Hiking: Askham to Winter Crag via Pooley Bridge

I realise those names aren’t going to mean much to most people but it was my first day of real hiking! Very exciting! And all to places I’ve never been before. Last time I mainly stuck to the Cumbria Way, which heads through the middle of the LD, north to south, but this time I’ve started in the far east.

Last time I was here in the Lake District I used waterproof paper maps, but this time I’ve downloaded the OS map app and it’s saved a lot of room in my pack! I had to carry four giant sheets for the entire region, it’s nice to have that space free for other things now.

After a marginally better night of sleep I had French toast and bacon for breakfast (it’s really the best thing for my health to be leaving the Punchbowl, I think I’ve had too much of a good thing) and found an Airbnb property in a valley off Ullswater, the closest and second largest of the lakes in Cumbria.

Goodbye Askham, I’ll be back!

I set off in beautiful sunshine and headed west through the village. Most villages are in valleys so they are close to water, but this means every hike starts with an uphill climb, so by the time I’d got to the top of the rise I was in short sleeves, despite it being about 5 degrees.

A panorama of fells, snow-capped in the distance, ringed the horizon and I felt my spirits soar.

I took a little deviation from the path to get to the highest point on Heughscar Hill, where I had a wonderful surprise.

Fell ponies! I had no idea if they were the sort of wild animals you could get very close to. Like any sane person, I’m wary of animals that weigh five times as much as me, but they seemed extremely unconcerned by my presence and the track brought me closer.

…and closer
… and closer!

They had very long manes and were middle-sized, bigger than Icelandic ponies but not huge. There were 14 in total, one grey and the rest dark brown. After a bit of research I learned that wild fell ponies are quite rare and have been in England since before Roman times. Around Ullswater and north of Kendal is the best place to see them.

The it started hailing.

Fortunately the hail was tiny – smaller than a pea, so I put on my hat and coat and I was fine. It didn’t last long and it was preferable to rain as it just bounced off.

After I got to the top of the hill I started seeing other hikers in the distance, all heading towards High Street, an old Roman road and ridge that runs 20 miles from near Askham to Windermere. Walking it had been my main goal for this trip but now that I’m seeing the tiny little people on top it seems very high.

I walked over the hill and down into Pooley Bridge. The sun came out again and the small town was heaving with day trippers and campers. Ullswater is ringed with campsites and hotels, and there’s a 20 miles circuit walk of the lake.

I stopped in the town and first looked at a church hall craft market, where I definitely wasn’t going to buy anything.

I bought three things. In my defence, they were all very small things.

I asked one of the ladies where to get coffee and she recommended a cafe/bookstore around the corner. I can’t think of a better retail combination!

I had a very nice coffee and a slice of a citrus something-or-other.

I also used the bathroom, which is something I wouldn’t normally mention on the blog, but check out this wallpaper!


The owner of my accommodation for the coming night had recommended talking the lake steamer down the the far end and walking from there, but I had all day (it was only 11am) and it didn’t look far on the map, so I decided to walk.

Once out of Pooley Bridge the crowds subsided to a constant stream rather than an impenetrable scrum, and I saw lots of sodden spaniels, romping retrievers and dripping dachsunds, all enjoying the water.

I looked longingly at the little sailboats out on the water, but apparently they are all privately owned, all the boats for rent were motorised or of the paddling variety.

To be honest, after two lessons this year I’m not sure I’m entirely qualified to take one out, but still…

I took a few breaks along the side of the lake as there didn’t seem to be much rush. The path eventually moved away from the water and up into the hills, where the ubiquitous streams and bogs started to appear. In Australia, if you went out bushwalking, a stream or river would be something you’d come across a couple of times a day, if you were lucky. Here it’s more unusual to not be walking over shallow running water or wading through mud at every gate.


At one point a nice family helped me hoist my bag over a drystone wall and I got my first injury on the pointy slate but it was just a little cut on my leg.

It’s funny how distances on maps can look so short in the morning and turn out to be so very far by mid-afternoon! After several hours I still had several valleys and hills to negotiate, but I finally got to my destination; Wintecrag Farm.

Altogether I did 17km (or, less impressively, a bit over 10 miles) carrying about 10kg and only one blister to show for it. A good first day!

3 thoughts on “Hiking: Askham to Winter Crag via Pooley Bridge

  1. You’re such a trooper, you’ll be “ match fit” by the time you get to the Camino. I love following along in comfort but marvel at your resilience.

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