Two Tarns and a Top

A few years since we last walked up to Easedale and Codale Tarns, so yesterday we went up there again. We don’t normally go to popular Lake District areas on a bank holiday, but Grasmere was quiet enough when we got there, though busier at the end of the day.

Sour Milk Gill

Tarn – I mentioned Viking words in my last blog and there’s another. Old Norse for Tear, and you can see why – especially when viewed from far away.

New Bridge over the Easedale Beck

Easedale Tarn has always been popular with Lakeland visitors. I refer you to Henry Irwin Jenkinson’s (Jenkinson was one of the Keswick trespassers who fought for access to the disputed Latrigg Fell) Practical Guide To The English Lake District of 1872: The best short walk from Grasmere, and one which no tourist ought to neglect, is that to Easedale Tarn, situated in a wild and secluded mountain recess… a pony can go the whole journey; carriages only half way.

Looking Back

Like Mr Jenkinson and his readers, we went up the well-known and much used path alongside Sour Milk Gill Force. A lovely waterfall, but Mr Jenkinson thought it had its limitations – This is a fine fall; but owing to the want of wood and overhanging rocks, it reminds the on-looker of the beauty which is bold and showy, rather than that which is modest and refined. The surrounding scenery is wild and beautiful. Erratic blocks and smooth rocks are mute evidences of a past era of glacial action.

Easedale Tarn
Remnants of the Refreshment Hut
Looking Back To Easedale Tarn

We wandered in his Victorian footsteps up to Easedale Tarn. Henry Jenkinson had his reservations – Many persons will be annoyed on finding a small hut erected in this mountain nook, which retreat seems dedicated to solitary, pleasing reverie. Refreshments are provided by the person in charge of the hut, and a boat can be hired for a row, or a little trout fishing on the tarn. The charge for boat is 1 shilling per hour, and 5 shillings per day.

Climbing the Beck

Anyone who has walked up the rocky path to Easedale Tarn can only speculate on the effort involved in hauling a boat all the way up there. The hut and its attractions are long since gone, though you can see its rocky remains and the twisted remnants of a metal bench.

Codale Tarn

On then around along the tarn, up a rocky scramble and around the mini peak of Belles Knott to Codale Tarn – one of those lost, lonely stretches of water where you half expect to see a hand clutching a sword emerging from the depths. Mr Jenkinson remarks that you can catch trout there. He has very little else to say, perhaps because only his more energetic readers were likely to attempt the journey.

Little Tarn on Tarn Crag and Windermere in the distance.

We returned over Tarn Crag, that sprawling rocky mass that takes its name from Easedale Tarn itself. Mr Jenkinson gives it only a passing mention, usually describing it only in the context of getting deeper into the fells. His successor, Alfred Wainwright was a tad more enthusiastic. We breasted its top and went down alongside the stunning crags of Deer Bield, taking the winding path into Far Easedale.

Descending by Deer Bield

Whatever your thoughts on Tarn Crag, it’s certainly a lovely viewpoint. The view over Grasmere and down towards Windermere is very impressive. Mr Jenkinson thought the setting of the village to be quite lovely.

We crossed the Far Easedale Beck at Stythwaite Steps and took the track alongside that sprawling, brawling water for much of the way back into Grasmere. A splendid path, though it always seems much longer in distance that my memory recalls.

An English Historian – A Walk to Chapel Stile

One of the loveliest and easiest routes in the Lakes is along the old corpse route from Chapel Stile to Grasmere. Some beautiful scenery and a wonderful paved path some of the way. Until the church at Chapel Stile was built, the dead of the Langdale Valley would have been carried to Grasmere for burial.

A Glimpse of Grasmere

It’s a short route, so with a minor variation, we walked it in both directions, from Grasmere to Chapel Stile and then back again.

We walked up the lane from Grasmere to Huntingstile, where almost immediately you arrive at the paved section of the path. It seems almost miraculous to me that such old paths have survived as much as they have. It’s why we really must fight to preserve the original lines of our ancient rights of way. Take them away and you take away a hugely important part of our social history.

The Paved Corpse Road

What I love about this path most are the views. So many familiar places, so many memories of walks in ancient sunlight.

The Corpse Road (c) John Bainbridge 2020

The View Back

In the steep graveyard at Chapel Stile is the grave of George Macauley Trevelyan, one of our greatest social historians, and perhaps the founder of the discipline of social history as we know it. “Historian of England”, his gravestone reads. What a wonderful epitaph.

In Chapel Stile

Reading Trevelyan’s books on social history inspired my own studies, and prompted me to do the degree I did at the University of East Anglia. It led me to the historical writings of G.D.H Cole, E.P. Thompson, Eric Hobsbawm and Patricia Hollis – the latter a wonderful teacher who became my history tutor at UEA.

Trevelyan’s Grave – Historian of England

Too often these days, our politicians try to knock social history off the agenda, in favour of big names and kings and queens. All worth knowing no doubt, but important to remember the majority of us are descended from the workers of the world. In my time there has been a carefully constructed plot by some politicians to rewrite our history to excise working people from the agenda, Please don’t fall for it!

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A Lovely Old Stoop

It was my study of social history that made me look again at the history of our old ways, the paths that tell so many stories.

The Grave of Cornelius Soul

And if you want to get a good slant on real British history, rather than the Establishment’s view of what you should know, then do read Trevelyan, and then Thompson, Cole, Hollis, the Hammonds and Hobsbawm.

Then, if walking is important to you, seek out the historians of walking and paths. GM Trevelyan was a grand fell-walker from a famous political and fell-walking family. He also used to participate in Lakeland “man-hunts”, where a volunteer would try to get from one point in the fells to another, evading a crowd of pursuers. I once did something similar on Dartmoor, where I had to get from Belstone to South Brent over two days without being captured. Grand fun…

Near to the grave of Trevelyan lies the last resting place of the wonderfully-named Cornelius Soul, who – the stone says – finished his days out on the Langdale Fells.

Spring Lambs

We had refreshments in Brambles cafe in Chapel Stile, then followed the lane back to Red Bank, once a gentleman’s residence but now the youth hostel. I was for many years a member of the YHA, in those days when hostelling was cheap and cheerful, when you slept and eat simply, couldn’t arrive by car, had sing-songs in the common room, and when hostels were so close together you could do walking tours from one hostel to another (you still can in the Lake District). Happy days!

Not sure I could afford YHA prices anymore!

We walked down to the start of Loughrigg Terrace, then down through the woods back to Grasmere. I often wonder what the old-timers like GM Trevelyan and Cornelius Soul would make of the Lake District of the 21st century?

Thinking of so many of the places I’ve walked, such as Dartmoor, I’m rather glad that I first knew them fifty years or more ago.