The Knott summit

The summit cairn of The Knott, with the Duddon Estuary in the distance.

Date completed: 13th August 2019.

Weather conditions: Very reasonable, although despite blue skies it was not all that warm for August, and I was caught in one five-minute rain shower.

Summits bagged: Two of the peaks from the Stickle Pike chapter in the Outlying Fells, to wit: The Knott (925 feet above sea level, number 211 of my second round) and the unnamed summit at 1183’ (no. 212).

Both fells were previously bagged on walk 82, in May 2014.

Down in the valley

Down in the valley of Dunnerdale Beck, looking up at the two summits of the day.

Start and end point: Started and finished at Foxfield station, which is on the Cumbrian Coast line, north of Barrow. Connections at Barrow station have recently improved — greatly — thanks to the retiming of the 08:23 service from Lancaster which terminates in Barrow at 09:22 but should now, in theory, connect smoothly with the (different) 09:27 service which heads north. Compare this with my lament from last year, at the start of walk 152a, when the trains were failing to make this entirely logical connection.

While anyone who uses their services, even occasionally, will not feel entirely confident about Northern’s ability to reliably make this connection, today it worked, meaning I was walking from Foxfield station when the abovementioned service dropped me there at about 09:45. I was then back in Foxfield comfortably in time for the 16:15 service which took me back to Barrow and there met a train back to Preston and Manchester.

Distance walked: 14.75 miles approximately.

Kent Estuary

Always a bonus to travel on the Cumbrian Coast rail line; here, the Kent Estuary at Arnside.

Total ascent: You start at sea level and there are a lot of undulations on this walk. Despite the low altitude of the summits attained, I reckon that I must have climbed at least 1,600 feet today.

Pub at end: If only the Blacksmith’s Arms, at Broughton Mills, were on a bus route, as otherwise it would make a superb terminus for the walk (at 11 miles in). Note that on weekdays (including Fridays) this is closed from 2.30pm – 5pm; however, on the schedule I set I was there at 2.10pm for a pint.

I then also passed through Broughton-in-Furness where there are three pubs to choose from: today I patronised the Manor Arms, which is OK as long as the boring old pub bores are not in. There is also the Prince of Wales at Foxfield station, which is a better pub than it looks from the outside but is closed on (non-Bank Holiday) Mondays and Tuesdays.

Signpost at Foxfield

Cumbria Coastal Way signpost at Foxfield

Route: Let’s be honest about this up front. This is basically half a walk, and even then it is a long way — nearly 15 miles — for two very run-of-the-mill Wainwrights (and Outliers, to boot). My original intention was to do these two fells then head on to the three peaks of Caw and descend down to Coniston or Torver. But as the commentary below recounts, I lost my energy after the second summit. Returning via the ridge on the other side of Dunnerdale Beck, and thereby bagging the rest of the Stickle Pike chapter, is also possible but still, on the day, unattempted.

This was largely a factor of how long it had taken me to get to The Knott in the first place. It would be lovely if there were easy, and non-tarmac, access from Foxfield station (the nearest the Cumbrian Coast line really gets to the southern extremities of the District until Black Combe) to the Stickle Pike complex, but there is not. As on walk 82 I therefore tried to pick a way through the maze of lanes and farmyards that interpose themselves between Foxfield and points north. Much as I tried to follow rights-of-way that are clearly marked on the OS map, most of the difficulties I faced were due to the depredations of Agriculture. Tenure over land does not always mean care for it, and this is emphatically more so when footpaths come into consideration.

Sheep and Blawith Knott

Today’s sheep portrait. Blawith Knott in the background.

The upshot of all these factors mean that this is one of the few walks I have done that I do not recommend to others. I provide these route notes for the completion of records, but I have also omitted detail, which can be filled in by consulting the OS map.

This time when leaving Foxfield station I turned right, instead of the usual left, then took the lane heading upwards on the left and signposted the “Cumbrian Coastal Way”. This led straightforwardly over to Windmill Hill where I took the lane marked ‘Back Lane’ on the map and was signposted to Wall End farm. Here, however, was the first part of the day where the path was semi-obliterated by agribusiness (and there was also a particularly irritating canine in the farmyard). Bearing in mind the depredations of my next half hour or so I would bear right before reaching Wall End and then head north up the lane, past Brookside and onto the A593, where turn left.

