The Caldbeck Fells

Carrock Pike

The approach to the foot of the mountain resembled the approaches to the feet of most other mountains. The cultivation gradually ceased, the trees grew gradually rare, the road became gradually rougher, and the sides of the mountain looked gradually more and more lofty, and more and more difficult to get up.

from The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices

That’s from 1857, but it’s still a pretty fair description of my drive to the foot of Carrock Fell. When I climbed out of the car I was surprised by the cold slap of the wind. My ascent would take a rising line under the right-hand corner of those broken crags and then into and up a grassy gulley to the skyline, where the gradient eases. But first, I paused a while to watch a buzzard’s slow trawl along the top edge of the crag and then a a kestrel poised above a lone tree silhouetted against the sky.

One way and another, my scramble to bag the Birketts has stumbled this year. First my damaged ankle kept me off the hills and since then I’ve climbed hills on the edge of the Pennines, in the Forest of Bowland and in North Wales, but the only times I’ve been out in the Lakes I either haven’t climbed any hills or I’ve re-ascended tops which I’ve already ticked off. So for this away-day I’d chosen something to give the whole thing a bit of a kick-start: unfamiliar territory with nine relatively easy ‘summits’ to be bagged.

Of course, nothing’s ever easy: although my parking spot near Stone Ends Farm gave me a pleasingly high start, the first part of the climb was fairly steep. In the event, despite the need for windscreen-wipers on my eyes as perspiration gushed down my forehead, I found a nice steady rhythm and enjoyed the challenge.

At the top edge of the crags, I paused again as three ravens repeatedly sailed past, gurgling their lovely catarrhal croaks. I didn’t get much further up the path before my progress was halted again: a grouse stood proud on the hillside just ahead. I expected that it would whirr noisily away, but instead it just ducked down behind some heather so that only it’s head was showing…

Solitary grouse 

I waited with my camera, hoping that it would show itself more fully. A kestrel swooped by; maybe it was the kestrel I had seen from below. If it was a kestrel: it was surprisingly pale, but the right sort of size and shape.

Eventually, my patience paid off: the grouse trundled across the heather onto a prominent perch on a rock and then a second popped-up from a hiding place…

Two grouse 

…and then a third…

Three grouse 

…and a fourth. The three ravens made a reappearance and all five grouse launched themselves onto the wind. Even when they took off, they were eerily quiet, none loosed that abrupt rattling ‘here I am, shoot me’ call. I wondered whether they were a family group. None had the red wattle which distinguishes the male.

Up and up and up again, till a ridge is reached and the outer edge of the mist on the summit of Carrock is darkly and drizzingly near. Is this the top? No, nothing like the top. It is an aggravating peculiarity of all mountains, that, although they have only one top when they are seen (as they ought always to be seen) from below, they turn out to have a perfect eruption of false tops whenever the traveller is sufficiently ill-advised to go out of his way for the purpose of ascending them. Carrock is but a trumpery little mountain of fifteen hundred feet, and it presumes to have false tops, and even precipices, as if it were Mont Blanc. No matter; Goodchild enjoys it, and will go on: and Idle, who is afraid of being left behind by himself, must follow.

from The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices

In fact, Carrock Fell is not a serious offender in this regard, at least not from the direction from which I climbed it, and I was soon on the top. What’s more, unlike the maniacally energetic Goodchild and the indolent Thomas Idle, I had a view, even if it was “like a feeble water-colour drawing half sponged out”. Goodchild and Idle are the alter-egos of the close friends Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. They took a tour of Cumberland together and then satirised themselves in Dickens’ Household Words.

I must confess that I’d never heard of their tour, or their report of it, until I bought this book…

A real find

…from the Oxfam bookshop in Lancaster this week. It’s from 1954 and looks like marvellous stuff, starting with early travellers like William Camden, Daniel Defoe and Celia Fiennes, taking in the writers of Tour Guides like Pennant and West, the Romantic Poets (Wordsworth fits both of the last two categories), and finishing with more recent Lakeland luminaries like Ruskin, Beatrix Potter, Cannon Rawnsley, W.G.Collingwood, Walpole and W. Heaton Cooper, who also provides illustrations and the jacket painting.

