Helm Crag, Grasmere

Helm Crag from Easedale

On the last day of our short break Jazz and I were heading for Helm Crag while the Missus hit the shops of Grasmere. This is a lovely hill that sits above Grasmere. Wainwright raved about it (“…in a region where all is beautiful, it makes a notable contribution to the natural charms and attractions of Grasmere”) and suggested it would be an ideal starter to whet the appetite for a week’s walking.  With this level of hype I had expected the place to be heaving but we had it to ourselves (well, until we started heading down…)

Looking down the path

Lancrigg from Easedale

The path starts near Lancrigg that we’d wandered around yesterday.  It then heads up a sharp path that quickly gains height and a view of Easedale and back down to Grasmere.  Luckily I had a full English breakfast on-board and so had more than enough chemical energy to zoom up the hill 1.   Once again the National Trust construction crew have been hard at work because the path is another stream of stone.  It twists its way up and around the hill with some nice drops that made me take a deep breath or two while Jazz tried to follow the sheep over the edge with me following on the end of the lead.   Herdwick sheep must be the most laid-back we’ve come across: most sheep that Jazz encounters run quickly away but these just have that “What are you looking at?  Go on, beat it.” expression – and Jazz does.  Around the hill are some lovely patches of woodland and these were full of birds: Nuthatch, Willow Warbler and even a Cuckoo were all singing.

Grasmere from Helm Crag

After just over an hour leaving Grasmere we were on the summit ridge 2.  This ridge is full of fractured rock and has the famous Lion and Lamb outcrops at either end of the ridge.  The view back down into Grasmere and the lakes beyond was gorgeous.

The Howitzer on Helm Crag

The 'Old Woman playing the Organ' rocks

The highest point on the summit is a rock that Wainwright calls The Howitzer because it is set at a jaunty angle.  I reckon I could climb this but when I got to the top I would freeze at the view of the drop onto the rocks a long way below: it would be embarrassing to need Mountain Rescue to lower me down 5 metres.   So discretion won the day and we admired the rock from its base, the formation called the Old Woman playing the Organ – couldn’t see it myself.

Having enjoyed the view from the top with only a mad Spaniel and her ovine friends for company, we headed back down the way we came. I had naively thought that this solitude was because a steep hill would deter the hordes who would instead head for Easedale Tarn.  Oh, no: they were just having a long breakfast. On the way down we passed 43 people, and with this sort of volume you can play games with the oncoming walkers.  Firstly you try to establish eye contact. If this is met it generally means they are a nice person and you exchange pleasantries.  If no eye contact is made you wish them good-day in an annoyingly loud and directed manner then watch them squirm as they try to work out how/if to respond.  Extra scientific value can be obtained by trying to correlate the response with the person’s age/gender/accent.  There must be a paper in Nature with all the data I’ve accumulated, or at least some social science PhD.  I was particularly amused by the stereotypical family heading up:

  • Dad (keen fell-walker with the latest kit and gadgets) and eldest son (chip off the old block) out in front issuing “Come on, we’re nearly there!” at regular intervals.
  • Middle brats (one of each gender) cursing every step and trying to get mobile phone signal to update their Facebook status to “Working out how to kill Dad”.
  • Mother long way back with youngest brat trying to cajole it into taking one more step while trying to find precipice where she could give husband a quick push while no-one was looking.

So for roughly 2.5 hours walking you can climb one of the nicest hills with a stunning view and be back in Grasmere for lunch and get to hear how much the Missus has hurt the credit card in your absence…


  1. Roughly the same as a Shuttle SRB.
  2. A really good thing is that our timing matches Wainwright’s and so we can believe what he writes on the other walks
Do It Again: