Pastimes: Get yourself in mint condition

Late autumn, and the Lake District is a uncrowded haven. Matthew Brace takes a tranquil hike up Cat Bells.

Lake District novices test their stamina on Cat Bells, scuffing the toes of their new boots and putting their luminous waterproofs through their paces. Its summit offers some of the best views in Lakeland (if you are lucky enough to escape the relentless Cumbrian hill mist). The short climb is quite steep in places - several guidebooks describe it as "strenuous" - but the stunning panorama takes your mind off aching calf muscles.

The pretty village of Grange on the river Derwent is a good place to start from. Stock up with Mars bars and a flask of tea (friendly B&Bs usually oblige) and head north on the Tarmac side-road towards the western side of the lake. After a little over half a mile take a path leading off to the left signposted for Cat Bells. It climbs steadily at first, but is steep and zigzags at the top, where it has been painstakingly restored in recent years to protect the fellside from erosion.

When you reach the top you will find yourself at a hause (the lowest point of a saddle between the fells of Cat Bells (to your right) and Maiden Moor (left). Get your breath back, have a cup of tea and strike out again following a wide, gentle track up to the summit of Cat Bells (1,400ft). It is not long to the top, and once up there the full force of a fresh, westerly wind will clear your mind and fill your lungs.

Look north to the grey, squatting mass of Skiddaw, west to moody Bassenthwaite Lake, east across Derwent Water to Castlerigg Fell and High Seat, south to the Jaws of Borrowdale. Below the western flank of Cat Bells lies the Newlands Valley - beautiful, and mercifully unexplored. Its whitewashed farmhouses shine brightly in the sunlight. Such a view must have inspired Beatrix Potter, for Mrs Tiggywinkle's house was in this valley next to Little Town.

There were mines, too, in the Newlands Valley, gouging out copper and lead back in the 18th century, and one dates back 400 years. These have gone now, but sometimes their old spoil heaps can be seen.

Local knowledge has it that Cat Bells is so named because of the wild cats that used to roam the Lake District 200 years ago. The wildest thing you will see now is the occasional bearded, solitary walker standing astride the summit, braced against the wind. In summer months it can get congested on top - scouts dropping their Kendal Mint Cake in the mud, coach parties munching on soggy sandwiches and arguing about whether they can see Blackpool Tower in the distance; even the odd pram makes an appearance.

Head north from the summit and you will drop down via a signposted zigzag path to Hawes End, a tiny hamlet about two miles from Keswick. Stick to this path - and avoid falling into the hated category of "direct routers" who believe paths are merely for lower mortals, and so march willy-nilly across any part of the fell they fancy. They have scarred much of the grass cover on Cat Bells and elsewhere in the Lakes.

At the car park at the foot of the fell follow signs past Hawes End House towards Derwent Water. The path takes you through woods and two kissing- gates and then runs along the shores of the lake through Brandelhow Park.

You will pass small boathouses straight out of Swallows and Amazons where, on wet days, the rain fizzes on the water and there is a great sense of tranquillity. Look out for the spoil left by an old silver mine tucked behind the brambles (no ingots here now, I'm afraid).

Eventually you will come to Manesty Woods, one of the most magical woodlands in the north of England, and one of the National Trust's first acquisitions almost a century ago. This is real Hobbit country, with shaded dells and a carpet of leaves.

The path is easy to follow through the woods and eventually brings you back to the road near to where you started your ascent. There are usually some cars parked here, full of disgruntled, damp walkers steaming up the windows and dreaming of a hot bath. Follow the road back into Grange in time for high tea and a chance to dry out at the Grange Bridge Tea Rooms, next to the River Derwent. If Lakeland brandy butter is on the menu, don't miss it.

Length of walk, about six miles

Ordnance Survey Landranger map 90

Directions

l Leave Grange on side-road and follow the sign for Cat Bells

l Follow path up side of Cat Bells to hause, turn right and go to summit

l Go over summit and down north side, sticking to path

l At car park, look for signs for Brandelhow Park and the Derwent Water

l Past Hawes End House, through gates and to lake shore

l Follow shore and go through Manesty Woods to road

l Follow road back to Grange, and indulge in high tea at the Grange Bridge Tea Rooms

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

AER Teachers: Early Years Teaching Assistant Newham

Negotiable: AER Teachers: Outstanding East London primary school seeking an Ea...

AER Teachers: Southwark primary School looking for teaching assistants

Negotiable: AER Teachers: Southwark primary School looking for teaching assist...

Royal College of Music: Assistant to the Deputy Director & the Director of Research

£24,451 - £27,061 per annum: Royal College of Music: The Royal College of Musi...

Guru Careers: Marketing Analyst / Optimisation Analyst

£35 - £45k DOE + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing / Optimisation Analyst is...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future