Only now, as I flick through it again, have I discovered a neat, typed name and address label, dated “Aug ‘75”,  which shows that a previous owner of the book lived in a house just across the road from home.

Anyway, back to my walk: Dickens makes no mention of the remains of an iron-age hill-fort on the summit of Carrock Fell. After the grandeur of Tre’r Ceiri earlier this summer, I found it distinctly underwhelming by comparison.

Carrock Fell hill-fort 

My next target would be High Pike, seen here on the right…

Carrock Fell cairn and onward route 

…although there were a couple of minor bumps on the soggy ridge inbetween which I would slalom to incorporate, because of their Birkett status.

At first I mistook this huge fly, mesembrina meridiana, for a substantial bumble bee, purely because of its size.

Huge mesembrina meridiana 

Diverting to Round Knott at least took me wide of the most egregious bog.

Carrock Fell 

Looking back to Carrock Fell.

Round Knott cairn. Blencathra and Skiddaw behind. 

Round Knott Cairn. Blencathra and Skiddaw behind.

High Pike 

High Pike

So far I’d had the hills to myself. On the boggy ridge I saw a walker with a collie heading the other way, but we didn’t meet since I’d left the main path to take in Round Knott. Now as I approached the final climb to High Pike I met another single walker, with two collies. Neither were on leads. Both were very friendly. One much too friendly. After it had put its paws on my chest, sniffed my privates and nestled it’s snout in my bum, I pushed it away with a trekking pole, on which I then skewered it’s owner, explaining, as he breathed his last, that not everyone likes dogs and that if he’d been a little more considerate he could have avoided being  kebabed.

No I didn’t. I smiled weakly and said something innocuous like, “Nice day for it.”

“I thought I’d got the hills all to myself,” with a grin.

A fellow misanthrope; I warmed to him. Maybe I won’t garrotte him on this occasion.

He strode away, unaware of his narrow escape.

Looking back to Carrock Fell 

Carrock Fell again.

The next walker I met also had a collie, or perhaps I should say that the next collie I met also had a walker in tow? I began to worry that I’d stumbled into some strange convention for lone walkers with collies, like something from Sherlock Holmes, but the next walkers I met were a couple with a boxer and something like a lurcher.

High Pike summit 

High pike has a fair accumulation of summit furniture: a trig pillar, an untidy, sprawling cairn and a stone bench. Squadrons of wasps flying in formation low to the turf were everywhere. They didn’t bother me whilst I ate some lunch, and I wondered what they were doing in such an apparently unpromising spot if they weren’t there to mug walkers and steal their sandwiches.

High Pike, and the Caldbeck Fells in general, are renowned for their mineral wealth and geological interest. I didn’t spot much, but I did pass a bright, white rock with an intricate crystalline structure embedded in the path…

High Pike geology 

Three more minor bumps to negotiate on route to Knott: Hare Stones, Great Lingy Hill and Little Lingy Hill. All three have cairns optimistically plonked close to where it’s almost possible to imagine that there might be a highest point. They give pleasant, rough, almost pathless walking.

Knott from Great Lingy Hill 

Wainwright says of Great Lingy Hill: “Acres of dense fragrant heather make this the most delectable top in Lakeland for a summer day’s siesta.” I thought it seemed a bit wet for that, but when the sun almost shone on Little Lingy Hill, I did spread my cag on the sward, stretch out and shut my eyes for a while.

Knott from Little Lingy Hill 

The crossing from Little Lingy Hill was wetter and rougher then anything I had yet encountered. That didn’t seem to perturb this….

Wary common lizard 

common lizard, which squirmed through the grass and disappeared before I could get a better picture.

Despite the fact that when I’d last seen them they’d been heading in the opposite direction, the misanthrope and his dogs had some how made it to the top of Knott before me. Maybe they’d made the unfortunate decision not to have a wee snooze. They strode away when they saw me coming to mar their splendid isolation.

The air had cleared a little and the hills across the Solway Firth had become more than the vague hint of landscape which they’d been up to that point. From my grandstand seat I watched showers tracking across the plains which flank the estuary.

A heavy shower 

Skiddaw seen over Great and Little Calva 

Skiddaw seen above Great and Little Calva.

Threatening clouds 

Threatening clouds.

High Pike and Carrock Fell from Knott 

High Pike and Carrock Fell from Knott.

