Black Combe

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Painted Lady.

A hot and slightly sticky evening, after a hot and slightly sticky day at work. The forecast was for the weather to deteriorate, but not out in the Western lakes, so I’d driven round for an evening ascent of Black Combe. There’s a spot to pull off the main road just by Beckside (see map at the bottom of the post) and from there I’d followed the path to Fox and Goose Cottages and then uphill on a path between two hedgerows which seemed in danger of disappearing under the greenery; I wondered whether I might end up regretting the fact that I was wearing shorts and not armed with a machete, but I managed to emerge relatively unscathed. (It’s not just nettles that I need to avoid – I tend to react quite badly even to grass seed-heads).

A surprisingly broad track curls up around the hillside and I was very glad of it’s reasonably gentle gradient. The bracken was busy with insects, among them many small butterflies or moths, but none were obliging when my camera was in hand. Not, that is, until I reached more open ground close to the ‘summit’ of White Hall Knott (spot height 311m on the map). In that area a couple of Painted Ladies were displaying quite cooperatively.

White Hall Knott is one of those Birketts which, with only a single, solitary contour to call its own, looks, on the map, like a rather arbitrary choice. In the flesh, it’s quite appealing…

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White Hall Knott.

And, even on a hazy evening, it has a pretty admirable view down the Whicham Valley…

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…and across to the Duddon Estuary…

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Some aspects of the ascent had put me in mind of another hill, a firm favourite of mine, Carn Fadryn on the Llyn Peninsula – a broad and gentle path, bracken busy with orange butterflies and day flying moths, some hints of bilberries (although not nearly as abundant as on Carn Fadryn), views to the sea and Painted Ladies at the top.

As I plodded up White Combe…

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…I was wondering about Painted Ladies. These were the first I’d seen this year. Although we get them in our garden at times, in previous years my first sightings have often been on top of Carn Fadryn. Painted Ladies, like Monarch butterflies in North America, migrate over several generations. Although the migration of Monarchs is more famous, Painted Ladies migration is much further, beginning in Africa and ending north of the Arctic Circle. The existence of a return migration was only confirmed in 2012, it had been missed because the butterflies can fly quite high, at an average altitude of over 500m on their southbound trip. This made me wonder whether they use coastal hills, or maybe just hill-tops generally, as navigational aids, or maybe just as staging-posts on their mammoth journeys?

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Looking back to White Hall Knott.

As well as the butterflies, the hillsides and skies around were busy with birds – Wheatears, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks. I think that this…

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…was the latter. Not a very sharp photo I know, but it does demonstrate their steep, singing, display flight which is so characteristic of the hills at this time of year.

White Combe is not really a summit at all, just the end of a long broad shoulder, but it does have a substantial cairn…

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And guess what, at least two resident Painted Ladies…

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The Red Admiral is another migratory butterfly, a close relative of the Painted Lady.

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They don’t seem to share any familial affection however: every time the Red Admiral landed, one of the Painted Ladies would fly at it and drive it off. Which is something else I’ve previously observed on Carn Fadryn.

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There were quite a number of hoverflies about too. This one might be Sericomyia Selintis. But, then again, it might not.

From White Combe a longish and levelish and very enjoyable plod followed, heading for Stoupdale Crags.

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Thin, but pronounced, paths made the going easier than it might otherwise have been…

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Stoupdale Crags turned out to have one of those plateaued tops where every knoll looks slightly higher than the one you are currently occupying.

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Buck Barrow and Whitfell from Stoupdale Crags.

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Meadow Pipit (I think) amongst Cotton Grass.

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For another Day: Stoneside Hill, Kinmont Buck Barrow, Buck Barrow, Whitfell, Plough Fell.

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The way ahead: Whitecombe Screes, Blackcombe Screes and Black Combe from Whitecombe Head. The left-hand skyline would be my descent route.

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A shiny ground beetle (which I can’t find in my field guide).

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Looking back to Stoupdale Crags.

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Black Combe summit.

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Black Combe South Summit.

I’m pretty sure that the last time I was up here, I camped by this little tarn. That was another summer-evening, post-work outing, but on that occasion a Friday night and hence the freedom to camp out and stop to have breakfast on Black Combe.

Tonight, I still had tea in my bag – a humongous pasty I’d bought, on the drive over, from the excellent bakers in Broughton-in-Furness. (A Community not a Shortcut say the signs on the edge of the village).

