View from Lord's Seat

The view from Lord’s Seat. Robin Hood and the prominent High House Bank ahead, above the valley of (the other) Borrowdale.

Date completed: 13th October 2015.

Weather conditions: A very beautiful morning, with mist filling Wet Sleddale though quickly burning off (see picture). As ever, it clouded over in the afternoon and became cloudy and fairly chilly; but then again it is October.

Morning mist

The cattle grid at the end of the Haweswater road in Wet Sleddale, in morning mist.

Summits bagged: Nine in total — equalling the record for the most picked up on one hike (with walk 93 and walk 60, though the latter was a two-day hike).

These were picked up from three separate chapters in volume 8, as follows:

  • from the Seat Robert chapter: Langhowe Pike (1313‘), Great Ladstones (1439‘), Seat Robert (1688‘), Fewling Stones (1667‘) and High Wether Howe (1742‘). Numbers 321-325 of my first Wainwright round;
  • i then picked up Ulthwaite Rigg (1648‘) from the Wet Sleddale Horseshoe chapter; I had done this before, so this became number 20 of my second round;
  • Lord’s Seat (1719‘), Robin Hood (1613‘) and High House Bank (1627‘) from the Crookdale Horseshoe chapter: numbers 326-328.

Thus: I have just two Wainwrights to go.

View from Harrop Pike

View from Harrop Pike, the summit of the walk.

(The highest point of the walk is not in fact any of these, but Harrop Pike, at 2090’; this is a subsidiary of Grey Crag, but not itself a Wainwright.)

Start and end points: Started at the end of the lane to Wet Sleddale, where it meets the A6 (near junction 39 of the M6). On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays this can still be reached by a #106 bus that leaves Kendal at 09:10.

Finished at Burneside railway station, from where trains can be caught back to Kendal and on to Oxenholme and, a couple of times a day, through to Preston and Manchester.

Distance walked: 20.2 miles. My penultimate walk (at least of this first round) turns out to be the longest of all of the ones I have done in the Lakes.

High Wether Howe

High Wether Howe, from Fewling Stones. Just visible on the horizon is Harrop Pike. Distances are long on this walk…

Total ascent: 2880 feet.
Pub at end: The Jolly Anglers, Burneside. The excuse I was given for it being quiet tonight was that the darts team were playing away. It was pretty deathly, but though it only had one real ale on it was a tasty one.

Route: You really want to follow in my footsteps here? Are you serious?

In that case let’s be absolutely clear up front about certain things.  Principally that this is a monstrously long walk. Gradients are easy,  with the only steepness occurring on High House Bank and then mostly in descent; but much of it is pathless and over awkward ground, particularly as you transition between the two chapters over Ulthwaite Rigg and Harrop Pike. A whole day must be allowed, and it’ll be a long day: the walk took me 8 hours and 40 minutes, including breaks (of which I didn’t have many). And the day must be a clear and fine one too, I would not even begin to think of doing this one in rain and mist.

Mosedale Cottage

Mosedale Cottage, seen from High Wether Howe

You could, potentially, break this walk into a two-day expedition by staying over at Mosedale Cottage, which is worth considering; as you can see from this picture (taken from High Wether Howe), it is close by. But you’ll have to bring all you need for the night.

The walk could start at Shap and proceed through Keld as did walk 81 but I got off the bus at Wet Sleddale lane end to make the most, photographically, of the mist which was still hanging around in the valley at that time in the morning (see the picture above). It means the walk begins with a spell on the Haweswater access road, built in the 1940s and peppered with signs warning vehicles off using it — which didn’t prevent a huge artic looming out of the mist at one point, heading for god-knows-where. Stay on the road until it crosses another, with a sign to Tailbeart, and turn left there.

Swindale and Selside Pike

Excellent view of Swindale and Selside Pike from the lower cairn on Langhowe Pike.

As this road reaches the walls of the farm of Tailbeart the Seat Robert fells are on the left. I did these more-or-less in the order, and by the route, that Wainwright suggests and in clear weather it should be easy enough to follow his instructions (as I said, don’t do this walk in mist). Because I was not dropping down to Swindale I veered round to bag Fewling Stones before backtracking to High Wether Howe, but this was the only difference. The best thing about this part of the walk was the herd of deer: see the picture.

From High Wether Howe, head south, stepping over the fence and rounding the lump of Scam Matthew (brilliant name, but not a Wainwright) on its right before dropping down to the Wet Sleddale bridleway, here just ruts in the grass. The horizon ahead is the Great Yarlside – Harrop Pike ridge, your next target. Between you and it lies a pathless wasteland, and the exact route here is therefore a matter mostly of preference. I took the opportunity to re-bag Ulthwaite Rigg, surely the most nondescript Wainwright of all; this is probably the shortest route, but it is an hour’s hard labour that will not do a great deal for the soul.

Wild red deer

Wild red deer on Seat Robert. There were at least a couple of dozen in this herd all told.

