Scafell and Boat How
The tor of Boat How, with Scafell behind

Date completed: 14th August 2013. A year to the day since I went on walk 61.

Weather conditions:  A common pattern, as a pleasant, fairly warm morning turned into a cool, grey and occasionally drizzly afternoon. I’ve had better but I’ve certainly had many worse.

Summits baggedBoat How (1105’), Illgill Head (1983’), Whin Rigg (1755’), Irton Pike (751’). The first and last summits are Outlying Fells, thus become numbers 225 and 226 of the whole project (out of 330). The middle two are in volume 4, The Southern Fells, and were previously bagged on walk 20a.

Ravenglass station
Ravenglass station. Awaiting the departure of the 10.30 service to Irton Road and Dalegarth.

An additional Birkett is also bagged on the way down: Irton Fell [as opposed to Pike] (1,296′, #455 on that list by altitude).

Start and end point: Irton Road railway station, on the Ravenglass and Eskdale railway. The walk fitted into the gap between the 10.55 arrival from Ravenglass (departed10.30) and the 16.10 return service, which got me back to Ravenglass in time to catch the 16.54 train to Lancaster. However, this could not be done on a day trip from home (Hebden Bridge), as I could not have arrived at Ravenglass early enough to allow it. One needs to be living no further south than Preston to do this one comfortably in a day trip.  Also, I was pushing the pace of the walk a bit toward the end to ensure I caught the 16.10.

Kirk Fell from Boat How
Kirk Fell as seen from Boat How.

For a full timetable of the R&ER, follow this link. Note also that you can buy a through ticket that covers their services as well as the national railway, and considering the price of the R&ER this is well worth doing. A day return from Lancaster, that was valid all the way through to Dalegarth, cost me £24.20 today.

Distance walked: 13 miles approximately.

Total ascent:  2700 feet approx.

Pub at end:  The Bower House Inn, near Irton Road. One thing I like about Eskdale is that it does seem to have preserved a healthy number of decent pubs. The Bower House is a bit characterless inside, but the beer was good and it has a very pretty beer garden.

Harter Fell and Green Crag
Harter Fell (left) and Green Crag, from Boat How

Route Card: Click here for the route card, with a route profile, waypoints, map. Route card for walk 73: Miterdale Circuit

Route: This is a good walk with plenty of fine views and diverse scenery. The highlights are the walk along the top of the Wastwater Screes, and the views of Wasdale and Eskdale generally. Irton Pike is also quite a cute summit. There are no rocky sections but there are a couple of steep uphill trudges, and it is a fairly long walk; I was pushing it to get it done in the 5 hours and 15 minutes I had available between the trains. (Memory-Map estimates 5:40, which is realistic, but means you either have to make the earlier, 9.30 departure out of Ravenglass, or accept that you won’t be home until into the evening.) There is some awkward and pathless ground around the summit of Boat How but otherwise paths are clear and easy to follow.

From Irton Road station head up the lane onto the road, turn left and then immediately right, following a sign that says “Public Bridleway: Miterdale”. Follow this road for just over a mile at which point it splits. Bear left, go over the bridge and then keep going upstream. This takes you through the farm of Low Place (a public right of way), but then you need to look carefully for the footbridge back over the stream, which is concealed in trees.

In Miterdale
Family walking in Miterdale. Scafell ahead, Boat How above to the right.

Keep going up the valley. Scafell is the huge lump rearing up ahead. Past the final enclosure, I looked in vain for the path that the OS Map insists slants back up to the Boat How ridge at this point (more or less where this photo is taken from), but the climb was easy enough without it. There is thick, tussocky grass up there, and some boggy patches, so tread carefully, but this awkward section does not last long. Look for the ancient cairns and stone circles, though don’t expect Stonehenge. Boat How has a cute little summit tor which can be the training ground for novice scramblers.

From Boat How head for the tarn, passing Burnmoor Lodge first, a building which shows signs of both dereliction and habitation; I had lunch here. Thanks to changes in the outflow, Burnmoor Tarn now seems to belong neither to Eskdale nor to Miterdale, but it remains a fairly sizeable sheet of water that you have to cross at its eastern end, over the ‘half-finished’ Bulatt Bridge (you’ll see what I mean once there). Then stick close to the shore of the tarn until a clear path materialises, heading roughly in the direction of Yewbarrow before swinging up the grassy slopes to your left.

Yewbarrow seen from the Screes
Yewbarrow as seen from the top of Wastwater Screes.

The climb up Illgill Head is as much of a trudge as it looks as if it will be, but recompense is found in the excellent retrospective views of Wasdale Head. Yewbarrow looks particularly bristly from this angle (as indeed it does all the way down to Whin Rigg), no wonder it was a difficult climb on walk 43b.

The walk from Illgill Head to Whin Rigg is always going to be worth doing. It is impossible to get the full effect of the Screes from above but that’s not the point; it is memorable, rather, for its dramatic situations, frequently bringing you out at the head of gullies that plunge precipitously down to Wast Water far below. The views further afield are great too (if you can allow for the prominent sight of Sellafield power station, only about 6 miles away), ranging from the coastal plain up Wasdale to Great Gable and Kirk Fell. Once past the first big cairn in the direction of Whin Rigg, bear to the right along a thin path that sticks closely to the edge. Do be careful — the cliff plunges vertically down at several points — but there is no need to be paranoid.

Muncaster Fell, from Miterdale
Muncaster Fell, from Miterdale

Once at Whin Rigg summit just stick to the path that descends past the natural gouge of Greathawl Gill and then down the ridge. Irton Pike will be visible ahead in clear weather to give direction but it would take something special to get lost at this stage. However, you do want to bear right as you approach the Pike’s wooded enclosure; the promising-looking forest road which heads through the gate at NY126018 (what’s this?) is not the one you want.

Having found the right path and visited the Pike’s little summit, just go straight on, picking up a path that slopes steeply down through the bracken and woods and comes out onto the Eskdale – Santon Bridge road. From the map, it looks as if one could go straight on here, eventually coming out at Plumgarth, to save a last mile walking on the road, but I was pushed for time and Wainwright suggests the road too, so I just took to the tarmac. This passes the Bower House pub and then returns you to Irton Road station.

Carriages on La’al Ratty

Ratty Ramble commentary: I like La’al Ratty; that is, the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway. If it wasn’t there, Eskdale would be nigh on inaccessible by public transport. In the Irton Pike chapter of The Outlying Fells Wainwright says that the R&ER gives British Rail a “lesson in how to run a railway”, and though I have no complaints about BR’s successors today (Northern Rail and TPE ran everything perfectly punctually), I concur with his assessment of the Ratty’s professionalism.

In fact, bearing in mind I did all this on a single through ticket, in every way the R&ER could be treated as just part of the network today. The staff at Irton Road station (which is not staffed all the time, by the way, but was today) were very keen to tell the guard on my return that I had a mainline connection, not that I was ever worried about missing it. I like the way you can see sensible-looking adults cramming themselves onto the tiny carriages, and although I would not want to do this on a rainy day, I like the sense of closeness to nature that you get by sitting out in the open air and trundling through the woods and valleys of Eskdale watching the landscape unfold around you. Long may it serve the locals and visitors to this part of the world.

Illgill Head
Looking back to Illgill Head and Wasdale Head from Whin Rigg

The Outlying Fells are going to see me become a frequent user of the Cumbrian Coast line as well, with so many of them clustering in the south of the District, and that’s fine too. It’s such a beautiful journey between Lancaster and Ravenglass, crossing the many broad estuaries of Cumbria, with the views of the sea and the mountains behind. It is not exactly an express line, however, taking ages to get round, which is why for this trip I needed to be staying in Morecambe to make it feasible. But that’s all part of the parameters of the project, I’m used to it by now.

Burnmoor Lodge
Burnmoor Lodge, another one of those buildings miles from anywhere that crop up in the Lakes

The nicest event of the day — trivially nice but still unexpected — was finding a £5 note sitting in the grass of Irton Pike. You know how it goes; when I saw it, rather than picking it up straight away I first of all looked around, just to see if I was being watched or filmed or something. I then had to check it was real, looking for that metal strip buried inside the paper. But real it was. So Irton Pike, at number 226, becomes the most profitable fell thus far. I liked it besides that; the woods around the summit are colourful and fresh, and it’s good that it has not fallen into inaccessibility as Wainwright feared it would when he wrote about it in 1970.

So, two more down, plenty to go yet however. Today was a good mix of the less dramatic terrain of the OFs with old favourites from the main volumes, in this case the two Wastwater Screes fells, and that’s a sensible pattern to maintain where I can. To just have done Boat How and Irton Pike today would not have been a worthwhile walk but no hike will seem unfulfilling when it takes in the vistas around Wasdale. One day, I might even see that valley in the sunshine. You never know.

Whin Rigg
Looking back to Whin Rigg, from the ridge down to Irton Pike. Not as sunny as it was this morning, I noticed.

My next LD walk will be in September some time. However, if you like, check back here after the last weekend in August when I’m going to do a weekend hiking in Norway, something I’m thoroughly looking forward to. If it all works out OK I’ll add a new entry to the ‘International Walks’ page.

One Response to “Walk 73: Miterdale circuit”

  1. […] 14th August 2013 saw me undertake walk 73, which permitted a mix of two Outlying Fells (Boat How and Irton Pike) and two of the […]

It's always nice to hear what you think....

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: