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A misty stroll on Birkhouse Moor and Catstycam.
by trailmasher » Wed Feb 15, 2017 8:57 pm
Wainwrights included on this walk: Birkhouse Moor, Catstyecam
Hewitts included on this walk: Catstyecam
Date walked: 03/02/2017
Time taken: 4.36
Distance: 15.46 km
Ascent: 1085m4 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).
Chris was only on shore for a week again this time so even though it was not the best weather day last Tuesday when we climbed Helm Crag and Stone Arthur he wanted to fit in another walk before he went back to work regardless of the weather conditions. No decision on where we would go was made until the day arrived and we could get an idea of the conditions and a final check on the WMIS and Weatherline websites was made. Due to the height of the cloud cover suggested, we surmised that Birkhouse Moor would fit in with it and afford us some decent views of both the valley's and surrounding mountains. It didn't go exactly to form but it was near enough as the day steadily improved.
It was 2°c and spotting with rain as we arrived at the old school's small car park just to the side of the lane to Side Farm in Patterdale. There was one other car parked up with another arriving within minutes of us from which a couple climbed out to be greeted with a chap from the other one. 'Good mornings' were exchanged then we all went about the business of getting ourselves ready to walk with us donning our wet gear and the other three filling their bags with all the paraphernalia that is required to do a bit of climbing on a wet rock face with a strong, cold wind blowing around the Gorbels.
Decently attired against the weather we set off walking along the A592 in the direction of Glenridding, passing St. Patrick's Church that today looked wet, weary, and dismal, a far cry from the last time that I took a photo of it when the sun was shining and it had a carpet of yellow, nodding daffodils covering the large grassy area with the gravestones sticking out of the bright colour like large misshapen domino's.
Just before Grisedale Bridge we turned up the tarmac to start the climb up to Birkhouse Moor the first 30 metres being the rise in the lane from the main road to the end of the tarmac where we would turn off to the right crossing the bridge spanning Grisedale Beck.
Just as a point of interest to anyone who finds the old school car park full, there is a small blue sign at the start of the lane with just the words 'Car Park' on it, and with there also being a builders sign near to it we thought that it might be a contractors car park. But we were mistaken. As we walked along the lane we saw a similar sign at the entrance leading to the Village Hall - or some other such building - where there is a very large expanse of civilised ground at NY389159. A lady was just exiting the place and upon enquiring if it was indeed a car park for the public she replied to the affirmative and pointed out a 'Honesty Box' suggesting a fee of £3 per day, a small enough amount for a full day's walking. As she walked into the grounds of Patterdale Hall we are of the assumption that the land belongs to them and that they may as well gain something from it as have it standing empty.
Having by now crossed the bridge we made the short climb up the wet and slippery bank with the dogs at the farm - as usual - letting us know that they have heard us, to reach the gate in the wall from where we then turned left to start the climb proper northwest along the good path that makes for a very steady and easy gradient. The valley was fairly clear, a bit hazy but we could see a fair way along Grisedale whilst the tops of the fells in every direction were buried in cloud and we could all but hope that it would lift as we made our way to the top of Birkhouse Moor.
The way up was fairly uneventful with the rain having stopped not long after we had set off. The cloud had begun to lift off Place Fell, Angletarn Pikes, Arnison Pike, and the hills running back to High Street, but for where we were going there was still no upward movement of cloud at all.
With not much effort we soon arrived at the wire fence with its old and original cast iron gate and posts still in good condition after who knows how many years of service in the most inclement weather possible. Okay, it's lost its hinges and the catch doesn't work but compared to its age and the state and age of the stile sat at the side of it my money is on the workmanship and durability of the gate.
Due to the damaged nature of the of the stile it was easier to clamber over the gate before walking across the grass on a faint path to soon reach the well built intake wall that runs all the way from Brownend Plantation to the Hole-in-the-Wall at the north end of Bleaberry Crag before then making its way back downhill to cross Nethermost Beck and complete its journey at an old sheepfold that sits on the west side of Grisedale Beck.
We followed the wall for just a few metres before arriving at the walls stone step stile that we used to cross over to its north side. Once we were over the wall we followed it uphill for a few more metres before turning off the main path to now walk north along and up a good path that in truth was wide enough to be called a track. Having climbed up a fair few metres and now looking back we could see that the views to the northeast had opened up for us with the clouds having lifted high enough to be just sitting on the summit of Place Fell.
Despite the dullness of the day the views were quite fetching, with the moody sky actually adding to, rather than taking away the beauty of the fells around us. There was some water running down this path, the left over's from the earlier rain, but there was not enough of it to cause us any grief as we climbed ever higher. After climbing some 75 metres and about halfway along this path there is evidence of storm damage with a fair stretch of it having been washed out leaving only a rough covering of loose stones and shingle, but again, caused us no problem as we tramped our way steadily upwards towards the cairn that sits on the top of the north ridge. This cairn is not at the highest point, but from it on a good day a great all round view can be had but today, sadly not.
