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The Coppermines Valley lies directly behind Coniston village cutting a deep gash between the long high ridge of the main Coniston Fells and the shapely outlying summit of Weatherlam. This impressively steep valley, as its name suggests, has been of great interest to miners from as far back as Elizabethan times and possibly further. Deep shaft entrances pockmark its length and high-walled quarries ring its enclosing slopes. The shafts are where miners have burrowed deep underground chasing veins of copper-rich ore and the quarries are the by-product of slate extraction. You might think all this carving up of the fellside would be the last place to visit for a walk, but nature is gradually mending the wounds and the contrasting high summits and crags are particularly impressive making a walk a fascinating experience.
The old mine and quarry buildings in the Coppermines Valley (now a YHA, holiday lets and climbing huts) are accessed by a gravel track which climbs out of Coniston alongside the dashing waters of Church Beck. This makes a perfect approach for a walk as it climbs at a nice steady gradient and gets you warmed up gently. From here there are a variety of route options but the most impressive is to continue up the access track and follow it up to the dramatic mountain hollow occupied by Levers Water. This beautiful tarn is right at the heart of the Coniston Fells and makes an ideal stop for lunch. From Levers Water there is an unusual natural feature called Boulder Valley which makes an excellent continuation of the walk. It descends from the southwest corner of the tarn and crosses the bottom of a steep sided corrie. As you descend Boulder Valley you pass by a number of large rocks and cross Low Water Beck. At the footbridge over the beck is the biggest of the rocks called the Pudding Stone. From the footbridge a pleasant terrace path leads to a col at Crowberry Haws from where, if you are still feeling energetic, you can make the short climb up the small but shapely hill called The Bell. This little hill gives fantastic views of all the walk so far. A simple descent along a well-trodden path then leads to the Miners Bridge over Church Beck which once crossed delivers you back onto the track to Coniston.
3 - 4 hours
1. Join the lane on the right-hand side of the Black Bull pub in Coniston and follow as it skirts the east side of Church Beck. The tarmac soon gives way to gravel, continue following it for about 1.5km in total to white walled YHA building a the top of the valley.
2. The track splits at the YHA, take the left branch past the hostel and follow it as it climbs up past the entrance to the water works, then through a series of steep zigzags to the dam at Levers Water. Cross the weir at the dam and walk along the top of the dam to the other side. You will notice some deep shaft entrances at the far side, these are some very old mine workings called Simon's Nick. They are fenced but it is worth watching children near the fence as they are not very substantial and the ground beyond them leading to the shaft is unstable.
3. Just past Simon's Nick the path splits. The right-hand one leads around the west side of Levers Water, whilst the left-hand one makes a short climb up to a broad dip on the west side of Simon's Nick. The left-hand one is the start of the Boulder Valley path. Follow it up and around the back of Simon's Nick then down a grassy and boulder strewn valley to the footbridge over Cove Beck. The Pudding Stone is just on the other side of the footbridge. Also worth looking out for is a waterfall off to the right where Low Water Beck tumbles of a series of vertical crags. Past the footbridge the path turns to the southeast and traverses the hill side on a long a terrace. This leads to a path cross-roads at Crowberry Haws.
4. If you fancy climbing to the summit of The Bell take the vague path that climbs southeast. The summit lies about 400m away - return by the same path. From Crowberry Hawes the path back to Coniston lies to the northeast. It skirts below the northern flank of The Bell and descends through some walled enclosures to the Miners Bridge over Church Beck. Cross the footbridge and turn right on to the track on the other side which is then followed back to Coniston.