Sheep on Rough Crag

Sheep on Rough Crag, the last summit of the day

Date completed: 28th July 2017.

Weather conditions: Oh, it was OK I suppose. Except for a few minutes early on it did not rain and after 2pm most of the time I was in hazy sunshine. There were proper summit views today as well, unlike the last two walks. But it was cold, really quite chilly, and I was walking into a stiff south-westerly most of the way round. I needed my fleece on all day, even when the sun came out, which is pretty poor form for late July.

Caw and the Duddon Valley

The Duddon Valley, from the Walna Scar road. Caw is the fell on the left.

Summits bagged: Green Crag (1602 feet above sea level, number 110 of my second round), Great Worm Crag (1400’, no. 111), and then two of the summits in the Devoke Water circuit chapter: Seat How (1020’, no. 112) and Rough Crag (1049’, no. 113).

The first two were previously bagged on walk 40, in July 2011. The second two were done on walk 91, early January 2015.

Start and end points: Started in Coniston for the second walk in a row, reaching it on the #505 bus from Ambleside. Finished in Eskdale Green, where I could catch a Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway service back to Ravenglass.

As you’ll soon find out, this was a long walk. The bus deposited me in Coniston at 9.25am, and it took me until about 5pm to reach Eskdale Green. A train leaving there at 5.20 or so got me back to the main line station at Ravenglass about 25 minutes later.

Distance walked: 13.25 miles approximately.

Total ascent: 3600 feet approximately.

La'al Ratty loco

La’al Ratty comes to pick me up at Eskdale Green

Pub at end: The King George IV at Eskdale Green served two excellent and much-needed pints. It is a couple of minutes from here to Eskdale Green station, so don’t miss your train.

Route: I always have a sense of achievement at the end of a walk, I’m glad to have bagged the fells and I’m happy enough if I pick up some satisfactory photos along the way. But this doesn’t mean I always feel like recommending the walk to others. Today’s walk marks one of those occasions.

Despite the relatively low altitude of the summits gained, this was a long, hard slog, make no mistake about it. It bags a few summits that are relatively hard to reach otherwise, and there are no particularly steep bits (the initial climb out of Coniston is the worst), but those are about the only real positive aspects to it. There is a lot of pathless ground, and spongy ground, and bracken-choked ground (so if you must do this walk, avoid anything after now until about October). I provide these route notes for the completion of records therefore: but if you should choose to follow me, on your own head.

The Walna Scar road

The Walna Scar road

The length of the walk, and the high figure for feet ascended, are both partly attributable to the existence of the 4.5-mile-long prologue over the Walna Scar road from Coniston to near Seathwaite [note; this is the Seathwaite in the Duddon Valley, not the better-known one in Borrowdale]. This is, however, the easiest and most pleasant walking of the day, so make the most of it. To find it from Coniston, go up Station Road, then at the junction at the top, take the steepest of the alternatives offered. At the car park a mile further on, the path is clearly signposted as a ‘Restricted Byway to Seathwaite’. Here you can put your map away for a while.

Once you reach tarmac again, check the map. I tried taking the paths across the fields from here to the ‘Stepping Stones’ (Fickle Steps) marked thereon. But while these paths were easily enough followed, just after one crosses Tarn Beck (SD234973) it ploughs through a revolting swamp, only made vaguely more tolerable by the laying of duckboards to walk on (these keep your feet dry but don’t protect from the sodden vegetation to each side). Frankly I would just stick to the road round to the point where a signpost points to ‘Grassguards via Fickle Steps’.

Fickle Steps

Fickle Steps — not for the timid

Wainwright warns on page Harter Fell 5 that the route across Fickle Steps ‘may not be passable if the river is high’. What he doesn’t add is that it’s an intimidating enough crossing in any weather, I imagine: look at the picture. That rope is a quite necessary implement when it comes to getting across without a dunking in the drink. (Cross upstream of the rope, not downstream.) Young children aren’t getting across this, that’s for sure. The only alternative crossings are several hundred yards away in either direction, so consider the need for this crossing in advance before committing to it.

Once you do get across, the path to take is the one straight ahead, rising away from the stream, through the woods. This leads up the tree-cloaked Fickle Crag (looking difficult at first, but the route up is easy), and then follows the beck up through the woods until coming out at Grassguards farm, where you can cross the stream on a footbridge then continue following it up, only now on the other side of the flow.

Green Crag summit

Walker on Green Crag summit, Harter Fell behind

Plantations are still depicted here on the OS map, and also on Wainwright’s (see Green Crag 2), but they were clearly felled some time ago and nothing but bare moorland now lies between this point and the summit of Green Crag, clearly visible to the west. To reach it, stick to the beckside path until this crosses a ford and reaches a sign ‘Bridleway to Eskdale’ — don’t go across the second ford, instead, look for the path on the left. This is never a very distinct path, but it is reliable (unlike many other paths today) and leads up the gentle slope, a little wet underfoot but not too bad, reaching the crest of Green Crag from the back. And so the first summit of the day is finally reached — 7.5 miles from Coniston, approximately. Feel free to give up and descend directly to Eskdale at this point (see the walk 40 description).

Great Worm Crag is the long, straight ridge in the middle-distance. Anyone making a beeline for it will clearly suffer because of bog, so the best thing to do is stick to the ridge curving round via the intermediate summit of White How (which is actually higher than GWC). There is a reasonable path most of the way but it’s an easy one to lose, particularly on the last stretch. Still, it will get you to the summit of Great Worm Crag eventually. Here, it is the smaller cairn that is the actual summit, as is obvious if you reach the larger cairn and look back.

Tumuli on Great Worm Crag

What may, or may not, be ancient tumuli on the slopes of Great Worm Crag

The descent to the road, again, has an intermittent path that is very easy to lose. According to the map, apparently many of the piles of stones hereabouts count as ancient monuments, presumably the archaeologists have been on the case, the layperson will probably remain none the wiser as he or she battles down through the grass to the Birker Fell road. This would be the next place to honourably give up and escape back down to valley level.

You still up for more? OK, in that case — take the lane (unsignposted) that goes through the very remote hamlet of Woodend to the farm at the end, where the dogs will encourage you to take the path that goes round the upper side of the farmhouse and back out onto the open moor where a path leads down to Devoke Water. Seat How is rising obviously to the right, and you can cut across the grass at any point to reach its lower rocks, which can be easily ascended and descended by a path on the tower’s eastern side (the right-hand end, as you approach it).

Seat How from Woodend

Seat How from Woodend

After coming back down Seat How this way, pick your way through the bracken and rocks below the northern cliffs and reach the good path (the last you will see today) that serves the Devoke Water boathouse. Go more or less straight across this and up the easy slope of Rough Crag to the fourth summit of the day.

At this point I gave up on my original plan to bag Water Crag as well, due to fatigue and that it was already getting quite late. Not that my chosen descent helped with either of these problems, and (should you still be with me here) my advice is not to follow it; instead, drop back to the boathouse road and descend either via the tarmac road to Eskdale Green, or the good path through the farms of High Ground and Low Ground, to Dalegarth (see the map and also the opening stages of walk 101, which you would be doing in reverse).

I decided to try going down via the ‘peat road’ which I had quite enjoyed ascending at the start of walk 91. This time, however, it was a real pain in the butt, firstly to reach at all (bracken….), and then — after I had reached the cairn at its top with relief — to descend; more bloody bracken! Seriously, this weed had made a total mess of what I know for a fact is a decent path in the winter. Avoid!

Green Crag

Green Crag from Great Worm Crag

Either way you can eventually come out onto the Birker Fell road and follow this round to the King George IV which stands at the junction of this road and the road to Boot. Enjoy one or more well-deserved alcoholic beverages. From here, the R&ER station is a couple more minutes’ walking in the direction of Santon Bridge (that is, not the road to Boot).

Two-thirds-there commentary: There are some fells that after having done them twice, I am very glad I will never have to do again. Green Crag and Great Worm Crag now definitely come into that category. They were a long slog to bag on walk 40, which took me through miles of pathless, swampy and difficult ground — and they offered up little different today, despite coming in from totally the opposite direction. Both have earned their place on the ‘Low-reward-to-effort-ratio’ table that you will find in the ‘Personal Notes in Conclusion’.

Grey Friar

Grey Friar, from the ascent of Green Crag

However, Green Crag did achieve for itself one mark of distinction today. 110 fells marks the one-third point of a Wainwright round (330 fells). And as it’s my second round, what this in fact means is that when I reached its summit today — four hours out of Coniston and already feeling like it’d been a long one — I was two-thirds of the way through the double round. There is half as much to do as I have so far done. And as it’s taken me, more or less exactly, eight years to reach this point, let’s stick to the schedule I have proposed since starting the second round — which is that I’m due to finish it in 2021.

Four more years to go then, but let’s hope there aren’t too many more walks like today’s, which as you’ve probably gathered from the route description above, did take it out of me rather. Ill-maintained paths, badly-drained areas and real difficulties with bracken were the problems. And the weather, though admittedly not terrible, was really pretty cold.

Great Worm Crag

Looking up at Great Worm Crag from the fell road

Thank you, however, to the guard on La’al Ratty at the end of the day who let me travel back from Eskdale Green to Ravenglass with the unused portion of the ticket I’d been sold three days before as I came in for walk 131. Nice people like this are why we like non-corporate entities. The Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway really is a necessary part of this project; without it spearing into the south-west of the District at Eskdale, there really would be a huge chunk of fells that were simply inaccessible in any realistic sense. Imagine today if I had to add on the last few miles back out to the coast at Ravenglass. Long may La’al Ratty run — it seems a healthy enough operation.

One last walk to come on Monday — but for now I need a couple of days off.

 

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