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A Roman Road,an Iron Age Fort, and a lucky vole.

A Roman Road,an Iron Age Fort, and a lucky vole.


Postby trailmasher » Wed Jul 12, 2017 7:11 pm

Wainwrights included on this walk: High Raise (Far Eastern Fells), High Street, Kidsty Pike, Mardale Ill Bell, Rampsgill Head, The Knott

Hewitts included on this walk: High Raise (Far Eastern Fells), High Street, Rampsgill Head

Date walked: 20/06/2017

Time taken: 3.09

Distance: 14.3 km

Ascent: 888m

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A walk from Haweswater.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


It was a dull day when Chris arrived at my place with the clouds hanging low over Cross Fell, so low in fact that they also covered the tops of Dufton and Murton Fells and it was touch and go whether we should go up high or try and pick something below cloud level. If we did that we would invariably be walking through the low lying fields and today I had chosen bigger game than that, so did we bite the bullet and do what was planned or have a wimps day out wandering through the local pastures eyeing up the good looking livestock. Chris hadn't driven from the northeast for that sort of a day so over a mug of coffee we decided to chance it and do what was planned, a walk around the tops of Haweswater starting and finishing at the car park at Mardale Head.

The drive to Haweswater via Shap was not an encouraging one, cool at 12°c, damp, and only the lowest of the lower fells to be seen and I was glad that it was summer if only for the reason that the trees were full of leaves and the verges sprinkled with wild flowers giving at least some colour to this otherwise grey shrouded day. I've walked these fells many times in the past so being up in the clouds doesn't worry me at all, it's just that, there's nothing to be seen apart from the ground beneath your feet and Chris would be missing some great views from the top of High Street. We can only hope that it clears up before we have walked too far.

When we arrived at the car park at Mardale Head it was to find quite a few cars already parked up and empty of people so they must have been somewhere up in the hills around here. We were soon booted up and despite the 12°c it was cold and damp as we set off to pass through the gate that entices one onto any of the three paths that would lead you up to the surrounding fells/mountains, mountains that can't be seen today due to the low lying cloud.

We took the path that runs parallel, but above Mardale Beck, and would take us all the way to the delightful tarn of Small Water. This is a path that is well seen and used so there is no fear of missing ones way as it climbs easily upwards below Harter Fell Gully and then as it nears the falls of Small Water Beck we turned around to look behind us to see Mardale Head and the south end of Haweswater but of the hills to the right nothing could be seen apart from the lowest slopes.
4 - Haweswater and Mardale Head from the side of Small Water Beck.JPG
Haweswater and Mardale Head from the side of Small Water Beck.

From the waterfalls the path now skirts the mist shrouded foot of Harter Fell to continue its climb up to Small Water itself.
2 - The lower slopes of Harter Fell.JPG
The lower slopes of Harter Fell.

Small Water is usually a delightful little tarn set amongst the crags of the surrounding fells with Piot Crag to the north of which the path runs below as it passes the three stone built shelters the use of which for shepherds or quarrymen I do not know. To the south of the tarn there are the steep slopes of Harter Fell whilst west, and where we shall eventually arrive, there is the grass and rock covered face of Small Water Crag that carries the stone built wall shelter at the entrance to Nan Bield Pass.

Today Small Water is grey and miserable with very little of the bowl that it sits in visible…
5 - A mist shrouded Small Water.JPG
A mist shrouded Small Water.

the only opening in the mist being at the outlet of the tarn and the foot of Piot Crag where the three shelters sit amongst the debris of either quarry waste or fallen and shattered rocks from the crags above.
7 - The three stone shelters at Small Water.JPG
The three stone shelters at Small Water.

Once we had passed the shelters the path becomes more rugged as it climbs upwards through the rocks and crags splitting in a couple of places and it's just a case of which part of the path that you would prefer but in any event it keeps on guiding you upwards. Some days parts of the path are running with water so a course through the rocks has to be more carefully chosen to try and avoid wet feet.

Visibility got no better the higher we climbed and today with the underfoot conditions damp and slippery it took us around 35 minutes to reach the shelter at Nan Bield where we stopped for a drink and bite to eat. As we sat in the damp, chilly mist and we fuelled up Chris fed young Sonny and before many minutes a sheepdog appeared in the company of its master and even though we were sat in the misty silence we hadn't heard them until they were amongst us.

We established that he was going to drop down into Hartsop by the way of Thornthwaite Beacon and possibly Gray Crag but he was a bit unsure of that. As we left Nan Bield he tucked in behind us at a distance and it was only occasionally that we spotted him through the clag that had got no better as we continued to climb along the steadily rising and sometimes paved path to reach the cairn of Mardale Ill Bell that sits directly above the top of Piot Crag and its long ago worked out quarries.
9 - Mardale Ill Bell summit.JPG
Mardale Ill Bell summit.

Having been here many times and with no views due to the clag we didn't linger and continued on a north westerly course that followed a well stoned up and fairly wide path that we stayed on instead of turning off to the right onto the old path that has now been replaced by the one that we now using. Arriving at the old dry stone wall we then turned to the north to follow it over grass to the nearby summit of High Street whilst the only stone about was the remains of the old wall that has been scattered around and used to fill in any wet spots along the path.
11 - High Street summit in low cloud.JPG
High Street summit in low cloud.

High Street, the remains of the old Roman Road that ran from Carlisle to Penrith and then took a line around the side of Heughscar Hill, along the ridge between Barton Fell and Helton Fell to then pass over Wartches, Loadpot Hill, Wether Hill, onto High Raise, around Rampsgill Head, over High Street, down through Troutbeck Park and onto Ambleside to the Roman Fort of Galava.

As we left High Street summit there was flurry of movement, a quick dash by Sonny in which he caught a large vole, but after a couple of rather loud squeaks and a shout of command from Chris Sonny dropped the fortunate and very lucky vole to continue on its fell top foraging after its little heart had stopped racing and we had continued on our way.

As we neared the Straits of Riggindale...
14 - Straits of Riggindale and Twopenny Crag.JPG
Straits of Riggindale and Twopenny Crag.

and from just about the top of Short Stile the clouds began to lift and we could now see into the foothills of Hartsop with Hayeswater visible in the centre of the scene. Now this looked promising, but let's not hold our breath just yet.
13 - A glimpse of Hayeswater and Hartsop from above Short Stile-Straits of Riggindale.JPG
A glimpse of Hayeswater and Hartsop from above Short Stile-Straits of Riggindale.

As we arrived at the head of Riggindale we could see that the cloud was also lifting to the east and the clearance appeared to be spreading around the whole area as we watched its progress.
16 - Along Riggindale towards Rough Crag and Haweswater.JPG
Along Riggindale towards Rough Crag and Haweswater.

As we looked back we could see that the cloud was definitely lifting as High Street was beginning to appear. Five minutes later and looking in the direction of The Knott we could now see a large expanse of the LD mountains spread out behind the grass covered bulk of The Knott carrying a large cairn, our next port of call. It didn't take nary a couple of minutes to reach the top as we followed the good path alongside the dry stone wall to arrive at the cairn that is constructed from many stones that I suspect was taken from the tumbledown wall that runs across the top of the fell. It was amazing how quickly the clouds had lifted and despite the haze the views are quite stunning in all directions apart from the northeast where only the grassy bank and path to Rampsgill Head and High Raise can be seen. Nevertheless this is an outstanding viewpoint with the LD hills and mountains too numerous to mention in this report. Suffice to say it's a great place to be and look over the fantastic array of tops that have given many a walker much pleasure and in some cases, hard work whilst climbing to the tops of them.
19 - North towards Ullswater-Rest Dodd- Loadpot Hill etc.JPG
North towards Ullswater-Rest Dodd-Loadpot Hill etc.

21 West towards Fairfield-St Sunday Crag-Birks-Hartsop-above-How-Hart Crag and so on.JPG
West towards Fairfield-St Sunday Crag-Birks-Hartsop-above-How-Hart Crag and so on.

Before moving on we snatched a quick drink and then began to make our way east towards Rampsgill Head, first retracing our way onto The Knott…
23 - The Knott and some western fells.JPG
The Knott and some western fells.

and then making the short climb up to the small cairn of Rampsgill Head and at 792 metres some 53 metres higher than The Knott with views to match. From this summit we could now see down along the length of Ramps Gill as it meanders its way between Rest Dodd and The Nab to its left and the continuation of the Roman Road route over Wether Hill and Loadpot Hill to the right with a glimpse of Ullswater sat behind Steel Knotts.
24 - The view north along Ramps Gill from Rampsgill Head.JPG
The view north along Ramps Gill from Rampsgill Head.

After enjoying these views and with Kidsty Pike and High Raise now in sight we set and followed a good track southeast towards Kidsty Pike passing an unnamed tarn on the way. The tarn is only a small affair but it helps to break up the large expanse of the grassy fells that we are now walking on and as we near the pike we could see a couple of other walkers at the summit.
29 - Kidsty Pike.JPG
Kidsty Pike.

From Kidsty Pike we now have views across to Selside Pike, Branstree, Harter Fell, the Rough Crag ridge is directly in front with the tarn at Caspel Gate glistening like a jewel, and of course Mardale Ill Bell and High Street are plain to see. Riggindale lies below the crag with the south end of Haweswater just showing whilst further out in the far distance the view extends towards the Pennines and over the Shap Fells. The only problem today now that the cloud has lifted is the haze that has got in the way so many times this year.
32 - Kidsty Pike summit with Harter Fell-Mardale Ill Bell-High Street and Caspel Gate Tarn behind.JPG
Kidsty Pike summit with Harter Fell-Mardale Ill Bell-High Street and Capel Gate Tarn behind.

A decision has to be made, do we eat here or go on to High Raise, our next hill to climb? We decide to go on to High Raise and follow the wide, grassy path that would stay with all the way to the summit.
33 - High Raise as we leave Kidsty Pike.JPG
High Raise as we leave Kidsty Pike.

Once again the going is easy with just a short, sharp pull as the top is neared, a top that is covered in a multitude of small stones and rocks, many of which have been used to construct the large cairn and shelter. The stones and rocks cover quite an extensive area of the summit but otherwise the top is a large grassy, sheep cropped top. We took advantage of the cover here from the cool breeze that we are presently getting whilst we took a bite to eat, me on cheese butties whilst Sonny is having a two course meal of Tuna followed by egg and cheese omelette, I'm coming back as him next time.

The views directly to the north are blocked by the grassy hump of Low Raise our next objective and the wide path is plain to see as we packed our bags ready for the off to this last of our high summits.
34 - Low Raise from High Raise.JPG
Low Raise from High Raise.

We left High Raise behind to drop down some 58 metres to then make the meagre 10 metre climb to the top of Low Raise with the height difference between the two being only 48 metres. The path between the two is very good with just the odd soft spot that didn't cause any problems whatsoever. Being on these two fells is akin to walking in the Howgills or some of the great hills of the Yorkshire Dales, they are big and grassy, good to walk and looking back to High Raise from its lower cousin it's easy to see the comparison.
38 - High Raise from Low Raise.JPG
High Raise from Low Raise.

Now although the top of Low Raise is covered in nothing but grass and cottongrass it sports a massive cairn and shelter and one can only assume that the stones and rocks were carted here from High Raise by some fanatical cairn builder who has, or had a lot of time on their hands. But then again it may have been built by the shepherds of yesteryear as a point of reference and small refuge from the elements.
40 Chris and Sonny at Low Raise summit.JPG
Chris and Sonny at Low Raise summit.

Once again the views are far reaching with nothing changing apart from the more open view to the north over Bampton Common and the Pennines that are a tad nearer. E and I have in the past continued on from Low Raise and followed a decent path down over Long Grain and down to Fordingdale Bottom and then to the shoreline path of Haweswater from where we made our way back to Mardale Head, and a damn decent walk it is too.
42 - Branstree-Harter Fell-Nan Bield-Mardale Ill Bell view from Low Raise.JPG
Branstree-Harter Fell-Nan Bield-Mardale Ill Bell view from Low Raise.

Having spent a few minutes mooching around this top we now went off piste to walk down the easy fellside ridge in a south easterly direction passing Whelter Crags as we made our way down towards Castle Crag, the site of an old Iron Age Fort that overlooked the valley that is now full of water. The going although pathless was easy enough on the higher slopes as we passed over rough grass to soon arrive at the steeper but no less difficult ground that passes over the top of Hanging Stones. There are a few outcrops of rock poking out of the ground here and there but nothing to get excited about as we steadily descended to Birks Crag and a good ariel view of the fort stuck out in a prominent position above the valley that was.
44 - Haweswater with Castle Crag Iron Age fort in the foreground.JPG
Haweswater with Castle Crag Iron Age Fort in the foreground.

