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Buckbarrow, Seatallan and Middle Fell

Buckbarrow, Seatallan and Middle Fell

Postby nigheandonn » Wed Apr 18, 2018 11:09 pm

Wainwrights included on this walk: Buckbarrow, Middle Fell, Seatallan

Hewitts included on this walk: Seatallan

Date walked: 14/04/2018

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Wasdale has been a problem for me all along - hard to get into, and hard to get out of, with no buses anywhere near and not even a train along the coast on a Sunday. On two different occasions now I've walked away from the three hills towards the bottom of it, realising that I just didn't have time to get round them and then walk out to Seatoller or Egremont.

So the brainwave that if I could make it onto the 16:12 train from Edinburgh, I should make it onto the last train round the coast, with time to walk up the the hostel, was a definite inspiration - with a whole Saturday to play with I hopefully couldn't fail, and in quiet April I was even able to book Saturday night at Black Sail rather than crossing Sty Head another time.

A slightly late running train gave me four minutes for the change at Carlisle rather than the already precarious six, but I knew where the Barrow train would be waiting, over on the other side of the bridge, so I could make a run for it with a minute or two to spare.

Drigg I had only rushed through in the dark before, one January evening, and it turned out to be a good looking place with big solid stone barns. Then on up past the junction by the river in Holmrook, and on to a country road, past the junction at Santon and the pub at Santon Bridge. Light and dark are odd things when you're out in them - I realised that it had got dark when the daffodils were no longer yellow, although the primroses were still an even lighter white, but on a misty night there was still enough light to see what was the road and what wasn't, even under the trees after Nether Wasdale.

The next morning was less misty but not exactly bright - the clouds were above the lower hills, and it was forecast to be a clear day. Spring seemed to be making an attempt in Cumbria, at least - the primroses I'd seen the night before had been my first of the year, but here they were everywhere.


I was starting off by making my way across the fields in a slightly complicated fashion, from Woodhow to Gill - mostly fenced lanes, but a lot of junctions.

Ashness How

Buckbarrow does look determinedly individual from here - and it is completely different from Seatallan in character.


It's a fairly steep climb from the start, up between two areas of trees - not as daunting, or as far, as the path up Whin Rigg on the other side of the lake, but the same kind of idea.

The way up

By a small waterfall the path turned across the hill and eased off a bit, heading for the rocky outcrops along the edge of the hill.

Gill Beck

From the edge a variety of high points were in sight - Cat Bields with Glade How in front of it, Buckbarrow, and the main summit of Seatallan itself.

Assorted tops

The summit of Buckbarrow is a bit back from the dramatic edge, starting to look up towards Seatallan.

Buckbarrow summit

The next little top on the climb, Glade How, doesn't stand out very much but has a lovely old cairn - it's a bit more prominent from the back.

Glade How

From there it was a climb up over easy ground to the cairn on Cat Bields, and a longer, slower climb to the summit - for a while an unexciting walk with a glorious view, and then even the view disappeared behind a curve of the hill and there was dry grass and not much else, with the summit never arriving.

Climbing Seatallan

Blue sky and the summit cairn turned up more or less at once, cheering things up a bit - smooth hills generally change towards the top, getting stonier or steeper, but Seatallan just goes on until it eases off for the summit area.

First sight of the summit

There are two main markers on the top - a trig point and a big ancient cairn - as well as a smaller cairn to the north marking the way down towards Haycock, but the highest point didn't seem to be by any of these - as far as I could tell it was over towards the Wasdale edge of the little summit plateau, without much of a marker.

Seatallan cairn

Not that it matters for a Wainwright, but Seatallan is also a Hewitt and a Marilyn, and those people would care - I visited all the options to make sure!

Seatallan summit

Seatallan has no dramatic views of the hills around it - the summit area is so broad and flat that only the tops are in view. Instead the views are of the great valley head between Caw Fell and Haycock, and Blengdale with its winding river.


A faint trace of path led down from the northern cairn, with the main ridge ahead - some of it was trodden into steps, but they seemed to be more for toes going up than heels going down, and I found I was often on the moss to one side.

Slanting off a bit to ease the gradient I realised that I should be starting to cut the corner in any case - my col and my hill were round behind me, although a lot further down than it looked at first.

Middle Fell around the corner

As I came further round I had a view of Greendale Tarn down to the right, and the surprisingly craggy drop down to Nether Beck on the left - I've walked right down that valley, and it did look imposing from below as well, but I was having trouble fitting it all together in my mind.

