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Back to the back o' Skiddaw

Back to the back o' Skiddaw

Postby nigheandonn » Mon Oct 07, 2019 10:01 pm

Wainwrights included on this walk: Brae Fell, Great Sca Fell, Longlands Fell, Meal Fell

Date walked: 31/08/2019

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After a summer spent mostly dotting about the highlands, as far as the hills were concerned, the end of August finally saw me back in the north of England. For once I had managed to avoid the English bank holiday weekend, but for once the bank holiday had managed to claim all the good weather, and the forecast now was for heavy rain all Saturday morning, although it might clear fairly well afterwards.

I was already pondering the merits of going down to Keswick on Saturday morning, either with the early bus or via Penrith, and heading back up to Uldale on the return bus once things had calmed down a bit, when I discovered that I had managed to come away without any trousers (I wasn't naked, don't worry, I'd just gone to work in a skirt!).

Even worse, and leaving me feeling far more exposed, was the fact that despite a frantic hunt all round the house I hadn't been able to lay my hands on the Northern Fells book - I'd never gone on a Wainwright trip without Wainwright before, and it felt really wrong so close to the end.

I made it to Carlisle on Friday night without further mishap, and did quite a bit of wandering round the northern end trying to find a pub that had decent beer *and* decent (or quiet) music, before remembering the place - which I've now forgotten the name of - more or less inside a wall, where I had a very pleasant pint.

I had the early start on Saturday just the same, because the bus turned out to be the better option, and a dash round Keswick around and in between and through the rain - apart from trouser shopping I took myself for tea and a scone, and went to the co-op, and started again on my adventure at 11:30. Uldale was a nice little spot, with a gallery with some lovely pictures, including some unexpectedly of Islay, but before long I was heading off again by a minor road towards the hills,which were still cloudy but clearing.

The road from Uldale

There's a field path short cut to Longlands, but I've had too much experience of the theoretical nature of footpaths on the edge of the lake district, and decided to take a slightly longer way round, down by the road to Chapel House Farm and across the end of a little reservoir to come back out to the road by a track.

Chapelhouse reservoir

At the gate at Longlands there was a sign telling me, mysteriously, that constant dripping hollows out a stone - this seemed to be something to do with a race taking place, and for the next while I had runners coming past me.

I avoided the wet hollow at Longlands by following the track back up to higher ground, and then turned off away from the runners onto a path which climbed Longlands Fell, a green streak over a green and yellow hill.

Path to Longlands Fell

This was a nice starting point - not too far to climb, and the top in view most of the way up - it had a nice cairn and some spare stones, and a view towards Skiddaw with its head in the clouds.

Longlands Fell summit

I seemed to have been wandering round Binsey for a good part of my journey, and now it was a very attractive part of the view down past Over Water - a useful view, too, because I realised that I could watch the weather coming in towards me, trailing streaks of rain.

Over Water and Binsey

Lowthwaite Fell is higher, and not much more attached to the main hill - definitely more separate than Brae Fell - so it's not obvious why Wainwright passed it over, but he did, and the summit is only marked by a couple of stones.

Lowthwaite Fell

In the dip beyond Lowthwaite Fell I sat down - just on a lump of grass, because there was nothing much else - to eat some lunch, but the rain caught up with me quite suddenly and chased me on. The line of hills stretches gently ahead from here, around a green valley.

A line of hills

I had expected to go out and back from Great Sca Fell to Meal Fell, but the ground disagreed, showing me an obvious way to reach it without the extra climb - it might usually have only been sheep who contoured round here, but it was surprisingly inviting, with a path along a little green ledge.

Contouring ledge

A path was visible continuing out of the steep little valley of the stream at the same level, but it turned out to be not a very nice place for people to cross, and so I headed down a bit before crossing over and joining the path near the depression, with view to an even more impressive valley on Frozen Fell.

Frozen Fell waterfall

For a fairly insignificant hill, Meal Fell had a surprisingly good summit - a kind of horseshoe of higher ground around a central depression, with a cairn on the highest point at one end and a shelter at the other.

Meal Fell summit

The way back up was a nice gentle climb, path and green slopes all the way.

Great Sca Fell path

After a break in the sunshine, a great grey cloud was rushing in again, bringing with it another heavy shower of rain.

Looming weather

Great Sca Fell is just a broad mound with a round summit, but it did have a good cairn, even if it was sitting in a puddle pretending to have a moat.

Great Sca Fell summit

As the cloud passed on over Skiddaw had freed itself and was standing there looking impressive - this was really the first time I'd seen it from within these hills.

Skiddaw out of the cloud

By my best calculations Great Sca Fell was my 200th Wainwright - I wasn't absolutely sure, but as far as I could remember I had been sitting on 197 all summer. As with the 100th Hewitt I had nothing better than fruit to celebrate with, although it was at least quite exotic fruit.


