4th October 2009

A Greenburn round - Helm Crag to Steel Fell


Walk Overview
Time 09.30 to 14.15
Duration 4 hr 45 min
Distance 8.5 mile
Ascent 2431 ft
Walking with On my own
Grasmere - Easedale Road - Lancrigg - Helm Crag - Gibson Knott - Calf Crag - Steelfell Tarn - Steel Fell - Cotra - Helmside - Underhelm - Easedale Road - Grasmere
Fells visited
Directory places visited

Starting Point Information Centre
Car park, Broadgate, Grasmere

Broadgate is one of the three main car parks found in Grasmere. They all charge what may be considered over the odds, but I suppose parking in an area with so many walking options does come with a high price tag.

In addition to the walking on offer, the car park is within a minutes walk from the centre of Grasmere and everything it has to tempt the visitor.


Route Map

After yesterday's gale force winds, peace, calm and quiet had once again returned to give a much more agreeable autumnal day in the Lakes. A day of blue sky, the occasional gentle swirl of autumn leaves, and one or two light showers, added to remind us that we can't always have things our own way.


A view down into Easedale, showing Brimmer Head Farm and Blindtarn Cottage.

A close up of Blindtarn Cottage; a peaceful looking spot if ever there was one. Yet as tranquil and inviting as it may seem now, the cottage has a somewhat dark episode in its history.

Sorry if there's a lot to read here, but I'm sure some of you would find this interesting.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century the house was in the possession of George and Sarah Green. On 18th March 1808 they went over to Langdale, leaving the children at home and in the charge of their eleven year old daughter. On their return home over the fells George and Sarah both lost their lives when they were caught in a blizzard.

An detailed account of what happened after the death of the Greens' can be obtained from a letter written ten days after the event by Dorothy Wordsworth where she says to a Mrs Clarkson:-
"Most likely you have read in the papers of the dismal event which happened in our neighbourhood on Saturday sen-night, but I am sure you will wish to know further particulars. Our thoughts have been almost wholly employed about the poor sufferers or their family ever since. George and Sarah Green, two inhabitants of this vale, went to a sale in Langdale in the afternoon; and set off homewards in the evening, intending to cross the fells and descend just above their own cottage, a lonely dwelling in Easedale. They had left a daughter at home eleven years old, with the care of five brothers and sisters younger than herself, the youngest an infant at the breast. These dear helpless creatures sate up till eleven o'clock expecting their parents, and then went to bed thinking that they had stayed all night in Langdale because of the weather."

"All next day they continued to expect them, and on Monday morning one of the boys went to a house on the opposite side of the dale to borrow a cloak. On being asked for what purpose, he replied that his sister was going to Langdale to lait their folk who had never come home. The man of the house started up, and said that they were lost ; and immediately spread the alarm. As long as daylight lasted on that day Monday, and on till Tuesday afternoon, all the men of Grasmere, and many from Langdale, were out upon the fells. On Tuesday afternoon the bodies were found miserably mangled, having been cut by the crags. They were lying not above a quarter of a mile above a house in Langdale where their shrieks had been distinctly heard by two different persons who supposed that the shrieks came from some drunken people who had been at the sale."

"The bodies were brought home in a cart, and buried in one grave last Thursday. The poor children all the time they had been left by themselves suspected no evil ; and as soon as it was known by others that their father and mother were missing, the truth came upon them like a thunderstroke. The neighbouring women came to look after them, and found them in a pitiable state, all crying together. In a little time, however, they were pacified, and food was brought into the house, for they had scarcely anything left."

"Their parents were the poorest people in the vale, though they had a small estate of their own and a single cow. This morsel of land, now deeply mortgaged, had been in the possession of the family for several generations ; they were loath to sell it, and consequently they had never had any assistance from the parish. He had been twice married. By his former wife he had left one son and three daughters, and by her who perished with him four sons and four daughters. They must have very soon parted with their land if they had lived, for their means were reduced by little, and little, till scarcely anything but the land was left. The cow was grown old, and they had not money to buy another. They had sold their horse, and were in the habit of carrying bridles, or anything that they could spare, to barter for potatoes or bread. 1 Luxuries they had none. They never made tea, and when the neighbours went to the children on Monday they found nothing in the house but a few (pieces) of lean dried mutton. The cow at this time does not give a quart of milk in a day. You will wonder how they lived at all, and indeed I can hardly tell you. They used to sell a few peats in the summer, which they dug out of their own heart's heart—their land—and perhaps the old man (he was sixty-five years of age) might earn a little money by doing odd jobs for his neighbours ; but it was never known till now (by us at least) how much distressed they must have been. See them when you would, they were always cheerful ; and when they went from home they were decently dressed. The children, too, though very ragged, were clean ; and are as pure and innocent, and in every respect as promising children as I ever saw."