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I sat by this enormous and slightly ramshackle cairn to eat it, with a view of the blanket of low stratus stretching away over the Irish Sea and sending a finger of cloud up over the River Duddon.

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Sadly, it was much too murky to really appreciate what would have otherwise, I suspect, been a pretty spectacular sight.

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I know that this is already a relatively long post, by my modest standards, but I’m going to digress slightly to recommend another book which seems to me at least tangentially relevant to a blog about walking; I recently read ‘The Invention of Clouds’ by Richard Hamblyn; it’s ostensibly a biography of Luke Howard the amateur scientist who devised the familiar nomenclature used for clouds, but it digresses into the previous and subsequent history of nephology – the science of clouds – the status of the great Nineteenth Century populisers of science, like Humphrey Davy, the early history of ballooning and much more. I found it absolutely fascinating.

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Looking back to Stoupdale Crags and White Combe.

On my descent I initially followed the edge of the crags heading almost due East, but then found quite a good track, I would guess quite an old one, which made for easier walking, but which took me further south, down towards Hallbeck Gill (a tautological name). Eventually I had to contour round the hillside to get back on course for Whitecombe Gill. Next time I come this way, I’d like to try the ridge between Blackcombe Screes and Whitecombe Screes, which according to the OS 1:25000 is called Horse Back. (And incidentally, I wonder what kind of feature is Eller Peatpot, also named on the OS map?)

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As yet unidentified moth.

Black Combe

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Black Combe

A Family Outing to Whitbarrow

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The title pretty much says it all, so I could just let the pictures do the talking, but I rarely miss an opportunity to pontificate, so: no such luck.

When I lived in Arnside, I could see Whitbarrow Scar from my living room window. Not that surprising then, that I used to come this way often. Far more surprising, is the fact that, since I moved back to Silverdale, I’ve rarely been back, and until just after Christmas, the kids had never been at all. The path in the picture above, not a right-of-way and not shown on my OS map, but as you can see, extremely well made, winds it’s way up the steep hillside without, mercifully, ever becoming steep itself. Leading to…

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…an old bench with a bit of a view…

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…presently of flooded fields. The hillside here was, long ago, the coastline. The river in the distance is the Kent, with Arnside Knott and Beetham Fell beyond.

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A short climb from the bench, and then a slight detour from the main path, leads to the top of the scar and even more expansive views.

I was playing with the panorama function again…

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We found a sheltered spot for a brew and some left-over goose sandwiches and then continued across the plateau towards Whitbarrow’s highest point.

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The view behind of the Kent Estuary was magnificent. (You probably need to click on the photos to see bigger versions in flickr to get the full benefit of the panorama shots.)

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Looking towards the top.

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Eastward: floods in the Lyth valley.

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At the top.

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Heading for the descent route…

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…which cuts very steeply through the trees.

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Two more panoramas. Light a bit too low at this point I think.

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On the outskirts of the hamlet of Beck Head we found this…

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…very well appointed self-service cafe with honesty box.

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I shall have to contrive a walk which arrives here in the middle, rather than near the end, so as to feel justified in partaking of what’s on offer. (Purely for research purposes you understand).

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The boys were very taken with the actual Beck Head, where the stream appears from underground.

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A slightly longer version of this walk appears in Wainwright’s ‘Outlying Fells’ and he says of it:

The walk described is the most beautiful in this book; beautiful it is every step of the way.

Can’t say fairer than that.

A Family Outing to Whitbarrow

Claife Heights and Latterbarrow

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I think that this was the day after the one we spent paddling on Windermere from Harrow Slack, if not it was at most a couple of days later. I was back at Harrow Slack, but without the boats or the rest of the family, with the prospect of a free day and a chance to get out for a walk. The forecast was pretty mixed, so I’d opted for a wander around the low hills above Windermere rather than anything more adventurous. And indeed, there were a few drops of rain in the air as I embarked on the steep climb away from the lake shore.

Still, there’s usually something to brighten the way, on this occasion, these tiny….

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….but rather splendid Small Balsam flowers. Introduced from South East Asia apparently.

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Keen on shade and lime-free, nitrogen rich soils, and seeming very happy in these Lakeland woods.

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I’m finally beginning to remember to take lots of photos when I find something new I want to identify, and having a record of the shape of the leaves was very helpful here (meant I could rule out some very wide of the mark ideas I initially had).

