Scout Scar and Cunswick Fell from Sizergh

I’m trying to get the hang of my new “arrangements” – so far with only limited success. However, last Wednesday promised to be a fine day for a walk. I didn’t fancy going too far in peak holiday period so I drove up the M6 towards Kendal, parked up at Sizergh Hall, and set off for a walk along the limestone ridge of Scout Scar. I’d been up there a few times, but previously from the other end.

At first I retraced our return route from a walk during our visit to Sizergh Castle a few weeks ago – across the fields and through woodland

up to the viewpoint near to the “Chapel of Ease” of St John Helsington – and on a sunny morning with decent long range visibility, what a fine view it was.

the view over to the Lakeland fells
the limestone escarpment of Whitbarrow (I must get up there one day soon)
Looking over to Arnside Knott and the Kent estuary

This was as far as we’d got during our previous visit, but this time I carried on heading north

crossing a minor road and then taking a path on to Scout Scar

The views over to Lakeland just got better and better and opened up so that I could see over to the Fairfield horseshoe, Red Screes and the Kentmere fells

I reached the “mushroom”, a popular destination, not far from the car park on the Kendal to Underbarrow road, where I stopped for a bite to eat.

I carried on to the end of the ridge

I’d intended to turn back from here, taking the path along the edge of the scar, but a moment of madness came over me and I decided to carry on for another couple of miles over Cunswick Fell to the other limestone edge of Cunswick Scar.

It was quieter along here – its obviously not as popular as its more dramatic companion. But there were a few people about.

The walking is easy going, and at the summit I was rewarded with excellent views over to the Kentmere horseshoe

and over Kendal towards the lonely hills of Borowdale (the lesser known Westmorland variant, not the more well known one south of Derwent Water) and the Shap Fells

over to the Howgills

and the major fells to the west

Outstanding views and the photos don’t really do them justice.

I turned around and more or less retraced my steps back towards Scout Scar

I crossed over the minor road and climbed back up onto the ridge of Scout Scar

and set off along the edge of the ridge heading south.

There’s the mushroom again

This is the view looking backwards that shows the limestone escarpment. It is quite a steep drop down to the bottom

As I walked along the ridge the Kent estuary began to dominate the view

along with Whitbarrow over to the west

At the end of the ridge I descend down to the Brigsteer road, crossed over and retraced my steps back to Sizergh, with a slight variation at the end, following a different path than the one I’d come. I arrived back in time to buy myself a well earned brew and tasty peach crumble cake.

It had been a good walk and I’ve got in mind to come up here again on a fine day during the autumn or winter when I’d get a different perspective of the landscape. I think I’ll cut out the diversion over Cunswick Fell though.

A visit to Windermere Jetty Museum

Leaving Blackwell we decided to drive over to, another Lakeland Arts site, the Windermere Jetty Museum, a short drive away on the other side of Bowness. We’d visited before, just before the first lockdown, but though we could spend a little time there revisiting the exhibits and enjoying a brew on the lakeside.

As it turned out we spent longer there than we expected as there were a couple of art exhibitions – normally they would probably have been shown at Abbot Hall but with that still be shut for refurbishment I guess Lakeland Arts were taking advantage of the facilities here.

First, though, we had a look around the main displays

One of the exhibitions, shown in the main building in a room with a view over the lake, featured large scale abstract watercolours by Barbara Nicholls, an artist from Cheshire.

Her technique used to create these works involved laying out large sheets of heavy weight
paper on the studio floor, which were then wetted before applying the pigments which would then begin to spread out by capillary action – just like ink dropped onto wet blotting paper. The skill of the artist is then to manipulate and control the pigment. The finished works being made up of sections from several of these sheets cut and then collated to form a whole.

These monumental watercolours emerge from a process of manipulating coloured pigment in large quantities of water. The pigments behave in a variety of ways; some gather in dark, opaque pools, others are translucent, lapping at the paper to form gentle tidal marks.

Lakeland Arts Website

It was quite appropriate for paintings created by the movement of water to be displayed in a room with a view over the Lake.

The second exhibition was in the old fire station that had been relocated from Bowness village to the grounds of the museum

Dovetailing is an immersive installation by Sculptor Juliet Gutch in collaboration with composer and viola player Sally Beamish and filmmaker Clare Dearnaley inspired by luthiery (the making of stringed musical instruments). 

Entering the small building we encountered a darkened room with wooden mobiles suspended from the ceiling with a film being projected onto a screen.

The mobiles were made up of wooden shapes resembling shavings produced during the planing of the wood used in the construction of a violin or viola. The film, with the soundtrack by Sally Beamish, included natural sounds, the workshop process during the manufacture of a violin and the movement of the mobile forms.

Then it was time for a brew. It was a pleasant day so we sat outside looking over the water (there are good views from inside the cafe too)

I liked the wooden shelters that had been built by the museum staff using boat building techniques

Leaving the museum we weren’t ready to set off for home so we drove into the village centre, parked up and went for a walk along the lake.

There is very little of the east side of Windermere where it’s possible to walk along the lakeside. Most of the land is privately owned and access isn’t possible for the hoi poloi – reflecting the theme of the exhibition we’d visited at Blackwell that morning. The main exceptions are Fell Foot, at the south end of the lake, and Cockshott Point, a stretch of parkland where we were walking at Bowness. Both of these are owned by the National Trust. Cockshott Point was bought by the Trust with the help of a certain Mrs Heelis (better known as Beatrix Potter) who sold some paintings to raise funds for the purchase. Without this intervention it would have been likely that the land would be sold to a private buyer who would have prevented access.

There’s more of a “right to roam” on the west side of the Lake (formerly in Lancashire!), but, again this is due to the intervention of the National Trust. I think a lot of people think the NT is all about preserving manor houses, but their original vision was about opening up the countryside and without them large area of the lake District and other parts of the country wouldn’t be readily accessible.

So our say in the Lakes ended as it started, with us reflecting on how access to the countryside and the lake shores is still limited and how we need to continue to campaign for the “Right to Roam”.

“Something in Common” at Blackwell

A couple of weeks ago we decided to drive up to the Lake District to visit one of our favourite places – Blackwell, the Arts and Crafts style house near Bowness. We hadn’t been there for over two years (yes, you know why) but we were keen to see the latest exhibition there – Something in Common – featuring the works of James Fox, a textile artist from Glasgow, now living in Lancaster. His recent work delves into the history of land rights and land ownership, posing the question – Who Owns England? – and the Blackwell exhibition takes up this theme, exploring the “right to roam” and is part of their ‘Year of Protest’ programme, featuring artists who use craft as a form of tool for social change and revolt.

I spend quite a lot of my leisure time out walking on the moors and mountains and kind of take it for granted that I can do that. But that wouldn’t always have been possible. In many areas landlords forbid the hoi poloi accessing their estates on the moors that they used for hunting and shooting. But as working people started to have more leisure time walking and hiking became more popular, leading to frustration where they couldn’t gain access to what they saw as open land. This led to protests and mass trespasses, the most well known being that on Kinder but there were others, two examples being the trespasses on Winter Hill in 1896 and Latrigg, near Keswick, in 1887. We’re free to walk on all of those hills now, but despite the  Countryside & Rights of Way (CRoW) Act of 2000 the Right to Roam only applies to “open access land”, which comprises about 8% of the mountains, moors, heath, and coastlines in England and Wales. (Scotland has a different legal system and the The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 allows everyone access to most land and inland water in Scotland for “certain purposes”.) People campaigning and fighting for the Right to Roam have never gone away, including veteran campaigner John Bainbridge, who sometimes comments on this blog 🙂 – his book is worth a read.

Of course, there’s a balance between access and respecting people’s property and in Scotland exempts land where there are buildings, private gardens, land where crops are growing, schools and school grounds sports grounds.  The legislation also requires the right to roam to be exercised “reasonably and responsibly” and I’m sure that the vast majority of people would respect this. I can’t see any reason why the same approach shouldn’t be applied to England and Wales. Yet many wealthy landowners think otherwise and resist any extension of the Right to Roam.

During lockdown, where travel was restricted, James Fox started going out exploring the countryside close to his home in Lancaster. In particular, the Abbeystead Estate in the Forest of Bowland. the estate is owned by the Duke of Westminster and before the CRoW Act access to many parts of the wild moorland was restricted. I experienced this 20 or so years ago I used to go walking in Bowland regularly and know that I strayed off the permitted track more than once.

The works on display were created by a combination of hand stitching, machine embroidery and digital media. A small number of works from the Lakeland Trust’s collection, including paintings by Lowry, Ben Nicholson and Sheila Fell were included in the exhibition and there were two “soundscapes” playing

the Political Soundscape

a series of speeches by protesters and politicians who thought for the Right to Roam, Political Soundscape reflects the deeply emotional relationship between people and the land throughout history. Together, the readings are a testament to the ability of everyday people to affect positive social change when their voices rise as one.

and the Bucollic Soundscape

Featuring a series of poems by writers who were inspired by the landscape, Bucolic Soundscape reflects the enduring and affectionate relationship that people have with the land.

A two sided quilt A Patchwork Quilt (2021) illustrates the two different sides to the gouse shooting on the Abbeystead estate,

the front displaying images associated with grouse shooting

while the reverse highlands the “hidden” aspects of the use of the land for this leisure pursuit – restricted access, eradication of predators and “unwanted” wildlife and vegetation, burning of the land and other environmental issues.

One of three videos running on a loop showed how this banner had been created

The Rewilding Plinth (2022) raised questions about how the grouse moors impact on the ecology of the moors. He also raises the question of what impact “rewilding” – returning the land to it’s natural environment – could have on tenant farmers

and how, depending how it’s done, could have other adverse effects on the land.

The frieze running along the wall is part of the exhibition and symbolises how the land is “fenced in” to prevent access. The frieze design reminds me of some of the wallpaper designs by Morris and Co., particularly “trellis
Sheila Fell – “Cumbrian landscape” (1967)

It’s a small exhibition, but inspiring and thought provoking, and we felt it was definitely worth the visit. Of course, we also took the opportunity to revisit the house and have a light meal in the cafe, after which we took another look around the exhibition.

And I never tire of the view from the gardens over Windermere towards the Coniston fells.

It was still early afternoon as we left the house, but we felt that we weren’t ready to return home. So what to do next?

Sizergh Castle. A walk, a meal and a concert.

