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.

View of Upper Kentmere

View of upper Kentmere from Green Quarter Fell — the scenic highlight of the walk.

It’s been eight weeks since I last ventured into the Lake District. In the intervening time, a combination of other responsibilities, a train line closure and — most significantly of all — pretty terrible weather have kept me away. But the weather yesterday, 4th March, was pleasant enough and I was finally able to move on with the project and undertake walk 175.

This took me up the Kent valley from Staveley, and bagged the two Outyling summits of Green Quarter Fell, notable mainly for the views of the upper Kentmere valley (as pictured here). Other than that it is not a very dramatic walk, but it is an easy and straightforward one.

Fox on Green Quarter Fell

The fox I encountered on the slopes of Green Quarter Fell.

Northern Rail’s utter shambles of a train service did its best to screw up my day but the walk was done despite them: that was the worst part. On the other hand, the walk did have the bonus of this fox, the closest I have ever knowingly been to such a creature: it sat down when it saw me, quite aware of my presence and presumably keeping an eye on me as it had cubs in an earth in the vicinity.

As of today, then, I have bagged 240 of the 330 Wainwrights on my second round, and thus have 90 to go. I certainly hope to be back in the Lakes before the end of March but it depends on the weather — and the trains, unfortunately. Until then please do feel free to have a look at the walk 175 page where there are more photos and a full route description, as usual.

In Little Langdale

In Little Langdale

There are two Langdales in the Lake District: Great Langdale, which everybody knows, and the less-frequented Little Langdale, which most people probably just trundle through as they come up or down Wrynose Pass at one end. But it’s an attractive valley in its own right and one I hadn’t visited despite all my previous perambulations around the area.

Walk 172, done yesterday on a glorious (but frosty) November day, filled that gap and along the way bagged two summits, Holme Fell and Lingmoor Fell from book 4 — my first excursion into The Southern Fells for some eighteen months. Not a classic, and a longer walk than anticipated from looking at the map, but nevertheless a fine expedition with some excellent views — like this classic one of Great Langdale.

Langdale classic view

The classic view of Great Langdale, coming off Lingmoor Fell.

As ever, more photos and a full route description can be found on the walk 172 page.

As of today, then, I have done 232 of the 330 Wainwrights on my second round, so have 98 to go. It may be that was my last walk of 2019, although there’s always the hope that the gloom of mid- to late December will relent and offer opportunities then. We will see.

Gatesgarth

Gatesgarth Farm — the starting point.

It’s nice to have a job that can sometimes be flexible, I admit that. With the weather forecasts showing that Monday would be one of those late October days that give summer a last hurrah, I worked Sunday instead and took advantage with walk 171. This took me from Gatesgarth (pictured), up over the High Stile ridge in far better conditions than I first did it seven years ago (see walk 60a). Three summits bagged — the eponymous High Stile and its neigbbours High Crag and Red Pike. There were some unpleasant moments on the descent of the latter, but all in all this was a fine walk. Read all about it and see more pictures on the walk 171 page.

Walkers below Seat

Walkers below Seat. Haystacks in the left middle distance, Great Gable on the horizon.

Red Pike is bagged as number 230 of the full list of 330 Wainwrights, which means I have — ta-daa! — one hundred to go. It would be nice to get another walk in around mid-November but around this time of year I am fully dependent on the weather meshing with work timetables, so let’s see how it goes.