Castor and Pollux, Leiber and Stoller, eggs and bacon, Weller and Worthington*, cheese and pickle, Cooke and Moore, Boswell and Johnson – some things are destined to always be associated in our minds, and whatever individual merit each half of the partnership has, we none the less feel that the whole is somehow greater than the sum of the parts. I have a feeling that, to a certain extent at least, walkers who know them feel much the same way about Holme Fell and Black Fell. Guide books certainly often pair them together. The chap I met one wintery morning above the Wrynose Pass, who was close to finishing bagging the Birketts, had them both pencilled in for an afternoon walk later that day, once he’d polished off some Coniston Fells. But here’s the curious thing – I’d never been up Black Fell, even though I’ve climbed Holme Fell a few times over the years, including once since I started recording my walks here.
So, with a forecast for some half decent weather (but with strong winds and some wintery showers predicted too) and wanting to get the kids out for a wander, something in the vicinity of Loughrigg, the same sort of low fell walk, with good views, relatively easily earned, but easy retreats available too, was deemed appropriate, and Black Fell seemed to fit the bill perfectly.
We parked in a National Trust car park, just off the A593 Ambleside to Coniston road, which gave us instant access to the delightful cascades of Tom Gill, which is the stream which flows out of Tarn Hows.
These were worthy of the admission price alone – I’ve been to Tarn Hows before, but I don’t think I can have been this way – what a treat!
Now, I have to confess, I’ve never truly understood the fuss that’s made over Tarn Hows. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, obviously, and a lot of people hold views diametrically opposite to my own, but a lot of people are simply wrong: it’s a reservoir surrounded by conifer plantations. Nothing wrong with that particularly, but….I’m not sure that it can carry the weight of the hyperbole that’s heaped on it. Tom Gill is much more entertaining.
Now that we’d gained a little height, it was already proving to be a very, very windy day. Some members of the party were agitating for their lunch. It’s a perennial problem on family outings. And it’s not principally the kids who chafe. TBH still hasn’t let me forget that we missed the lunchtime serving at the pub when we last climbed Holme Fell, and that despite the fact that we were still well looked after when we did arrive. We spent a while, therefore, searching for a suitable, sheltered picnic spot.
This was it. Not really very sheltered, just less not sheltered than anywhere else we tried.
Then we were climbing towards the summit of Black Fell. The wind was making it quite hard work, especially for walkers carrying a little less ballast than yours truly, i.e. all the rest of the family. The reward was the expanding views on all sides. Little S was particularly keen to have a view of ‘Coniston’. He didn’t seem very sure whether it was the lake, the village or the mountain of that name which interested him. The Houses at the village primary school are Coniston, Scafell and Kent, so that was partly what had sparked his interest. And it transpired that one of his class mates has climbed Coniston Old Man and has been regaling her peers with tales of her derring-do. In the long term, I’m obviously keen to exploit the competitive spirit this seems to have kindled in S, but in the short term I told him that Crinkle Crags, which we climbed together in the summer, is higher, and he was immensely satisfied by that. From that point on, it was important for us to identify Crinkle Crags from the surrounding hills.
“It’s over there!”
Tarn Hows, Coniston Water and Coniston Old Man from Black Fell.
Windermere from Black Fell.
As if the wind wasn’t enough to contend with, the top of Black Fell brought the additional delight of a fierce hail shower. Fortunately, this rocky outcrop provided a pretty fair measure of protection and we hunkered down for hot blackcurrant and snacks.
Another view towards the Langdale Fells.
It had originally been my intention to incorporate Holme Fell into the walk as well, but time was marching on a good deal faster than we were, and the kids were finding the wind trying – trying to bowl them off their feet for the most part. So we picked up the path which shadows the road through the valley between Black Fell and Holme Fell. If you are thinking of following this route, be warned that the path opposite Yew Tree Tarn is very sketchy and I suspect little used. We did bump into a roe deer using it however.
* Weller and Worthington – I realise that I might have undermined my argument somewhat by posting a link of Frank Worthington’s amazing goal for Bolton against Ipswich, when he was no-longer playing alongside the wizardry of Keith Weller, but I’ll always think of them together. Here they are crafting a goal in tandem. Great team that, Lenny Glover, on the other wing, sticks in my mind too. I also realise that, as a Leicester fan, it’s probably significant that I’m clutching at crumbs of comfort from the early 1970’s.
This was fun though.