CW04: Skelwith Bridge to the Old Dungeon Ghyll;    
Thursday 15th May 2008

The cynics might complain that today's section was little more than a one trick pony. They might have a point, if no soul.  But what a trick!  Of all the Lakeland Fells, the ones that punch way above their weight are the Langdale Pikes.  This part of the Cumbria Way is a showcase for the Langdales.  "Look at me!" they scream until you are virtually at Dungeon Ghyll and only then do they make way and allow higher but less bold hills into the picture.

It was a stunning day, as good as May can get.  Hardly a cloud in the sky and Rhododendrons and Azaleas coming into full bloom. We waited for the bus at the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel.  Or to be more precise, the bus arrived but we waited for the driver to have her break.  Driver and Margaret both sat sunning themselves.  Not a bad life is it?!

Driver, left, and Margaret sunning!

Bus awaiting driver and passengers

Break over, one notable feature of the day (for me at least) was the first use of my NoW bus pass, saving a full £3.60 on the trip from the Old Dungeon Ghyll, where we left the car, to Skelwith Bridge.  

First lavatiological spotting

Ancient machinery at stoneyard

At the bridge our interest in matters lavatiological was immediately rewarded, albeit on a discreet dryer rather than a clothes line. We made our way past the gallery complex (untempted, fortunately), through the stone yard with its ancient equipment and down to the path by the river.  Skelwith Force was surprisingly forceful given the lack of rain recently.  The route along to Elterwater is very familiar but it was the first time that Margaret had done it in this direction (and only the second time for me- see BB0811).

Skelwith very forceful

Langdales across Elterwater

We broke the team picture rules overlooking the lake- normally we politely decline offers of having someone take our photo as the protocol is that you should not have to rely on other folk for it.  But they were a nice couple and we didn't want to hurt their feelings- they were doing a recce with a view to bringing their grandchildren to a spot that we often used to visit with our children.

Cheating team photo

Second lavatiological sighting

The Cicerone guide book reckons that Elterwater (the village, not the lake) used to produce most of the Britain's gunpowder.  I find that hard to believe.  It also refers to the site of the gunpowder factory and encourages you to look down from the south west side of the river on its present usage which it describes as "controversial", i.e. the Langdale Time Share complex.  Well it might have been controversial in 1981 but hardly today. And it's a far better use than a mass of derelict property.

At Chapel Stile the Way went by a more conventional example of our lavatiological studies.  Do you like that word?  Margaret hastens to explain that the interest is in the setting of the washing, not the contents of the line.  Rather than us being thought some sort of deviants, I thought such a study deserved a proper Latin name; hence lavatiology. Interesting undies though!

Next, Wainwright's Inn.  What would AW have thought of that?  I think he would have been appalled- a place of such conviviality is the opposite of what he was about and the thought of people going into what might loosely be described as his house would have driven him to apoplexy!

The stretch between Skelwith Bridge and Chapel Stile had been predictably very busy, mostly, but not entirely, with people who could not be bothered to acknowledge our existence. Further upstream, there were fewer people to be seen and those who were there were unfailingly courteous.  There was one group that we saw on three occasions, walking up and down.  About eight people in pairs, talking earnestly and not paying much attention to the wonderful scenery.  When one of them announced in a loud voice that they would all change round in one minute, it dawned on us that they were on a management team building exercise.  But if they are not allowed to enjoy the scenery, why waste money sending them to the lakes?  Never mind, at least they are supporting the local economy. Ironic as all around were examples of the old economy (screes of mined slate) and the present day (sheep).

Slate screes and sheep

Oak Howe

We took a late lunch picnic by the beck before Oak Howe, after which the terrain changes, being more lower fellside and less meadow.

Terrain changes at Oak Howe barn

Non cheating team photo

As the Way curves round towards Side House, at last the Langdales start to yield centre stage and allow the Crinkles and Bowfell to make a guest appearance.

Pike o'Blisco, Crinkle Crags and Bowfell appear

Full panorama

We cheated slightly on reaching the road; officially we should have gone up through the New Dungeon Ghyll complex onto the higher path to the ODG.  However, we discovered a direct route up to the path from the National Trust car park.  Quite a steep climb for a gentle stroll!  

This achieved, it was then an easy return past a third (and best) lavatiological specimen to the ODG for a celebratory drink.  The bar had changed little from when we (i.e. Don plus various work colleagues, not Margaret) were thrown out in 1974.  On the other hand, the drinks had changed- one J2O look-alike as opposed to multiple pints of ale!

The guide book reckons that the section is over 6 miles.  The computer begs to differ- both Memory Map and Anquet make it no more than 5.2 miles.

Third lot of washing

That is the easy part of the Cumbria Way completed.  From hereon it becomes physically and logistically more challenging.  

For a bit of variety on the way back we drove over to Little Langale with its two tarns and far less familiar scenery before rejoining the usual road at Skelwith Bridge.  On a day like today, it really doesn't matter which way you go- it's all magnificent.

Don, 15th May 2008


5.2 miles
30.7 miles cumulative

Height climbed:
853 feet
4,494 feet cumulative






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 These pages log
the progress of
Don and Margaret
along the Cumbria Way.

 Click on the photos
for an enlargement or related large picture.


CW01:  Ulverston to Blawith

CW02:  Blawith to Coniston

CW03: Coniston to
Skelwith Bridge

 CW04: Skelwith Bridge to
the Old Dungeon Ghyll

CW05: Old Dungeon Ghyll to Rosthwaite

CW06: Rosthwaite to
High Brandlehow

CW07: What's Thirlmere
got to do with it?

CW08: High Brandlehow to

CW09: Keswick to Gale Road Car Park (and back)



The Washing Lines

as seen by Margaret:




BOOT boys

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