Devoke Water

Devoke Water, Water Crag and some very cute little fluffy clouds

Date completed: 16th September 2015.

Weather conditions: Absolutely superb. One of my hotter walks, too.

Summits bagged: Woodend Height (1597 feet above sea level), Yoadcastle (1621’), White Pike (1450’) and The Knott (1086’).  The first three are in the Devoke Water circuit chapter, and the Knott is in the Stainton Pike chapter of volume 8. None bagged before so these become numbers 317-320 of the whole round of 330 — thus I have ten to go.

View to Scafell

View over to Scafell, with sheep (they get everywhere…)

Start and end points: Started at Dalegarth station, one terminus of the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway, and ended it at Ravenglass station, the other terminus — where it connects with the main Cumbrian coast line. The walk fitted between 10.15am, more or less when the first departure of the day from Ravenglass (9.25) reached Dalegarth, and — with ten minutes to spare — the 15.33 departure from Ravenglass to Carlisle.

Distance walked: I know as the end of this project approaches I’m becoming terribly sloppy with these figures but I am estimating about 12 miles.

Total ascent: Likewise, but let’s say about 2000 feet today. Eskdale is the lowest-lying of all the major Lakeland valleys (Dalegarth is only about 165 feet a.s.l.) so there is quite a bit of climbing to do.

Ravenglass station

Steam in the morning light at Ravenglass railway station.

Pub at end: The Ratty Arms at Ravenglass station. Convenient as it is here, for some reason I’m not a big fan of this place: it just doesn’t seem very friendly. But like most places in the Lakes it can serve a decent pint.

Route: Except for an unavoidable bout of road walking on the approach to Muncaster Bridge this is a good walk throughout. All four of the summits are distinctive in their own way and worth visiting.  There is plenty of good scenery, it “feels like the Lakes” (not always true in the Outlying Fells) and there are some fine views of Scafell and other fells around the head of Eskdale, although none of them are showing their most dramatic sides. Paths get a bit intermittent at times but they’ll do. In clear weather route finding is easy.

Birker Fell road

The rather battered sign on the Birker Fell road. Woodend Height and Seat How behind.

From Dalegarth station turn right down the road and then, opposite what is obviously an old school, left down the lane. Keep following the signs for “Dalegarth Force” (marked as Stanley Force on the OS Map). At one point there are two of these pointing in different directions but I don’t think it matters which route is taken. You can go all the way up the gorge to look at the waterfalls, they’re OK but not spectacular. If you do go right to their foot you have to retrace your steps a bit. A path allows exit from the gorge back onto the public bridleway.

Follow this bridleway, first through the yard of Low Ground farm, then round to High Ground. From here, technically, the footpath heads due west but I doubt anyone will complain if you simply follow the farm access road instead, which crosses the Birker Fell road at a rather battered sign (pictured) then becomes the access road to the Devoke Water boat house — so keep following it.

Yoadcastle

Yoadcastle, from Woodend Height — the shortest distance between two Wainwright summits.

The track deteriorates immediately after the boat house, but by this point Woodend Height is straight ahead and a thin track can be seen climbing the slope. The key to ascending Woodend Height is to stay between the two streams (see the map); so I left the track when it crossed the second of these and just made a beeline for the summit. The ground is a bit steep in places but not difficult. Don’t think that the tor of Rowantree How is the top by the way — there’s a good 300 feet or more still to go after it, although the How is worth a quick climb as it has a good view.

Once on the top of Woodend Height, Yoadcastle is barely 250 yards further on — if it takes you more than five minutes to go between the two you’re just not trying. From the top of the latter, the summit of the day’s walk, White Pike is then visible, another ten minutes at most. It has a good summit, with its tall column of a cairn and, on the day I visited, a rather ambitious squirrel.

White Pike summit and squirrel

White Pike summit and its adventurous squirrel (on right)

The Knott is visible from White Pike (and Yoadcastle), but I wouldn’t make a beeline for it as there are crags in the way. Instead, go back towards Yoadcastle a bit then, when a rocky cleft drops down to the right, take that. A path eventually materialises that leads to the final summit of the day.

