Sellafield, from Crag Fell

Looking south from Crag Fell towards Sellafield.

Date completed: 20th November 2010

Weather conditions:  Until about 11.30 conditions rivalled last week’s walk for excellence. It then clouded over and by the end of the day was becoming a little gloomy, but it stayed dry and quite mild.

Fells climbedLank Rigg (1775 feet above sea level, no. 91), Crag Fell (1710’, no. 92), Grike (1596’, no. 93)

Caw Fell, from Crag Fell

Looking towards Caw Fell, from the ascent of Crag Fell

Distance:  13.3 miles approximately.

Total ascent:  2950 feet approx.

Start and end points:  Started at the bus stop just past the roundabout at the start of the Egremont bypass, at grid reference NY015100. This is served by bus #6 which I caught from Seascale railway station, and goes to Egremont and Whitehaven. [Note: this bus no longer exists; the starting point can still be reached from Whitehaven on a bus, but not from Seascale.]

Ended at the bus stop just outside the doctors’ surgery at Cleator Moor, NY027146.  A bus #31 took me from there to Whitehaven – this is a half-hourly service. Whitehaven and Seascale are both on the Cumbrian Coast rail line.

Pub at end:  The Little Arms, Cleator Moor, which is at the junction of the A5086 and the road to Ennerdale Bridge.  Cleator Moor is no twee tourist village and this is no twee tourist pub, but a working man’s boozer; I think the barmaid was the only woman in there. However, it was busy, and friendly enough – the landlord (looking at my sweaty, knackered form) was interested in where I had walked from, and the bus stop was a minute‘s walk away. Should I end up in Cleator Moor again I’d revisit it.

Wedge of geese passing over

A very large wedge of geese passing overhead – taken from Lank Rigg. (Click on the picture to enlarge it: you will see them at the top.)

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.  Note: this is the first walk on which I’ve gone beyond the limits of the Lake District Memory Map. I did buy some more squares to help fill in the gaps but have not yet worked out how to truly combine them. Hence the untidy solution adopted here. But it’ll suffice to get you round. Route card for Walk 28: The Far West

Route: Before starting there are some observations to make. This is a long walk, and there’s not a lot on it to get excited about. While gradients are easy and the terrain grassy throughout, there are no paths for much of the way and the going is often difficult over boggy ground. The trudge up to Lank Rigg, particularly, is tedious. You don’t see a great deal of the rest of the Lake District either, except at the summit of Crag Fell, and the best features of that fell are missed completely.  Do not attempt it in mist – at least, not Lank Rigg, which I imagine would be a version of hell in wet weather and poor visibility. Although the conditions and views made the walk worthwhile for me, I cannot really recommend it to anyone else other than a dedicated peak-bagger, and certainly don’t take someone on it whom you are trying to seduce (whether into fellwalking, or just generally).

Track descending to the River Calder

The track from the Coldfell road descends towards the crossing of the River Calder.

Anyway, should this not have put you off – starting at the bus stop, cross the main road, take the lane signposted Haile and Wilton and then immediately turn left – and then just keep going for the next 2.5 miles – all unexciting road walking – until you reach the Coldfell road, at which cross straight over and head down the obvious track ahead. There is a choice of routes at NY059101, the one you want is the one with the metal barrier, which heads down to the footbridge across the Calder – see picture. (Wainwright recommends you visit Monks bridge, a.k.a. Matty Benn’s bridge, which is just upstream at this point – I didn’t, feeling pushed for time already.)

The lane then continues around the crest of the valley, turning south, but the route lies eastwards, and upwards. At this point I would stop bothering looking for genuine paths, I don’t think there are any. I got up to the ‘Homestead’ marked on the map at NY070098 – a prehistoric relic (see picture below) – easily enough, but after that there seems little choice but to drag oneself up the grassy and rather boggy slope of Town Bank, heading for the cairn on the skyline ahead.

The final approach to Lank Rigg summit

Lank Rigg summit (to top right), impressively lit against the clouds

All through this section it is not easy to be sure of the exact route I took. There are quite a few cairns and what look like separate tops but no easy way to reconcile them with what is seen on the map. The ‘ridge’ heading north-north-east to Lank Rigg’s summit is flat and not clearly defined, and the summit does not come in view until you are just a few hundred yards away. As I said above, this is not a pleasant walk, and I really, really would not want to be here in mist and rain.

Prehistoric 'homestead' on Lank Rigg

The prehistoric ‘homestead’ on Lank Rigg. Seatallan is the fell in the background.

However, I did eventually make the summit, and at that point a path does emerge to take you over to Whoap (another occasion where a good case could be made for having this as a separate Wainwright, by the way). Once there, Crag Fell is visible ahead, but the path disappears once more; head for the wall and follow it down to the stile which allows you entry into the forest at NY102136. That track goes round to the left; where it joins the main forest road, turn left again – and then look carefully for the path heading off up the slope to the right, which takes you up to Crag Fell after a climb that is shorter and easier than it looks as if it will be.

