Bakestall an unlikely nemesis- Involving Bakestall, Lonscale Fell and Latrigg but mentioned in dispatches are Skiddaw, Binsey, Ling Fell, Sale Fell, Grike, Crag Fell, Iron Crag, Lank Rigg, Great Borne and Starling Dodd.
I’d been pottering around the Lake District peaks for more years than I care to remember, so often I had multiple ascents of the big peaks but simply hadn’t been bothered with a number of perfectly lovely but less high tops. It was time for a fresh challenge and fresh out of lockdown in May 2020 I had decided to give the Wainwrights a go and see how I got on.
That meant at least I wasn’t starting from scratch, in fact I had 70 something Wainwrights under my belt as I recall. It did mean however, once I’d put my bagged Wainwrights into ‘Walkhighlands’, that there were quite a lot of the awkward ‘on the end’ kind of hills to do.
Bakestall and Lonscale Fell were two such hills. Bakestall was on the end of the northern Skiddaw massif, Lonscale Fell was on the southern end of the Skiddaw massif. I’d been up Skiddaw a couple of times, both memorable in their way but surely I'd be able to work these two hills into other walks wouldn't I to avoid having to knock them off individually? Surely?
My first time up Skiddaw was way back when (Probably the early 1990’s) via the usual tourist route from Keswick with my Step Dad and Pip, the dog we then had. Both now are sadly departed and much missed and in one of those tricks of memory this is one of the most vivid days I recall of them both bright eyed, happy and doing what we all loved. Unfortunately cloud was scudding the top of Skiddaw and continued all that day. A circumstance that would be oft repeated over the years. I remember looking at the ‘view plate’ on top, mockingly pointing out the views we couldn’t see because the cloud was down. It wasn’t quite a Bullseye ‘lets see what you could have won’ but I always think view plates in cloud have a quiet cruelty about them. We returned the same way but took in Little Man on the way down. I’ve no recollection of detouring to Latrigg even though it wouldn’t have been far out of our way on the descent. I suppose we weren’t aware what a magnificent viewpoint it is and were keen to get to the car but it would have saved a detour years later.
The second time was April 2018. I was going to Scotland with a group of friends in May so myself and a friend decided a big bike/hike was the way to get fit. We started at Dockray went across the old coach road towards Keswick, then gained height again through Threlkeld to Keswick House. There we locked the bikes and walked up Skiddaw via Sale How. I now love a bike/hike, it combines two of my favourite things, but this was early days. The great dilemma of a bike hike is where you put your boots. I’d bought a ‘transition bag’ from the ‘Planet X’ website, meant for transitioning from swim to bike to run in a triathlon (I think) and it importantly had a roomy boot partition. My friend was pioneering an innovative secure your boots to the outside of your biggest Camelbak approach which I felt had a certain frisson of risk in possibly arriving at your walk minus one or both boots, plus if it rained the boots would act as an additional water reservoir which would likely be less than ideal. That said all went well in that we arrived at Skiddaw House with a full complement of footware, transitioned to our boots and set about climbing the hill. Compared to the relative motorway that climbs Skiddaw from Keswick this was definitely the quieter route up but we soon struck a small path that eventually joined the main path. We hadn’t realised it, because we were on the leeward side of the hill, but when we reached the ridge there was a bitterly cold North Westerly wind battering the top of Skiddaw which, by way of variation, occasionally carried a flurry of hailstone which flailed at any exposed skin with positive gusto. We promptly donned all the warm clothing in our rucksacks whilst in the largely imaginary shelter of a small fence just off the path, then set off for the top proper. The bike/hike thing was new to us so, whilst I was rocking a mountain bike shorts with running tights underneath look, my friend, bravely as it turned out, had shorts but bare legs.
On reaching the summit plateau the winds ferocity truly hit us and we joined a largeish mingle of hikers all of whom had way more clothes on than we did it seemed. There was no danger as the wind largely blew everyone away from the steeper side of Skiddaw but it was, we concluded, decidedly parky. Indeed one lady was moved to audibly exclaim ‘that man has only got shorts on!’ in reference to my friend. I doubted that she was motivated by any aesthetic appreciation of the said legs and more a general astonishment that someone would appear so poorly clad in such a maelstrom. She had a point, I mused, as another shower of accelerated hail blown straight in from Iceland hit us. It wasn’t a day to linger over the ‘View plate’ spotting peaks that was for sure, even though the view was relatively clear, in between flurries of the accursed hail. So we tapped the trig point and pretty much set off back down, discretion being the better part of valour.
The rest of the day was comparatively uneventful. We got down fine, lunched in the lee of Skiddaw House slightly begrudging of the fact we had carried our sarnies all the way to the top then down again to eat them. Then we stowed our boots got the biking shoes back on and completed our loop. All in all doing 50.7 km with 1,668 m of ascent. Our legs were at the point of a major falling out with us by the time we got back to the car though my mate did ask me as we were hunched over the bars of our bikes sucking in air how much exactly my running tights and boot compartment bag had set me back, which I took as a good sign that he was willing to contemplate a similar escapade.
All of which is a long preamble to explain why I had 2 awkward Wainwright tops, Bakestall and Lonscale Fell namely, on either side of the Skiddaw massif and wasn’t particularly enamoured of the idea of going over Skiddaw again to join them up.
Which brings us to April 2021 and I’d got a few Wainwrights under my belt by then but not the northernmost ones of Binsey, Sale Fell, Ling Fell and Bakestall. They are pretty isolated hills, I noted, hard to join up without some means of getting between them. So I poured over a few maps and a plot was hatched to cycle between them and bag them all, but wait… there are a few of Wainwight’s ‘outlying fells’ up that way too aren’t there? Why not join them all into one big loop and have done with them the lot of them? I reasoned. With hindsight the reason not to do this is that it will be a massive bike ride, with some tricky navigation, interspersed with jaunts up a multitude of hills which, whilst not massive in their own right, will inevitably add up. 11 hills (7 outliers and 4 Wainwrights proper) was the goal of the day which turned out, unsurprisingly, to be a hill too many. I should have seen the signs when my hike/bike friend was ‘busy that weekend’ after I outlined the idea to him. So it was that after 9 hours of biking/hiking and on reaching the top of Sale Fell and with 57 km and 1,482 metres of ascent under my belt that it became obvious that Bakestall was a hill too far. My mobile went into low battery mode on top of Sale Fell but I reckon it was at least another 20 km to close the loop back to my car as well. Bakestall 1 Chris 0.
July 2021 came around and a period where Mrs LP had taken the kids to London for the weekend coincided with a spell of fine weather meant I had a whole weekend to go to the Lakes. I planned a solo hike/bike (of course) to Ennerdale. Staying over, even though that would mean bedding down at Bowness (-not that one) Knott car park in the car. My aim on day 1 was to do the Wainwrights Grike, Crag Fell and Lank Rigg plus there was a stray Hewitt Iron Crag up there. Lovely as Ennerdale is it’s a long way and its best not to leave stray hills still to be bagged if you could help it. Also on the agenda was Great Borne and Starling Dodd another couple of ‘on the end’ Wainwrights I hadn’t done. The next day on the way home I’d knock off that annoying Bakerstall perhaps nip into the Lakes Distillery and still be home in time to do the inevitable ‘wife list’ that Mrs LP had left.
Six relatively low level hills when I had all day what could possibly go wrong? Did I mention it was hot? Really, Really hot? In fact, it was in Northern England at least, far and away the hottest weekend of the year. Consequently, by the time I cycled back to the car 5 (ish) hours later I had long ago burned through the 3 litres of water I was carrying, was feeling nauseas and had a crushing headache. Never has the Litre and a half Sig bottle I keep in a coolbag in the car full of rehydration fluid been so welcome. I probably had boderline heat stroke but rehydrated under the trees at Ennerdale with the car windows open I was soon feeling a bit better. I ate my teatime pies and lulled by a breeze and the gentle buzz of insects must have dropped off. I awoke feeling massively refreshed a couple of hours later. Looking at the sun I could have set off for Great Borne and Starling Dodd but I’d almost certainly be finishing in the dark and whilst I had a head torch I reasoned myself into taking it a bit easy given how badly I’d felt earlier. I did manage to get up Bowness (-not that one) Knott for an impressive sunset before settling down for a night at chez Astra (the car).
I didn’t sleep badly but was awake by 4:15am with little prospect of more kip so I decided that the early bird gets the worm and got kitted to tackle Great Borne and Starling Dodd. It turned out to be a great walk. I always like being on the hills early (just not necessarily the process of getting to the hills early) but that feeling of having the hills to yourself, a rareity in the Lakes, is hard to beat. Arriving back at the car I could have continued with plan b and driven round to Bakestall but decided (with the wife’s list ever foremost in my mind) to be content with the great day I’d just had and not to push it. Bakestall 2 Chris 0.
Late July 2021 I was doing the hills popularly termed in Steve Marshalls ‘Walking the Wainwrights’ book as the ‘Back o’ Skiddaw’ hills. I could easily tack Bakestall onto these hills surely? I had parked at the Car Park at the corner of ‘Over Water’ and thought I could wiggle my way round to Bakestall and back via the approach to Dash Farm then continue the ‘Back o’ Skiddaw’ round. Unfortunately on the approach to Brocklecrag there is a gate that has a very definite ‘Private Property!’ sign on it. I didn’t debate for long, if the people at Brocklecrag had got sick of people walking by their door, particularly as early in the morning as this, I wasn’t going to disturb them, and I just got on with the ‘Back o’ Skiddaw Hills. Still I couldn’t help reflecting it was Bakestall 3 Chris 0.
So here we are at the main event. At long last it was B Day (Bakestall Day) namely 25th October 2021, I was going to do Bakestall, and nothing could stop me. I had been looking at maps and planning routes since September and I’d even done a different walk or two since, but my eye kept being drawn to that now lonely red dot in the northern lakes. I racked my brains as to how I might join up Bakestall to the north of Skiddaw and Lonscale Fell to the south in some pleasing way without actually going over Skiddaw again, and I studied the maps some more.
I could, I thought, bike along the Bridleway to the East of the Skiddaw range and pick off Bakestall and Lonscale on the way through. The Bridleway was a good ride from what I had seen riding up to Skiddaw House a couple of years earlier and the descent into Keswick from Skiddaw House contouring along Lonscale Fell is something of a mountain bike classic I’d done 2 or 3 times, but, that would mean arriving in Keswick a very long way from the car. I could cycle back via the A591 but that road wouldn’t be a pleasant ride. It’s a fast A road with a lot of tight corners and wasn’t an attractive proposition at all. I might be able to wiggle around some of the forestry tracks through Dodd Wood I reasoned but it would be tricky navigationally and the tracks wouldn’t get me all the way back I didn’t think. Sooo what to do? Then I had a bit of an epiphany why not just drive north of Skiddaw do Bakestall as an out and back, then drive back round to Keswick and do Lonscale Fell as an out and back? And if I was going to do that wasn’t the Lakes Distillery conveniently close to the route? So close in fact it would almost be rude not to?
It was settled I would essentially smash and grab Bakestall and Lonscale Fell by parking at pretty much the closest point and take in a distillery on the way between. Boom.
So on the morning on 25th October 2021 I pulled up in the layby near Peter House Farm. There is room for 4 or maybe 5 cars at a squeeze here and it’s conveniently directly at the start of the Bridleway that takes you up to Whitewater Dash and ultimately Bakestall. From the parking you go through a signposted gate and the Bridleway begins gently climbing, firstly on tarmac then as the usual grass down the middle landrover track as you gain height. It isn’t long before Whitewater Dash, a quite picturesque waterfall, comes into view.
The track climbs steadily hugging the countours of the valley till at almost the top a fence intersects the track from the right and an obvious path follows the fence line to ascend Bakestall. Boggy at first the path improves as you climb Birkett Edge to reach the top of Bakestall at 637 metres. The top is marked by a small cairn and whilst not exactly picturesque the location as a whole is an imposing one. The best views are obtained at the smaller Cairn 20 or 30 metres away and a little lower that looks out Northward towards the coast and Scotland. I took a moment or two to savour it, after all it had taken me quite a while to get here. Having got my breath back and wandered down to the smaller cairn with the better view and back, I began wondering where Lonscale Fell was and whether I could see it. Gratifyingly I could, and very far away it looked. I gave myself a pat on the back that I hadn’t committed myself to walking it or some massive bike ride to include it and instead and had a distillery visit to look forward to. So in that happy frame of mind I descended Birkett Edge back to the Bridleway. I briefly contemplated a descent along the top of the evocatively named ‘Dead Crags’ to cut off the corner but the contours at the bottom seemed steep and ultimately its better the devil you know where paths are concerned. Also the name ‘Dead Crags’ put me off a bit.
As I was descending I met what looked like a father and son duo coming up and we stopped for a chat. They it turned out were going over Skiddaw and down the other side. ‘Wont you end up a long way from your car?’ I asked. ‘yes but my wife will pick us up’ was the response. Well I observed (paraphrasing Mr Punch) ‘That’s the way to do it’. I told them my plans of a distillery visit and then a car trip south to bag Lonscale and the father said somewhat wistfully ‘Ah, I’d have liked to have gone to the distillery, but my son is under 18’. So we parted ways wishing each other a good days walking and saying we might meet again on the other side of the hill. Though I doubted there was much chance of that. After that I retraced my steps back to the car slipped back into shoes rather than boots, got the ‘Lakes Distillery’ up on my google maps and set off.
I arrived in the car park and at first was slightly perturbed by the absence of a Doig ventilator. These, are, in case you are ever on ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire’ and ‘Distilleries’ comes up as a subject, the pagoda like structures very often found on the roof of Scottish Distilleries. So often in fact that they are positively distinctive, and I was a little disappointed not to see one. Well, I reasoned, unless you were going to malt your own barley (and precious few of even the Scottish distilleries do these days) I don’t suppose you need one. I swiftly overcame my disappointment and stepped inside. On enquiry it seemed my expectations of just pitching up and getting on a tour were distinctly over optimistic. It would be an hour or so before a tour was free. I ummed a bit but ultimately decided that as I had another walk on the agenda a quick mooch round the shop and would best suit my purposes. After all i could always come back another time. So I purchased a glass tumbler and a collection of 3 minitures of the whisky expressions and was on my way to Keswick.
I parked up near the Swimming Pool in Keswick and after a bit of parking meter based faffing, the first one being broken, the second one looking game then swallowing a couple of quid and after a long reset declaring itself broken as well. Suspecting a trap I took a photo of them both just in case I had to argue the case with a traffic warden or an over zealous local council and decided I’d better just get on with the walk.
I walked back down Brundholm Road until I reached the point where you cross and the track towards Skiddaw and Latrigg starts heading uphill. It is a pleasant but steepening route through woods to begin with that narrowly bypasses the top of Latrigg but you can take in Latrigg with a shortish detour. Latrigg is a great viewpoint for not a lot of extra effort but I decided decided to save that till later and detour on the way down and made my way to the car park at the end of Gale Road. Shortly after the car park (parking for about 20 cars I would guess but is very often full) I came across the Hawell Monument. I’d actually forgotten about the monument till I saw it, given it was so long since I’d come up this way. The other times I’d either gone up Skiddaw a different way, just walked up Latrigg or flashed by within 30 metres but oblivious on a bike. It’s a touching monument in a lovely setting and worth taking a moment or two to contemplate. Apparently erected at the behest of Canon Hardwick Rawnsley, who was resident in the Lake District, was one of the founding members of the National Trust and was clearly close to the Hawell family. When is something that a cursory google search couldn’t definitively tell me but I would theorise probably after 1891 when Joseph Hawell named on the main column of the cross died but before 1911 when Robert Hawell who is memorialised on the support plinth died. Ultimately though it matters little because as I say it’s a touching monument in a lovely setting and I doubt I can do better that the words (attributed to Canon Rawnsley himself) on the memorial:
‘Great Shepherd of thy Heavenly Flock
These men have left our hill
Their feet were on the living rock
Oh guide and bless them still.’
After the memorial it is onwards and upwards along the path which I’ll charitably describe as ‘obvious’. A bit of a motorway might be the less charitable description. As I continued upwards who did I run into but the father and son I’d met when descending Bakestall. This time the situation was reversed and they were tripping down the hill knowing the worst of their labours were over whereas I was toiling my way up hill. We recognised each other and exchanged greetings. I was happy to learn they had had a bit of clear weather on top and had had a view (probably being able to linger a bit over that bloody view plate I mused) and had thoroughly enjoyed their day. I tantalised them with the news that the turn off to Lonscale Fell wasn’t far off and they could probably avoid an ‘awkward one on the end type situation’ if they were ever tempted into a Wainwrights round. The son looked briefly keen but the father was already mentally in the car thinking about what was for tea and who could blame him? So we parted ways with them descending and me climbing. Happily it genuinely wasn’t far to the Lonscale Fell turn off and the massive Skiddaw path turned into a distinctly lesser trodden path which follows a small beck and fence until reaching the flat Col, and inevitable marshy area, between the hills. Then it is a quick right turn and a brief dilemma as to which side of the fence to walk on. I chose right because the summit is on the right hand side of the fence on the map but clearly people have walked on both sides.
It is probably about 2 or 300 metres and an ascent of 50 metres or so to the top from that point and I arrived at the top within about 10 minutes or so. There is a small cairn at the top but Lonscale Fell is one of those hills with a flatish top so the views are better a little way from the actual summit where the hill is steeper. The wind however had no such inhibition so I was fairly quick about liberating my waterproof and after a brief hide and seek between arm and sleeve managed to get it on. I touched the cairn and continued on towards the southern end of the top and the views that opened up of the Helvellyn range and the Borrowdale hills quickly gave me that ‘all worth it’ feeling. I savoured the view as long as I could in what was quite a fresh wind but I’d decided that I didn’t fancy removing my gloves to have a biccy or a sandwich and given this was where the best views were I’d descend off this southern end of Lonscale Fell and try to coincide with a small black dash of a path shown on the 1:250000 map that hooks its way up to about 550 metres. There was a Plan B in that there is a pretty obvious path visible from the A66 which follows the fence line along the top of Lonscale Crags to the summit which I could aim for if I lost the path. So with that in mind I started down a faint path southward off the summit plateau.
