The view of the upper Duddon Valley that graces the later stages of the walk. (And today’s Formal Sheep Portrait.)

Date: 12th June 2022.

Weather conditions: Further proof that the first half of June is only rarely ‘high summer’ in this part of the world. Grey, cloudy, windy and rather cold. It did stay dry, though this felt like lucky chance. See the commentary below.

Summits bagged: All three Wainwrights in the Caw chapter of The Outlying Fells, namely (in this order): Caw (1735 feet above sea level, number 293 of my second round), Pikes (1539’, no 294) and Green Pikes (1350’, no. 295). These were all previously bagged on walk 99 in July 2015.

Caw, seen from below Brock Barrow, to the west.

There are also two Birketts bagged today: Brock Barrow (1125’, #499 on that list by altitude) and Fox Haw (1263’, #465).

Start and end point: The car park next to the church hall in Seathwaite, at about SD229961. This point cannot be reached by public transport, so today’s walk requires the use of a car. The walk took me about 2¾ hours, including a lunch break.

This is the Seathwaite in the Duddon Valley rather than the one in Borrowdale. That one is better-known, despite being just a farm. The Duddon Seathwaite isn’t a great deal more extensive, to be honest: but at least it has a pub (see below).

Distance walked: 5.2 miles approximately.

The other Seathwaite.

Total ascent: 1,675 feet approx.

Pub at end: It’s nice that 199 walks in, I can still find some hostelries I have not visited before, like, today, the Newfield Inn in Seathwaite. According to an information board in the pub, in July 1904, after the landlord refused a drunken customer further service and lodgings, a riot took place here that ended with three people dead. I doubt that anything of similar import has happened here since, to tell the truth: it’s not the most rock-and-roll place. Thanks to driving I could only have one pint, but it was a decent one.

Route: This is a relatively short walk, but a worthwhile one, with exceptional views of the whole length of the Duddon Valley. Essentially it is the walk described on pages 122-3 of Wainwright’s volume 8, but with the two Birketts tacked onto the first part, as an optional extra. There is nothing too difficult to be concerned about, but after the first mile, paths are not all that clear, and there are wet patches on the way down.

A cyclist conducts repairs on Park Head Road.

It’s a shame you can’t reach Seathwaite by public transport, but so be it. From the car park next to the church hall (for which a £2 donation is requested), walk down the road a short way towards the pub, and turn left through a gate, signposted as a public bridleway. This is Park Head Road, which once served the slate quarry marked on Wainwright’s map, and it provides a straightforward opening section to the walk.

Bagging Brock Barrow and Fox Haw on the day does not have to be done, but both summits are rocky and interesting, and not too much trouble to attain. Brock Barrow has been rising on the right behind a high wall, through which there seems to be only one gate, which I had to climb over as it would not open. The fell’s fringe of rocks allows for some mild scrambling: or, just follow the short and steep path up the slope ahead (obvious in the picture below). With no other gate through the wall, you might as well come back down the same way.

Brock Barrow, and the day’s only outbreak of blue sky.

From the gate, keep the stream (and Caw) to your left, and slant up the slope ahead. The path disappears, but just keep going uphill and you will reach the top of Fox Haw in due course. I did have doubts when up here as to whether I’d actually reached the summit, as another rocky rise that little bit further on seems to put in an equally valid claim. But according to Strava, the first tor I reached coming up this way is, indeed, higher than its neighbour, so we’ll call that the Birkett summit.

From this point Caw’s south-western flank lays itself open for inspection, and a path can be seen heading up the slope at an angle. Descend off Fox Haw to cross the valley and then climb up this path, which is not as obvious when underfoot, but can still be followed, at least as far as a point where the view opens up to the east, over the valley of the Lickle (up which I came the last time I was here, on walk 99). It is then necessary to slant up the fellside to the left; the path mostly vanishes here, but keep going uphill and you will reach the sharp summit of Caw, with its trig point and excellent view.

Caw’s summit trig.

