Ullock Pike and Bass Lake
Bassenthwaite Lake and Ullock Pike.

Date completed: 13th December 2021.

Weather conditions: Not bad for the time of year. A bit gloomy and grey, but that is the norm for mid-December. It was dry, not cold, and fairly still, so fair conditions for walking on the whole.

Summits bagged: Long Side (2,405 feet above sea level, number 285 of my second round) and Ullock Pike (2,230’, no. 286). Both were last bagged a long time ago now, on walk 2 in July 2009: in fact they were the 2nd and 3rd bags of this whole project, preceded only by Walla Crag.

Long Side summit
The summit of Long Side.

As I’ve also started paying attention to the Birketts that are picked up on these walks (see the commentary), note also the bagging of the summit of Watches at 1,093 feet (Birkett #511 by altitude).

Those not feeling as sated by Wainwrights as I (hence my unwillingness to even be tempted to start on a third round) will also attain Carl Side, the summit of which lies a literal stone’s throw away from my route.

Sheep and Bass Lake
Today’s Formal Sheep Portrait (relaxed); above Bass Lake.

Start and end points: Started where the lane to Orthwaite meets the A591, at the hamlet of High Side; this is grid reference NY235306. Finished at the Ravenstone Manor hotel, a short distance south along the same main road.

Both of these points have bus stops served by the #X4 services that run from Penrith to Workington — though make sure you get on one of these and not the #X5, which connects the same termini, but via the other side of Bassenthwaite Lake. #554 Keswick – Carlisle services also pass these stops.

Southerndale and Ullock Pike
Southerndale, with Ullock Pike prominent above.

The walk took me three hours, meaning it fitted comfortably (that is, allowing time for a pint) between the 11.25 drop off at High Side — this had left Penrith railway station at 10:20 — and the 14:59 pick up at the Ravenstone Manor, which got me back to Penrith for just after 16:00.

Distance walked: 6¼ miles approximately.

Total ascent: 2,300 feet approx.

Walkers on the ridge
Walkers on the ridge.

Pub at end: The Ravenstone Manor is perched above the main road, and its proprietors probably wish it had a somewhat better view than it does; Bass Lake is tantalisingly just unseen and the rapidly-moving traffic along the road just below doesn’t help the ambience. But it is very pleasant inside, will catch the evening sun on a summer’s day, and served a decent, albeit expensive, pint.

Route: This is a walk without particular difficulty, and it has lots of plus points, including the facts that it is dry underfoot, almost entirely free of bracken (hurrah!), has spectacular views from the second half and is easily accessible on the bus as long as you check the times. However, the haul up out of Southerndale to Carlside col, while straightforward, is very steep and completely tedious, and the walk would be better without it.

View to Skiddaw
View up to Skiddaw, from the earlier part of the walk.

From the bus stop outside High Side farm B & B, take the lane signposted to Orthwaite. This is the one stretch of tarmac of the whole hike, and it only lasts for a few minutes. Past a little car park, leave the road by turning right along the lane signposted to Skiddaw via Barkbeth, and then immediately right again, up a track that becomes grassy. Ullock Pike is rising obviously, and pyramidally, ahead. Follow this track around the butt end of the ridge coming down on the left, and keep going as it heads through the intake wall onto the open fell, staying above the stream at first but then dropping down to cross it at a ford.

This path climbs up through Southerndale, keeping below the ridge that is rising to the left (the north-west ridge of Skiddaw: see Wainwright’s pages Skiddaw 15 and 16 for more detail here). It’s an easy and agreeable walk for a time, but the end of the valley looks increasingly like it is closing in without leaving a simple way out. The exit turns out to be straight ahead, via the stream rising to Carlside col, and while it causes no problems inevitably it is a much longer and steeper climb than it looks from below. Quite a drag to be honest.

Head of Southerndale
The head of Southerndale, which one has to climb.

I was glad when it was finally over and I staggered up onto the lip of the valley at Carlside col. Here, the summit of Carl Side is mere yards away if you want to add it to your collection. Whether you do so or not, the rest of the route lies to the right, and is all obvious from here; the ridge is far too narrow to permit choices of route as you go up over Long Side to Ullock Pike. The views of Bass Lake and, well, everything else, open up excellently.

The ridge down from Ullock Pike does have some steep and awkward passages, so don’t rush it. Where the path takes one or two seemingly illogical deviations to the left, do follow them, as these detour you around sections that are too steep to descend safely.

Watches summit
The summit of Watches.