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Growing in amongst the Small Balsam, but with much larger, more insistently showy flowers, were a relative, Touch-me-not Balsam, which is, apparently, our only native Balsam.

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It’s Latin name is Impatiens noli-tangere and both names refer to the explosive nature of the seed heads. (Impatiens – impatient or not-allowing, noli-tangere – do not touch; the Latin and popular names are essentially the same.)

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Anyway, both plants were plentiful here, and most welcome at a time when not much is flowering in the deep, late-summer shade.

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You don’t climb very far on this path before you encounter….

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…The Viewing Station. Built in the 1790s and now undergoing significant repair work under the auspices of the National Trust, this building had tinted viewing windows – with different coloured glasses meant to simulate the views during different seasons and even, through a lilac window, the moonlit view. Later, I read, dances were held here. The National Trust plan to restore the building and eventually open a cafe.

By the time I was reaching the top of the hill, the sky was clearing and it was getting quite warm. The views were only partial ones, but enjoyable none-the-less. That’s Belle Isle down there, the near shore being the one we’d paddled in the lee of.

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There’s quite a network of paths across the Claife Heights area and I had the option to turn right to head for High Blind How the highest point in these hills, but instead I went left and downhill.

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Towards Far Sawrey….

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This is the Village Institute in Far Sawrey…

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Silverdale has it’s own Institute, and after a recent coup, a new committee has been inviting suggestions about what should happen to it’s building and field and how they should be used. Ideas seem to have flooded in, some of them quite radical. My main concern is that the field isn’t too messed about with, so that the sports which take place there on our Field Day can continue. But I do like the idea of some picnic tables.

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And perhaps a sign like this one.

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I resisted the temptation to join the crowds at Hill Top in Near Sawrey, Beatrix Potter’s former home and struck off uphill once again. It was very pleasant, easy walking. Just after I crossed Wilfin Beck I paused for a few minutes to watch the antics of a pair of Nuthatches in the trees by the path.

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On the verge of the broad track, I noticed a Small Copper sunning itself…

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And when I’d taken a few photos of the butterfly, I realised that there was a grasshopper sat almost alongside…

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And then, that there were actually three grasshoppers, not just one…

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I wonder sometimes, just how much I miss when I’m out, because it’s so easy to pass interesting things by unknowingly.

These are definitely grasshoppers, the short stubby antennae distinguish them from crickets, but further than that I have little confidence. Grasshoppers vary enormously. These might be Field Grasshoppers I think. Maybe.

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Now that my attention was focused on the track’s verges, I realised just how many different flowers there were to see…

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Harebells.

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I assumed that this was Yarrow, but now realise that it’s a related plant – Sneezewort, Achillea ptarmica from ptarmos the Greek word for sneezing. An old medicinal plant used for colds, but also recommended by the herbalist Nicholas Culpepper for toothache.

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A vetch.

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A yellow one. (I know, I was doing quite well there for a while.)

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Eyebright.

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Devil’s-bit scabious.

Part of the reason for coming this way, was that it would take me past Moss Eccles Tarn….

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…which once belonged to Beatrix Potter.

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Apparently Potter and her husband used to come up to the tarn to row a boat and fish on summer evenings.

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Quite a mixed herd of cattle of various shades, shapes….

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…and sizes on the open ground above the tarn.

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I’m not overly fond of sharing a field with a bull. Fortunately, he wasn’t the least bit interested in me.

This….

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..is Wise Een Tarn. With a view of the Langdale Pikes behind. The higher hills were generally hidden in the clouds all day, so this was a rare view. Claife Heights feature in Wainwright’s outlying fells. He says that the tarns here are all reservoirs, none of them appearing on nineteenth century maps. Real or man made, they’re all quite attractive.

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I don’t know who owns the tarn, but I envy them their secluded boathouse and boats – what a spot to wile away the weekends in!

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Another little reservoir.

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Mint.

The next section of the walk took me into the forestry plantations, which I suppose might have been tedious, but for the fact that there was a profusion of large and colourful fungi to distract me.

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I’m afraid I’ve made no attempt to identify these. One day perhaps I’ll get to grips with toadstools, but they’re very difficult to tell apart.

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I could have done with Beatrix Potter’s company. Before she was the successful children’s author we now know she became, she made a painstaking and very thorough study of fungi and lichen. She came up against the prevailing prejudices of her time and wasn’t able to present her findings to the scientific societies because women weren’t allowed to attend the meetings. We’d seen some of her watercolour studies of fungi at Wray Castle a few days before. (She visited Wray Castle with her father when she was eighteen, her first visit to the Lakes). I believe that there are more on display at the Armitt Museum in Ambleside, which, until now, has somehow passed me by, but I intend to investigate when the chance arises.