"Since this melancholy event our thoughts have been chiefly employed in laying schemes to prevent the children from falling into the hands of persons who may use them unkindly, and for giving them decent education. One of the eight is in place, and can provide for herself. The next is with us. She has attended the children since we came from Coleorton ; but we had intended parting with her at Whitsuntide if her parents had lived, and have hired an elder servant in her place, thinking it bad for the children's tempers to be under one so young. We shall, however, now keep her, not as a servant, but send her to Grasmere School, and teach her to sew ; and do our best to fit her for a good place. She is as innocent, and as guileless, as a baby; but her faculties are rather slow. After her there are six left, and it is probable they will be boarded out by the parish. We hope that a sufficient sum will be raised for the purposes I have mentioned. Everybody who has the power seems disposed to assist them. The Bishop of Llandaffwill subscribe ten guineas, and we have received five guineas from a Mr. Wilson—a very amiable young man, a friend and adorer of William and his verses, who is building a house at Windermere. This sum we shall keep back till we see what is done by the parish and others, and we hope to get more from our friends. Perhaps your uncle Hardcastle may do something."

A little higher up the fellside on Helm Crag and you get an uninterrupted view into Far Easedale, leading up to Greenup Edge; the lowest point on the skyline.

The view over the other side of the ridge has less of a golden look to it and shows the green fields around the Grasmere side of Dunmail Raise. The fells in the picture are Seat Sandal, Fairfield, Great Rigg and Stone Arthur.

I don't want to sound like coach driver giving a tour of the Lakes, but if you all look back over to your left hand side, you have a view of Easedae Tarn. You'd best be quick though; in a couple of minutes the tarn disappears from view behind the high ground.

The rocky summit of Helm Crag with Steel Fell behind on the right hand side of the picture.

A view down the length of the ridge helps to show the undulating nature of this area, and although at first site it may seem a little confusing, there is actually a path along the whole of the ridge as far as Calf Crag.

Gibson Knott summit.

Looking back along the ridge.

Thank heavens for stepping stones !!


Approaching Calf Crag.

Calf Crag summit.

Well, this was one of the places when a little sunshine would have been nice; to show off the different colours of the grasses. I did stand here for a few minutes but gave up in the end. Perhaps I shouldn't have been so impatient, by the time I got to the other end of the tarn the sun was back out.

There you go; a picture of the tarn looking a bit brighter.


Thirlmere, stretching northwards towards, but not as far as, the northern fells.

A broadside view of Seat Sandal.
I took this picture as I was looking for a not too steep, yet safe route directly off the ridge down to Cotra; the area on the western side of Dunmail Raise.

It might have been safe enough as I managed to pick out a route which avoided the need to walk through the scree, but I failed dismally as far as finding a route which wasn't too steep. Not for the faint hearted and definitely not one I'd recommend when the bracken is at full haight.

And this was the reason why, , ,

Back on the ridge now and looking towards the section of the ridge I missed out because of the de-tour.

The whole walk was thoroughly enjoyable, but the highlight had to be when the (lower) two people pictured here recognised me from the website. It's not always easy to know what to say on these occasions, although it is nice to unexpectedly meet people who regularly look at the site.
Thanks for taking to plunge and asking "are you David", hopefully talking to me in real life didn't scare you away from looking at the website anymore - ha ha.

Ghyll Foot farm.

Steel Fell seen from the roadside along the walk back into Grasmere.

And finally a view across to the other side of the valley showing Seat Sandal, Fairfield, Great Rigg and Stone Arthur.

David Hall -
Lake District Walks