Kent estuary from Whitbarrow

The Kent estuary (with railway viaduct), seen from the summit of Whitbarrow

Date completed: 10th April 2015.

Weather conditions: Just as pleasant as two days ago (walk 94): sunny, warm and springlike, though with a haze over the views.

Summits bagged: Staveley Fell (870 feet above sea level), Cartmel Fell (500’), Whitbarrow (706’). Staveley Fell has the honour of becoming number 300 in my list. with the trio being numbers 300-302 of the 330 Wainwrights.

River Leven

The River Leven at Newby Bridge

Start and end points: Started at Newby Bridge, and finished at Witherslack Lane End on the A590, where there is a bus stop.

Both locations are served by the X6 bus which connects Kendal, Grange-over-Sands station, Ulverston and Barrow. The walk fitted comfortably between the 09.46 arrival at Newby Bridge (departed Grange station 9.30) and the 15.20 pick-up from Witherslack Lane End which returns to Grange 10 minutes later. Grange-over-Sands is on the Cumbrian coast rail line and there are reasonably frequent trains.

Distance walked: 9 miles approx.

Total ascent: 1200 feet approx.

Gummer's How and Windermere

View from Staveley Fell summit, with Gummer’s How above the foot of Windermere.

Pub at end: The Derby Arms, Witherslack. The 2008 version of the OS map I was using for this walk did not mark this pub, although the 2011 version does. It’s nice to come across a pub at the end of a walk which one does not expect, however – certainly better than not finding one where one is expected (e.g. Seatoller). The Derby Arms is a nice place to while away time.

To get to the bus stop, follow the sign to Ulpha, go under the dual carriageway then come back up onto it and the bus stop is to the right. This will not be the most peaceful spot you have ever waited for a bus.

Route: This is a woodland and valley ramble, not a ‘mountain climb’, though there is a steep (but short) pull up onto Whitbarrow, and the area around the summit of Staveley Fell is also awkward. Probably Whitbarrow’s woods are at their best in autumn but I would not do Staveley Fell at that time thanks to a clearly rampant population of bracken.

Bell Rake

Bell Rake from Whitbarrow — the day’s one steep ascent

From Newby Bridge’s bus stop, use the traffic island to cross the road and go to the roundabout, then turn left. There is a very short section without a pavement, so take care here, but escape at the first opportunity down the lane to Staveley-in-Cartmel. Where that ends, turn left, then immediately right down the lane by the phone box.

It is here best to follow the advice given in Wainwright (page 51 of volume 8). The route is accurately described, but still does not really do justice to the complete mess that things are in after the departure from the forest road at about point SD386862 (what’s this?). Recent, terribly untidy felling of the plantation has left a literal waste-land of wood debris to cross; tread carefully as you head for the bare ridge ahead, which it’s best to attain as soon as possible. Once up there, there is a path of sorts, but still, as warned in the book (page 50), there is also much heather and bracken to negotiate.

Staveley Fell’s summit is just about worth all this bother thanks to its view of Windermere (see picture above), but descent isn’t easy either, with the same mixture of bracken, heather and forestry debris occluding the path. Follow the old wall down as best you can and eventually stumble back out onto the forest road you left earlier, where turn left, and follow the road round until it hits the tarmac of Sow How Lane.

Felled plantation

Felled plantation — view from the summit of Staveley Fell

Here turn right, go through the farm of Sow How and then take the path on the left, which leads past Sow How Tarn: don’t go through the gate here but stay outside the fence and stick to the ‘Bridleway’ signs (as opposed to the ‘Footpath’ ones).

This will lead up a little way until Cartmel Fell appears ahead – but don’t expect a hill at this point, what you will see is more of a common that is all at the same elevation as you are. Nevertheless, this area of open ground is your next objective. Once inside, there are vague paths but no real need to follow them – bear generally right and you will see the monument ahead (which can be treated as the summit though it is far from certain it stands on the highest point of the fell).

Descend the path ahead, cross the wall, and come out onto the road, where take the road straight ahead (signposted Cartmel Fell Church). Best to check the map at this point so one can find one’s way past Swallow Mire and there pick up a footpath that is signposted ‘Pool Bank’. This leads across a footbridge (bear right in the first field to avoid a slutchy bog) and then stays quite well signposted until coming back out onto the road at Pool Bank on the other side of the Winster Valley.

Swan

On Sow How Tarn

At Pool Bank, turn right, then bear left at the next junction and watch out for the sign on the left, to Bell Rake and Whitbarrow. Gird the loins as much as you can, for the steepest climb of the day awaits: but it’s not as precipitous as the cliffs of Whitbarrow might lead you to anticipate, and takes no more than about 10-15 minutes. Once up the top, just stay on the path and this will lead you up to Lord’s Seat, the summit.

From here you might choose to walk along the whole crest of the fell and come down to Mill Side. I instead descended straight away; make a right angle at the summit (to the right), look for the cairn, which indicates the start of a clear path that goes through the wall and over the edge down to Witherslack Hall (watch your footing at one point where there is a steep drop). This path goes across the first football pitch to feature on this project: turn right on the lane, which goes to the gate of the Hall (a private school). Here, turn left on the tarmac and this will take you all the way through the straggly village of Witherslack, to the Derby Arms and the bus stop.

Horse in enclosure

Gate to the big enclosure below Staveley Fell

Dead Mac commentary: Sorry for the delay in getting this page out but the really annoying thing about the day was that my Mac’s hard drive appeared to die on the way round. Actually it turned out to be just the cable so Apple fixed it today (the following Monday).

Moving on… let’s note the milestone of reaching fell number 300. Staveley Fell eluded me on my first attempt to bag it (walk 86), joining Dove Crag and Pike o’Stickle as fells that needed two attempts to reach. Perhaps it was reserving this numerical milestone for itself, and actually, looking at the bracken which defended it, August probably wouldn’t have been a good time to attempt it.

Felled plantation

Devastated plantation on Staveley Fell

Even without this obstacle, it’s a real mess. When you see all the waste left over by the tree-felling you realise what a dislocation there is between activities that are economically logical and those that are environmentally sound. The wood that is left over, scattered around on the ground here (and looking terribly ugly with it), could easily be put to use (as fuel, chipboard, etc) but presumably it’s just not economically worth the bother. So it lies around, dead and sterile and unsightly.

Despite the travails of bagging Staveley Fell the walk was worth doing. My original plan was to go round to the far west of the district today but in the end I just couldn’t be bothered either with another long (15-mile) walk but more so, with the travelling. Starting in Morecambe today meant I caught the 8.27 train, and I was home in Hebden Bridge at 6.30pm. Bus/train connections work well at Grange (despite the final bus of the day being 20 minutes late), so it’s a good base for these walks on the southern fringes of the Lakes.

Ewe and lamb

Motherhood…

Anyway, Easter break over. Back to work. I may still fit another walk in before April is out, though the weather has already changed and I doubt it will be done in weather anywhere near as pleasant as what we’ve had this week. I’ve been lucky.

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One Response to “Walk 95: Winster Valley and Whitbarrow”

  1. […] so the Easter week off comes to an end with a second walk in three days, walk 95 in the series. Another beautiful spring day saw me take in three low-altitude Outliers in the south […]

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