It might have been me, because the view was certainly distracting and I stopped occasionally to take photos with my phone, but at some point 200 metres or so from the top the path went from faint to indiscernible so plan B was employed and I contoured East to meet the fence line. Occasionally I seemed to follow a path, whether made by people or sheep I couldn’t tell, but it wasn’t greatly difficult to reach the fence line. I immediately noticed that the path was on the other side (aren’t they always?) so that gave me a fence to negotiate. The fence was one of those carefully erected so that it was too tall to step over without risking calamitous injury to your nether regions but too small to warrant an actual stile- I think the height and the fact that the topmost strand absolutely must be barbed wire is carefully mandated by the ‘Tricky Fence Act 1968’. So I chose a likely looking spot next to a post where I wedged the front part of my left boot in the fence square then swung my right foot over the fence and attempted to wedge the front part of that foot in the wire square directly below my left foot. As far as I know there is no graceful way to achieve this. My right arm was out for balance and my left was trying to create a small point of stability by gripping the tiny gap between barbs of the wire in front of me. There was a brief ooooh moment as the wind blew me forward onto the fence post with nothing likely to cushion the impact but my groin but happily I managed to get my free hand on the fencepost swiftly enough to avert disaster. Then my largely haphazard flailing with my right foot bore fruit and caught in a fence square. I believe in proper climbing circles they call this ‘the crux’, and with my right foot able to bear weight I disentangled my left to complete an ungainly step over manoeuvre. Or so I thought, because my left leg in mid step stuck. Some malign force was blocking the progress of my leg over the fence. Looking desperately between my legs (not for the first time but that’s another story) I noticed one of my rucksack straps had hooked itself over a barb and was resolutely barring progress.
I had very briefly joined the scouts in my youth and remembered that the scoutmaster had been an advocate of always making a knot in any dangling strap to keep it ‘neatly out of the way’. Frankly If he had mentioned the possibility of castration I might have paid more attention, but as it was I’d gone through my entire hillwalking history without tying any knots in any dangling straps and never previuosly come to much harm. However given the situation I was in I was now severly regretting my tardiness.
My predicament, as far as I could see, left me with two choices. Firstly carry on swinging my leg over with the risk that the strap would tighten and create an unwanted genital tourniquet as more weight was placed on it. Secondly flail around like a madman with a spare hand hoping to dislodge it. Option two it was then. I reasoned that the strap was more likely to come loose if I made sweeping motions with my hand towards the way I had come, so that’s what I did and thank the Lord on the third pass there was an audible ‘twang’ and I shot backwards to land in a heap on the tussocky grass on the correct side of the fence.
On solid ground I got my breath back and I will say this, a bit of fence rodeo on a walk certainly gets the blood pumping. The fence stood impassively by awaiting its next victim and I resisted the urge to shake my fist at it a’ la Basil Fawlty. There was a couple following the path on the way up but were probably too far away to have noticed my impromptu fence rodeo shenanigans I hoped.
So I mustered what dignity I could and carried on down the steep but obvious path following the fence. I exchanged a cheery hello with the ascending couple and if they had noticed my fence debacle they kept commendably poker faces and before too long I met the Bridleway that contours round the bottom of Lonscale Crags. From there it is a simple turn right to follow the bridleway back to the Gale Road Car Park. Here you are faced with the choice of whether to expend a bit more energy to get to the top of Latrigg or just carry on descending. I would recommend Latrigg as it is a great viewpoint overlooking as it does Keswick, Derwent Water and the hills of Borrowdale beyond and of course it is a Wainwright in its own right. I’ve been up in conditions ranging from moody to a perfect summers evening and the view is always worth a look.
This day was definitely towards the moody end of the scale with a chilly westerly/ south westerly wind but the breaks in the cloud over toward Catbells created some great sunbursts through the clouds and a sky full of drama. I went to the top for forms sake then backtracked and lingered at the viewpoint seat for as long as my chilling fingers and the gap between the numbers of people coming up Latrigg would allow. Briefly alone with the drama of a Lake District Autumn before me a view plate was not required.
It had been a superb day. typical of a Wainwright bagging experience really in that what might have been a dull hill ticking exercise had been turned into a fine day out with a bit of adventure and a bit of a journey down memory lane thrown in. All that and I still had some whisky to drink.
So there you have it, Bakestall- best nemesis ever!
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