In Praise of Limestone

Castlebarrow – Waterslack – Hawes Water – Gait Barrows – Silverdale Moss – Hazelslack – Beetham Fell – Beetham – Dallam Deer Park – Milnthorpe – River Bela – Sandside Cutting – Kent Estuary – Arnside – Arnside Knott – Heathwaite – Holgates

This could have been ‘A Snowdrop Walk’ but I think I’ve already had at least one of those in the last nine hundred posts (the last one was number 900, I now realise). It might also have been ‘The Ruined Cottages Walk’ since I passed three ramshackle buildings, generally not too far from where the snowdrops were.

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Before I departed, I’d already been for a wander to the Co-op to pick up croissants, rolls and eggs for everybody else’s breakfast. After a second, leisurely cup of tea, I set-off at around ten and was soon at the edge of Eaves Wood, by a substantial patch of snowdrops, donning a coat as it began to first rain and then hail.

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It had been sunny only moments before and I decided to head up to Castlebarrow – not part of my original plan – to get a higher viewpoint. Just short of the top, I disturbed a Buzzard which flapped lazily out of a tall standard left in an area which had otherwise been cleared of trees.

When I reached Castlebarrow and the Pepperpot…

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…it had stopped raining, but it looked like Lancaster was probably getting a hammering.

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The weather seemed idyllic again when I reached Hawes Water.

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Another pair of Buzzards were circling overhead, but by the time I had dug my camera out of my rucksack, they had disappeared behind the trees. I would hear the plaintive kew of Buzzards several more times during the walk, but this was the last time I saw any. Nor did I see the Sparrow-hawk which I saw here last week and forgot to mention in the appropriate post.

Having stopped to look though, I now realised that atop one of the trees down by the reed fringed shore of the lake…

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…perched a Cormorant. I’ve seen them here before and they’re hardly uncommon on the Bay, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised (and delighted) to find one here.

In the woods there was a Nuthatch and a Treecreeper, both too elusive for me and my camera. And of course…

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…more snowdrops.

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Looking back across Hawes Water to Challan Hall. (The Cormorant was still on its high perch).

By the bench on the boardwalks near the lake another walker had stopped for a breather. He had company…

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Although I was heading for Beetham Fell, I didn’t feel any need for urgency and took a detour across the meadow, by the hedge…

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…wondering about the very tall cloud above the Gait Barrows woods, and whether it might be an ill omen, weatherwise…

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I was heading for the Gait Barrows limestone pavements…

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It’s not all that far from there to Silverdale moss, but you can see that in the meantime, the weather had taken another turn for the worse…

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The Cloven Ash.

It was pretty gloomy, but I could pick out a few Greylag, one of them clearly sitting on a nest, also a distant white bird, probably a Little Egret, and what I could identify, with the aid of the camera, as a male Golden Eye.

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I turned to take some photos of these King Alfred’s Cakes on some logs left from the demise of the Cloven Ash and, as I did, it began to hail, soon quite ferociously.

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I pulled my coat back on again, and then turned back to the Moss, because the nesting Greylag was clearly upset about something and was honking vociferously. A Marsh Harrier was quartering the reeds, at one point dropping and spiralling down to a spot very close to the excited goose.

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It was gloomy and chucking it down, so none of my photos came out brilliantly, but it was fantastic to watch.

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Fortunately, the rotten weather didn’t last too long, and soon I was shedding layers for the long climb from Hazelslack to the top of Beetham Fell.

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Arnside Knott, Kent Estuary and Hampsfell from Beetham Fell.

Last Easter, when A and I came through this way on our walk to Keswick, we noticed a huge area of Snowdrop leaves, though the flowers had long since finished. I decided then that I would be back this February to take another look.

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I think that this was the largest single patch, but the Snowdrops extend over quite a large area.

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The climb from the outskirts of Beetham uphill to Dallam Deer Park was hard work because the ground was super-saturated, a bit like your average Highland hillside. I think it was mainly due to the extent that the ground had been trampled by the sheep in the field, because once I crossed the ha-ha wall into the Park the going got much firmer.

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Dallam Deer Park, the River Bela and Milnthorpe.

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Farleton Fell.

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The Deer.

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This unusual building…

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…is a shelter for the deer.

From Milnthorpe I turned to follow the Bela, first across the park and then out to where it meets the Kent on the latter’s estuary.

In the park, a single Canada Goose joined a flotilla of ducks, mostly mallards but with a group of four diving ducks amongst them, the males black and white, the females a dull brown: tufted ducks.

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River Bela and Whitbarrow Scar.

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Greylag Goose.

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A little further along, on the Kent, a group of six small fluffy diving ducks gave me pause. Even with the powerful zoom of the camera I struggled to get decent photos, but I think that these are Dabchicks: Little Grebes.

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I was a little torn here: I had wanted to climb Haverbrack, but I also wanted to include Arnside Knott and didn’t think I had time for both. In the end, I decided to walk along the embankment (an old railway line, a Beeching casualty) which follows the Kent Estuary. The walk was delightful, but a low blanket of cloud was flattening the light so I didn’t take any pictures for a while.

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Silverdale Moss from Arnside Knott. A snow dusted Ingleborough in the background.

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In Praise of Limestone

Silverdale to Keswick I: To Kendal

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With Lancashire playing silly b*****s with the Easter Holidays this year, the boys have a completely different fortnight off to the rest of the family. A and I decided to make a virtue of necessity and head off on our own little holiday jaunt: a walk from Silverdale to Keswick. Here she is setting off, on the Tuesday after Easter Monday, fully garbed in waterproofs since the sky was a monotone grey and a light rain was falling.

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We walked past Challan Hall…

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…and Hawes Water, diverting ever so slightly to check whether the toothwort which appears here every year was flowering…

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It was…

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From there we continued alongside Silverdale Moss…

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I can’t recall having seen it so flooded before, though I suspect that had we visited midwinter, the meres would have been even more extensive. A couple of spots of brilliant white in amongst the reeds were Little Egrets, whilst a Heron flapped away in that laconic, slow-motion fashion that they have.

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The bridge over Leighton Beck. A did all of the map-reading on this first day and some of it thereafter.

We passed Hazelslack Farm with it’s Peel Tower and then began the ascent of Beetham Fell. This old coffin route finds a fault in a line of crags…

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…which leads to a bit of a viewpoint…

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…and hey-presto, the clouds have broken, there’s some blue sky at last, it’s stopped raining and there’s an odd moment of sunshine.

The Fairy Steps…

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…brought us to the top of the Fell and an improved vista…

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…of Arnside Knott, the Kent Estuary and Hampsfell.

Dropping down the far side of the hill we encountered our first clumps of daffodils, which would become something of a feature of the walk.

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Another feature of the walk were the frequent stops for both of us to take photos.

Close to the boundary of the woods there’s a ruined building with a huge patch of snowdrops below it. Sadly, they’d finished flowering, but I’ve made a mental note to come back and take another look next February.

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By the time we’d reached Beetham, it was spitting with rain again.

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Beetham.

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St. Michael and All Angels.

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In addition to stopping to take lots of photographs of flowers, birds, butterflies, leaves etc whilst I’m walking, I also like to take a proper look around any interesting places I pass. There was a tension here though between exploring thoroughly and reaching our night’s lodgings, so we didn’t look into the church. It’s well worth a look however. Photos of the interior here, from a previous visit.

The optimism about the weather which I’d felt on Beetham Fell had been a little premature it seemed, and as we walked through Dallam Deer Park the heavens really opened.

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Most of the Fallow Deer were sheltering under the trees looking slightly forlorn, although some were still out in the open…

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As we dropped down the hill past Dallam Hall and towards the River Bela…

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…one decision seemed to have been made for us. We’d been debating where to buy lunch, but although it was still quite early our minds were being made up for us by the inclement weather. Booth’s in Milnthorpe had become the new favourite in the bidding.

“Even if we don’t get lunch from Booth’s, can we just go in and browse?”, was A’s opinion on the matter.

In fact, when we’d bought a bit of lunch, the rain had stopped again and the sun was shining. We found a bench in the car park, spread some gear out to dry and tucked in. A fine time, as we sat mud-spattered and bedraggled, for a friend from the village to roll up in her car, wind down the window and inquire what we were up to.

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The path out of Milnthorpe took us up a slight hill and that modest elevation gave fine views of the Kent Estuary…

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…Whitbarrow Scar, and Heversham Head…

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The next part of the route had been a bit ticklish to plan. We needed to get to Levens Bridge: the Cumbria Coastal way would do that, via a series of minor lanes; we could climb Heversham Head, but the paths we would use zig-zag furiously; we opted for the most direct route, involving some walking along the main A6, but mostly on a parallel road which runs through the villages of Heversham and Leasgill.

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St. Peter’s, Heversham.

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With another daffodil decorated cross.

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The pump, from 1900, at St. Mary’s Well, which according to the sign on the wall behind, supplied the village with water for around 1000 years.

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Whitbarrow Scar.

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Leasgill.

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Leven’s Hall and its famous topiary.

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From Levens Bridge we would follow the River Kent upstream to Kendal.

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The Bagot Fallow Deer in Levens Deer Park.

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Initially, we could choose which bank of the river to follow and unfortunately we chose the West bank, still a source of much recrimination since…

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…a crucial bridge was closed, forcing us to retrace our steps back to a road bridge and then follow the East bank after all.

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All the way along the river we were to see plastic bags, traffic barriers, bundles of twigs and various other detritus in the branches of riverbank trees far above our heads. It was very sobering to see just how high the river-level had reached in last November’s floods.

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Happily we also saw goosander on the river and grey wagtails bobbing about on its margins.

Hawes bridge was also still closed…

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The river eventually brought us to…

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Where we were staying in the Hostel, formerly YHA, now independent, and highly recommended. I’d booked a two-bed room, but we were upgraded to a bigger, en-suite room, the only disadvantage being that it was on the third floor . The shower was very hot and very powerful and very welcome. We just had time to grab a meal in the Brewery Arts Centre (handily close by the hostel) before settling in to watch ‘Batman versus Superman’, about which the least said the better. (Oh alright, if I must, my detailed review: it was rubbish, but I managed to sleep through quite a bit of it, so not all bad).

By popular demand (well Alan and Andy): maps.

Silverdale to Milnthorpe:

Silverdale to Milnthorpe

Milnthorpe to Hawes Bridge:

Milnthorpe to Hawes Bridge

Hawes Bridge to Kendal:

Hawes Bridge to Kendal

 

 

Silverdale to Keswick I: To Kendal

Levens Park and Force Falls

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Another weekend afternoon jaunt, this time with the whole family, on an old favourite walk through Levens Deer Park. The park is a proper deer park, attached to Levens Hall, and has its own herd of domesticated fallow deer, of a breed particular to the park, and likewise it’s own breed of goats, although we didn’t see those on this occasion.

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It’s spread out either side of the River Kent…

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…and this walk follows the western bank for a while, leaves the park briefly, crosses a road bridge and then returns via the eastern bank.

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We met the deer pretty much as we entered the park.

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A nice opportunity to try out my new favourite toy’s zoom facility.

Another chance cropped up after we’d left the park, when we spotted a grey heron sat on the verge of the minor lane ahead of us. It was really very gloomy at this point, both because it was late in the afternoon and also because it was overcast, so I’m quite chuffed with the result…

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The minor lane is extremely quiet since it’s a dead-end, having been chopped off when the A590 dual-carriageway was built. A path continues however, under the main-road’s bridge over the Kent….

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….to Force Falls.

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We stopped here for a while to watch some canoeists shooting the falls.

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I did take some photos, but they were taken through a tall hedge, before a resident of one of the cottages by the falls invited us to watch from their car-parking area.

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There’s a sign at the other end of the park which says ‘No Swimming’. We never ignore that. Not at all.

It looked exhilarating. One canoeist did capsize as he went over, but they’d obviously got a good safety routine organised and he was soon rescued.

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Most of the return leg follows this avenue of magnificent oaks, dating back to 1690 when the park was first laid out.

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Some of the oaks are hollow, and there’s little that’s more enticing to a small boy than climbing inside a hollow tree.

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I was more absorbed by the sun setting ahead of us.

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I’ve taken photos of the boys inside this tree before, when they were tiny-tots…

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….but the opening used to be much smaller and for a time they weren’t able to get inside.

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On the wooded banks of the Kent, snowdrops were flowering. Spring is on its way!

Levens Park and Force Falls

Haverbrack, Beetham Fell, Lunch at the Ship.

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A couple of posts back, I was waxing lyrical (well trying to anyway) about four consecutive Sundays of really superb weather last November. The first was spent climbing Clough Head and Great Dodd on my own, the second on Dale Head and Hindscarth with a gaggle of old friends, and this, the last of them, saw me strolling over Haverbrack and Beetham Fell with the family.

“But, hang on,” I hear you cry, “that’s only three!”

Very sharp of you to notice – the missing sunny Sunday, probably the sunniest of the lot, was devoted to a huge rugby tournament at Sedbergh School. Naturally, I was there in my capacity as chauffeur to B, our budding sportsman. It was highly enjoyable watching him play a succession of matches, although the views of the sunlit Howgill Fells towering over the town did have me champing the bit somewhat.

Anyway, on that fourth Sunday, we were parked at Sandside on the minor lane which runs just back from the main road along the Kent estuary between Arnside and Milnthorpe. We picked up a path opposite a building which, until then, I hadn’t realised houses the offices of both Rock + Run and Marmot UK. Well there’s a thing.

Haverbrack is one of the small limestone hills in our small AONB. Employees of the aforementioned gear retailers can no doubt jog up and down it easily in their lunch break. If they were to do so, they would get a great view of the river Kent, and of the hills beyond, although, if they were also going to take photos of that view they should probably do it before they’ve passed the trees which grow near the top. As you can see above, I forgot to do that. You’ll have to take my word for the fact that it is a cracking viewpoint – another one of those Small Hills With A Disproportionately Great View.

Or, come to think of it, I could just slide in an old photo from the summer of 2011:

On top of the hill there’s a small concrete bunker which I assume is a water tank.

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Spindle berries.

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Beetham Fell, and in particular the Fairy Steps, seemed to have ousted Woodwell as the kids’ first choice local destination.

It’s said that if you can ascend the steps without touching the sides then you will get a wish granted, presumably by a local imp or sprite.

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The kids were all adamant that they succeeded.

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I’m not sure what they wished for. Maybe it was for a really huge lunch, in which case the resident imp is highly efficient, but more of that anon.

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The views from Beetham Fell are quite limited because of the blanket of trees which cover most of the hill, but you do get a view of Arnside Knott and Hampsfell across the Kent estuary.

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“Look Dad, a cave.”

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There’s a second rock band on the hillside below the Fairy Steps. Again, the path finds an impressive way through them.

I’ve mentioned this large gate hinge which is fixed to the rock wall of the natural passageway, but I know that I often manage to walk past it without noticing that it’s there.

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I wonder whether this is a remnant of the times when this route was the corpse road between Arnside and Beetham – bodies were carried to the church at Beetham for burial before Arnside had its own cemetery.

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At the bottom of the hill, you’ll find Hazelslack Farm and the remains of its peel tower.

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The original plan had been to lunch in Arnside, but it was getting late so we changed our plan and walked along the embankment of the old railway line by the estuary.

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Arnside Knott.

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River Kent and Whitbarrow Scar.

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Which quickly brought us to the Ship.

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When I lived in Arnside I used to walk here for lunch quite often, but I haven’t been back for a long time.

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The meal was excellent, both tasty and very generous. I can see us going back there.

It wasn’t much of a stroll from the pub back to our car. The others opted to head home, but my appetite for fresh air and sunshine wasn’t fully sated yet and so, with no too much light left, I took a lift part way and then walked the rest of the way home.

Low winter sun…

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….fuels one of my favourite photographic obsessions – back-lit leaves….

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Usually I use the camera’s macro facility and try to get the lens as close to the leaf as I can whilst still framing the photo satisfactorily. On this occasion I couldn’t reach to do that and so used the telephoto instead, which produced a completely different effect. Which gives me another avenue to pursue!

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Oyster mushrooms.