Another boggy ridge took me Coomb Height, the final Birkett of the day. I descended by Grainsgill Beck and then followed the unfenced road by the River Caldew to Mosedale, where I was surprised to find a cafe operating in the local Friends Meeting House.

Mosedale Friends Meeting House 

The cakes looked nice and the tea was hot and wet and reasonably priced.

1702 

Next door, in the barn attached to the Meeting House, was an Aladdin’s cave come charity shop.

An unusual charity shop 

In the meeting house was a display of rubbings of dates and initials taken from local houses and associated with the Quaker community. This area is one of the birthplaces of Quakerism; George Fox is another of the early writers anthologised in Prose of Lakeland. Walking through Mosedale I noticed a couple of houses with initials and eighteenth century dates. This one…

A Quaker home 

…a large double fronted house with an air of shabby gentility and an unkempt garden looked particularly romantic and worthy of exploration.

Date and initials

The Caldbeck Fells

Gait Barrows Puzzles

On the Sunday after our picnic, there was a sheep-dog trial on in the field behind our house. (Photos of a previous trial are here if that floats your boat.) Our house is separated from the field by a sort of ha-ha wall topped with both a hedge and a fence. Somehow however, our friend E, whose Dad organises the trials, came through a ‘gap’ to play with B. I’d planned to take B to Haweswater, hoping that he might have a chance to see some lizards – E was happy to join us, so we all went.

When we arrived on the boardwalks, we were a little too early: the sun had yet to climb high enough over the trees to warm the boards and there were no lizards to be seen. B expressed a desire to go to the ‘limestone place’ so we agreed to have a wander around Gait Barrows and then return, hopefully to find our quarry.

We followed a high hedgerow, vying with each other to be the first to spot the many dragonflies that were hunting around the hedge. Unlike the darters I had photographed earlier in the week, which settle on a perch for much of the time, waiting for an opportunity to pounce on passing insect prey, these were hawkers which stay on the wing for much longer and so are much harder to photograph. Fortunately, E spotted this one apparently taking a rest…

Dragonfly - migrant hawker?

I suspect that this is a male migrant hawker, the small yellow triangle at the front of the abdomen is distinctive apparently. My field guide has  a map which shows the distribution of this species extending from the South West below a line which runs roughly from the Bristol Channel to the Humber, which would mean that I wouldn’t see them in Lancashire, but a quick search reveals that they are now regularly found further north in Cumbria, especially close to the coast.

The boys were great company. I like to walk and gawp, but they were even slower than me – they not only wanted to stop to look, they were also keen to have hands on experience. Here…

What do you reckon that is then? 

…I think that they were investigating a puddle, possibly releasing a toad they had caught into the puddle in the (possibly mistaken) believe that it would be happier there than elsewhere in the field.

Exploring the limestone pavements, Gait Barrows 

The limestone pavements were a huge hit and in fact after we had explored for a while, they were reluctant to leave. I resigned myself to admiring the views, near and far, for a little longer.

View from the top 

Eaves Wood and Arnside Knott.

Guelder Rose berries 

Guelder-rose berries.

Isn't water great? 

Meanwhile they had found some little rock-pools and were enjoying playing with the water.

We found a few curiosities which had us stumped, at least for a while. These tiny delicate stars…

Old biting stonecrop flowers

…had me thinking that I had found a species of flower which was new to me. It was only when I looked at the photos at home that I realised that I was being fooled again by biting stonecrop – these white husks being the remnants of the yellow flowers. (This is the where and when and why of how they puzzled me earlier this year)

One of the puddles…

What? 

…was full of these rather unpleasant looking balls.

Any ideas? 

It occurs to me now that maybe they were rabbit-droppings washed here by rain, but if anyone knows better….?

When I thought that I had persuaded the boys to head back towards Haweswater and ultimately home and lunch, they discovered, on the path by the limestone pavement, lots of dark stones (“Gemstones Dad – we’re rich!”) with which they proceeded to fill their pockets, and would have filled mine had I let them.

Another puzzle 

Some were greeny-black…

Greeny black stone 

Some were rough and pitted…

Pitted stone 

And some were shiny, smooth and black…

Shiney black stone 

What they are, and why they can be found here amongst the limestone I don’t know.

