Mountain Journeys

Lakes Gravel – Big Adventures on the Walna Scar


Duddon Valley views - Lakes Gravel


Lakes Gravel Routes - Walna Scar

On Friday I had a free afternoon / evening, so took the opportunity to get out and play. Still keen to keep my slowly recovering heels out of climbing shoes, I decided to take the bike out instead of heading to rocky places. Lakes Gravel here we come.

Hike and bike is a new concept to me. Whilst I have seen folk carrying their mtb’s up Lakeland mountains, it has never been something that has appealed……until now that is.

The plan was to ride from home to the Duddon valley, via Walna Scar. Then do a circuit of Caw to reach Stephenson Ground. From there it was likely I’d simply pedal back on the roads, and that’s how it panned out. So a fair amount of quiet lanes mixed in with loads of amazing Lakes Gravel.

After some huge deluges of rain, the ground everywhere is sodden and this definitely had an impact on my chosen route, making numerous sections extremely challenging due to deep mud. I was wearing my Inov8 fell shoes and these helped with the muddy walking sections.

It was about 4.30pm when I set off. This had been delayed due to heavy rain. Taking back roads and bridleways to Knipe Fold, over Hawkshead Hill and into Coniston. I was musing at how I might cope with the Walna Scar ascent and already knew that various sections would be done on foot. Little did I realise just how soon this would start!

The narrow lane leading out of Coniston to the top of the driveable section of Walna Scar is unbelievably steep and whilst I didn’t think I’d have a problem getting up it, I did. Managing less than 100m before needing to do the push of shame! Thankfully the gradient eases and I was able to ride the rest of the tarmac section.

Taking a break at the parking area gave me chance to see the heavy rain showers heading my way, oh joy. The trusty Paramo would be kept busy.

The following section is relatively flat and very rideable, it’s lovely Lakes Gravel. The views open up and a more mountainous environment is entered. Soon enough the ‘hike a bike’ sections begin, but it’s all enjoyable and allows for some respite. I pass the turning for Dow Crag and can’t help but gaze up at the hallowed rocks. A small amount of snow clings on in the depths of a gully high on Dow. Testament to the chilly nature of this crag.

A mix of pushing and riding, accompanied by much puffing sees me up at the top of Walna Scar. Time for a rest and to marvel at the magnificent vistas into Duddon and over to the Scafell range.



Walna Scar descent into Duddon - Lakes Gravel


Having never walked down into the Duddon valley from Walna scar I didn’t know what the surface would be like. Thankfully, much of it is rideable and fun on a gravel bike. All too soon I was at Seathwaite and there was quite a temptation to pop into The Newfield Inn. But time was pressing on so I kept moving.

The next section was new to me too, although I remember years ago running up Caw from Seathwaite, so have been on these tracks. I had also checked with a friend - thanks Emma - who suggested they might be rideable with care and on an mtb. That was a fair assessment of the terrain and definitely on the more adventurous side of Lakes Gravel. I managed some riding and lots of pushing, both being enjoyable and through beautiful scenery.

Upon reaching the high point I was pretty wasted and in need of energy. A small cereal bar didn’t do it for me and my thoughts turned to such delights as Fish & Chips. No such luck, I was in the middle of the mountains and a long way from home. The descent that lay ahead looked wonderful, if a little damp. Have I mentioned it rains a lot?!

Needing to keep the speed low due to the volume of mud at least allowed me to fully appreciate the epic surroundings. The final section of bridleway was enclosed by ancient walls and was so pretty, with small streams crisscrossing all the while. This was to be the final section of Lakes Gravel for me this evening. A steep descent on tarmac followed before a gruelling climb onto Broughton Moor. By now I was feeling drained and wishing for the final hill to be behind me. The glorious descent into Torver put a smile back on my face though. I almost called in at the pub for tea, but resisted.

Needing a fairly quick route home but wanting to stay off the main road I headed back over Hawkshead Hill, this is about a 500ft climb out of Coniston. Elation arrived at the top, the home straight and a steady cruise back to Ambleside on nice quiet lanes. By now it was dark, so lights were on. I have a Blackburn Dayblazer 1500 for the front and on full beam it is quite incredible, like a car headlight. Sadly, the battery life is not so incredible.

Much food was consumed once home and a good nights sleep had. What a top evening out.

Stat's: 51km’s and 1438m of ascent over some very challenging terrain.

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

Thanks for reading. For more about all the fun activities we offer here in the Lake District please do check out our Activities page here and our blog has a growing amount of Lakes Gravel featured, so do check back soon.



Walna Scar Road - Lakes Gravel



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