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Deadwater Fell - minor drama on the Scotland/England border

Deadwater Fell - minor drama on the Scotland/England border

Postby Graeme D » Thu Oct 15, 2020 10:26 am

Date walked: 09/10/2020

Time taken: 4.3

Distance: 12.6 km

Ascent: 625m

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Having done the Hareshaw Linn walk at Bellingham on the Tuesday and completed the 27 mile circuit anti-clockwise round Kielder Water on bikes on the Wednesday, Friday saw us heading for the summit of Deadwater Fell. We had set off to do it on the Thursday, rather late in the day, and with a dinner booking for that evening. We had taken the bikes with the intention of cycling some of the way on the various MTB tracks but to be honest I think we were suffering the effects of yesterday's efforts on the bikes. I certainly know my cheeks were feeling the effects, and I'm not talking about the effects of the wind on my face! :shock:

We had bought a copy of the 1:50K OS sheet covering Kielder and the Cheviots and it showed the clear track heading up the side of a forestry plantation towards the summit infrastructure, the same track that we could clearly see from various vantage points down by the water and our lodge. What the map didn't show was the finer detail of the MTB trails on the lower, forested slopes of the hill and it had become pretty obvious early on in our efforts that Thursday that there was going to be a high degree of luck involved in finding the quickest, easiest or best route to the summit. We jacked it in fairly quickly but resolved to come back another day when we were better prepared and not faced with a deadline.

I had wanted to go up Deadwater Fell since my first visit to Kielder in 2018. It dominates the view from various angles looking north from where we were staying, at Kielder Waterside about halfway down the southern shore of the reservoir. It is also a presence from the north, coming in on the minor road from Saughtree and the B6357. Deadwater Farm is the first thing that you hit in England, a few hundred yards over the border, with the 570m summit of Deadwater Fell looming above to the east.

We set off earlier on the Friday with more of a sense of what we were going to be up against and parked up at the car park at Butteryhaugh Bridge, near the Bakethin Viaduct. From there it is a short stroll through the trees and into Kielder Village, over the bridge and past the rather forlorn looking Anglers Arms before climbing up the road to Kielder Castle and the rather conspicuous and incongruous looking "Street Diner" hot food van parked in the grounds immediately by the front door! :shock:

The path from Butteryhaugh Bridge looking autumnal

The road up to the castle

A real clash of architectural styles

We headed up past the bike hire place and into the 3 tiered parking area from the back of which a path leads into the trees. Numerous paths and trails with a bewildering array of coloured markers on them head off in various directions but we followed our route from the previous day that wound up onto a forestry road that may or may not be part of the Kielder Forest Drive route.

One of the sculptures on the Kielder Castle Gruffalo Trail - the one on the right that is!

On the forestry road. The minor road to the border runs along the edge of the plantation to the centre-left of the picture and the plantation on the skyline beyond is in Scotland

The first clear and unambiguous piece of signage

We turned right onto the narrow path that climbed into the trees and was not shown on the OS sheet. It was going to be a case of trial and error and using a general sense of hill direction. Going up was a good start!

Into autumnal ferns and thick evergreens

After 15 minutes or so a junction is reached and a signpost with the same orange marker as before points to the right, up a flagstone path.

Orange arrow pointed this way!

After another 5 minutes or so we reached a junction where a Black MTB route going by the name of Up & Over branched left up the hill. There were signs saying that it was closed for maintenance, not that this was any concern of ours. We pondered whether to take this "path" or continue along what we assumed was our "orange" walking route. We chose the latter option, which soon emptied us out onto another forestry road. Or maybe it was part of the one we were on earlier? Who could tell - none of this stuff was on the map. To the left the road climbed gently, to the right it ran level into the distance but I spotted one of our orange way markers a short distance along it pointing "downhill" into the trees. The most obvious course of action seemed to be to take a left up the hill.

After a good 20 minutes or so the road began to descend sharply, with a valley down to our right and dense trees to our left. This didn't feel right but after a few more minutes, an unmarked path headed into the trees and disappeared uphill in what felt to my sense of hill direction to be where we wanted to go. I could tell that Debbie and Ailsa were both in full blown sceptical mode by this stage but they dawdled behind while I surged ahead to try to get a handle on what was what. Eventually the trees thinned and I could see the summit and its decorations across the open moorland ahead. It was still quite a way off though, and it was pretty obvious that we had done a big loop and gone well out of the way.

