Great Stickle from Tarn Hill
Great Stickle, with the Duddon estuary behind, seen from Tarn Hill.

Date completed: 5th December 2020.

Weather conditions: Of all my 186 Lakeland walks this is only the second (after walk 47) to be done in the first half of December. This is partly because the weather at this time of year is usually lousy. Today was a glorious exception. Cloudy at first but it became very nice, if a little chilly — but that’s December for you.

Walkers on Stickle Pike
Stickle Pike from the south. (Note Scafell in snow behind.)

Summits bagged: The three summits I had left in the Stickle Pike chapter, namely Stickle Pike itself (1231 feet above sea level, number 264 of my second round), Great Stickle (1001’, no. 265) and Tarn Hill (920’, or maybe 1020’, and for reasons about to be explained, both nos. 266 and 267).

Tarn Hill is a somewhat confusing entry in the list. As well as being one of the summits in the Stickle Pike chapter it seeems to simultaneously form the Dunnerdale Fells chapter (pp. 132-5 of volume 8). It is very hard to distinguish two different summits on the ground. Only one of the many little tops dotted around this area is cairned, and this is the one that seems to lie at the height of 920’, as given in the Dunnerdale Fells chapter.

The Duddon Valley
Looking up the Duddon Valley, from the early part of the walk.

Looking closely at the OS map, there is indeed a 300m contour shown in the vicinity of Tarn Hill (at roughly SD208921), suggesting there is land above 1000’ there, somewhere between this cairn and Stickle Pike. But without taking a full survey when on the felltop, there’s no easy way to establish the ‘true’ summit of what is, after all, just another bit of moorland in the whole Stickle Pike complex. Therefore, let’s just state that Tarn Hill is the only one of the Wainwrights to count double. And it’s also the 100th of the 116 Outlying Fells that I’ve done a second time. (Not to mention the 101st as well.)

All three, or four, of these were previously bagged on walk 82 in May 2014.

Ulpha Bridge, the walk’s starting point.

Start and end point: Ulpha Bridge, in the Duddon Valley, at grid reference SD198930. This cannot be reached by public transport, unfortunately, so this walk needs a car. The walk took me two hours and fifteen minutes.

Distance walked: 5 miles approximately.

Total ascent: 1,250 feet approx.

Pub at end: Nothing in Ulpha. The nearest pub is the Newfield Inn a couple of miles up the valley in Seathwaite: I’ve never been in this so can’t offer a review. Options heading back south include a few pubs in Broughton. It doesn’t look like the Prince of Wales at Foxfield is open at the moment, probably for Great Fear-related reasons.

Route: This is a very good short walk, and the only reason I’ve not added it to the list of ‘Half-Day Classics’ (see my ‘Personal Notes’) is because of difficulties of access. Without a car, reaching Stickle Pike and its satellites requires a more substantial hike in from Foxfield station, involving a lot of tarmac and farmland that wasn’t so bad on walk 82, but walk 167 was dragged down by the effort. Using a car to get to Ulpha reduces it to just a morning’s work, and it’s certainly time well spent. While you don’t see any lakes, the views are magnificent. But I wouldn’t come here in bracken season (June – October).

View west to Seat How
View west, with Seat How and Rough Crag (from the Devoke Water circuit) poking up above the shoulder of Hesk Fell.

If coming up the valley from the south, park just before reaching Ulpha Bridge (there’s space for about half a dozen cars here). The route starts up the lane that heads for the white-painted house called Low Birks, and when you reach this, bear right up the stony path that heads up the hillside.

Stickle Pike comes obviously into view, but don’t make a beeline for the peak. The better way up is via the ridge that you can see coming down to the left (north) of the summit. Cross over Hollow Moss Beck — its little valley will later supply your way down, so make a note of this spot — and bear right at your convenience to ascend the ridge. There doesn’t seem to be a continuous path up this, but it’s easy enough, and no scrambling is required.

