This walk takes us onto the ridge of fells that sit between the quiet valleys of Aiken Beck and Wythop. This ridge runs from Barf overlooking Bassenthwaite all the way into the Vale of Lorton, but on this walk we visit the highest part of the ridge, from Lord's Seat in the east to Graystones in the west. It also takes us along the valley of Aiken Beck, a surprising quiet area this close to the bustle of Whinlatter. This is a rather unusual walk in that most of the climbing is done on the forest track, at a relatively gentle gradient - of the 1,200ft of ascent between the start of the walk and the summit of Lord's Seat we climb 1,000ft on the forest track and only the final 200ft on footpaths!
This is one of those ridge walks that takes us between two totally different viewpoints. From Lord's Seat we look east to Skiddaw and Bassenthwaite while from Graystones the view is of the Vale of Lorton and the approaches to Loweswater and Buttermere.
If you don't want to end the walk with a steep descent then it can be done in reverse, but this does mean that it ends with a long return trip down the forest track. Personally I prefer to stay at high altitude until as close to the end of a walk as possible, and to do the less interesting section first, so prefer it this way round.
Length: 5.9 miles
Map: Lakes North West
Last Walked: August 2015
There are two possible starting points for this walk. The first is the Forestry Commission car park at NY 181 255, on the track to Darling How. This has the most space, but means that the walk ends with a climb. If you park here start at Step 1.
The second is the small lay by at NY 176 257, by the abandoned quarry at Scawgill Bridge. In this case the walk starts with the climb, but there is less space here. If you park here start at Step 9.
1: NY 181 255
A Forest Track takes us almost all of the way from the parking area to the top of Lord's Seat, leaving only a 200 foot climb at the end. Follow the forest track as it runs away from the road towards the farm at Darling How. Most of the side tracks branch off at ninety degrees or join the track from behind. All of these can be ignored, and instead follow the main track as it runs up the valley of Aiken Beck.
2: NY 192 260
A first glance at the map would suggest that this is a complex area of forest tracks, but on the ground most have been allowed to decay over the years, and the majority of junctions obviously go in the wrong direction. This is the only junction where a mistake might easily be made. Our track runs close to the stream, with forestry land to the right and open land to the left. Just after this open land ends there is a crossroads in the tracks, with two branches ahead of us and one coming in from behind and to the right. Take the right hand of the two tracks ahead of us, which begins to climb gently away from Aiken Beck.
3: NY 205 259
We now follow this track as it runs all the way around Aiken, one of the spurs coming off Lord's Seat. Once again the few track junctions we pass are obviously wrong - keep heading straight ahead, following the track as it curves gently to the left and climbs into the valley between Aiken and Ullister. Eventually we reach a point where the track splits - the main forestry track curves sharply to the right to head around Ullister Hill, while a smaller track continues on up this valley, with the start indicated by a sizable wooden marker post. Take this side branch and follow it to the edge of the woods.
4: NY 207 263
At the edge of the forest the track gets rather muddy. Follow this muddy track out of the woods and onto the open fellside. After a fairly short distance our muddy track reaches a much better dry footpath. Turn left onto this path and follow it as it climbs up the southern slopes of the summit pyramid of Lord's Seat.
5: NY 204 265
Three paths leave the summit area - the right and centre path both head off towards Barf, while our route takes the left-hand path, which continues on in roughly the same direction as the path from the forestry. Follow this path as it drops off the north-western corner of the summit, and then heads across Todd Fell to approach Broom Fell
6: NY 195 270
The path climbs up the eastern side of the summit area of Broom fell and makes for the impressive cairn and stone seat. It then continues directly on across the fell, dropping down onto another grassy ridge that curves around to the left and heads towards a forested valley. At the end of this ridge the path turns to the right and drops down the western slopes of the ridge to reach Widow Hause. Here it runs just to the right of the forest fence, with good open views to the right and the trees to the left.
7: NY 179 268
After crossing Widow Hause the path crosses a broken down stone wall. Here things have changed since Wainwright's day, when he advised staying to the right of the fence line. There is now a stile that takes us across the fence and into a field on the eastern side of the Graystones summit area (on my visit there was an outer fence that needed crossing to reach the stile, but this was fairly easy to cross). On the far side of the stile a steep path climbs up the left-hand side of the fence, initially heading in the same general direction as the Widow Hause section of the path. When the fence line turns away to the right, the path heads off to the left and cuts across a corner of this field to reach another broken down stone wall. Cross this wall to reach the summit itself.
8: NY 176 266
From the summit a path heads almost due south running alongside the stone wall. Follow this path as it drops rapidly down the south slopes of Graystones. There are moments when it looks as if the path is going to become rather alarming, but it never quite does. Towards the base of the hill the path turns away from the wall and makes its way through some of the spoil heaps from the old quarry, before eventually reaching the footpath to Spout Force. If you started at Step Nine turn right to return to the parking area by the quarry.
9: NY 178 257
If you started at Step One then turn left onto this footpath and follow it to the Spout Force viewing platform, noting the footbridge over the stream. After viewing the falls head back to the footbridge, cross over, and follow the overgrown but intact path that climbs up the opposite side of the valley. At the top of the climb this emerges into a field - turn left and follow the path around the edge of this field and then across a narrow band of forestry before reaching the forest track just above the parking area.
If you are starting at Step Nine take the footpath that leaves the road and runs alongside the beck, with the quarry workings to the left. Note the bridge, visit Spout Force, cross the bridge, take the overgrown path. When this path emerges onto the forest track turn left onto the track and go to Step One.