A Cracking day on Yoke

Date: 13th October 2015

Parking: Limited car parking available at Kentmere church (honesty box) GR 456042

Fells on this route: Yoke, Ill Bell, Froswick, Thornthwaite Crag.

Route map: click on the arrow to play the route. GPX route available with other formats for free by clicking in the Plotaroute.com link at the bottom right.

It was with some frustration that whilst completing the Wainwrights in Colour sketches for the fell Yoke last weekend that I realised that the reference photograph for the view of Rainsborrow Crag (Yoke 10) was totally wrong. How I made this basic error can perhaps only be explained in the fact that the view from near the cottages was similar and I had convinced myself at the time that for some reason Wainwright had omitted the buildings in the foreground. This is the first time in the whole project that I had made such a mistake and as I near the completion of all the fells I needed to obtain the correct reference as soon as possible.

As it happens, I had always had a plan to ascend Yoke by its narrow edge above Rainsborrow Crag, an unfrequented route but one that I knew offers some excitement on its steep spine. This route would also fit in with my plan to climb fells by routes with which I am unfamiliar (all part of a future project which is forming in my head). So it was on Tuesday that I drove over to Kentmere with the main aim of getting the correct reference and then pulling myself up onto this new terrain. The car park at Kentmere church was deserted when I arrived, but then it was just after 6.30am and the valley was just stirring. With boots and rucksack on we left the car at 7 in the half light with the intention of perhaps catching the first sun further up into the valley.

Sallows and Kentmere Hall early morning

Sallows and Kentmere Hall in the early morning light.

The lane from Kentmere Church to Hartrigg Farm is a delight, gentle walking in impressive surroundings.

Scales cottage, Kentmere valley

We continued along this good lane.

Hartrigg Farmhouse in the Kentmere valley

Hartrigg Farmhouse in the Kentmere valley

Passing by the farm the lane continues, now a little rougher underfoot but still a pleasure to walk on. Not far past the buildings the valley opens up before you.

Sun strikes the Ill Bell ridge at dawn in the Kentmere Valley

The weather was just as forecast, with the sun breaking through patches of cloud, some of which capped the fells to the east side of the valley.

First sun in the kentmere Valley

With almost perfect timing the shafts of light illuminated the fell sides to my left. As I stood capturing the scene the only sounds that broke the silence were the far off bellows of the rutting Red Deer stags, a sound which I was to hear throughout the day.

Kentmere at first light

There was some lovely light as we headed further up the valley

Kentmere quarry cottage

Soon we reached the old quarry cottages. In recent years these have been converted to accommodation which is available for group hire. More info here

Rainsborrow Crag

This was the view that had captivated me on one of my previous visits and the one which I had convinced myself was the correct scene for my sketch. I now realised that I was about 200 yards off target so I continued along the track until the cottages were out of sight behind the quarry tips.

This was the actual view that I was after, virtually unchanged since Wainwright’s day. He exaggerated the scene in his drawing (Yoke 10) but I will discuss this on another blog post. My plan of getting to this point so early in the morning was so that the sun would light up the face of the crag and cast a shadow into the cove and as you can see, my plan paid off. This is one of the factors which I had to take into consideration when obtaining references for the Wainwrights in Colour.  From here I took the old track under the rocks on the right, past the quarry and then up towards the cove.

Old lawn mower, Rainsbarrow Quarry

On occasions I have come across some odd artifacts on the fells but this may be the first time for an old push lawn mower.

Rainsbarrow Crag from the old quarry

The old slate quarry, Rainsborrow

Rainsbarrow Crag above the old quarry hut.

Rainsborrow Crag above the old quarry hut.

From here I crossed the slope through the bracken to pick up the path under the copse of trees.

The path that leads up to Rainsbarrow crag from the cottage

Following the bank of the small beck the path rises alongside the wall up to the base of the crag.

The view of Upper Kentmere from just under Rainsbarrow Crag

We were now gaining height on the slopes of the fell as we approached the quarry.

Rainsbarrow Crag quarry

Bailey gives a sense of scale to this impressive quarry entrance.

Rainsborrow crag quarry

The large main chamber has a rough floor of a jumble of boulders, at the back there are two other smaller cavities.

Rainsbarrow Crag Quarry and Kentmere Pike

This “selfie” gives a sense of scale to the entrance to the quarry and it’s view across the valley.

Inside the old quarry of Rainsborrow Crag

The room to the left is quite easy to access.