In the book, Wainwright advises that you descend from the Knott via Barnscar, but I still have bad memories of that path from walk 40 — indeed, even the vague possibility that I might have to squelch through that bog again has been one reason why it has taken me so long to get round to doing this walk. Prior inspection of the map suggested that a possible alternative was offered by Stainton Beck. A right-of-way is marked as going down this valley, but I must admit that I did not expect a path to accompany it. In fact, once I got down to the stream — and the ground between the Knott and the beck is pathless but quite easy to negotiate — quite a good path did eventually emerge. This leads to Stainton farm and from there, take the farm lane down to the road.

River Esk

The River Esk and Muncaster Bridge, with Scafell behind

Unfortunately, there is little alternative here but to walk along the busy A595 for a mile or so unless you want to try what I did, which is to go down the lane of Rougholme farm and then follow a public footpath along the river — this gets you off the road, but is frequently crossed up by deep drainage ditches that get rather wearing to negotiate. So I don’t know if it’s much of an improvement. In any case there is no choice but to cross Muncaster Bridge (pictured) using the road: do take care here.

View from Rowantree How.

The view from Rowantree How.

The A595 does go all the way back to Ravenglass but unless you are really pushed for time I cannot imagine it would be anyone’s first choice of route. The grounds of Muncaster Castle offer an alternative, reached by turning left at Hirst Lodge, following that lane for a while then going through a gate which says “No Entry to Muncaster Castle” (*shrug*), climbing upwards then, once past the castle itself, slanting up through the woods to come out onto the path marked on the map as heading from Dovecote Wood to Newtown House. This should bring you out at the latter (and its multitude of pheasants) from where you can walk on the lane past Walls Castle (a Roman bath house) and back to Ravenglass station.

Dalegarth Woods

Dalegarth Woods, near the start of the walk

Doubling-up commentary: I stayed in Seascale last night after walk 100, and how nice was it to be able to get up at 7.30 and be walking at 10.15 — the same times yesterday were 5.45 and 11.15 (and I only made that because of haring out of Whitehaven train station and diving on the #30 bus just as the doors shut). The Bailey Ground Lodge offered a decent night’s sleep, shower and breakfast (for me and the many Sellafield visitors and contractors staying there) and in the end, one can ask for no more from accommodation.

Little to really add about this walk commentary-wise. With it, I have now bagged all the Wainwrights in the south-west, from Black Combe up. It’s a lonely area, though not completely unfrequented: unlike yesterday I did see other walkers, particularly around Devoke Water. Unlike certain other regions covered in volume 8 it all seems a very integral part of the District, as does this whole “Black Combe range”. Seeing as I’m definitely doing all these at least one more time, I look forward to revisiting it — what I’ll probably do is do the whole range, from BC and then finish in Eskdale (or vice versa).

Seat How

Seat How and Devoke Water’s boat house

And thank you, Whomever, for the weather. Forecasts for this week were rather dubious, which is one reason why I didn’t go into the Shap Fells again as originally planned, but today was one of the most gloriously sunny days I’ve had in the Lakes. I had far too much gear with me. The bright blue skies on the photos tell their own story.

So, ten to go:

  • Lord’s Seat, Robin Hood and High House Bank (the Crookdale Horseshoe chapter);
  • Langhowe Pike, Great Ladstones, Seat Robert, High Wether Howe and Fewling Stones (the Seat Robert chapter);
  • Flat Fell and Dent.

    The Knott

    The Knott seen from the back, on the approach. Ravenglass estuary to right.

I do still hope to get all these done before 2015 is out, but that does look like it now depends on having two consecutive dry days coinciding with time when I have no work responsibilities — and there aren’t going to be many of those before Christmas. I still may be able to find a way to do the first two as two separate walks, though one of them (Crookdale) will be very long. Leave it with me…

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