Great Dodd, Watson’s Dodd, Stybarrow Dodd & Hart Side

Date: 29 March 2019                     Weather: 8’C, sunny, some wind

Height gain: 2,060ft                      Distance: 9.3 miles

Time taken: 5 hours 50 mins     Wainwright count: 67,68,69,70 of 214

Route:  From High Row over Matterdale Common to Great Dodd, down to Watson’s Dodd, up to Stybarrow Dodd and across to Hart Side  then down to Dowthwaitehead and along the road back to High Row.

It was a clear and sunny day and we decided to stretch ourselves and do a longer walk than we’re used to these days with just over 2,000ft of ascent.  We last did this walk in May 2009 in very high winds which I found a battle from start to finish but S had loved the views.  I’d been looking forward to doing this one again in nicer weather.

The free parking area at High Row is excellent, and only a couple of cars and a camper van are already there when we arrive.  We boot up and set off up the track towards the hills.  Last time S took advice from our ridgewalking book which recommended leaving the distinct path and heading directly up Great Dodd.  We did this and found ourselves in pathless boggy ground with no clear view of where we were heading and it took forever and sapped our energy while we watched more sensible walkers easily overtake us as they followed the normal, but longer, path.  So this time we stuck to the path which is easy to follow on good grassy ground and has a gentle gradient.  Although not steep it is a long route with four miles of uphill walking before reaching the first top.

The sun is out although it does feel cool and we stop to photograph the accents of snow on the flanks of the mountains:


I’m quite surprised to see them – it has been a strangely snow free winter this year.  We keep slogging upwards, the gradient steadily steepening but still on wide grass paths and eventually we reach the top of Great Dodd:


We take a few photos before enjoying the easy stroll along the broad grass down to Watson’s Dodd, and look back at the route we’ve just come down from its summit:


We settle down on the grass to have our lunch and enjoy the beautiful views in the sunshine.  With no real shelter we cool down quickly and we soon set off again.  The route up towards Stybarrow Dodd looks daunting from here:


In fact after our stop we’re feeling more chilled than we realised – we’re higher than we’ve been for some time at close to 2,800ft – and S gets disoriented before we finally find the stop of Stybarrow Dodd:


The views of Hellvelyn are stunning throughout most of today’s walk and I seem to have taken about a million pictures of it today.  I’ll just post the one, though:


We’re cold so we don’t hang around for too long but head down over the other side of Stybarrow Dodd and have an enjoyable walk along the flat wide shoulder between the Dodds and Hart Side.  The views back up to Stybarrow Dodd is good, especially with it’s edging of snow:


After an enjoyable saunter across the hillside we reach the unassuming top of Hart Side:


We find a bit of shelter below the summit and enjoy our afternoon cake before setting off to find the fence line for the route down.  We’ve descended about 100ft when S realises that he’s left his camera at the top – he scoots back up very quickly and retrieves it.

We find the fence and turn right to follow it down – it’s quite a steep gradient on rough pitted grass before we reach the point where we turn left and cross the wall at a stile.   We’re now heading for the small gathering of buildings at Dowthwaitehead, but the grass becomes even more uneven and boggy in places – S is not enjoying the terrain.

After a bit of negotiating between lost paths on wet and uneven ground we reach the footbridge across Aira Beck and, after enjoying a few minutes of firm flat ground on the bridge, we trot through the farm buildings and turn right onto the quiet road back to High Row.  It’s about a mile up the road and 100ft of ascent – up always feels challenging with 9 miles and 2,000ft in your legs but we cover the ground quickly on the smooth tarmac and are soon back at the car.

I’m pleased to be feeling in pretty good shape on the first of our longer walks for perhaps one or two years – and this is a great walk when you’re not battling 40mph winds all day.

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