Great Stickle as seen from Stickle Pike.

Stickle Pike has a double summit, and you will of course visit both. There is no descent straight ahead, so don’t try it. But there is a way down from the col between the two summits, with care. Once on the path below, turn right and Great Stickle is about a mile away (as pictured here). This also has two candidates for the summit tor but the higher is the one with the trig column.

Tarn Hill, named for the many little puddles that speckle it (some of which are drying up), is linked to Great Stickle by a neat little col; once over this the route to the cairned summit is obvious in clear weather though in mist you might get into some difficulty here. As noted above, whether this is the highest point of this bit of land is doubtful but there’s very little way to determine what is, and if you head off the top the way I did — north — you’ll be likely to traverse over it anyway.

Cyclists in Duddon Valley
View from the end of the walk. Whit Fell in the background. Spot the cyclists.

The valley of Hollow Moss Beck provides a useful, if slightly squelchy, way down, and fine views of Stickle Pike which is the best-looking of the Outlying Fells in my opinion. If you paid attention to the crossing point on the way up, you will know when to turn left and then this path will just return you to Ulpha.

Sod your tiers and walk away commentary: Of all the 33 walks it took me to bag the Outlying Fells first time round, between June 2013 – November 2015, walk 82 was a definite highlight. The whole Dunnerdale Fells district is, as Wainwright describes in volume 8, of low altitude but “an upland tormented by a profusion of crags and peaked outcrops”, with Stickle Pike itself a “budding Matterhorn with many juvenile satellites”. Only 1231 feet high it might be but I certainly endorse these observations; it’s an excellent little fell and, acknowledging competition only from its neighbour Caw (which I’ve yet to revisit), the best of the 116 Outliers.

Caw
Caw, from Stickle Pike’s north ridge

I do wish it was easier to get to, though. Now that there’s not a bus even as far as Broughton, the non-car-user has no choice but to yomp in from Foxfield, and as I discovered on walk 167, that is not straightforward — evidence that the biggest problems to the walker come often not from crags and scree but fences, cowshit and agricultural quagmires. But my abandonment of the ‘public transport only’ rule in 2020 has now taken, and though I accept it makes the subtitle of this blog a lie, well, at least I got the whole first round and 80% of my second done that way. Using a car does at least allow for some variety to enter the remaining walks, and coming in the back way from Ulpha was certainly worth doing. Short and sweet — I was eating lunch by the car at noon, and watching a football match in Kendal by 2pm. All in all, a great day out.

Snow on Pennines
Snow on the distant Pennines.

It is utterly ridiculous that these activities, conducted in a solitary fashion, might be considered ‘unsafe’ enough that I could, technically, have been fined for travelling into this ‘tier 2’ zone. So paranoid has Authority become, so keen to flex its legal muscles and remind us that “Your Government Does Something Now And Again” that we are once again set against each other, region versus region, town versus town, just like in September only this time the pubs are still shut. (OK, they are open in Cumbria, but only if you eat a scotch egg with your beer, or something like that.)

Stickle Pike summit
Stickle Pike summit cairn.

I went to Indonesia in late November last year and a few days after I came back I fell ill. From 4th-8th December 2019 I was not at death’s door but I felt awful: cough, fever, joint pain that made me feel a hundred years old. I feared it might be malaria or dengue or something tropical like that, but it did get better before I took myself to the doctor. I had no idea at the time what this ‘mystery virus’ was, but then again, nor did anyone else. Of course, a solution was awaiting a few weeks later. But my experience proves that the whole narrative we’ve been sold about all this is wrong. Probably half the population of Britain, maybe all of us, have already been exposed to Covid. But we are no longer in control of our own judgments. Authority has us in its grip, and if you think a vaccine is going to see it relax — think again.

Lockdown is mostly in our heads. It’s time to open the doors again for ourselves.

The sun appears
A glimpse of sunlight? Perhaps.
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