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Whilst I was in amongst the trees, the weather deteriorated: you might notice that some of the fungi look a bit damp. So was I.

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When I left the trees to climb Latterbarrow, it was chucking it down. Latterbarrow is another one of Wainwright’s Outlying Fells, and although it’s a mere 803’ above sea level, it’s an excellent viewpoint. I know that because I’ve been here before on a better day. On this occasion there was no view.

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Just the very tall obelisk, and two other walkers huddled under a pink umbrella on the far side.

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I remember a few years ago, sitting on Jenkin Crag above Winderemere and being surprised to see a stretch of water above and beyond the Lake. I’ve wanted to visit Blelham Tarn ever since. And I’m pleased that I did, but I don’t have any photos to show for it – the rain continued and I had a bit of soggy splodge down hill past the tarn to the Grounds of Wray Castle.

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It was a bit late in the day for lunch, but I hadn’t eaten mine, so I settled on the roots of a lakeside oak, by one of the Castle’s boathouses, and tucked in. It had briefly stopped raining, but when it started again, I was nicely shielded by the branches of the tree. I enjoyed watching the raindrops puckering the surface of the lake.

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All that remained was a pleasant stroll along the lake shore back to the car – the same route I’d cycled (twice) recently.

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The weather took a turn for the better again, and the views were very pleasant.

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The island on the right here…

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….is Thompson’s Holme, which I think will be one of our first targets when we get the boats out again next summer.

Claife Heights

Claife Heights and Latterbarrow

Brunt Knott and Potter Fell

A Post-Work Ramble

A Friday evening, and a walk sandwiched between an early escape from work and watching B play cricket in Windermere. ( Almost exactly two months on, their season is over, and a very successful one it has been. B loves cricket. Each to their own! Incidentally, the cricket pitches of South Cumbria are wonderfully relaxing places – some compensation for the ‘chauffer’.)

A sunny day had clouded over, but it was still warm. Later the sun would reappear and the cricket match would be played in lovely spring, evening weather.

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I parked on the minor road between Burneside and Staveley, just north of the Kent and then climbed past the farm houses at Side House (above) and the wonderfully named Frost Hole (perhaps not helpful to an Estate Agent!)

The route of ascent which Wainwright describes in ‘The Outlying Fells’ looks like a good track, but has a sign across it warning that it is not a right-of-way. I struggled with my inner trespasser but decided to take the path up to Potter Tarn. Just beyond the tarn, you’re into Access Land and a fairly obvious path follows the unnamed (on the OS map) stream northward. Stick with that path – it brings you to a gateway close to a nice rock outcrop, which gives a brief, easy scramble, and then a pleasant view over Potter Tarn and back towards Kendal.

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Possibly a garden tiger moth caterpillar?

From the unnamed (on the OS map) summit of 395m (Potter Fell?) the descent was pretty rough going due to the vegetation. The re-ascent onto Brunt Knott should have been easy by comparison, but I felt very heavy-legged. (I also had no appetite, and, I discovered the next day, a raging temperature, the beginnings of a cold which would last for several weeks).

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The ‘summit’ of Brunt Knott (427m) is one end of a horseshoe around Dockernook Gill, and in fact, there’s a another high point with a spot height of 429m, but no name. I didn’t have time on this occasion, but I shall have to come back and walk the whole thing. I also didn’t have time to complete my original plan, which would have been to take in another unnamed summit at 390m. Bill Birkett mentions three summits on Potter Fell which he would have included in his ‘Lakeland Fells’ book but for access problems. One is Ulgraves which is still out with Access Land, but I assume that the other two are the 395m and 390m summits.

I had some difficulty finding a suitable place to cross the wall by Black Beck, but then found that it was relatively easy walking, given that it was pathless, back by the stream to Potter Tarn (I’d expected bog, but it was surprisingly dry).

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To ring the changes, I  returned to the car by Ghyll Pool (like Potter Tarn, a reservoir built to feed mills by the Kent) and another farm at Hundhowe, finishing beside the Kent and into Beckmickle Ing woods.

A pretty fine outing, and the first, I’m pleased to report, of many this summer.

Brunt Knott and Potter Fell

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