I took the path along the edge of Silverdale Moss, which follows a section of the Trough, a fault which passes across the area where mudstone has eroded away between two surrounding beds of limestone. It’s not particularly pronounced here, but it was enough, with the trees around it too, to cut out the sun, and suddenly it was very cold. The tree-tops above me were still catching the last rays of the sun however.

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Once past Haweswater I came out of the trees to see the woods given a kind of late autumn blush by the lowland equivalent of Alpenglow.

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Unusually, I could see the trees reflected in Haweswater too…

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Haverbrack, Beetham Fell, Lunch at the Ship.

Kentmere: Force Jump and Almost the Ullstone

River Kent 

Another post-work walk from back in June. I didn’t quite get away when I intended to, but arrived in Kentmere at around six and was delighted to find that there were parking spaces by the church. I’ve been thwarted on several recent occasions, when all of the limited spaces here have been full.

It was a gorgeous evening, they were ten-a-penny this June: it must be the best month of the year for weather and therefore for walking.

If recent posts about walks have been a little Wainwright dominated here’s some relief, although I was still guidebook inspired – my original intent was to follow ‘Walk 44: Upper Kentmere and the Ullstone’ from Aileen and Brian Evans ‘Short Walk In Lakeland Book 1: South Lakeland’. However, I parked in the village, rather than at Green Quarter as suggested, so as to take in Force Jump, a waterfall in the River Kent. Again, a guidebook was at least partially to blame: Mary Welsh’s ‘A Third Naturalist’s Guide to Lakeland Waterfalls throughout the the year’.

Force Jump 

Strictly speaking, there’s no access to Force Jump, but a there is a bit of a path down through trees to the river from where the fall above is visible. Is that it? I’m not sure. It doesn’t look particularly like the drawing in the book. Not to worry – a tree by the river was festooned with….

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…liverworts? Worth the detour on their own I thought.

With regard to the guide books – I’ve had all three of the Evans’ series of books (as well as their definitive scramble guides) for many years and they are superb, and have been very well used. They are ideal for when time is short, or the weather is unpleasant, or when you fancy something a little off the beaten track.

Mary Welsh’s books are a more recent acquisition. I have two of them them, but will pick up the others when I see them second-hand. I like their quirkiness – whilst they do give ‘turn right at the gate’ type instructions, they also describe a particular walk, and it’s weather, flowers and wildlife, at a particular season. Each book, in common with the Evans’ books, claims to cover a section of Lakeland, but unlike the Evans’ books the regional aspect is extremely loose and there is considerable overlap between the two books I own.

Kentmere 

Two paths skirt the Eastern edge of the Kentmere valley, for some time they are only yards apart. I took the slightly higher one. The views were great, but what I really remember was the teeming bird life in the hedgerow trees here. In particular, I came through one gate and turned to see the bright breast of a redstart in the top of a nearby sapling. I was thrilled – what a stunning bird –  but sadly not quick enough with my camera. One day.

River Kent 

Eventually the higher path climbs away from the valley, heading ultimately for the Nan Bield.

Looking back down Kentmere 

I was entertained by meadow pipits in the bracken and by the expanding view behind.

Looking back down Kentmere II 

Also by the substantial looking quarry workings on the slopes of ridge above….

Kentmere Ridge 

Quarry (disused) 

When I reached the shoulder below Smallthwaite Knott I stopped to ponder my options. The Evans’ route leaves the path to visit a huge boulder called the Ullstone…..

The Ullstone

…but that wasn’t in the sun. Then it drops down into the valley to pick up the other of the two paths – but by now that also wouldn’t be in the sun.

I chose instead to sit for a while and admire the edge on Rainsborrow Crag which I climbed in the fog a while ago, and when the midges had begun to drive me to distraction I headed back the way I came, figuring that it would keep me in the sunlight that bit longer than a more direct descent.

So: no summits ticked-off, didn’t quite make it to the Ullstone, not sure whether I found Force Jump, failed to photograph the elusive redstart. Bit of a let-down all-round?

Didn’t feel like it.

