Park at Low Tilberthwaite, grid ref 307012. Access this by the A593 from Coniston or Ambleside. Then take the well signed narrow lane, north, at grid ref 312997.
This Christmas walk is mainly on tracks with one footpath through woodland. The tracks are still easy to walk after this wet summer even though torrents of water have raced down the sloping parts taking away the surface material and leaving the bare rock below. There are a few puddles on the tracks, but always a way to edge past them. The walk takes you from Tilberthwaite into Little Langdale, past Slaters Bridge and then on into Cathedral Cave. It continues through Stang End before strolling on a good track through deciduous woodland to Hodge Close and on to pause (wih care) at the dramatic ‘Big Hole.’ Route 1 Turn left from the open area where you have parked and cross the road bridge over Yewdale Beck. Wind right to pass several cottages, one with a fine spinning gallery. Continue up the lane to go through the gate into the yard of the farm at High Tilberthwaite. Ahead are two gates to ongoing tracks; take the one on the left. Climb steadily and easily the exposed base rock where the upper surface has been washed away. At the little brow a better surface remains and you can stride out below Knotts above which, a quarryman, Lanty Slee, ran his illicit whisky still. Remain on the undulating gated track across open and wooded slopes. Eventually the way begins to descend with fine views of idyllic Little Langdale Tarn in its beautiful setting. Curve round left with the track and follow it to its end in the valley. Try not to cut off the corner, as many other people have, because the slope down is very wet and the turf damaged.
2 On reaching the valley track, walk right to pass a bench seat. Step over a stream to go through a gate. Stroll on to pass a charming white cottage. Descend the steepish slope with great heaps of quarry waste to your right. Pass between the cottage and its outbuildings at Low Hallgarth to wind right with a pretty cottage garden to your right. Stroll on for one eighth of a mile to reach an easy-to-miss gate and stile in the wall on your left. Make a detour through the gate and along the short footpath to Slater Bridge. Under its two arches, which take advantage of a central large rock, surges the River Brathay on its way from the tarn to Elterwater. The bridge was constructed to connect Little Langdale with the slate quarries in the Tilberthwaite area. Return along the footpath to regain the track and turn left to continue.
3 Walk on for another eighth of a mile until you can see a gated track, rising up and ahead into woodland, on your right. The gate is locked but there is a wooden stile to its left giving access to the track beyond. After a short climb through woodland, look right to see the short tunnel leading into Cathedral Cave, part of an inter-linked series of quarries, owned and managed by the National Trust. At the end of the tunnel is the huge quarried main chamber, forty feet high, with one massive stone strut reaching to the roof and a wonderful window-shaped opening allowing in sunlight. There is also a large pool where you might spot tiny fish.
4 Return through the tunnel and descend left down the slope. Climb the stile and go right along the main track, which is puddled but passable. Carry on to reach the bridge, and the ford beyond, across the river. Turn right here and take the left of two tracks, the more obvious one, which continues on the right side of a large mound supporting tall trees. Very soon the good track winds left and climbs quite steeply on a good surface and then a narrow road. Enjoy the views as you approach the dwellings at Stang End. Look for the fine barn on the right, with a spinning gallery and a row of bee boles which once contained bee-hives made of straw, known as skeps. Just beyond turn right as directed by the signpost towards Hodge Close. It is metalled for a short way and then continues as a track below Little Fell and The Dubbs on your left. Then bear half right through a large gate into woodland.
5 Carry on the lovely gated way to reach Hodge Close, a small settlement of dwellings and outbuildings, having ignored the signpost for High Oxen Fell. Wind on through the little settlement and climb the steepish slope beyond, still on a good track. At the brow is a large open area with the magnificent ‘Big Hole’ to your left. This is Hodge Close quarry where glorious light green slate was obtained. It is sheer sided, unfenced and was worked down to a level of 300ft. The 150ft steep face is a favourite with abseilers and the deep flooded working below is popular with divers. The whole site is wonderfully dramatic but any approach to its unfenced edge should made with utmost care particularly if you wish to use your camera. Carry on along the track, climbing before passing a row of houses, on the left, where the lane soon becomes metalled.
6 Head on down to pass two more houses on the right. Then a short way further on down look for the signpost that directs you, right, into the trees of Low Coppice. Follow the good grassy trod through the open woodland, descending easily to a gate onto a pasture. Just before the gate, take the waymarked path, left, that climbs through the trees on a narrow, rocky way before dropping easily to go through a gate onto a wide rocky area beside the tumbling Yewdale Beck. Keep ahead, with the beck to your left, to reach a barrier onto the road at Low Tilberthwaite. Turn left to cross the bridge to rejoin your vehicle.
Distance: 4 miles
Time: 2-3 hour
Terrain: All on tracks, except for the last part of the walk through the Low Coppice .
Map: OS Explorer OL 7
NB: Restrictions on space mean that this article provides a general summary of the route. It is advisable for anyone who plans to follow the walk to take a copy of the relevant Ordnance Survey map.