Castle Crag is the lowest of the Wainwright fells standing at only 951 feet and therefore you would think would be an easy stroll. In my view however, this little fell has character that some of the larger fells can only aspire to. There are streams, crags, rocky paths, steep stiles, scree-like slate slopes, memorials and a history that is fascinating. I climbed it first in June 2011 and then several times since (once being in August 2011 with a large family, but that is a story for another day) from the lovely hamlet of Grange in Borrowdale. Grange is such a pretty hamlet situated just over a double stone bridge on the river Derwent and has wonderful tea rooms for when you have finished any local climbs (or indeed to provide sustenance in advance!)
The walk takes you along a path next to one of the tea rooms and towards the River Derwent at the foot of Castle Crag. There is plenty to hold you up here as the river, especially on a warm day, looks extremely inviting and I confess I have paddled in it on several occasions (I will add at this point that one of those occasions was by accident when I was looking too much at the beautiful surroundings and not where I was putting my feet and consequently slipped off the rocks and into the river – please note that paddling is best done after removing your boots!) On this day (a dry boot day) the sound of the water rushing over the rocks, catching the sun as though there were a thousand stars just below the surface and the deep green leaves hanging overhead from lazy trees was superb. Yet another of those “good to be alive” moments.
There is a clear path up to the right of Castle Crag through a gate and after a short walk you bear left up the slopes of the fell. This is where it gets steep and rocky amongst the trees and you think you should be on the slopes of one of the much higher fells! At the top of this steep part you cross a stile and end up in a clearing that opens up views further into Borrowdale. It is an unexpected little haven. On each of the occasions I have climbed this fell there have been primary school parties making the same journey. It is wonderful to watch the reaction of the children when they see this area – the “wows” and “oohs” are plentiful. When I was that age I think I was more one for phrases such as “are we nearly there yet” and “this is sooo steep” and actually had not improved my comments much when I did an A-Level Geography trip to the Blencathra Centre when I was 17 years old!
After enjoying the views from the clearing, I started the next part of my ascent and this is where the history of the fell starts to become clear. Castle Crag has been mined extensively and you can see the scars of this activity at various points on the walk. At this point on the fell there is what looks like a vast slate rock fall but actually if you look carefully, is a slate path up towards the top of the fell. At a glance it looks an impossible task but it is well crafted on closer inspection and besides, if parties of school children could do it, so could I! I did make sure I was looking where I was putting my feet this time that is for sure!
As you emerge from the slate path just below the summit, you are met by a mini Stonehenge. The story goes that someone for some reason (and no one really knows who or why although there are variations) has arranged pieces of slate in various upright positions surrounded by other pieces of slate – like little slate islands in a sea of green grass. It is really eerie. Apparently sometimes they are knocked down yet someone takes the time to rebuild them. Who and why? Fascinating and very mysterious!
A climb of a few more feet gets you to the summit where there is a War memorial forming part of the cairn. The views down into the valley and back towards Keswick and Derwent Water are stunning especially for such a low fell. You are captured by the majesty and pride of a mountain that is small but feisty and should not be underestimated.
|Summit Rock & Cairn|
The first part of the route down on the opposite side of the fell is totally different to the ascent. It takes you over grassy slopes, through woods and next to streams. There is less evidence of the scars of mining but there are plenty of quarries, crags and caves to explore. One of the caves was occupied for many years in the summer by a hermit called Millican Dalton, who died in 1947. He started occupying the cave at the age of 36 and became a climbing guide. He has left the words “Don’t waste words. Jump to conclusions” engraved inside.
Emerging back at the paddling area, after climbing this fell I was left feeling I had conquered something much grander than I had expected and with so much character that I have been back to it several times. As I said at the beginning, some of the higher fells can only aspire to have the character and history of Castle Crag and it may be small but it is a cracking fell.
|Clancey the beautiful Lurcher on the summit|