If you’re a regular visitor to the blog, you’ll already know that whilst I love the Lake District’s fells, I usually like to appreciate their beauty from a safe distance, rather than admire them by venturing to the tops!
But earlier in the year, I got the taste for photographing scenery from a slightly higher vantage point than my usual terrain, on a short walk to Loughrigg Terrace, which overlooks Grasmere.
Next on my gem-hunting list of short walks, I added Gummer’s How, a hill that forms an imposing backdrop behind Fell Foot at the southern tip of Windermere (lake), and which I now fondly refer to as a ‘mini mountain’ walk. I’d heard that the views from the top are completely out of proportion to the effort you have to put in to see them, and that the whole walk could be comfortably completed in under a couple of hours (with time for a flask of tea and photos). So one afternoon back in the summer I thought I’d give it a try!
Gummer’s How is a relatively short walk because you can drive a good part of the way up this 1052 ft low fell on a minor road leading from Fell Foot towards Bowland Bridge. Shortly after joining this road, you come across three or more laybys on your left-hand side, and a free Forestry Commission car park on your right. The laybys are a great place to stop if you just want to pause for a short time to appreciate the view of Windermere, which is surprisingly good, even from here.
Once parked in the car park, you can apparently take the footpath that appears to go in the wrong direction into woodland, and bearing left, this brings you out onto the road directly opposite the footpath to Gummer’s How. Because I’d not consulted my guide at this point (!), I walked the short distance up the road from the car park entrance instead, but this is less advisable as the road is steep and some cars do travel at surprising speed down here.
After a little while, the relatively even path transforms into a rather more gruelling series of uneven stone steps. And if – like me – you spend much of your week in the office, leg muscles that you didn’t even know you had will soon remind you that they’re there and angry at being woken from their slumber!
Lungs stinging, and the heat almost suffocating, I didn’t much like the way the way the ground was disappearing away from the path on one side either. It all felt rather disorientating. The guidebook had said this walk was suitable for children however, so I was going to make it to the top!
At last, the stone steps give way to a rocky (and rather squelchy) scramble and, finally, a fairly level platform of grass. From here, a far more civilised stone path continues to wind around the side of the hill, and apart from one last hurdle – a large V-shaped piece of rock through which you have to scramble to reach the rest of the stone track – the final piece of the walk is much more relaxing!
And when you’ve reached the summit, you can enjoy that wonderfully giddy sense of achievement at having made it to the top… before remembering you’ve reached the top of Gummer’s How, not Everest, and you stop grinning like an idiot. 🙂
I took a 360-degree video from the summit triangulation point to show what you can see from here, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is it, and that it’s now time to head back down the way you came! There’s more to the ‘top’ of Gummer’s How than just the summit itself, and there are lots of uneven slopes of grass and rock, meaning that you can’t see all the views from just this point.
Did I mention it was quite windy up there too?!
The best views towards the south and Morecambe Bay are actually on the last piece of path before you reach the summit, and there’s a spectacular panorama over Windermere just a few metres away to the north.
According to the guidebook, I could see south-west to Newby Bridge and Finsthwaite, and as far away as Hoad Hill, Ulverston and Black Combe, as well as northwards towards Wetherlam, the Langdales, Dunmail Raise, Fairfield, Red Screes and Wansfell. I have to say I was there for some time photographing and taking it all in.
Most of the walking guides I have come across describe the route to Gummer’s How as a ‘short, sharp climb’, which I would say is a fairly accurate description. But everybody’s definition of ‘short’ is different, and this walk was quite long enough for me, given the energy it takes to negotiate such uneven terrain!
It might be one of the shorter hill walks in the Lake District, but unlike some of the gentler routes I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, this won’t be for everyone. There are no wide, even tracks once you leave the early stage of the walk, so you need to concentrate on where you put your feet, and you will need to be wearing sturdy walking boots. By the looks of horror on the faces of a couple of other visitors, I wasn’t the only one thinking this was just that little bit harder than I’d been led to believe!
So if you’re not afraid of a ‘short, sharp climb’, this mini mountain experience in the south of the Lake District is well worth seeking out during your stay. And dare I say it… I think I might actually do it again sometime! 🙂
Please note: Although I describe the experience of walking to Gummer’s How, this post is not designed as a step-by-step series of walking instructions, so please find a suitable guidebook or map if you are planning to visit Gummer’s How for yourself. For advice on staying safe whilst walking in the Lake District, and what you should take with you, visit the Lake District National Park Authority’s online walking guidance. Stay safe, and enjoy!
Which is your favourite short walk in the South Lakes area? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below!