Bluebells in Spring Hill wood

Bluebells in Spring Hill wood

Date completed: 4th June 2013.

Weather conditions: Superlative. Whatever else happens on this project to bag all the Outlying Fells, it sure got off to a great start weather-wise. Perfect blue skies, good temperature, a cool breeze where necessary. Best June walking weather for three years, and one of the best ever, frankly.

I would suggest that this walk is best done at this time of year: first because you get an amazing display of bluebells and wild garlic in Spring Wood [hence its name, I guess], and you will also avoid the bracken which looks as if it will cover certain portions of the route later in the summer.

Scout Scar and Morecambe Bay

Looking south to Scout Scar and Morecambe Bay. Blackpool Tower is just visible on the horizon.

Summits bagged: All four summits in the Potter Fell chapter (pp. 8-13 of the Outlying Fells): Brunt Knott (1404’), Ulgraves (1090’) and two nameless summits (1299’ and 1283’). Therefore, nos. 4-7 of the 116 OFs., and nos 218-221 of the total 330.

Start and end point: Staveley railway station. No buses required. The walk fitted comfortably into the gap between the 8.35 arrival from Oxenholme (7.53 from Preston with a change) and the departure of the 14.05. There is also currently a 15.04 departure which would allow for a more leisurely version of the walk, though I hardly pushed the pace.

Distance walked: 8.67 miles

Total ascent:  1935 feet

Ewe and lambs

Ewe and lambs, on Brunt Knott

Pub at end: On my last visit to Staveley in April 2011 (walk 35) the Eagle and Child appeared to be the only open pub in the village, but it has since been rejoined by the Duke William. I patronised both places this afternoon. The Eagle & Child is the better of the two: having a beer garden by the river helps, but it just feels a more welcoming place all round, not that there was anything wrong with the Duke William (which does also have a beer garden out the back).

Route:  In The Outlying Fells, Wainwright changes style, and provides much more detailed textual descriptions of his routes than he does in the main Pictorial Guide, where diagrams do more of the work. So I will not trouble myself to repeat large swathes of information that is also available in his pages, at least, not where I follow his described route.

I am predicting that most of the walks in OF territory will be less strenuous, and certainly less rocky, than in the main Guide, and this is true of this opening walk of the series. There are a couple of steep bits, both in ascent and descent, but the walk will be suitable for everyone. The best reasons to do it are some fine views of Longsleddale and the Kendal district, and also Gurnal Dubs which is one of the prettier reservoirs you are ever going to encounter (see picture): if you follow my schedule, it’s a fine place for lunch.

Gurnal Dubs

Gurnal Dubs

It doesn’t really matter how you get from Staveley station to the main road through the village, but once there you need to look for the path that runs between the Duke William pub and the church/graveyard, signposted ‘Riverside Walk’. Cross the river, turn right instead of left, but then keep left to come out onto the road, where turn right and then look for the next ‘Public Footpath’ sign, which goes over a wall to the left at point SD481983 (what’s this?). You will shortly be faced by a pair of gates, both of which are labelled “Dorothy Farrer’s Spring Wood Reserve” – take the one on the right. This leads you through Spring Wood which at the time I did the walk, early June, was absolutely carpeted in bluebells and wild garlic (see pictures): a spectacular display and well worth seeing.

Ladder stile

Ladder stile, coming off Brunt Knott

Once you come out to the road at Spring Hag (a strangely ugly name for a beautiful spot), ignore the path to the left and follow the tarmac downhill for a short way to a junction, where turn left (there is a Footpath sign) up the drive to Side House, another idyllic dwelling. From this point you are now on Wainwright’s route and can let him direct you (pages 12-13).

A few points though: first, to get up to the first (unnamed) summit, I tried a short-cut straight up rather than following the wall round to the right as Wainwright advises: it’s practical, but very steep, and his route is doubtless easier. Coming off Brunt Knott and heading for Ulgraves, the conquest of the second unnamed summit (now with an OS spot height at 390m, or 1283’) is straightforward, though don’t keep your eyes open for a path: there isn’t one. Just head right once the wall starts to level out, at about NY487005. To get to Ulgraves is less straightforward, however. The crossing of the two walls between unnamed summit 2 and Ulgraves, noted by A.W. on page 13, is complicated by a wire fence that has been erected alongside each. Crossing points are available, but they have to be looked for and, particularly with the second wall, require a bit of creativity (in both cases, rock outcrops which give you a leg-up are the key).

View of Longsleddale from Ulgraves

The head of Longsleddale, viewed from Ulgraves

Nor is Ulgraves itself necessarily easy to spot from amongst a selection of similarly-sized rocky outcrops in the general area (something which is unclear from Wainwright’s map). Look for its tall and distinctive cairn to give you direction — a cairn which, once you get there, you notice is not on the highest point of the fell, but which does have the best view.

To get to Gurnal Dubs, be led by stiles and gates, over and through the various walls which interpose themselves between Ulgraves and the reservoir. It doesn’t particularly matter which way you go around it, but head for the obvious boathouse at one end, by the dam. This is a beautiful spot, the highlight of the walk, and it’s well worth taking a rest here before the final walk back to Staveley.

Brunt Knott summit

The summit of Brunt Knott

From the boathouse bear right along a clear path that goes up and over a low ridge and heads for Potter Tarn below. Once at the tarn, follow the path round to the left, past the outflow (see picture) and then down a gentle slope, eventually crossing the path from Side House that you came up this morning. You could, of course, retrace your steps at this point, but for some variety in the return journey, instead head straight over this path and head through pleasant fields by a beck, then beari left through the garden of the beautiful house of Birkfield (it’s a right of way, so don’t worry).

Head up Birkfield’s drive, turn right once you get to the country lane at the top, and follow this for a couple of hundred yards before reaching the farm of Littlewood, then follow the footpath sign (Barley Bridge 3/4 mile) through its yard, then a gate, then bear right through meadows and fields, looking always for the next stile or gate. This path takes you down to Barley Bridge, but once out on tarmac again, don’t turn left (tempting…) but right, then immediately left across the bridge, before turning left and heading down the road to Staveley village.

Potter Tarn dam

Potter Tarn dam

‘Off we go again’ commentary: It’s exactly five months since Clare, Joe and I came off Latrigg and I became, according to the list kept by the Long Distance Walkers’ Association (), the 649th person to register their completion of the 214 Wainwrights: the number corresponding to the 214 separate chapters in the seven-volume Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells.

Since then I’ve been away from the UK, mainly in Australia but also with visits to New Zealand and Fiji. All three countries have some great walking in them: particularly New Zealand, and there I completed two of the ‘Great Walks’, equivalent to the UK’s Long Distance Footpaths: I’ve summarised my experience on the ‘International Walks’ page of this blog.

I returned to the UK on May 27th and, after an initial few days of poor weather, the sun came out last Friday and has remained burning in a cloudless sky since. Put simply, it’s glorious here at the moment, which after the farce that was the ‘summer’ of 2012, is like, well, the sunshine after rain, so to speak. I’m still on my academic sabbatical and see no reason to hang around at home dreaming of walks when I can simply go on one.

Walker in meadow

Walker in meadow, near Littlewood Farm

What to do though? Do the 214 again? Go somewhere else? Not bother with all this peak-bagging and ticking-off stuff and just walk, for the hell of it? All possibilities, sure. But there’s this part of me that likes crossing things off a list. And throughout the original 214 blog there have been these slight doubts, inconveniences almost, where I have to admit to myself and to readers that there actually is a ‘Book Eight’ of the Pictorial Guide, and 116 other summits which Mr Wainwright did eventually record in his own inimitable style. The same organisation which keeps the register of completions of the 214 also has another list, the ‘330’, the 214 + the 116 Outlying Fells (OFs). And at the time of writing only about 120 people have registered their completion of that one.

Well, it’s something to do isn’t it. Off we go. Let’s get a couple of things sorted out first, however.

View to central Lakes

View towards the central Lake District from Brunt Knott: fells visible from Pike O’Blisco and Crinkle Crags on the left, round to Langdale Pikes on the right

I have no intention of treating this list in such a single-minded manner as I did the 214. That came to define all my walking over the period July 2009 – January 2013, I literally wasn’t walking anywhere else. That won’t be the case here. It’ll probably take me at least two years and probably three to get all these done.

I’m still doing it by public transport only. I don’t see any reason to change that commitment, I don’t own a car, I don’t want to own a car and I certainly don’t want to start hiring one and driving back from the Lakes after a long (or even a short) walk. Yes, there are some OFs that are hard to reach without a car but that was the same with the main 214 too, it’s all part of the challenge.

Numbering continues from the last time. This is walk 71, therefore. I’ve already picked up three of the OFs on earlier walks, and I’m not being a purist about it and restarting: thus, Orrest Head on walk 12, Muncaster Fell on walk 20a and Great Worm Crag on walk 40 all count and I won’t be revisiting them (and have been retrospectively added to the ‘Fells bagged’ section of those walk pages, though I’ve not messed with the general count).

Wild garlic in wood

Wild garlic covers the ground in Spring Wood. You could stock an entire restaurant for a full season with ramsons from this place: it’s the motherlode.

Nor am I going to be purist about the revisiting of fells already bagged. If I end up bagging an OF on a walk which also revisits some of the other 214 – and that’ll be the case sometimes (as some of the OFs are just too insignificant to devote a whole day’s walking to bagging) – then I’ll just note that here. I’ve been close to the summits of a couple of others — off the top of my head, Flat Fell and Heughscar Hill — but I’m not sure enough that I made the actual tops in both cases, so I’ll do them again.

I’m not going to do a separate fell page for every one of the 116 summits in Book Eight, several of which are not even named. But I will do one for each chapter at least, and may sometimes expand on this, I’ll just see how it goes at the time.

OK, enough of this administrative crap. Today’s walk was a good and, I hope, representative starting point for the new list: certainly I hope this is true in weather terms, as it ranks up there with the best, a truly gorgeous early summer’s day. It didn’t even do what it often does in the Lakes and start off fine but then cloud over after lunch as the Irish Sea warms up and blows in. More of this please — 2012 was so depressing, meteorologically, that this already feels like a better year and I’ve barely been in the UK a month in total (and I’m well aware I missed most of a long and bitter winter).

Hugill Fell

Hugill Fell – another OF: plenty more to do now.

The walking was straightforward, routefinding being more of a problem than terrain: unexciting in some ways but there were excellent views to enjoy and Gurnal Dubs, particularly, was a nice discovery. Ulgraves also had a decent summit with a classy panorama. There were other walkers on the paths later on, but also a nice feeling of isolation. And I got finished early, so with no buses to worry about, could catch a train from Staveley that got me home by 5pm.

Beats working, anyway.

One Response to “Walk 71: Potter Fell”

  1. […] Well, today I went out in the sun and did another 4, on Potter Fell. So let’s call it walk 71 and… well, you can read the rest on that page, can’t you. Welcome back to my […]

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