Wainwright recommends returning to the forest road to cross to Grike but new fences make this difficult. The paths and stiles that have arisen since his day take you across the depression instead, which is a bit boggy, though not too bad. Getting off Grike is not straightforward either. The fence corner at NY084139 is barely ten yards from the forest road but there’s no stile; I climbed over, but that won’t be an option available to all. Frankly I do not know how to get off Grike from the back without having to climb the fence but presumably I missed some stile or gate somewhere. [Update: since I wrote all this the forest around Grike has been felled (see walk 127) and all this may be easier now.]

After that, just follow the clear path down to the Coldfell road – the only confusion may arise at the junction near Kinney How, where the path you need is kind of in the middle, and slightly hidden compared to the other two; you’ll see what I mean once there. At the tarmac road turn right, and just before reaching the Stone Circle, left. Unfortunately for tired legs this path climbs again, up onto the shoulder of Flat Fell, but from here Cleator Moor is clearly visible ahead and the rest of the journey should be straightforward.

Up-on-t’moors-and-windswept-heath commentary: This one was kind of booked in. Clare, Joe and I are up in Morecambe for the weekend looking after C’s gran. The deal was I would get a walk in on the Saturday if the conditions were right, but there was no guarantee of that of course – I note we are at the first anniversary of the downpours which took out Cockermouth town centre last year and from which at least half a dozen bridges have not yet recovered (see walk 24).

Blake Fell

Blake Fell, seen on the walk from Crag Fell to Grike

However, I am lucky once again – this really has been a beautiful autumn. For the first couple of hours it looks as if the conditions will match last week’s, but it does cloud over – and as I descend to Cleator Moor it is quite definitely beginning to get dark, a reminder that the weather is not the only reason why long walks become less likely in the winter. I left Morecambe at just after 7am and did not get walking from Egremont until 10.45, a sign of just how difficult this far western fringe of the Lake District is to reach.

Actually, if it were not for Sellafield nuclear power station, it would probably be even more difficult. This is the first time I have ever been so close to it. I must admit that it is neither as large or as grotesque-looking as I anticipated. In fact, as you can see from the photo at the top of the page, in the winter light there were times today when it looked genuinely beautiful. But there are other, little reasons to find it a bit objectionable which are nothing to do with its physical appearance. While transiting from Seascale railway station to the bus stop and then on the 20-minute ride to Egremont a police patrol car (possibly the same one, possibly more than one) drove past at least four times. I bet there are communities all round Britain that dream of having that level of police presence to make them feel safe. Only – it’s not for them, is it? If anything they’ll be considered part of the ‘problem’.

Black Combe from Lank Rigg

Looking south from Lank Rigg: Black Combe and the Irish Sea in the distance

I turn my back on it, literally, and walk out into the moors. Look at any overview map of the area, like the one on the back of The Western Fells, and it’s clear that these three fells are stuck out on their own, a fair distance from any of the others (though Caw Fell does not look like it is 3.5 miles from Crag Fell, as Wainwright insists it is on page Crag Fell 5). Considering how hard they are to get to without a car, doing them all in one go is the only practical option. Except that the route I take makes me feel I omit all their best features, particularly Crag Fell which apparently has some impressive rocks (hence the name, I guess), but I see no sign of them at all. And Lank Rigg really is a drag, a huge expanse of pathless moorland that resembles what I imagine Dartmoor to be like. I see only one person close up the whole way round, an elderly gentleman ascending Lank Rigg as I come down: we are both as surprised as each other to see someone else, and tell one another so.

Caw Fell and Seatallan

Caw Fell (left) and Seatallan, from Lank Rigg. Fells for another day…

In fact this is probably the first walk where I don’t recommend following in my footsteps. Which is not to say that I had a bad time. The compensation comes with the weather and the views – not of Lakeland, which I hardly see except for a few brief minutes on top of Crag Fell, but south, to Black Combe on the horizon (see picture above) and Sellafield, which as I’ve already mentioned appears quite serene, backlit by the sun glinting off the Irish Sea and filtering down through the gathering cloud. At one point, the largest wedge of geese I’ve ever seen flies overhead, honking merrily as they leave on their winter break.

Which is exactly what I need, really. I’m too busy to find any more time to do this until much nearer Christmas and it is of course possible that by then this good weather pattern will have broken down: there’s also the annual Xmas public transport nightmare to get in the way. So it is possible that this walk will be the last in 2010. My hope was that I would have reached 100 fells by the end of this year and I’m a little behind that, but not significantly so. But I do feel like having a rest anyway. So in a sense, the arrival in Cleator Moor marks the end of a phase.

That place that has clearly seen better days but did not feel unpleasant – the sound of the crowd watching the Wath Brow Hornets rugby club playing on the field by the river carried almost to the Coldfell road two miles away, and the Little Arms bore no resemblance to any of the other pubs I’ve finished a walk in yet was no worse for that. Only the driver of the bus taking me back to Whitehaven did his best to spoil the end of the day, being a particularly miserable example of the breed and ‘forgetting’ to inform me that we were actually at Whitehaven railway station, taking me to the next stop instead, another half-mile away. But I get back to the in-laws’ as scheduled and despite some of the less good things about the day (Lank Rigg, basically), and having no desire to repeat the journey, I still feel it’s been worth it.

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