Tadpole Graham

A 'Lakes In A Day' Microadventure

Posted by Matt Heason on Jul 02, 2019

You may have heard of the Bob Graham.  I wrote a popular Blog about it last year when ultra runner Kilian Jornet smashed Billy Bland's legendary record from the 80s. It's a massive 65 mile run around the Lakeland fells which aspiring ultra runners aim to complete in under 24 hours and which Kilian ran in under 13! A few years ago some bright spark proposed a lighter (42 mile) version of the route and combined it with some swims across a few of the lakes to make the Frog Graham.  Next came the baby of the family, the Tadpole Graham. This is a much shorter - 6 mile circuit around Buttermere, with one steep hill to climb, and two short (500m and 300m) swims. It's mainly aimed at kids, but there's no reason not to try it as an adult or even a family. We'd had it on our radar for a few years, but had never got around to making the effort to give it a go. Until last weekend…


With record breaking temperatures hitting continental Europe there was a disappointingly small window of sunshine forecast for the Lakes between school on Friday and the arrival of rain at 8pm on Saturday. Manchester traffic failed to dampen spirits as we rendezvoused with friends at a car park at the southern end of Buttermere (the lake, not the village). It was obviously too late to start by then so we'd planned a wild camp on the summit of Grey Crags. Originally we'd planned to walk in along the ridge from Honister Pass, but with time ticking towards sunset we opted for the direct approach - 700m of ascent in the space of about 3km. 

We arrived on the summit with plenty of time for dinner before a very late sunset at about 10pm


The dogs kindly woke me for the sunrise a mere seven hours later. No matter how tired I am I can usually find time to spend seeing in the new day when in the mountains. 


 Then it was back to sleep for a couple of hours before breakfast and a steep descent back to the cars. As we descended we spied a pair of swimmers making one of the crossings on the round whilst cooling off in a stream.

Although the route officially start and ends on Crummock Water we opted to start from the car park...

...and began with a long run section along the banks of Buttermere into the village, 

before a steep and very hot 200m climb towards Whiteless Pike. 

There's a lovely long descent down High Rannerdale 

to reach a beach on Crummock Water, the official start and finish point. 

It took us an age to get wetsuits on over sweaty limbs, but the swim was welcome relief from the heat. A wind picked up whilst we were on the water and pushed us south, probably lengthening the swim a little. 

Then it's along the far shore of Crummock Water, 

crossing to Buttermere, and hugging its shore too until another beach embarkation point. 

We opted to run this second leg with wetsuits rolled down around waists. We met a runner on the beach who was 32 miles into an attempt at the Frog Graham, and a further pair on the far beach as we landed, who were also doing the Tadpole - clearly a popular weekend!


The route itself was delightful. Easy lake-side trails for the most part with one very steep ascent and one long descent. We took a leisurely 3 hours and 35 minutes over it, but Strava had our moving time as just over an hour and a half so there's obviously some work to do on the transitions! The kids are all psyched to go back and have a proper go at it. We've submitted their times for the roll of honour.


Not done with the day we drove around to Stonethwaite and walked in to Black Moss Pit, a most amazing river canyon in the bottom of Lanstrath valley. By now it was 6pm and the crowds had departed leaving us to a midge-friendly breeze and the place to ourselves.


We walked out as the rain arrived, getting back to the cars soaked, very knackered - we'd covered over 25km since breakfast - and hungry so headed into Keswick for a well deserved curry at the Sultan. Red Bull and chocolate and empty roads home.



Follow Matt on Instagram

All the images taken in this article were done using waterproof Olympus TG4. Check out my TG2 review here. 

Have something to say? Comment on this post