The Old Man of Coniston and its surrounding fells are well known for their ancient and modern mining and quarrying scars that dot the landscape. Coppermines Valley is this, concentrated into one small area. The valley floor is covered by tell tale spoil heaps, and foundations of long gone buildings. If you look carefully even remains of old leats can still be found which were used to transport water from becks and reservoirs high in the fells to where it was needed in the valley to generate power, or used in processing. Now only occasionally does the crump of blasting explosives confirm that at least one quarry in the valley lives on and is still worked.
It may not seem to be an obvious valley to walk, but a middle-level walk around the valley sides is a fascinating and perhaps eye opening wander into the past.
Coniston is closely associated with two people. John Ruskin lived at Brantwood on the eastern bank of Coniston Water which is now owned by the National Trust and Donald Campbell who died on Coniston Water whilst trying to set a new water speed record on 4th January 1967. The Ruskin Museum in Coniston has a dedicated wing built specially to house the remains of Bluebird K7, called of course the Bluebird Wing, which was opened in 2008.
If you need accommodation we have details of 30 properties offering rooms near the start of this walk. Here are some examples:
Walk height profile
note that gradients are usually grossly exaggerated
Return to the entrance beside the Tourist Information Centre and turn left back to the main road opposite the Black Bull Inn. Turn right, and then bear left into the lane between the Black Bull and the Village Co-operative shop, signed to Coppermines YHA. Follow the road behind inn and shops, Church Beck is soon over the wall to your left. The road climbs gently and passes a few houses, soon becoming a gravelled track.
Although Church Beck can be heard, often complete with children and the not so young enjoying an afternoon of ghyll scrambling, the beck itself is rarely seen. Just before reaching the Miners Bridge you do get to see one of the waterfalls. Do not cross the bridge, but continue up the gravel road. You soon reach the Coniston Hydro intake dam. About 100m (110 yards) after the hydro, as the valley opens out, bear right up a track. Climb the track, gently at first but soon climbing more steeply above Coppermines Cottages. Approximately 350m (385 yards) from the junction, at a sharp right hand bend, bear left.
You can go right and investigate the tiers of an old quarry below Sweeten Crag, but there isn't much left of interest other than spoil or large holes in the fellside.
Initially unconvincing the path climbs and matures to a fine terrace. On a clear day the view into the valley, in all its glory or industrial scaring, is very fine. The headwall ramparts are topped by Wetherlam ahead and Swirl How to the left. Potter along the terrace to what looks like a chimney and other ruined buildings.
Reaching the buildings and a hidden level entrance, continue on a little way to cross a bridge. After looking right into Red Dell, turn left on an initially faint path alongside the beck you just crossed. Then keep right to pick up another terraced path high above the valley floor. A water gate and pulley gantry confirms the idea that this is the path of an old leat. The path seemingly ends where the leat disappears into a level. This pops out on the other side of the rock which bars the way. Drop left a little and bear right climbing under the rock to the other side. Continue on the path, there now being little sign of the leat.
The track soon splits, either will get you to the wooden footbridge in view to your left and slightly below you. Going right, so you don't actually get caught up in the fringes of the valley floor, go up a short incline and where the track splits again bear left to descend another track directly to the footbridge.
The bridge spans the outflow of Levers Water, and looking up you'll see Levers Waterfall. After rain this is seriously impressive as the catchment area is huge. Go through the gate on the end of the footbridge and cross. Bear left to pick up another terraced path following the line of a long-gone leat. Rounding Grey Crag but for the terraced path there are a large number of big boulders scattered above and below you.
One particularly large boulder, the Pudding Stone, is visible ahead of you on the other side of Low Water Beck. Low Water is the tarn tucked into a glacial coire beneath the summit of The Old Man of Coniston to your left. Before the crossing of Low Water Beck you have to climb a short, but steep little section right beside the falls on the beck. At the top turn left to cross the footbridge, and then bear left under the boulder.
The path is fainter than so far on this walk, but follow the worn grass and rocks to join another path at two large well built cairns on the end of another terrace. These stand above the only working quarry in the valley. Its quite impressive when you hear and feel them blasting rock from somewhere hidden beneath your feet. Continue along the terrace to Crowberry Haws, noting the prevalence of juniper.
Reaching the junction of paths at Crowberry Haws, join the wide track from the Old Man of Coniston, turning left to descend, and then very shortly afterwards as the track sweeps right, bear off left to continue descending in view of Coppermines Valley.
The path passes through two small gates and you soon realize you are back at the hydro dam. Keep descending on the path to soon reach the Miners Bridge. You could cross here to return along the roadway, but instead our route continues on this side of the beck. Keep alongside the beck now on a rough track. Going through a gate it improves once past Coniston Stonecraft workshops.
Keep on the road through Dixon Ground to the Sun Hotel. Turn left at the front of the hotel to drop down into Coniston to the other side of Church Bridge from where you started.
If you like this walk then why not try one of our other nearby walks:
|Cumbria Way - Coniston to Dungeon Ghyll||10m (11 yards) away|
|The Old Man of Coniston, from Coniston village||72m (79 yards) away|
|Wetherlam, via Lad Stones ridge and Black Sails||150m (165 yards) away|
|Tarn Hows from Coniston||200m (220 yards) away|
|The Old Man of Coniston||1.4km (0.9 miles) away|
|Walna Scar, White Maiden, White Pike, with a visit to Blind Tarn||1.4km (0.9 miles) away|
|The Old Man of Coniston, Brim Fell, Swirl How, Wetherlam||1.4km (0.9 miles) away|
|Dow Crag and Goats Water||1.4km (0.9 miles) away|
|Tarn Hows, Black Fell, Holme Fell||3.1km (1.9 miles) away|
|A stroll around Tarn Hows||3.2km (2.0 miles) away|
|A visit to Cathedral Cavern from Tilberthwaite||3.4km (2.1 miles) away|
|Steel Edge and Wetherlam Edge, from Tilberthwaite||3.4km (2.1 miles) away|
|Carron Crag||4.8km (3.0 miles) away|
Unless otherwise stated the text in this walk is the copyright of Hug Solutions Ltd trading as The Hug and the photographs are the copyright of Elizabeth Oldham. Hill data is derived from Database of British and Irish hills which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Maps contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011 and paths © OpenStreetMap Contributors,CC-BY-SA, 2011