On Blawith Knott

On the ascent of Blawith Knott, looking south

Date completed: 29th December 2014.

Weather conditions: The iciest walk I have done in nearly three years (specifically, since walk 51 in February 2012), with a hard frost in the morning. But the day itself was sunny and very pleasant, at least until mid-afternoon when it clouded over. Really very good conditions for walking.

Frosty field

Frosty field just outside Ulverston

Summits bagged: Tottlebank Height (775 feet above sea level); Blawith Knott (814’); and Burney (979’). The first two — which between them comprise the Blawith Knott chapter inThe Outlying Fells — were previously bagged on walk 78, so this time become numbers 11 and 12 of my emerging second Wainwright round. Burney had not been bagged before so becomes number 281 of the first 330.

Start and end points: Started at Ulverston railway station and ended at Kirkby-in-Furness station. The walk fitted between the 0930 arrival at Ulverston (departed Lancaster 0848) and the 1639 departure from K-in-F (though on the day I caught it, the latter train was 26 minutes late).

Ice and stones

Ice and stones. It was a cold one today.

Distance walked: Most of this walk is outside the National Park boundary so at the moment I can’t Memory-Map it. Going on what I can judge from the map, how long it took and how it made me feel, 15 miles is reasonable.

Total ascent: About 1,500 feet, but this is an educated guess.

Pub at end: The Burlington Inn, Kirkby-in-Furness. Nice beer, and comfortable inside, though the landlady could have been friendlier (mind you I did turn up caked in mud from the waist down). On weekdays it opens from 4pm., and is five minutes’ walk from the train station. On the way to the station you pass another pub, called The Ship, but this seemed to be closed when I passed so I have nothing to report about this one.

Burney from the north

Burney, pictured from the north, from the slopes of Tottlebank Height

Route: As several of the walks in the Outlying Fells have been, this is not really a ‘fellwalk’. Most of it takes place through farmland or on tarmac. However, the three summits bagged are all worthwhile, with good views and a sense of achievement.  And this is fair enough considering the distance waked, which is considerable and not to be underestimated — I was pretty knackered at the end of this walk and the first summit. Tottlebank Height, was not reached until 2pm, despite leaving Ulverston station at just after 9.30am. I must admit this turned out to be a rather longer walk than I had anticipated. It could be shortened by 4 miles or so by only doing Burney, but that would still be a long way to walk to do only one summit.

For all those first four and a half hours, almost all the way from Ulverston to Tottlebank Height, you follow the route of the Cumbria Way, an officially designated Long Distance Footpath, which starts at Ulverston and heads north, eventually terminating at Carlisle, 70 miles later.  This is good for me, because it means that detailed routefinding advice is largely superfluous.

Old Hall Farm

Old Hall Farm

There are plenty of signposts on the way — except at the first point you really need one, in Ulverston town centre after you’ve been dutifully following the CW signs from the station. When the sign is not there, turn left, the start of the Way is on the edge of the square with the car park and little obelisk in it. (See the picture and the details at http://www.cumbriaway.org.uk/cw1.html).

Most of the rest of the route from Ulverston to Tottlebank Height is well-enough signposted to get you there, but not quite every junction. I would keep the OS map to hand. It basically alternates between cross-field routes and walking on tarmac, but these are all quiet country lanes, and the only car I passed all the way to Tottlebank was being driven by a guy looking for Muncaster Castle and clearly having been led astray by his sat-nav. (I resisted the urge to point out that he was probably lost because of his sat-nav, not despite it.)

Beacon Fell and Wetherlam

Looking north. Beacon Fell in red, Wetherlam behind in grey and white.

The route leaves the Cumbria Way, finally, on the slopes of Tottlebank Height.  It bears off to the right, whereas you need to head up the slope; by this time following the later stages of walk 78, in reverse. It is not a difficult climb, and ample recompense is provided by the view of the Coniston fells which suddenly reveals itself at the summit. From here the route to Blawith Knott is obvious, and that has an even better view.

Drop down off Blawith Knott to the south, where a decent path goes down, fairly steeply, to the road below. Return to tarmac for another half-mile or so, during which time Burney starts to look a fairly hefty climb — OK, it’s not a high fell but it’s been a long walk up to this point. Struggling up the fell’s steep west slope did not look appealing. The alternative is to turn left at the road junction at SD257872 (what’s this) and, when that reaches the little plantation, take the path on the right that leads up the more gentle north ridge of Burney. This is still a bit of a haul but redeemed by increasingly good views of the Duddon Estuary, backed by Black Combe, a panorama of the whole southern part of the Lake District and across to the Pennines in the east.  An excellent picture.

View from above Kirkby

Above Kirkby-in-Furness: sheep and the offshore wind farm. A sign also that it was getting quite dark by the time I finished this walk.

Once the summit of Burney has been attained, simply head straight over it and down the path to the road below. The final task is to get back to Kirkby, achieved by first heading along the access road to the slate quarries.  The road can be used for a few hundred yards but you cannot enter the quarries themselves and must drop down off it to the right, where indicated by a signpost: but don’t then go through the gate, instead, stick close to the wall and you will be led onto a path that leads below the quarries’ vast spoil heaps, the most rock you will be close to all day, reminiscent of the tops of Scafell Pike or Bowfell almost.

Hills above Ulverston

The hills above Ulverston: Hoad Hill with the monument on, Flan Hill nearer the camera.

Simply stick as close as you can to the boulders and eventually you go through a gate and onto a lane that drops all the way to the main road north of Kirkby, following the line of an old railway that once served the quarries. Once out on the road, head south and the rather drab-looking village of Kirkby is a few minutes away. Turn right at the Burlington Inn if you seek the railway station.

Last of 2014 commentary: I had hoped all through December that the walking year wasn’t over just yet, and the weather over the weekend was bright, sunny and cold with some great snowscapes where I live in Yorkshire. When much the same was forecast for today, Monday 29th December, it was too good an opportunity to pass up.

Cows heading south

Cows heading south at their own sweet pace, near Gawthwaite

I really need to regain some momentum with the walking to be honest. The autumn period, September through to December, is always my busiest time at work but in the other years I have been doing this project I still seem to have managed to keep up the pace with the walks. Not this year. I feel like I’ve barely done any since early September and my general level of fitness and enthusiasm for the whole thing have suffered notably. And there is a specific reason this can no longer be tolerated, which is that in July 2015, I am committed to being part of an organised trek up Kilimanjaro, the highest point in the world that one can reach just by walking. The simple fact is that I need to get fitter, to get back into the habit of walking, particularly on consecutive days.

I have worked out how to get to all the remaining Outlying Fells, including those now made extra-remote by the ideology-inspired withdrawal of more peripheral bus services. There are about 12 or 13 walks left to finish the 330. 2014 has seen me complete only 13 walks, the fewest in a year since I started on this, but I do want to pick up the pace and some of the remaining walks are either very long (I’m looking at at least one, and possibly two or three, 17- to 18-mile hikes) and there’s one two-day walk in there too.

Sunbeams over Burney

Sunbeams over Burney

However, I also now seem to have got going on a second round. Adding Blawith Knott and Tottlebank Height to this walk confirmed it, as I bagged those for the first time less than a year ago, on walk 78, back in January. Well, I need something to do over the next few years. The additional summits gave today’s walk more purpose, but also extended it, turning it into a longer walk than I expected or that my knees were ready for — but that just confirms that I need to improve the fitness.

Anyway — so ends 2014. A Happy New Year to you all, and may 2015 be a worthy and fulfilling one for you whatever it entails.

Blawith Knott summit

Blawith Knott summit. Black Combe in the background.

One Response to “Walk 90: Ulverston to Kirkby — a Cumbria Way excursion”

  1. […] history, and thanks to the Christmas break coinciding with an excellent run of weather this week, walk 90 could indeed take place before the New Year. In superb weather I revisited two fells done earlier […]

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