Exploring the Shores of Thirlmere
Thirlmere has always been a lake I have driven past on the way to better things. Something about being a reservoir brings a cold and rather characterless feel to the place whilst the imposing and uniformerly steep slopes of Helvellyn hem the valley in yet further. So it was with some surprise that Stephen suggested we took a stroll along its shores and explored a little further the slopes of said Helvellyn.
It was a showery day (which is good in this English summer of continual rain) that we parked up at the United Utilities car park ½ way along Thirlmere lake. Crossing a small bridge the path initially follows the hard slog route up Helvellyn itself but thankfully only for a few hundred yards. Emerging from the trees we bared left (North) and followed a good path on the slopes of Great Dodd. The views opened out with Blencathra and Skiddaw showing to superb effect framed by pretty St John's in the Vale and High Rigg.
The sun was actually shining as the path meandered along above the walls that enclose Thirlspot and the nearby farms – in many ways a perfect Lakeland scene! The character of the path improved further as we approached St John's in the Vale with a series of spectacular waterfalls glistening in the watery sun. Worth a stop, a swig of water and a ponder on the views bacjk down Thirmere and on to the bleak valley of Wythburn. I was telling Stephen about my exceptionally wet day in the Wythburn Valley on my Coast to Coast walk but my epic adventure did not seem to interest him and we headed down to the road at the head of the Vale.
For a 100 yards we followed the Vale before heading west past Legburthwaite Car Park and the main A590 which passes between Grasmere and Keswick. A small gate leads in to some woods under the steep hillside of Great How but fortunately the bridleway skirts the fell and emerges on the far side with tremendous views unfolding straight down the length of ThirlmereAfter a further mile or so the bridleway, which has kept 100 yards or so from the shores of Thirlmere, is left behind and a small path leads down to the shores of the lake.
Passing through some lovely old woodland Stephen (the expert on this walk) led me to an absolutely perfect picnic spot, a small beach hidden in the trees with views both up and down the lake. Ok the fact that this is a reservoir means that the valley has lost much of its character and is no Ullswater but it is still a fine spot. There is no doubt in my mind that changing the character of the land is almost inevitably a bad thing but this was nearly 70 years ago and it is not going to be reversed so hey ho, enjoy what is remaining.
The path carries on for a few more hundred yards as it skirts the hotel at Dalehead Hall before emerging back on the A590 near the start point. An ice cream van awaits the intrepid walker at this stage but we hopped in the car and drove the mile or so to Thirlspot, a fine and typical Lakeland pub.
Jonathan Smith 1 July 2012 4.5 miles
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