My first long walk, from the Tees valley to the Kirkstone Pass road in spring 1972, ended with a traverse of the Far Eastern fells, from Haweswater to Hartsop.
I remember coming over Harter Fell and Mardale Ill Bell before the highest of the group, High Street, and finally Thornthwaite Crag, with its great cairn. Finally I dropped into Threshwaite Mouth, which seemed to me impossibly steep – I inched down on my bottom – before following Pasture Brook to the finish. Here I hitched a lift to Glenridding with two old guys (as I then thought them), and wondered if one of them was – whisper it – Wainwright himself.
Forty years is a long wait to return to some hills; in fact, 44. In August 2016 I had a few days based in the camp site below Place Fell, and as well as a couple of routes in the Eastern Fells used it as an opportunity for the two routes below.
Wednesday 24 August 2016. Caudale Moor, four miles.
A simple little jaunt. I parked at the top of Kirkstone Pass to give myself a 1500ft starter for the climb to the top of Caudale Moor (2502ft). There’s a little bit of crag near the start (Raven’s Edge) but otherwise it’s just a case of follow the wall.
The top of the moor is flat, so the main challenge is finding the summit cairn, set back a little, which on a beautiful evening was all part of the fun. Same way back, which gives a chance to have a better look at the view behind me on the way up.
Saturday 27 August 2016. High Raise circuit, 11 miles.
It would be wrong to stay at the Side Farm camp site and not climb the fell immediately above, Place Fell. Originally I thought of doing it as a one-off, much as I had Caudale Moor, but one of the prime reasons for being where I was was in order to walk the fells north of High Street, and the idea of a horseshoe walk took shape. Even better, it finished with a boat ride back!
To be a proper circuit, I didn’t want to take Place Fell (2156ft) by the Boardale Hause route, for that would have meant retracing my steps. Though the fell’s western edge is guarded by crags, there is a weakness, taken by an old path that heads north-east towards the fell’s northern ridge. There’s a cracking view of the Helvellyn range across Ullswater, if you need to pause for breath.
Eventually the gradient eases and it’s easy to turn south towards the summit of Place Fell.
From here it’s a simple matter to descend by to the hause and continue on a good path which eventually twists round the beautiful Angle Tarn before heading to High Street.
I had other hills in mind however, and after rounding Satura Crag guessed that a thin path heading east would lead me onto the shoulder of Rest Dodd (2278ft), which it did.
From then it was a simple matter of keeping roughly south-east, nearly rejoining the High Street path, before the easy rise to Rampsgill Head (2581ft). Glancing ahead, the cairn on Kidsty Pike, just a few hundred yards away, was positively thronged. Maybe I should have made the effort but didn’t, continuing on the easy mile to High Raise (2634ft).
High Raise is the dominating fell of this little group, by virtue of its rocky top just about distinctive enough to be thought of as more than a satellite of High Street.
Go north from High Raise, and the Lakeland character hitherto enjoyed changes dramatically, to something of a Pennine character in the wild empty miles north to Ullswater. That to me is no impediment, as I enjoy rolling hills such as these, especially in the day’s benign conditions, with a calming blue sky surrounding me.
There is a subsidiary top, Wether Hill (2211ft), like Kidsty Pike a Wainwright but not a Hewitt, but unlike the Pike my route ran directly across it, following the old Roman road that traversed this hills. Over to my left, the Northern Fells looked inviting in the sun.
Just to show that the Romans could do crooked, the Roman road contoured round Loadpot Hill (2201ft), but I did not, for it was the last of the day’s five Hewitts. It’s an interesting place, with the relic of a shooting lodge just before the top, even if one of the flattest summits in Lakeland.
All that remained now was to descend to Ullswater. The top may be flat but its flank heading down to Howtown was not. I knew there was a path that headed down through the bracken, but how to find it? I had my 60-year old Wainwright guide with me, and really should have opened it, for it would have shown that the simple way was to join up with the former Roman road just below the summit and continue past some tarns above Brock Crag, the sketchy path soon becoming clear as it steepened.
Instead I continued north until I knew I was just above a beck that dropped to Howtown, then turned west. That’s not bad practice in itself; I didn’t want to get caught on the wrong (south) side of the beck. It wasn’t long before I could see the good path below me, and I was soon at valley level in the Howtown Hotel with enough time to sit on the grass in the sunshine and enjoy a pint. I would have enjoyed it even more if the pub were not almost the only one in Lakeland not to serve real ale. Still, the steamer jetty was not far away, and a boat trip is a very nice way to end a day.