The Route: Whinlatter | Distance: 4.5km (3 miles) | Time: 1.5 hours
Ascent: 820ft (250m) | Start: NY208245 | Map: OL4 | Date: 23/06/2010
I awoke on day four with aching feet and a hurting body. Three days of fairly heavy hiking from the off after weeks of sitting still in an office in London had caught up with me surprisingly quickly. Day four I determined would be a down day, a chance to recuperate and recharge the batteries. But unable to sit still for long I thumbed through my various walking, climbing, and hiking guide books and decided that as England’s highest and only true mountain forest (and being on my doorstep so to speak), that Whinlatter Forest just had to be a must to check out!
The forest offered fairly easy walking in a pristine environment with fantastic mountain scenery for very little ascent due to the fact that it was already located high up in the hills above the village of Bassenthwaite in the north-western fells.
We parked at the forest centre and set off up through Comb Plantation. The zigzag path rose steadily through pine tree plantations as we headed for our goal of the day Seat How. Seat How is one of the highest vantage points in the forest promising great views over the valley below and across to Derwent Water.
We walked at leisure along the twisting single-track which criss-crossed the mountain bike route that shared this particular area of the forest with walkers. Having now seen the delights of the MTB route my heart leapt a beat, and in that instance I knew that before the week would finish I could see my self being tested on this very route as the opportunity of some adrenaline fueled adventure was too great to ignore (but that’s a whole other story to follow).
We climbed the short but undulating path to the rocky outcrop of Seat How having passed through woodland openings mixed with dark dense forest along the way to eventually savour the rightly vaunted viewpoint at the top. After a brief stop we pressed on along the forest trail which crossed many small mountain meadows and then passed quietly through more dense pine wood plantations ever onward, ever twisting, ever beautiful. The sky was a brilliant blue, the occasional skylark sung, and the trees bowed back and forth gently in the morning breeze. Whinlatter Forest was proving to be a truly peaceful wild and idylic place.
We descended ever downwards toward the valley being offered fine views of Skiddaw most of the way until eventually we crossed Comb Gill and then continued to follow the stream downhill.
The forest centre presented itself through the trees all too quickly as the walk neared its end. We had only set off to complete a small walk in some forestry land but had been left wanting more of the same by the time we arrived back at the centre. As we sat drinking outside on the decking of the forestry centre in the shadow of Grisedale Pike we reflected on what a beautiful area of the lakes we had found and vowed to return again. For me my return would be in 3 days time, but as mentioned before that was to be a whole other story to come.