Winter walks are, in the words of Tina Turner, simply the best. Layering up, a flask of boiling hot tea in your thermos and a map snugly sealed in a zip-lock bag you’re ready to hit the trails. With winter, however, it can be extremely windy which can make heading up the hills feel somewhat out of your comfort zone. Don’t get me wrong. I love it when the elements are giving you a Rocky Balboa style battering but it’s not for everyone. Luckily there are many low level, easier routes that can turn your dreary winter day into an adventurous one.
One of my favourites is longish, 10 miles or thereabouts, so be prepared for a proper half day out. Don’t forget the essentials. This is what I would take.
Flask of tea
Spare pair of socks
Map and compass
From Coniston make your way up towards the Coppermine’s and then take a right onto the Ambleside trail. It’s wide underfoot and easy terrain. The path meanders through the forest running along the main road. Cross over the Tilberthwaite road and continue to Shepard’s Bridge where you cross over and take a right. Follow it around and then take a left before you reach the main road again. This is the bit where it can get a bit muddy and wet. Follow the path north running east of Yewdale Tarn (which is great for fishing – that blog post still to come) and back along the main road again.
The next bit can be confusing and I’ve taken the wrong path. It’s not a disaster but if you get it wrong there is an annoying bit where you may land up walking on the main road which isn’t fun. My suggestion is to keep on the path running along the road past the Oxen Fell road (the first road on your left) a few hundred meters later you get to another road to the left. There are often cars parked here and the road sign says Skelwith. Go left and immediately take the right fork. Soon after there is another path to the right heading down through Tongue Intake Plantation. Head down this and then keep right which brings you onto the Little Langdale/Elterwater road. Bear left around the bend and then take the path to the right along the river. This next section is one of my favourites as you meander through rolling hills, with often snow-capped mountains off to your left. Once back in the forest keep left and the path swing back on itself and up the River Brathay. You’ll pass some impressive little waterfalls and when there’s been good rain it’s ferocious. Make sure you keep your inquisitive dog on a lead.
Cross the bridge, turn right and head back down the river towards a carpark where you’ll see a lovely café/shop called Chester’s. This is a brilliant place. The story goes it used to serve meat dishes but got too popular so they decided to become a vegan café to keep some customers away. Ironically, I’d say it’s even more popular now because of it and the food is delicious, and what’s even better is they allow dogs. Once you’re fuelled up, purchased a scented candle and a Herdwick sheep mug, it’s time to head back. The easiest return is the same way you came but if you prefer a slightly longer hillier route, mostly on small back roads (and it’s the route I do if going for a run) you can head along the road up towards Knipe Fold (stopping at the Drunken Duck) and then back down via Hawkshead Hill (or diverting to Tarn Hows) and arriving back in Coniston via north of the lake where, if you fancy it, a winter swim is always in order.
Low-level walks are great. I find they allow your mind to relax more than when you’re trying to conquer an epic summit up high. Meandering buys you more brain-space and who knows what you may end up discovering. The last time I did this walk I began putting together my next children’s novel, something I would not have had the brain-space to do had I been head to head with Rocky halfway up The Old Man.