up the valley on the far side of the Hagg Gill. Troutbeck Tongue, the low fell that rises in the middle of the valley floor, will be up to your left.

The road heads up the valley under Troutbeck Tongue

3. The road turns into more of a path through the grass. Head across towards where the gill is coming down from the fells. The path heads close to the side of the stream, then up to a gate in the stone wall. The route now takes the steepest part of the hike, following the path up to the left of the gully coming down from the top of Froswick, then slanting upwards along the grassy grooves of 'Scot Rake'. 

The route heads to the top left along 'Scot Rake'

The route can be seen from the road to Kirkstone

4. There are good views back behind you down over Troutbeck Tongue and ahead towards Thresthwaite Mouth, the col at the top of the Troutbeck valley. If you are lucky, you may spot some deer, certainly some Herdwicks!

Looking back over Troutbeck Tongue

Deer crossing the route up to the ridge

5. As you head up the the right across the grass, and then around left towards Thornthwaite Crag, the tops of Froswick and Ill Bell appear along the ridge that comes into sight to the south. 

The tops of Froswick and Ill Bell to the south

The old path stands out in the snow when climbed in the winter

6. As you reach the ridge, and can now see down into the Kentmere valley, head left along the main path going round the Kentmere horseshoe. The path heads up the rise in front of you. You can cut off the corner and head along a path north-east, directly towards High Street, but its worth heading up the rise to grab a snack under the tall column at the summit of Thornthwaite Crag. 

Thornthwaite Crag in the summer sun ...

... and in the winter snow

7. If you decide that the weather, or your legs, aren't up to walking all the way to Pooley Bridge, here is your chance to choose a shorter circuit. From the column at Thornthwaite Crag, follow the wall down to a rather worn path heading steeply down into Threshwaite Mouth. From there you can head down left and return via the marshy Troutbeck valley.

The Troutbeck valley from Threshwaite Mouth

8. If you are continuing onwards, head on towards a track heading across the col towards the curve of High Street rising in front of you. This part of the route looks perhaps more like an ancient hilltop road than anywhere else you will walk.

The old road on the col above Hayeswater

9. The track takes you around the valley to the north, with Hayeswater below. If you want to visit the top of High Street itself (2718'), head up to the right to its summit. There's a triangulation column at the top but, otherwise, just a stone wall running along the grassy crest once used for racing horses at shepherds' fairs.

At the top of High Street

10. Otherwise, the road skirts beneath the summit and down to the narrow col ahead that's memorably named the 'Straits of Riggindale'. 

Skirting the summit towards the Straits of Riggindale

11. Go down and across the Straits of Riggindale and then up right, across the head of the Riggindale valley descending to Haweswater below to the east. 

Looking back at the paths from High Street to the Straits

Looking down Riggindale to Haweswater

12. It's worth heading up to the left, to the cairns at the top of Rampsgill Head, to take in the excellent views down into Martindale. The ridge that you will soon be walking along stretches into the distance on the east side of the valley.

Martindale from Rampsgill Head

On the way to High Raise, looking towards Helvellyn

13. Continue down and then up the grassy slopes that takes you to the stony summit of High Raise. Wainwright's Walking Guide to the Far Eastern Fells gives a diagram of the peaks that can be seen on the horizon from all four sides of the compass from its top.

On the summit of (this) High Raise

14. From here, the next section of the old 'High Street' is a long, and not particularly interesting, walk along the grassy ridge northwards. You'll pass to the right of the rise marked as 'Red Crag' then over the top of Wether Hill. Though recorded for posterity by Wainwright as one of his 214 peaks, it's hard to judge where this 'summit' actually is, as it's just a slightly higher mound on the ridge as you continue north.

On the way down from High Raise

Striding on across Wether Hill

15. The next hilltop, Loadpot Hill, is a more pronounced rise, with a triangulation column at its top to leave no doubt that you are at the highest point. You may also spot an old parish boundary stone to the side of the path as you approach the top from the south-east. I can't promise there'll also be the herd of fell ponies that I met there on one of my visits, but look out for them grazing somewhere along the ridge.

A boundary stone - looking back to Wether Hill

On Loadpot Hill

16. From Loadpot Hill, a more northerly path heads towards Bonscale Pike. The old Roman Road heads north-east down across the grass, in the direction of Arthur's Pike. The gully cut by Swarthbeck Gill goes down to Ullswater between these two fells. The old road heads on to the south of Arthur's Pike, parallel to Ullswater, in the direction of distant Penrith. But, to take in the good views at the top of this last 'Wainwright' on the hike, veer leftwards in the direction of Pooley Bridge towards a small rise. Here you will find the summit cairn of Arthur's Pike. 

On the top of Arthur's Pike

17. For the best views, take a short walk across the grass towards the lake to reach a beacon with excellent views over Ullswater.

From the beacon overlooking Ullswater

18. From the beacon, a path skirts along the top of the escarpment to meet a track coming up from Howtown to the left. Cross a stream and carry on towards 'The Cockpit', a stone circle positioned where the earlier track, following the route of the 'High Street', comes down from the higher ground towards Loadpot Hill. Turn left and walk on towards a junction of paths ahead. Leave the route of the old Roman Road and turn left down the stony track towards Pooley Bridge. It becomes a tarmac road leading to the centre of the village. You'll find the bus shelter opposite the shops and Crown Inn, near the new bridge over the River Eamont that was rebuilt after it was brought down during Storm Desmond in 2015. 

Time for a drink before you head back on the bus?

... or even a paddle?!

(If you've checked the bus timetable before starting the walk, you'll hopefully know what time you are aiming for but, in Summer 2021, the 508 bus back over the Kirkstone Pass towards Windermere left at 1550 and 1750).

Worth knowing: The top of High Street is named on the OS map as 'Racecourse Hill'. This dates back to the Mardale Shepherds' Meets organised as summer fairs, in part to sort stray sheep, but also to enjoy food, beer and sports like wrestling and horse racing. They lasted for several days.

The last fair on High Street apparently took place in 1835. The Shepherds' Meets continued down in Mardale itself, gathering at the Dun Bull Inn. Over 700 people are recorded as having attended the 1927 Meet. That village itself disappeared under the waters of the Haweswater reservoir when the dam was completed in the 1930s.

High Street rising behind Haweswater

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