Looking back it’s hard to believe that this walk was penned well over twelve months ago during a walk from Nethermost Pike to Clough Head, back then I was pretty intrigued with the less trampled valley of Deepdale which is situated due east from the summit of Great Dodd.
Wainwright describes the valley as dull & for once I have to disagree because Deepdale is anything but dull from its wild colourful wild grasses offering great views over the less seen Middle Tongue ridge which alone is enough to set the boots going.
Deepdale is as lonely as you make it as the valley does have the cocooned feel to it yet never far away from the watchful gaze from the many visitors who vastly populate the Dodd ridge. Today’s walk wasn’t just about gaining summits, it was also about visiting & bringing out the less popular valleys into the open, maybe even one of those ‘I never thought of that’ walks because up until today, we really have been missing out on one of Lakelands best kept secrets.
ASCENT: 2,500 Feet – 762 Meters
WAINWRIGHTS: 4, Stybarrow Dodd – Watson’s Dodd – Great Dodd – Clough Head
SUMMITS VISITED: 6, Stybarrow Dodd – Watson’s Dodd – Great Dodd – Calfhow Pike – Clough Head – White Pike
WEATHER: Dry & Sunny Start, Turning Overcast With Light Spots Of Rain Of 18°C, Lows Of 8°C
PARKING: High Row
WALKING WITH: David Hall
ORDNANCE SURVEY: OL5
TIME TAKEN: 6 Hours
ROUTE: High Row – Dowthwaitehead – Deepdale – Middle Tongue – Stybarrow Dodd – Watsons Dodd – Great Dodd – Calfhow Pike – Clough Head – White Pike – Old Coach Road – High Row
Wainwright Guide Book One
The Eastern Fells
-The Eastern Fells
Surely there is no other place in this whole wonderful world quite like Lakeland…no other so exquisitely lovely, no other so charming, no other that calls so insistently across a gulf of a distance. All who truly love Lakeland are exiles when away from it.,
Looking south along the shores of Ullswater.
I was at it again, as I drove along the Lake Road bound for High Row I couldn’t resist this cheeky stop off to capture the morning sunrise & its reflections over Ullswater. I best get back to the car as I don’t want to be late.
Birkett Fell & Dowthwaitehead.
My stop off at the shores of Ullswater saw me arrive at Row Head precisely at 08:00am Row Head is a place I’ve never been as I was on the look out for maybe a layby to park the car, what I didn’t expect to find was a rather large car park where I recognised David’s car already waiting for me, I reversed parked my car at the side of David’s got out & shook hands before starting to kit up behind the cars.
September will be a month to remember as the fells have seen little to no rain which I’m sure you would agree is pretty unusual for the time of year, even more unusual is the fact that myself & David are still walking in summer attire, dare we pack the waterproofs ‘just in case’
I think we dare.
The air is warm & without wind which wasn’t what I was expecting as I had my jacket ready to throw over me, with this it now gets tucked back in the pack along with those waterproofs. My prospective of the area was largely unknown as I struggled to pick out known summits which felt strange to me, it was only after saying in a rather strained tone are we looking at the back of Birkett Fell here David did suddenly things start to click into place.
Under a warm morning sun we set off in chat along the narrow lane that slightly descended towards Dowthwaitehead Farm where we were met by these two fella’s.
Thy go check um out & I’ll back thee up from up ere…
I don’t think I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting two friendlier farm dogs than these two Collies who greeted us with, as you can see, wagging tales & tongues at the ready. The ‘back up’ Collie soon followed suit as if to say welcome as they circled us all the way through the grounds of the farmyard which when I look back, lead us to a bit of a navigational error.
Dowthwaitehead Farm seen with Birkett Fell.
By the time we had realised our error we had passed through the farmyard & were stood up to our ankles in stinging nettles, it was no use the map had to come out as we could see no way out of the grounds before quickly realising our error & backtracking a little to where we found the wooden gate that lead us onto open fellside.
I can only wonder now did the farm dogs intentionally lead us into the field of nettles & were by now, hiding behind a shed laughing their tails off? a navigational error maybe? but I like to call it sabotage!
The track at first rose steeply gaining height quite quickly before we were looking down on Dowthwaitehead Farm & indeed, back over the head of the valley.
Two paths rose above Rush Gill, we seamlessly found ourselves on the higher path without realising it.