The only other persons that we have seen on our way up to the cairn have been two other chaps who had passed us by earlier on, but just before reaching the cairn we could see a crowd on their way up on the path from Mires Beck. We were to see no others until we were on our way down to Glenridding.
Chris got his photo taken - again - whilst I managed to get a very hazy, misty view over Ullswater and some of its surrounding fells.
We didn't linger as it was damp in the cloud and with a strong cold wind blowing it was time to get moving again and get warmed up. It wasn't too bad for cold until the gloves were taken off for the taking of photos and then the full force of the cold really bit deep into the bones. At one point Chris had a bad moment or two when his hands started to warm up and he had the cold hurts which I know from experience is not a pleasant thing to go through. Today, happily, I was not afflicted by that painful condition of cold parts warming up.
Leaving the cloud shrouded cairn behind we now set off for the highest point of the moor which entailed walking roughly south along a good path to once again meet up with the wall that passes over the highest point of Birkhouse Moor. This higher point plays host to a lot smaller cairn than the one that adorns the one above the north ridge and is merely a small pile of small and spread out, brown stones.
No matter, Chris has gained another Wainwright and after the inevitable misty photo shoot we simply continued forward following the wall…
that would guide us to the Hole-in-the-Wall and ladder stile from where…
instead of continuing on to pass over Bleaberry Crag and Striding Edge we turned and followed the lower path in its westerly direction that would get us to the rock strewn outlet of Red Tarn. The paths were a bit wetter just here with visibility very low with neither Striding Edge nor Catstycam being in view.
After crossing Red Tarn Beck we deviated from our original plan of leaving by way of the path down to Glenridding and in spite of the clag, cold wind, and promise of an early visit to the nearest bar we decided to end the walk by way of fighting our way to the top of Catstycam and descending by the east ridge. There were not many people about today and even what bit of Striding Edge we could see was for once devoid of the usual queue of thrill seekers, in fact there was no one else about at all.
So off we went to start the climb up the sometimes steep and stony path to the col of Swirral Edge. Just before we left the path to get onto the ridge, another fighter of the elements stormed past us at a fair rake of knots to continue on his way along the ridge in the direction of Helvellyn. Once we had got onto the ridge was when the wind really hit us, cold and hard, trying its best to knock the feet from under us and it was a real struggle to get to the summit that is normally easily achieved on a normally calm day. It took us near on 15 minutes to get from col to summit so wild was the wind.
Even though we had been up here just a few weeks ago Chris once again struck the pose on the summit whilst I made several almost futile attempts at getting an un-blurred shot of him.
However, once in the bag so to speak we set off at great haste accompanied by the impatient wind to descend by the east ridge path which is quite rough in its upper reaches being loose scree and stones until one gets a fair way down the fell. We made it down without incident and as Red Tarn came into view the clouds began to lift a little giving us a bit of a view towards Glenridding and a good length of the still lack of walkers Striding Edge, but there was by now a small group of people hanging around the shore of Red Tarn.
As we continued down the gradient eased off in steepness and grass replaced the stony nature of the path, and now that the cloud had lifted somewhat the long back of Birkhouse Moor with just a few wisps of mist still swirling about was directly ahead.
Looking around to the north we had a good view towards Greenside and Sheffield Pike, White Stones and Stybarrow Dodd poking up behind and to the left of Sheffield Pike.
As we reached the Red Tarn path more people started to appear and stopping to interrogate them found that most, if not all, were just going to the tarn for a picnic and enjoying themselves in general. By this time the sun had made a somewhat belated attempt at an appearance, but it did manage to push the clouds further away so these late comers were at least getting the best of the day.
Now we were off the high ground and the wind had abated quite a lot it made for a pleasant stroll down to find a seat on the ruins of the Old Pipe Line foundations that served us well as a good spot to dine. Having seen the old pipe foundations that are further up the fellside many times before but never visited, I was determined to make the effort and make the short climb up to them to see them at close quarters. From the remnants of the large foundation by the path there is a narrow groove that runs straight up the fellside, in-line and central to the foundations that continues all the way up to a natural watercourse that must have fed water into the pipe line. There are seven substantial stone built stub columns remaining of the many that were used to support the pipe and a few bits and pieces of others to be seen. Lying alongside the stone columns and mostly buried in the grass there are a number of long round iron bars still with nuts and washers on one end whilst on the other end there are large, circular pipe clamps that lends me to believe that these were used as anchors to stabilise the pipes and therefore prevent them from moving due to the pressure of water passing through them.
From the pipe supports there was also a good view towards Catstycam, Whiteside Bank, and Raise in the west.
Whilst a great overview of Red Tarn Beck, the scoured out Glenridding Beck and the large multi-celled dry stone wall constructed sheepfold sat on the finger of land that sits between the confluence of the two becks were to be marvelled at.