A few weeks ago we had tickets for a concert in Kendal by This is the Kit. Rather than just drive up in the late afternoon for the evening performance we decided to make a day of it. We had thought of visiting Blackwell as we hadn’t been there for a while, but found that they were installing a new exhibition that would open a couple of days later so it wasn’t the best time to go. We’ll get up there soon though, Something in Common tells the story of England’s countryside and the peoples’ fight for Common Land, a theme right up my street, so to speak. So, instead we decided on visiting Sizergh Castle, a National Trust property, as we hadn’t been there for quite some time.

The National Trust website describes the property as a “beautiful medieval house with rich gardens and estate“, and I think that pretty much sums it up. The house isn’t owned by the Trust though – this is one of those sites where the owners couldn’t afford to pay for the upkeep of the house and estate so made a deal with the Trust. The castle with its garden and estate is in the care of the National Trust but the house is still owned by Hornyold-Strickland family – a type of arrangement I’m not comfortable with. Most of the house is open to the public, but there’s a private residential wing and I expect the family use the hall for entertaining outside he NT’s opening hours. I’m not sure whether they live there full time, mind.

We parked up and after a coffee went for our self-guided tour of the hall and gardens.

The oldest part of the house, the defensive tower, was built in the mid 14th century. It used to be thought that it was a pele tower, built as a defence from marauding Scots, but these days is considered to be a “solar tower” as it contained private living space for the owners, for their “sole” use – hence the name. A true pele tower was a defensive structure that could be used by the local population when being harassed by the reivers.

The most impressive features of the house for me were the oak panelling and fireplace surrounds.

Some of the panelling had been sold to the V&A in the 1890’s. However it was returned in 1999 on a long-term loan.

As usual with these “stately homes” there was a large collection of paintings, particularly portraits, and we spotted a couple by the local lad George Romney. The Strickland family were Catholics and strong supporters of the Stuart monarchy and one room is full of portraits of the monarchs from that dynasty.

The gardens are particularly impressive. Our previous visit had been during the autumn so the colours were much fresher and greener in early summer. However, I reckon they would look good whatever the season.

The limestone rock garden, which was created in the 1920s, is the largest of it’s type under the National Trust’s stewardship.

I always like a good vegetable garden!

After looking round the garden we returned to the cafe for a light meal before setting out for a walk around the grounds. A misunderstanding on my part meant we ended up following the longer set route which was more than J intended. I blame my poor colour vision for misreading the map!

After walking through some fields and meadows the route took us into the woods of Brigsteer Park

and then on to Park End where a short diversion down a boardwalk took us to a hide overlooking a recreated wet land.

Park End Moss, which is on the edge of the Lyth Valley, was once an area of degraded farmland that’s been “rewilded” by the National Trust into a wetland haven for wildlife. It’s probably how much of the valley would have looked before it was drained to create agricultural land.

Looking back as we climbed the hill up towards the nearby farm we had a good view over the wetland with Whitbarrow dominating the far side of the valley (I must get up there one of these days).

We then had a steep climb for a while to take us to the top of a ridge overlooking the valley (I was getting in trouble now for misinterpreting the map).

A short diversion along the ridge as far as St John’s church

allowed a view over the valley right across to the Lake District Fells. Worth the climb (at least I thought so).

We then followed the route back down through woods and field to Sizergh (down hill more or less all the way), passing some typical Cumbrian farmhouses (I think they’re rented out now as holiday cottages by the Trust).

The cafe was closing up as we reached the hall complex so there wasn’t time for a final brew, so we returned to the car and drove over to Kendal which only took about 15 minutes . We had a mooch around the town centre, including the obligatory visit to Waterstones where, as frequently happens, books were purchased. We then picked up some supplies from Booths supermarket followed by a tour around the one way system so that we could park up before we made our way to the Brewery Arts Centre. There were no spaces left in their car park so another trip around the one way system was needed to find a space on an alternative convenient car park – free after 6 pm – near Abbot Hall (which has been closed for the past few years as it’s being renovated. Hopefully it will be reopening soon – fingers crossed)

We’d decided to eat in the Arts Centre restaurant. Having never been there before I was surprised just how large it was and there seemed to be plenty of customers, many taking advantage of an early evening pizza deal. We were too late to take advantage of that but, in any case, I was very pleased with my choice of a rather tasty pie with sweet potato fries, followed by

a pudding to mark the state of our nation i.e. an Eton Mess.

I rather liked this tapestry representing different aspects of Kendal, that wa son the wall of the restaurant.

We finished in good time for a pre concert drink and then on to the gig.

I’ve known of This is the Kit for a number of years – they’re played regularly on Radio 6 Music – and enjoy their work, and I wasn’t disappointed with the concert. I was impressed with the venue. It was larger than expected but with the main seating area quite steeply banked there was a good view of the stage from most seats. I think it’s likely we’ll be returning in the future as we can combine a concert with a day out in the southern Lakes and a nice meal in the restaurant! I’ll be keeping an eye on their “What’s on” page on their website.

After the concert we headed back to the car passing the Leyland Motors Clock that once stood on Shap summit but in 1973 was relocated to stand outside the Brewery Arts Centre.

So, all in all, a good day out.

