SCALE IVY TARN - BROWNSTONE TARN - HIGH MOSS TARN - SCALE HEAD TARN - WISE EEN TARN - MOSS ECCLES TARN
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Starting our walk from the old quarry car park close to The Ferry House, headquarters of the Freshwater Biological Association, on the west shore of Windermere, our plan was to visit the tarns of Claife Heights scattered between Hawkshead and Windermere. We would also be visiting the summit of High Blind How, the highest point on Claife Heights and which also happens to be a Wainwright Outlying Fell ('The Outlying Fells of Lakeland', page 80).
There is a centuries old tale regarding the woods we were about to wander through. Apparently, on a stormy night sometime in the fifteenth century the ferryman of the time heard a call from the distant shore of Windermere and rowed across to investigate. He returned alone, terrified and unable to speak and became so ill with a fever that he died a few days later. For years after no ferryman would tend the ferry after dark and it was reported that the eerie cry of 'Boat' was often heard during subsequent storms! The 'ghost' was exorcised by a monk from Furness Abbey and the 'Crier of Claife' was laid to rest in a quarry high in the nearby woods. It is said that even today there are some who will not venture into the woods at night.
Despite the centuries old tale, we started our walk by following an official trail 'The White Post Route' which conveniently started from within the car park itself. This really helped as regular readers of my walk reports will know, myself and my better half often have difficulties in finding the start of many of our walks! A track led through the woods to a steep flight of steps which brought us to a now derelict building known as 'Claife Station'. This was the first of a series of numbered viewpoints listed in the classic 1778 'Guide to the Lakes', written by Thomas West. The windows once contained coloured panes giving the effects of autumn, winter or summer scenes for the pleasure of the visiting Victorian tourists.
Claife means steep hill and the path we now followed through Station Scar Wood certainly was that! It was a long, steady climb with regular stopping points to take in the views (well that's my excuse anyway) but which eventually eased as we reached Mitchell Knotts high above Lake Windermere. On reaching White Post Junction 2, we followed the route left towards Far Sawrey until reaching White Post Junction 3 where we turned right uphill following the path towards Hawkshead. The first of our six tarns to be visited today, Scale Ivy Tarn (SD 382962) was reached along this path.
The tarn is situated right alongside The White Post Route and therefore easy to locate, and is set in an open grassy pasture close to the edge of a wood, allowing easy access to all sides. Officially, this tarn is nameless and not particularly large, but is still worth a visit.
A gate close by led us into the woods and along a stony path to White Post Junction 4 where we were to turn left and continue following the footpath towards Hawkshead. However, Annette found a little rocky outcrop just off the path, possibly at Low Pate Crag, offering restricted views of Windermere through the trees and where we decided to stop for a bite to eat. Although the views could have been better, it was still a lovely, peaceful spot.
Getting back on track the path zigzags through the trees passing the occasional white marker post or splash of white paint on a rock or tree, to eventually reach a small wooden footbridge in a clearing, crossing a stream close to the end of a forest road. Continuing along the path back into the trees, we were now climbing to the highest point on Claife Heights, High Blind How. You leave the main path and climb through the bracken to reach the stone trig point (OS BM S5641) at 886 feet above sea level. Although set amongst woodland, there are still great views over Windermere to Bowness. On leaving the summit we re-joined the main path and followed it a short distance until reaching the forest road at White Post Junction 5 and our second tarn of the day, Brownstone Tarn (SD 383976).
Brownstone Tarn lies in a small clearing beside a grassy path amongst the forest covering Claife Heights, is easy to locate and pretty much accessible on all sides. It is, however, very overgrown in places. The tarn is only marked on the more recent Ordnance Survey maps.
Heading away to our right from the tarn, we followed the grassy path to White Post Junction 6, forking left here to continue along the footpath towards Hawkshead. Descending the forest road to White Post Junction 7 and following the path to our left through the trees, we eventually reached another forest road at White Post Junction 8 at a bend in the road. Turning left at this junction we finally abandoned the White Post Route following instead the bridleway to Sawrey. The path crosses over Belle Grange Beck and turns left, eventually giving a glimpse of our third objective of the day, High Moss Tarn (SD 375980).