Kentmere Map

Kentmere: Force Jump and Almost the Ullstone

Reston Scar and Hugill Fell

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Another Easter outing. I had a morning window of opportunity, I forget now why it was only a morning, no doubt I had some ferrying about of kids to do in the afternoon. For once I wasn’t up and out very early. I drove to Staveley with a vague idea that I might climb Brunt Knott and a hazy feeling that I didn’t really have time. By the time I reached Staveley I was convinced that I definitely didn’t have time. So I went for plan B. If you’ve driven up to the Lakes on the A591 you’ll know Reston Scar, even if you aren’t familiar with the name – it’s the steep and rather attractive looking little hill which sits behind Staveley.

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View North from the summit of Reston Scar.

Not much to say about this one really – it’s a cracking little walk. The weather wasn’t as pleasant as the blue sky in the photos might suggest – there was a cold and heavy wind blowing.

The hill in the middle distance, with the Kentmere fells behind, is what I’ve taken to be Hugill Fell (spot height 273 on the map). It’s not the summit which Wainwright describes a walk to in ‘The Outlying Fells of Lakeland’ which is just off to the right of this photo, north of where it says ‘Black Crag’ on the OS map below. Wainwright says that it’s not possible to walk between these hills, but this is now access land, and there are convenient gates so a short circular walk is possible.

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High Knott – another ‘Outlying Fell’ is the very green expanse on the left.

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Wainwright’s Hugill Fell viewpoint (or Black Crag?), Potter Fell behind.

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Potter Fell from Wainwright’s Hugill Fell viewpoint (or Black Crag?)

This is a pleasant round, but worth bearing in mind that there is one short, but very boggy section on the way across Hugill Fell towards it’s eastern arm.

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Kentmere.

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Looking back to Reston Scar.

I dropped down the route which Wainwright recommends for Hugill Fell, the bottom part of which is marked as a track on the OS map.

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And which brought me down to a quiet lane beside the River Kent.

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Weir near Barley Bridge.

Reston Scar

A lovely way to spend a morning. Or an evening I would hazard to suppose. I can see myself doing that again.

Reston Scar and Hugill Fell

Off Piste around Mardale and Kentmere

It’s late September, the forecast is good and I’m still capable of getting out of the door early enough to be parked at the end of Haweswater by eight in the morning.

(In fact, it’s early January, the forecast is rotten and after two weeks off work – with mostly miserable weather – I’m finding it hard to drag myself out of bed until long after eight. But that’s by-the-by, bear with me here, I’m attempting the Sisyphean task of catching-up with my blog posts. And re-living a splendid day out into the bargain.)

I’d driven up in fine weather; it looked like blue skies and sunshine would be the order of the day, but Sod’s Law was in operation and the hills around the head of Haweswater were cloaked in cloud. However, I was a man with a plan – to join up some blue bits on the map, namely Small Water, Kentmere Reservoir, the River Kent and Blea Water – and I was not to be deterred. In fact, I was feeling pretty keen, and as I set-off to execute my plan – walking towards Small Water heading for the the Nan Bield Pass and hence Kentmere – rather than losing heart because of the weather, I was distracted by the left-hand skyline heading up towards Harter Fell. From below it looked like a ridge and a very tempting one at that, but a glance at the map revealed that it was really an edge formed by the intersection of the slopes above Small Water and the steeper eastern face of Harter Fell. Still….I’d never been that way before. I vacillated for a while as I plodded upward: should I stick with the original plan or divert onto Harter Fell?

In the end I compromised. I went to Small Water first….

 Small Water

….but then took a rising line across the slopes above it to hit the edge of the crags on Harter Fell’s eastern face, following those crags up onto Harter Fell.

I was pleased I took the diversion, although the views weren’t great.

Haweswater and clag 

Indeed, I was soon in the cloud. From odd glimpses I could sense that most of the Lake District Fells were bathed in sunshine; looking directly overhead I could see clear blue sky, but all around me was clag. I was pretty confident that it would lift though, and by the time I had descended to the Nan Bield, it had. From that point on sunshine ruled.

This is the view from Nan Bield…

Kentmere Reservoir from Nan Bield 

…down to Kentmere Reservoir. On the lower left-hand side of the photo you can maybe make out the path descending across the slope. I took a more direct route beside Lingmell Gill. I was heading for the Reservoir and the Kent. I have, over several strolls and several blogposts, been following the course of the Kent between sea and source, and was keen to walk this, as yet unexplored (by me anyway) upper section.