Fairfield Via Alcock Tarn

Keeping my eye on the weather forecast, a Tuesday in early June looked promising so I decided to get out for a walk. I had an idea for a circular route based on the train, but a cancellation by the ever dependable (not!) Northern Rail put the end to that option. So, I reverted to driving up to the Lakes and decided to park up in Grasmere and see where I ended up. It was bright and sunny when I arrived so I booted up and headed towards the fells to the east of the village. I decided to walk up to the Fairfield ridge via Alcock Tarn. I’d only been up to this small man made tarn up on the hillside once before so I thought it was time to give it another go. My first walk up there, just before the first lockdown, was up the path to the north of the tarn, so this time I thought I’d take the alternative southern route that passed Dove Cottage before ascending through woods on the fell side.

Dove Cottage

It was a steep climb and views over the valley below over to the high fells in the west soon opened up.

Part way up the hill I passed through the gate – the tarn, and much of the surrounding fell, was bought by the National Trust in the 1940s.

I carried on up the hill, occasionally stopping to look back at the view, and eventually reached my first objective where I stopped for a break and a bite to eat. The tarn, which sits on a shelf on the side of Heron Crag, is about 1000 feet above Grasmere and was originally a small natural pool known as Butter Crags Tarn. It was purchased during the 19th century by a Mr Alcock who lived in Hollins, a grand house on the edge of the village the valley below (it’s now used as the Regional HQ for the National Trust), who enlarged it with a dam and stocked it with trout.

The edge of the tarn was swaring with tadpoles. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many!

After a short break it was time to set off up the fell side along a clear path up towards Nab scar that isn’t shown on the OS map.

Looking back down on the tarn

The view back down to Grasmere and over to the Coniston Fells

I reached the ridge at the top of Nab Scar. Looking south I had a good view over Windermere

but my route was in the opposite direction, over to Heron Pike then Great Rigg and the summit of Fairfield. There were a few other walkers about, many of them tackling the Fairfield Horseshoe, but that wasn’t my intention.

After tackling the first two peaks I arrived on the stony summit of Fairfield

Looking over to Coffa Pike and St Sunday Crag

and over to Dollywagon Pike, Nethermost Pike and Helvellyn

The view over to the Western Fells

and over to Windermere

I stopped for a while chatting to another solo walker who was tackling the horseshoe and then retraced my tracks back to Great Rigg

I’d decided to descend via Stone Arthur so reaching Great Rigg I left the main ridge and took the path down the slope towards the rocky outcrops that look down on Grasmere village.

Looking to my right as I descended
Stone Arthur ahead

I passed a small group of walkers and then reached my objective where I stopped to enjoy the views down to the valley and over to the western fells.

I made my way down the path back to the village. Having been up this way a couple of times previously I knew it was a steep path and it was tough on the old knees as I descended, so I was glad to get down to level ground. I had a quick mooch round the village buying myself a cold drink from the Co-op which I drank siting on a bench on the village green. It was then time to return to the car and set off back home. The joys of the M6 to come!

Bowscale Tarn

The weather just seemed to be getting better every day, so on the Wednesday, when I was due to return home, I wanted to make the most of the time I had left. The B and B said it was OK to leave my car so I set off from the farm with the intention of walking up to Bowscale Tarn.

I walked through Mosedale village on towards Bowscale.

On the roadside I noticed an old sign

A nearby information board told me that it was a boundary sign for the parish dating back to the 1830’s. Before reorganisation in 1934, when they were merged to form the current Parish of Mungrisdale, there were four individual townships in the area – Bowscale, Berrier & Murrah, Mosedale and Mungrisdale. “Township stones” were placed to mark the boundaries and these have been located and preserved by local people. The locations were marked on a map on the information board and I was able to find another one close by

I walked through the small settlement of Bowscale

and then turned up the lane that would take me up into the fells and Bowscale Tarn.

The path climbed gradually up the side of the fell

becoming a little steeper as I got closer to the Tarn. But it was good, easy walking with excellent views on a sunny day up Mosedale and across to Carrock Fell

The tarn sits in a glacial corrie (the hole left after the glacier that sat here had melted) and kept in place by a morraine (a bank of earth and rock dumped by the glacier) on the north side of the corrie. The walk up here was very popular during Victorian times. The path up from Bowscale village that I’d taken is relatively gentle most of the way so not too difficult for ladies in corsets and long skirts! I bet a lot of the well to do visitors would have been taken up in a pony trap or on horseback, mind.

There’s a legend that there are two immortal talking fish that live in the tarn and they’re even mentioned by Wordsworth in his poem ‘Song, at the Feast of Brougham Castle‘.

And both the undying Fish that swim
Through Bowscale-Tarn did wait on him,
The pair were Servants of his eye
In their immortality,
They moved about in open sight,
To and fro, for his delight.

I didn’t spot them so can’t confirm whether they can talk on not. Mind you, I couldn’t see any fish in the tarn.

There are a number of routes up on to the summit of fell from the tarn, one of them climbing up through the rocky crags on the south side of the tarn. You can make it out in the following picture I snapped

It was such a nice day and I was in no hurry to set off for home, so I decided I’d pay another visit to the summit. I decided to take the path up through the grassy section between the crags.

It was quite steep and there was a little scrambling over some rocky sections , but wasn’t too difficult and it didn’t take me too long to get to the top of the path.

Looking down on the tarn as I climbed

I then had a walk up the grassy slope to reach the summit.

