View from Raven Crag summit

The summit of Raven Crag, looking down Thirlmere.

At the end of each of his volumes, Wainwright included some ‘Personal Notes in Conclusion’. I’ve been rambling on about my opinions at the end of every single walk, so I’ll spare you more autobiography. What I will do, however, is put some lists of my own – in no particular order – based on my more limited experience of all the fells in his books.

Lakes and tarns

‘The Wainwrights’ are the hills and mountains, but it ain’t called “The Fell District” now, is it. Without the many beautiful sheets of water that speckle the landscape of Cumbria, the area would still be worth visiting, but not nearly as much of a visual paradise as it is.

The Head of Ullswater, from the Brown Hills

The Head of Ullswater, from the Brown Hills

I think there’s very little doubt that Ullswater is the most beautiful of the lakes, and the view of it from the Brown Hills below Hart Side (walk 48, walk 157) unrivalled in this respect. No single picture can do it justice: only from this point can the whole lake be seen. The views of Ullswater from Heughscar Hill, Bonscale Pike and St. Sunday Crag are also very notable, and this isn’t even an exhaustive list of the good ‘viewing stations’.

Of the other lakes, this might be a surprising choice but I would have to put Thirlmere second, despite its being a reservoir. Its extensively wooded, and completely uninhabited, shoreline gives it an almost Scandinavian look. The best view of it is from Raven Crag (pictured at the top of this page).

Gurnal Dubs

Gurnal Dubs, on Potter Fell

‘Best Tarn’ awards go to, in no particular order: Hard Tarn below Nethermost Pike (walk 39); Angle Tarn above Patterdale (walk 55); Small Water, Mardale (walk 178); Innominate Tarn on Haystacks (walk 13, walk 162); Bowscale Tarn on Bowscale Fell (walk 21); and Gurnal Dubs [pictured] on Potter Fell (walk 71, walk 109). All are excellent spots to sit down, take off the boots and just chill out for as long as it takes to listen to the silence.

Fells with a very low reward-to-effort ratio
More or less in order – lowest reward at the top. All are a long walk from anywhere, and not much once you’re there.

The final approach to Lank Rigg summit

Lank Rigg summit (to top right), impressively lit against the clouds

Tough little buggers
All these fells are under 2,100 feet but are hard climbs by at least one popular route. They are more or less in order, and  Yewbarrow definitely wins this one hands down.

Underrated
Only diligent students of Wainwright are likely to have heard of them, but I really enjoyed climbing them:

Half-day classics

If you’ve only got an afternoon, or want to fit something in the morning before coming home, consider the following — all quite doable (up and down) in two to three hours, reasonably easy to access and thoroughly enjoyable:

Wettest walks
Walk 60b (Great Gable et al) definitely wins if the walk as a whole – and the general feelings of misery which came with it – are measured.

Walk 44 (Holme and Black Fell) had the most intense single downpour, but at least I was nearly in Ambleside at the time.

Heron Pike in snow

Heron Pike and Windermere, seen from Great Rigg. Walk 105 — definitely my snowiest.

Walk 8 (Loughrigg and Silver How); walk 43b (Yewbarrow); walk 125 (Derwentwater); the end of walk 158 (Gummer’s How); walk 181 (Eskdale); Walk 67 (Mellbreak – the nearest I got to a thunderstorm); and Walk 64 (Crinkle Crags) – all also deserve dishonorable mention. The latter was also freezing cold, which would have been acceptable had it not been in August.

Walk 105 (pictured) was the snowiest, and by some distance too, with drifts of up to two feet deep around the summit of Great Rigg.

See also ‘worst swamps’, below.

Helvellyn and Thirlmere

Helvellyn and Thirlmere on walk 11: still probably my best of all, weather-wise.

Walks with the best weather
I did have some good days – honest!

Walk 11 (Borrowdale – Thirlmere) was probably the best all round winner, with perfect blue skies, the most mirror-calm lakes I have ever seen, and all the more unexpected considering the time of year (March 2nd). Mind you, walk 161 has suddenly burst in to run it very close.

Others deserving honourable mention: Walk 101, walk 121, walk 146 , Walk 24, walk 31, walk 48 & walk 49 (on consecutive days in January 2012), walk 80, walk 157.

Of fells bagged twice thus far, Hart Side and Whitbarrow take the plaudits weather-wise, with both reached twice in faultless weather. Whitbarrow’s two walks were done in October and April, but Hart Side deserves extra credit for having both ascents done in January.

Joe on the summit of Helm Crag

‘The Howitzer’ (a.k.a. The Lion Couchant) and Joe – Helm Crag summit

Top summits
Wainwright names Harter Fell (Eskdale), Helm Crag (pictured), Dow Crag, Slight Side, Eagle Crag and Steeple as his top 6 – ‘attributes: a small neat peak of naked rock, with a good view’.

I definitely agree with the first four. The other two, Eagle Crag and Steeple, are both good summits, yes, but I’d put them in a relegation play-off with Hopegill Head and Angletarn Pikes which I think also deserve consideration.

Number of intact sheep skulls found and brought home: At least six by now: found on Low Pike on walk 5, near Crummock Water on walk 37, on Eagle Crag on walk 68, on the Bannisdale Horseshoe on walk 93, near the village of Netherhouses on walk 142, and near Threshthwaite Mouth on walk 163.

Blea Rigg summit

Blea Rigg summit cairn

Let me also note the material benefits offered by Irton Pike (a £5 note) and [pictured] the summit of Blea Rigg (a perfectly-fitting hiking top, which I have worn on most of my subsequent walks).

Only walks that crossed the boundaries of two Wainwright volumes [not including the Outlying Fells in this case]: walk 38 (Mickleden) – one fell from the Central Fells (Pike O’Stickle), one from the Southern (Rossett Pike).

Then, walk 141, with one fell from the Northern (Latrigg) and two from the Central (High Rigg, Raven Crag).

Sleddale Hall

Sleddale Hall, a.k.a. Crow Crag

Withnail and I moments: The phone box (‘No I’m not in London. Penrith. PENRITH!!’); first spotted from the bus at the end of walk 14, then again on the way in to walk 35 (2/4/11). I finally designed walk 137 to pass by it on 1/11/18. It’s just outside the village of Bampton (as the sharp-eyed might spot in the movie: look at the notices on the board behind Paul McGann).

Sleddale Hall (pictured), the movie’s ‘Crow Crag’ – passed on walk 65. and then seen from a bit further away (this picture) on walk 169.

The fellside where W. does his ‘I’m going to be a star!!’ cry must (considering the view in the background) be a little way above Haweswater on the ‘Old Corpse Road’ that connects Mardale Head with Swindale. It was near my route on walk 178 though I didn’t quite hit the specific point.

Gate above Scarside

The gate onto the open fell above Scarside: Withnail & I location, number 1 (see the text).

The lane in which “I” faces off with the buill (“Run at it, shouting!” “That’s can’t be right! Bastard’s about to run at ME!!”) is where I came off Knipescar Common on walk 88 and walk 137 was also designed to pick it up. The gate (“Shut that gate and KEEP IT SHUT!”) is the one pictured here.

‘Penrith’ in the movie isn’t actually filmed in the Lakes at all, but somewhere in the Home Counties.

Fells that lived up to their name on the day I climbed them:

Red Pike

View to Red Pike from High Stile, showing why it lives up to its name.

Cold Pike (freezing (in August))

Grey Crag (misty)

White Side (snowy, both times I’ve been up it)

Red Pike (Buttermere) (its exposed rocks and scree are definitely red: see the picture)

Worst swamps

Swamps and bogs are — along with bracken, and farmyards — the bane of the innocent walker. Of all the ones I have had to wade through, two rank above all others for foulness: the passage between Dyke and Barnscar on walk 40, and Black Dub, north of Black Combe, on walk 111. The mire by the side of Naddle Beck on walk 173 can have the bronze medal, but this is not on a recognised path so it was my fault that I blundered into it. This is not the case with the two ‘winners’, which both lie slap-bang across routes outlined in Wainwright’s pages.

High Seat from High Tove

High Seat and Blencathra viewed from a frosty High Tove on walk 11.

On top of this are the human-created swamps that seem to attach themselves to many farms, which should be ashamed of themselves. The worst of these — its impassiblity losing me nearly an hour — is the public footpath south of Blenket Wood farm near Allithwaite, on walk 122. I honour none of these foul mires with pictures.

On the other hand, a bog avoided has been High Tove, which can thereby have a picture (above); Wainwright complains greatly about its swampiness but this did not bother me on either visit, thanks to heavy frost on walk 11 and two months of drought preceding walk 147.

Thornthwaite Crag summit

The summit of Thornthwaite Crag, and its rather large cairn

Notable summit adornments

The tallest true cairn — by which I mean, nothing more than an unmortared pile of stones — in the Lakes is surely the one on the summit of Thornthwaite Crag (pictured). Hallin Fell and Dale Head also have excellent examples of this art form. And art form it is — you try not only building such a pile in the first place, but doing so 2500 feet up, and having your pile of stones then stay there year in, year out, in the face of winter gales.

Finsthwaite Tower

Finsthwaite Tower: the Lakes’ biggest summit cairn?

Latterbarrow, from the Outlying Fells, has a very tall and impressive obelisk on its summit, but the stones are mortared together. In any case, for sheer size, even this construction is surpassed by the tower on top of Finsthwaite Heights (pictured), this being the most substantial construction on the top of any Wainwright. Hampsfell‘s summit is also adorned by a fairly substantial building (the Hospice), which unlike Finsthwaite Tower, can be entered.

Other summit oddities include the ‘fence-post’ cairn on Starling Dodd; the satellite dish on Newton Fell (North); the survey post on Tarn Crag; and the observation post on Bigland Barrow (pictured), which from some angles looks like a large, beige armchair. This makes Bigland Barrow the only Wainwright where you need to climb a ladder to attain the highest point.

Bigland Barrow summit

The summit of Bigland Barrow, with observation post

Volume by volume summary
EASTERN FELLS: First fell: Red Screes. Last fell of first round: Birkhouse Moor. The second round started with Stone Arthur.
Highlights: East ridge of Nethermost Pike; doing almost the whole Helvellyn range in the snow.
Lowlights: Dehydration on walk 5.
The most elevated volume, on average.

FAR EASTERN: First fell: Sallows. Last fell of first round: Caudale Moor . Second round start: Bonscale Pike.
Highlights: Swindale; Kentmere; the Ill Bell ridge; Small Water; the golden eagle on Caudale Moor.
Lowlights: The boggy wastes between Grey Crag and Tarn Crag.
Probably the most surprising volume – many things to discover, the best wildlife and a great sense of remoteness. Also the volume with the longest walks on average.

CENTRAL: First fell: Walla Crag. Last fell of first round: High Seat [pictured]. Second round start: also Walla Crag.

View on High Seat summit

Looking east from High Seat summit, to the tor called ‘Man’ (with a man on it)

Highlights: Helm Crag; Eagle Crag; the Langdale Pikes.
Lowlights: High Raise, Ullscarf. General levels of swampiness are high.
The most accessible volume, by public transport.

SOUTHERN : First fell: Swirl How. Last fell of first round: Pike o’Blisco . Second round start: Illgill Head.
Highlights: Bowfell; Dow Crag; the Whin Rigg – Illgill Head ridge; Upper Eskdale.
Lowlights: Green Crag (or at least, the approaches to it). Clambering over the boulders from Esk Hause to Scafell Pike is not something anyone should look forward to very much.
The most exciting volume. Very few dull moments.

Criffell, from High Pike

Criffell, the southernmost Scottish mountain, from High Pike. Best shot I could get that encapsulated High Pike’s magnificent view.

NORTHERN: First fell: Ullock Pike . Last fell of first round: Latrigg . Second round start: Souther Fell.
Highlights: Blencathra; the view from High Pike (pictured); Bowscale Tarn.
Lowlights: Brae Fell: Mungrisdale Common if you come down off Blencathra (though this is an OK walk from the Glenderaterra).
The volume with the best views. It does lack truly exciting walking, but it does have Blencathra.

NORTH-WESTERN: First fell: Whiteless Pike . Last fell of first round: Ard Crags . Second round start: Ling Fell.
Highlights: Causey Pike; Hopegill Head.
Lowlights: Broom Fell; Grasmoor (a surprisingly underwhelming fell)
The most compact volume, with the most fells packed into a small space and thus the shortest average distance between summits (I think)

WESTERN: First fell: Fleetwith Pike . Last fell: Hen Comb . Second round start: Base Brown.

The Black Sail hut

Exterior of the Black Sail hut (note YHA sign).

Highlights: Pillar Rock and the Shamrock Traverse; Fleetwith Pike/Haystacks (as a pair); the Black Sail YHA (pictured); Steeple.
Lowlights: Lank Rigg; Seatallan; the weather on Great Gable first time round.
Definitely the volume with the hardest walking, both because of terrain, and remoteness. Although it should be said – hard, but good.

OUTLYING: First fell: Orrest Head . Last fell of first round: Dent. Second round start: also Orrest Head.

Highlights: Stickle Pike, and certain views like the ones from Latterbarrow, Black Combe and Hugill Fell. Lowlights: Several areas manage to combine dullness, toughness (through lack of paths) and remoteness: the Wet Sleddale Horseshoe particularly.

Walking companions:

I don’t really do other people….. But some of my walks have involved company.

Clare has also done: Walla Crag, Ullock Pike, Long Side, Skiddaw, Skiddaw Little Man, Castle Crag, Sale Fell, Ling Fell, Blencathra, Mungrisdale Common, Wansfell, Harter Fell (Eskdale), Lonscale Fell, Latrigg, Coniston Old Man, Brim Fell, Muncaster Fell. (She also claims to have done Black Fell as a solo walk. And I do believe her, honest.)

Hugill Fell summit

Joe on Hugill Fell’s summit, looking towards Potter Fell

Joe has also done: Castle Crag, Whinlatter, Nab Scar, Heron Pike, Gibson Knott, Helm Crag, Bleaberry Fell, Walla Crag, Blencathra, Mungrisdale Common, Wansfell, Harter Fell (Eskdale), Lonscale Fell, Latrigg, Finsthwaite Heights, Latterbarrow, Claife Heights, Orrest Head, School Knott (3 summits), Brant Fell, Reston Scar, Hugill Fell [pictured], High Knott, Silver How,  Loughrigg Fell, Whitbarrow, Newton Fell (South), Scout Scar (2 summits), Coniston Old Man, Brim Fell, Yew Bank (Woodland Fell), Beacon Fell, Knipescar Common, Heughscar Hill, Scafell Pike, Angletarn Pikes, Beda Fell, Gray Crag, Caudale Moor, Hartsop Dodd, Great Sca Fell, Brae Fell, Muncaster Fell. Including also his very first Wainwright, Catbells — done before I started on this project — he is at 47 Wainwrights to date.

Other fells done with companions (not always mentioned in the original commentaries): Whiteside, Hopegill Head, Grisedale Pike, Catbells, Maiden Moor, High Spy, Esk Pike, Bowfell. All companions did, of course, use public transport as well.

Haycock from Cold Fell

Caw Fell (front) and Haycock (behind), from Cold Fell.

Accessibility

I think the Wainwright furthest from a public transport terminus is Caw Fell – certainly that took a very long time to reach whether from Cleator Moor (holding the record for the latest first fell reached on a walk — 3pm approx, on walk 43a), or Seascale on walk 152a, which was even further. Haycock, the next fell along (both are pictured here), probably also has a case. In the far east of the Outlying Fells, the Crookdale Horseshoe can’t be much less far away from Burneside station, but the occasional Shap bus can get you a little nearer on certain days.

Glenridding Dodd from St Sunday Crag

Glenridding Dodd (on left), just above the eponymous village. Taken from St. Sunday Crag.

The fell nearest to a public transport terminus in the main 214 is probably Glenridding Dodd [pictured], where I did summit to pub in 15 minutes on walk 48, and the bus stop is 5 minutes further on.

If the Outlying Fells are included, the winner is probably Dunmallet, where you could probably get from summit to bus stop (in Pooley Bridge) in 15 minutes total if you really had to. I haven’t timed the direct walk down from Orrest Head to Windermere station, but it can’t take much longer, and that is definitely the fell closest to a railway station.

First v second round comparisons

Walla Crag from Catbells

Walla Crag viewed from Catbells

Same number on both rounds? Walla Crag [pictured] started both rounds and so far remains the only fell which occupies the same position on both. However, note the coupling of Graystones (160 on the first round, 161 on the second) and Broom Fell (161 and 160). This is as near as I have got so far to further duplication.

Late on first round, early on second? The biggest difference here will remain with Walna Scar: number 303 on my first round, but only number 17 on my second. I visited twice within three months on walk 96 and walk 99.

Catbells in gold

Catbells shines in a sunbeam: viewed from Maiden Moor. Skiddaw in cloud behind.

Different dates? My ideal is to do the fells at a different time of year but there’s only so much change which can be done, not least because of bus timetables. The one time I reached perfection — exactly six months between the dates of the two walks — was with the two Scout Scar summits, bagged first on 24th December 2013 (walk 77), and then on 24th June 2017 (walk 130).

On the other hand, Catbells [pictured], Maiden Moor and High Spy were visited first on the 18th March 2011 (walk 33) and a second time almost exactly eight years later, on 19th March 2019 (walk 160). The close runner-up to this group is Lonscale Fell (4/1/13, 2/1/19).

6 Responses to “Personal Notes in Conclusion”

  1. beatingthebounds said

    Kudos to you for both polishing them all off and for doing it all by public transport. A friend sent me a link to your blog, thinking I would like it (he was right). I’m only sad that I seem to have arrived as the last guest turns out the lights.

    • Drew Whitworth said

      Maybe the Wainwrights are done – but I’ll keep adding walks elsewhere to the blog as they’re done – going to New Zealand in February so plenty to see and explore 🙂

  2. Congrats on your achievement! If you ever want to revisit some of the Western Fells (without a car!) I have a cottage in Wasdale and you can do around a dozen Wainwrights by walking from the door. Gosforth Taxis run a “shuttle” from Seascale Station up Wasdale – this is the “taxi-bus” you mentioned in one of your blogs, though in reality it’s a taxi service, pure and simple. I’ll give you a discount and donate the difference to the MRT by way of sponsorship – details at http://www.cherrybankcottages.co.uk. Regards, Hugh

  3. Mark Baker said

    Just found this site, and wished I’d found it earlier. I’m a big fan of Wainwright, I’ve been walking his walks for years, and now in retirement am planning to walk them all. I’ve even bought a tent, so that I can keep the costs down and hopefully visit the lakes more

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