Best Little Retread?

Sow How Tarn – Middle Tarn – Heights Cottage – Raven’s Barrow – St. Anthony’s Cartmel Fell – The Mason’s Arms – Whinny Knott – Birch Fell Forest – Gummer’s How.


Sow How Tarn.

Heading towards the end of October now and it’s the start of our half-term. What better way to begin a holiday than with another visit from Andy and family? They were up to drag TJF out to celebrate his birthday.

On the Saturday afternoon, despite some dodgy weather, Andy was keen to get out to climb Gummer’s How. He assures me that this preceded his relatively newfound obsession with Marilyn bagging. Maybe the prospect of a visit to the nearby Mason’s Arms played a part in his enthusiasm? TBF, TJF and myself were daft enough to join him for a wander in the damp and the drizzle.


Height’s Cottage – once a Friends’ Meeting House.


Panorama from Raven’s Barrow.


Pool Garth.


We sheltered under these large brollies for lunch at the Mason’s Arms. I had a salad which featured chorizo quite prominently and was very tasty.

Andy is a bit out of focus here…


…possibly something to do with the Raspberry beer we were both enjoying?


After our stop at the pub, the climb up Gummer’s How felt quite stiff. At first it seemed we wouldn’t be rewarded with any kind of view.


But eventually the cloud lifted at least a little.


Gummer How pano.




Windermere and Finsthwaite Fell.

It was a shame about the weather, but I think we made the most of a dreary day. This is a great walk for that purpose, or for a half day in nicer conditions. I did almost exactly this walk, but in reverse, with MM and Dr F a few years ago. Gummer How, Raven’s Barrow and St. Anthony’s have all featured on the blog quite a few times over the years. There’s a search tool hidden away in the top right hand corner if you want to know more.


This is the map I used for my post back in 2011, which includes a diversion in search of the summit of Birch Fell via an entirely spurious pair of very straight lines; in reality we were slaloming between densely planted conifers. Otherwise, I think that this is reasonably accurate.

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In 2011, MM’s GPS gave this route as 10km. Mapmywalk tells me that it was 11.58km. I prefer to believe the latter, but who knows? Andy’s, far superior, account of the day is here.

Best Little Retread?

The Proverbial… a Brewery


Yeast on a vat full of beer.

Having managed to publish two posts almost simultaneously and in the wrong chronological sequence, thereby effectively burying one of them – I know: the incompetence is breath-taking –  I now intend to compound the error by going both off topic and back in time to some photos I’d forgotten about.

This is my friend B….


Unlike me he’s capable of organising the proverbial p***-up in a brewery. And that’s exactly what he did. Four of us went for a tour of the Lancaster Brewery. Which was very interesting. The section on beer in Michael Pollan’s ‘Cooked’ was one of the most fascinating parts of an excellent book, so I was pleased to have an opportunity to see the process in action.


Then we got to sample some of their beer. And eat pie. And watch the final three games in the Six Nations. Generally, I’ve been laying off the ale this year. And the pie. And lots of other things too, so this was a special treat, the only dampener being the poor showing of England in the rugby.

I seem to have forgotten to take any more photos. Too busy watching the sport, and drinking, and putting the world to rights, so no beer porn. Suffice to say that Lancaster ales are very fine, especially the Red, to my taste at least.

The Proverbial… a Brewery

The Best Little Walk?


Not so long ago I was musing on the elements which come together to make a ‘good day on the hoof’. On Saturday just gone I had a day with my friends M and F which must have come pretty close to perfect. Halfway decent weather is clearly a prerequisite: the forecast had been dreadful and the early part of the morning was wet, but fortunately F is very attached to her duvet and by the time we were climbing Gummer’s How the sun was shining and out of the cold wind it was very pleasant. Gummer’s How must get bored with being described as a Lake District mountain in miniature, but ‘the cap fits’, and so it was a little disconcerting to arrive on the top to find a small herd of cows sunning themselves there.


 M and F on Gummer’s How.

The views – south across the Kent estuary, east to the Howgill fells and north along the Lake to the higher fells of the lake District – are stunning.


