Gate above Scarside

The gate onto the open fell above Scarside: Withnail & I location, number 1 (see the text).

Date completed: 31st October and 1st November 2017, with Joe. We did this as a two-day walk (well, two half-days), but it could easily be done in one day. See the logistical information given below.

Weather conditions: Good for the time of year. There were some threatening clouds around on the first afternoon but we stayed dry. The second morning was, while a bit chilly, basically very pleasant.

Summit of Knipescar Common

Joe inspects the summit of Knipescar Common

Summits bagged: Knipescar Common (1118 feet above sea level, number 122 of my second round), Heughscar Hill (1231’, no. 123).

Knipescar Common was first bagged on walk 88, 15/10/14, and Heughscar Hill on walk 84, 28/6/14.

Start and end points: Started in Shap, finished in Pooley Bridge.

Buses to Shap still run, just about, from Kendal and Penrith, but the only ones useful for walkers are limited to Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. As noted above, it would be feasible to do this walk in a single day. To do so one would need to catch the 0910 from Kendal to Shap on one of those mornings. We split the walk into one afternoon and the following morning, meaning we caught the 1300 bus from Penrith bus station to Shap. We started walking when this arrived about half an hour later, and were in Bampton Grange (where we spent the night) by 4:15pm.

View south to Seat Robert

Looking south from the road near Helton. Seat Robert is on the horizon.

Pooley Bridge is served by the #508 service from Penrith. On the second day we left Bampton at 8:45am and were in Pooley Bridge in ample time to catch the 12:46 bus back to Penrith. Across the two days, the time we spent walking amounted to about five and a half hours.

Distance walked: 10.3 miles approximately. This was split into about 4.6 miles on the first day and 5.7 on the second.

Total ascent: 1200 feet approximately. One of my flatter walks.

Pub at end: In Pooley Bridge, there are three pubs, and with plenty of time to spare today we sampled two of them, the Pooley Bridge Inn and the Crown. The PB Inn is a 1950s relic inside and out; the Crown probably considers itself more modern and tasteful (having recently been totally refurbished) but in the end the two places are comparable in terms of what they offer the passing walker, at least.


The view of Ullswater from Heughscar Hill

We also spent the first night at the Crown and Mitre in Bampton Grange. As a hotel, this was perfectly decent, the triple crown was achieved (good night’s sleep, good shower, good breakfast). As a pub, not bad, the range of beer and food were a bit limited. We very much got the impression the proprietor was desperate for the season to end, and she informed us that the place was closed each year in January and February, and at this time of year opening hours are very restricted, including being closed weekday lunchtimes (which is a shame, as it would make a good lunchtime stop if doing the one-day version of this walk).

Route: This is a very straightforward walk, barely counting as “mountain-climbing”; there are virtually no steep gradients at all, not in ascent, anyway. Nevertheless there are extensive and excellent views, particularly towards the end. The only real fault with it is that there is a bout of unavoidable road walking in the middle. And it’s one for fans of Withnail and I, too, as will be explained.

Mary's Pillar

‘Mary’s Pillar’ near Rosgill

Get the bus to drop you at the north end of Shap village, and take the lane signposted to Bampton and Haweswater. ignore the turning on the left to Keld, and when the road makes a sharp right turn, get onto the path that runs through the field parallel to the road that leads down to the ruins of Shap Abbey. If you’ve not been to these before, you might like to go down for a closer look, but if you have seen them before, you know they’re probably not worth visiting twice.

Turn north along the path that leads above the River Lowther and follow this until it arrives at the hamlet of Rosgill. Turn right up the tarmac road for a short way, then next left up the lane, and left along the road at the top. Look out here for what I at first thought was a well- preserved limekiln in the field on the right (see picture), but checking the map later revealed that this is called ‘Mary’s Pillar’, being a memorial to Mary Castley, died aged 24, erected by her father.

Dropping down off Knipe Scar

Dropping down off Knipe Scar

Take the next lane on the right, which is the drive to the farm of Scarside (and a public footpath). Go past the farm and up to the open fell. Withnail and I fans should here know that the gate at the end of the lane is the spot where the scene with the bull was filmed (“It won’t hurt you!” “A coward you are Withnail! An expert on bulls, you are NOT!”). Go through it (“Shut that gate and KEEP IT SHUT!”) and then bear left when you get to the next wall at the top, to head along the ridge of Knipescar Common. When the wide track looks as if it is heading downhill again, by a small limestone pavement, head left onto the crest of the scar and the summit is just there, marked by an inset ‘ring’ trigonometrical point.

