Gummer's How
Gummer’s How, and some of the area’s dominant lifeforms

Date completed: 5th February 2019.

Weather conditions: At first, OK: still and fairly mild, although rather grey. However, after 1pm, it started raining, and in the last 90 minutes, I got soaked.

Summits bagged: Newton Fell (North) (780 feet above sea level, number 182 of my second round), Cartmel Fell (500’, no. 183), Gummer’s How (1054’, no. 184), Staveley Fell (870’, no. 185).

The first and third fells were previously bagged on walk 86 in August 2014, and the second and fourth on walk 95 in April 2015.

Snowdrops
Snowdrops… spring is on its way…

Somewhat inadvertently, this walk also picks up the Birkett of Birch Fell (1,043 feet, #528 on that list by altitude).

Start and end points: Started in High Newton, finished in Newby Bridge. Both are on the route of the X6 bus which connects Kendal, Grange-over-Sands, Ulverston and Barrow. In theory one should be able to connect at Grange to the hourly Cumbrian coast rail service; for the practice, see the commentary.

I started the walk at High Newton at about 9.40am, having caught the 9.30 bus from Grange station. I arrived in Newby Bridge five hours later, in time to have a pint and get on the 15.07 bus back to Grange.

Distance walked: 12.75 miles approximately.

Total ascent: A best estimate of around 1,800 feet.

Morecambe Bay
Morecambe Bay, from Grange-over-Sands station this morning

Pub at end: As this was, almost certainly, my last visit to Newby Bridge for this whole project it was about time I went in one of the two hotels there, so today patronised the Swan Inn (or, the Swan Hotel and Spa); mainly because getting to that one (rather than the Newby Bridge Hotel) didn’t involve crossing the very busy main road.

No one’s going to accuse the Swan of still being the ‘17th century inn’ it proclaims itself to be on the sign outside, but it’s not bad, I suppose; comfy seats, reasonable beer, but I wanted a fire to be lit.

Route: Difficult to claim many plus points for this walk. As far as Cartmel Fell it is a very easy ramble, and mostly on tarmac, with an absence of cars. After that, paths deteriorate in quality and while Gummer’s How summit is a highlight, for its view of Windermere, Staveley Fell is wholly avoidable, only worth doing if you need to bag it as a Wainwright. It was a longer walk than I anticipated. Avoid it from June to October, during which time, bracken will make your life a misery. And while not a very difficult exercise in routefinding, it is tricky enough, so you’ll need to keep the map to hand.

View from Newton Fell
Part of the view from Newton Fell North

From the bus stop in High Newton, carry on down the road for a short time: be careful after the pavement peters out (though at least this is no longer the main A590, since the completion of the bypass a few years back). Take the lane slanting up to the right. At the top of the hill, by the reservoir, take the path signposted to the left and, once round the dam, you can bear left along a path heading directly for the summit of Newton Fell (North), identifiable from afar thanks to the satellite dish. You have to climb over a wall, but it’s not difficult.

Memories of what the ground is like to the north of here (see walk 86) dissuaded me from heading in that direction, so I just retraced my steps down to the reservoir (climbing over the wall again), and then carried on along the lane.

At the junction of lanes around SD403844, I bore left, taking the unfenced lane that winds up the little hillside ahead, but you could just stay on the road all the way north to Gateside from this point (see the OS map). My route remained on tarmac all the way to Simpson Ground farm anyway, before becoming a rather muddy track. The ford here, marked on the map, looks impossible at first but in fact is easy to cross if you go just a few paces downstream.

Cartmel Fell summit
Cartmel Fell’s summit obelisk, with evidence people have indeed been here before

I then turned left at the end, then right, and then left into the woods, all obvious when looking at the map and also on the ground — Cartmel Fell (in all its minuscule majesty) is rising dead ahead. When you come out of the woods, bear left and left again to attain its low-altitude, but cute summit plateau and its fine view of the Winster valley. The obelisk, despite not sitting on the actual summit, has a little seat built into it which is as good a place as any to have an early lunch. (Mind your head, though.)

Here, it is worth taking a decision about the route. With hindsight, I would head east from here, heading for Sow How Tarn (basically reversing my route on walk 95) and climbing Gummer’s How from the south. This would have been an easier walk on better paths than the way I tried. The reason I did not was to give myself a different ascent of Gummer’s How than my first visit.

Gummer's How cattle
Some of the cattle that keep Gummer’s How neat and tidy

But my alternative route turned out to be disappointing. Heading north from Cartmel Fell, I dropped down to the lane near Pool Garth, and followed this to the left, at Lightwood. Then just along the road, at a junction, I followed the footpath sign across the field. There is a gap through the wall into the wood of Birch Fell plantation, but you have to look for it, it’s quite hidden. After this, though, the path deteriorates. It does follow the northern boundary of the plantation up the hill, but is muddy and overgrown. I also got confused at the top, taking this as my having reached the ridge that would lead me up to Gummer’s How, but in fact this is the second rise you come to, not the first. A few minutes of floundering around in the impenetrable woods of Birch Fell was enough to convince me of my error.

Gummer’s How is probably the only point today at which you will meet other walkers, there to enjoy its view of Windermere, which is certainly a very good one — though better from just below, than actually on, the summit. It would make a suitable climax to the walk, and from here there is an easy descent to Newby Bridge (albeit, on tarmac) — see walk 86.

Forestry work
The woods of Staveley Fell, and that area’s dominant lifeform

However, sitting there to the south, defended by its forestry operations and, in summer, an ocean of bracken, sits Staveley Fell. Bear in mind then that in any list which ranks all 330 Wainwrights by various qualities, this one almost certainly sits in the bottom two or three (I’ll put Ulthwaite Rigg down there too). But if you must bag it…

Descend Gummer’s How to the south (the way almost everyone else will have come up it) and at the road, cross over and follow the path to the left, parallel to the road and coming out at Sow How Lane. Turn right here, then, at the obvious gate — with all the usual warning signs that accompany commercial forestry — turn right and follow the forest road, past whatever arboreal strip-mining operations are taking place at the time.

Start of climb of Staveley Fell
The unpromising point to look for if you want to climb Staveley Fell with the minimum of grief.

Back on walk 86 I did intend to ascend Staveley Fell’s summit ridge from this side, but missed it completely: I was looking out for the right spot much more carefully today and it was still, in the end, a matter of intuition as to when I left the road to the right and clambered up through the debris to reach the top. This picture is my best effort to depict the spot, but the only real distinguishing feature — the isolated tree — may of course just be a temporary survivor of the apocalypse. Nevertheless, the gentle rise visible here, behind the tree, does steepen and resolve itself into the summit ridge. The view is OK, but you’ve already seen it from Gummer’s How.

My advice is then to head straight back down to the forest road. Once back on it, keep following it in the same direction you were heading before. Ignore the first footpath sign on the right — this will take you back onto Staveley Fell — but then take the second. This goes through a gate and down through a big enclosure to a soggy lane at the bottom. Turn left and follow this down into the little hamlet of Staveley-in-Cartmel. At the bottom (phone box), turn left, then right, and once back out on the main road, turn left and you will be in Newby Bridge a few minutes later.

Pheasant
If my camera had been a gun, you’d have been dead

The Grange Connection commentary: Having lucked out with two brilliant days of weather in January (walk 156 and walk 157), the Lakes got its revenge to some extent today. Spots of drizzle around noon faded away for a time but once it started raining at 1pm or so, it did not stop — and I was still then more than 90 minutes away from the Swan. This wasn’t the worst drenching I’ve had in the last nine and a half years, but it was up there; hours later, sat in front of the fire in my local in Hebden Bridge, I was still surrounded by a kind of miasma of dampness.

Doing any fell in that crap would have reduced its appeal; and Staveley Fell doesn’t have very much appeal at the best of times — like my first visit, which took place on a very pleasant April spring day, with frolicking lambs all around, etc. On a rainy Tuesday in February it was purgatory: ruined by commercial forestry. Probably it is beyond hope, and all future generations of 330-baggers will curse the great AW for his including it in the canon. But it is bagged, twice. And I never need to go back there again.

Staveley Fell summit
Staveley Fell summit, for what it’s worth

I cannot go without mentioning the issue of bus/train connections at Grange-over-Sands station. I finished the walk today at about 14:40, and got onto a bus at Newby Bridge at 15:07; this then got me to Grange station about 15 minutes later. I got straight onto the Grange – Manchester service and, despite a 40-minute wait in Preston station, was back to Hebden Bridge at 17:45.

A superb journey home then — but let’s look at the details. In fact, I should not have been able to catch that train at Grange, not without having caught the 14.07 (not 15.07) bus at Newby Bridge. The 15.07 is actually scheduled to arrive at Grange at 15.23; two minutes after the train to Manchester, which leaves at 15.21. And this pattern is repeated every single hour. Not just this one, but every hourly bus which comes into Grange from the west misses every hourly train by two minutes. And seeing as the next train only travels as far as Lancaster, that two-minute missed connection would have seen me arrive back two hours later. When I was coming in on the bus and saw from the online app that the train was in fact due to be three minutes late, I literally cheered. I was cold and wet, I wanted to get home by six o’clock, not eight o’clock.

Geese flying overhead
More evidence that the photography of wildlife was better than landscape today

WHY, WHY WHY do presumably professionally qualified ‘planners’ either not notice, or not care, that ridiculous situations like this exist? It must be more than just the train companies and bus companies not co-ordinating. I cannot believe this situation does not piss off the residents of Grange (and, even more so, those of places like High Newton, who might occasionally want to catch a train at Grange without a 58-minute wait for the next one) — surely there have been complaints, whether to the companies involved or — more pertinently — Cumbria County Council. But it does not change. There is no feedback mechanism in play, no way of repairing such an obvious breach in the notion that Cumbria might actually have an integrated public transport network.

Well, what the hell. The email address you and I want is public.transport@cumbria.gov.uk . I’ll be sending my message after finishing this page and I’ll let you know how it goes, should I get a reply.

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