Randerside & Great Dodd seen from Rush Gill.
Once the ascent was out of the way our path levelled out with views down into Rush Gill which then goes on to feed Aira Beck known more commonly as Aira Force lower down the valley.
Our path is kind of narrow which lead to us walking & talking in single file, stopping only to admire the views ahead which from my perspective seemed rather unusual as I’d never viewed Great Dodd from this side.
Hart Side & Middle Tongue over the Deepdale Valley.
The wild grasses were alive in autumnal colour once after leaving Rush Gill behind. Ahead is Stybarrow Dodd north east ridge which looks positively inviting with the flanks of Hart Side seen in shadow to the left of the valley while over on the right is Lurge Crag forming the lower slopes of Great Dodd.
Boxing clever avoiding the wet areas with Randerside & Great Dodd to our flanks.
We followed faint paths that had been cut through the moss only for them at times to turn into nothing, so boxing clever was the best way to cross the moss. After following the paths & crossing numerous hidden stream beds we soon found ourselves wading through boot high water, David at this point suggested we head towards the right of the valley where we could stick to the lower flanks of Great Dodd close to where a sheepfold is passed.
Middle Tongue from Dowthwaitehead Moss.
It was only at this point did we realise that we were only around the half way mark through the valley. The lonely trees tempted us in for a closer look but we had to avert back to the valley sides due to the overall bogginess of the area.
Seeing the north east ridge of Stybarrow Dodd from Dowthwaitehead Moss was a huge highlight of the walk & looked very impressive so much so I think David might have got a bit sick of me saying ‘I cannot tell you how impressed I am with that ridge’
I mean, who could blame me.
Great Dodd from our Middle Tongue ascent.
Here looking back into Dowthwaitehead Moss from the start of the climb.
Before the ascent began we had to cross Browndale Beck by means of a quick hop, skip & a jump. From Browndale Beck we climbed steeply to gain the ridge where we were presented by a faint path that ascended its way up Middle Tongue in two sections which were steep & got the calf muscles flexing almost straight away.
We took the ascent in our stride chatting along the way all the while stopping for a get your breath back & camera breaks. However, I don’t think we had noticed just how dark it was getting the more we climbed, the summit revealed all, or nothing, to an extent.
Stybarrow Dodd summit.
We were soon at the shoulder of Stybarrow Dodd from where we could see that our views in almost every direction were restricted by low cloud both on the Ullswater & Thirlmere sides of the ridge.
In what had seemed no time the cloud had gathered over Ullswater & stretched back as far as The Kirkstone Pass limiting any long distant views. David & I both agreed that for now, we had made the best decision in selecting our fell locations.
For now anyway.
The wind blew with a dare I say a winters chill which was enough for me to down pack & put my jacket on, David sticks to his mid-layer & chances the chill until a little further on in the walk.
Watson’s Dodd & Great Dodd taken shortly after leaving Stybarrow Dodd summit.
We soon re-connected with the path & set ourselves bound for Watson’s Dodd seen in the left of the photo, ahead of us is a solo walker who passes his good morning on before heading towards Stybarrow Dodd summit. As the wind grew in strength we started to cross the ridge towards Watson’s Dodd when we spotted two fell runners heading towards us, as they passed us I realised one of them was Paul Arts who I am friends with on Facebook.
I’ve known Paul for quite a long time now & follow his Fell Running website Artsyblogspot.com It was great to finally meet Paul as we shook hands & shared conversation about our routes, we explained to Paul & his fellow runner that we had just come up from High Row & would finish off on Clough Head before returning via the Old Coach Road.
Paul & his friends route was slightly longer & a little more arduous than ours as Paul went onto explain ‘we’re running an old route named The Great Western Frontier, or words to that affect…they had both started off in Keswick, ascended Clough Head then over the Dodds to Helvellyn, descended to the back of Thirlmere & over Armboth to High Tove, then descend to Watendlath & Rosthwaite, then up through the old quarries to High Spy and then down over Cat Bells and back to Keswick.
Once I heard the locations Rosthwaite & High Spy I was literally worn out just listening to the route, I have only admiration for the guys & wished them well before they took off in the direction of Stybarrow Dodd.
I was to later learn that Paul was forced out of the race due to a heel injury, I had no doubt in my mind whatsoever that had he not, both Paul & his mate would have been toasting their route after a great day on the fells.
