Nannycatch Beck

Nannycatch Beck

Date completed: 21st November 2015.

Weather conditions: Good, considering that I had sat this one out through the previous two weekends, which were both as wet as anything since the drenchings of 2012. But today was clear and sunny, though pretty cold.

View from Flat Fell

View from Flat Fell. The most distant fell, with the distinctive ‘end’, is Grasmoor.

Summits bagged: Flat Fell (871 feet above sea level) and Dent (1131’). These were numbers 329 and 330 of the 330 Wainwrights — thus, my last two. With this walk I have done the lot. There really are no more subsidiary lists to discover; that’s all, folks. (See the commentary below.)

Start and end points: Started in Wath Brow, and ended in Cleator Moor town centre. Both places are served by frequent buses to Whitehaven, which is on the Cumbrian coast rail line.

The walk could have ended about a mile earlier, in Cleator village, which does have hourly bus services, but with no pub evident and that bus not due for a while, I just extended it back to Cleator Moor. Wainwright suggests ending it back at the starting point in Wath Brow, and that is also an option: there is a reasonable pub there, the Little Arms (where I ended walk 28).

Young pine trees

Young pine trees in Uldale plantation, on the slopes of Dent

Distance walked: 7.25 miles approximately. The difference between this and the 6.5 miles quoted in the book is accounted for by the extra bit at the end, as noted above.

Total ascent: 1300 feet (Wainwright’s figure).

Pub at end: The end of my first Wainwright round was toasted in Moffat’s, on Cleator Moor’s main street. What can I say, it felt like I was one of the few outsiders ever to penetrate this remote West Cumbrian sanctum. To be honest I doubt any of the pubs in Cleator Moor are much different.

Route:  I didn’t deliberately leave to the end one of the easiest of all the walks I have done, but that’s how it worked out. It took exactly three hours, and that included the extension at the end. There are a couple of steep bits, coming down into and then back up out of the valley of Nannycatch, but nothing else to worry about. Gloriously, it almost all takes place on excellent paths, with no boggy bits. Dent has a good view, although not, I have to say, one that is any better than other candidates along this western fringe (like from the Devoke Water circuit, for instance).

View inland from Dent

The view inland from Dent summit. Scafell Pike and Scafell prominent to the right.

The only problem with the walk is that it takes a long time to get to it, unless you are starting from West Cumbria. I had to travel more than ten hours today for those three hours out walking.

It will also not take long to describe, because apart from at the very end, I followed exactly the route suggested in Wainwright, on pages 200-1 of volume 8.  Seeing as there is plenty to say in the commentary, below, I will spare you unnecessary detail here. Just follow the map.  I also see no reason why it wouldn’t be an equally good walk the other way around.

A couple of points to mention. First, note that while Flat Fell lives up to its name when climbed from the west — and has lovely, springy turf, a joy to walk on — its slopes above Nannycatch are not flat at all, in fact they are very steep. And that same springy turf that was lovely in ascent is now rather slippery and awkward. Take care here; there doesn’t seem to be any path to help.

Fearsome ladder stile

The fearsome ladder stile on the ascent of Dent.

There is a rather fearsome ladder stile over the forest fence that allows access to Dent from Nannycatch (see picture). This is probably the tallest one I’ve ever had to negotiate. The timid might like to try to squeeze through the dog gate.

It is not actually clear what is the summit of Dent, something that is not apparent from reading Wainwright. I pushed on to the big cairn, pictured here, and that certainly would seem to be an appropriate place to stop and admire the view if one had come up from the west — it stands right at the top of the slope. But coming at Dent from the back, one passes a smaller cairn earlier on (currently adorned with a “Sharon & Wayne 2015 forever” plaque), and looking at the OS map, that would appear to have a better case for being stood on the actual summit.

Uldale Plantation

Uldale Plantation

Coming down off Dent, once you hit the woods, bear left, then right at the forest road, this seems a better way down to Black How than the one suggested in the book.

At Black How, the route depends on where you want to finish the walk. To return to Wath Brow, turn right along the tarmac and you will come out back at the bridge over the Ehen that you crossed early on, near the start of the walk. I followed the Coast to Coast signs, however (the walk coinciding with this long-distance route since Nannycatch), to come out at Cleator village.

As noted above, the walk can end here if desired, but to get back to Cleator Moor, turn right through the village then first left.  This road has a pavement all the way back to Cleator Moor town centre (thankfully, as the cars were bombing along it).

Runner in Nannycatch

Runner in Nannycatch

That’s all folks. Really all: It was the 19th July 2009 when I bagged Walla Crag and kicked off what turned into this project of mine, to climb all the fells described in A. Wainwright’s Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells.  And I have, of course, already declared it ‘finished’, after coming down off Latrigg on January 4th 2013, on walk 70. That walk completed all the 214 fells with separate chapters in the seven volumes of the main Guide.

But after I came back from Australia in summer 2013, there seemed little reason not to attend to the ‘subsidiary’ Wainwrights, the 116 summits listed in the eighth volume, The Outlying Fells, which was published some seven years after the main Guide. That boosted the number of Wainwrights to 330 and has since been occupying me, for the last two years and four months. But now they’re all done. And there are really no more Wainwrights to be dug up. There are no more. I’ve finished them.

Cows on Flat Fell

Cows on Flat Fell

Of course, that doesn’t mean I have somehow ‘finished’ the Lake District. Far from it. The idea of the ‘Wainwrights’ is just an arbitrary list, and as noted on the Long Distance Walkers’ Association page, giving this particular collection of summits a single identity like this then assuming it represents the totality of what this corner of the world has to offer would surely have Wainwright himself turning in his grave.  There are plenty of fells which I visited only briefly, almost incidentally in some cases, traversing them via supporting ridges but not climbing them from valley level. Many fells have multiple routes of ascent.

Thus, there is plenty for the Lake District to offer yet. Hence my commitment to doing a second round. There are other reasons for this too. For various family-related reasons I’m committed to my life’s status quo for a few years yet, so the Lakes isn’t going to get any further away. I’m not going to start driving there, so it may become harder to get to, depending on what further public spending atrocities await us in the next few years.

Dent summit cairn

The summit cairn of Dent — 330th and last.

But all along it has felt like an ongoing game, learning about where I can get to, and at what times of year. In fact, despite the evisceration of the Shap bus, there have been considerable improvements in the accessibility of much of the District thanks to one relatively recent introduction, and one only — the 07:58 service from Preston to Glasgow, which stops in Penrith and allows one to catch services to Patterdale and Keswick in good time, rather than waiting around there so long that by the time you get going it’s too late to do a decent walk. I observe this to suggest that where there are problems of accessibility, it’s not really to do with sheer numbers of services, but how well they connect up. There are still plenty of timetables that could be better planned.

Anyway, forget all that. Let’s talk about the fells. I don’t remember what preconceptions I had of the Outlying Fells before starting on them; I think I said back on walk 71 that I would be interspersing these summits with walks elsewhere or back in the main 214. So perhaps I suspected that they wouldn’t sustain the interest. The fact that I almost entirely stuck with it shows I was wrong. There were certainly some dull chapters — I won’t be going back to the Wet Sleddale Horseshoe or Clints Crags with any great enthusiasm. But there were also some pleasant surprises, Stickle Pike and the Devoke Water circuit particularly.


Dent from Flat Fell

And even if the fell walking wasn’t necessarily as exciting as in the centre of the district, the Outlying districts score big in one respect: the views. Even some tiny eminences like Latterbarrow, Hugill Fell, School Knott and Caermote Fell have some amazing panoramas. And it was interesting to explore some really remote areas, where I genuinely felt I was the only person for miles around. Being in the midst of that herd of deer on Seat Robert last month epitomised the solitude of much of this region. It’s peripheral — and in the current political climate, what is peripheral is considered of no account. So asserting the value of these lonely, inaccessible areas means something more to me than just having completed a personal ticklist.

Flat Fell summit cairn

Flat Fell summit cairn

Anyway, thanks for following my efforts. The second round is under way; 20 of the 330 have been done a second time so far (and in the case of Ulthwaite Rigg, I’m very glad of that). I’m going to try to ensure there is always variation, and I don’t climb any fell a second time by the same route I did it first time, though in a few cases that might be unavoidable. And there are definitely some fells I’m looking forward to going back to in better weather.

Stick with me then. There almost certainly won’t be any more walks until after Christmas, but I’ll pick things up again in January. 350 down — 310 to go. In effect. If I keep up the same pace, I’ll have done the second round by 2021.

%d bloggers like this: