It’s time for the clocks to go back therefore on this weekend’s walk we had planned to make the most out of the daylight hours by taking a selection of the Skiddaw Fells with the main summit being Bakestall, a summit that has been niggling at Tim’s boots for some while now.
The forecast looked fair to take on our challenge during the week but deteriorated 48 hours earlier meaning we had to think of a plan B walk within the Keswick vicinity where we would meet up with David in a layby along the A66 just outside Keswick.
Should we have to scupper out our Skiddaw walk it was here the decision would be made, which in fact had already been made for us given the fact that the cloud was so low mixed with pre-dawn light we came to the decision to head to Spout Force & our plan B walk of a tour of the Lord’s Seat fells.
ASCENT: 2,500 Feet, 762 Metres
WAINWRIGHTS: Whinlatter – Lords Seat – Barf – Broom Fell – Graystones
WEATHER: Overcast With Spells of Rain, Gust Across The Tops, Highs Of 12°C Lows Of 10°C Feels Like 8.5°C Gust of 33.1mph (Recorded on Graystones summit)
PARKING: Parking Spaces, Darling How, Whinlatter
AREA: North Western
WALKING WITH: David Hall & Tim Oxburgh
ORDNANCE SURVEY: OL4
TIME TAKEN: 5 Hours 20 Minutes
ROUTE: Darling How – Aiken Plantation – Brown How – Whinlatter Top – Tarbarrel Moss – Ullister Hill – Beckstones Gill – Barf – Lord’s Seat – Broom Fell – Widow Hause – Graystones – Scawgill Bridge – Darling How
Wainwright Guide Book Six
The Western Fells
Some mountains have better names than they deserve and some deserve better names than they have. Lords Seat title for any ultimate peak amongst the clouds, and while the modest Lakeland fell of this name hardly aspires to the notability it suggests it is a pleasing recognition of the commanding position and superior height of this central point in the distinctive group of fells compromising Thornthwaite Forest, Between Bassenthwaite Lake and Whinlatter Pass.
Darling How Farm – 08:29 10°C
Pre ‘plan B decision’ we arrived at the layby early & waited for David to arrive under the cover of Darkness. The time was 07:45am & by all accounts the sunrise had taken place except the cloud cover was so extensive no light broke through at all.
Rain pelted at the windscreen in burst’s as the wind howled around outside the comforts of the car, a set of headlights in my rear view mirror confirms David’s arrival.
We both got out of the cars & met with a handshake, the first topic of conversation was of course the weather, David explains as he points west through the darkness that he had indeed, just driven through a heavy shower which kinda set the benchmark as to what to expect we’d be walking in throughout the duration of the day.
The decision to scupper Skiddaw was made quickly as we agreed that not only would the rain be a problem on the high fells but the high gust forecasted too, something of which we would experience in just an hours time or so.
The car park was confirmed ‘Spout Force’ just off the Whinlatter Pass, with this we headed out through Braithwaite as glimpses of light started to penetrate the sky overhead.
Morning had finally broken.
Broom Fell from the Forestry Track.
Although Tim & David knew alot about each other they hadn’t officially met up until this morning so introductions & light conversation took place whilst we kitted up, within ten minutes or so they were chatting like they’d known each other ten years which was a great start to the day, so much so we quickly got onto the subject of the price of fish.
Don’t ask me how that happened!
After passing Darling How farm we headed further into the plantation where our views opened up before us. Above our heads the high winds carried the murky grey clouds across the sky in a hurried fashion.
Our track was combed from our surrounding summits offering great protection from the gusts & showers, it didn’t last long but nice while it did.
Finding our way up Whinlatter is something of a grey area as there are no obvious paths, made more difficult by the regeneration of the newly planted trees & sometimes thick gorse & heather. A couple of times we would stop whilst looking up the steep flank of Whinlatter before carrying on a little further until the geography told us that we couldn’t walk the track no further, it was here we took on the ‘lets roll up our sleeves attitude’ before finding a break in the plantation & heading directly up the steep fell side.
Tim went first blazing a trail through the newly planted pines & thick heather.
Gaining steep ground as we pause to look down on the Forestry track we had just left.
After leaving the Forestry track we soon found ourselves on steep ground with no path to follow, our best option was to follow the lay of the fell side whilst at the same time avoiding piles of deadwood which the heather had grown over.
We had all been here before & knew that a wire fence was a short yet steep distance away, we had no choice but to pick our way step by step through the heather, at times the Pines partially hid Tim’s ascent as he blazed ahead, between a few photos (breath breaks!) it was obvious Tim was going to reach the fence first.
Tim waited for David & myself to catch up which we did under the duress of a slight lack of breath! We had almost breached the summit shoulder leaving most of the hard work behind us when the spots of rain that had been pelting at our jackets turned into wave after wave of heavy showers which were carried along the skies by the strong winds.
Caught somewhere beneath Brown How watching the wind carry the heavy rain across the valley.
Whinlatter taken shortly before arriving at Brown How.
After crossing the wire fence we persevered with our steep ascent until Tim found a hollow cut in the fell side shortly before reaching the ridge path.
