Helvellyn from Glenridding round (Striding Edge) – Ullswater Valley
Cumbria is a large county in North West England and contains the Lake District and Lake District National Park. It is bounded to the north by the Scottish Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, to the west by the Irish Sea, to the south by Lancashire, to the south east by North Yorkshire, and to the east by County Durham and Northumberland. Cumbria is very mountainous containing every peak in England over 3,000ft above sea level with Scafell Pike being England’s highest mountain at 978 m (3,209ft). Cumbria is also one of England’s most outstanding areas of natural beauty attracting mountain climbers, hikers and walkers, cyclists, runners and tourists and holds a source of inspiration for artists, writers and musicians. Cumbria consists of six districts Eden, Carlisle, Allerdale, Copeland, South Lakeland and Barrow-in-Furness.
The Lake District is an area with stunning scenery located within in the County of Cumbria. Commonly known as The Lakes or Lakeland it was granted National Park status on 9th May 1951 less than a month after the first UK designated National Park, The Peak District. It is the largest of thirteen National Parks in England and Wales and the largest in the UK after the Cairngorms. The Lake District National Park itself covers an area of 885 square miles and stretches 30 miles from Ravenglass in the west to Shap in the east and 35 miles from Caldbeck in the north to Lindale in the south. Crammed with so much natural beauty the Lakes attract visitors, tourists and holiday makers from all over the world. As the name suggests there are many lakes each with their own uniqueness, amenities and activities such as lakeside walks, sailing, waterskiing, boat trips and ferries. All of the lakes except Bassenthwaite Lake are named by water, tarn or mere and are surrounded by stunning scenery and magnificent fells. There are some wonderful towns to explore such as Keswick, Windermere, Ambleside, Kendal, Hawkshead, Grasmere and Cockermouth all with a splendid mixture of shops, cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants. There are also many museums, theatres, historic homes, gardens and many easy walks for the not so energetic visitor wishing not to climb the fells. William Wordsworth the famous British poet was born in Cockermouth and later lived in Grasmere where he wrote some of his best works before moving to Rydal Mount near Ambleside for his last 37 years. Both places are open to visitors and so is Brantwood home to John Ruskin until his death. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey and Thomas de Quincey all followed Wordsworth to the Lake District. Arthur Ransome, author of Swallows and Amazons, also grew to love the lakes and settled in the Winster Valley near Windermere. The painters Thomas Gainsborough, JMW Turner and John Constable were early visitors to the lakes but it was John Ruskin who settled here at Brantwood on the shore of Coniston Water. Farming and especially sheep farming has been historically and still is the main industry of the Lake District. The tough Herdwick breed with their stocky build and distinctive grey coat are especially hardy for the Lakeland fells and its weather. Sheep farming has probably been here since Viking times and is an important factor both to the economy of the lakes as well as in preserving the stunning landscape which attracts visitors and hence income to the region.
Glenridding, situated on the shore at the southern end of Ullswater, is set in some of the most beautiful countryside of the Ullswater and Patterdale valley. Surrounded by wonderful fells no wonder Glenridding is popular with mountain walkers Helvellyn, England’s third highest mountain, and many challenging peaks can be walked from here. Glenridding provides ample accommodation including camping, youth hostels, self catering cottages, guest houses and hotels and also a good range of local shops, cafes, restaurants, a pub the Travellers Rest and two hotels with bars; the Ratchers Tavern attached to the Glenridding Hotel and the Ramblers Bar attached to the Inn on the Lake Hotel. The Ullswater Steamers who run regular trips across Ullswater to Howtown and Pooley Bridge and the Glenridding Sailing Centre who offer boat hire and sailing tuition are also very popular. The village and surrounding area was used to film the TV series The Lakes.
Greenside lead mine, located up a steep and winding track above Glenridding is the site of the largest lead mine in the Lake District. Lead ore was discovered in the area around Nick Head in the 1650’s and the site was mined from the 1690’s to 1962. The mine was still working when Wainwright was preparing his book, Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells. Since the 1970’s the site has been owned by The National Park Authority who have been trying to stabilise some of the tips to stop them sliding down the hillside and also making sure the water from the underground workings does not pollute surrounding water courses or Ullswater Lake. When the mine closed down a lot of the buildings were demolished and the few that remained are now used as youth hostels by schools and other visiting groups. Without the mine the houses and economy of Glenridding and surrounding area would not have existed.