Rainsborrow Crag quarry interior

This chamber is dry with areas of flat floor where obviously some people have spent the night. Someone has left a line of Nepalese prayer flags. If you do visit, please treat it with respect and leave it as you would expect/ hope to find it.

The old slate quarry, Rainsborrow Crag.

Skirting back round towards the cove we passed the large working which was open to the elements. Our continuing route ascends the steep grassy slope into the cove.

Nan Bield Pass from the old quarry buildings in Rainsborrow Cove

Nan Bield Pass from the old quarry buildings in the cove.

Kentmere valley from near Rainsbarrow Cove

We gain height on the faint path with excellent views down below us.

Kentmere Pike across the Kentmere valley from Rainsbarrow quarry

In the shadows of Rainsborrow Cove there lies another abandoned quarry which matches another directly across the valley on the slopes of Kentmere Pike. I imagine this is a good line of workable slate.

The path to the ridge up through the gully

To gain the edge we could have followed the gully but I decided to head around to the right and into the bowl of the cove

Ill Bell from the old quarry buildings in Rainsbarrow Cove.

Here in the shadows were a couple of ruined quarry buildings, in remarkably good state, probably due to the fact that they are “off the beaten track”, a replacement roof is all that is required to make them serviceable again. Ill Bell forms the backdrop.

Rainsbarrow Cove from near the top quarry buildings

Above the buildings is another quarry cave on Star Crag, not only could this be accessed but I am pretty sure the summit of Yoke could be gained by following the grassy gully up to the skyline. Another days exploration perhaps?

Rainsborrow Cove and Kentmere reservoir

Our aim as to now reach the edge, we did this by leaving the buildings and heading up to the left, crossing the old wall.

Nan Bield Pass from Rainsbarrow Edge

On reaching the edge we broke out into the bright morning sunshine. Just past the stone in the foreground the land drops abruptly, care should be taken if descending this route.

Rainsborrow Edge

We proceeded to ascend the edge, it is steep, airy in places with sections of grass and also some hands on scrambling. The path here is indistinct in places but this is a place to make your own route.

Kentmere valley from the narrow edge above Rainsborrow Crag

Some of the ridge narrows to quite a knife-edge and these sections can be avoided by moving to the right of the ridge.

Rainsborrow Crag edge

As you can see, in places there is some semblance of a path but don’t expect to bump into many people here. I imagine this is what Striding Edge was like 100 years ago.

Rainsbarrow Crag and Kentmere reservoir
Rainsborrow Crag edge and the Kentmere valley

This shot from near the top probably gives the best impression  of the edge. You can see the ridge that we have just used.

Ill Bell from the top of Rainsbarrow Edge

As we reached flatter ground we had more time for a look around. This outcrop had definite similarities to Steeple in the Western Fells.

Rainsborrow Edge

Another good angle of view of the edge which we had just ascended.

Rainsbarrow Tarn and Kentmere Pike

Rainsborrow Tarn and across the valley, Kentmere Pike.

Rainsbarrow Tarn

A delightful tarn, well worth a visit. From here it is an easy stroll up to the summit.

Kentmere reservoir and Nan Bield Pass.

Kentmere valley and Nan Bield Pass.

Yoke Summit
The summit of Yoke

The new stock fence close to the summit cairn. This replaces the old one marked by Wainwright in the original Pictorial Guide.

Looking to Ill Bell from the footpath on Yoke

Complete with a new gate.

The two tarns near Yoke summit

The two tarns near Yoke summit

Ill Bell from Yoke

The route along the Ill Bell ridge in a large part consists of a well made path.

Folllowing the footpath to Ill Bell
Kentmere Valley from north of Yoke with Rainsbarrow egde in profile

At this point our route of ascent can easily be seen in full, with the copse of trees, the ruins in the cove and the complete length of the edge in view.

Ill Bell summit comes into sight

A last steep climb up to Ill Bell summit.

Ill Bell summit and the distant fells

This is the southernmost and smallest cairn on Ill Bell’s summit. It is prone to collapse. There were at one time four cairns on the top of Ill Bell.

Ill Bell summit with Windermere in the distance

The cairns of Ill bell with Windermere in the distance. Not bad weather for mid-October. Hardly a breath of wind and warm sunshine.

Windermere from Ill Bell
Ill Bell's summit rocks

These rocks mark the top of the north east ridge of Ill Bell, that’s another fine ridge of ascent up from the Kentmere Valley.