Blencathra seen from the summit
Skiddaw and Great Calva

There was one other walker who was already there when I reached the top. We had a chat, as you do, but I didn’t stop long and made my way back down. Initially following the same path but I carried on down the gentler slope rather than negotiating down to the tarn on the steep path.

The view of Carrock Fell as I descended

The final section of the descent of the mountain was steep enough mind and brought me down to a path below the tarn. Then another steep path took me down towards the River Caldew by Roundhouse farm.

Roundhouse farm

I crossed over the footbridge and past the farm to join the minor road down past Swineside and back to Mosedale.

It was only about 1 o’clock when I was back at Mosedale End farm and I wasn’t ready to head home so I decided that rather than drive back to the A66 and onto the M6 at Pensrith, I’d drive in the opposite direction down the narrow country roads and have a look at the village of Caldbeck. I’d never been there before.

It didn’t take long to get there and I parked and had a mooch around. It’s an attractive village with old houses that have been done up very nicely and a few shops.

I took a walk along the river

as far as the old church

The attractive church is dedicated to St Kentigern who is better known in Scotland as St Mungo. It was built in 1112 and still has some Romanesque (Norman) features. But like most old churches there’s been a number of extensions and modifications showing Gothic influences.

Romanesque doorway

I had a quick peek inside but didn’t take any photographs.

The old mill – now housing a couple of crafty shops
Village green and duck pond

It didn’t take long to explore the village but before I went back to the car I decided to have a brew in the little riverside cafe, the Muddy Duck. It’s a hut really with benches outdoors on the riverside. I got myself a coffee and sat on one of the benches enjoying the drink in the sunshine.

Looking over the river as I drank up my coffee

Then it was time to return to the car and set off for home. I’d had a good short break and could have stayed up in the Lakes for longer. I’d done the walking I’d planned but there was the possibility of going up Blencathra from Mungrisdale. However, if I had stayed longer I would have wanted to move on to a different part of the Lakes. But that was academic. I had some commitments the next day.

The good weather continued for a few more days, but then a cold front came in leading to a significant drop in temperature and bringing in rain and even some snow. Well that’s the British weather for you!

Carrock Fell, High Pike and Knott

Another fine day was promised as I set out from Mosedale End farm, heading up the quiet road to Stone Ends where I’d start my ascent up Carrock Fell.

The fells “back o’ Skiddaw” are, in the main, rounded, grassy hills. Carrock Fell is the exception. According to Diana Whaley’s A Dictionary of Lake District Place-Names, it’s name derived from the Cumbric carreg (rock, stony place), means “rocky height” and that is a good description of this fell composed of volcanic rock, including, uniquely for Lakeland, gabbro, an igneous rock that’s also found in the Black Cuillin mountains on the Isle of Skye. The fell is also known for the ruins of an iron age fortress that surround its summit and was climbed by Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins, an adventure described by Dickens in The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices. (I managed to download a Free Kindle version from Amazon)

I’d had a good night’s sleep and ready for a good walk. The owners of the farm were busy, it was lambing time, and the fruits of their labour were clearly evident in the fields

The farm stood at the foot of Carrock Fell and I’d considered a number of routes up, including a direct ascent from the village. However, talking to my landlady I decided that the more popular route from Stone Ends, about a mile up the road, was a better bet. Talking to someone later who I met on the summit who’d come up from the village, I think I’d made a wise decision.

Approaching Stone Ends

Reaching Stone Ends the path up the fell, skirting the crags, was visible.

I started to make my way up. The path climbed gradually at first but became steeper as I ascended, skirting the rocky crags.

As I cimbed I could see someone else coming up behind me. He was making good, steady progress and I wondered how long it would take for him to catch me! Well, catch me he did about three quarters of the way up, and we stopped to chat. He’d retired early from local government in the south of Scotland, living just over the other side of the Solway, and was now working as a walking guide. Lucky fellow! he was originally from Hull and was a Rugby League fan, so we had quite a lot in common and had plenty to talk about as he joined me on our journey towards the summit.

It was windy on top, but the temperature was pleasant and it was warm in the sun.

On a good day it’s possible to see for miles over the Solway to Scotland. However, long range visibility was poor so our northern neighbour was hidden in the murk.

Looking towards Skiddaw

The remains of the fortress, the foundations of the walls, were clearly visible, though. It would have been a hard existence up here, wild wet and windy for much of the year but it would have been a commanding position, on the edge of the fells overlooking the coatal plains. The fort is supposed to have been built by the Celtic inhabitants of this region – the Brigantes. It’s also supposed to have been attacked and destroyed by the Romans. It would have been hard work charging up the steep sides of the mountain so they must have been pretty determined to defeat and dislodge the inhabitants of the fort.

After a rest, sheltering from the wind behind the handy rocky ruins, I set off for my next destination, High Pike – there it is, in the distance.

I knew what to except. I’d watched a youtube video where Ed Byrne and my fellow Wiganer Stuart MaConie walk in the opposite direction, so I wasn’t surprised to find that I needed to do quite a bit of bog hopping . (The Ed Venturing videos, where he interviews comedians / personalities during a walk, are worth watching).

Looking back to Carrock Fell.