Helvellyn at 950 metres is the highest point in the Helvellyn range and is the third highest mountain both in England and the Lake District. The Helvellyn range runs from north to south between the lakes of Thirlmere and Ullswater. Helvellyn its self is a very popular mountain to climb due to its easy access and exhilarating scrambles up and down. The summit of Helvellyn is a broad plateau running for about a kilometre between Lower Man, a subsidiary top about 700 metres to the north west, and the start of Striding Edge. It is so smooth and large that a small plane was able to land on it in 1926 and there is a stone tablet monument 40 yards south of a cross shaped stone shelter commemorating the aeroplane landing. The views from the summit are magnificent and on a clear day the views extend across the whole of the Lake District and beyond. The scenery is stunning on the approach to Helvellyn’s eastern side with its three deep glacial coves, a small tarn and two sharp topped ridges, Striding Edge and Swirral Edge. The western flanks drop gently at first then more steeply down to Thirlmere. Striding Edge begins at Hole-in-the-Wall and then stretches for over 1.5 km linking the summit ridge of Birkhouse Moor to the summit of Helvellyn and involves some steep scrambling and 80 meters of rough rocky terrain. It is a notorious accident black spot among hikers and scramblers. Swirral Edge beginning at Red Tarn is a shorter route which also involves scrambling and is also another accident black spot amongst hikers and scramblers making it just as dangerous as Striding Edge. Both edges have steep escarpments on both sides so a head for heights is needed. Between these two ridges lies Red Tarn which was formed when the glacier that carved out the eastern side of Helvellyn had melted. The small tarn lying at an altitude of 718m is about 25m deep and is one of the highest in the Lake District. In the mid 19th century Red Tarn was dammed to increase its capacity to enable it to supply power to the Greenside Lead Mine. The dam has now gone and the tarn has returned to its normal size. It contains brown trout and schelly, a species of white fish found in only four bodies of water in the Lake District. It is fed by a number of streams and flows outwards into Glenridding Beck which then flows alongside Greenside Road into Glenridding Beck then Ullswater. Many people do camp on Helvellyn often near Red Tarn even though camping in England is illegal without the permission of the landowner. There is a tradition of wild camping in the Lake District and as long as people camp unobtrusively for no more than one night and leave no traces of their site a blind eye is taken. Since the last ice age, on the rock ledges high on the eastern slopes, arctic alpine plants grow in small clusters. Mountain birds and Britain’s only alpine butterfly also live on and around Helvellyn.
If you are nervous of heights and narrow ridges and do not wish to take in Swirral Edge and Striding Edge then follow this walk to Red Tarn and take the clearly visible path to the left which leads to the Hole-in-the-Wall then continue with our walk.
From the tourist information centre we make our way to the end of the car park and turn right and go through the opening signposted Helvellyn via Greenside Road. We turn left and follow Greenside Road past the Travellers Rest and two rows of cottages on our right. We keep heading forwards with Glenridding Beck on our left until we come to the YHA. We cross the bridge over Swirl Beck and go through the gate. We head forwards then turn right signposted Brown Cove, Whiteside Bank and Sticks Pass and then left. We head forwards and follow the yellow arrow for Red Tarn and Helvellyn. We cross the footbridge over Glenridding Beck and turn right. We now follow the track with the beck on our right. After crossing the second small footbridge we start to bear left following the stream on our left uphill until we come to Red Tarn. We now take the path on the right of the tarn and make our way uphill to scramble up Swirral Edge to the top of Helvellyn. At the top we turn left and walk along the flat plateau past the trig point and a cairn. We now start to go downhill towards Striding Edge. On reaching the big rock face we scramble to the top then down and at the next big rock we take the path on the left of the ridge of Striding Edge which is very narrow ledge in places (if you wish you can take the path over the very top of Striding Edge). As we drop down we keep following the path heading for the wall in the distance. At the wall (Hole-in-the-Wall) we follow the track with the wall on our right. When the wall turns right we head straight forward and keep following the path as it bears right downhill. We come to a wall and follow it downhill for a short way then we bear left and keep heading downhill following a little beck on our left. We cross a little bridge, go through a gate and then follow the track to Greenside Road. We turn right and make our way back to the car park.
This is a hard walk with steep inclines and declines and narrow ledges and edges. There is a lot of steep scrambling over rocks and boulders.
Elevation: Approx lowest point 155.60m (510.50ft) approx highest point 944.20m (3097.80ft)
Distance and Start Point
Approx 7.5 miles allow 5 hours using OS Explorer Map OL5, The English Lakes North-eastern area.
Start point: Glenridding Pay and Display Car Park.
Glenridding is in the Patterdale/Ullswater Valley in the Lake District, Cumbria.
Directions and Parking
From the A66 at Troutbeck take the A5091on the left sign posted Troutbeck and Ullswater. Follow the A5091 until it joins the A592, on the edge of Ullswater, turn right and follow the road to Glenridding. Car park is on the right.
Parking: National Trust Pay and Display car park £7 for all day.
Toilets and Refreshments
There are public toilets in Glenridding next door to the Tourist Information Centre in the main car park. For refreshments there are a number of shops, a cafe and restaurant, coffee house, a pub and hotels with bars.