Lakeland Delight

2013 - June - 09

The Old Man Ascent On Top Descent Lower Reaches Data : This Walk Data : All Walks Read Me

The Old Man - Past and Present Encounters

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.

From the summit of Coniston's Old Man one can see Lake Coniston stretched out below.

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 parrot in the bus.
(See Attributions below).

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.

In down-town Coniston, this railed slate truck reminded visitors of the slate mining
that once took place hereabouts, especially on the slopes of "The Old Man of Coniston".

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.

The church presides over downtown Coniston and has done so for many a decade.

Slate mining was once an active industry hereabouts, and to remind of this, this slate wagon now has a new lease of life as a high capacity historical flower pot, gracing the outside of a house in downtown Coniston. At one time, copper was also mined locally.

The walk starts as a gentle sunny stroll through verdant undulations and foothills ...

... and takes in the Miners' Bridge on the way.

It's still a gentle rise. The clouds hover in the distance. I remember, in the early 90s ("A long time ago", says he with a croaky voice.) coming down the slope on the far distant left: cross-country and no foot path and rainy and slippery - how proverbially foolish I'd say now.

On the way up there are abandoned slate workings: buildings left to nature, draped with old steel cables left to nature and, embedded in the slatey ground, wagon rails left to nature. And just before, on this web page, you saw a picture of one such wagon now gracing the outside of a house in downtown Coniston.

I don't know how deep "Low Water" is, but it must make a refreshing sight for those rising to higher things in a scorcher - err - heat wave.

On Top

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!

On top it looks like a take off point for hand gliders - over the edge?

The summit, the final scramble and Lake Coniston, all rolled into one.

There's some room up here to stand or sit and admire the view.

It's that scramble again.

To the right is the "pile of stones" - or is it "cairn"? - that marks the summit. To the left is the OS trig point that marks 1930s map making.

By the trig point one gets that edgy feel.

This picture is not God's artistic gift to the universe, but it does show the path leading north (towards the viewer) from the summit.


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.

On the way down, a cairn and Goat's Water eerily beckon in the afternoon haze.

Closer still, ...

... and closer, the hiker gets to Goat's Water.

This is looking back to Goat's Water. which is just around the bend to the right, ...

... and this is looking forward to the lower reaches of the Old Man of Coniston.

Wide open spaces - the "Great Outdoors" strikes again!

The Lower Reaches

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.

Coming down to Coniston, the sun starts to shine in earnest. The hill that takes centre stage here, actually kneels in supplication to the Old Man.

The Old Man presides over the area - he is the boss.

Going down to Coniston is all green and light.

Here we are looking into the valley a tad north of Coniston.

The hills are alive with sunshine and greenery.

Coniston, "The "Crown" and the homeward journey all beckon.

Features of the Walk

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.

This was an anti-clockwise "circular" walk of about 6.7 miles (10.8 Km).

I tackled the steeper half of the walk first, but of course, the walk in reverse makes the climb somewhat gentler. Once again (in line with the previous general observation on these pages), the peak - as measured by plotting the actual path - is slightly less than the value of 803 metres which is given on the OS map.


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®.