People notice the arrival of winter in many ways. The clocks going back. The fading colours of autumn and trees losing their leaves. Going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark. Storms coming in and fences and trees going down. Hold-ups on motorways and on trains. Mountain summits lost in mist.
One way that may pass most people by is the change to the winter timetable for buses in the Lake District. That is unless you, like me, live to travel (and travel to live) on foot and by public transport.
In winter you can still visit by bus most of the places that you could visit in summer. Great Langdale, Coniston, Ambleside, Grasmere, Bowness, Borrowdale and many other fantastic destinations in the Lakes still have bus services seven days a week throughout the winter (except for some changes during the Christmas and New Year period). Whilst most services stop on New Year’s Day there is a special service for Kendal, Windermere, Bowness, Ambleside and Grasmere.
This means days out, big or small, are still easy to do. My partner recently used the Great Langdale (#516) and Coniston (#505) bus services to walk from Elterwater to Coniston passing Little Langdale Tarn, Swirl How and The Old Man of Coniston. Meanwhile, the mighty Helvellyn can be accessed from the Thirlmere side by the 555, which runs between Lancaster and Keswick, or from the Ullswater side by bus from Penrith (#508).
While these are all big walks and demand respect in the winter, there’s no end of great walks for every ability (and inclination) of walker. In mid-November, we took advantage of a rare Sunday with a good weather forecast to do a circuit from Coniston that included the mountain of Wetherlam. That Sunday, lots of people were walking through the Coppermines Valley, where grand scenery forms an imposing backdrop to the mining heritage.
For some of them, Levers Water was not only a great picnic spot, but a great place to end a walk. Others headed (or scrambled) higher, drawn on by the summits of Wetherlam, Coniston Old Man and Swirl How, to leave the big vehicle tracks and the scars of mining behind.
Of course it’s not all about the going up – it’s about coming back down again. No more so than when you’re bound for a classic Lakes village pub – most of which have open fires at this time of year, some of them less than a minute’s walk from a bus stop. We finished our walk in the gathering twilight at the Sun Inn in Coniston with a choice of six ales, scoffing ready salted crisps in front of a log fire. Where will you end yours?
Click here for advice on how to stay safe in the hills before heading out on any adventures in the Lake District. Please note also that as with all public transport at the present time, you must wear a face covering unless exempt throughout your journey and in transport hubs when travelling by bus in the Lake District.