The weather was still carrying on very excitably in the north, but the next streak of rain looked like it had to miss me, and the sunshine was creeping in.

Sunnier weather

Little Sca Fell, maybe quarter of a mile on, had a bigger cairn with a shelter to keep it company, although a slightly lower summit.

Little Sca Fell

I hadn't even seen another walker since just before the summit of Longlands Fell, but now two people were walking towards me separately along the path from Brae Fell - I thought I must have got onto the track of the Cumbria Way, especially as one had a huge rucksack, but it turned out to be just a strange happening.

Two walkers

The weather looked like it had cleared for the last time, to leave a sunny afternoon - the usual trick of wet Sunday mornings, but I don't know if it has ever happened to me on a Saturday before.

Brae Fell was a low summit with a good cairn, perched above the edge of the farmland - a wide view of green England and hazy blue Scotland. One of the things I'm going to have to do after I finish here is go and climb Criffel - I've looked at it so much that it would be rude not to.

Brae Fell summit

The one piece of useful information I'd picked up from a quick look at a book that morning was that the ford where the path crossed the burn was pretty deep, and it might be better to come down and cross at a footbridge further up the valley - which looked like it might be quite an attractive place anyway, or at least interesting with mine workings. It might have been better, but it did involve quite a lot of tramping through grass before reaching an odd groove, too untouched to be a path and too dry to be a burn and too small to be a hush.

Strange groove

This led into a wider groove, before coming out onto the slope which led down to a green path running in parallel above the main valley track. I had been right about it being worth making my way down into the valley, which turned out to be a very attractive place of bends and angles.

In the valley

I had been wrong, however, about the weather - just as I reached the bridge the rain started to come down so hard that it bounced up again, followed by a minute or two of little hailstones - only for it all to vanish again about as suddenly as it had appeared.

Hard rain falls

From there it was an attractive walk out on a good track, crossing another footbridge in a side valley - the track didn't really rise, but the valley fell, so that crossing at the ford would mean quite a climb back up.

Along Dale Beck

The view back into the valley was even better looking with the sunshine picking out the sharp edges of the little valleys and ridges above.

Sunny valley

I came out to the road just behind Fellside, where there still seemed to be one or two straggling runners, and followed it down to Caldbeck, the way I had come up the first time. Caldbeck had been somehow involved in the race, it seemed, because a sign at the edge of the village promised 'flapjack ahead' - although there was no flapjack.

I was staying at the Oddfellows, a rare departure from hostel land, but the only hostel on this side of the hills, the camping barn at Hudscales, seemed to be mostly set up for groups. This late in the year I was expecting a quiet evening, but it turned out that by avoiding the bank holiday weekend I had landed on the day of the Hesket Newmarket show, leading to scenes more than a little reminiscent of Tan Hill on Easter weekend, only with more young farmers and fewer bikers. I was already starving when I arrived at 6:30, and they couldn't feed me until 8, which was a long hungry time away - I sat in my room for a bit, and went for a wander round the village, and eventually was given a table at the back of the big restaurant room, away from the crowds in the bar.

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Last edited by nigheandonn on Sun Dec 08, 2019 10:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Posts: 1286
Munros:19   Corbetts:9
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Location: Edinburgh

Re: Back to the back o' Skiddaw

Postby Pointless Parasite » Tue Oct 08, 2019 11:50 am

Looks like you're planning Blencathra for the big finish. Or are you going to be perverse and finish on Mungrisdale?
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Re: Back to the back o' Skiddaw

Postby nigheandonn » Tue Oct 08, 2019 12:05 pm

Slightly perverse and finish on Binsey - just because it's an outlier roughly opposite where I started :)

Blencathra this weekend, I hope.
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Posts: 1286
Munros:19   Corbetts:9
Grahams:7   Donalds:26
Sub 2000:53   Hewitts:134
Wainwrights:214   Islands:34
Joined: Jul 7, 2011
Location: Edinburgh

Re: Back to the back o' Skiddaw

Postby trailmasher » Wed Oct 09, 2019 5:03 pm

A very fine wander and report indeed recording a good day out in the Northern Fells :clap: I enjoy these fells and have walked them numerous times, and like you, not seen many other walkers about :) 8) Understandably the big 'uns take priority when travelling a distance for a walk :)
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Re: Back to the back o' Skiddaw

Postby past my sell by date » Thu Oct 10, 2019 6:54 pm

Yes nice hills and less busy than the central Lakes :D Years ago I went hunting for minerals around Brandy gill a couple of times. This area contains the Pegmatite where the last of the magma crystallises out and there is an abundance of rare things to be found :)
past my sell by date
Posts: 762
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Joined: Apr 24, 2013

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