Withnail phone box

Inside the ‘Withnail’ phone box, with the visitors’ book

From here, the little village of Bampton Grange is almost directly below, and though there is no path down the hill, a descent is quite feasible if you bear round to the left (to avoid serried ranks of gorse bushes) — but in the summer, this will be a bracken-choked nightmare so at that time of year it probably is better just to go back the way you came along the scar and get to Bampton by way of Scarside. If doing this walk in one day a route north, via Whale and Helton, is also feasible but isn’t going to include any less walking on roads; because from Bampton Grange to the south end of Helton village it’s all on tarmac, easy enough walking but take care of traffic. The highlight of this for the aforementioned Withnail aficionados will be the telephone box at the north end of Bampton village which was the location for the scene where Withnail berates his agent down the phone (“No, I’m not in London…. Penrith. PENRITH!”).

View from Moor Divock

On Moor Divock, looking south

Once you reach the ‘double’ junction by the ‘Helton’ sign, take the right-hand one of the two branch roads and follow this up as it becomes a lane and heads out onto Moor Divock. Heughscar Hill, recognisable by the plantation climbing up one side, comes into view ahead and in clear weather the route up to it is obvious. Gradually, its superb view is revealed on the left, of Ullswater backed by the Helvellyn range and Blencathra.

There are so many tracks up on the hill that in clear weather, getting down to Pooley Bridge (which is visible below, at the end of the lake) is just a matter of taking whichever track seems to most amenably head in that general direction. Eventually you are funnelled down to tarmac, the end of Roe Head Lane, and this can be followed down, straight across the first road you come to and left at the next to get to Pooley Bridge village centre, its pubs, shops and bus stops.

View from Rosgill

View from Rosgill, towards the mouth of Swindale

“No, I’m not in London” commentary: Since mid-August, when Joe and I ambled through the (mostly) pleasant countryside to the west of Coniston Water on walk 135, I have managed only one further walk and three summits, and that was six weeks ago. It’s not that Worktober has struck particularly strongly this year, in fact it’s been tolerable, but every time I’ve had a potential day to walk the weather has been very poor, too bad to even consider it. So the opportunities passed by, and here we are at the end of the month.

Joe near Shap Abbey

Joe near Shap Abbey

However, the plan to do a two-day walk over these dates, 31st October and 1st November, was fixed quite some time back, seeing as I’d arranged specifically with Joe as it would give him something to do on his half-term holiday week from school. So I knitted this itinerary together from several ingredients, including fells still to bag of course (and ones he had not yet done), but also considering the possibility of bad weather, the need for available and not-too-expensive accommodation, bus logistics etc.

Then there was the additional lure, the Withnail and I factor. I have always liked this movie, and Joe is a fan too, I’m not quite sure if, even now, he quite gets all the jokes (Farmer: “Aye, I’ve seen the fat man. London sort, queer type. Last time I saw him, he were with ‘is son.” I: “Yeah, that’s him.”), but what’s not to like about this movie, really? Especially if you’re a fan of the Lake District.

Loadpot Hill

View of Loadpot Hill

So the plan was hatched, to include one particular classic location from the film, the phone box outside Bampton. Don’t knock it — it worked. And we’re not the first to think of this because the box has inside it a notebook where other pilgrims have signed to mark their journey to this hallowed spot.

The whole area had a bit of a melancholy feel on this Halloween, with the Crown and Mitre in Bampton definitely feeling like a place that was at the fag end of a tourist season, with the landlady openly admitting she couldn’t wait until it was all shut down in January and February.

Knipescar Common

Knipescar Common on a rather pleasant autumn morning (1/11/17)

But the weather, particularly on Wednesday morning, the 1st November, was beautiful, a placid, autumn morning with golden shafts of light peeking out through the clouds and eventually drenching Heughscar Hill’s marvellous view of Ullswater in sunshine. Good timing all round then, and an enjoyable, easy walk that caused no grief whatsoever.

Back to work today though. No choice. But this is the end point for which I recognise work is the means. I hope it’s not six weeks until the next walk (it might be less than a week).

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