Halved hazelnut shells.

We also saw many heaps of empty hazelnut shells, some of them quite sizeable. According to ‘The Collins Guide to Animal Tracks and Signs’ shells which have been spilt in half like this, rather then gnawed through, are the work of squirrels.

Eventually I managed to coax the boys back to the boardwalk, by which time the sun was lighting the boardwalk and there were a few common lizards about again. Marvellous.

Gait Barrows Puzzles

Viviparous or Common Lizards

Two common lizards

Three species of lizard are native to Britain, the sand lizard (which I suspect is what A and I saw at the Parc du Marquenterre), slow worms, and the viviparous or common lizard. In addition there are a few naturalised populations of wall lizards, like the two we saw in Jersey. Jersey also has an indigenous population of green lizards, normally native to the Mediterranean but through some quirk of fate managing to hang on in Jersey as their range has headed south with changing climate.

Viviparous Lizards are not truly viviparous in giving birth to live young, but, like Adders and many other reptiles, they appear to do so, the eggs hatching as they are deposited.

The Viviparous Lizard is one of the most widely distributed vertebrates in the world, occurring across Europe and Asia; it also lives further north then any other species of reptile in the world.

Fauna Britannica Stefan Buczacki

Uniquely adapted to the cold presumably, which might explain why my recent sightings have been on Carn Fadryn, and halfway up Meall nan Tarmachan in early March. When I lived in Manchester and walked regularly in the Dark Peak, I would see them on sunny days basking on areas of bare peat.

There is a wide variation in the colouring of common lizards, but the majority of the ones we saw, the relatively small ones, had brown bodies shading subtly into green tails.

Small lizard 

They all also had one particularly long toe on each foot.

Long-tail 

This pale brown lizard was medium-sized…

A paler, medium-sized common lizard

…much bigger then the diddy ones, but not quite as big as…

Old new-tail 

…this chap. Common lizards can shed their tail to rid themselves of a predator, and the tail will subsequently regrow…

A new tail 

…as you can see this one has.

Probably a tale to tell there eh? Eh?…..Oh – please yourselves!

Not all of the larger lizards had such strong, dark markings…

Common lizard

When they want to be, these lizards are very fast moving (although a couple of days later, B did manage, very briefly, to catch one). But they were also quite patient and let me get quite close and take many photos. Most of which are included in this slideshow…

With thanks to Sheila for her technical assistance – expect more embedded slideshows in future!

Viviparous or Common Lizards

Perfect Day

Perfect picnic

I’ve whittled on before about the elements which combine to make a ‘good day on the hoof’. This was hardly a day on the hoof: a short bicycle ride to the end of Moss Lane, a picnic on a bench on the boardwalk overlooking Haweswater and then a circuit around the lake and across the fields and back to Moss Lane. A short walk; very leisurely. Lots of sitting around, lots of blackberry picking, lots of stopping to gawp at nature. But before our jaunt was even half way through TBH had already begun to describe it as a ‘perfect day’.

Whilst we were eating our lunch we were entertained by a multitude of dragonflies hunting over the grassland by the lake, and also watched several butterflies flutter by – a brimstone, a peacock and the only one which had the courtesy to pose for a photo…

Small tortoiseshell on devil's-bit scabious 

…this small tortoiseshell. It was sunning itself on a devil’s-bit scabious, which, from previous visits, I expected to find flowering here early in September, although many of the flowers were not yet open…

Unopened devil's-bit scabious 

…and as many again were only beginning to open…

Partially opened devil's-bit scabious 

It was also no surprise to find grass of Parnassus flowering…

Grass of Parnassus 

…no surprise, but absolutely delightful!

But I was rather taken aback to find this bird’s-eye primrose still flowering…

Late-flowering bird's-eye primrose

…long after it’s usual May and June season.

A picnic with S is a long, drawn-out affair, since he doesn’t like to sit still for too long: a little light grazing, a look around, another morsel of food, a bit more exploring – that’s his modus operandi. He’s keen on company on his mini-forays and whilst exploring we found this…

Hoverfly - helophilus pendulus, probably 

…dapper hoverfly, probably helophilus pendulus, meticulously cleaning itself – first wiping its abdomen with its rear legs, then its face with the front pair. ‘Helophilus pendulus’ is ‘dangling swamp-lover’ apparently. I think Mr Knipe might be described as helophilus. (I’ll leave it to Mike to do gags about ‘dangling’ – he’ll do it better then I will.)

