The Greenburn Round

FOUR Wainwright circular walk: Helm Crag, Gibson Knott, Calf Crag and Steel Fell.

Walk Rating:⭐⭐

Time: 4 - 5 hours 

Parking: arrive early for the free places available on the main road above Grasmere, or pay to park in the village itself. Alternatively, travel to the start of the walk by bus. 

Greenburn Bottom from Stone Arthur

Helm Crag and Steel Fell are both easily recognised fells for anyone used to travelling on the main road over Dunmail Raise. However, the round of fells that links them, around the Greenburn valley, is not as well known. It's a walk that's definitely worth doing although, if time is short, a walk up Helm Crag alone (or 'the Lion and the Lamb' as it is also known, from the silhouettes of its summit rocks as seen from Grasmere) is always worth making time for.

Wainwright recommends doing the round 'anticlockwise', finishing with Helm Crag, but I prefer to walk the other way around, leaving the less interesting return from the bottom of Steel Fell as a gentle walk back for the end of the day.

Strava estimates a walking distance of around 13km

1. From the centre of Grasmere, walk out of the village along the Easedale Road. If you have parked on the main A591 road, rather than walking all the way into the start of Grasmere, take a pleasant shortcut to this road on the footpath through the woods of Butharlyp Howe. 

Leave Grasmere along the Easedale Road

2. The road bends to the right at the entrance to the driveway leading to the Lancrigg hotel. Follow the road onwards, across the sheep pasture, until you reach the houses beyond. Now head right, up the bridleway, signposted to Helm Crag. You will soon reach a gate, near to an interesting carved tree stump. Go through the gate, turn left along the old road, then soon after take a track to the right, as directed by another sign.

Follow the road across the sheep pasture

3. As you reach the foot of Helm Crag, don't head off too far to your right towards Lancrigg, but look for the well-constructed new path to the left that ascends the fell on a route that is easy to follow. It climbs straight up alongside a wall then turns to the left, opening onto a terrace that gives views out towards Tarn Crag.

Walking up Helm Crag in the snow

4. The path turns up to the right to climb more gently up the grassy slope, then left, a little more steeply, up to the rocks at the top of the fell (1329').

Looking back to Grasmere as you climb to the top 

5. The summit area is full of interest, with rocky hollows and stone shapes jutting upwards whose silhouettes have earned then a range of nicknames. For walkers at close quarters to the rocks, the easiest shape to find is the protruding 'Howitzer', standing tall at the north-west end of the summit ridge.

The 'Howitzer' in the snow

... and in the sunshine

6. After exploring the summit area, continue northwards along the path that now goes down to the aptly named "Bracken Hause". For walkers only wanting to climb Helm Crag, a path zig-zags down through the bracken to the right, from which you can return to Grasmere. For the Greenburn round, continue across the hause and ascend the ridge on the other side.

Looking across to Blea Rigg and Easedale Tarn

7. The path winds between rocky outcrops as it makes its way along the ridge that stands between Far Easedale and Greenburn Bottom. The highest point, Gibson Knott (1379'), is reached fairly soon after Bracken Hause, although there isn't a lot to choose between the various lumps and bumps along the ridge.

Continue along the ridge towards Calf Crag

8. The path continues along the ridge, overlooking Easedale rather than Greenburn, skirting underneath the rise of Pike of Carrs. Then, roughly two miles from Bracken Hause, it climbs to the summit of Calf Crag (1762'). Beyond, you will see the ridge of Greenup Edge, the pass between High Raise and Ullscarf that is used by the coast-to-coast route to link Grasmere with Borrowdale.

Looking down on Calf Crag from Greenup Edge

Greenup Edge from the summit of Calf Crag

9. Now continue onwards a short distance to descend from the top of Calf Crag, but then head right, to the north-east, to make your way across the flat marshy ground at the head of the Greenburn valley. Although there is an old fence to guide your way, your boots will remain drier if you walk a little to the right of it at first. Continue following the fence line in the direction of a large tarn ahead of you.

Helvellyn seen beyond the large tarn on the ridge

10. After the tarns, the path becomes clearer as it makes its way around the northern side of Greenburn Bottom and starts to rise towards Steel Fell.

Looking across the Wythburn valley towards Ullscarf

11. The path meets a newer fence and follows it to the summit cairns of Steel Fell (1811'). You can look down (and hear the traffic) on Dunmail Raise below you and look north over Thirlmere. 

On the summit of Steel Fell

12. The circular route is now completed by walking down the long south-east ridge back towards Grasmere. You will see the summit rocks of Helm Crag silhouetted against the skyline in front of you.

Returning to Grasmere via the south-east ridge

13. The path comes out onto a road and you continue downhill to Ghyll Foot. You can continue all the way to Grasmere along a minor road but, for variation, when you reach Low Mill Bridge, take the road on the left over the river, and then immediately find the footpath on the right that crosses the field until it reaches the main A591 road by the 'Traveller's Rest'. From here you can find your car, or the bus stop.

Helm Crag as you cross the field to the 'Traveller's Rest'

Worth knowing: If you want to explore the top of Helm Crag properly, then it's definitely worth taking a copy of the Wainwright Guide to the Central Fells with you. It contains three pages of information about the rocks of the summit ridge and the surrounding area.

The northern end of Helm Crag's summit ridge

Wainwright's diagrams explain which rocks make up the "Lion and the Lamb" and which form "The Old Woman Playing The Organ". The Guide also provides directions for anyone wanting to safely explore the depression under the ridge.

The "Lion and the Lamb" as seen from Grasmere

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