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Muncaster Fell and Irton Pike

Muncaster Fell and Irton Pike

Postby nigheandonn » Tue Jan 24, 2017 9:10 pm

Date walked: 21/01/2017

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January is a good time for railway adventures, I think - the first time I went to Windermere was then, and a few years ago I had a trip on the two Pennine lines, in to Giggleswick and out from Settle, which I really enjoyed. So a trip round the whole of the Cumbria coast sounded like a good plan, hopefully taking in a few Outlying Wainwrights along the way - it's taken a while for them to grow on me, but although I'm enjoying my trip through the Wainwright regions, I like the idea of getting back to some of the places I've been to and miss - as well as some smaller hills for shorter days.

So a very early start saw me in Carlisle just after 8, and at Ravenglass for half past 10. In theory I've been at Ravenglass twice before, but only to hurry from big train to little train, so I'd never had time to look around. I was amused by the Roman signpost at the station.

Roman signpost, Ravenglass

This was the first time I'd arrived on a clear day, with all the Wasdale and Eskdale hills standing out, but although they were obvious from the train, it wasn't easy to get a picture of them from anywhere else.

The other good view, of the rivers winding their ways over the sands to the sea, was much easier to get to - first two riders crossing the ford over the Mite, and then the Esk reluctantly heading for the sea. There were still hills ahead as I headed towards the sea, and Black Combe, towering over the sands and foothills, looked impossibly tall for its setting, the way clouds sometimes ape impossible mountains on the horizon.

Sands and ford

From the end of the village street I followed the edge of the shore to meet the path turning back inland to the track to the Roman bathhouse otherwise known as Walls Castle.

Walls Castle

I decided to take the path by Muncaster Castle rather than the more direct one through the woods - up a shady slope with the last remnants of frost and ice underfoot, and then skirting a low rise on the right to meet a gate in the wall into the castle woods, and down towards the castle itself - all shut up for the winter, but still quite impressive.

Muncaster Castle

The road up by the church took me to the main road, which I followed up to a place which had presumably been a crossroads once, and now was a right angle bend where two lanes met the road. The next section was a slow climb up a long straight lane, enlivened by occasional gaps in the trees with a view to the hills to the east, eventually coming through a gate and up past a little tarn in the woods.

Muncaster Tarn

Where the track ran out a path led on through grass and dead bracken towards the summit - still quite a long way away, but after the climb in the lane not so much further up.

Muncaster Fell

The summit itself had a nice stone trig point and wonderful views all round, but it was very windy, and I had to drop down into a hollow on the other side to eat my lunch.

Muncaster Fell summit

From up here the old lanes were far more obvious than the main road, but a car crawling across let me figure out the land towards the sea, including Irton church in its fields.

The high hills were spread all around in front of me, but I found it quite difficult to get my bearing on them - apart from being baffled by the Coniston Hills seen from the back, my usual trick of finding Mickledore and sorting out the rest from there didn't work because all the Pikes were hiding behind Scafell - which I worked out by following its ridge up from behind the Wasdale screes.

The high hills

As usual with these things the Marilyn summit is off somewhere completely different, so instead of going back to the main path I headed down a steep bracken slope towards it, more or less skirting to the left of a bog. This summit was deep in heather and much harder work - occasionally there seemed to be a tiny thread of path, and then it would vanish again.

Marilyn summit

In the dip on the other side any path I could find seemed to be channeling me down the steep left hand flank of the hill, where I was sure I didn't want to go - eventually I climbed up the next bump to get a better view, and discovered that a path leading in roughly the right direction appeared from nowhere on its top. This even led to what seemed to be the main path over the hill - until I found myself heading sideways towards the gate which the main path led through.

At least I was found again, although it was still a long way to the end of the hill - and I was confused by the hills again until I released that I was looking down Eskdale rather than across it.

At Hollowstones the track appears to turn into a private drive, but you just walk on through the garden. Walking down the drive from the houses, something bounced out of the bushes in front of me - not a rabbit, but a red squirrel which then sat posing on the wall for quite a while.

Red squirrel posing

The track then led out to Irton Road station, with the houses of Eskdale Green on the right, and Harter Fell back in its proper place and not mixed up with everything else!

Eskdale Green

Irton Road is apparently the only station along the line with its original station buildings - and it has a nice little bridge as well. With no trains until February I didn't have to be too careful about crossing the line.

Irton Road station

Irton Pike was about a mile and a half away up the road, past the unmarked turning for Mitredale and a garage and a pub, and then another uphill stretch. With not too much extra time in hand I went for a straight up and back from the forestry gate - not quite as obvious as it looks on the map, right onto the track, left onto a path and left again onto a smaller path, but it's very obvious that the last path is heading straight for the summit.

Once on the right path it's all quite clear, although steep in places - up through a lot of prickly Christmas trees at first, then into a more open place with birches and bracken and big dead trees.

The steep path

The top is grass, and I met my first other walkers of the day, sheltering just below the windy summit.

Irton Pike summit

From here it's clear that this is the end of the Whin Rigg ridge, giving a view right down to Wastwater.

Wasdale Head

Although everything here is Irton - Road and Fell and Pike - there didn't seem to be any Irton itself to give them their name, but I also had a good view of the Irt winding across the plain.

River Irt

It was still a lovely day, but now with that golden late afternoon light, so I didn't spend too long at the top, and headed back down the same way.

Irton Pike

I was fascinated by Irton church abandoned in the middle of the fields, so decided to take the shortcut that way - turning off just before Santon Bridge to follow the road down to Irton Hall, now a hotel.

Irton Hall

I should have known that following footpaths over farmland is always a bad idea - Orton Hall had put a private no access sign on the track which is presumably the right of way, so that I climbed a barbed wire fence at a place where several people have climbed it before, round past the stile at the other end of the track to a field where an excited horse ran up to say hello, and through a band of woodland into possibly the muddiest field I've ever been in.

On the other hand I had a wonderful view back to the Wasdale hills glowing red, and finally a full length view of Muncaster Fell.

Sunset on Wasdale

Muncaster Fell full length

The church was pretty enough, but the only cross I found was the war memorial, and beyond it my troubles began again - a gate which had moved to a different corner of the field, a stile not put back when a new fence was made, so that I ended up on the wrong side and had to climb precariously across a fence and ditch together, and a path which led straight to where the bridge presumably was 200 years ago, because it didn't look like it had ever been a ford. Fortunately the new bridge wasn't far away, and a good track from there brought me out to the road.

I'd hoped to catch the 5pm train from Drigg, but after all this it was nearly 5, and I wandered down through Holmrook under a sky so pale blue it was almost white, with an evening star which was presumably Jupiter, as it was high in the sky. Drigg went on for quite a while, but I got to the pub at the station just before half past 5, and asked if they were doing food, as an early dinner seemed preferable to dinner at Arnside at 8 - the barman looked round the completely empty bar and said "believe it or not, we're fully booked", but they decided they could squeeze me in if I was quick - it turned out that they had a party of about 15 coming in at 6.30!

So by quarter past 6 I was fed and on the train again, a bit sad to be crossing all the viaducts in the dark, but generally feeling it had been a good day.

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Re: Muncaster Fell and Irton Pike

Postby ChrisW » Tue Jan 24, 2017 11:58 pm

Fantastic write up Nighe, as en ex railwayman it does my heart good to see it included in a hike report. As you say, shame to miss those viaducts due to darkness but those pictures and your fortune at the pub mean it was still a fantastic day....and leaves you with a great excuse to go back sometime :wink: :clap: :clap:
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Re: Muncaster Fell and Irton Pike

Postby trailmasher » Wed Jan 25, 2017 8:16 pm

I've always been of the opinion that good views can be got from the smaller fells and your report has endorsed it :D , thank you for a good report and pics of the great hills around Wasdale and Eskdale, nice one :clap: :clap:
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