“a lovely little pool among the hills, long and narrow, beautifully indented with tiny bays and headlands”

Nathanial  Hawthorn on Windermere quoted in ‘The Tarns Of Lakeland Volume 2: East by John and Anne Nuttall

There are many larch trees on the slopes of Gummer’s How and they were flowering, the tiny spiky red flowers looking like miniature pine cones.


Birch Fell, another Birkett, is covered with forestry, we probably found the top – it was hard to tell, and after a bit of forest bashing we found a slight path which follows the boundary of the forest down to a boggy right of way which in turn took us to the road at Lightwood.

On the verge we found large round leaves with flower-stalks between.

It looked rather like butterbur but the flowers were white. I’ve since discovered that there are two introduced species of butterbur with white flowers – white butterbur and giant butterbur. So this will be one of those then…

A fairly long section of road-walking here was justified by the lunch stop which fell roughly in the middle of it – The Mason Arms at Strawberry Bank. Be warned however – the food is quite pricey, and don’t order the baked mushrooms as a main course, as F did, unless you are on a severe diet. What’s special about the Mason Arms is the beer however – a sign outside boasts that they serve 200. I had a couple of very pleasant tipples – I did cause some consternation at the bar when I asked for a Bos Keun*, partly because they didn’t have it, but also because the bar man hadn’t heard of it. I remember having it here a couple of times before – the last of them on my stag weekend almost 10 years ago. Perhaps the pub has changed hands since then?

A short walk from the pub is St. Anthony’s church. Built in 1504 it’s in a secluded spot away from the road. The churchyard was full of daffodils. The roof looks to be almost new and from the outside the great antiquity of the building is only really apparent in the windows.

Inside the old beams in the roof…

…and some of the church furniture are evidently very old. In the photo above you can see two box pews – used, I believe, to help the gentry to keep themselves separate from the hoi polloi – and on the right a triple-decker pulpit dating from 1698 apparently.

This painted panel is very like the ones which B and I saw last spring in the nearby church at Witherslack and I wondered whether they were by the same hand. Perhaps, having had a chance to re-examine the pictures from last year, this is not by the same artist – but it is the same coat of arms, that of Queen Anne – I wonder why she had such a fan club in the Winster valley?

From the church a path took us up across the road and on to the open fellside where a path, not marked on the OS map, takes a steep climb to the excellent viewpoint of Raven’s Barrow.

Looking across the valley to Whitbarrow and Yewbarrow.

The map shows a monument on the top:

It’s a large and very tidy cairn with a built in seat (although you need to be quite petite to sit comfortably). There’s no indication of what this monument might commemorate, but there is a lot of scratched graffiti, some of it quite old, which F is perusing here.

Shortly beyond Raven’s Barrow is Heights Cottage which has an interesting history. All of the doors are padlocked and the building appears to be unused now – but it is also obviously being looked after – it looks like the near right corner of the wall was re-pointed relatively recently for example.

“Used as a Quaker Meeting House until the 1920s, this was built in 1667 to comply with the Five Mile Act, which prevented a Non-conformist preacher from living or teaching within 5 miles of a town.”

from The Tarns Of Lakeland Volume 2: East by John and Anne Nuttall

From here it was a short walk back to the car, passing a couple of small reservoirs. First Middle tarn:

And then Sow How Tarn:

Which even has a boathouse, the roof of which sports a weather-vane with, appropriately, a decorative pig:

And which, this weekend at least, also had a resident pied-wagtail…

So…great weather, great company, great views, nice beer, a bit of history, some stretches of water. Is this ‘The Bestest Little Walk In the Lakes’? Quite possibly not – if you have a suggestion for a better one I’d be very glad to hear it!

Thanks to the Shandy Sherpa I now know how to add maps to my posts.


M’s sat-nav said 10km. But it also said 570m of ascent which can’t be true (a lot less then that surely?). Bing maps gave the distance as 6.21 miles. So, about 6 miles, some boggy bits, one bit without a path, a modicum of up and down, free parking. What else could I tell you? Oh – two Birketts, one of which (Gummer’s How) is also an Outlying Fell. And Raven’s Barrow might be an Outlying Fell too.

*I’m not in the habit of drinking 10% beers – I didn’t remember it being so strong and it didn’t taste like a barley wine.

The Best Little Walk?