20081021_Elterwater – Little Langdale – Colwith Force – Skelwith Force Circular Walk – Post-1

20081021_Elterwater – Little Langdale – Colwith Force – Skelwith Force Circular Walk – Post-1
When :
21st October 2008
Who : Me and my sister Janet
Where : Lake District, Cumbria, England
Maps : 1:25000 Outdoor Leisure Map no.7, The English Lakes – South East
Start + End Point : 329,050
Approx Distance : 6 miles, 9.5 km
Heights : 875 ft (about 270m) up and down
Parking : Free at Waithwaite Bottom on B5343 a little way outside Elterwater Village [Other parking in Elterwater Village].
Public Transport : Yes, Elterwater is serviced by Bus, possibly a limited service

Summary : Waithwaite Bottom Car Park ; Elterwater (The Village) ; Little Langdale ; Slater Bridge ; Colwith Force ; Skelwith Bridge ; Skelwith Force ; River Brathay ; Elter Water (The Lake) ; Return to Elterwater (Village) and Waithwaite Bottom.

As we drove down to the car park at Waithwaite Bottom, all of a sudden the weather brightened up, with the claggy rain being pushed rapidly away with cold bright mostly sunny conditions coming in. It’s almost as if the Gods had decided to smile down on us, just for a change … and it made the time spent in the rain around Grasmere (hoping for it to clear up) all the more worthwhile.

Having said that, I couldn’t bring myself to trust the remaining clouds and I donned waterproof over-trousers and coat. It had certainly dropped several degrees in temperature, but I’ve always enjoyed walking in cold, crisp, clear air and I was really looking forward to doing this walk again. I’ve done this walk several times now, in various guises and really like the area. This is a low level walk with loads of interest throughout.

We set off with a little road walking, having immediately crossed the B5343 as we left the car park, and soon reached the charming village of Elterwater. This is a lovely place with traditional houses scattered almost haphazardly.

There’s a super pub (The Britannia Inn) positioned behind the little village green very close to a public car park. The village also has its own Youth Hostel, intuitively named Elterwater Youth Hostel within easy staggering distance of the pub! I’ve stayed in both the Pub and Hostel in the past and would certainly do so again. Maybe not as picturesque but very useful to know, there’s a public loo block in the village too.




Our route took us past the Pub, the loo’s, and after crossing the bridge over the river (Great Langdale Beck) we also passed the Youth Hostel and headed south on the road as it climbed away from the village.

After a few hundred yards (or meters if you prefer) we branched right onto a walled rough lane which climbs quite steadily up into some woods. Although not difficult walking the gradient certainly made us work a bit more and started to raise a sweat.

This is a super track with views off to the left, woods to the right. A tantalising glimpse of Elter Water (The lake) can just about be made out away in the valley left behind, teasing us with a promise of what wouldn’t be seen again until later in the afternoon.

I especially like the moss and lichens on the walls on both sides of us, almost a landscape in their own right.

As we climbed, a robin kept flitting just ahead of us, perching on the wall top, tree twigs, some barbed wire, etc., but he wouldn’t stay still long enough for his image to be captured on camera … it was almost like he was toying with us. Still robins always seem such happy little beings, and this seemed to match our mood also.

It had stayed dry since we’d left the car (almost half-an-hour since), and with only blue skies above, I decided to remove my waterproofs, aided by the fact I was getting quite warm after the rise up the lane. Janet decided to match my actions and we neatly packed our outer layers in our sacks. Within minutes of restarting up to the crest of the lane, a wintry squall promptly blew in, apparently from no-where. It wasn’t quite hail, but the rain was stingingly cold, so the waterproofs went straight back on again …. What a pain!!!

The lane now emerged from the wooded area as it leveled out (underneath Howe Banks, part of the lower slopes of Lingmoor Fell) to give a much more open aspect ahead. I liked the change in feel from being slightly enclosed by the overhanging trees, to the airiness ahead. The route leaves the Elterwater/Great Langdale valley behind here as the lane crests over into Little Langdale with super views to the south opening up to Wetherlam and Tilberthwaite Fells. There’s some super walking in those areas, but today we were content just to view from a distance. It was nice seeing the tops of the mountains which had been clouded-in for the previous two days.

