View east from Whitbarrow

Joe admiring the view east, from the southern end of the Whitbarrow ridge

Date completed: 25th October 2016 — with Joe: my first walk with him, or indeed with anyone, since early September 2015 (walk 104B).

Weather conditions: Mostly excellent; some cloud later in the day but really nothing to complain about. Superb weather for the time of year.

Summits baggedWhitbarrow (706 feet above sea level, number 77 of my second round), Newton Fell South (585’, no. 78).

Summit of Whitbarrow

Walkers on the summit of Whitbarrow (Lord’s Seat)

Whitbarrow was last bagged on walk 95, 10/4/15; Newton Fell South on walk 72, 8/7/13.

Start and end points: Started in Mill Side, just off the A590, north-east of Witherslack. Finished in Lindale. Both these villages are connected to Grange-over-Sands railway station by the X6 bus. The walk fitted, with 20 minutes to spare, between the 10:30ish arrival at Mill Side (left Grange station 10:23) and the 16:24 departure from Lindale back to Grange station.

Distance walked:  8.5 miles approx.

Total ascent: 1600 feet approx.

Cow on Yewbarrow

A cow chills out in the enclosure near the summit of Yewbarrow

Pub at end: Depressingly, none, making it the fourth walk in a row without a pub at the actual walk terminus. (I really need to bring this run to an end.) However, today’s dryness wasn’t the result of my bad planning. Lindale village has two buildings that are clearly ex-pubs, the Royal Oak at the western, higher end and the Lindale Inn at the other, near the bus stop — but neither seem to be open. And I mean here open in any kind of permanent way, not just ‘open at 5pm’ when we passed by at 4pm or so. Lindale therefore manages to provide an Audi dealership, but not a pub — what a sad commentary that is on modern village life.

Route: This walk crosses three more or less parallel ridges, and thus splits into three parts. The first is very good indeed.  The second is less impressive, but still good walking. The third part, however — Newton Fell South — is really a drag, despite a decent view from the summit, and unless you’re needing to bag it, I would omit it, and finish the walk at Witherslack instead. See the route guidance below.

View south-west from Whitbarrow ascent

Looking out from the viewpoint mentioned in the text, during the climb up Whitbarrow

It is a low-altitude walk, but that does not mean it is entirely free of difficulty — the descent of Whitbarrow may cause problems at points, and coming off Yewbarrow (not the Wasdale one… see below) is also tricky at points.

The bus stops on the main A590 road at the end of the lane that leads to Mill Side. Go straight over the first crossroads, then through into the hamlet itself. From here the best thing to do is follow the route advice given on page 40 of Wainwright’s volume 8, which will get you easily up to the upper reaches of Whitbarrow, and then just follow the path. I do recommend taking the detour mentioned in the book, where instead of going through the gate in the woods, just after the gap in the wall, go straight on ahead to a viewpoint over Foulshaw Moss and Morecambe Bay. This is probably the best viewpoint on the walk, and worth visiting. (See picture above.)

Whitbarrow from Mill Side

Looking up at White Scar (Whitbarrow), from Mill Side

Having let Wainwright get you to the summit of Whitbarrow, known as Lord’s Seat, with its tall and impressive limestone cairn, descend to the left (west), down a path that is not obvious at first, but follow the cairns and it becomes clear. This follows the wall along the top of the cliff for a while then drops down through a stile and down a steep path. Take care here at a couple of points: it is narrow, awkward and there is a steep drop immediately on the right.

The path eventually levels out at the football pitch of Witherslack Hall school; take the path round the side, rather than crossing the pitch as the gate on the other side is locked.

At the entrance to the school drive, go up the hill for a short stretch, then by the equestrian centre, turn left into the lane, then left again. This lane heads along the ridge of Yewbarrow, which is clearly a limestone ridge in much the same way as Whitbarrow but considerably more eroded. It provides good walking though, and fast progress can be made along the lane. Where it opens out into a field, bear right up a gentle hill, and through a gate back into the woods.

Lord's Seat

Lord’s Seat, the highest part of Whitbarrow, from the south

At this point there is a choice to make. If you are not bothered about bagging Newton Fell South my advice is to stick on this lane all the way back to Witherslack, where there is a pub (the Derby Arms) and a bus stop for the X6 that can take you back to Grange — see the advice provided at the end of walk 95. This lane along Yewbarrow would have been a better way of ending that walk, in fact.

However, if the delights of Newton Fell South still remain on your ‘to-experience’ list: at the first cross path after returning to the woods, turn right. This narrow path takes a big zigzag down the edge of Yewbarrow, which though lower than its bigger neighbour, is still as steep as Whitbarrow’s and again needs care at points. Bear left when it meets another path at the bottom, keep left at the next junction and you come out onto tarmac near Witherslack’s church.


The crossroads near Newton Fell

Turn right on the road, then left down the grassy lane past the end of the small group of houses. When this hits tarmac again turn right, and follow this road for about three-quarters of a mile until it reaches the crossroads pictured here (this being the point at which Joe decided his feet were in a state of general agony and he had lost the will to live). Turn left (signposted Lindale) and keep going down the road until arriving at an entrance to a farm lane (Low Green), at which point there is a public footpath sign pointing through the gate on the right.

