Around the head of Martindale
15th November 2009
Map: Landranger 90
Weather: Low cloud for the first half, lifting later to walk in some sunshine
From the base of Hallin Fell (near to Ullswater), walk up Beda Fell to the head of the ridge at Angletarn Pikes, around the tarn and up to Brock Crags, up to Rest Dodd and down and up to The Knott, around to Rampsgill Head and onto High Raise. Along the Roman road to Red Crag and then onto to Loadpot Hill. Followed by a knee crunching decent down to Howtown and back to the start: 13.4 miles by Satmap Active 10 gps
Copyright OS-Click on map to enlarge, then hit the back button to return to blog
The not so magnificent seven met up at Martindale Church at 08:30 amidst Lakeland fells cloaked with gloom. Low cloud had been forecast and for once they were correct, but it also forecast some sunshine later on. It was remembrance Sunday today, but there was plenty of room in the car park – maybe the local vicar thought it was a month of Sundays when he saw us all, but alas we had other things to do as we heathens got suited and booted for a wet day. It was a fairly gentle start as we strode out along the road through the hamlet. We passed a huge red telephone box that must have been the inspiration for Dr Who’s tardis, because from where we looked it was bigger than the bungalow next to it – well certainly bigger than the porch. Shortly after this we passed by another small chapel; presumably it predates the bigger church back further along the valley. There were some interesting looking old stone crosses in the churchyard, but we didn’t have time for a mooch around.
The older church with Steel Knotts behind
Past the sheds, we head up through the bracken
The view up Martindale to The Nab
On our way up below the Nickles
Up ahead of us the hillside was resplendent in red bracken above the green fields, a green/red/grey aspect – not as good as a green/red/blue one. We couldn’t see the head of the valley as it was covered with murk, but the Nab (our short return route option) was peeking through the low clouds. We left the road after a mile or so just past Knicklethorns and went steeply up the side of the Nickles Beda Fell, zigzagging as we got higher. Here I assumed my rightful position at the back of the field in the usual hare and tortoise walk – I blame my lack of progress on my poor hill legs, preserving my fruit pastilles and photography. We reached the ridge as several of the group ploughed on ahead, and we had good views back down to Hallin Fell with its unfeasibly large protuberance – summit cairn. Ullswater was stretching away in a silver line in the distance, but it wasn’t long before we disappeared into the gloom.
Looking down to Winter Crag with Ullswater beyond
The magnificent seven…..
Up into the gloom
That’s Angle Tarn from below the Pikes
The long trudge up the spine of Beda Fell took us past several cairns marking the route up to Low Brock Crags and Beda Fell. The faster members of the group kindly waited for us to catch up, and we posed for a picture before we got too knackered - when I say ‘we’, I mean ‘I’ of course. Some of us had got up early today to make this meet, but it didn’t stop them from making good headway. We continued steadily upwards passing over Beda Fell Knott, with the next stop at Angletarn Pikes. Paul from Worksop told me that the major industry of the town – beside Lee Westwood the golfer – is a massive sandwich factory. In fact I think he was a tester/taster as he seemed to be steadily grazing away on sandwiches as we made our way to the top. Today was a good route for bagging some Wainwrights, so we made sure to pass all the tops even if the path didn’t take us there. Up towards Angletarn Pikes it was very misty, so we followed the GPS and zigzagged up to the top.
The magic gate’s owner….Cogstar
A brief glimpse back to Rest Dodd from The Knott
Kidsty Pike is up there in the gloom
The cloud peeling away from High Street
Once there we followed Cogstar on a path that would lead us on towards Brock Crags. He proceeded to regale anyone who was listening about some sort of magical gateway to the next Wainwright. In my defence of our wanderings, I thought Paul said ‘follow Pete’s GPS’, so we plodded off the path across tussocky, reedy, boggy patches. After a short detour we arrived on top of Brock Crags, and ticked off another top. But to be honest it looked much the same as the other tops, and we couldn’t even see Angle Tarn as we walked above and around the water. Off the top of Brock Crags we followed the slight ridge down and back to the main path. Out of the mist, just like an episode of Stargate, appeared a gateway – local knowledge is a wondrous thing, and thank goodness Paul didn’t extract a toll for passing through. At this point on the route we should have been gasping at the magnificent views, instead of gasping up to the next Wainwright – Rest Dodd. Here was an escape point down to the Nab, but thankfully we weren’t that brittle – but whoever named Rest Dodd had a warped sense of humour. So after muttering those fateful words – ‘there’s not much more from here’ – down we went before the final big up of the day. The final ascent of note was up the flank of the Knott, and steep it was.
The route down to the Nab over the valley
The view to the East from Red Crag down to Bampton Common
We were halfway round the walk at 6 1/2 miles, and nearly all of that was uphill. Never has a lunch stop been more eagerly anticipated, with a flask full of hot soup and some chicken\mango chutney rolls – delicious. Cue for Brain of Britain – ‘err – where are my sandwiches?’ – answer – in the boot of the car. Paul kindly offered me a choice of ham or cheese or both. The ham was delicious as were the fruit pastilles dispensed earlier in the day – how could I ever have doubted his magic gate? We had one or two glimpses back towards Rest Dodd, but the cloud swirled in again. From here we should have had magnificent views down over Haweswater and to the north up Martindale. The temperature had dropped to 3 or 4 degrees, and it was cold enough to snow further East from us. It was nice to hang around the top in sweaty clothes, so we didn’t stay long and I soon had cold hands. As we left the top of The Knott most of the remaining route was a little gentler with one or two slight ascents. There were still no views available to us as we walked up to High Raise, but as we dropped down from the summit of another Wainwright the cloud ahead started to peel off the side of the hill along High Street -ahead of us were Raven Howe and Red Crag.
In the clear now we all gazed over the opening vista
Waiting for any weakness?
The view from Wether Hill
Hellvelyn is in the distance, behind Beda Fell and The Nab
As we watched we knew it was only a matter of time before we saw blue skies clearing from the East. We could see over to the Pennines which had a fresh dusting of snow on Burton Fell. Our spirits lifted with the clouds and before you could say a pantomime ‘it’s behind you’ – Hellvelyn and Catstye Cam started to go in and out of cloud cover. The Nab was revealed as the cloud continued to drift away, and behind us we had views of the Rest Dodd and The Knott and realised how high we had walked today. It is really a fabulous place up there on High Street when the views are cloud free. Up ahead the cloud continued to clear and two Ravens appeared on the fence at Raven Howe – how did they know? They were probably waiting for road kill on the High Street. By the time we reached Wether Hill we could gaze down over Ullswater and Hallin Fell, and still spent plenty of time gazing back into the sun over Hellvellyn.
Looking back up High Street to High Raise in the distance
We could nearly see Hellvellyn
On our way down from Loadpot Hill – Blencathra in the distance
Still a bit gloomy at the head of the valley
It was fairly wet underfoot, but we were well togged up with gaiters and we all came back with dry feet – nobody disappeared to any great extent. The final Wainwright of the day was Loadpot Hill, and as it has a trig point we would know when we got there. Paul had finished munching his sandwiches by now, and he did well today considering he has not walked long distances for a while – mind you he has youth on his side. Now we were at the end of our high level route it was time to drop down back to the valley of Fusedale – I knew it would be steep and it was. We could see the church at Martinstown far below and Steel Knotts across the valley. Mountain Mike made for a hot trot down the steep slope, closely followed by Cogstar Paul. He was later shown a yellow card for diving – twice apparently – he should have been sent off! The path down the scarp wasn’t so bad, just grassy and occasionally very slippery. The Ullswater steamer was at the jetty at Howstown and I heard the skipper thinking – ‘just let them get a bit closer before we leave’. It gently glided away, with a v shaped wake across the still waters. Further to the north Blencathra and Skiddaw put in an appearance in the evening sun, and we stopped to listen to the silence – not a sound – very peaceful and relaxing.
The steamer pulls away from Howtown below Hallin Fell
Looking back up the steep route down
The view up Fusedale
Ullswater with Howtown down to the right
Back at the start at the bigger church
As we reached the valley floor we had a view up Fusedale to the Nab, but the tops were still covered. It was a short uphill walk from here at Steel End, in the fading light, returning to Martindale Church where all was quiet – even a quick jaunt up to Hallin Fell couldn’t tempt us. It was great company all the way around today and we retired to the pub for a well earned pint. Only one for the road but it went down well –