Once on the ridge, things improve for a while as you head for the summit of Harrop Pike with its tall cairn and great view, with Morecambe Bay visible. At this point you stand at the convergence of several ridges, with Longsleddale down below, and could continue the walk in various directions (many of which will shorten it compared to my route).

Should you want to bag the Crookdale Horseshoe fells, the best way to identify the right ridge is to look for the distinctively-shaped High House Bank (see the picture at the top of the page). Then it seems to be just a matter of crossing the fence and heading in that direction, again there are no paths in this area to help, but once on Lord’s Seat a decent track emerges which takes you over that summit and Robin Hood. Then, go through the two gates (the first gates met on the whole walk), leaving the track and climbing High House Bank, which is not quite as steep as it appears from below, but still an effort considering how long the walk has been up to this point. And it’s still two and a half hours, at least, to Burneside.

The other Borrowdale

The other Borrowdale. The Crookdale fells are the three on the right.

For descent of HHB, follow the map in the book, dropping down to the old road under the pylons and their fizzing power lines (unmentioned in the pages of Wainwright), then turn right and just keep walking. Look for this good view of the other Borrowdale, the one no one has heard of, soon after crossing its beck via an old stone bridge.

These last few miles are easy, on a mixture of tarmac and bridleway, but long. It’s easy enough to follow the route on the map that stays close to the A6 until Garnett Bridge, but never requires walking on it except for a few hundred yards after the lane to Plough Farm — a footpath alternative (or a pavement) is really needed at this point, but it doesn’t exist, so be careful here. Escape right where the road takes a sharp bend to the left and then turn immediately left to drop down to Garnett Bridge; turn right, then follow the road signs to Burneside.

View of Bannisdale Horseshoe

View over to the Bannisdale Horseshoe fells, from High House Bank

Penultimate commentary: Phew. I’m glad that’s over. I type this while sat in bed the morning after completing this 20-mile epic with a couple of knees that feel like they are made of glass: certainly I do not intend to attempt many stairs today. Thankfully I have a job where I can do work from home — and, indeed, make the most of good weather forecasts during the week to yomp up to Cumbria and get a walk in.

Lucky me, but there was no glamour or excitement in walk 102. Since the Shap bus was cut back the Seat Robert chapter has been a logistical irritant, with the timing of the remaining buses meaning a) I had to do it on a Tuesday, Thursday or Friday and b) I could not, realistically, do a round of the fells and get back to Shap. The buses that remain are timed so the last one back to Kendal is at 1pm — miss that and one must then wait until 6pm and get one to Penrith, a possibility but it wouldn’t see me home until 10.30pm.

Whatshaw Common

Whatshaw Common (Wasdale Horseshoe) suddenly gets all glamorous

And neither of these options get me anywhere near the Crookdale Horseshoe fells. These have not been affected at all by public transport cuts — being a bugger to get to even when the Shap bus was running several times a day. They have always been sat on the map, staying marked with red pins while all the summits around them turned other colours, simply because I kept looking at them and knowing that a hike of at least 18 or 19 miles was needed. I looked at walking up from Burneside, doing the ridge, then Grey Crag, Longsleddale and back to Staveley. I thought about bagging half the Bannisdale Horseshoe again and turning it into ‘The Other Borrowdale Horseshoe’.  There was a time when I was seriously considering a stay in Mosedale Cottage, and probably would have done this had I been able to get two consecutive days off work, but that proved impossible. Whatever — I was looking at a long trudge of the sort that it was easy to keep putting aside for another day.

Seat Robert and peat hags

Looking back to Seat Robert from the peat hags below the delightful Ulthwaite Rigg.

But the day had to come eventually. Simply, there are no other walks left to do now except my final one, far to the west (Flat Fell and Dent). And the more I looked at the map the more I became sure that the sensible thing to do was just stitch the two chapters together and commit to the longest walk in this whole round — and the second-longest I have ever walked in one day (23 miles, on day 3 of the Heaphy Track, being my record). So now it’s done, and I have only two fells to go to complete my first round of all 330 Wainwrights. And I never have to climb Ulthwaite Rigg again either, which is an added bonus.

Highlights? Well, the deer, definitely; these are such beautiful creatures and while it’s not that rare to see them around the place in England, I’ve certainly never been so close to such a big herd of them, and red deer too (as opposed to the smaller roe deer), the largest animal species native to Great Britain. They will sprint away from you the moment they see you, so photographing them isn’t easy, but I did my best — with a long zoom. And it is something, to simply be somewhere so remote and hard-to-reach. Crookdale particularly feels like the middle of nowhere.  But I need a rest.

Looking west from Great Ladstones

Looking west from Great Ladstones. The High Street range is on the horizon.

And don’t even talk to me about Virgin Trains — that the East Coast main line, which was making billions in profits for the taxpayer, was simply handed over to this bunch of arse-faced incompetents to run is nothing short of a national joke, of which we are the butt.

Anyway — one walk left, and it’s going to be Flat Fell and Dent, over in the west. When? November some time, all being well.

%d bloggers like this: