Harter Fell

The sprogs on Jubilee Bridge (built 1977)

Eskdale is difficult to get to from…well, just about anywhere. We drove over the Wrynose and Hardknott passes and the kids look very relaxed in this photo given that X-Ray and I were both still feeling pretty green after the many hairpins, even despite the fact that I had been driving. We were there to climb Harter Fell, a route selected after much deliberation because I thought it would be within the kids capabilities. It was another of my Christmas present days out and X-Ray and I had arranged to meet for a walk quite some time ago. We hadn’t planned on having A and B along with us, but so much the better. Like the previous four ‘Christmas present days out’ it was clear, bright and sunny, although the breeze was cold. Not sure how long my lucky streak can continue.

The path we took climbed at a pleasant steady gradient quickly giving great views over the valley.

Over Eskdale to the Scafells, Bowfell, Crinkle Crags and Hardknott.

After about an hour of steady plodding, X-Ray found a sheltered spot for some elevenses. The kids were beginning to flag, and the restorative effects of elevenses were short lived. But then we topped the steepest part of the climb and found ourselves in a playground of easy angled slabs and craglets. The rock is coarse grained and grippy and the kids perked up no end when we abandoned the path and tried to string a route together which stuck as much as possible to the rocks. B was firmly of the opinion that he could climb anything going, and to be fair to him all the evidence seemed to point that way. Certainly A and I couldn’t keep up with him. (X-Ray continued on the path; he seemed a little bemused by all of our unnecessary exertion.)

I’ve climbed Harter Fell before, but I think only once and it was many years ago. I’d forgotten about the rocky towers on the top: more fun for children of all ages. Although, it was fairly windy, and taking the kids up to the top of the highest was a bit hair-raising. We found a very comfortable spot at the base of one of the towers to eat lunch and, out of the wind, to bask in the sunshine. After lunch the kids were soon exploring the rocks again.

On top of one of the rocky towers (not the highest.)

We had a wander around to take in the views too, which were great in every direction. Two things stood out however, the view northwards to the high fells around upper Eskdale…

…and the view down on to the roman fort near the top of Hardknott pass…

Our onward route would take us down to the fort but first we needed to negotiate the long ridge down to the head of the pass. It is a craggy ridge, evidently very boggy in normal circumstance, although not too bad at present, and with only faint and intermittent paths. We took in two fairly insignificant bumps, which are never the less Birketts: Demming Crag and Horsehow Crag.

The ridge took us quite some time, but we eventually reached the top of Hardknott pass…

…from where there was an excellent view along the valley to the sea. For the first time we noticed that the Isle of Man was visible on the horizon (you can just about pick it out on this photo).

From the pass another faint trod took us round to the parade ground by the fort and then to the fort itself.

Horsehow Crag, Demming Crag and Harter Fell

X-Ray and the kids examine the remains of the grain store within the fort.

A corner tower.

The outer wall.

Every morsel of food and every drop of drink I had brought with me was gone and the kids still claimed to need more, so when we returned to the car we drove down to Dalegarth, the top station of L’al Ratty the narrow gauge railway line which runs up Eskdale from Ravenglass on the coast. When we set off again, however, they were soon asleep without really doing justice to the drinks and cake and biscuits I had bought them.

This walk – of four and half miles with 600m of ascent – had clearly been enough for them. It had taken us 6 hours in total, with over an hour spent at the top of Harter Fell eating, exploring and enjoying the views.

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Harter Fell

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