Orrest Head from Brant fell

Orrest Head, viewed from Brant Fell. Behind it is the valley of Troutbeck, with the Caudale Moor/High Street massif in the background.

Date completed: 29th May 2014 [with Joe].

Weather conditions:  Dry, but cloudy, dull and with a breeze that may even have been describable as ‘chilly’.

Summits bagged: Five, from three separate chapters in The Outlying Fells:

  • Orrest Head (783’ above sea level);

    The tarn on School Knott

    The tarn on School Knott

  • the three summits in the School Knott chapter, being School Knott itself (760’), Grandsire (823’) and the unnamed summit at 806’;
  • Brant Fell (629’).

Orrest Head had already been bagged on walk 12, so becomes the first fell in volume 8 to be bagged twice. The others become numbers 257-260 of the full list of 330.

Start and end points: Started at Windermere railway station, arriving on the 10.49 from Oxenholme. Finished at the bus stop outside St Martin’s church, in the centre of Bowness. From here, a bus can be caught back to Windermere station. We arrived in good time to get back to the 16.00 departure back to Oxenholme.

Lambs chilling out

Lambs chilling out, near School Knott

Distance walked: 6.82 miles.

Total ascent: 1265 feet.

Pub at end: The last couple of miles of the walk coincide with the end of the Dales Way, a long distance footpath that starts in Ilkley, Yorkshire. The Royal Oak in Bowness advertises itself as the ‘official Dales Way completion pub’, making the most of its location. It seemed a decent enough place, and as well as doing me a beer did a good ice cream for Joe.

Route: This is a very easy walk, although also longer than expected, particularly in the latter stages down from the School Knott group. Certainly it has been the easiest walk so far that has bagged five summits; one reason I could get Joe to do it without undue complaint. The views of Windermere (the lake) and the south-eastern fells, from Coniston round to Red Screes, are very good: Orrest Head’s view is the most famous, but all of the summits have a decent version of it.

The route is generally well signposted on the ground but then again, not always, and you should (as always) take a map, and Wainwright’s volume 8 will help too. It could easily be reversed, but then you would have more climbing, as Windermere rail station lies a good couple of hundred feet higher than Bowness.

Orrest Head sign

Sign at bottom of path to Orrest Head

The path to Orrest Head is indicated by a big sign by the Windermere hotel, opposite the exit of the rail station approach road. Despite this it would be very possible to go wrong almost straight away by continuing round on the footpath to the left, but you must instead take the next right — there is a small sign here but this could easily be missed in the first flush of enthusiasm for the day. After that just keep following the road as it winds up the hill, becoming a track and bringing you out to the summit with its various seats and view indicator.

You could just come back down to the station again, but for variety, and to avoid having to walk through the whole of the Droomer housing estate, we dropped off Orrest Head to the east, taking the ‘permitted path’ through Common Wood and following the sign to Common Lane which brought us out onto the A591. Crossing this is the only major hazard of the day. Follow the main road to the right for a few yards then take the bridleway to the left, which leads down through fields and then across the railway line.

Langdale Pikes from Orrest Head

Langdale Pikes — the classic view from Orrest Head

The housing estate on the other side is confusing. I found a way through and on to School Knott mainly by a) just keeping turning left and b) guesswork. The map on Wainwright’s page 31 was not immediately helpful either. The key landmark to look for is Mill Beck. After we had found this and followed a path down one side, the ‘Gated Road’ sign mentioned in the book text appears and we could get out onto the open fell of School Knott. Through the gate, bear left onto the less clear path (as noted in the book), and you should be on top of School Knott about 10 minutes later.

From here, Grandsire and the unnamed summit are both visible and although slightly fiddly the route to the next two summits should not be difficult to establish with the help of the map and volume 8 to hand. And after that it is all easy thanks to joining the Dales Way, this being the track that snakes its way round the side of the boggy basin that sits below Grandsire. Join this, follow it round to the left (west), and there are then a profusion of signs to keep you on the right track all the way back to Bowness.

However, the Way does not visit Brant Fell summit, so if you want to bag this, look for a footpath that rises to the left, behind a wall, just after you pass Brantfell Farm with its twin drives, both marked ‘Private’.

Grandsire summit

The summit of Grandsire

You can then drop off Brant Fell via the final viewpoint of Post Knott, but this is mediocre compared to what has already been seen today. The final descent into the town is the steepest gradient of the day (another reason not to do this walk in reverse); you pass a seat where there may well be Dales Way finishers enjoying their achievement (see note below) and the Royal Oak pub sits right at the bottom of the road to welcome you.

The bus stop is right outside St Martin’s Church nearby; there are regular buses back to the railway station.

Joe eats his ice cream

Joe gets his ice cream at the end of the walk (in the Royal Oak)

Not-school commentary: It’s half term, and I’m in charge of Joe. I am also supposed to be working but there’s only so much allowance I can give him with regard to just sitting around in the house playing with his electronica. The weather has been quite poor this week but today the forecast holds up just about well enough, so it’s a-walking that we will go. He finds the whole project more amusing when we realise that School Knott is in fact quite an appropriate fell to be bagging during a half-term holiday. You get it, right? Think of Wayne’s World.

This ‘Windermere round’ is one of the easiest Wainwright walks in terms of its logistics; just get to Windermere station and it’s right there. Since May 18th, however, when significant changes were wrought to certain train timetables, particularly the Hebden Bridge services, things have not been running smoothly round there. it was just all so sadly inevitable. The new times exist but the staff rotas don’t get properly revised, so trains don’t have drivers or guards. Signals get out of sync. The connection times at Preston are now uncomfortably tight.

View north from School Knott

View north from School Knott

Our HB — Preston service runs late. This is OK, as the Preston — Oxenholme TransPennine Express service we were going to catch is also running late; but it’s running late enough to mean we would miss the connection to Windermere. However, the previous Virgin service is also running late, meaning we can catch that and get the connection (which is the only train associated with our outward journey that runs on time). Should it have to be this way?

These fells are all vey small, but worth climbing for the views and general fresh air. Joe is tired by the end and I admit that the final stages did seem rather longer than I anticipated. But he did it and impresses himself, I think, that he bagged five in one go. He has now done 23 Wainwrights (from the full list of 330). I may still, by a process of osmosis, get him to do his own full set one day.

Sheep on School Knott

On School Knott. Hey — two sheep pictures in one day.

On the way down to Bowness we passed a walking couple sitting on the seat above the town with a sign saying ‘For those who have done the Dales Way’, they asked me to take their picture. I have long considered doing a long-distance walk in the UK, with the Dales Way a candidate; it starts at Ilkley in Yorkshire, goes up Wharfedale then over the Shap fells to Bowness. Six or seven days is reckoned to be the schedule for that one. Then there’s Wainwright’s own Coast to Coast (two weeks) or the Pennine Way (three). But I don’t know if I want several consecutive days on the hoof. Three days on the Heaphy Track last year was about enough for me. But maybe I could do the DW in two blocks with a day’s rest in-between. I feel happy doing what I’m doing at the moment, anyway.

So, that’s another four done (Orrest Head was already bagged, but needed revisiting as I had no decent photos of it — so its fell page is now properly done). 260 down, 70 to go. There are some real logistical buggers in the remainder however. Still, all part of the challenge. Onward — though there won’t be another walk now until towards the end of June.


2 Responses to “Walk 83: Around Windermere town and Bowness”

  1. […] simple walk today, walk 83, both physically and logistically, though complicated by the joys of the new train timetables, and […]

  2. Hazel Edwards said

    Sounds lovely Drew, we will be back in the lakes June20/21st, staying in Troutbeck, nr Keswick, my hubby is on a guided walk up Scafell plus a few others. I, this time, will be reading and enjoying the views over Blencathra.

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