Date: 10 September 2019 Weather: 13’C, partly cloudy, breezy on the top
Height gain: 2,221ft Distance: 8.6 miles
Time taken: 5 hours 45 minutes Wainwright count: 94,95,96 of 214
Route: From the phone box in Loweswater via Maggie’s Bridge and High Nook Farm following the footpath to Waterend then taking a left above Holme Wood directly up Burnbank Fell then to Blake Fell and on to Gavel Fell then heading north east over Black Crag to rejoin the High Nook Farm track and back to the car.
It’s been three weeks since our last mountain and over two months since we climbed more than one in a walk so a good day of fellwalking was definitely called for. Today was the best forecast for quite some time and we decided to make the trip out to Loweswater to tackle these three mountains.
The journey was remarkably quick – we took the M6 rather than plough through the Lakes – and we arrived in only an hour and a quarter. We were aiming for Maggie’s Bridge car park and couldn’t quite remember where it was. After initially heading straight through Loweswater we turned around and took the road past the Loweswater Inn and found the parking ground we were thinking of, but it was full and in fact double parked at one end (I hope the owners of the two cars knew each other or the one blocked in won’t be happy).
It looks challenging to turn around in the full parking area, a problem which gets worse as a tractor appears coming the other way. S has to reverse back over the narrow and bendy bridge and back up to the road to the junction before the tractor can get past us.
Challenge accomplished, we then head back past the pub to the parking area by the telephone box – success, there’s only one car here already so we quickly park up next to it. We boot up alongside its occupants who don’t engage in conversation, just a smile in greeting – which is a shame as their car suggests they’re from The Netherlands – I’d like to have known if they were enjoying their time in the Lakes.
Boots on, we set off down the road and back to Maggie’s Bridge car park – it’s less than a quarter of a mile so no worries on our alternative parking spot. However, as we head towards Mellbreak S realises we’re going the wrong way and this is in fact Church Bridge and not Maggie’s Bridge. We head back to the phone box and up the road in a different direction and after about three quarters of a mile reach the real Maggie’s Bridge parking area – also full so we’re still happy we parked where we did.
We don’t quite reach the parking area before heading along the track towards High Nook Farm. Mellbreak dominates the view to our left (so glad I don’t have to go up the front of that ever again) but our walk for today is to the right and centre of the picture:
We walk through the farm and start making gentle upward progress before turning right and 50ft of descent down to a footbridge over Highnook Beck then right again to a lovely path up the hillside at a very acceptable gradient – here looking back at the part of the path we’ve come up:
The path continues around the hillside in front of Carling Knott and we see Holme Wood below us. Loweswater comes into view and it takes us by surprise when we stop for water as we hadn’t realised what was opening up behind us:
The path starts to descend to a crossing over Holme Beck and we lose about 150ft of height. The good path we’ve been on carries on around the hills to Waterend and we leave it at this point – we can see a track which takes us up the side of Burnbank Fell to a gate where we turn right and follow a track directly upwards along a fence. It’s very, very steep – 350ft of very vertical walking which takes us 25 minutes to huff and puff up.
The views towards Loweswater and Crummock Water are even better from the top of this steep section:
Once we reach the shoulder of the hill we climb over the low fence the turn left towards the summit. Once over the crest we can see the summit cairn a few hundred metres away with only another 200ft to climb – I’m ready for food by now but want to reach the top before we stop so we plough on and now that the gradient is much friendlier we get there quite quickly.
It’s not the most impressive of tops with a small cairn over a metal fence surrounded by relatively flat ground – AW wasn’t impressed “the summit is best described as the gently rounded dome of an upland prairie, and there is little else to say about it. Items of interest are absent.” Which is perhaps a bit harsh, but while there are mountains all around us the views of the lakes have gone and this certainly isn’t the best viewpoint of the day:
The wind has picked up and it’s cold up here – not quite as bad as last time we were here in March 2006 when I was hanging on to the fence to keep upright in bitter winds and frozen ground.
Today we put on our lightweight waterproofs and briefly regret not bringing our gloves with us. I’m also regretting spurning the grassy shoulder looking over the lakes lower down as a lunch spot – there’s nowhere good here to sit and it’s too exposed to stop. We head down the hill towards our next mountain of the day, Blake Fell, and once the wind has dropped a bit we sit on the grass to munch our pasties – it’s a bit low down but soft and comfy.
After our hasty lunch stop we set off again and follow the fence line towards Blake Fell:
The pasties have had their usual restorative effect and we make relatively quick work of the 420ft of ascent and soon reach the sheepfold at the top of Blake Fell:
The weather has turned a bit grey and continues to be cold in the breeze so while the views looked very good while we were up there they haven’t photographed all that well – here looking southeast and catching a glimpse of Buttermere with Fleetwith Pike at its head, Dale Head on its left and Glaramara on its right :
Grasmoor and Wandope dominate the view to the east:
We find a spot to sit just below the summit, again in the soft grass, and admire the views for a few minutes. I wonder why Carling Knott, which we are looking down on, isn’t a Wainwright – it looks more pointy and mountain shaped than many of the hills given a separate chapter by AW.
I’m also quite taken with the baby Christmas trees we keep spotting up here – we wonder if anyone pops a bit of tinsel on them in December:
One more top to go, Gavel Fell, which we abandoned due to the conditions in our 2006 walk (it was done on its own as a first walk of the holiday in May 2014). We follow the fence into the depression before heading sort of right towards the clearly visible summit of Gavel Fell. We look back and Blake Fell now looks huge behind us:
It’s only 270ft of ascent and 1 mile and the going is easy if a little boggy in places and we reach the top of Gavel Fell in about half an hour:
It’s brightening up a little bit and the views, while similar to Blake Fell, are still good. The views north east towards Great Gable and Pillar in the distance are good from here:
We drop down just below the summit and drop onto comfy grass again to enjoy afternoon tea. We look back at Blake Fell and the route we’ve travelled:
After enjoying our cakes we head north east towards Black Crag and start our descent. It’s pathless and boggy as we make our way to the crag – there’s a definite route over it but we skirt to its left planning to meet the path as it comes back off the top of the crag.
We can just about see a track to follow, probably a sheep track, but it peters out at what looks like an abseil off the side of the hill. We turn around and head more to our right and continue to descend on the tuft, boggy, grassy terrain – steep but not too challenging. We can see a small tarn directly below us and I determine to see what it’s called when we get home – it doesn’t have a name on the OS map, but AW names it as Highnook Tarn in his book:
Quite quickly we pick up the proper footpath and start heading down towards our ascent route from this morning which we can see clearly below us. The going remains steep but straightforward on the bouncy grass before the gradient eases and we meet the path up from Highnook Farm again. I look across the hillside at that nice gently sloping path I enjoyed at the start of the ascent this morning:
We reach Maggie’s Bridge car park, still three-quarters full even in the late afternoon. We have the mile to stomp up the road and back to the phone box where we’ve parked. As we pass the village hall a car with four silver haired occupants has pulled in and the occupants are studying a map. The back door opens as we pass and a woman asks us if we know where we are – to which we say yes we do. She asks if we know where we’re heading – again we say yes we do thank you.
We relent on the unhelpful comments and ask what she needs to know. They know where they are and are trying to get to Buttermere but can’t agree whether they are heading north towards Cockermouth or south towards Buttermere. We assure them they are pointing north and need to turn around. Many cries of “I told you so” come from inside the car as we wish them well and carry on walking. It’s a few minutes before the car makes its three point turn and comes slowly past us.
It’s been great to do a proper hillwalk with three tops bagged and the area around Loweswater is both beautiful and peaceful – we passed three people all day.