Brant Fell summit

The summit of Brant Fell, looking south, with Windermere below.

Date completed: 20th December 2018.

Weather conditions: Not cold, and not absolutely terrible, but not great either. Several showers, damp and grey and the usual late December gloom.

Summits bagged: Grandsire (823 feet above sea level, no. 171 of my second round), an unnamed summit (806’, no. 172), School Knott (760’, no. 173) [these three are in the School Knott chapter of volume 8], and, in its own chapter, Brant Fell (629’, no. 174).

Sheep and wall

Sheep and wall on the Dales Way

All were previously bagged on walk 83 in May 2014.

Start and end points: Started at Staveley railway station, and ended at the Royal Oak in Bowness. I left Staveley at 10.35 am and arrived at the terminus exactly three and a half hours later. From Bowness, catch a bus or (go on, I’ll let you) a taxi back to Windermere railway station: it’s too far (and too uphill) to walk, regardless of how you’ve spent the rest of the day.

Distance walked: 8.5 miles approximately.

December still life

December still life

Total ascent: Piecing together all of the various bits of what is quite an undulating walk, I reckon about 1,500 feet, but this is really a guess today.

Pub at end: The Royal Oak in Bowness-on-Windermere, Plenty of decent beer, and convenient for buses back to the station. It is a little charmless inside, but the patio out front is a nice place to sit and relax after the walk.

Dales Way signpost

Follow these: there are plenty of them.

Route: The Dales Way runs from Ilkley in Yorkshire to Bowness, and was first instituted in 1969, making it the same age as me; we will both be celebrating our 50th birthday next year. Its full length is 80 miles — for a map of the full route, see . Today’s walk basically follows the last (or, of course, the first) 10% of it, and is an easy walk throughout, with very little likelihood of strain or exertion. Perfect for a grey day in December in fact. School Knott and Brant Fell, particularly, have very good views, and coming in the way I did, from Staveley, gives the walk time to build up.

Staveley station

Staveley station: the starting point.

Come down the vertiginous steps of Staveley station and, in my case for the first time ever, turn right at the bottom, under the railway bridge. Just after this road crosses the bypass you will see a Dales Way sign pointing to the right — take this and be assured then that as far as the slopes of Grandsire a few miles in, you can almost wholly rely on these signposts to get you along the route. This is one of the best-signposted of all of my walks.

Looking at the OS map in advance might lead you to think that this section contains a long bout of road walking, south-west from the farm of New Hall, but this is a ‘road’ only in the most occasional sense: I bet it goes days on end without actually being used. I find it unlikely that you would meet cars here.

Do Not Feed sign

At Field Close, near Staveley

The only point at which the signage let me down was at the farm of Crag House (SD435965), and this only became apparent when I came out onto the nearby road too far west, through a gate that said ‘no public right of way’ — if this is the case then the owners of the property could do better to point walkers in the right direction back at the farmyard. If there was a sign here, I missed it. But otherwise the signs will dependably get you to the gate above and to the west of Hag End, at which point you must forsake the Dales Way for a time in order to bag the three summits of School Knott.

Grandsire summit

The summit of Grandsire, the first one reached today. That’s the 806′ summit visible in the background.

From inside this gate, a thin path can be seen heading up to the right, beside the wall; take this and you will be on top of Grandsire in a few minutes. The summit at 806’ is the next one to go for, and a path heading generally back in its direction will take you there (crossing the Way once more). Up on this innominate summit it is apparent that the highest point is on the rocks to the other side of the wall, but they’re not easily reachable so call it done once you’re at the wall and then make a beeline for School Knott which is to the north and has the best view of this trio of little peaks, easily on a par with the famous one from Orrest Head but far less crowded. (In fact I did not see another walker today.)

806' summit rocks

The (unreachable) rocks atop point 806′.

If already tired, despite your limited exertions, you could just head for Windermere station at this point. But Brant Fell is not far away and it takes about another hour to add it to the bag. You could retrace your steps straight onto the Dales Way and keep following that, but another option — the one I took — is to descend School Knott to the north-west and follow the path down through the wood until it reaches a narrow lane, on the other side of which begins the housing estate.