Great Dodd seen from Watson’s Dodd.
We soon reached Watson’s Dodd summit cairn before turning around & witnessing the advancing cloud envelope Stybarrow Dodd summit, a summit that we had just left not ten minutes earlier ‘I’ll be happy David if we can reach Clough Head before the cloud reaches us’ aye David replies although we both suspected we were never going to out walk the advancing cloud.
Here looking back on towards Stybarrow Dodd, Raise & Lower Man.
After some quick progress we soon made the summit of Great Dodd, we were the only walkers there & to be honest the summit looked incredibly lonely more so with a back drop of advancing cloud both to our flanks, David didn’t bother for a summit shot & looking back neither should I as the only picture I did take wasn’t up to much scratch.
It was here at the summit David did succumb to the chill & put his jacket on, if only to take away the numb from my fingers he explained, further more we had just touched on the subject on walking boots while making our ascent as David’s boots after only eight months are due for renewal, I’m not surprised after nearly 700 miles which lead me to think that David has walked almost double my own mileage during 2014.
Calfhow Pike & Clough Head seen whilst descending Great Dodd.
Who turned out the lights?
Calfhow Pike & Clough Head.
Despite our reasonable visibility conditions around us in the adjoining valleys were starting to turn quite bleak as the advancing cloud was finally starting to creep up on us.
And here it is…
We soon found ourselves at the summit of Calfhow Pike watching the cloud as it rolled across the ridge from down below in St Johns-in-the-Vale. To witness such an event is simply staggering & at times can be quite difficult to adapt into words, only recording such atmospheric events may even come close to how you are left feeling after witnessing such a spectacular sight.
Our final ridge walk would be done through cloud as it rolls in & then back out again sometimes revealing summits then nothing but the sound as the wind blew through the grasses, a grand sound if there ever was one.
We make our way across the ridge, stopping only to see if the view behind us had opened up again, sometimes we could make out our last summit of Great Dodd but mostly it was lost in cloud.
Clough Head summit Trig Point.
Shortly before arriving at the summit the cloud did begin to break revealing St John-in-the-Vale down below as the stubborn stagnant cloud failed to reveal both Skiddaw & Blencathra.
Distant Mell Fells seen as we make our descent towards White Pike.
White Pike summit cairn.
The descent was quick under the duress of a cold wind, thus our summit time was brief as we searched for a place to eat out of the wind, we decided to make our way down further now heading for the Old Coach Road.
The Old Coach Road with views over Threlkeld Common & Barbaryrigg Moss.
After leaving White Pike we took in the steep descent to meet with the Old Coach Road, it was here we downed packs besides a wooden fence which we used to prop our backs up against. During our descent the wind retreated somewhat making lunch feel that bit more comfortable, that was until the showers came, the fence that we used was a makeshift shelter as the rain approached from behind, views came & went as did the light, conversation was spurred on during the whole time we spent sat on damp grass as the rain passed over our heads.
It was no use, even after the showers had passed we still found that lunch spot too comfortable to leave, but leave it we must.
After all, it looks like the sun is coming back out.
Wolf Crags from the Old Coach Road.
In the other direction, White Pike & Clough Head.
Great Mell Fell with threatening skies above.
Common to the afternoon the light swapped & changed with every moment sometimes illuminating the mosses & grasses & others drowning them in a undercoat of browns as far as the eye could see. We hadn’t passed anyone since speaking to Paul & his mate back on Watson’s Dodd until we passed a group of walkers who were mostly children coming from the direction of High Row.
Here, looking back in Clough Head & White Pike from the Old Coach Road.
Almost back at the car marking the end of the Old Coach Road at High Row.
After crossing Groove Beck we were just yards away from our cars which gave reflection time upon the days events, never far from memory will always be time spent at Deepdale blessed from above before the cloud rolled in revealing that, although we have been gifted throughout September Autumn is just around the corner bringing with it fresh winds that will sometime soon see us hang up the shorts in replacement for the long trousers, hats & gloves.
If this walk is anything to go by, and should we have to bow out to summer then I think I stand for the both of us in saying what a fine way to bring to an end the long days & sweaty brows.
This time in a few weeks, the warmth of the valleys will be long since forgotten, great memories from our extended summer will always remain, more so after walks like today.