Easedale Tarn – 11th 0ctober 2019

Today, I went on an adventure. I walked into Keswick and caught the 555 bus to Grasmere. I wandered aimlessly through Grasmere looking for the tourist information only to discover there wasn’t one! Then I took a path that leads around the northern edge of Grasmere to Allan Bank, a NT house, walking through the meadows to join the Easedale Road that unsurprisingly will take me to Easedale Tarn or Helm Crag, if only I could decide which I wanted to do.

I found myself turning naturally off the road into the fields beside the river and the decision was made. In the distance you can see a waterfall that lures you on. The views of the range to the south of Hellvelyn are spectacular and softer than the craggy nature of the rocks immediately in front of me, mostly due to the effect of the flows of water from glaciers over 11000 years ago as they are all comprised of the same type of rock. Helm Crag (photo 2) is a favourite with many, but it would be too far to include this on my journey today.

The Easedale path following Sourmilk Ghyll is very straightforward and has clearly been upgraded over the years. Having said that, it is not a fast walk. On the lower reaches over marshy land slates have been laid out in a vertical fashion so that you have to watch where you put your feet.

As you begin your ascent the path changes to stone steps made to look like a natural hillside path. In other places, higher up, stones have been strategically and well positioned to enable walkers to make their way through the deeper boggier areas and these are very effective. Just don’t expect to rush up as if it is a stone and soil path, even on the flat. There is one bonus to having to watch every step – you become aware of all the fossils hidden in the stones, which implies these particular rocks were shipped in from other areas of the Lake District as this area all falls within the volcanic granite, lava and ashes. The Windermere area contains slate, sandstones and siltstones, and that is only a stone’s throw away, and the Penrith rocks are limestone.

The waterfall looked magnificent, cutting its way through the craggy rocks. We have had so much rain this autumn that even the smaller waterfalls look and sound happy. The colours of the bracken against the slate rocks was striking too.

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As you look up towards the first waterfall you could be forgiven for expecting the water to be flowing directly from Easedale Tarn, but instead you reach a plateau of small glacial humps, up to the next lesser waterfall. This viewpoint affords and extensive view of the valley.

They view between the waterfalls

A few steps more and you arrive at the stepping stones at the easterly edge of the tarn, allowing one to do a circular route and return to Grasmere via a different route – but not today. The stones were covered in a foot of water that was rushing out of the tarn and even the foolhardy did not succeed to cross. Instead, it is possible to walk around the tarn to return to this very point in the other side, so on I went. It should be easier to cross the minor tributaries flowing into the tarn in the westerly side. Or so I thought, but sadly I could not find a suitable crossing point. It was quite blustery so I reached the foot of Eagle crag where the streams from Codale Tarn filter into the tarn and had my lunch out of the wind. Slightly to the north is the pinnacle of Belles Knott, keeping guard over the tarn.

The crags on the northerly edge of the tarn as seen in the first photo above and the seconds below are Tarn Crag (the steep headwall of the former glacier), Greathead Crag, Stenners Crag, and immediately above the stepping stones, Cockley Crag. Tarn Crag of volcanic lapilli-tuff and volcaniclasic sandstones would have been the top end of the glacier, and the terrain around the stepping stones are hummocky moraine. If you are walking up there, you might see some mounds of craggy rocks on the one side and a smooth surface on the other. These are known as ‘Roche’s Moutonnée’. Every now and again you come across erratics left by the glaciers as in the photo below:

The tarn itself is a result of a small corrie glacier. It is 480 metres (1570 ft) long, 300 metres (980 ft wide) and 280 metres (910 ft) above sea level.

Returning to the valley the light became softer and the river became gentler and I returned to another kind of world.

I finished the day with a bus trip using my explorer ticket, doing a round trip from Keswick to Buttermere via the Honister Pass.

Distance: 6.39 miles; Ascent: 892 ft.

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