A straightforward 5.3 miles (8.5 kilometres) from Hartsop to Hayeswater and up The Knott (739 metres, Wainwright). February, sunny. With son and dog.
From my front door there’s a footpath into the valley to Hayeswater, one of the smaller waters in the Lake District. It’s one of the reasons I chose this cottage, there’s nothing quite like having a footpath right on ones doorstep which leads to a special spot that can only be reached on foot. It’s a beautiful February day, the sun is shining and the air is crisp with cold. I wouldn’t wish it otherwise. I’m off for a walk.
The path leads out of the village through rolling farmland with long abandoned dry stone walls. As it rises up to Hayeswater Gill the fells become steep and imposing, Brock Crags and Prison Crag on one side, Gray Crag on the other. The names are evocative of harshness and unyielding rock but even in shadow they are covered in a warm mustard yellow fuzz and when the sun shines they are like old gold.
It’s a straightforward trek past a series of tiny waterfalls. The path leads steadily upwards crossing the noisy cascading beck in the shadow of Gray Crag, until we eventually reach the footbridge just by Hayeswater.
At one time Hayeswater was a reservoir for the town of Penrith, but in 2014 it was restored to a mountain tarn and the infrastructure and dam were removed. It’s much too cold to swim today, (it’s almost always too cold for me to swim) and it’s here we split company, one of us sits in the sunshine on a hidden little beach with Shovell, lovely son and I prepare to hike up the imposing fell above us, The Knott.
The OS map shows us a dog-leg path up but there’s clearly a straighter one which we follow.
There’s a barrenness to this fellside, today there are no sheep, no birds, or wildlife of any sort as far as I can see, in contrast to the birds down in the village which have been entertaining me all morning. As usual I stop many, many times on my slow way up. I feel just a tiny bit fitter than the last couple of days which is reassuring. The views back down into the valley are gorgeous, with Brothers Water in the far distance.
The air feels clean and cold as we get to the ridge on a reasonable well maintained path. I’m sucking in lungfulls greedily. We’re at the base of the Knott now but we still have to walk around it as its sides are steep, we need to be on the northern flank. It’s an easy push to the top from here but we take a rest to enjoy the view over to the snow topped fells in the east. The weather is so perfect we are in our shirt sleeves, loading up on vitamin D.
There are atmospheric waterfall clouds beginning to pour over the fell tops in each direction. Nature is putting on a show and it’s awesome. Son summits the Knott before I do, of course. He’s impressed with the view; I’m astounded by it, it’s fantastic. The winning view of the week, I could stay for hours. I remember the bar of chocolate in my bag, to my sons delight it’s milk chocolate, the only kind he will eat, it’s sent from the gods above he declares, I’d been convinced it was dark, so we grin and yell with happiness. It’s perfect.
We’re briefly joined by another hiker who, although obviously much older than me, is so fit and strong I covet his agility and strength. I tell him we will go down so he can enjoy it for himself but he thanks me, takes a photo and strides off down the hill. A moment later I see him impossibly far away on the Roman High Street. I’d dearly love to carry on and walk the High Street myself but that wouldn’t be fair on the family waiting below, so we make our way back down.
It’s a steady descent, using all the wrong muscles. Why is a steep descent so much harder than a climb? My thighs will be aching for hours, this much I know. When we get down Shovell is ecstatic to see us, he hates it when his pack is split. He bounds up the hill to meet us and would knock us over if he was allowed. The sun has shifted so it shines on the hillside glowing our way home. It’s a perfect end to a perfect walk and I couldn’t be happier. I even have some chocolate left.
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More walks in this area
The footpath to Hayeswater is signposted from Hartsop, my GPX is here. Parking is available at Cow Bridge, and there are a few spaces where the road ends east of the village. The Knott is in Wainwright’s Far Eastern Fells book and many people who are Wainwright bagging combine it with High Street and other peaks along the ridge.
For a traditional map you will need Ordnance Survey OL5
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