Regular visitors will know that a walk around Haweswater is a regular pleasure for me, since there is a small lake of that name perhaps a mile from our house. Last weekend however I had more ambitious plans – a high level circuit of it’s Lakeland namesake. I had driven up in intermittent rain, thinking that I was destined for a rainbow day, but parked close to the village of Burnbanks, which lies below Haweswater’s dam, in pleasant sunshine. I hadn’t gone far when I encountered this chap, who seemed to be in some sort of hurry. I reckon it’s a garden tiger moth caterpillar.
This caterpillar is often called a woolly bear because of its dense coat, with long white-tipped black hairs on the back and chestnut hairs on the sides. The head is shiny black….Mature caterpillars are often seen trundling over the ground at high speed in search of pupation sites.
Collins Complete British Insects Michael Chinery
Burnbanks gives a satisfyingly high start and I was soon crossing rough slopes with the white of bog cotton and cuckoo flower waving in the stiff breeze and the small pink flowers of what I was pleased to recognise as lousewort down among the grass. I made a slight detour to pick up Pinnacle Howe (a bit of an insignificant knoll to be honest) and then cut back on a good track to do the same for Four Stones Hill. This at least has the benefit of a good view along Haweswater. Nearby the map shows ‘Standing Stones’. Given the name of the hill you might think that there would be four stones. But….
The map also shows ‘Cairn’ in the same gothic script and with a star which I think indicates some sort of ancient monument.
From there a short climb brought me to what felt like the first substantial fell of the day. It’s unnamed on the OS map. Birkett calls it Bampton Common, but in Aileen and Brian Evans ‘Short Walks in Lakeland – Book 2 Northern Lakeland’ it says that local farmers call this Great Birkhouse Hill, a name which has been used for one of the many knolls near Four Stones Hill on the OS map, apparently incorrectly.
Looking east towards Cross Fell in the Pennines.
It rained on and off as I traversed Low Kop (another slightly inexplicable Birkett) and then the long gradual moorland climb toward High Kop and Wether Hill. The latter has two broad grassy tops each with a 670m contour. Birkett says that the most northerly ‘is taken to be the summit’. Well I took the most southerly to be the top and I’m counting it regardless of any arguments to the contrary.
Just before I reached Wether Hill I met three walkers who’s first question, very direct, was: ‘Do you know where you are on the map?’ They’d come up from Howtown and were actually exactly where they wanted to be and now were heading down to where I had come from. The next question was: ‘You don’t have 11 friends following on behind somewhere do you? We’ve had a bet about how many people we will meet.’ I had to disappoint the questioner: not only was I alone, but they were the first other walkers I had met.
Now on the main High Street ridge, and following the old Roman road, I crossed Red Crag. Somewhere along the ridge here the nature of the terrain changes and from walking on hills with quite a Pennine character, suddenly there are steeps and crags and a quickening of the pulse. I was enjoying the views of Rest Dodd and The Nab which CJ and I climbed last year. On High Raise it began to rain in earnest. I’d been wearing my cag for some time, more to fend off the cold wind than for the short lived and light showers, but now I needed my waterproof overtrousers too. It continued to rain quite heavily as I contoured round to bag Kidsty Pike and then to climb Rampsgill Head, but here rather magically the rain stopped, the wind dropped and the sun came out, all in very short order. This was all the excuse I needed and I stopped for a first, and quite late, cup of tea and sandwich. Whilst I ate a raven landed close by, but sadly was away again before I could get a photo.
By now, in the throes of Birkett bagging frenzy, I detoured slightly to include The Knott and then continued on to the high point of the day on Racecourse Hill (yes, really: there were race meets held up here in days gone by). I was in the cloud, but frankly I didn’t really mind – I was having a ball. So much so in fact that I blithely continued along the path by the wall which took me in the wrong direction. By the time I realised my daft mistake I was so close to Thornthwaite Beacon that I decided to bag that whilst I was at it. From there a good contouring path brought me to Mardale Ill Bell.
Upto this point, this route offers the peak bagger a low effort delight with not a great deal in the way of descent or reascent. Now I faced a couple of slightly more challenging climbs – the first taking me down to the top of the Nan Bield Pass – where I saw my last other walkers of the day – and back up to Harter Fell.
Small Water and High Street from the route up Harter Fell.
As I dropped off Harter Fell I saw three guys on trials bikes roaring through the Gatescarth Pass. Seconds later, to my surprise, they were bouncing and sliding their way over Little Harter Fell and then past me and on towards the summit of Harter Fell. They were noisy and smelly (and so were the bikes) and obviously to be frowned upon by all right thinking and upstanding members of the community. But, I must confess, it did look like fun.
On Adam Seat I found this…
…which I think is a boundary stone. Later I found another with both L and H on it. I suspect that if I had had the whit to look at the other side of this one it would also have been engraved with an H.
As you can probably tell from the photos, the weather had improved again and on the way down to the top of the Gatescarth Pass I was briefly out of the wind and for a while it even felt quite warm.
The climb from there to Branstree was rather featureless and grassy and with my legs beginning to tire I needed to employ every trick in the book to maintain some interest – I know that I can get disheartened on dull slopes like this one and then my pace can slow as I stop to take frequent rests.
Fortunately, I was distracted, for a while at least, by…
..a spiny caterpillar. I can’t identify this one. Any suggestions?
As I neared the top I was watching this cloud and wondering – is it anvil shaped? The forecast I had heard on the radio had predicted thundery showers in the north in the afternoon and so I wanted to keep a weather eye on….well, the weather.
It was clear that somewhere in the Eden valley was being subjected to a fairly intense shower. And finally there was the rainbow which I had anticipated. As I watched, the colours of the little truncated rainbow became progressively brighter…
I’m not sure that this photo does it justice – at the time I was sure that it was the most incandescent rainbow I had ever seen.
Fortunately, there was little climbing left to do now – just a long walk over High Howes and Selside Pike, from where I liked the look of Swindale…
The Forces Falls on Mosedale Beck looked particularly worth a visit.
And then over boggy ground with many knolls some of which are Birketts and some of which aren’t, without any particularly obvious distinctions between the two.
It was half past eight when I finally arrived back at my car. I had been out for ten and half hours. But it had been quite a day. I think about twenty miles* and quite a bit of up and down. 21 Birketts in all, neatly doubling my total for the year. (Although some aren’t new – X-Ray and I did Banstree, High Howes and Selside Pike last year) (Actually I walked this entire route once before, about 10years ago, but that was pre-blog, so doesn’t count.)
*Bing maps said very slightly under 19, my pedometer gave 33.77km. The pedometer also said 49675 steps. Isn’t that 5 days worth of exercise all in one day? If I’d only eaten 25 portions of fruit and veg whilst doing it I could have lived on choc-ice and chips and sofa-surfed until Thursday!