Around the head of Haweswater
Date: 26th May 2009.
Map: Landranger 90
Weather: Overcast with a small drop of rain and some sunny spells – cold on top.
A circular walk from Mardale Head - taking in Selside Pike-Branstree-Harter Fell-Mardale Ill Bell-High Street-Rampsgill Head-Kidsty Pike and back down to Mardale Head: 12.6 miles on the Satmap.
Noisy Grebes rush away
Looking back to the car park on the left side
We could anticipate the route ahead from this side of the valley and thankfully most of the hard work was done early on today in gaining the height up to Selside. We were sheltered down in the lee of Selside and for most of the route up the old corpse road to Selside where the wind hit us as well as the first shower. We paused often to take in the views across the water, but mostly to polish off a packet of fruit pastilles – damn you Rowntrees – stop making such tasty treats. After passing by a couple of falls to our right, not in any way spectacular, the gradient eased off and we made our way up to the crest of the old corpse road – it must have been knackering carrying a coffin up here, and we discussed the merits of sledging down the fellside in a casket in deep midwinter - the occupant would have been past minding anyway. The way was marked by several small standing stones that were dotted along the fellside.
A glorious view back across the water to Riggindale
Kidsty Pike on the horizon
One of the old marker stones
We reached the summit soon enough and our reward away to the East were fine views of the Pennines, the Howgills, and the ever distinctive top of Ingleborough. Unfortunately the other side of the valley showed us a squall coming our way, and as it was getting cold in the wind we decided that full waterproofs were required and managed to get sorted out before the rain hit. Fortunately that was the last we saw of the rain. Mike threw himself to the deck whilst jumping off a peat hag, but he missed the wet patches, so I made him lie there while I took the obligatory falling over picture – it’s only a matter of time before I get caught out. Then it was a long slog uphill to reach Branstree, passing across Captain Whelter Bog that actually wasn't boggy at all. I was quite relieved as I never like planning walks across parts of the map that are covered in eyelashes – the OS symbol for bogs. The views all around were fantastic from here to the end of the walk, even though it was a bit Baltic for spring. The fence had a strong tension on it and as the wind whistled through it started to sing as in a bow drawn across a violin – only not as noisy. It was a little strange listening to the high pitched whine. And shortly after this we passed by a solitary stone built pillar stuck in the ground in the middle of nowhere, presumably a marker for an estate or something to do with the waterboard – and then it was up to Branstree with its two stone cairns – greedy Branstree, but they are quite shapely so I’ll let it off this once.
On our way across the bog
And looking back and across to the Pennines in the far distance
The only shower of the day, on its way towards us
Looking back to Selside
The weather was good with sunny intervals, with the occasional shower, but the wind chill was quite high and we ended up wearing woolly hat and gloves for most of the day. To the South we had views down to the coast at Heysham power station and beyond. Over to the east we could see the bad weather flowing down the valley between us and the Howgills, dumping heavy showers on the M6 but not us. We dropped steeply down off Branstree to the Gatesgarth Pass, before climbing once more up to the top of Little Harter Fell and then onto Harter Fell, where we stopped and admired the big views, and big views they were – too many to describe. Then it was a race down to the shelter at the col of Nan Bield Pass, as we could see several parties heading up the Nan Bield Pass. The walk down from Harter Fell is a little rocky and steep in places, but that makes it a bit more fun. I knew that the shelter was built facing the NE to shelter from the prevailing south westerly’s and that is where the wind was coming in from today. So I knew that the shelter was the only lunch point around without climbing over to some crags for shelter. We quickened our pace and judged the distance perfectly as we were coming downhill and the others were coming up. I could see one or two faces looking our way and no doubt cursing their luck as they knew who would get there first. It was a fine lunch spot looking down on Small Water Tarn and Haweswater, and this was the halfway point – not much room in there for many, but no one joined us. To the back of the shelter is a wonderful little zigzag path that wobbles down a steep hillside to Kentmere. There were a few families passing by, with only a few teenagers dragging their feet at the back. Haweswater is of course a flooded valley that used to house several villages and farmsteads, remains of which can be seen down close to the water. The valley was flooded in 1935 when the reservoir was built to supply us thirsty Mancs. AW lamented its loss on his television coast to coast walk with Eric Robson.
The showers funnelling down the valley – away from us
The route down to the Gatesgarth gap
Harter Fell ahead
Looking along Haweswater from Little Harter Fell
Mike posing at the summit of Harter Fell
Small water tarn sitting below Harter Fell
After a bite to eat it was up to Mardale Ill Bell when the rain briefly visited us once more and then up onto High Street. This is where the best views were so if you want a short route you could go from the car park at Mardale Head, up the Nan Bield Pass and then up onto High Street and on -this would make about a 6 mile route. Many of the Lake Districts mountains are in sight - to the south were the Coniston Fells and Windermere, and next to us was the Kentmere round. To the West we could see the Scafells, Bowfell, Crinkle Crags and Great Gable. In front of those we could see the whole of the Helvellyn range. To the North of those we could see the fells nearer to Keswick, and Skiddaw and Blencathra came out of the clouds. Not a bad tally of hills from where we were and very atmospheric with the clouds scudding by. We had a view of Riggindale from the top, a craggy ridge with U-shape valleys either side. This is where the eagles reside apparently but as expected we didn’t see any, and I’m surprised he has been hanging around so long as he doesn’t have a mate. You’d think they would have released another into the wilds here in the hope that they breed. There is an RSPB hide down at the bottom of Riggindale somewhere.
The shelter at the Nan Bield pass
Blea Water above Haweswater
The weather passing us by – Riggindale is in the shadow
Windermere in the distance past Froswick and pals
Lots of peaks in view
The view from High Street
Looking down Riggindale
The turn off to Kidsty Pike ahead
The path onto Kidsty Pike branches off from High Street to the NE and you can't really miss it. We met a gent who was walking the C2C on the top of Kidsty Pike and although he had a big grin on his face we both had the feeling that he was a little short of experience and might struggle to reach his destination of Bampton - we were at the Haweswater Hotel having a pint about 6pm and we spotted him across the water (Mike spotted the sheep running ahead of him), he still had about 5 miles to go and he couldn't have been moving much more than 1.5mph – it was a good job it wasn't raining. But we took his picture and I think this was what he was waiting for and in return he snapped us. Shortly after leaving the cairn at the top of Kidsty Pike – the highest point of the coast to coast path (that depends whose coast to coast path you stroll along – see mine in about a year’s time) we descended slowly along the ridge and were now looking across the other side where we started this morning. Not as exciting as staring at the Lake District fells, so we watched a JCB digger at work on the footpaths lower down the slope. I could see a huge pile of white over on the crags of Riggindale and thought maybe that is where the eagle’s eyrie lies, but I couldn’t zoom in enough to see. Next time it will be out with the binoculars.
Looking north to Skiddaw in the clouds
Looking back to our route today
The hills across the valley of Selside and Branstree
Below us now was Bowderthwaite Bridge and the surrounding remnants of an old farmstead, now submerged a little further down the slope under the reservoir. I believe if it gets really dry you can still see plenty of remains start poking up above the surface. The path down off Kidsty Pike was a little steep at the end and but from here it was a gentle stroll around to the car park. We passed by a solitary Heron waiting patiently for a solitary fisherman, both standing in the shallows. Further around the path beneath the steep slopes of Dudderwick were 2 more C2C walkers who gave a cheery hello - these guys were well equipped for wild camping - they had Tesco carrier bags loaded with Carlsberg Special Brew - their hands must have been hurting carting that lot along all day. But I suppose they could take solace from the amber brew later in the day, probably wild camping above Haweswater – hmmm not shabby a spot really, and ready for the morning sun if it comes.
Looking up to Kidsty Pike
The falls at Bowderthwaite Bridge
Down along the shore at Haweswater
Nearly back to the car and a last look up to Kidsty Pike
A peaceful looking Haweswater
We got back to a full car park about 7 hrs after starting out this morning. I think we were both surprised by quite how many hills and what views we could see on today’s round walk with 3600ft of ascent, and it is definitely one to return to, to try and spot the eagle. Another great day out in good company – come to think of it I’ve never had a bad day out walking in the lakes, they’ve all been brilliant.
Just a quick one then..