Fortunately I didn’t get swallowed up in the peaty depths and it didn’t take too long to reach the summit of High Pike – as well as being the most northerly Lakeland summit over 2000ft, it’s also the only Wainwright on the Cumbria Way, so the final stretch to the summit was on a good path as I joined the route.

On the summit there was a very convenient memorial bench to park myself while I had my sandwiches.

Long range visibility was still poor so no sight of the Solway, Scotland and the Isle of Man ‘😢

But I could make out a murky Blencathra

and Skiddaw

Looking over to Carrock Fell, I didn’t like the look of the dark skies over to the east.

I had my rain jacket in my pack but I wasn’t expecting to use it. The weather forecast definitely had not mentioned rain, but, then, this is the Lakes. I crossed my fingers and hoped the dark clouds wouldn’t come my way. I was reasonably optimistic as the wind was blowing from the south, but you should always be prepared for rain up on those fells.

Where to next? It wasn’t long after midday and I wasn’t in a hurry so I decided to carry on and head for Knott. I took the Cumbria Way which traversed the flanks of Great Lingy Hill. I could always drop down into the Mosedale valley if it started to bucket down.

As I walked over the quiet fellside I spotted what looked like a garden shed perched high up on the fell. What was that doing there? On reaching it, I found that it was the Geat Lingy Hut a bothy maintained by the Mountain Bothy Association.

I had a peek inside

It wasn’t very big or substantial, but would be a welcome resting place for walkers crossing these isolated fells, perhaps when walking the Cumbria Way in rain, hail or snow. Providing it didn’t get blown away, that is. It was windy and the wind could be considerably stronger at times, particularly like during the storms we’d recently encountered. I did notice, however, that the hut was secured by guy ropes so, hopefully, anyone taking shelter during a storm wouldn’t find themselves lifted up into the clouds.

This was the view down to Mosedale from the hut

Unsurprisingly, some bog hopping continued to be the order of the day as I made my way down the valley and then onwards up to the broad, featureless, grassy summit plateau.

Carrying on, I could see my next destination, Knott. Surrounded by other grassy fells, it’s a long way from a road and requires a long walk across the rough ground to reach it. So it made sense to include it in my walk, taking in the summit while I wasn’t too far away.

High Pike and Carrock Fell from Knott
The view towards Great Calva and Skiddaw
The back of Blencathra
A murky view of Lake Bassenthwaite

Time to set back down towards Mosedale. I retraced my steps through the bogs down to Grainsgill beck, crossing over and joining the Cumbria Way. Most people following this trail would be walking in the opposite direction, but I descended down the path towards Mosedale valley.

As I reached the valley floor I passed the remains of the old Carrock Mine, a Scheduled Monument.

Ruins of the mill and processing plant
One of the mine adits that’s been preserved.

Mining for lead and copper had taken place hereabouts since the 16 th century, but early in the 20th Century tungsten was discovered here. Tungsten is a hard metal and when alloyed with steel creates alloys with a number of applications, including armour plating. In 1906 the mine was taken over by two Germans and it’s likely that a lot of tungsten was sent to Germany and used in armour plating on German warships. The mine closed in 1911 but was reopened during the First World war when the need for the metal justified the cost of the ore’s extraction and processing. It closed after the war but was reopened in 1942 again closing after the war. The viability of the mine depended on the price of tungsten and mining began again in the 1970s and continued until it finally closed in 1981. There’s a detailed chronology of the mine’s history on the Cumbria Amenity Trust Mining History Society website.

It was easy walking now along a gravel track which eventually turned into a metalled road

which took me back to Mosedale

After a long walk I was glad that I didn’t have to drive back down the busy motorway. After showering I settled down for a relaxing evening in my comfortable B and B.

Souther and Bowscale Fells


With good weather forecast in late March, I decided I’d take advantage of my new working arrangements and head up for a short break in the Lakes, booking a room “back o’ Skiddaw” at Mosedale End Farm. I fancied tackling Carrock Fell and had a route planned that would be a good day walk, but I wanted to save that for a day when I wouldn’t have a drive home at the end. So, after driving up to the Lakes on the Monday morning I parked up in Mungrisdale and set off for a walk up a couple of fells I’d been up before – Souter Fell and Bowscale Fell, but reversing the direction of my previous ramble.

The bridge at Mungrisdale

It wasn’t too busy when I arrived in Mungrisdale, so I didn’t have any trouble finding a parking space opposite the Village Hall. I put paid my £2 voluntary donation and set off. There was a walk along a quiet road, which leads to Scales, before I turned off up the path up Souther Fell. It was a fine day with blue skies, but with a strong breeze, particularly higher up on the fells.

This path is regularly used by hang glider enthusiasts who launch themselves from the summit of the modest fell, but there were none around today, and I didn’t see anyone else as I made my way slowly up the fell, dodging the occasional boggy section.

Reaching the summit plateau, there was a good view over to Bannerdale Crags and Blencathra. From this angle it was clear why the latter is also known as Saddleback.

Sother Fell is a whaleback hill so I turned north and walked over to the high point, before turning south, retracing my steps for a short distance before making my way to the summit which marks probably the best viewpoint on the plateau.

Zooming in on Blencathra with Sharp Edge clearly visible

I carried on down the path heading off the hill and towards Blencathra, but that wasn’t my destination today. Instead, reaching the hause between Souther and Scales Fells, I descended towards White Horse Bent, crossing over the Glenderamackin and then following the path on the north side of the river with Blencathra and Sharp Edge dominating the view.