Whilst I photographed the hoverfly, S noticed this female common darter…

Female common darter 

…which seemed very happy for me to get really close to take pictures.

Female common darter again 

There were other species of dragonfly about, big green and blue ones (that’s the official dragonfly fancier’s name for ‘em), but they wouldn’t play ball and land for a photo.

After watching a brimstone several times, seeing it apparently disappear near to a shrub, but then fail to find it’s landing spot, I finally traced one to a spot in the grass behind a bush…

Brimstone 

When we finished our protracted repast and moved on, we found that the common darters were very fond of the boardwalk and would hover just above it before landing briefly, but for long enough for me to get several photos of both males and females, of which this was the sharpest…

Male common darter 

Male common darter.

Strangely, I had a premonition that the dragonflies might not be the only ones enjoying the sunshine on the boardwalk and sure enough…

Common lizard

…there were many common lizards sun-bathing on the timber ‘kerbs’ which run along the edges of the boardwalk. I have occasionally seen them here before, singly and briefly, but this time there were probably about 20 here and we were able to watch them for quite some time, despite S’s best efforts to catch, poke, chase and otherwise rile them.  Naturally, I took loads of photos and will include more in a forthcoming post.

Having expended lots of energy chasing after a brimstone butterfly for a photo, we now watched one alight on knapweed right beside the path. Since it wasn’t buttery yellow, I assume that it’s a paler female. If you look closely you can see the great long, black, bent drinking-straw tongue.

Brimstone feeding 

We’d seen quite a lot of tiny frogs and/or toads in the grass by the shore. In the soggy field at the end of the lake I disturbed a sizeable adult frog, quite pale, almost yellow, with really striking dark blotches, but sadly it had gone long before I had my camera ready.

With lunch over, it was time to consider tea, and to collect blackberries for a crumble.

Blackberrying

In the meadows by Challan Hall, S and I caught one of the tiny toads…

Small toad 

..perhaps we shouldn’t. But somehow, when you’re only wee yourself, there’s something very thrilling about handling the wildlife you see.

Small toad again

Back on Moss Lane, blackberrying and slowly heading back towards our bikes, I was distracted from fruit-picking by these…erm, well, I wasn’t sure what they were…

Field garlic?

I thought of garlic for some reason, and now I think it may be field garlic, allium oleraceum. If I’m right, then these are bulbils, essentially small bulbs. Usually there would be flowers amongst the bulbils, although it being rather late in the flowering season for field garlic, maybe the flowers had been and gone.

Well – no sangria in the park, didn’t need to go to the zoo to see the animals, ‘problems all left alone’? Check. Perfect day? Pretty close.

Perfect Day

Jersey – The Channel Island Way III

Wall lizard

Leaving the restaurant we walked past the entrance to the castle and down some steps to the end of Gorey promenade. On the wall by the steps we saw a couple of these wall lizards. Apparently the colouration can vary enormously, but the two we saw…

Smaller wall lizard

…had very similar colouring. This species is widely distributed across Europe but is introduced on Jersey, as it is in some southern parts of the British Isles.

Gorey is a very handsome place…

Flowership 

….where I suspect one could wile away a very pleasant afternoon.

Gorey harbour and promenade. 

Perhaps playing in the sand…

Sandshark 

Or maybe playing golf on the links at Jersey Royal Golf Club, although don’t hold your breath if you intend to join the waiting list for membership. The golf course is on common land, so it’s OK to walk across it apparently. If you do – look out for sea holly…

Sea Holly 

…we also saw it in the huge dune complex on the mouth of the river Canche at Le Touquet, but for some reason I didn’t photograph it there.

