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
News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
newsMinistry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: We are currently looking for a Geog...

Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key Stage 1

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key S...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links