High Rigg, the Long Band Approach.

Start. St John's in the Vale.

Route. St John's in the Vale - Smaithwaite Bridge - Wren Crag - Long Band - Mart Crag - Moss Crag - High Rigg - Church of St John - Rake How - Sosgill - Low Bridge End Farm - Smaithwaite Bridge - St John's in the Vale.

Notes. Before we start I'd like to thank the contractors laying the pipeline from Thirlmere to the Cumbria coast, if it hadn't been for their efforts closing the roads and foot-paths around Thirlmere I'd have been wandering around, picking my way through a misty day. Fortunately the lanes and access to the foot-paths were shut, normally the savvy rambler can squeeze past the odd barrier, not these, it was clearly walkers keep out. Obviously I looked for an alternative route, there was one but I'd still had to get back from the opposite side of the reservoir.

After parking at the entrance to St John's in the Vale, a small car park next to a telephone box, and one aborted attempt to access the shores of Thirlmere I opted for a wander over High Rigg. Rough, craggy, modest in height a dwarf amongst giants, a super hill to explore. On a warm summers day one could spend a good morning wandering it's many paths, discovering it's hidden gems and many charms, unfortunately today was windy, cold, cloudy with rain never very far away.

After a short walk along the main road I accessed the hill via a ladder stile next to Smaithwaite Bridge, the ascent started immediately. A well trod path guided me up the south ridge of Wren Crag, between Scots Pines, Birch and Oak I climbed. Every time I looked back cloud was spilling from the valley head, rolling through St John's in the Vale, if my luck held it would stay in the valley bottom. Over Wren Crag I wandered, above Long Band then onto the summit of Mart Crag, my route continued to Moss Crag then on to the rocky crown of High Rigg, I sat out of the wind, drank coffee whilst soaking up stunning vistas. To the west Gridedale Pike, north to mighty Skiddaw and cloud capped Blencathra, Bassenthwaite Lake and the mosaic of fields, the jig-saw that makes up the Vale of Keswick.

Back on my feet a steep slippery descent followed terminating at the tiny Church of St John, after a quick look inside the narrow access lane ushered me to a finger-post inviting me to Sosgill Bridge. I passed through the gate, stepping onto a wide bridleway that shadowed the intake wall. It soon became obvious I was about to descend into the grey clag that had been haunting the valley all morning. With the steep slopes of High Rigg to my right and an eerie St John's in the Vale my left I wandered on, the bridleway ended at Sosgill to be replaced by a narrow foot-path. On I walked under the cliffs of Long Band, passed Low Bridge End Farm then through woodland below the cliffs of Wren Crag, spilling out of the tree cover where I entered it at Smaithwaite Bridge. All that remained a short walk back to the parked car, well not quite, via The Lodge in the Vale to grab some lunch.

view route map.


Looking up St John's in the Vale with the cliffs of Wren Crag to the left.

Viewing the summit of Wren Crag, adorned with a scattering of Scots Pines.

Castle Rock backed by Watson's Dodd seen from near the summit of Wren Crag.

A striking view across St John's in the Vale, in the distance the rock architecture of Bram Crag with the scree and crag of St John's Common tumbling to the valley floor.

Looking back to sylvan Great How with Thirlmere creeping into view to the right.

The high skyline, Watson's Dodd, Stybarrow Dodd and Raise.

Stunning conditions on the summit of Wren Crag.

Above Long Band looking to Great How and Thirlmere.

Taking a breather on Mart Crag watching cloud spill over the high fells and Dunmail Raise.

Over Naddle cloud kisses the summit of The Benn and Bleaberry Fell.

Looking back over the drama of the High Rigg ridge.

Atmospheric views from the ascent of High Rigg....

....again, this time let the path guide the eye into the mist drifting across Wren Crag.

The scene over High Rigg taking in the Vale of Keswick and a cloud kissed Skiddaw massif.

Near the summit of High Rigg looking back along my approach route, hoping the cloud bubbling up from the valley floor will stay put.

The summit High Rigg on a stunning atmospheric Lakeland day.

Dramatic views over Naddle, under cloud Bleaberry Fell backed by Grasmoor (just visible) with Grisedale Pike to the right.

Shrouded in mist the route I've just trod, to the left St John's in the Vale.

The tiny Church of St John, the present building dates back to 1845 but incorporates parts of an older building dating to 1554. Today it sits in the middle of nowhere, but this inconspicuous lane was once the main route from Matterdale to Wainthwaite and on to Keswick, an ideal place to convert the weary traveler.

The ruined farmhouse at Rake How.

St John's in the Vale under a blanket of cloud.

Near Sosgill looking to Bram Crag through low cloud.

St John's in the Vale with Wren Crag to the left.

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