Froswick from Ill Bell

Sunlight lights up the summit of Froswick. As I sat for an hour on Ill Bell having lunch and just enjoying the wonderful views the clouds came over, making some lovely patterns of shade on the landscape.

Froswick and Thornthwaite Crag

There were only a few other walkers about today on this popular ridge. We headed up and over the top of Froswick.

Thornthwaite Crag repaired path

The path to Thornthwaite Crag from Froswick. I recall some years ago walking the length of this ridge. Due to it’s popularity, the weak peaty terrain had been severely eroded. In many places the path had deteriorated into a boggy mess which had exposed the subsoil and the peat had washed out to form deep channels. Walkers were then avoiding the bog and the path was getting wider and wider, increasing the problem. Then about 10 years ago, work was undertaken to repair the damage. It may not look “natural” but it serves a purpose and has prevented further erosion. You can just about make out the dark grass areas either side of the path, that’s roughly the width of the old eroded path. This work, both here and other locations (Sail in particular) is a necessary fix for the pressures we walkers put on a fragile landscape.

Ill Bell ridge

A lone walker makes his way along the Ill Bell ridge

Ill Bell ridge from near Thornthwaite Crag

The Ill Bell ridge from near Thornthwaite Crag

Thornthwaite Crag via the eroded footpath

Here you can see where erosion has taken place which will no doubt need repairing in the future. Luckily today the ground was fairly dry.

Thornthwaite beacon

This impressive beacon is not as tall now as it was in Wainwright’s day but it is still a fine monument which can be seen from miles around.

Thornthwaite Beacon and Windermere

Windermere from the summit of Thornthwaite Crag.

Thornthwaite Crag benchmark

This Ordnance Survey benchmark is at the foot of the beacon, probably not spotted by many as they take a break at this fine location.

Thornthwaite Crag summit
Thornthwaite Crag summit

After a brief chat to some fellow walkers we headed along the old wall to the south east towards our route of descent off Gavel Crag.

Upper Kentmere Valley from Gavel Crag

The path that forms the Kentmere Horseshoe route skirts the top of the Upper Kentmere Valley along the edge of Gavel Crag.

Upper Kentmere from Gavel Crag

Our descent route off Gavel Crag is steep and crosses some loose scree. I have ascended this way in the past which is definitely the easier option.

Ill Bell ridge from Gavel Crag

As I mentioned earlier, the whole day was filled with the sound of rutting stags throughout the valley. Here on our descent in this remote part of the fells we were able to watch groups of deer from afar but they were not close enough to photograph properly. However, we did pass by some of these wallows, made by the stags in damp patches of ground. Here they make their mark, wallowing in a mixture of peaty water and their own “scent”, apparently it’s attractive to the opposite sex. But I can tell you, the pungent smell wasn’t worth putting in a bottle!

Froswick from Gavel Crag

Perhaps the most shapely ridge in the whole of the district. I had planned to descend this was for a photograph that I needed for my next project and the lighting conditions were just right for my needs.

Gavel Crag from Upper Kentmere

Looking back up to the slopes of the crag. We descended the slope between the V groove and the steep nose.

Hall Cove waterfall, Kentmere valley

Waterfall in Hall Cove, Kentmere valley, a scene which I have painted for the Wainwright’s in Colour project.

Our route now took us around the west side of Kentmere reservoir.

Kentmere Reservoir and Rainsborrow Crag

The path around the reservoir is easy to follow.

Lingmell End from the Kentmere Reservoir
Kentmere Reservoir with Nan Bield Pass on the skyline

The low levels of water in the reservoir meant that the outlet channel was not flowing.

Rainsbarrow Crag, Yoke

Soon we were back at the quarry under Rainsbarrow Crag and the light was fading as we reached the car. It has been an excellent day out, perfect light for my photographs and with all my walks these days I am in no hurry. Time to explore and take in this wonderful scenery. Now I can get on to complete my work on Yoke in the studio with pleasant memories as I do so of this great day out on the Kentmere fells.

As a postscript. I did go back to the studio and paint the single scene that I was after from this trip, the view of Rainsborrow Crag. I am so glad that my obsession with obtaining the correct locations for the Wainwrights in Colour project paid off. Not only the right location but it resulted in this fine day out.

Rainsborrow Crag sketch

*Errata: The observant reader of The Wainwrights in Colour book will have noticed that in the Yoke chapter I made the error of misspelling the word Rainsborrow. Apologies for this oversight.

Thank you for reading.

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