Armboth Fell summit
The top of Armboth Fell, seen from the ridge — with a walker on it, amazingly.

WALK 185: Armboth Fell (1570′, no. 262), Great Crag (1500′, no. 263). 9.25 miles, 2,100 feet of ascent.

For the first time in seven months I took myself to the Lake District by train and bus, instead of car. And it all went just fine. The mental blocks we place in our minds about what we should and should not be doing can be overcome and if anything I now feel somewhat guilty about not having reverted to this state of affairs earlier on. Though some parts of the District (notably Ullswater and Patterdale) remain effectively out of bounds unless I drive myself there, but that’s another story.

Walk 185 instead saw me brave the swamps of what Wainwright calls ‘the swampiest ridge in the District’, at least for a mile or two, to bag Armboth Fell, and then Great Crag, two of the Central Fells. Inbetween there was the magnificent oasis of Watendlath, an Arcadian idyll which was seeing plenty of visitors on this pleasant day in mid-October. The walk might well have been better had neither summit been visited, but at least now I never need to do Armboth Fell again, at least. For reasons why I say this, along with plenty of photos and extra detail, consult the walk 185 page.

Watendlath Tarn and Great Crag
Watendlath Tarn, with Great Crag behind. A place to forget one’s worries for a while.

As of today, I have bagged 263 of the 330 Wainwrights on my second round, so have 67 to go. I hope to get back at some point in November, but that really will depend on a largely random coming together of good weather with one of the few available days I will have that month, thanks to work.

WALK 184: Barf (1536′, no. 259), Lord’s Seat (1811′, no. 260) and Whinlatter (1722′, no. 261).

Walker on Whinlatter
Walker on Whinlatter, the Vale of Keswick behind.

Each time I now go to the Lakes there are, obviously, fewer options to choose from: meaning that I am becoming obliged to pick up walks that for one reason or another, I’ve been putting off. Whinlatter Forest had become a problematic part of the Lakes for me after a few poor experiences in recent visits — not least getting lost the last time I was there, on Grisedale Pike. And as has happened on several of my recent County Top walks I was not necessarily looking forward to spending all day surrounded by trees.

Happily, my fears were unfounded. Walk 184 was a very good one, surprisingly easy and with plenty of excellent views. The three summits visited, Barf, Lord’s Seat and Whinlatter, are not very high and the latter two undramatic, but all were worth revisiting, particularly as I bagged Lord’s Seat in the mist the first time round. Instead of oppressing it, the plantations give the walk variety, and this is definitely the best of the five walks I’ve done in Whinlatter Forest. Read all the details and see more photos on the walk page.

Barf from back
Barf’s rugged aspect, from the back.

As of today, I have bagged 261 of the 330 Wainwrights on my second round, so have 69 to go. Thanks to my teaching starting a month later this year, October is a far less hectic month than it usually is, so it would be good to get some more walking done before it ends and things kick off with a vengeance. Autumn is here, though, and though the weather was good for me today it is scheduled to deteriorate. All things considered I can’t be sure when I’ll be doing my next walk, but hopefully it will not be long.

Kidsty Pike

Kidsty Pike, seen on the approach from the west.

WALK 183: High Raise (Far Eastern) (2634′, no. 256), Rampsgill Head (2598′, no. 257) and Kidsty Pike (2560′, no. 258). 8 miles and 2,200 feet of ascent approx.

The British climate is not known for its reliability, but there are some aspects of the pattern that can be depended on to some extent. Having a period of fine, settled weather in mid-September is one of its more pleasant traits and down the years has been exploited for walks whenever it appears.  2020’s Mid-September Settled Period has come along right on cue, and a couple of days ago saw me out in the Haweswater district again for walk 183.  This bagged three of the higher fells in the Far Eastern region: High Raise, Rampsgill Head, and Kidsty Pike, the latter being the undoubted highlight of the walk.  Read all about it and see more photos on the walk page.

Deer couple

May I present the deer couple, Mr and Mrs Slightly-Miffed. Seen near the summit of High Raise.

This was another walk done without the use of public transport, sadly. There are some signs of life in the train network but many services that were running up until the beginning of the Great Fear in March are still cut.  I will continue trying to get to the Lakes where I can, but now I have accepted that while my first round was indeed done without using a car, this second one has had to adapt to circumstances. Never mind.

As of today then, I have bagged 258 of the 330 Wainwrights in my second round, so have 72 to go. I no longer anticipate finishing some time in 2021, but let’s go with the flow. This walk was probably it for September, but hopefully before October is too old I will have returned to the Lakes.

Harter Fell in cloud

Harter Fell from Eskdale.

WALK 182: Harter Fell (Eskdale) (2140 feet above sea level, number 255 of my second round). 9 miles and 2,300 feet of ascent approximately.

A few weeks after re-bagging its namesake in Mardale, Tuesday’s climb of the very beautiful Eskdale Harter Fell brings to an end this little trilogy of walks completed during our stay in the Brook House Inn, Eskdale. (Or, if I add the walk I undertook in Longsleddale last week, a quadrilogy.) The weather was still rather dubious but this time that was not the reason why only one fell was bagged on the walk, as it was always planned to be done this way. It’s a very fine fell, with a remarkable summit (one of Wainwright’s ‘Top 6’, and rightly so), and superb views of the Scafell group above the valley head and the Duddon Valley, all the way down to the estuary.

Stickle Pike and the Duddon

Stickle Pike and the Duddon estuary, from Harter Fell.

On the other hand, this is not an altogether easy climb. Paths are not as prominent as you would think going on a study of the map, and there is an ocean of bracken to negotiate lower down in the summer. But it is worth the battle, and it was important to pick this one up during this trip as without spending time in Eskdale, it’s difficult to reach.  Read all about it and see more pictures on the walk 182 page.

Three summits is, perhaps, not a huge return from the time spent here but they all needed doing. As of today, then, I have bagged 255 of the 330 Wainwrights on my second round, and have 75 to go.  For various reasons, including the lack of suitable trains from home at the moment, but also having to recommence work (it happens…), I can’t see myself returning to the Lakes during August.  But four walks over a nine-day period has been enough of a fix, and September — with, hopefully, its usual better weather — is not so far away.

WALK 180: Muncaster Fell (757 feet above sea level, number 253): 6 miles and 800 feet of ascent approximately.

Dalegarth station

Dalegarth station, terminus (usually) of the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway.

and WALK 181: Boat How (1105′, no. 254): 5.5 miles and 1,000 feet of ascent.

Back in January we booked in for a weekend at the Brook House Inn in Eskdale, linked to a weekend that Clare was trying to organise with other members of her family.  As the Great Fear took hold, I kept waiting for the inevitable email of cancellation, but it never came, and in the end we decided to not just fulfil the booking but make it our primary summer holiday of 2020.  Eskdale is a beautiful spot and also a great jumping off point for several key Wainwrights that are otherwise tough to reach.

Estuary

The estuary at Ravenglass (at low tide).

Plans have not yet come to full fruition however. Our first day here, Friday 24th July, was sunny and pleasant, and the walk we did up Muncaster Fellwalk 180 — a fine little prelude to what was intended to be further explorations up Scafell, at least.

And that peak was my intended destination for walk 181, yesterday (Sunday 26th), only this became one of the few targets I have had to abandon due to revolting weather, becoming lost and soaked in the Eel Tarn/Stony Tarn district. Still, I at least managed a face-saving bag, of Boat How. It wasn’t a bad walk — but it could have been a lot drier. As ever, you can read all about the details, and see more photos, on the two walk pages.

Stony Tarn and sheep

Stony Tarn. The sheep, like me, wonder what I was doing there.

We are here for a couple more days yet, although there won’t be any walking today (Monday) because it’s throwing it down. The forecast for Tuesday is OK though and then it would be good to get up some bigger fells — two Outliers alone would be a somewhat meagre return from several nights in Eskdale. But hey, in the end, it just gives me an excuse to keep coming back.

As of today then (27/7/20) I have bagged 254 of the 330 Wainwrights on my second round, and have 76 to go.

Longsleddale cottage

Deep in Longsleddale.

WALK 179: five summits in the Bannisdale Horseshoe (two unnamed [1771′ a.s.l., no. 248 and 1819′, no. 249], Capplebarrow [1683′, no. 250], Todd Fell [1313′, no. 251] and Whiteside Pike [1303′, no. 252]). 10.5 miles and 2,000 feet of ascent approximately.