High Moss Tarn isn't the most visible of tarns, or more precisely, the water isn't, being hidden under a growth of plant-life. Easy to locate and possible to gain access to all sides. However, the area around the tarn is very boggy making High Moss Tarn's other name of High Bog Tarn, very apt. To be honest I was struggling to locate a decent expanse of water to photograph! Apparently wildfowl are attracted to this tarn and at one time there was an observation hide situated on the far bank but no sign of it now.
Continuing along the bridleway we passed through a gate, out of the confines of the trees, and on into the open. It wasn't long before we caught sight of our fourth and fifth tarns of the day, being in close proximity of each other. The grassy bridleway descended to within easy reach of Scale Head Tarn (SD 373975).
Scale Head Tarn is set in the open and adjacent to the grassy path making it very easy to locate and giving easy access to all sides. It is of a decent size and has a stone dam at the far end as viewed from the descent. The water was free of any intrusive plant growth and along with the good all-round access, allowed for plenty of varied photo opportunities. The stone dam also made a perfect rest stop whilst we had another bite to eat and to make it even more perfect, the sun started to shine.
Within a very short distance of Scale Head Tarn lies the larger expanse of Wise Een Tarn (SD 368977). In fact, it is just to the right of Scale Head Tarn and only a short walk away. Having said that, Wise Een Tarn is large and I didn't have the time to walk round it! Again, because of its close proximity to Scale Head Tarn, it is very easy to locate and seems to have easy access to all sides. Looking across the tarn a wooden boathouse can be seen on the far shore and with the fells of Lakeland as a backdrop, makes this one of the best situated tarns I've visited so far. The waters are also apparently rich in aquatic plant life.
Re-joining the bridleway we skirted round the stone dam of Scale Head Tarn, climbing gently uphill and, passing through a gate along the way, followed the easy path towards our sixth and final tarn of the day, Moss Eccles Tarn (SD 372968).
On arriving at Moss Eccles Tarn it reminded me of Tarn Hows in the respect that it seems to be a very popular tarn to visit with easy access from the nearby villages of Far Sawrey and Near Sawrey. Having said that, it is still a very picturesque tarn and well worthy of a visit. A large tarn with dense woodland on one side, it is again easy to locate and access. A path close to the outflow gives access to the far side of the tarn. We approached from slightly above giving great views. Annette arrived at the tarn before me and I found her sitting at the little dam spanning the outflow looking very contented indeed. The water looked so refreshing and it wasn't long before our boots and socks were discarded and our feet plunged into the cool running water as it left the outflow. It was very cold though and we couldn't keep our feet underwater for too long! The rocks by the outflow have been smoothed and scratched by glacial movement thousands of years earlier. Beatrix Potter, who at one time lived at Castle Cottage in Far Sawrey, bought part of the tarn in 1926 and often rowed her boat here.
With our feet cooled and refreshed, we continued along the track for a short distance to reach a fork in the road. The right fork lead up to Near Sawrey and Beatrix Potter's house at Hill Top, but we took the left fork to Far Sawrey crossing over Wilfin Beck where myself and Annette choose to splodge through the water rather than cross over the little wooden bridge. We then joined a tarmac road, the B5285, and on into the village of Far Sawrey. Turning left at the main junction we came to the Sawrey Hotel, where the bar is named the Claife Crier after that ghostly legend mentioned at the beginning of my report. We just had to call in for a cool, refreshing drink.
Leaving the hotel we continued along the road forking left, uphill, opposite the village hall. The path took us past some houses and a riding centre, through a couple of metal kissing gates, across a field with great views of Windermere ahead of us, to eventually reach the B5285 again. Turning left here it was now just a case of following the road back to the car park and the end of our walk.