Fewling Stones summit
Fewling Stones summit. Don’t forget to look for the comfy chair.

Date completed: 20th September 2019.

Weather conditions: The previous day (walk 169) had been good. Today was magnificent, certainly among the best days’ walking weather I have ever had.

Summits bagged: The five in the Seat Robert chapter, in this order: Seat Robert (1688 feet above sea level, number 223 of my second round), High Wether Howe (1742’, no. 224), Fewling Stones (1667’, no. 225), Great Ladstones (1439’, no. 226), Langhowe Pike (1313’, no. 227).

All five were previously bagged on walk 102, in October 2015.

Glede Howe, surmounted in the middle of the walk, counts as a Birkett (1,562 feet, no. 369 on that list by altitude).

Sheep on Seat Robert
I’m sure this sheep was as pleased by the day’s weather as I was.

Start and end point: Started and ended in Shap, specifically at the northern end of the (very long and thin) village, at the end of the lane that leads to Keld.

I started from this point at 8am, and was back there — or more precisely, at the Crown Inn nearby — at about 1pm. This gave me time to have lunch and catch the bus that leaves for Kendal at 1.55pm and currently runs on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

I was able to be in Shap at 8am because I had spent the night there, at the New Ing Lodge (which was very good value incidentally, £25 B & B in a bunk room). While, on the days mentioned (Tue, Wed, Fri) one can get a bus from Kendal to Shap that will leave Kendal at 09:10 and arrive in Shap at 10:00, I don’t think there’s any chance of doing this walk in four hours. However there remains a 6pm service from Shap to Penrith on weekdays when Kendal College is running, which means that it is possible to do this walk on a day trip: but only on certain days. (Confused? Welcome to the Conservative Party’s idea of an integrated transport policy.)

Cobweb city
Astonishing expanses of dew-drenched spidersilk this morning, by the Lowther at Keld.

Distance walked: 12.2 miles approximately.

Total ascent: 1200 feet approximately. Though there is some noticeable climbing in the couple of miles preceding arrival at Seat Robert’s summit, this is otherwise a remarkably flat walk considering the distance and the number of fells bagged. (Which doesn’t mean it’s easy, in case you were wondering.)

Pub at end: Shockingly, Shap failed to offer any alcoholic beverages at all between 1-2pm today, despite having three pubs. Only the Crown was open, and it was only serving tea room fare. Which was perfectly decent (nice soup) but I was not the only one to express surprise at the lack of options. See the commentary.

Shap-Keld road
Morning light on the road from Shap to Keld

I did eventually get a pint at the Duke of Cumberland, which is a couple of minutes’ walk from Kendal station and is the best place to get a drink if catching a train there. Turn left at the bottom of the ramp, go under the railway bridge, and you’ll see it.

Route: Like the walk I did the day before (walk 169), this needs saving for a fine, clear day, at the end of as dry a spell as you can manage. Even then it was still very spongy in places, although there were no truly impassable bogs. You wouldn’t want to be negotiating this moorland in poor visibility, either. Underfoot, it is a somewhat easier walk than yesterday’s, but it’s still a hike across very lonely territory, and watch your footing because if you go over here and sprain an ankle, there won’t be anyone else coming along to help you out.

Haweswater access road bridge
1930s civil engineering and curious onlooker.

From the north end of Shap, take the lane signposted first to Bampton and Shap Abbey, then turn off down the side road signposted Keld. Go through this picturesque little village and, after the road crosses the young River Lowther, look for a short cut over the stream up to the left. This takes you up to the concrete road, built in the 1930s to service the Haweswater Dam, where turn left. A few hundred yards later, take the side track to the right, and follow this until it ends at a couple of gates above a stream. You need to cross this to another gate on the other side, which is a bit awkward.

All this so far has been more-or-less level walking but once over the stream, the ground rises steadily to the ridge-line above: the vegetation is a trial at this point but this is the worst patch of the day. Once above it and to the wall (where turn right), the walking becomes easier for a while. Just stick close to the wall while remembering you never need to cross it (paths which do all head down into Wet Sleddale beyond).

Gambling Crag
Gambling Crag (and the moon).

The most prominent lump ahead is in fact Gambling Crag, not itself a Wainwright. The path to Seat Robert, which comes into view behind it, lies to the left. Note, though, that with hindsight I would have veered right and bagged Great Ladstones first as this would have led to an easier walk later on. Whether you do this or not, the way up to Seat Robert should (in clear visibility) be fairly obvious and you can enjoy the dubious comforts of its wind shelter, fashioned from the copious pile of stones on the summit.