It’s still proving very difficult to get to the Lakes by public transport.  All useful morning services heading north from Preston have been cut, for arbitrary reasons that if you ask me have nothing to do with ‘public health’ in the slightest.  Anyway, that’s a moan you can read on the walk 179 page if you really want to.  Either way, this ongoing problem obliged me once again to book a car out of the pool and drive, this time up the narrow lane that is the valley of Longsleddale’s only link to the outside world.  And this really is a time capsule, surely looking much the same as it did a hundred years ago or more.  It’s very much worth a visit, as long as you have the patience it takes to get there, even with a car.

Whiteside Pike

Looking down to Whiteside Pike, from point 1771′.

The five summits I bagged today were the last ones I had remaining, not just in the Bannisdale Horseshoe chapter, but in the whole swathe of land east of Longsleddale and Haweswater. If you had asked me some years ago which major sub-region of the Lake District I would first complete on my second round, the Shap Fells would not at all have been my prediction — but this is what has happened. I reckon there are 38 Wainwrights east of Gatescarth Pass and after today, I have now rebagged them all. It’s a fantastically lonely part of the world, and you very much need good weather — but this is land well worth exploring.  And it will certainly get you away from people, which is the point at the moment, I guess. (As well as the Bannisdale Horseshoe see also the Naddle, Crookdale, Wasdale and Wet Sleddale Horseshoes, Howes, and the Seat Robert chapters.)

Tractor and Lamb Pasture

View across to Lamb Pasture, on the other side of Bannisdale.

There will be more Wainwrights bagged very shortly as I’m soon off to Eskdale for a few days, a trip booked well before lockdown and which seems to have miraculously survived it.  As of today, though, I have bagged 252 of the 330 Wainwrights on my second round (Capplebarrow being number 250), and thus have 78 to go.

WALK 178: Branstree (2339′, no. 246), Harter Fell (2552′, no. 247). 7.75 miles and 2,300 feet of ascent approximately.

Drowned buildings

Drowned buildings in the reservoir of Haweswater.

Although most Britons seem in a perpetual state of denial about this fact, the weather is almost always worse in early June than it is in May. So it has proved this year: the sunshine of my last walk turning into a greyer, more somber vibe for yesterday’s trip into the Far Eastern Fells. Walk 178 was a circuit round Mardale Head, bagging Branstree and Harter Fell. The views of Haweswater were very fine, despite the large tidemark caused by the water level having dropped in the recent dry weather: enough to reveal some of the buildings higher up the valley, remnants of the village of Mardale Green that was here until 1935. Small Water, pictured here, is another highlight, being one of Lakeland’s best little mountain tarns.

Sheep and Small Water

On the descent of Harter Fell. Small Water immediately below.

Once again I cannot claim to have done this walk by public transport. It would be lovely if a daily ‘walkers’ bus’ ran from Penrith station and who knows, if it did perhaps there would be less of a parking problem at the head of Mardale. But even in normal times, this is just a fantasy I’ve been having. In the end I’ve decided that during this time of disruption I will use a car, but only to bag walks that are otherwise impossible by train or bus. That’s my self-rationalisation anyway.

Nearly halfway through 2020 and I have only bagged 10 Wainwrights, which is well down on my usual pace. I could say the reasons are obvious but actually it’s more that my walks have only been bagging one or two tops at a time. As of today then, I have bagged 247 of the 330 Wainwrights on my second round, so have 83 to go. It would be nice to get another trip in June but we will see how it goes.

Joe on Great Sca Fell summit

Joe on Great Sca Fell summit.

Walk 177: Great Sca Fell (2136′, no. 244), Brae Fell (1920′, no 245). 6.5 miles and 1,500 feet of ascent approximately.

Time to get out. My tolerance for sitting at home with a head like Munch’s The Scream has ended.