The fort is well protected on all sides bar from the way that we have arrived at it. Three sides are steep crag but the only real means of defence from the fellside behind Birks Crag would have been the deep and double ditches that afford the only protection from that side. Withstanding all that there must have been a wonderful view 5,000 years ago along the now flooded valley but there is always one question that I ask myself, who went for the water?
45 - Castle Crag from Birks Crag.JPG
Castle Crag from Birks Crag.

Now that we're here the days deed is nearly done and all we have to do now is make our way down the narrow path that runs steeply down through the bracken towards the copse of pine trees that sit at the lower end of Whelter Bottom that sits below Whelter Crags and carries the collected water into Whelter Beck that itself then drains off into Haweswater.

The name Whelter is very prevalent around here and is also to be found at the col between Selside Pike and Artlecrag Pike/Branstree by way of a beck called Captain Whelter Beck. The story that I have mentioned before in a past report is that in 1366 Captain Whelter and his Kendal archers are reputed to have spotted some Scottish raiders below Castle Crag and that the bowmen shot and killed the raiders from the location of the beck of his name. It seems more than likely that they were on the prominent craggy top of Castle Crag, when the Kendal Archers famously led by Capt Whelter ambushed the Scottish raiders and buried them in the hollow below. There may be some truth in this story as can be seen by the place names there are a quite a few named after him. I often wonder if anyone has been searching in Whelter Bottom for relics with a metal detector.

Having got to the bottom of the fellside from the fort we then turned east and followed a faint trod that runs through the bracken alongside a tumbledown dry stone wall. At first the going is easy but as we neared the shoreline path the ground beneath the bracken was very rocky and care had to be taken to avoid a slip and the chance of breaking something. But we were soon on the shoreline path and making our way back to the car park, a walk without any untoward incident but great views over the water and surrounding fells that towered above us.
52 - The Rough Crag Ridge and High Street protects Riggindale.JPG
The Rough Crag Ridge and High Street protects Riggindale.

55 - Haweswater through the bracken.JPG
Haweswater through the bracken.

As we approached the end of the walk we elected to climb the ladder stile over the wall that would put us on the path that crosses Mardale Beck as it flows into Haweswater instead of taking the slightly longer way to cross over the footbridge further along the beck.

This has been a great walk, easy and undemanding, starting with near enough zero visibility to one of great views, a cool start to a warm 16°c finish. Chris has got himself some more Wainwright's in the bag, walked along a Roman Road, stood in the centre of an Iron Age Fort, may have walked over the graves of long dead Scottish Reavers, and seen the relatively recent result of planners flooding a valley for the use of the people of Manchester. A walk that has spanned some 5,000 plus years.
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trailmasher
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Re: A Roman Road,an Iron Age Fort, and a lucky vole.

Postby Alteknacker » Sun Jul 16, 2017 9:49 pm

Good to see that the weather cleared up, and you did get some fine views - at a point in the report when I was just beginning to think it would be end-to-end clag!

The iron age fort looks amazing. 5000 years doesn't even register in geological time, yet it's so many human lifetimes.

I wonder if any of the iron agers had sufficient leisure time to be able to appreciate the view...??? Before they were kicked into action and told to go and get some water :) .

I've never been in this area, nor looked at pics of it. so good to get a feel for it as retirement beckons, and I'll have a bit more time...
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Alteknacker
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Re: A Roman Road,an Iron Age Fort, and a lucky vole.

Postby trailmasher » Mon Jul 17, 2017 7:46 pm

Alteknacker wrote:Good to see that the weather cleared up, and you did get some fine views - at a point in the report when I was just beginning to think it would be end-to-end clag!

The iron age fort looks amazing. 5000 years doesn't even register in geological time, yet it's so many human lifetimes.

I wonder if any of the iron agers had sufficient leisure time to be able to appreciate the view...??? Before they were kicked into action and told to go and get some water :) .

I've never been in this area, nor looked at pics of it. so good to get a feel for it as retirement beckons, and I'll have a bit more time...


Haweswater gives easy access to many hills from Mardale Head car park and are well worth visiting :) I've been to this old fort on quite a few occasions and each time try to put myself back to those times and wonder just what they did up there :?
Yes we were very fortunate that the clouds lifted and gave us some views 8) especially as Chris hadn't walked those fells before :roll: Thanks for your comments and reading :D
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trailmasher
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