It was a pleasant affair having a break in such a spot as this especially so now it’s a lot warmer but it was soon time to move on as we still had a fair bit to do. The walk down to the footbridge and weir at Greenside was a steady enough walk with the sound of the beck and the mountains soaring above us on both sides making it well worth while making a trip out today.
For some reason Greenside Mine and its surrounding areas looked organised and pristine today with the wall terracing forming all sorts of patterns as they followed the line of the roads and tracks that they contained. The last time I was in this neck of the woods there were two excavators sat in Swart Beck cleaning out the hundreds of tons of spoil that had washed down off the mine tips during last year's storms. With there being no cars or people about and the clean up completed it actually looked quite attractive - in my eyes anyway - even for an industrial landscape and I couldn't but wonder what it would have been like 150 years or so ago.
Once we were at the weir we had intended to use the lower path on the south side of Glenridding Beck but at the last minute decided to use the route of the old Leat that works its way at a higher level and is some 30 metres higher.
The disused Leat is marked only by a blue contour line on the OS Map and by the name 'Leat (dis)' which is also marked in blue lettering. It is not shown as a path and could be easily missed in favour of the heavily marked green marked path that is lower down.
The area surrounding Greenside Mine is riddled with 'Leats' that were artificial watercourses designed to 'steer' as much natural water running from the fells to the mine where it was used to power the water wheels that powered the mine machinery such as the giant bellows for pumping fresh air into the mines, etc. Some were constructed as stone built channels set into the ground many of which can still be seen as one walks along the footpaths at the side of the beck whilst others were of timber such as the one that lay on our route back to Lanty's Tarn with a few wooden sleepers still to be seen set into the ground. On researching this 'Leat' one source of information says that it ran water from east to west to maintain the level and pressure of water in the dams at Kepple Cove but that seems impracticable as there is somewhere in the region of 30 metres of fall from behind the mine workings to Mires Beck where the ground drops away even further. Just to the west of Mires Beck there is evidence of a water run that makes its way down to Rattlebeck Bridge and Gillside where some of the mine buildings were located, so it would make more sense - to me anyway - that the watercourse went from west to east to assist in some of the mine workings there. Maybe the water was used for washing the newly mined galena before it was sent to be processed at the smelter. The flow would be further enhanced by water drawn from Bleacove Beck at just about the halfway point between the main mine workings and whatever was going on at Gillside.
In any event the route of the old watercourse is well made and makes for easy going with evidence of the wooden sleeper trough supports still to be seen in places. There are also a few embankments where the ground had to be built up to maintain the level of the ground, whilst in a couple or three places the faces of out jutting crags have been cut away to accommodate the waterway. All in all a great amount of work and skill was required to construct something of this nature especially a couple of hundred years or so ago without the machinery that we have at our disposal nowadays.
It was an easy and steady walk along the old 'leat' with a little care being taken on the wet rocks where the retaining walls beneath a couple of the crags had collapsed making for a short and easy scramble - well hardly that in truth - across the face of the crag. The total length walked on the 'leat' was about 1.3 kilometres or roughly just over ¾ of a mile in old money.
Leaving the 'leat' behind above Rattlebeck Bridge we descended a short grassy bank across rough fellside grass and rushes to Mires Beck. From the beck it was a mere short climb up the good path until after a few metres we dropped back down to a boggy area in the location of an unnamed beck. Climbing up once again from the beck we followed one of the many paths through the dead bracken to bring us out south of Lanty's Tarn from where we picked up the regular path once again before we turned left along a stony lane that leads through the woods of Patterdale Hall.
Just following the obvious path/track then lane took us back to the main A592 road at Grisedale Bridge with just a few more metres to go before arriving back at the car.
We've had a good day out with mixed weather and getting everything but a fall of snow, though there was snow on the ground in places at height. There were not many people about apart from the 8 or 10 that we saw going to Red Tarn and speaking to the two lads again that we met on our way up Birkhouse Moor there was no-one on Striding Edge or Helvellyn apart from the two of them. It's nice to have a quiet day on the fells. Having plenty of time in hand we just chucked Catstycam in even though it was very windy and no views forthcoming but what the hell, it's there to climb, so why not.
by thefallwalker » Fri Feb 17, 2017 5:58 pm
by trailmasher » Sat Feb 18, 2017 8:40 pm
thefallwalker wrote:another great day out this 1 mate! think we just about got it all weather wise & and a bit of exploring! Castyecam is a great fell and I will never tire of getting up there btw nice pics of me see you on the next one!
Aye a good walk for sure TFW re the pics of you well.... now.
by ChrisW » Tue Feb 21, 2017 5:01 am
by trailmasher » Tue Feb 21, 2017 8:30 pm
ChrisW wrote:A lovely outing TM even if you didn't get the very best of conditions really like the shot of Place Fell and Ullswater down the trail, lovely
A great day out Chris and anywhere on a hill is the right place to be thanks for your comments
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