English Hewitts - A fitting finale

Hewitts: Black Sails, Calf Top

Date walked: 24/11/2016

Time taken: 9 hours

Distance: 28.5km

Ascent: 1360m

Funny things hill lists aren't they. You find yourself traipsing into far flung corners of peat bog and wilderness for that satisfaction of getting one tick nearer to that completion day. I can't be the only one to have thought "what the heck am I doing here" on one of those days when the hill and elements conspire against you. But then you have a couple of days where everything comes together and all of a sudden you are reminded why you love this hillwalking game so much.

I start a new job in January and having carried over a few days worth of holiday from the previous years entitlement I decided to book a few days off to get my last two Hewitts climbed. Much to my amazement the wild weather starts to clear the day before and on my first morning of my two day mission I find myself driving up the M6 to a clear sky.

I have been closing in on completing The Trail 60 (that's the England & Wales Trail tops!) so before getting to Calf Top I took a detour to nip up Clougha Pike and it's top Grit Fell.

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I parked up at the jubilee tower and gave the sun a chance to rise a bit. The cold northerly wind seemed a little less harsh once the day had really begun. The climb up along the fence-line was fairly squelchy but never steep. given the amount of rain the country had seen at the beginning of the week I was expecting a paddle up the fell side anyway so all in all it wasn't so bad.
The top of Grit Fell is pretty much unmarked, There is a large cairn on the path but this is clearly not the highest point. Its a fine view point though and the dusting of snow over the nearby Wards Stone was nearly enough to lure me on. But I had come up here for a top which meant going in the other direction. A mile or so towards the sea and looking thoroughly unimpressive from Grit Fell lies Clougha Pike.

I would love to have been a fly on the wall in the Trail magazine office when they were compiling their hill list. There's a large percentage of the list which is pretty indisputable. The criteria if I recall correctly was to compile a list of the 100 best hills in Britain. But there are a few hills which made the grade which are of pretty dubious merit. Arenig Fach for instance is in whereas it's far superior near neighbour Arenig Fawr is not. The uninspiring Cheviot is but Hedgehope Hill is not. Then there is Clougha Pike.
Now, don't get me wrong. Clougha Pike is a fine view point. The view out over Morecambe Bay and over to the saw-tooth skyline of the Lake District is definitely worth the effort. But surely it's no better than that from some of its nearby loftier neighbours. More about this later.

Lune Valley from Clougha Pike

My return route started along the Rowton Brook path but then cutting across rough grass and reeds back to the road just west of the Jubilee tower. Rough and wet but never any more than mildly tricky.

Now off to Calf Top.

Barbon is a quiet village with a pretty church which perhaps more folk will discover following the upgrade to Hewitt/Nuttall status of Calf Top. There is plenty of parking space near to the church and this fit in nicely with my planned route.

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I had toyed with the idea of the direct up and down route from up the dale but dismissed this because I felt there was more on offer here than a near vertical scamper direct to the trig pillar. I had also looked at doing a circuit from the Middleton area to the North but eventually settled on a loop from Barbon. I set off up the lanes to Eskholme farm from where the open hillside was met. A well worn path then snakes its way up initially steep slopes before arriving at the cairn of Eskholme Pike.
Disused railway bridge.

Eskholme Pike

From here the path continues its clear and surprisingly dry path upwards. The first patches of snow were encountered around the 450m contour but nothing that caused a slowing of the pace. Arriving at Castle Knott and finally the upper slopes of Calf Top come into view, plenty of the white stuff around now. The view across to Great Coum grabs the eye as does the deep recess of Barbondale.
The crossing of the 483m col was the wettest part of the whole walk, probably a bit squelchy for most of the year but following the recent rain and snow this segment was a bit of a hoppity challenge. Once the path starts heading uphill again though it soon dries out.
The snow now was becoming more of a nuisance as the patches were more widespread and with every step breaking through the thin icy crust I soon had a bit of a cob on.
Drift snow along Fenceline approaching Calf Fell summit

The final section from the fenceline to the top proved pretty tiring. Some of the drifts being nearly two foot deep but each step was a pace into the unknown, was it going to be 2 inches deep or two feet. The walk until now had been sheltered from the sharp wind but from here onward I was getting a serious frosting. Arriving at the pillar and nearby high point was a mixture of relief and satisfaction. What a sensational view though (Clougha Pike i'm talking to you....)
Trig pillar, Calf Top

I crossed the tumbledown wall and crunched through the snow to take a peek into Barbondale and in doing so found a hollow which had a good four feet of drift on the one side which made for a very pleasant lunch spot being both in the sun and out of the wind but with something of a view.
Along Barbondale towards Dent

Being a bit of a sadist I had planned on taking the direct descent down to the valley bottom from here and then walking out back to the village - a pleasant quiet road. Now that I have done it I can honestly say this is one route I wont ever look to use again, It's just knee jarringly steep. Looking back up once the road is reached the lunacy of what i'd just done became apparent. Don't do it.
There's a bridleway which leaves the road at Blindbeck Bridge and I had planned on using this, but a sore knee at this point meant I elected to stick with the tarmac. Arriving back at the village I made a cuppa before driving to my overnight stay in Kendal.

Considering I had toyed with the idea of spending the night in the tent the overnight in the local Travelodge proved to be very cosy. A good soak in the bath had sorted my sore knee out too so day two was on. The morning was crisp and clear and the drive over to Coniston was a pleasant one. I parked up above the town and headed up the track along Church Beck and into Coppermines valley, above me the tops were looking superb.

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Snowy tops from Coppermines Valley, Coniston

My final Hewitt (or should that be Hewtt -minus the Irish tops) lay ahead of me but hidden from view for the time being. I continued up the rough trod up to Levers Water before then veering right onto the blunt ridge which heads up over Erin Crag and Blake How to the obvious summit of Black Sails. Quite how we had missed this top out when doing an epic round of the Coniston Wainwrights in 2012 was for some time a bit of an annoyance to me but as I climbed above the snowline and the view began to open out I was more than pleased that it had been omitted.
Levers Water & Brim Fell

Old Man & Levers Water

There's no difficulties all the way to the top though the final section was made more challenging by climbing the steepest bits of snow I could find. It was probably a bit of an indulgence using the axe and crampons but it had been a while since I'd last had them out and I was keen to make the most of what I could.
I think it's a strange omission by old Alfred to leave Black Sails off his Southern fells roster. It is after all the only summit you can see the Old Man, Wetherlam and the craggy staircase of Prison Band up to the top of Swirl How. The sweeping panorama out to the Scafell group continues through a greatest hits collection of Lakelands finest including Skiddaw, the Langdales and Helvelyn. The view is fine in every direction and I can only guess Wainwright left Black Sails off for the same reason he put Armboth Fell in - just because he could.
Prison Band & Swirl How from Black Sails summit

Scafell group from Black Sails

I could have stayed on that summit all day. It wasn't even that cold but knowing that the 3 hour drive back to Shrewsbury would follow my descent I decided to bit my farewell to my new favourite place and dropped down to Swirl Hawse. It was descending here that I found myself being caught out by a deep drift and using the ice axe to prevent myself from sliding what would have been at least 2 feet :lol: At least it was an instinctive arrest!

Once at the vague col I picked a route down using the snowiest parts to have a bit of backside glissading fun before reaching the inflows on Levers water and picking up the outbound track for an easy return. What a great day.

Completing the English Hewitts had only really become a target once the Wainwrights had been completed in 2012 but it's been a very different mission to that list. There's a good few places which take their own weekends. Places like the Cheviot group and Dartmoor are a fair way from my base in the Midlands but both trips left me keen to return. There's plenty to see for sure and numerous "lesser" hills caught my eye. The Dales and Northern Pennines were in the main really enjoyable too and in reality there was very few tops that I would point blank refuse to go to again. Black Fell sticks in the mind though.
Whats next? - probably the few remaining Welsh Marilyns and hopefully another foray North of the border.
Watch this space....

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Comments: 11

A mighty mission around marvelous Mallerstang

Attachment(s) Hewitts: High Seat, Little Fell (Dales), Swarth Fell, Wild Boar Fell
Date walked: 08/10/2016
Distance: 26.5km
Ascent: 970m
Comments: 3
Views: 2109

Pocket full of Pennines. The Northern Pennines completed.

Attachment(s) Hewitts: Cross Fell, Great Dun Fell, Knock Fell, Little Dun Fell, Round Hill
Date walked: 08/08/2015
Distance: 24.5km
Ascent: 670m
Comments: 4
Views: 2986

Baugh Fell & a bunch of Northern Pennines

Attachment(s) Hewitts: Baugh Fell (Tarn Rigg Hill), Black Fell, Grey Nag, Melmerby Fell, Thack Moor
Date walked: 25/07/2015
Distance: 55km
Ascent: 1400m
Comments: 2
Views: 2410

Howgill haul + a Cold side serving

Attachment(s) Hewitts: Calders, Cold Fell, Fell Head, Randygill Top, The Calf, Yarlside
Date walked: 10/05/2015
Distance: 27.6km
Ascent: 1800m
Comments: 4
Views: 2673

11 into 3 does go - Northern Pennines

Attachment(s) Hewitts: Bleaklow Head, Chapelfell Top, Darnbrook Fell, Dodd Fell Hill, Drumaldrace, Flinty Fell, Fountains Fell, Killhope Law, Middlehope Moor, The Dodd, Viewing Hill
Date walked: 20/09/2014
Distance: 50km
Ascent: 1320m
Comments: 3
Views: 3340

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Attachment(s) Hewitts: Pen Pumlumon Arwystli, Pen Pumlumon Llygad-bychan, Plynlimon (Pumlumon Fawr)
Date walked: 13/09/2014
Distance: 25.5km
Ascent: 1000m
Comments: 1
Views: 3637

Moelwyn meander

Attachment(s) Hewitts: Moel-yr-hydd, Moelwyn Bach, Moelwyn Mawr
Date walked: 21/08/2014
Distance: 18km
Ascent: 1000m
Comments: 1
Views: 2510

Return to the Berwyn ridge

Attachment(s) Hewitts: Cadair Berwyn, Moel Sych
Date walked: 05/08/2014
Distance: 10km
Ascent: 760m
Comments: 2
Views: 2019


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Location: Shrewsbury, Shropshire
Occupation: long haired bearded yeti type best kept in a call centre - you can hear but you cant see
Interests: climbing hills, mountains, humps, bumps etc. like wide range of music - typically not much in the charts
Activity: Munro compleatist
Pub: west arms,llanarmon d.c.
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Ideal day out: any day or days which meets or exceeds expectations, a safe walk with all parties returning home in one piece. maybe some stunning views thrown in for good measure. oh, and if there's no one else seen whilst out on the hill thats great too
Ambition: to be a good person

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