Take this lane to the left, past the farm of Old Droomer, then there is a path on the right signposted “Lickbarrow” which drops down some steps and crosses a stream before coming out at the farm of that name, which keep on your right and then turn left when you hit the next lane. In a few hundred yards you meet the Dales Way again, which take to the right, past a pond that has very good bird life.

View south to the sea

View south to Morecambe Bay

Soon you will reach the farm of Brantfell, both its drives marked as ‘Private’: just past them, however, look to the left where there are steps heading up and a little ‘Footpath’ sign. This will take you up through the woods and out onto the open heath again, with the summit of Brant Fell ahead, and its fine view of Windermere (see the picture at the top of the page). Once you’ve seen this, return back down the same path until just when it enters the woods, where now go straight on, to drop steeply but simply down paths and roads to Bowness town centre. The Royal Oak is right there on your left.

View to School Knott

View over to School Knott from point 806′.

End of the year commentary: I was beginning to think that walk 154, on 2nd November, was to be the last of 2018. There have been no trains on a Saturday from Hebden Bridge to Preston since 18th August: nominally thanks to the ongoing dispute between Northern Rail and the RMT union over whether trains should retain a guard, but really because neither side particularly seem to want to resolve this problem. Certainly Northern and the government don’t. They are in fact quite happy not to have to run a 7-day service.

Meanwhile, those of us who might quite like to use the trains on a Saturday are unable to. This means I have been limited to weekday walks, where comes into play the other main limiting factor, namely work. The only reason today, a Thursday, opened up for walking was that I’ve already started my Christmas break.

Cragg House lane end

Cragg House, lane end (in the rain)

And then there’s the third and final limiting factor — the weather. The forecast today wasn’t great — but then again it rarely is in mid-to-late December, which always seems to be like this: rarely full-on winter, but grey, damp and always so gloomy. It’s almost exactly a year (21/12/17) since walk 140, which bagged me Carron Crag in very similar conditions and although I really wanted to get out today, I’m always feeling knackered at this point and so committing to anything in the high fells was undesirable. (See also walk 122 just over two years ago.) The choice of walk was also prompted by my desire to do things at a different time of year from the first round, and all these fells were first bagged, with Joe, in May (walk 83): not that it was a great deal warmer then, I seem to recall.

View from School Knott

Looking north from School Knott summit. Hail coming in from left…

Even then, I got something of a battering by hail on the top of both Grandsire and School Knott — in the latter case, with a fine view of it coming in over the lake to assail me (see the picture), but having time to get ready for it didn’t make the experience any more pleasant. In fact I did nearly abandon the walk there and would have just returned to Windermere station had it not stopped: not because I was in any danger but just because things were getting a lot less fun. But in the end it did desist, and I’m glad Brant Fell was bagged as well, because it would have been a pain to have to return all the way to Bowness just to get this one fell, nothing else is nearby. Its good view made a fitting climax to the walk

Reston Scar

Reston Scar, above Staveley

Unless there is an extremely good weather forecast for 28th December, that marks the end of my 2018 in walking terms. The highlights? Considering also how hard it was to reach in the first place, the ascent of Steeple was probably the best passage; that really was a fine climb. Walk 143 around Wrynose in March was also a very good one. It was a relief to bag Scafell Pike again and I remain impressed with Joe for getting up and down it without grief on what was a very warm day indeed. Being able to do the Bleaberry Fell – Ullscarf ridge on walk 147 without facing the usual swamps, thanks to the lack of any rain in May and June, was also an achievement of note.

But I haven’t done as much walking in total as I would have liked, and the numbers of both walks and fells are below my yearly average. However, in the first few months of 2019, I’m on a sabbatical from my teaching responsibilities in Manchester, and I want to use this opportunity to speed up. But with the train strikes set to continue more-or-less indefinitely — it still won’t be on Saturdays.

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