Grasmere and Langdale

View from our room at the Belsfield, Bowness

WE STROLL around Grasmere village for a couple of hours then hurry back along the riverside path as we’ve underestimated how long we might need to see all that we’d like to see.

I can’t believe that in all the years that I’ve been coming to the Lake District, this is the first time that I’ve visited the village or the famous Heaton Cooper Gallery. Of the founders of this fell-painting dynasty, I think that I prefer the work of the son William (1903-1995) to that of his father Alfred. William’s watercolours can be a little reminiscent of railway travel posters of the 1930s in the way he simplifies the landscape into interlocking arming shapes in harmonious colours while his father introduces more texture but the suggestion of powerful natural forces in the arching shapes, like billowing sails, of William’s work make the fells and the clouds interacting with them look suitably monumental.

We make the pilgrimage at last to the graves of the Wordsworths; William, Dorothy and Mary, at St Oswald’s church.

As we stop for coffee the most conspicuous subject for me to draw is the passing throng of  visitors to the village. In these situations a universal law applies; whoever I choose to draw someone will always come and stand in front of them or park a car in front.

Loughrigg Tarn

We take the narrow road along the hillside to the west of Grasmere Lake because I’d like to see – also for the first time – Loughrigg Tarn (left). The name is so familiar yet in all the years that we’ve been coming here we’ve never visited it.

With Loughrigg ticked off, we soon pass through Skelwith Bridge, a familiar junction on our Lakeland tours, but instead of heading for Coniston or Tarn Hows as we’d normally do, we turn up towards Langdale, passing Elterwater, another lake that I’m not familiar with.


Langdale isn’t on an Alpine scale but it reminded me of the similarly shaped Lauterbrunnen Valley that we walked along in Switzerland last year – a U-shaped valley with a flat bottom contrasting with soaring cliffs on either ride. It didn’t boast the vertically plunging cascades of its Alpine counterpart but Stickle Ghyll and Dungeon Ghyll have their own rugged appeal.

We normally return again and again to favourite walks in the Lakes, usually amongst the ancient Skiddaw Slates to the north of the National Park or the Silurian Slates around Windermere to the south. We’ve tended to miss out on the craggier fells of the Borrowdale Volcanics between.

Stickle Barn, Langdale


One thing that prompted this Langdale tour was a little booklet that we picked up in Grasmere this morning, I-Spy The Lake District.

It’s aimed at children who’re keen on spotting and ticking off the sights of the National Park but it’s also useful as an itinerary for like ourselves who have our favourite corners but feel that we’d like to see more of what is out there.

Returning by the Little Langdale road to Skelwith Bridge, we get another tick for our I-Spy book; Blea Tarn. Another ten points!

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