Sea Holly flower 

The remainder of the day’s walk was along the long curve of beach…

Looking back to Gorey and Mont Ogrueil 

..alongside La Baie du Vieux Chateau. On the landward side we passed a number of Jersey Round Towers, many of them incorporated into more recent houses, and also concrete reminders of the German occupation…

Bunker 

A week before, B had found lots of these…

Cuttlefish skeleton 

…on a beach near Boulogne. He thought that they were mermaid’s purses and was doubly disappointed when I told him that they weren’t, but that I didn’t know what they were. Thanks to Arthur, I do now. They’re cuttlebones – the internal cartilaginous skeleton of a cuttlefish. However, there are several different cuttlefish and I wouldn’t begin to know how to sort out which particular species this belongs to.

Of course this is one of the great delights of a walk on a beach – you never know just what the tide might have washed up, like a dead spider crab….

Dead Spider Crab 

…or what you might see feeding on the tide-line, like a flock of ringed plovers…

Ringed Plovers 

The end of our first day’s walking brought us to the harbour at La Rocque…

La Rocque Harbour

Where, from the end of the harbour wall…

Harbour Wall, La Rocque

…and through the magic of the little Olympus’ zoom, we had our best view of Seymour Tower…

Seymour Tower again

The tower is built on one of the largest inter-tidal reefs in the world. Depending on which website you believe it’s either one mile or two miles from the shore – with the 1:25,000 map and a ruler I arrived at 2km as the gull flies, so somewhere between the two. At low tide it’s possible to walk out and then to stay there, although you have to be accompanied by a guide and it isn’t cheap. I think that my boys would think it was a great adventure – and so would I come to that!

Jersey – The Channel Island Way III

Supernumerary Rainbow

I was sitting with S in his room as he drifted off to sleep, reading, perhaps appropriately, ‘Cosmic Imagery’ by John D. Barrow a great book to dip in to on just such an occasion, when that call went out again – “Dad, Dad come and look at this.”

Two very intense complete hoops – it took me a while to find my cameras and the photos are not a patch on how it looked at the time, but…as well as the reversed secondary it’s just about possible to see inside the principal rainbow a fainter band which is a supernumerary rainbow. There’s a scientific explanation here.

This crop is not exactly sharp but it is possible to see the extra colours inside the violet.

———————————————————————————————————————–

The next day we were enjoying sunshine in the garden when they were at it again. This time they wanted to show me a slowworm which their mum had found in a flowerbed. Very beautiful – and not particularly slow when we picked it up. No photos  this time sorry – but there is one here from earlier in the year.

Supernumerary Rainbow

Birkett Bagging Mania

Or My Favourite Christmas Present VII

Bog asphodel.

Yet another cracking day, in a sequence of clear blue sunny sky days and unalloyed joy which has lasted so long that I’m actually beginning to feel paranoid – what kind of a fall is this building up to? Bog asphodel was to be a feature of the walk, which yes meant that bog was quite a feature too. When I parked near to Cockley Beck there was cloud down obscuring all of the higher fells, but I was bathed in sunshine.

This slowworm was enjoying the sun too – basking in it on the path not far from the road.

It’s not a snake, but a legless lizard (which sounds like the definition of a snake to me….?). We used to find them in our compost heap in our old garden (about half a mile from where we live now). I never found one quite as big as this one though.

Another feature of the walk…

…were small heath butterflies, which like boggy ground and feed on cotton grass and other sedges. (Can you see a pattern emerging here yet?) I saw them throughout the walk even high up where the wind seemed to be making life very difficult for them.

I took a path into Mosedale but soon left the path, crossed the stream and contoured across a fairly boggy area…

Bog. Note hills capped with cloud and white dots of cotton grass. 

….to the base of a scramble onto Little Stand.

The scramble heads up here somewhere. I had ‘More Scrambles in the Lake District’ by R. Brian Evans with me and the sketch in there is so good that route finding proved to be no problem. The route takes in the craglet on the right, but the guidebook offers an easy route round to the right. I looked at the main route. I wandered round and looked at the easy alternative. Then I walked around the side. It’s a long time since I did this sort of thing and what little bottle I had seemed to have deserted me. Higher up however where the rock was at an easier angle and the crags were wider and offered more options, I did eventually get into the swing of things and really began to enjoy myself.

It helped that as I climbed a great view was opening up down the Duddon Valley.

Duddon Valley – Harter Fell on the right.

It also helped that the weather seemed to be improving as I climbed. Little peaty tarns like this were another feature of the day – you can see the bog cotton again here. By now the guide book was permanently back in my rucksack and I just picked a route that looked good – in this case from the left hand side of the tarn diagonally across the picture to the high point on the right.

