A series of walks that give you the chance to stop for coffee, cake, lunch or brunch at Mathilde’s at the Heaton Cooper Studio, the Lake District’s centre for mountain art. All the walks are free to everyone, connecting visitors with the natural surroundings of our unique landscape in this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
After months of sitting in Mathilde’s, sipping coffee and making plans and staring out of the window, it’s time to move. You’ve been there, you know that wonderful window with the view out onto the fells, and you might even know that the craggy bastion on the opposite side of the valley is called Stone Arthur.
We’re not entirely sure why it has that name, but we’re very willing to believe in the local connections to the legends of King Arthur. The writer Mary Stewart, in her novel The Hollow Hills, placed some of the action on an island in a lake. Could that be the island in Grasmere? There’s certainly stories about Arthur hiding out at Wythburn chapel, just a few miles up the road.
So that’s good enough for us to believe in the kingly properties of this modest fell, just 1652 feet high. And who, with a bit of adventure in their soul, could resist the challenge after looking up at those crags for so long?
So finish your coffee, and be assured that you’ll be back in time for lunch, or afternoon tea; it’s not a long walk.
But it IS a steep climb, at least in the initial stages. Turn left from our studio and head out of the village and across the main road, aiming for the Swan Hotel. There’s a narrow tarmac lane beside it, which takes you alongside the lower reaches of Greenhead Gill, to a newly-built gate. Through here, take the signposted path to the left and start climbing.
It’s a rocky step-built path with a forbidding-looking wood on your left (just the sort of place you can imagine Arthur’s men lying in wait). The gradient eases when you reach the open fell, crossing a small beck and following the clear path that contours around the steep ground ahead.
But do keep stopping to look back. This hillside offers truly wonderful views across to Easedale Tarn, and down into Grasmere village. In fact, you can look directly at the window in Mathilde’s (where those with less adventure in their souls will be sitting, with their coffees, gazing upwards. Now is NOT the time to envy them!)
Occasionally there are sections of newly-built path, and just a few patches of boggy ground (though we went up there after the recent floods and returned with dry feet, so it’s nothing you can’t jump across.)
Then the summit…something of a disappointment in one way, for that craggy promontory seen from the valley is just the beginning of a long ridge or spur that leads on to Great Rigg. But the rocks themselves look almost like a castle, and the views are spectacular.
If you’re inspired, and not exhausted, then the path to Great Rigg is only about a mile, and it’s easy to follow. You might even want to carry on and tackle the whole of the Fairfield Horseshoe, but please, only do that if you’ve brought extra layers, good waterproofs, a map and compass, for the full route is one of Lakeland’s major undertakings.
Otherwise, follow the path back to the valley, or take a detour back via Alcock Tarn which we wrote about here https://www.heatoncooper.co.uk/through-the-enchanted-wood-to-alcock-tarn/
And then, a well deserved cake, or an open sandwich, or a bowl of soup, and you can sit in the window looking out on that view knowing that you’ve made the acquaintance of a king.