First sighting of the summit

After a few minutes we reached a section with a narrow boardwalk above the boggy ground before the path began to turn away from the summit and drop back in the direction of Kielder Village. We held a family summit (no pun intended) during which we again came close to canning the whole idea and just continuing on the path downhill, but eventually decided to try to go off piste and whack across the heathery moor to pick up what looked like a forest road running several hundred metres above and to the right.

Between that point and reaching the track (which may or may not have been a continuation of the earlier track!) I spent a good half hour of my life that I will never get back, most of it spent with Ailsa on my shoulders, even though she is way beyond the stage where that sort of thing is comfortable or advisable. How she managed to remain on my shoulders and I managed to keep my feet across the rough, tussocky terrain is anybody's guess, but eventually we reached the road, turned left and reached a junction with a rough track running straight uphill near the edge of the forestry. This was the track that we could see earlier and that can be seen from the shores of Kielder Water as it runs up the higher slopes of the hill towards the summit. A path also lead downhill through the trees and Ailsa was all for using it but even aged just 9 years old, she knows that democracy can be cruel and was again reminded of this as she was outvoted.

Wouldn't fancy this boardwalk in wet conditions

Someone's none too happy!

Taking matters in hand

Dark skies over Kielder Water

Ailsa continued to drag her heels up the track and I did more hanging around clicking my heels and waiting than I did actually moving forward. Eventually the clutter of summit hardware came into view as the temperature began to drop and the gradient began to ease.

Patience grasshopper, patience!

Summit ahoy!

Big patch of blue

Meanwhile, back at the ranch........

The summit is an absolute clutter that makes the summit of the Cairnwell look pristine! :roll: There are a couple of weather beaten information boards, a trig point, various sections of weathered and cracked up concrete slabs, a modern art installation (one of many around Kielder Water and Forest Park), metal shipping containers, brick buildings (some clearly in use, others in a state of semi-ruin), masts, barbed wire fencing and of course a big golf ball on stilts. Still, the view of God's Own Country makes up for it! 8)

Information board #1

Information board #2

Kielder Water through some of the clutter

Peel Fell in the middle ground (the source of the River North Tyne I believe) with the Eildon Hills at Melrose prominent in the background

The Cheviot in the distance

The big ball

Glad you could make it!

Heading home as seen through the modern art installation

Back down at the junction, we headed straight down the MTB track through the forestry, which descended quickly in a series of hairpins through the dark trees, eventually coming to a more open area of thinner tree cover. After a few more minutes we reached a junction and as recognition set in, the penny dropped. This was where we turned right earlier just before lunch, at the start of the long wild goose chase that eventually led us to the tramp across the moor! Approaching from this side we could see that there was an orange way marker pointing left at the junction on approach from below but from the side we had approached earlier, it was obscured by grown up bushes. A left turn here earlier would have saved a lot of time and unnecessary wailing and gnashing of teeth! :crazy:

Oh well, no harm done. I tried to convince Ailsa that such an experience is character building, but she seemed reluctant to allow herself to be convinced! :lol: Debbie just shrugged and gave a rueful smile - she knows from experience that it's just how it goes sometimes! :lol:

We trudged wearily back down the path, along the forestry road and down past the castle to the car before driving the few miles back south to our lodge and a well deserved jump into the hot tub. 8)

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Graeme D
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Re: Deadwater Fell - minor drama on the Scotland/England bor

Postby rockhopper » Sun Oct 18, 2020 10:39 am

Graeme D wrote:I certainly know my cheeks were feeling the effects, and I'm not talking about the effects of the wind on my face! :shock: ]
:lol: :lol: you have my sympathies - I know only too well what you mean :roll:
Padded cycling shorts and gel saddle covers....... :silent:

Nice autumnal colours - good walk if a little challenging for one particular participant - glad to see Ailsa looking happier at the end even if earlier you'd been doing your best to put her off hillwalking for life :wink: :wink: - cheers :)
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