A reasonably dependable path heads east from here, heading for High Wether Howe, although there are some spongy defences to negotiate before the summit, the highest point of the day, can be attained. Same rules apply — stick close to the fence but don’t cross it. From here, Fewling Stones is the second rise to the north. On this summit it’s worth seeking out one of the best natural seats I’ve ever found, a plinth of rock with a perfect backrest and a comfortable cushion of moss and grass to recline on — really a very nice spot to while away some time.

Seat Robert summit
Is it a cairn? Is it a tumulus? Is it a wind shelter? Seat Robert’s summit.

From here, however, Great Ladstones is further back east than I at first anticipated, which is why I said I’d have bagged it earlier, with hindsight. The walk across the basin below is not unpleasant, but the first cairned summit I reached was Glede How, only halfway to Great Ladstones, which caused spirits to droop a little (although it is a Birkett). This is quite confusing terrain, and would be a difficult place to flounder in low cloud.

From here, Langhowe Pike is seen as a beige slope above the right-hand wall of Swindale, where it takes a gentle curve. Head for it, attain its cairn and then keep going down in the general direction of the farm buildings of Tailbeart that are visible below.

Haskew Tarn and Kidsty Pike
View over (what remains of) Haskew Tarn. Kidsty Pike visible on horizon.

Once you hit the lane, turn right and just follow this back to Keld. Should you want to get to the southern end of Shap instead of the northern, there is a short cut from here, involving going down the lane from Keld to Thornship, on through a field then a pleasant little dell, and onto a lane that comes out just near the Greyhound Hotel. However, to my chagrin on the day, this establishment was closed, meaning I ended up walking another mile to get back to the (nominal) centre of Shap anyway. Check ahead and this final variation might be worth the time, but if the Greyhound is not going to be open, my advice is just to head back along Keld Lane and come out in Shap by the Crown Inn instead.

Shap and Cross Fell
Shap, and Cross Fell (the highest of the Pennines)

Town with no beer commentary: A two-day hike, or two hikes on successive days? I say the latter, and there is a reason beyond simple pedantry. On the ‘pure’ two-day hikes the second day could not have been done without the first preceding it. For example, on walk 152 last year, I could not have reached Ennerdale YHA to start the second day without walking those 16 miles on the first. But the walks I have done here in Shap could, technically, have been done separately. Hence the distinction. In case you were wondering.

I had a good evening in Shap yesterday. The New Ing Lodge, where I stayed, was welcoming and the dinner in the Greyhound was extremely good. With a fine sunset and another very sunny day today, it looked its best. But — two closed pubs and the third not selling its staple product? On a glorious Friday afternoon, not long out of summer? It’s not like it was a bleak Tuesday in November.

Cube on Langhowe Pike
A rather mysterious cube, left forlorn on Langhowe Pike

I do sympathise with the place, the way it has been seemingly deliberately isolated and left hard to reach. But you’d think it would have been a little more welcoming today. Sat at the bus stop across the road from the Crown, after having had my soup and tea, several people, mostly in cars, were seen to pop their heads in but then retreat and leave, presumably as befuddled as me as to the drinking arrangements. They’ll have gone to spend their money elsewhere.

The sun beat down on me as the Late September Settled Period (2019 vintage) paid off handsomely, and I could add five more summits to the nine of yesterday. I am now, definitely, no longer behind on the Outlying Fells. Percentage wise it now ranks third out of the eight volumes, behind only the Northwestern and Eastern, a boost entirely attributable to these last two days. Do I have to ever worry about the Shap bus again? Well, maybe it’ll be useful to finish off the Naddle Horseshoe, though I haven’t decided that for sure.

Seat Robert from west
Seat Robert, seen from the west.

Seat Robert is a lonely place, colourful and more like a slice of Dartmoor than the Lake District; no real peaks, more like a rumpled carpet of grass and heather laid over some scattered objects that poke up through the grass here and there. I doubt many people come here. Twenty-five miles, give or take, over the last two days and I didn’t see another soul, not even at a distance. I actually began to feel fitter as today went on, and I think my body needed the good workout. Now teaching’s started, it’ll be at least three weeks before I get out again — but I think after this one I deserve a short rest.

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