Greendale Tarn

The whaleback shape of Seatallan was clearly in view from the start of the new climb - nicer to look at than it had been to walk up.

The shape of Seatallan

Middle Fell was a very different kind of hill - wander round a rocky bit and climb quite steeply for a bit, and across another gap and round more rocks - but I like variety, it seems to make things go quicker. When the summit appeared it was on the other side of a shallow dip, but at least it was there in sight, and not hiding round the endless curve of a hill.

Approaching the summit

A different kind of summit, too, with the cairn piled on rocks.

Middle Fell summit

Middle Fell had all the dramatic views which Seatallan didn't - no real long distance views, but they weren't needed when the close up views were so good, some of the best I remember from any hill. A full length view of the Wastwater screes is from roughly level with the top of them, while beyond them the Scafells stand up above the great cleft of Lingmell Gill, with the two ridges of Lingmell and Green How running down on either side.

Wastwater and the screes


From the summit a path led down the nose of the hill, through rocks at first and then more open ground. Going down can be even more deceptive than going up, because it seems like it should be quick - I felt that I had gone a long way down, only to realised that I was still about the height of Buckbarrow across the valley.

So a lot more down, over grass and through a patch of scattered rocks - from about halfway down I was occasionally meeting people coming up, although I hadn't met anyone on the hills.

But I had been right the twice when I sat at this end of the lake and decided that I simply didn't have time to get round and then walk an hour up the road to Wasdale Head in time to cross over to Seatoller - whatever Naismith may say, I didn't think I could rely on getting round in less than 5 hours with tired Sunday legs, and actually it was more like 6 by the time I got back to the road, even on a Saturday, although I certainly hadn't been hurrying.

The last part of the path ran above Greendale Gill, with the various threads of Tongues Hills on the slope opposite, and Greendale below, all squeezed within one wall, looks like it can't decide whether to be a tiny settlement or one huge house.

From the road on this side Buckbarrow looks even more impressive, doing its best impression of a towering highland hill.

Buckbarrow looming

I had a late lunch by the lakeside before starting on the next leg of the journey. My problem with Wasdale Head is that it's so far from anywhere - it's an amazingly empty place for somewhere which is so busy, and it's a nice road but a long way to walk.

But I was apparently still had the ability to make good time on the roads which had surprised me the night before - up at Wasdale Head I visited the shop and decided not to stop for a cup of tea, instead carefully resisting crossing the bridge, and looking for a junction soon after the start of the usual path.

I was surprised by the size of the valley which opened out around the corner - I was expecting something more like Sty Head, but when I worked out that it was the Mosedale of the famous round I realised that I really should have known that.

Another Mosedale

My third Mosedale, I think - they all seem to be much the same colour. I thought it looked like the first Mosedale and then realised I was wrong, but allowing that the hills are about twice the size it is quite like Swindale - broad flat valley with a river far too big for its length, blank wall in front and ways out to the right and left.

It was a good path, but I was very slow climbing, especially where it was stone steps, and I kept meeting people who looked at me as if I was going the wrong way.

Approaching the pass

I'd thought I had plenty of time in hand, but I reached the top with only just over half an hour to hurry down the other side, and I'd forgotten that the other side is really too loose for hurrying - they've pitched the Wasdale side beautifully, and then left the Ennerdale side as a mess of boggy grass and crumbling rock.


But down to Black Sail on what turned out to be its 85th birthday - from the corner of the pass where I could first see the building I could see something flashing along its roofline, which turned out to be the flapping backs of metallic bunting.

A lovely evening - if cold - for sitting outside, and dinner was late anyway, as a few more people still hadn't arrived.

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Posts: 1350
Munros:19   Corbetts:9
Grahams:7   Donalds:26
Sub 2000:53   Hewitts:134
Wainwrights:214   Islands:34
Joined: Jul 7, 2011
Location: Edinburgh

Re: Buckbarrow, Seatallan and Middle Fell

Postby johnkaysleftleg » Mon Apr 23, 2018 9:30 am

I agree about Middle Fells views, it's a terrific little fell and quiet compared to many others.
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Posts: 3180
Munros:25   Corbetts:10
Grahams:10   Donalds:3
Sub 2000:7   Hewitts:166
Wainwrights:214   Islands:8
Joined: Jan 28, 2009
Location: County Durham

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