The rest of the walk is described by the text on page 123 of volume 8. Pikes and Green Pikes are visible, in the direction of Walna Scar, as two stony nodules at each end of a tilted ridge, with Pikes being the higher; aim for this first. There is no path linking the two, but the way is easy enough to find. After attaining the neat little top of Green Pikes, drop down to the wall and follow it to the right.

The gate you need to find is further away than expected. Once through it, you will be on the ‘drove road’ marked as a path on the OS map and in Wainwright’s pages, and in theory can use it to drop back down to Seathwaite. In practice, though, this path becomes wet, and is difficult to follow. Do your best, however, as otherwise the descent risks becoming enmeshed in bracken. The map offers useful information about how the route relates to the walls and streams around. Compensation for the sketchy path comes from the magnificent view of the upper reaches of the Duddon Valley, backed by the Scafells.

The summit of Pikes.

Eventually you return to the gate by which you left the road earlier, and you may as well have a drink in the Newfield Inn (only one, though…) before returning to the car.

Non-flaming June commentary: Now I’ve reached what is scheduled to be the second quarter of my fifties, there are various things about which I hold the firm belief that I am right and almost everyone else is wrong. The genius of Woody Allen, the desirability of combining peanut butter and mayonnaise in the same sandwich, that kind of thing.

Amongst these totems is the sense that almost every one of my compatriots is in denial about how the first half of June is almost always poor weather in Britain. “No!” they say. “When I was a young lad/lass June was always Arcadia, we romped through fields of buttercups and supped Pimm’s on the lawn”, et cetera. I am the one who’s wrong, they insist. It is just this year that’s the exception. Blame climate change, or the European Union.

Another posing sheep, this time backed by Grey Friar.

Well, I’ve got a pretty good record of what the weather has done over the last 13 years, and you’re reading it — viz, this blog. I’m not saying I’ve never had, or the country’s never had, decent weather in early June. 2018 was the obvious exception, and June 2010 at least opened well. But that’s about it. And it’s not just my attractiveness to June rainclouds, anyway; this is a recognised climatic phenomenon, the ‘Return of the Westerlies’ or ‘North European Monsoon’. It exists, and the fact that Britons largely deny it is interesting in itself.

Today could have been worse, for sure. It didn’t rain, and that felt like divine intervention of some kind: look how low and dark are the clouds on some of today’s pictures (like the one below). I did my best with the camera, but let’s remember that ‘photograph’ translates literally as ‘write with light’, and there really wasn’t much of that resource around today. Still, the walk was done without incident. And I quite like Caw, which is certainly one of the most dramatic and “Lakes-like” of the Outlying Fells, though I’m ranking it below Stickle Pike in the awards list for volume 8 — its neighbour might be smaller, but it’s also somehow cuter.

Fox Haw (front), Stickle Pike and Black Combe (background) — and some rather oppressive clouds.

This was only 4th Lakeland walk of the calendar year. I doubt the pace will increase to match that of the earlier stages of the project — I did 20 Wainwright walks in 2012, for instance (and that really was a year with dismal weather). One obvious reason is that the County Tops are distracting me but I also struggle more to raise it for Cumbria in the face of the public transport stress (described in specific detail back on walk 196, in January). Driving, as I did today, is certainly less hassle on a morning. On the other hand, it’s worse for the return journey. I felt like I was dozing off all the way back down the M6.

Best to drive to this one however, otherwise I’d have been ascending Caw exactly the same way I did it last time, from Coniston. It was nice to acquaint myself today with the upper reaches of the Duddon Valley, a part of the District I had only passed through before.

The summit of Brock Barrow, with the Duddon Valley below.

While there’s no point offering an accurate prediction of when it might take place, the next one will be walk 200, and if I bag two summits on it I will then be down to the last 10% of fells in my second round (or 5% of the double round). But there are still a lot of high, and/or hard-to-reach fells outstanding — Helvellyn, Scafell, Great End, all these remain to be rebagged. Adding the Birketts to my life (and the two I did today were worth doing) means this all could extend indefinitely, so let’s abandon the idea that there’s some finishing date in my head, and just see where my feet take me.

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