A Walk to the Nan Bield Pass

A Walk to the Nan Bield Pass

It must be twenty years since I last walked to the Nan Bield Pass in the Lake District. I remember that day well, an absolutely beautiful June day of sunshine, clear blue skies and long views over many miles. I had been walking the ridges of the Kentmere Horseshoe from the tiny village of Kentmere.


At the Nan Bield Pass (c) John Bainbridge 2017


So enthused was I by the walk, that, when The Great Outdoors magazine interviewed me soon afterwards and asked me to name the last walk I might do before I died – a favourite question for walking interviewees – I said that one. Now I’m not so sure. So many walks to revisit, I would quite like time to do them all again before I croak.

Anyway,  thought it time for a revisit. I’d never walked there from the far end of Hawes Water, via the tarn known as Small Water. I have a watercolour print of the view across the tarn hanging on my wall and wondered what it looked like in real life.


Small Water looking towards Nan Bield (c) John Bainbridge 2017


Last Monday was very different from that previous June day. It was below freezing, there was a light dusting of snow on the tops, and the paths were very icy and slippery. Nan Bield and the familiar hills all around were offering a very different experience. Although the Lakes have escaped the freezing fog that has beset much of England this past week, there was a bank of it playfully sweeping in and out of the pass as we climbed towards it.

It’s not a difficult walk and just going to the Pass itself is very simple on a good day. We were slow because of the slippery conditions – not so bad on the way up but fairly treacherous on the descent. Easier if there had been proper snow to give some traction.


The Stone Shelters at Small Water (c) John Bainbridge 2017


There are some lovely stone shelters on the banks of Small Water, no doubt provided to offer shelter to poor benighted travellers. There is a lovely sketch of them in the Wainwright guide. Last Monday you could see why they might be needed.

At the Pass we rested in the stone shelter, with its little stone sign indicating the directions to Kentmere and Mardale.dscf8566


There was no view, for we were well in the freezing cloud by now. I filled in the gaps from my memory. It was interesting to see the Nan Bield Pass again. I wish I was young and fit again like that first time, those heady days when I could pace away the miles and walk summit after summit, tirelessly.

Anno Domini!


Small Water on the descent (c) John Bainbridge 2017




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