As we left the wooded area, we stayed on the lane, ignoring the footpath branching off on the left, and continued ahead having to avoid some pretty large puddles as we dropped steadily past Dale End to reach the minor road running through Little Langdale. The views eastwards here are superb, looking at a large sweep of fells on both sides rising up to the Wrynose Pass and perfectly framing Little Langdale Tarn nearer to us.

The road can be quite busy as it winds its way up to Wrynose Pass and beyond to the Duddon Valley and the even more incredible Hardknott pass. The drive over both of these passes is quite fantastic, an exhilarating, stunning, even daunting road (1:3 gradient in places) and is justifiably famous, one I love, although I haven’t been over that way for some years now. If you don’t fancy the full climb over Wrynose; not far past Little Langdale Tarn is another road (Side Gates) that climbs up to pass Blea Tarn and then drops down into Great Langdale… a super little road.

Anyway, I’ve digressed a bit, as our route took us straight over the road to pick up a footpath alongside a wall where the grassy fields dropped gently towards the tarn. My OS. map shows no footpath down to the tarn, which is a pity because I’m sure the surrounding fells would make for some fantastic reflections in the waters. Instead the path continues in a generally southerly direction to drop down to meet the River Brathay soon after it flows out of the tarn. The tarn itself is not actually visible here due to a sweep in the river around a little area of slightly raised land with a stand of trees atop of it, blocking the view to the east. However, this doesn’t really matter as the focus is naturally drawn to a small but perfectly charming footbridge over the river … Slater Bridge.


The first span is a classic clapper bridge construction, a number of large flat stone slabs crossing to a rocky island in the river.

The onward span to the opposite bank is a shallow arch of stones, wedged together with bits of vegetation growing between the cracks.

The arch is so shallow it’s a wonder it can support itself let alone anybody crossing it. A lovely spot.

I think this is where cag’s were again taken off and packed away and after a good number of photo’s taken we headed off again, the path soon reaching another lane where we turned left to follow it eastwards, more or less running parallel to the river a little distance away. It’s really straightforward easy walking on the tarmac’d roadway. I don’t normally like walking on metalled roads, but this is so quiet and the views around are so good it really doesn’t matter here.

After a short while the road bends right into the corner of Moss Rigg Wood and then bends again to the left leaving the woods to pass Stang End.

Another couple of short sharp squalls and cag’s going on/off again during the morning led me to a decision … they were to stay on for the rest of the day … so ensuring no more rain was seen for the rest of the day … Typical ! 

As we progressed along the lane, the views northwards were lovely, the closer hill sides dotted with farms and homes such as Wilson Place, Greenbank, Iving Howe and Low Hacket, etc., giving a quite homely and settled feel to the valley, a complete contrast to the wilds of Far Easedale the day before. In the distance the high fells showed a dusting of white, where the wintry showers had left a sprinkling of snow over the tops, in particular up to Fairfield in the far distance.

After not too long, with the track skirting around the base of a craggy hill (Great How) we reached High Park, where we branched off the lane, picking up a bridle track on the left. Soon after entering some woods we took the permissive path option to the left, allowing the bridle track to go on ahead, whilst we dropped on a narrow path through the wooded hillside.

We soon rejoined the River Brathay, not seen at close quarters for some time now, at a bend in the stream … and soon after reached the next major highlight of the walk … Colwith Force Waterfall.



Colwith Force is where the Brathay drops impressively down a step in the terrain, and was a thundering torrent after the recent heavy rain. In fact the rain of this morning around Grasmere seemed an age ago, such had been the improvement during the day.

Because of the way the river bends and drops quickly within the surrounding trees, it wasn’t easy to get a close view; especially with the pathways strewn with wet leaves and exposed and extremely slippery tree roots. However, this didn’t stop us carefully doing a little exploring and we were rewarded with some brightness penetrating the branches to light up the roaring cascades.

Continued on Post-2


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