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Exploring some of the most accessible peaks in the Lake District...
In the heart of the Lake District lies a range of hills that Wainwright described as the ‘Central’ fells. Despite being in the middle, they are not as high as their surrounding ranges, a curious result of geology and the weight of the ice sheet in the ice age. The highest point at High Raise reaches 762 metres above sea level, and feels more like the top of a high moor than a classic Lakeland Peak. What the Central Fells lack in height, they make up for in accessibility, and in a great selection of smaller fells that are excellent short walks.
The shape of the range is of a wide ridge running north to south from Keswick to Ambleside. At its northern end the hills are boggy and rolling, quite a different feel to the Lake District as a whole and a good taster for anyone thinking of heading into the Northern Pennines. The ridge is flanked by Borrowdale and Derwent Water in the west and by St Johns in the Vale in the east. Two excellent crags lie in this area and make great short trips where woodland can be combined with extensive views; these are Walla Crag and Raven Crag, on either side of the main ridge.
Moving south, the land rises to High Raise, which is drier than the hills further north. Out west, two craggy arms reach into Borrowdale, culminating in the impressive Eagle Crag and Great Crag, which are best approached from the west to see their precipitous slopes. On the eastern side of the fells at this point is Thirlmere, a reservoir where, although the dam is quite well hidden from the road, the shoreline makes it obvious it is no longer a natural lake.
Further south, towards Grasmere, the central fells produce some of the best low ridges in the Lake District. The long arm of Blea Rigg leading out to Silver Howe is a playground of crags and viewpoints that can be climbed almost anywhere along its length, leading to a huge number of walk opportunities. North across Easedale lies the prominent fell of Helm Crag, the only Wainwright peak that needs a scramble to get to the top.
The southern end of the range ends at Great Langdale, where the Langdale Pikes form probably the most recognised peaks of the Central Fells, and possibly the most photographed view in the Lakes. Although they seem to be mere bumps on the ridge if approaching from the north, from the south them tower above the valley floor, bordered by ravines and echoing the sound of crashing water.
If water is what you’re after, then besides the high and lonely Blea Tarn in the north, the Central Fells contains the popular Easedale Tarn, a spot that can be reached from Grasmere, and the dramatic Stickle Tarn, which lies beneath the great crag face of Pavey Ark. These small lakes make excellent objectives if you want an easier day out or if the weather closes in.
All in all, the great sprawling mass of the Central Lake District has, like all mountain ranges, a huge number of faces and moods. Known mostly as a long wide ridge, it’s main attractions for many are the low craggy summits on its edges. The main ridge also has its beauty however, and aside from the easy walking it gives you, the views to the higher mountains on all sides are definitely worth the climb.
Author: Alex Kendall
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