From Little Stand.

Summit of Little Stand. Pike-a-Blisco in shade in middleground, Eastern Fells beyond.

You can see a couple in the photo above – they had come up the same way as me, I had had occasional glimpses of them ahead of me, but they were the first people I had met to speak to since I left the car two hours before. Along the ridge, Crinkle Crags was partially in cloud, but even so it was clear that there were lots of people on it.

Before the Crinkles  I had to traverse Stonesty Pike though – a level area with several low hummocks which may have the dubious accolade of least distinguished Birkett to date. In the true spirit of bagging however I did zig-zag wildly taking in all of hummocks before deciding that the first one was highest after all.

The crinkles were busy. Birkett seems to have got carried away here, bestowing Birkett status on five separate Crinkles and Shelter Crag, so I was intent on climbing every knobble in sight just in case. Since the path skirts around many of the ups and downs I still felt like I had the hill largely to myself. At the ‘bad step’ – a small scramble where a gully is blocked by a large jammed boulder – I watched one descending party hang over the edge of the small drop and then choose discretion and turn back for the top, but the man ahead of me made climbing it look easy so I followed suit.

Long Top – the highest of the plethora of tops hereabouts – was busy, so I continued and had the third crinkle, which is slightly off the path, entirely to myself whilst I had a cup of tea.

Long Top Crinkle Crags from the third crinkle.

The descent to Three Tarns, over more Crinkles and Shelter Crag, seemed to be interminable, but eventually I was climbing again, this time on to Bowfell…

The obvious path on the right was fairly busy and I opted to pick a route out amongst the crags to the right of that path. Very good it was too. (And when I got home I found that R. Brian Evans suggested the same thing in ‘Scrambles in the Lake District.’)

From the top of Bowfell I eschewed the main path to Esk Pike and traversed the ridge to the North top which inexplicably isn’t a Birkett. (Nor is Adam-a-Crag on Crinkle Crags which is a fairly prominent knobble – like many of the Crinkles, but well below the top on the Lingcove Beck side so quite remote and awkward to climb.)

Scafell and Scafell Pike from the north top of Bowfell. The prominent nipple in front of Scafell is Pike de Bield.

I was very tired on the short climb to Esk Pike but it was at least very short and not remotely steep. Although I’ve started with a clean slate in terms of Birkett Bagging, most of this walk was in fairly familiar territory, although I don’t think that I’ve ever climbed Little Stand by that scramble before. The descent ridge was completely new to me and for me this is where the bagging thing can really pay off: Pike De Bield – an insignificant nipple with just one contour of it’s own – is a real gem.  It’s perched above Upper Eskdale on the one side and Lingcove on the other – two of the remotest valleys in the Lakes, and it has grandstand views of the huge crags of the Scafells and good views the other way too of Bowfell and Crinkle Crags.

Looking back to Esk Pike from Pike de Bield.

Summit cairn on Pike de Bield with Scafells behind.

Upper Eskdale from Pike de Bield.

Looking back up the ridge – Esk Pike, Pike de Bield and Yeastyrigg Crags.

High Gait Crags on the other hand is another inexplicable one as far as I’m concerned. Crossing Pike de Bield Moss to get to it meant that my feet, which had dried out nicely after early boggy ground, got a thorough soaking again. Why Low Gait Crags, or Long Crag or Pianet Knott don’t deserve equal recognition I don’t know. I bypassed the first two but thought the latter might be an excellent vantage point – which it was.

Lingcove Beck and Bowfell.

Another stream crossing, a short climb to the watershed and then lots of bog asphodel and cotton grass on the extremely boggy Mosedale brought me back to the car. It was 7.30pm and as warm and sunny as it had been all day.

Shortly before I got back, I encountered this monster….

…which sadly I can’t seem to find in my ‘Complete British Insects’. I had seen several dor beetles during the day, but this was giant by comparison.

Once again I can give walk stats thanks to Birkett:

Distance: 8.5 miles (felt much further), up and down: 3345 feet.

He says 5.5 hours, but I took over 8.

12 Birketts some of which are undoubtedly Wainwrights, but I haven’t checked yet.

Birkett Bagging Mania