This is not the ‘new normal’, it is a horrible bout of paranoia that we need to learn our way out of pretty fast if it’s not going to devastate much of what gives life meaning and pleasure. But the fells are still there, even if The Fear has made it currently impractical to live up to the promise of this blog and reach all walks on public transport. I drove to walk 177 yesterday, that I admit, but that also allowed Joe to easily accompany me on his first Lakeland walk in about a year. Together we bagged two of the Northern Fells, Great Sca Fell and Brae Fell. Smooth, grassy slopes for the most part but great views, and the ascent of Roughton Gill added roughness and interest. Read all about it and see the usual crop of additional photos on the walk 177 page.

Approaching the mine

On the approach to the old mine at the bottom of Roughton Gill.

There were plenty of people out on this public holiday, even in this relatively remote and hard-to-reach part of the Lakes. And I can no longer see that as anything other than a good thing. Sadly it cannot be expected that the present government will do anything other than bumble about public transport and try to brush it under the nearest carpet as an inconvenience — why change policy when there is a ready-made scapegoat for failure? — but I have decided that for now, I will pick up walks which I could not otherwise do on trains and buses. I hope that normal service will be resumed soon, but it’s way out of my hands.

Walker and Skiddaw

View over to Skiddaw. The walker is approaching the (less than prominent) summit of Great Sca Fell.

As of today, then, I have bagged 245 of the 330 Wainwrights on my second round, and have 85 to go. I no longer expect to complete this by late 2021, partly because of all this chaos and also because the County Tops have taken over some of the burden of keeping me fit and sane, and I don’t want to go through all my available day trips too quickly. The situation is now open-ended. But weather allowing (and we are overdue some rain), paranoia permitting, I hope to be out again at some point before June is too old.

Site update completed

April 14, 2020

Summit view from Orrest Head

Admiring the view from Orrest Head summit

Seeing as there isn’t much else to do at the moment, particularly when it comes to walking, I have spent the last few days of lockdown doing some jobs on the blog that have been pending for a while. Small as these changes are, hopefully they tidy up a few inconsistencies and improve the quality of earlier walk descriptions. I’ve renumbered most of the first round fells, to allow for the fact that a few Outliers (such as Orrest Head — pictured) were bagged within the main 214 first time round. All mileage and feet ascended figures have been made approximate (but more realistic: their apparent precision beforehand was always an illusion), and more links put in walk pages to fell pages. In a few cases I have updated travel information about older walks, where it is no longer possible to do them by public transport in quite the way that I did (e.g. walk 62).

Ullswater from the Brown Hills

Ullswater from the Brown Hills

I have also updated the Personal Notes in Conclusion and the Records, Lists and Oddities page, to include a few things I have wanted to add for a while, e.g. a section on ‘Lakes and Tarns’ and some first round v second round comparisons.

Once this fiasco is ended — which is likely to be a few more weeks yet — I will do my best to resume the project and bag the remaining 87 fells on my second round, but whether this will all still be done by the mooted end-of-2021 date, that all depends on the potent intermix of infection, fear and paranoia under which we all presently must live whether we like it or not. See you soon I hope.

Calfhow Pike from Clough Head

Looking south from Clough Head, towards Calfhow Pike.

I have no reason to self-isolate and have a general feeling that getting out into people-free countryside is certainly staying more than 1 metre away from anyone else, so walk 176 duly happened yesterday. This took me up the three northernrnost summits of the Eastern Fells, namely Clough Head, Great Dodd and Watson’s Dodd. It was a walk with fine views, but done into a bitter wind that rather put the chill on the day.

Not as much of a chill, of course, as what now looks inevitable: a basic lockdown of a great deal of the UK’s infrastructure and social activity. The giant experiment in social control that is about to take place will have unknown consequences — the best it seems we can hope for is that, in terms of the virus, it works.

Descending Clough Head

Walker on his way down Clough Head. Keeping his distance….

Whether I will — or should — have the chance to get out and walk again in the next few weeks, who knows. So for now, as of today, I have bagged 243 of the 330 Wainwrights on my second round, so have 87 to go. More photos and a full route description from yesterday are, as ever, available on the walk 176 page.

Stay safe everyone.

Addendum: This article on UK Hillwalking, by Dan Bailey, makes some sensible points about the safety, or otherwise, of walking and related activities (like camping) at this time. One response I might make is to relax my rule of only going to walks via public transport (although the trains were so quiet yesterday that I was never within 1 metre of any other passengers). Let’s see how it goes.