At a col between the ridge and the final summit of Watches — identifiable because it’s the first time the path has risen back upwards since you left Ullock’s summit — a track heads down to the left, and as this is your way back to civilisation it could be taken straight away. However, bagging Watches takes only a few minutes of very little extra effort, and it’s worth seeing for its strange landscape of rocks in a little natural amphitheatre: it does look artificial, as Wainwright suggests on page Ullock Pike 2. Anyway, afterwards, return to the col and take the path — now on the right — heading in the direction of Bass Lake below.

This drops down, still steep and needing care, into the woods. Through a gate, there is a junction, where you should turn right (as turning left will lead you into Dodd Wood) and then immediately hairpin down through the woods. This path gets a bit overgrown but it’s the correct route, confirmed when, just before reaching the road, a rather weatherbeaten but still useful sign points you into the Ravenstone’s beer garden, where you can enjoy a pint while waiting for the bus. The stops are at the end of the hotel’s drive, to the north.

View down the ridge
View down the later stages of the ridge.

Not ‘working at home’ commentary: It’s been over two months since I was last in the Lakes, specifically in Wasdale, busting a gut or two on Yewbarrow for walk 194. The main reason I didn’t return until today was that for most of November I was exiled on the remote island of St Helena, for the first of what I hope will be at least three, and perhaps four, trips over the next couple of years, to gather data for a research project.

It’s a very beautiful island for sure, and there’s some great walking to be done there. But although, on November 27th, I enjoyed a fine hike to the island’s summit, Diana’s Peak at 2,690 feet (820m), the experience was wrapped in clouds, and the Peak’s spectacular view of the entire island, surrounded by the Atlantic, went unseen. I will therefore hold off blogging about it until I’ve got a better set of pictures.

Shadow portrait, and Binsey
A self-portrait, of sorts, with Binsey behind.

There are some other great walks to be done there as well, particularly along the barren coastal rim. St Helena is almost like the reverse of how things pan out in the UK — here, it’s the lower altitudes that are green but the mountain tops that are barren and rocky. On the island, because of levels of rainfall, it’s the other way around. The summit of Diana’s Peak was magnificently lush, in fact; and naturalist colleague Becky, who acted as my guide, went into raptures on finding a clump of these small, white bell-shaped flowers that apparently were nearly extinct, but are making a recovery. There will be a (blogged) return there, have no fear.

Meanwhile, re: Cumbria, something I did to see myself through 10 days of quarantine on St Helena was finally begin tabulating the Birketts so I can add them to this site and give myself something more to do until I die. These are the 541 tops listed in Mr. Birkett’s Complete Lakeland Fells, published in 1990. The list is just as subjective as Wainwright’s, only in different ways; there’s a fairly substantial overlap between them, but not a complete one, and I reckon I still have about 138 Birketts that are unvisited even once (I need to revisit some old maps to be sure about a few [Postscript: actually it turns out to be 141]. When I’m off work for Christmas I intend to sort out a listing on here and update the older walk descriptions where some Birketts were bagged. That’s why I carried on down the ridge to Watches today, although its slightly weird top was worth a visit anyway.

Lord's Seat
View to Lord’s Seat.

This might end up my last Lakeland walk of 2021, although let’s see how the weather pans out after next weekend, as I have two weeks off work for Christmas. If it is the year’s last, it means I’ve only done 9 Wainwright (or indeed Birkett) walks since January, with 19 summits bagged; way down on the average annual total. Missing the whole of the first three months thanks to Covidnoia didn’t help but I have also been coming to the Lakes less, mainly for transport reasons, also because I have been doing more County Top walks.

But despite Northern giving me some minor palpitations with the first service this morning, public transport worked just fine today, and the good news is that finally, the key 8:03 Preston to Penrith morning service seems to have reappeared, after nearly two years ‘off’ for some Covidnoid bollocks, or possibly just bad planning. This means, for example, I don’t have to wait until summer to get back to anything near Ullswater, including Place Fell and Helvellyn. I might have generally slowed down, but I still want to get this second round done, and today reminded me of why.

Walker above Bass Lake
Walker above Bass Lake. If the walker featured in this shot does remember the URL of the blog, well hey, you had to get to the bottom to find it, but here you are 🙂

One Response to “Walk 195: Southerndale and the Ullock Pike ridge”

  1. I enjoyed these hills, though was glad I was going up Ullock Pike rather than down it! You certainly got better weather than I did on my last trip which coincided with Storm Arwen meaning the best it got was a repeat of Latrigg as I didn’t fancy footering around on something new in those conditions.

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