The view from Low Fell

The classic view from Low Fell; Crummock Water, Great Gable and the High Stile range in the background, Mellbreak on the right.

Date completed: 1st September 2010

Weather conditions: Heaven on Earth.

Fells climbedFellbarrow (1363’, no. 78), Low Fell (1360’, no. 79).

Distance: 7 miles approximately.

Total ascent:  1700 feet approx.

Start and end points:  Started at Low Lorton, served by the #77 summer-only bus which links Keswick, Honister and Buttermere. Finished at the Loweswater road junction at NY156227 which is on the same route.

Fellbarrow scene

A scene on the slopes of Fellbarrow

Pub at nearly-the-end:  Kirkstile Inn, Loweswater. Homely decor, comfortable seating, good beer (Grasmoor Dark: not really appropriate to the weather but it tasted good anyway), helpful staff, decent-looking food: what more do you need? However, it is not on the bus route. The Loweswater road junction is at least 20 minutes’ walk away. (On future visits here I have headed for Lanthwaite Green, which is a better place to catch the bus but is further still, about 30 minutes’ walk.)

Route card: Click here to download a route card which includes an elevation profile (how hilly the walk is), waypoints with grid references, and a summary map. Route card for walk 24: the Fellbarrow range.

Route: This is basically an easy walk, suitable for anyone, but do note that the descent from Low Fell may prove awkward.  Also some of the undulations between the two summits are more pronounced than might be expected.

When I did this walk in 2010 the bridge over the River Cocker at Lorton was down, having been damaged in the floods the previous November. There was no alternative crossing for miles in either direction, so the only way of getting started on this walk was to wade across the river. I was lucky, as it was not particularly in spate and never got higher than knee-height: see the picture below. But this bridge has since been repaired.

The ruins of Hatteringill

The ruins of Hatteringill

Over the bridge, follow the road to the right then bear left at a lane signposted as unsuitable for vehicles. This swings round past three farms and then heads up the hill. Views of Cockermouth unfold to the right. At NY134259 take the obvious lane on the left which deteriorates into a track as it slopes up across the fields to reach the ruin of Hatteringill. This was a ruin even in Wainwright’s day and has now been reduced to piles of stones only (see picture), but  you need to look out for it as it marks the point at which you should leave the track and pull up the hill to the right. Follow the fence and then go over the stiles provided for the pull up to Fellbarrow summit.

From Fellbarrow, the route to Low Fell is fairly clear, but the fences and stiles might be confusing. Most of the time, if a stile exists, it is worth crossing, because that probably means you need to be on that side of the fence later. The only bit where I went wrong was at the fence junction at NY135234 where there is a stile that should not be crossed, instead, swing round to the left to join the path coming up from Thackthwaite. This takes you to the various summits of Low Fell in turn – there are four, each slightly lower than the last but with a successively better view.

Getting down to Loweswater is not very easy. The descent is awkward and steep. Nor is it very clear how to get off the fell and onto the Loweswater road. I bore left and almost certainly trespassed on fields below the intake wall. According to Wainwright I should have gone more to the right and come out past Crabtree Farm. But none of this is obvious on the ground.

Remember that it is a 20-minute walk, at least, from Loweswater village (a.k.a. Kirkstile) to the Buttermere road junction and the bus stop. The bridge across the Cocker here is open – fortunately.


Mellbreak, as seen from the Loweswater road at Kirkstile

Ambling through paradise commentary: Why do people seem to think that Britain should have its summer in July? In my experience, September always has the best weather. This was true last year (see walk 5 and walk 6) and so far it looks like it’ll be true this year too.  Conditions today were perfect. Sunny, still, and warm but not too much so for walking. I am busy at work but there was no way I was missing out on this chance. So I packed what work I could into my pack and did it on the 4-hour journey from home to Lorton.

The distinctive event on this walk happened immediately.  As I walked down from Lorton, through a building site, to what I assumed would be the bridge over the river, it dawned on me that said bridge no longer existed. Three guys were already there wading across it with their bikes, being watched by a group of highly-amused workmen. ‘Is that the way across then?’ I ask, conversationally. ‘Unless you want to go five miles in either direction’, says one. ‘Or fookin’ fly,’ says another. Yeah yeah, so I’m a dumb tourist, no need to be rude. As the bikers finished their crossing I took off my boots & socks and went for it. It wasn’t too bad underfoot but the water was near-freezing (this is why I never became a caver or canoeist). Still, 30 seconds later I was on the other side. At this point a flustered gentleman arrived with a cyclist’s helmet in his hand asking me if three young lads have come this way. ‘They’re over there,’ I told him. And yes, one of them, having got across, then had to wade over again – and back – to retrieve the helmet that he must have left at the B&B. This caused even more hilarity to the workmen who probably spent much of their days watching people do this. (See the picture at the bottom.)


Grasmoor, viewed from Scale Hill

After that I didn’t see anyone again all day, not until Kirkstile anyway; this was the first walk on which that happened. I can only think that this was explained by the difficulties of access because other than that the walk was paradise. Wild blackberries were growing all over, on which I grazed happily throughout. Glorious views, for minimal effort: Mellbreak and Grasmoor (see pictures) were the most impressive things in view.

In Kirkstile, there was a wedding going on – could they have picked a better day? The village has got people in it, however, and if there were any problems today it’s the people. The middle-aged group walking up from the church to the road junction are fine, but I overhear them talking about how one of them: ‘said to a wedding guest, “it’s a pity we couldn’t see the bride” and he replied, “she’s pregnant”. Just like that, that’s all he said…”

Wading across the Cocker at Lorton

The cyclist who forgot his helmet wades across the Cocker for the third time, to the amusement of the watching builders

And the bus driver who made me and an elderly lady get off the bus at Keswick even though exactly the same bus then turns into the 1020, #77 service to Lorton and Buttermere, which we both then had to get straight back on. Why? Who knows, or dares to dream? And finally the Pythonesque Awful Family on the Preston-Hebden Bridge train home. I prayed for the luggage rack to collapse as the eight-year-old was swinging on it, monkey-bar style, just to see their reaction. Unfortunately it didn’t. Give me the open fell any day. Particularly one as good as this.

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