It was quiet today – I encountered only a few people during my walk – and I couldn’t see any brave soles making their way along the narrow arête.

I carried on climbing up to the col between Bannedrale Crags and Blencathra. I could have turned left now, and made my way up Blencathra via Foule Crag, a steep climb but a route up the mountain I’d like to try. However, time was getting on so that would have to wait for another day. Instead I turned right and followed the path up Bowscale. The ground was soggy underfoot and quite a bit of bog hopping was required, but I managed to keep my feet dry.

Looking across the valley to my right, I could see across to Souther Fell

I reached the summit with good views all round, although longer range visibility was poor.

Blencathra – lit looks different from the top of Bowscale Fell
Looking east over the fell
Zooming in on Carrock Fell
Looking over towards Knott

I walked down the hill a little in a northerly direction, peering over the drop down to Bowscale Tarn

Bowscale Tarn and Carrock Fell

and then retraced my steps back to the summit. I took a short breather before starting my descent, bog hopping down and joining the path that descends down the side of the Tongue to the Gleneramackin

A view of Bannerdale Crags as I descended

Reaching the bottom of the valley I followed the river back to Mungrisdale. After changing out of my boots I drove the short distance through the village and on to Mosedale and my home for the next couple of days – Mosedale End Farm at the foot of Carrock Fell.

Mosedale End Farm is, as it name implies, a real working farm which has three comfortable, rooms let on a bed and breakfast basis plus a Glamping pod. I stayed in the Grainery Suite. All the rooms have basic cooking facilities which meant I didn’t have to go out to find somewhere to eat when I was tired after a good day’s walk – especially as the farm is rather isolated in a very small and quiet village with no facilities (although the pub in Mungrisdale isn’t so far away). After a refreshing shower I made myself a brew and something to eat before settling down for a relaxing evening reading and watching a bit of TV. I turned in early, looking forward to another good walk the next day.

Sour Howes

St David’s Day promised to be a fine day, so, taking advantage of my change of circumstances, I decided to travel back up to the Lakes for another wander. Rather than battle through the traffic on the M6 on a week day, I decided I’d take advantage of the morning direct train to Windermere. I’d planned a walk through back lanes to the north and north east of Windermere town I’d never explored before. No really high fells and quite different terrain than deeper into the valleys, but it turned out to be a most enjoyable walk through pleasant countryside with a steep climb up a smaller fell.

Leaving the station and crossing the road, I turned up the lane that would take me up to the modest hill of Orrest Head. Doing this I was following the footsteps of one Alfred Wainwright, originally from Blackburn, not far from where I grew up. Many years later he wrote in his autobiographical Ex-Fellwanderer:

“…quite suddenly, we emerged from the trees and were on a bare headland, and, as though a curtain had dramatically been torn aside, beheld a truly magnificent view. …”

The view inspired him to walk on the fells and write the guidebooks that inspired many others to do the same.

Amazingly, I’d never been up to Orrest Head before and wondered whether it would live up to the hype.

On a bright, sunny late winter’s day (or is 1st March the first day of Spring?) it did!

The Coniston Fells

It was busy at the summit, mind. The National Park have created a winding, mild gradient path to the summit up from Windermere village, increasing accessability so that more people can enjoy the views.

After soaking up the views I made my way down the steep but short descent on the north side of the hill.

At the bottom of the hill crossing the fields towards “The Causeway” farm. My destination visible of the right of the horizon
After crossing some fields and walking along a couple of short stretches of tarmac on minor roads, I set off up Dubbs Road, a rough track that is accessible to “off road” vehicles that have been controvesial in the Lakes. There were none about today, mind.
My objective, Sour Howes, ahead.
I passed the small Dubbs Reservoir
Carrying on allong the lane – much rougher underfoot after the reservoir
The village of Troutbeck under Wansfell
Looking over to Windermere and the Coniston Fells

Just before a copse on the left I passed through a gate onto the fell. There are no paths up the fell marked on the OS and Harvey maps, but it’s Open Access land and there are a number of access points – with a stile a short distance after the gate.

It was a steep climb but I was rewarded with superb views over to the western arm of the Kentmere horseshoe.

Part way up I found I was having great difficulty putting one step in front of another. I guessed what was happening so I stopped and tested my blood sugar. Oops. I hadn’t been eating enough and my blood sugar had dropped and I was verging on a hypo. Time for a rest and something to eat to boost my sugar. But as I munched on some dried apricots I felt something hard and metallic in my mouth. Blast, a filling had come loose. Standing up I could see I just had a signal on my phone, time to make a call. I didn’t think that the Mountain Rescue would have been too keen on coming out to fix my filling, but I managed to get through to my dentist and, very fortunately , was able to book an appointment for the next afternoon.

After the snack had done it’s job I continued on up the fell. It’s not so high, just 483 metres (1,585 feet), mainly grassy slopes with some rocky outcrops. The summit consists of a number of lumps and bumps making it difficult to locate the highest point. The views on a bright sunny day were extensive

A panorama snapped with my phone
To the south west there was an extensive view over Windermere
A close up of the Coniston fells
Zooming in a little on the fells to the west including Pike O’Blisco, Crinkle Crags, Scafell and Scafell Pike (peeking through from behind), Bowfell, Great End and Great Gable
Red Screes
Thornthwaite Crag, Froswick, Ill Bell and Yoke

Looking eastwards Kendal and the Howgill Fells were visible in the distance

Now why is the fell called “Sour Hows”? Who knows? However

Sour Howes ‘Poor, wet’ plus ‘bumpy hill top’ is the straightforward explanation

LDWA Website

Seems to sum it up!

