Lake District Walks - Grasmere to Easdale Tarn
Keith Carter explores one of the many superb walking routes around Grasmere
WHO could challenge Grasmere’s position as the quintessential Lakeland village? For the visitor it is ideal for a short visit or longer stay. Bang in the middle of the Lake District, surrounded by hills, it has literary connections to the great Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy and is the starting point for numerous walks. The choice is so wide you could spend a fortnight here and do a different walk every day.Grasmere is the place to start for anyone visiting the Lakes for the first time and the place to come back to again and again for hardened Lakeland devotees. It will capture your heart and draw you back.
Grasmere is the Lakes, pure and simple.
Mind you, it is not the kind of place you can hope to keep to yourself. On summer weekends the car parks are all full, crowds of trippers wandering in the middle of the road, queues outside the tea-shops, the locals hiding indoors in desperation.Wordsworth’s grave, the Gingerbread Shop, Dove Cottage, all over-run by the hordes, and if you are looking for solitude, avoid Grasmere in the holiday season or sneak in for a look midweek or once the schools have gone back.
Many people come here to walk. The place seems almost to expect it of you.When you tell your friends where you went at the weekend and you tell them Grasmere, the next question is likely to be ‘did you do a nice walk?’ So don’t even think of visiting the village without taking your walking boots. The next thing to do is decide where to walk and this is where I can help. This month’s walk is not intimidating; it’s quite low-level and involves no great difficulty and can be shortened if needs be.
Park in the Broadgate car park to the north of the village next to the playing field. On-street parking is out of the question during the seasonand at least a proportion of the cost of parking goes towards maintaining the surroundings so it’s all in a good cause.Leave the car park and turn left along Broadgate as far as the first turning on the right, Easedale Road. Stay on the road passing the drive to the Youth Hostel on the right, cross Goody Bridge and where the road takes a sharp turn to the right, just before a B&B called Oak Bank, take the gate on the left where a signpost indicates Easedale Tarn, our destination.
A slab bridge is crossed over Easedale Beck and we follow a level, stony track up the valley bottom. The large cobbles with which this track is paved have come out of the river. After the third gate the track divides and we take the left one, our way ahead clear as the path climbs up beside the stream known as Sourmilk Ghyll, although Wainwright insists on Sour Milk Ghyll in defiance of the Ordnance Survey and he was usually right about such things.
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The climbing begins and for the next half hour you start to wonder why you’ve worn so many clothes. After one final sharpish ascent we arrive at a grassy knoll overlooking the expanse of water called Easedale Tarn draining the streams from the bowl of hills that surround it. Those in need of a return to civilisation can turn back here and retrace their steps but the walk seems to demand more and I prefer to continue by following the path alongside the tarn.
Follow the edge and keep going when you reach the end, reaching almost to the head of the valley but not starting the climb up to the pass over into Langdale.We now need to think about turning back by looping round the end of the tarn, the path quite indistinct at first as it crosses quite a boggy area. It is clear enough where you need to be heading since the aim is to do a full circuit of Easedale Tarn but you will need to pick your own way until the path becomes more obvious.
The return route follows a clear path descending the left-hand side of Sourmilk Ghyll (sorry AW) before striking off to the north to link up with a path coming down Far Easedale with several helpful arrow way-marks to show the way. Cross a smart wooden footbridge and continue heading down the valley past a number of field barns and at one point a group of established larches, their planting and purpose long forgotten.Once past the farm we go through a gate onto a lane that if followed would take us back to the village but an alternative path to the left offers a delightful way back through the wooded glades of Lancrigg, a lovely carefully managed trail offering plenty of chances for spotting wildlife.
Walkers are welcome for tea at Lancrigg Hotel, an oasis of calm if you would rather avoid the crowds in the village. Dorothy Wordsworth wrote: ‘We had only been in Grasmere four days when we discovered the terraced walk at Lancrigg which long remained our favourite haunt’.We regain Easedale Road, joining it at Oak Bank B&B and return to the village. I had about two minutes left out of four hours on my parking ticket so you need to judge the time accurately.
This is a super walk that can be done by families and those just taking up the unbeatable pastime of fell-walking.
Area of walk: Easedale Tarn from Grasmere
Distance: Seven miles
Time to allow: Four hours
Map: OS Explorer OL7 The English Lakes, South-eastern area.
Refreshments: Abundant in Grasmere
Interesting book: Grasmere Journal by Dorothy Wordsworth