Steel Knotts & Hallin Fell

Date: 28 Oct 2019 Weather: 6’C, sunny, light wind
Height gain: 1,319 ft Distance: 3.5 miles
Time taken: 5 hours 35 mins Wainwrights: 107,108 of 214

Route:  From Martindale Church up Steel Knotts on footpath via Hebs Crag and back on the footpath via Birkie Knott back to the church then up Hallin Fell on the obvious route up its nose and back the same way.


Two more days of sunshine are forecast and today the winds are going to be light after several days of strong winds at height.  We have a Sainsbury’s delivery due and couldn’t get a very early slot so we’ll be setting off a little later than usual.  We decide to do a couple of smaller hills today and make the most of tomorrow with a more challenging walk.

We decide we’ll drive to Martindale and do these two small mountains – one either side of the church.

When we finally set off at 10.45am it is indeed a glorious day with the clear rich blue sky of Autumn.  It should take just less than an hour to get to Martindale but we’ll need to stop on the way to pick up something for lunch.

We decide to try Rheged filling station for food as it had interesting looking cakes last time we stopped there for fuel.  When we get there the sandwiches look dull and the cake selection is a little uninspiring today but they have lots of pies on offer (many all the way from Gloucestershire) so S is happy.  The lady serving at the pie counter is, however, the slowest person on the planet and takes more than 10 minutes to serve the two people in front of us.  Eventually we leave with a sandwich for me and two pies and a cake for S.

We turn off the A66 onto the A592 and as we reach Pooley Bridge, only four miles to go, we find that the bridge is closed until Spring 2020.  No warning signs at any stage, nor any diversion suggestions for that matter.  S works out an alternative route but it means going all the way back to the M6 then to Eamont Bridge and picking up the B5320 which will take us to the other side of Pooley Bridge and the little road we need for Martindale.

The detour adds a frustrating half an hour onto our journey.  The A5320 is littered with signs about the bridge being closed and this being the detour to Pooley Bridge – but why put them on the alternative route and not the closed route????

We finally reach Martindale church at 12.15pm and luckily there are still plenty of parking spaces left.  It’s busy, though, I hadn’t realised it was still half-term for half the country – a lot more families around than we saw last week.

We decide to go for Steel Knott first so head south past the church and pick up the footpath along the wall.  We follow this path as it winds its way around the hillside gaining just a little height.  It’s a narrow path and it’s wet and muddy and very slippery – neither of us is having much fun on it.

Finally as we pass Christy Bridge below us we begin to climb, and the gradient is quite challenging and the ground underfoot stays muddy and slippy – this won’t be fun in descent and I didn’t bother to bring a stick for this little walk.

The views back towards the valley look fabulous in the sunshine:

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We can hear the dogs that live at that farm barking like mad, presumably at every walker or car that comes along the road.  We heard them going mental when we passed the farm on our way down from Beda Fell in June – they would drive me mad if I lived there (or anywhere near them).

We make steady uphill progress and reach a gate in a wall.  The path carries on as it heads towards Wether Hill but our route takes us a sharp left and up 100ft of very vertical climbing.

We reach a shoulder and take another left for the last 150ft steep feet up our very own little Matterhorn:

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It doesn’t prove very challenging and we reach the lovely top of Steel Knotts and its rock tor, Pikeawassa:

4It doesn’t look too dissimilar to the lion on Helm Crag.    S can’t resist and climbs up the rock for his summit shot – and happily he gets back down without incident as well.

It is a really great top and we have it all to ourselves.  By far the best view is of Blencathra to the north west which looks stunning against the clear blue sky:

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To the southwest we can see the ridge running up to Place Fell and around to Beda Fell which we walked from Martindale in June.  We reckon that is St Sunday Crag poking his head up between the two doing an impression of Great Gable:

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We settle down at the top to eat our service station lunch.  My sandwich is fine but dull and S enjoys one of his pies but finds the other one a bit dry.  Another lunch gathering option off the list.

We take our time over lunch and enjoy the peace and quiet and the stunning views.  We take a moment to congratulate ourselves on reaching the halfway point in round two – 107 climbed, 107 to go.

Eventually a couple we passed on the way up arrive at the top – they hadn’t fancied our near vertical route at the wall and had taken a longer route.  They are ready to settle in for lunch so we vacate our spot and leave them to enjoy their own peace and quiet.

We consult the map and decide if we head north and follow the path towards Birkie Knott we will find a better descent than reversing the wet and muddy route up.  We enjoy the stomp across the top with views down to Ullswater and then start a gentle descent on grass – good choice we think to ourselves.  However, we get to the Knott and the gentle descent becomes an abseil.  One of the locals pops out to ask us if we’re sure we want to go this way:

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We gingerly pick our way down the very steep path which is stony and muddy in places.  We reach a very steep grassy bit and I resort to shuffling down on my bottom for 100ft or so – but at least I make good progress that way.  The path turns back to stones and I have to go back to using just legs so progress slows again.

Thankfully it’s a small hill and there’s only 500ft of this stuff to descend and we finally make it down to the main path back to the church.  I look back at the mental route down the crags we’ve just taken:

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Ah well – at least we avoided a mile and a half of slippery wet path on the other side of the hill.

We get back to the car and swap empty water bottles for full ones and head north for the very obvious path straight up Hallin Fell.  Cloud is starting to bubble up which is a shame but the views are still excellent.  There’s lots of families arriving and heading up at the same time – most with children who have to shriek at the top of their lungs at all times.

The path is straightforward but very steep and the legs don’t much enjoy the ascent but in just 25 minutes we’ve scaled the 550ft to the top:

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The views are fantastic, although a mixture of late afternoon, bubbling cloud and looking into the remaining sun mean it doesn’t photograph very well.  It’s no wonder that it’s such a popular little mountain for people to spend an hour of their time on, though, even if this is a reasonably remote part of the Lake District.

The view south west looks quite mysterious in the late afternoon light with the Helvellyn range behind Place Fell just shadows in the sunlight:

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There are good views down to Ullswater with Gowbarrow Fell behind it:

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It’s quite busy up here with all those noisy families so we don’t hang around but head down on one of the path options which is initially a bit craggy before re-joining the main path.  There are lovely views down into the Martindale valley with Beda Fell on the right and The Nab the triangular shaped mountain behind and to the left of it:

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We bound down the steep grassy descent – the whole trip up and down Hallin Fell has taken us just 50 minutes but was worth every second.

We last did Hallin Fell as a first walk of the holiday in May 2009 when the wind was so strong we could barely stay upright and the cloud was so low we couldn’t make out the path ahead of us.  This is definitely one to do when you can make the most of the lovely views.