THE OLD MAN
2013 - June - 09
|The Old Man Ascent On Top Descent Lower Reaches Data : This Walk Data : All Walks Read Me|
I had last climbed the Old Man of Coniston in the early 90s. Then it was February and there was a light sprinkling of snow as I approached the higher ground. On top, the wind was so strong that I could literally lean into it at about 60° to the ground without falling over.
Today was, weatherwise, a much milder affair. Getting to Coniston from Ambleside was an easy 38 minute bus ride through the verdant foothills of the Lakeland mountains, via Hawkshead of Beatrix Potter fame. Coniston itself has, of course, strong Ruskin connections, nearby Brantwood being his erstwhile Lakeland home.
The journey to Coniston was not without incident however. Suddenly on the bus there was a series of repeated squeals. The bus driver thought that there was something amiss with his vehicle and asked his passengers if they had noticed anything that might identify the source of the sound. Investigations ultimately focused on a covered something which a middle-aged couple seated near the front of the bus was carrying. On removal of the cover, the something turned out to be a cage, and the cage contained a little, but vociferous, grey parrot. The squeals continued all the way into Coniston, but at least their source had been identified, and added a special light hearted note to what was already a pleasant journey.
The path heading up to the Old Man of Coniston was steeper than the descent - but no matter, slowness was the order of the day. This also enabled me to savour to the full the atmosphere of the mountains. After a sunny start down in Coniston and up by the Miners' Bridge, clouds started to appear, hanging, indeed sagging, over the hills and mountains to the north. Would lack of visibilty put paid to my planned endeavours of the day?
No worry. The clouds kept a respectable distance and visibility stayed clear. The way up took in some abandoned slate workings and Low Water - a picturesque but actually a reasonably high level mountain lake. The ascent ended with a steep scramble - the final push - up to the summit of the Old Man. On the summit there was some haze and a few - only a very few - drops of rain. Lake Coniston was laid out in all its elongated glory. The depth (Lake Windermere is comparatively shallow in comparison) and the length of Lake Coniston are what probably suggested to Sir Donald Campbell that it was here that he should attempt the water speed record. His remains, and the remains of his boat, were found several years ago, and at the time produced quite a sensation in the national news media.
The path from the summit of the Old Man leads north at a high level, and eventually connects with the Mickleden Beck and Old Dungeon Ghyll, but I was not equipped for such an enterprise today. I took the more gently graded descent via the dramatically situated Goat's Water and on via the site of the old Coniston Station to downtown Coniston.
After a comfortable and unhurried half in "The Crown" (I had to watch my alcohol - medication you know), it was time for the return journey. Also waiting for the bus was a middle-aged Japanese couple, who were busily photographing anything and everything. Grist to the mill, for our visitors from the "Land of the Rising Sun", was a guy who had a special arrangement, activated by his better half, for getting himself and his four-wheel motor "scooter", into the back of their minibus - they had just been walking, or "scootering", their dogs. So you see, life is full of interesting snippets. I wonder what our Far Eastern visitors were going to do on their return to Japan with what probably must have been an ultra-rich European pixel harvest. Anyway, after another pleasant bus journey, I rounded off the day with an evening meal in Ambleside's "White Lion" (which establishment served meals earlier than its competitor "The Unicorn").
On the ascent, the concern about the looming clouds gradually evaporated. Recent relics of the slate mining industry and more distant relics of (possibly) glacial activity - in the shape of the not so low "Low Water" - characterised the ascent. The path was steep but doable, as was the final scramble to the summit.
Tthe summit was quite compact - like a pulpit jutting out into the landscape of southern Lakeland. Lots of slate, noisy under foot, like gravel. The views were good and the weather was reasonably behaved. Well worth the climb!
While a high level path continues north from the summit, eventually to reach Old Dungeon Ghyll, the descent back to Coniston was on today's agenda. A mountain tarn (Goat's Water), scree and lots and lots of slate characterised this gentler part of the walk.
The austere feel of the mountains was replaced by the gentler feel of the verdant foothills and pastures. The sun shone with greater vigour. Thoughts of returning to Ambleside after an enjoyable day were now on the agenda.
This walk is a nice microcosm of Lakeland. Although Lakeland scenery is certainly varied, if individuals wish to "savour the flavour" of Lakeland and have only one full day at their disposal, then the Old Man of Coniston could certainly feature on their respective itineraries. It's not even necessary to rush up the mountain like a bullet.
On this page, the pictures of the bus and the parrot are both from the Microsoft® PowerPoint® Clip Art Libraries originally supplied with versions of MS_Office®.