The track that heads north past Wallenrigg still looks on the map as if it can be used by motor vehicles but once you see it, it obviously can no longer be; but it does make for a useful path, and I quite like its end point, with farm goods optimistically displayed for sale in a spot that surely does not see a great deal of traffic (see the picture). Here, keep heading north until passing a footpath sign for Hobkin Ground: this path needs taking but unfortunately is another one that is a trial to negotiate thanks to farming. At least here there is a proper view of the Stickle Pike/Caw ridges.

Wallenrigg lane end

Endearing optimism at Wallenrigg lane end.

Follow the path to Lind End where look for the its continuation heading down past the wooden cabin, this goes across the river then rises through woodland peppered with signposts that have clearly been erected by landowners with a sense of whimsy. Following this path up across the road and as far as Carter Ground was no problem, but hopes that, with the agricultural sections of the walk now finally over, things would become easier were then dashed. Past Carter Ground (the path lies through the garden of the house; don’t take the first gate) there was a sea of bracken to negotiate. The path marked on the map is there, but took some finding.

Finally one is up on the ridge and approaching The Knott from the back, which allows its summit view to surprise, in the walk’s best moment (see the picture at the top of the page). Afterwards, retrace steps to the col and climb the sketchy path up along the ridge: there are two cairned summits, either of which could be the unnamed 1183’ top: bag both to be sure, and then make a decision. More than seven miles have already been walked. Do you feel up for Caw ahead? I had planned it but the climb looked substantial. Returning south via the Stickle Pike ridge is another obvious, but also effortful option.

Caw and Walna Scar

View up to Caw (left) and Walna Scar

I, however, took the escape route; dropping down to the narrow tarmac road that links Broughton Mills with Seathwaite. The return south is easy but long. South of Broughton Mills (and the Blacksmith’s Arms), where the route hits the A593, the road is palpably unsafe for pedestrians so here I diverted via the lane to the farm of Hagg then a path slanting across fields and through the clipped acres of Broughton Tower. Once in Broughton, return to Foxfield by Station Road and the lane that it then becomes.

Half-a-walk commentary: If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the ten years I’ve spent tramping round Cumbria, it’s when I might be over-reaching. As mentioned, the original plan was for Caw to be the second half of the walk and then I intended to catch the 15:52 bus which runs, during the school holidays anyway, from Torver back to Ulverston.

Near Broughton Tower

The carefully tended grounds of Broughton Tower

But as I found myself in the tangle of micro-ridges and mini-summits which lay below Caw’s southern slopes, and looked up, I felt like a car with a petrol gauge in the red zone. Power reserves were dwindling. It was already nearly 1pm and I reckoned my chances of making that Torver bus were low, meaning I would have to head for Coniston and come home via Windermere instead, which didn’t fit plans I had for the evening. All in all I remembered that intentions for a walk are just that — and there is still flexibility in my life. Caw can wait, and so can the rest of the Stickle Pike chapter which I had other plans for anyway. I still bagged two peaks, in different ways and at a different time of year than the first time. It just took rather more effort to do so than anticipated, that’s all.

Old railway path

On the old Foxfield – Coniston railway

My miscalculations regarding the effort it would take to reach the tops was entirely down to the number of times today I had to retrace steps, battle through quagmires and fend off over-protective dogs. Traditionalists will doubtless lecture me on how important the farmer is to the local economy/landscape/whatever but as I have noted on other occasions (walk 134, for instance), this does not mean the walker is well served by them.

Both Wall End and, a little later, Moss Side farm were so obstructive of the paths/rights-of-way which are marked on the OS map as running through their territory that my route description above omits that passage entirely. Even the pleasant, level path pictured above, which is the old Foxfield-Coniston railway and was used for a short time, had a padlocked gate across it for no immediately obvious reason and forced me into further detours. It’s this kind of thing — on top of the bracken, which had swamped the land above Carter Ground — that really saps the energy; not scampering along aretes.

Stickle Pike and Whit Fell range

View over to Stickle Pike, with the Whit Fell range behind

Not that I’ve done much of that in the last four walks. Whether I will get back to more spectacular landscapes next time is unclear; I can’t get out again until early September and that’s a time I have been getting out on two-day hikes over the last few years. I plan this again but it may be in the Shap Fells. Still, there are plenty of scrambling options remaining in the list of the unbagged (Helvellyn, High Stile, Great End….); they’ll be done. With no need for farmland, I hope.

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