An easy 2.7 mile (4.4 kilometre) walk up Hallin Fell (a Wainwright, 388m height) and round the shore of Ullswater. February, cloudy. With son and noisy dog.
It is Sunday which popular opinion tells me is a day of rest, a day for rest and reflection. I wouldn’t know, I’m usually working. Something far less aggressive was required, by way of restoring my battered confidence: a micro mountain, a mini fell. Near the bottom of the Wainwrights-by-height list perches Hallin Fell at 388 metres, one of the Far Eastern Fells down the road from me in Patterdale. Yes, that’ll do. As it sits on the shore of Ullswater I can also do a bit of reflecting in it. Well, I dare say the dog will.
It is necessary for us to drive to the start, which due to the idiosyncrasies of Lakeland topography involves a 16 mile drive to cover a distance of around 4 miles. But it is a very beautiful 16 miles which takes us round Ullswater, past Aira Force waterfall, round the precipitous zig zag road into Martindale and the church of St. Peter.
This is a popular spot and the parking spaces fill up quickly. We pile out and cross the road to start climbing the fell, and let me tell you, no matter how busy or popular it is, on a lazy Sunday it’s a pleasure to walk up a fell that almost certainly won’t kill you, whatever your level of fitness.
Even from just a few metres up, it’s plain to see this wedge of the lakes is absolutely gorgeous and I’m already deeply in love with it. I’m even happy to share it with everyone else walking up. It’s a genuine pleasure to see a complete mix of people, rather than the often seen hiking gear-bedecked white folks that proliferate round these parts, myself included. I don’t know what’s up with the dog though, he will not be quiet. I don’t know if it’s the joy of being alive, the smell of so many picnics, or the fact that one of us has gone in the opposite direction to a different path.
You shouldn’t rush a walk like this, there are too many views to admire as the world opens up, a fell at a time, as you ascend. As we steadily climb the far fells have a dust of snow on the top. These things need to be chewed over and savoured. As I approach the top with its huge imposing cairn, lovely son and Shovell are already seated and admiring the view.
Down below in perfect calm is Ullswater, nickel grey reflecting the clouds above. We add the fell to peak bagger, with the usual disagreement about whether Shovell constitutes a pack animal, since he never actually carries anything I insist he is not. Son adds him anyway as he’s part of our pack.
Hula hoops eaten we descend the other side. It’s far, far steeper so we take our time. There’s a path which leads to a promontory for a decent photo op over Ullswater, there are people canoeing and we are envious, then down again.
We come back down to earth and soon reach the lake side, one of us gets in it, one of us stops to tie his shoelaces and I realise this circumnavigation will take much longer than the 40 minutes I had estimated. Much longer but who is counting (our lift back is, back at the start). Along the bank is a mixture of vivid mossy green woodland and little rocky beaches. A really fabulous spot for the picnic which we didn’t bring.
It’s not busy down here, we pass a handful of people but it seems very few come over the top which I find baffling. It’s a short enough walk, although it takes longer than you imagine. Some of the path is rocky, some is made up of gnarly tree roots. If you walk on the shingle some of it is shingle. It’s one of those paths, hard to get your stride on but full of variety. And so lovely to be beside the water, February’s bare branches giving a great view. Every season has its particular pleasures. There’s a particularly nobbly tree which I hope one day will become spalted wooden spoons.
We pass round the lake and eventually head back part way up the fell, through some trees and over fellside which is dotted with Herdwick sheep and back to the church. These tough grey chunkers are native to the Lake District and have lovely faces. They can withstand whatever the weather brings, they have even been known to survive under snow for days eating their own wool. I’d like to say my exposure to Lakeland terrain has made me tough as old boots but after this little walk I’m knackered again. I’m going to need something considerably more nutritious than snow and wool, I’m thinking longingly of the tea shop on the other side of the lake that we will pass on the way home.
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More walks in this area
This easy walk can be followed from St Peter’s Church at Martindale. My GPX is here. I would also suggest visiting the old church, St Martins, futher along the valley which has an ancient yew. There are several eateries along the shore of Ullswater and in the towns of Pooley Bridge and Glenridding. National Trust Aira Force waterfall is also on that side of the lake.
For a traditional paper map you will need Ordnance Survey OL5.
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