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A Walk Through Mardale's History
by johnkaysleftleg » Mon Jan 21, 2019 3:46 pm
Wainwrights included on this walk: Harter Fell (Far Eastern Fells), High Raise (Far Eastern Fells), High Street, Kidsty Pike, Mardale Ill Bell, Rampsgill Head, The Knott
Hewitts included on this walk: Harter Fell (Far Eastern Fells), High Raise (Far Eastern Fells), High Street, Rampsgill Head
Date walked: 02/01/2019
Time taken: 5.75
Distance: 18 km
Ascent: 1115m3 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
The forecast was for clear skies, sub zero temperatures and negligible winds, in reality only two of these came to pass but at least the grey cloud which had pervaded the Far Eastern Fells was way above the summits.
The cloud cover had held the temperatures up a little so the single track road to Mardale Head was ice free, which was nice and I was soon gaining height and getting warm as me and Hughie climbed the stony track up to the Gatesgarth Pass. The ground either side of the track was frozen bone hard from quite a low altitude, always good.
Grey dawn on the way up the Gatesgarth Pass by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Crags of Harter Fell by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Hughie looks back on where we came from by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Once we reached Little Harter fell I found a comfy spot and had breakfast over looking Haweswater which now fills the drowned valley. Prior to 1935 I'd have been looking down to Mardale Green and a much smaller, natural body of water almost split in two. In fact previously the lake had separate names of High Water and Low Water which were joined by a narrow channel and I'm sure it was a wonderful sight. Fortunately despite all the heartache and human tragedy of the time it's still beautiful if tinged forever by sadness. Breakfast and thoughts of the past done with it was a steady pull up to Harter fell summit and a view of sunlit fells further west.
Haweswater from Harter Fell by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Harter Fell Summit by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Even the slight breaths of wind felt very cold so we didn't linger and started to pick our way down the nice little ridge to the Nam Bield Pass. Nam Bield has the feel of a proper mountain pass, nicely defined with steep paths heading from either valley and off up the surrounding fells. The large armchair like shelter is no doubt a very welcome sight at times but today I didn't require it and didn't pause on the way up Mardale Ill Bell.
Looking down to Small Water byAnthony Young, on Flickr
Ill Bell and Froswick by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Nam Bield Pass by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Small Water and Haweswater on the way up Mardale Ill Bell by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Mardale Ill Bell Summit by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Mardale Ill Bell is nothing more than a shelf on the shoulder of High Street but it does have some nice rocks on the summit and a fine view to the south. We paused briefly before taking the gently rising path to High Street summit. This, as anybody who has visited will attest, is a largely unremarkable place with it's broken wall and trig point but given it's history it is lifted above the mundane as your imagination runs riot with the sight of roman legions marching past no doubt complaining about the cold.
The Trouble with Tribbles by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Windemere past Ill Bell by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Majestic Beast on High Street Trig Point by Anthony Young, on Flickr
I wasn't going to visit The Knott but given the best weather and views were to the west I decided head there for an early lunch via the cairn at the top of Long Stile and the straights of Riggindale. Lunch was very enjoyable particularly the close to frozen twirl bar washed down with Hot Coffee
Cairn at the top of Long Stile by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Hugie checks out Riggindale by Anthony Young, on Flickr
A couple on the Long Stile Ridge by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Long Stile by Anthony Young, on Flickr
A sunlit Fairfield by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Eastern Fells Bathed in Winter sunshine by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Hayswater by Anthony Young, on Flickr
The Straights of Riggindale by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Looking down to Hartsop on the way to The Knott by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Lunch view on the Knott by Anthony Young, on Flickr
The sunshine on the Eastern fells was starting to creep eastwards as Brock Crags and Place Fell were unlocked from shadow but chances of it reaching me anytime soon seemed remote so we set off up to the sprawling top of Rampsgill Head. There are several cairns here but none are clearly the highest point so it was a wander around them all before the short detour to Kidsty Pike. This is a spectacular view point as the ground falls away into the depths of Riggindale with alarming steepness. Following a few photos it was again a short pull up to High Raise's rocky summit for the fourth fell top in very short order.
Brock Crags catching some light by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Rampsgill Head by Anthony Young, on Flickr
East West Split by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Looking down Ramps Gill by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Riggindale from Kidsty Pike by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Hughie on Kidsty Pike by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Across Long Stile to Harter Fell by Anthony Young, on Flickr
A sunny Place Fell by Anthony Young, on Flickr
High Raise by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Most people probably head back down to Mardale via Kidsty Howes from here or continue along the route of the roman road to Loadpot Hill and beyond. What it seems most people don't do is head down the ridge to Castle Crag and the Haweswater shoreline. A reasonable trod heads to Low Raise's ancient cairn/shelter but reflecting this probably being a bit of an out and back detour it ends there. Traces of trods exist but they seem to quickly run out and so it was a pathless descent over the pale winter grasses.
Ice Patterns on Low Raise byAnthony Young, on Flickr
Low Raise by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Go with the Flow by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Looking down towards Castle Crag and Haweswater by Anthony Young, on Flickr
It's always a pleasure to find parts of the Lakes which are off the beaten track and this descent was wonderfully quiet without so much as a breath of wind to break the silence. As a consequence of the pathless nature of the terrain the pace slowed but soon we arrived at the site of the former Iron Age fort on top of Castle Crag. This is a marvellously evocative place with great views up and down Haweswater. You can imagine it being just about impregnable when it was in use especially from the valley as any way down ranges from very steep to vertical. I wanted to spend a bit more time here but as time was now pushing on we elected for a very steep descent to the reservoir and the coast to coast path.
Mardale Head from Castle Crag by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Castle Crag by Anthony Young, on Flickr
From here it's a simple walk back to the car via the stony path. Along here Mardale's past seems close, the landscape has the feel of being emptied at some point, that may just be my knowledge of history but I don't think so. I also started to wonder just how long the scars would take to heal if the dam was removed? (not likely I realise) Coming from a part of the world that was horribly scarred and desecrated by the NCB and others for many years the way in which nature reclaims fascinates me
Looking up to Kidsty Howes by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Haweswater by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Reflections in Haweswater by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Looking up to Kidsty Pike by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Winter moods at Haweswater by Anthony Young, on Flickr
Mardale Beck by Anthony Young, on Flickr
All in all a fine wander in one of my favourite parts of the world, a great start to 2019
by trailmasher » Sat Jan 26, 2019 1:36 pm
by johnkaysleftleg » Wed Feb 06, 2019 3:03 pm
trailmasher wrote:Well worth an early start for usual good report and great pics with some good snippets of local info on Haweswater thrown in . This is a walk that I do 2 to 3 times a year and never tire of it. Well done on a good walk.
Thanks TM I wish I could get to the hills enough to go walking from Mardale 2 to 3 times a year, damn life keeps getting in the way.