It was here we took shelter if not only to let the shower pass which after five minutes it did. Within the hollow it was obvious with the more height gained the wind now above our heads was incredibly strong making any forward movement a bit of a fight.
When the first shower had passed we got up & took the wind face on towards the Whinlatter’s subsidiary ridge summit of Brown How, after crossing more heather we soon found ourselves at the small cairn where we found a stone shelter which we used to sit out another shower & to take shelter from the wind that howled above the summit walls.
The stone walls of the shelter offered great protection against the wind & rain as conversation thrived, however at some point we knew we had to get up as we hadn’t officially reached our first summit yet.
Heading across the ridge towards Whinlatter taken shortly after leaving Brown How.
Once again we left the comforts of the shelter & battled on through the high winds that made for some slow & at times tricky progress as we made for Whinlatter summit.
Sadly most forces of nature can be seen & wind is difficult to depict. After taking this photo both David & Tim had made it half way across the ridge such the time it took me to battle my camera back into its case, it wasn’t just here I would find myself playing catch up after each photo I was to take, it was almost after every photo I took.
The ground was naturally spongy underfoot which made for some slight negotiations whilst crossing the ridge, at times the rain hit so hard brain freeze came & went while all the while I myself was trying to keep my hood in a position where it would just cover the whole right side of my face.
Crossing the flanks of Tarbarrel Moss as we head towards Thornthwaite Plantation.
The summit of Whinlatter came & went under more heavy showers & gusts, I’m not even sure I managed a tap at the cairn with my walking pole, within moments we where heading down towards Thornthwaite Forest where thankfully a respite in the rain meant we could resume conversation.
I do apologise as it sounds like we weren’t enjoying ourselves; nothing could have been further from the truth, it’s a times like these that brings the real fell walker out in you & all who love walking the fells.
Grisedale Pike over Hobcarton End from Whinlatter.
Lord’s Seat is on the horizon over Tarbarrel Moss.
A gap in-between the showers showed promise as we made our way over Tarbarrel Moss flanked by Whinlatter Forest/Comb Plantation seen over in the right of the photo.
Once we had reached the track alongside the forest a sense of calmness ensued followed by the sound of the high winds as it howled through the forest plantation to our flanks. The calmness I of course am referring to is the protection that the trees gave us all the while they were taking a battering from the high winds above our heads.
We continued along the track which at times paralleled with the mountain bike track that ran through the forest, we didn’t expect to see many out on their bikes but we were proved wrong as we spotted a couple of riders who were drenched through to the core yet thoroughly enjoying themselves, much like us I guess.
After reaching what can only be described as a natural corner cut out in the woodland we headed through a wooden gate before taking on a slight descent through a short section of thick forest.
It was Eerie quite as we pass through the dense woodland.
Despite mother nature putting on a fine display this morning – during the short time it took us to pass through the woodland not a sound could be heard, the ground underfoot although a little soft was relatively dry making this part of our walk feel quite surreal which was just a small highlight of the whole day.
Lord’s Seat appears.
After emerging from the woodland we took a left turn in the direction of Lord’s Seat, it was here the track passes through high woodland again offering us protection from the wind & yet another shower. We continued with our track knowing that we were heading for Lord’s Seat without actually seeing it, this was when we spotted a slight detour from the track which we left to take, although we were back in the elements it was nice to have a bearing. It was here David suggested that instead of heading for Lord’s Seat why not flank it & head for Barf instead.
We all agreed & took a right turn on the path you see in the foreground of the photo.
Heading for Barf instead…The path will eventually lead all the way back to Whinlatter Visitor centre.
Barf through the trees.
We continued along the path noting that we had lost sight of Barf due to the high tree level. We soon crossed a sharp left in the path offering tree lined views towards Barf, here our path takes a slight descent before crossing Beckstones Gill.
With wonderful views back up our tree lined path.
It was almost like walking over carpet…
No sooner had we crossed Beckstones Gill did we have to take in the ascent towards Barf summit by means of a steep (ish) track that offered views over Bassenthwaite Lake & Keswick. It was while on this path did we notice a glimpse of sun as pockets of swirling cloud rose about the Whinlatter Forest before dispersing quickly, the whole event continued all the way towards the summit & made Barf possibly not only the driest summit but the most picturesque too.
Dramatic views over Derwent Water & Keswick from Barf summit.
With the sun hidden by thick cloud only adding to the drama.
The Ullock Ridge, Carl Side & Skiddaw over Bassenthwaite Lake.
I think it was unanimous that we had made the right decision in leaving Skiddaw for another day, if buffering was quite bad here we could only imagine how bad it was on Skiddaw’s summit which is infamous for being windy even on a calm day.
Views over Bassenthwaite Lake towards Binsey.
One last photo of the cloud dramatics before leaving for Lord’s Seat.
Lord’s Seat summit taken from Barf.
We had noticed a couple of chaps with two dogs ahead of us before we reached Barf summit, by the time we arrived they had long gone leaving a dog lead behind, if you look closely in the photo you may be able to spot them on the path in between Barf & Lord’s Seat.
Tim did his good deed of the day by running up to the two chaps lost dog lead in hand only to be told when he caught them up that the lead had only cost a pound from the Poundland, I don’t think they saw Tim’s point! Nevertheless they did in the end seem grateful that Tim had ran his way over.
Here, looking back on Lord’s Seat after yet more heavy cross winds & showers.
Next came the crossing towards Lord’s Seat which was very wet & boggy underfoot, it was here we witnessed a low layer of cloud roll in enveloping the whole summit before continuing north descending lower to claim both Sale & Ling Fell, we all agreed that the cloud was incredibly low.
Time spent at Lord’s Seat summit was sadly brief due to a heavy rain shower which we stood out using our backs to shield us from the driving rain, hence no summit photo.
Tim & David stood at the summit as I tried to put into perspective just how wild it was but sadly my shot didn’t turn out the way I planned it too.
We turned tail very shortly afterwards & took in the slight descent to reach the pleasant ridge which would take us towards Broom Fell, except pleasant it wasn’t.
The high winds & driving rain made this ridge crossing a silent one. Of course we are used to the wind & rain but what hit us here was a sure conversation stopper as we took in the path whilst rain rappelled like a waterfall from our hood peaks, I at this point wasn’t wearing gloves as I noticed David had slipped his jacket sleeves over his hands if only to protect them against the wind & rain.
Tim was slightly ahead fairing no better, in fact he later told me ‘I wasn’t going to say nothing in front of you & David’ but boy I was in a bad place in between Lord’s Seat & Broom Fell’ which is nothing to be ashamed of, I think we all were with you on that one.
After the rain had stopped & the cloud had cleared, Broom Fell appears.
Walking ‘in-line’ we were soon close to the summit when we noticed a large group of walkers heading towards us, as we passed on our good mornings I noticed a face that I thought I recognised, however due to the wind & my hood all skew-whiff I wasn’t so sure at the time & said nothing, it was only when I returned home later that day that I realised it was Angela Avalon Taylor of whom I share friends with on Facebook.
Nice to see you Angela.
Broom Fell impressive summit cairn.
It was while at Broom Fell did we decide to down pack & eat our lunches in the comforts of the stone shelter as once again the wind howled fiercely above our heads, yet within our sanctuary for those ten minutes we felt nothing leaving our downtime very pleasant indeed.
Graystones over Widow Hause.
After leaving Broom Fell any lingering low cloud had cleared helped along by the strong winds, ahead is our last summit of the day of Greystones & area these particular fells that I am fond off in Widow Hause, more so due to how nice this area of the walk is even on a day like today.
Behind Greystones lurks yet another advancing rain shower…
Broom Fell seen with Lord’s Seat from Graystones summit cairn.
After descending Broom Fell we crossed Widow Hause flanked & sheltered by a coppice of mature Pine Trees that again offered protection against the elements. There is a relatively steep, yet short pull before gaining Greystones summit shoulder from which we followed a wire fence before heading for the cairn after crossing the grassy plateau.
From the summit the promised forecast of a dryer afternoon was starting to show through glints of blue & a lighter aurora overhead, we stopped to chat whilst at the summit as David took out his Anemometer & took both wind & chill readings, we were all surprised to see that the air was a tropical (as Tim put it) 8.5°C Which when we thought about it was right, cold it wasn’t, wet & windy it was.
Next David took a wind reading which measured a maximum of 31.5mph at the time of reading, we all agreed that was correct all though had David taken the same reading whilst crossing between Lords Seat & Broom Fell we were pretty confident the figure would have been twice that.
Next came our descent on what can be considered to be one of the steepest ascent/descents on any Lakeland path.
Descent by Graystones.
Showers over Lorton Vale during our Graystones Descent.
The descent wasn’t as brutal as I remembered, Tim went first followed by David who both quickly made their way down as I watched the rain shower approach with my camera in hand.
I spot David looking at his feet during his descent while every now & again he would look up to see how far the shower had gained which seemed to be moving rather slowly.
Tim waited at around half way at the point where options opened into taking the forestry tracks & maybe even a visit to Spout Force, but after a short discussion we decided against it as we were almost at the bottom anyway.
It was here we paused for a good chat where we seemed to put the walking world to rights each offering our own opinions on subjects close to all our hearts.
Another pint Tim joked? Joking aside It did feel like we were propped up against the bar & not half way down Graystones.
Bearing down on Scawgill Bridge & Aiken Beck
All that was left was the short descent where grass met gravel before taking on the path that lead us over Aiken Beck via a wooden footbridge from where a last steep rise would take us back to Spout Force car park.
The car park was soon reached under opening blue skies, the temperature had risen & the wind had all but died down less the hustle from the tops of the trees.
We could have planned this walk around the weather which daylight would have allowed but fell walking isn’t all about good weather, I believe you have to take the good with the bad, and today’s walk was anything but the latter, today’s walk had it all & will be remembered for many reasons unlike some walks that are quickly forgotten where fine weather was blessed.
I know sometimes I can harp on about the change in seasons & that’s only because I value what this change brings, there is so much more to fell walking than blue skies & distant views, this day, this type of walk in these conditions leaves you feeling alive, even though the tips of your fingers at times don’t quite agree.