Ullswater from Heughscar Hill
The very good view of Ullswater from Heughscar Hill

Date completed: 28th June 2014.

Weather conditions: Dry and still with very little wind, so good for walking, but cloudy, so not good for photography. Then again, at this time of year, it rarely is; summer is the least interesting season photographically.

Summits bagged: Five today: Bonscale Pike (1718’ above sea level), Loadpot Hill (2201’), Arthur’s Pike (1747’), Heughscar Hill (1231’) and Dunmallet (775’).

The first three are in Wainwright’s volume 2, The Far Eastern Fells, and were bagged for a first time back on walk 42,  August 2011. But as I am going to do all the 330 at least twice from now until I die, they count again. See the commentary below.

Ullswater and Catstycam
View from the Ullswater boat. Catstycam is unmistakeable in the background.

The last two are in The Outlying Fells and were therefore bagged as numbers 261 and 262 of the full round of 330.

The additional Birkett of Swarth Fell (1,788′, #276 on that list by altitude), just south of Bonscale Pike summit, is also bagged today.

Start and end points: Started at Howtown Pier. This is served by the Ullswater Steamers boats, in today’s case, from Pooley Bridge — there is also a service to Glenridding. Pooley Bridge, can, in turn, be reached on the #508 bus from Penrith. Ended in Pooley Bridge town centre, at the bus stop by the memorial outside the Crown Inn.

I had ample time to do the walk between the 10.15 boat arrival at Howtown and the 15.11 bus departure from Pooley Bridge back to Penrith rail station. Even if one does run out of time on the walk, Dunmallet could be omitted.

River Eamont
The River Eamont, from the bridge that Pooley Bridge is named for.

Distance walked: 9.6 miles approximately.

Total ascent: 2400 feet approx.

Pub at end: The Crown Inn, Pooley Bridge. Big beer garden by the river, OK beer, lots of people, but then again it was a Saturday in summer.

Route: The best reason to do this walk is its excellent views. The lower and middle reaches of Ullswater are frequently visible, backed by Blencathra (the ‘Saddle’ being very well seen) and the Helvellyn range. The highest parts of the Pennines, backing the Eden valley, are also clearly seen.

It’s a good walk in that it is, mostly, easy underfoot, and with no route finding problems in clear weather. In mist, however, it should not be undertaken. And it does begin with a very steep climb: Bonscale Pike is around 1200 feet of continuous ascent in only just over a mile. For this reason, though it looks logical on the map, I would not do this walk the other way around as that descent would be very difficult, particularly at the end of the walk.

Blencathra range from Loadpot Hill
The Blencathra range, seen from Loadpot Hill. L-R: Blencathra, Bannerdale Crags (end on), Bowscale Fell and, I think, High Pike. Great Mell Fell is in front.

Start from the pier by heading out on to the road, turn right, then left into the drive of the Howtown Hotel. Go past the hotel and follow the tarmac into the wood, but then at the unsignposted junction, turn left up to Mellguards, rather than going straight on, which would take you up Fusedale.

At the cottages of Mellguards, go through the gate then follow the path along the wall for a hundred yards or so, looking for the path that goes up the face of Bonscale Pike. This is a pretty thin track but it is there, and remains continuous all the way up what, as I mentioned above, is an unremitting ascent. At one point (a flat rock with a cairn built on it) there does appear to be a choice, and I headed more to the right, coming at the summit from the south (and thereby bagging the Birkett of Swarth Fell, which is actually slightly higher than Bonscale Pike).

From Bonscale Pike, the gentle dome of Loadpot Hill rises to the south. This does not have to be added to the walk but it’s easy enough — from Bonscale Pike to Loadpot Hill then back to Arthur’s Pike took me just over an hour. As with this whole walk, specific route finding advice is unnecessary in clear weather, and in mist you should not be up here anyway. Should you omit Loadpot Hill and go straight to Arthur’s Pike, however, take heed of the advice in Wainwright, and do not make a beeline between the two summits, as the gorge of Swarthbeck Gill between them cannot be safely crossed too far down.

At Arthur’s Pike summit, Heughscar Hill can be seen to the northeast, looking green and rather flat;  but it is both further away and a steeper climb than it looks. There are so many paths round here that the best advice is just to make a beeline for it and pick your route along the way. The summit is near the end of the narrow plantation which can be seen on the hillside (compare it with the map at this point).

Cottongrass on Moor Divock
Much of Moor Divock was a riot of cottongrass today.

Though Heughscar Hill is rather lacking in its own excitements it has an excellent view of Ullswater (see picture at top), the middle and lower reaches of the lake being seen as a narrow, curving slash through the landscape as it rises towards the Helvellyn range in the background.

Getting off Heughscar Hill is a matter of heading in the rough direction of Little Mell Fell/Blencathra and picking a way down the hill and through the bracken until one reaches the broad and partly surfaced track than then joins tarmac at Roehead farm. This road can then be followed into Pooley Bridge.

Dunmallet woods
The woods of Dunmallet. Somewhere round here is the summit.

Dunmallet still remains to be done however, and I imagine that anyone planning to follow my routes exactly (if there is such a one of you out there) would look at all the various pubs, cafes and seats of the town, particularly on a hot day, and wonder if it’s worth the while. I certainly was. Only my bagging obligations got me up it. But it is at least a short climb — I did it in 25 minutes up and down from the car park at the far end of the bridge over the river (the outflow of Ullswater). 40 minutes is ample time.

The route starts at a gate right by the car park and here there is a signpost pointing both ways round the path which encircles the hill. I turned right, went up the steep slope, then at another crossroads, took the one of the four paths that does not have a sign and this went up to the top — but bear in mind the exact summit of Dunmallet is impossible to determine. Plenty of paths then head back down and you will rejoin the ‘circular route’ at some stage, then just return to Pooley Bridge and await the bus in one of its many pubs or cafes.

Bonscale Tower and Ullswater
Bonscale Tower and its view of the foot of Ullswater.

Commentary: I won’t bore you with personal life stuff but a couple of things are worth pointing out.  One of the major bugbears on this project thus far has been the stupid and inconvenient connections between trains and buses at Penrith, with several key buses leaving the rail station between 9am and 9.15 every day, but no train from the south stopping there between 8.00 (too early to make from home) and 9.20.

However, it’s nice to be able to report something positive for a change, and things have been helped enormously by the recent addition of a service from Preston (7.58) that stops in Penrith at  8.53. I doubt this service will ever be fully punctual, seeing as it runs behind Virgin’s notoriously unpunctual 7.53 Preston —> Edinburgh, but there’s a reasonable amount of leeway.

Bonscale Pike summit
Bonscale Pike summit

The upshot of all this tedious trainspotter stuff is that suddenly the whole north-eastern quarter of the Lake District is a damn sight more accessible, particularly Ullswater. It also proves that it can be done, that there are sometimes people who make decisions that actually help the travellers who use the services. The train meets the bus, the bus drops off right outside the Ullswater Steamers pier a few minutes before a boat leaves, and suddenly one can be in Martindale by 10.15 in the morning — and believe me that’s a fine place to be.

Canoeists on Ullswater
Another view from the deck of the “Western Belle”. You too can now be here by 10am on any given morning (see text).

It is partly for this reason — a desire to be in nice places like that every so often — that I have decided there seems little point in not starting to account for the Wainwrights I have, by now, done twice. From the full 330, these are:

So these can now be considered summits 1 – 7 of my second round of the 330. I haven’t finished the first one yet but it won’t be hard to keep track of the overlaps.

Arthur's Pike summit
Another solo walker on Arthur’s Pike summit

I’m getting a bit bored of just doing the OFs anyway. I want to get back into the heart of the District, at least on some of the walks. That’s what I’m going to do next time, anyway, for I want to mark a particular date that is coming up. July 19th 2014 will be the exact fifth anniversary of walk 1, up Walla Crag (now the starting point of both the full rounds), and as this year it’s a) a Saturday and b) the first day of my summer fortnight off work, I will mark this date by going up a proper mountain. Probably whatever the weather, so keep your fingers crossed for me.


One Response to “Walk 84: Ullswater, east end”

  1. […] my opinion Ullswater is the most beautiful of the District’s lakes, and on walk 84 I spent a few hours in its vicinity, taking the boat to Howtown and then walking back to Pooley […]

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