According to the sign, and the map, there should then be a path up the hill to the summit of Newton Fell South (a.k.a. Dixon Heights). This, however, was not matched by my and Joe’s experience on the day. There are some occasional and sketchy signs of a path heading up through the bracken, but if it was not our imagination, this is a path that is clearly barely used.

Pheasant farm

Joe ascending past one of the pheasant-rearing ‘farms’ on the slopes of Newton Fell

All the way up through this enclosure we were disturbing a huge quantity of pheasants, and there were also a couple of rearing stations (see picture), and I suspect that whatever ‘paths’ do exist in this tangled Cumbrian jungle are made by gamekeepers and not walkers. We did eventually make it out onto a good lane, but this must have been the one marked on the map as running along the southern edge of the big enclosure, rather than corresponding to the right-of-way (green on the OS map). All in all this was not a good 45 minutes or so and my advice would be, if tackling NFS from this side, to keep going along the road past Sunny Green farm and try to find this lane from the bottom.

Having finally made the lane, go through the gate on the left (just before a big muddy patch), and follow this path up to the crest of the ridge where on the left another path, on good turf, heads up to the summit and the remains of its little building. A good view from here, back to Whitbarrow and south to the Bay, is the only recompense for the travails of the ascent.

View south to Morecambe Bay

View south to Morecambe Bay, from Dixon Heights, the summit of Newton Fell (South)

To come down, return down the summit track to the small puddle of Tom Tarn and then turn left, this drops you down quickly to Eller How from where a lane heads to the main road. Cross this WITH CARE!! and head down the slip road to Lindale. In theory a bus to Grange should pass the (ex-?) Royal Oak once an hour, but there is no bus stop evident, and to be safer, I coaxed Joe into one final effort to walk down the hill through the village to the roundabout by the (ex-?) Lindale Inn; the bus stop is on the opposite corner of the junction.

Half-term commentary: I mused back in August, in conversation with someone or other, that the weather patterns seemed to be running late this year. We had snow as late as the 26th and 29th April in Hebden Bridge, and the early part of 2016 was characterised not by bad weather as such, but generally by dullness and a lack of sunshine. However, things definitely improved by August and that was when I said, “hopefully it’ll last until October”.

Joe out walking

All five feet seven inches of Joe ambles down the lane along Yewbarrow

Well, for once, I was right: September and October have been characterised by excellent weather.  Even when things seem to have finally slipped, any poorer patches have only lasted a day or two, and then we have been back to settled, mild, clear and dry weather. It’s been extremely nice.

On the other hand, this is Worktober, and also it’s the wife’s 40th birthday celebrations occupying most of this week (taking us away last weekend, and next). The lack of any expeditions since coming down off Dodd on September 29th was not a factor of the weather, this was literally the first chance I had to get out. I’ve had it booked in for ages, with it also being half-term, and Clare has university on Tuesdays so I knew I would also be in charge of Joe.

Joe has grown enormously since he made his debut on this blog back in July 2009 when he & C came up Castle Crag with me on walk 4 — check out the little munchkin scampering between my legs on the photo from that page (and on the ‘list of walks’ near the top), and compare him with the lanky, dark-cloaked teenager seen in the picture above. He’s not quite taller than me yet, but I’ve got a £10 bet that he will surpass me by his 14th birthday in just over five months’ time. The rate he’s growing, I stand to win.

Windblown trees

Windblown trees on the top of Whitbarrow

But is he becoming a walker? It’s not easy. He’s done 28 Wainwrights with me, including the two today, but the majority are now Outlying Fells so he’s hardly been coming up the big fells. He definitely affects a ‘don’t feel like it’ attitude and some low-level complaining all the way round. Cairns that look like they’re marking the tops of fells, but where the real summit lies further on, are a particular bugbear. But then again he gets round. Despite his rather unsuitable footwear and the fact that this walk turned out at least a couple of miles, thus about 25%, longer than I estimated it would — plus that irritating struggle up the backside of Newton Fell — he does get round.  But somehow I don’t think he’s going to complete his own set. Maybe when he’s 21 and he suddenly gets the outdoor bug for some reason. At least it’s good exercise for him.

Fell pony and Whitbarrow

Fell pony on Dixon Heights, looking across the Winster Valley, back to Whitbarrow

Depressing end to the walk as well today, with Lindale not able to provide any hospitality, making another reason why bagging the second summit degrades the walk. Still, nothing to do about it now, except blame the government for the erosion of community spirit or something. Perhaps one or both of Lindale’s seemingly ex-pubs are just temporarily closed, let’s hope so.

That’s it for now. I am keen to get a walk in on Saturday November 5th as that is also a shining beacon of opportunity in a sea of work: but it is, like today, dependent on the weather. I type this up the day after our walk, on the darkest, dampest and dullest morning in months, so perhaps that was indeed it for the summer. Ah well, the Earth turns, and autumn and winter walks have their own appeal — so let’s just keep going.

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