I could have stopped up there for longer but decided to continue on my way. I was tempted to carry on the ridge to Salllows, another modest peak. It was possible to add that to my iteniary and still get back to Windermere before dark and catch a later train. But after my little incident I decided against doing that. I didn’t think that I had enough food left in my rucksack and I didn’t want to risk a hypo up on the fells, so, somewhat reluctantly, I started my descent down the fell.

Reaching the Dubbs road, rather than retrace my steps I turned right and carried on up the track a short distance before turning down another rough track, the Longmire Road, which headed back in the direction of Windermere.

I couldn’t help but keep looking back to take in the views of the Kentmere Fells


But eventually, I left them behind me as I made my way past farms and through fields back towards Orrest Head.


I carried on towards the top of Orrest Head

Looking back towards Troutbeck

I didn’t linger too long. Looking at my watch I realised that I had a good chance of making the next train back to Wigan. So I set off down the hill and reached the station with enough time to remove my gaiters (they were a blessing after crossing a lot of boggy ground) and reorganising myself before the train pulled in.

There are pros and cons to taking the train – the walking route options are restricted somewhat by the timetable, but it’s better for the environment and I didn’t have to battle through traffic when I was tired after my walk. So I settled back, took in the views from the window and listened to some podcasts. I was back in Wigan in just less than 90 minutes, less stressed than if I’d driven. A 20 minute walk later and I was back home with the kettle on. It would have been good to stay longer in the Lakes, but the weather was due to turn the next day (and it did!) plus I had that visit to the dentist to look forward to 😬

Glencoyne with a diversion to Sheffield Pike

Just a couple of days after a very significant birthday and the weather looked promising. What would be a better way to celebrate by a walk in the Lake District?

I’d been listening to a programme on Radio 3 of a “very special poetic pilgrimage to the Cairngorms” by Robert MacFarlane, inspired by Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain. One of the central ideas in the book is that we ‘should not walk “up” a mountain but “into” them’. The summits aren’t the be all and end all of the mountains – there is much to enjoy and savour at lower levels.

“Often the mountain gives itself most completely when I have no destination but have gone out merely to be with the mountain as one visits a friend, with no intention but to be with him.” (Nan Shepherd)

BBC website

Bearing this in mind I decided on a walk I’d had on my list of possibilities for some time – a walk around Glencoyne – an example of a hanging valley, formed by a glacier thousands of years ago during the last Ice Age – from Ullswater. I’d been up the south side of the valley a couple of times heading up to a summit and greatly enjoyed the scenery and peace and quiet

I parked up at the National Trust car park at Aira Force. I’d set out early so there were plenty of spaces available, which is not always the case at this popular car park which serves the “honey pot” waterfall of Aira Force. I followed the path climbing up beside the river, and after a quick look at the waterfall from a distance, cut across to the Dockray road. Crossing over the latter I took the path towards Glencoyne


The path, occasionally boggy (not surprising during the recent persistent rain) traversed the hill side, climbing gradually.


with excellent views along the lake in both directions.


I passed through a gate and then walked through a stretch of woodland before the path began to climb steeply,


Soon the views of the lake behind me were replaced ahead by mountains, the higher fells still showing remnants of recent snowfall.


The path took me along the north side of the valley. It’s a quiet route and I only encountered 3 other people until I reached the junction with the path up Greenside.

The view down the valley towards Ullswater

Reaching the head of the valley I decided to divert up to Sheffield Pike – a relatively short climb but over boggy ground.

Helvellyn and Catstycam visible from the head of the valley
Looking back as I started to climb up to the summit of Sheffield Pike
The summit of Sheffield Pike
Looking down on Ullswater from the summit

It was windy at the top as I grabbed a few snaps. I settled down behind some rocks for some shelter while I had a bite to eat and a hot coffee from my flask. Reenrgised I retraced my steps back through the bogs down to the path that would take me down the south side of Glencoyne.

Lookings towards the high fells on the way back down
Descending back down to Glencoyne

Towards the end of my descent I passed the lonely terrace of cottages known as Seldom Seen. They’re holiday lets now, but at one time they were the homes of Catholic miners, who to were housed here to keep them well away from the predominately non-Conformist fellow workers who lived in Glenridding.

Looking down to Glencoyne farm.
Zooming in on Glencoyne Farm

At the bottom of the vally I joined the Ullswater way path which I follwed back to the car park at Aira Force.

The view back up Glencoyne from the Ullswater Way
Looking over the lake from the Ullswater Way path

The National Trust cafe near the car park was still open so I treated myself to a brew and a cake (needed to boost my blood sugar before the drive home!). Afterwards I crossed the road and walked down to the lake to take in the views before returning to my car and the drive home.

In the end, I did visit a summit, but I think the walk around Glencoyne confirms Nan Shepherds contention that a walk through the mountain valleys can be a very enjoyable and satisfying experience.