But as I followed the gill down, it wasn’t the reservoir, or the river which feeds it, which had my attention, but the magnificent, curving, north-east ridge of Ill Bell…

Ill Bell and Froswick 

Ill Bell and Froswick. (That’s ‘ill bell’ not ‘3 in Roman numerals’ Bell)

Looks inviting doesn’t it? It’s another pathless ascent route which I haven’t yet explored and I was sorely tempted again. In the end, I decided to leave it for another time, but I must go back before too long.

I turned instead to the delights of the River.

River Kent - waterfalls and deep pools 

These deep plunge pools put a thought in my head, sunny as it was, and when I came across a slightly larger pool…

Another River Kent pool 

…I stripped off and went for a brief skinny dip. (I know: that’s created an unpleasant image for those of you that know me. I hasten to add that the valley was deserted – no innocent hikers were harmed in the making of this blog post. What’s more, in case you’re worried, the reservoir was built to feed mills further down the valley and isn’t for drinking water.) Was the water cold? Yes – and so was the breeze, but not too bad: my kids went swimming in Grasmere that same day, so it must have been a reasonably warm day.

River Kent and Gavel Crag 

I followed the dwindling river into Hall Cove where several streams meet to form it. The most prominent of those streams flows down the valley on the right of the picture below and I had thought of following that onward, but I was now drawn by the rocky shoulder of Gavel Crag.

'Gavel Crag' ridge 

The way was steep. The crags were broken, but I engaged in a little scrambling. There was probably a lot more to be had if you went looking for it, although nothing very sustained.

On the ridge 

Around the base of the crags and boulders this herb-like plant grew in profusion….

Interesting plant...? 

Can anybody offer an I.D.?

Now that I was on the plateau, the views were superb.

Hall Cove 

Looking down into Hall Cove.

Looking back down Kentmere 

Kentmere and it’s fells from Gavel Crag.

Looking West 

Another view 

I wandered over to Thornthwaite Beacon for a late lunch. There were a fair few people about, which was a bit of a shock after a virtually pathless wander during which I had hardly seen anyone.

South from Thornthwaite Beacon 

The wind was quite biting here, but I found reasonable shelter in the lea of the tall stone beacon.

With two stiff ascents behind me, I decided to take a fairly direct route back towards the car. I used the path, popular with Kentmere Horseshoe walkers, which contours round the head of Hall Cove from near Thornthwaite Beacon to Mardale Ill Bell (again that’s – ‘ill bell’).

Kent and its mountains 

Looking back to the upper reaches of the River Kent.

River Kent and the 'Gavel Crag ridge'. 

For anybody who might be thinking of following in my footsteps: that’s the shoulder I climbed in the centre of the photo (Gavel Crag is the nearest named feature on the OS map so I’m calling it the Gavel Crag Ridge). It looks formidably steep to me, but it was OK, even for a wimp like me.

Here’s a closer view of the upper part:

A closer view of 'Gavel Crag ridge' 

On Mardale Ill Bell I discovered a bonus bit of blue, a mini tarn.

Small Tarn on Mardale Ill Bell 

Blea Water 

Blea Water.

I’d picked out another off-piste ridge for my way down: Piot Crag, which is the ridge dividing the two corries containing Blea Water and Small Water.

This is the view looking down it:

Piot Crag 

Again, it was a little steep in places, but with care made for an interesting way down and would, I think, be fun in ascent.

One final view: this is Harter Fell, (seen from the path down from Blea Water):

Harter Fell

The ‘edge’ which caught my eye is the dividing line between light and shadow on the left. The lower rib might make an interesting scramble, but I can’t be sure because I didn’t take that route. I climbed the grassy slopes in the centre of the photo and then went left across the obvious large and grassy shelf to the edge of the crags, and up from there.

A top-notch outing. Three Birketts included, none of them new, but all of them by routes new to me, at least in part.

Hawewater and Kentmere Map

Now: roll on more sunshine!

Off Piste around Mardale and Kentmere