Walk Date – 24th February 2017
Distance – 4.1 miles
Weather – dry but breezy and overcast
Unfortunately I missed the best of today’s weather because I decided to do the shopping this morning while the sun was shining. Yesterday we had gale force winds and rain all day as Storm Doris gave us all a bashing, and the Met.Office has issued dire warnings for wind, rain and flooding for tomorrow and Sunday, so getting the shopping done this morning seemed the sensible option. Now its just after 1.30 pm and, although there is still a hint of sunshine, the cloud is beginning to move across. Nevertheless, it is high cloud, its not raining and neither is it forecast, so I’m looking forward to having a pleasant little wander over Burn Banks and Four Stones Hill.
Burnbanks village – Burn Banks – Great Birkhouse Hill – Four Stones Hill – Mile Crags – Haweswater shore path – Burnbanks village
The little road junction at Burnbanks where I’m beginning my walk today. The village is just off to the left and my car is parked at the side of the road behind me. I’ve taken the precaution of putting the gaiters on just in case yesterday’s rain has left the ground very wet and muddy. Wearing them is a bit of a pain, but having to wash and dry muddy trousers after every walk is an even bigger one, so I’ll put up with the sauna like conditions round my lower limbs for a couple of hours.
As I followed the road round into the village I noticed a gate on my right and beyond it a path leading over towards Burn Banks so, rather than follow the usual route into Burnbanks village, I decided to go through the gate and follow this path just to see how it compared with the one most walkers usually take. It more or less runs alongside the wall on the left of the shot and this is how it looked, with the morning’s blue sky and sunshine heading eastwards, as I stopped to take a look back. The ground was wet in places but for the most part it was surprisingly dry considering the downpour we had all day yesterday. The rounded grassy fell on the centre skyline is Scalebarrow Knott, which, usually, is the first fell visited by anyone walking the Naddle Horseshoe, which starts a short distance beyond it in Swindale. The Naddle Horseshoe is a walk listed in AW’s guide book ‘The Outlying Fells of Lakeland’.
Further along the path and below, to my right, an good example of what is known in Cumbria as a lonning. Lonnings are lanes or pathways enclosed on either side by hedges or, more often dry stone walls. They can be quite wide with room for farm vehicles, such as the one below, or much narrower which can only be used by pedestrians. They can be a means of getting from one point to another, whilst others may just simply fizzle out or come to a dead end.
I continue climbing and I’m now high enough for a glimpse of, on my left, Haweswater and the snow topped fells around Mardale Head.
The path I’ve been following continued on straight ahead past Burn Banks so I left it and began to curve across off path to the summit of Burn Banks which is immediately ahead of me. There’s no-one else around and all is quiet apart from the steady drone of an RAF trainer plane which is making its way southwards.
Still heading up to the summit of Burn Banks with the dead bracken making it easy to pick any route which takes one’s fancy. That was something of a dilemma in itself because the options were plentiful and it was a bit like being in a sweet shop when you were a child and trying to decide what to spend your pocket money on. None of it is very steep and all of it looks tempting, what might you find if you go left and, more worryingly, what might you miss elsewhere if you do. Oh, decisions, decisions! In the end I make up my mind and head off over to the right to say hello to the sheep.
I said hello to the sheep but they just stared rather balefully at me, no doubt wondering what I was doing trespassing on their turf. They eventually lost interest in me and wandered off to find some peace and quiet elsewhere. On my way to the summit I saw another walker with his dog below me in the distance, that’s the first person I’ve seen since I started out so its not exactly busy up here today. This is the summit cairn on Burn Banks and I’m looking west with a view of the fells around Haweswater. From here I’m heading over to the little hill immediately behind the cairn where there are five metal poles sticking up out of the ground. It looks as though its a straightforward flat walk across to it but it isn’t, there’s a bit of down and then up to do before I can reach it.
Some broken slabs of concrete are all that remain of what was once a radio mast on this little hill top. The five metal poles, hole punched at intervals along their length, were arranged in a circle around the concrete slabs so perhaps they once formed part of a fence surrounding the original mast. On the route map, just below the B of Burn Banks, is the map symbol denoting the mast’s location. It may not be much use as a radio mast any more but at least it tells you where you are which is good to know especially when one little hill looks pretty much like another across here.
A view along Haweswater from the radio mast site, with a weak sun giving a faint glow to the water, and the ever increasing cloud flattening the afternoon light. It all looks a bit chilly but, although the breeze was a nuisance, it wasn’t at all cold.
A look ahead to where I’m making for next, Four Stones Hill which has the tree lined slope towards the centre. It looks a long way off but it isn’t, and again its make your mind up time as to which route will be followed. After a bit of humming and hahing I decided against the obvious path going straight up through the middle and headed off to the right to walk over Great Birkhouse Hill just to add a bit of variation.
Another look at the lovely view as I make my way over.
A look back down to the Haweswater dam, and the water rushing in over the weir on the opposite shore, as I reach the top of Great Birkhouse Hill. Thanks to the rain we’ve had recently all the points of inflow around Haweswater were rushing with water today which could be heard even up here.
From Great Birkhouse I dropped down into this little soggy depression, crossed the beck and made my way up to those two cairns on the centre skyline.
This is a lovely little cairn, quite different in character to most cairns, with someone having taken some care over the design and construction. I’m always pleased to see that it is still standing whenever I come up here. The elements, and occasionally people, can sometimes take their toll on standing cairns which can lead to their eventual collapse, so its encouraging to see it still in good condition. Its well sited too and makes a good focal point for this view along Haweswater.
From the cairn the view along Haweswater to Harter Fell at the head of Mardale.
Just a few feet away from the pyramid shaped cairn is this one, on the left of the shot, nothing but an untidy heap of stones. I know which one I prefer. Ahead of me is the remainder of the climb up to the top of Four Stones Hill. It offers the fun of numerous mini scrambles if you fancy that option or you can simply thread your way through and around the outcrops as I did. Whichever method you choose its not far and its not steep so the summit is reached in no time.
A look back at the two cairns as I began to make my way up to the top.
A dusting of snow on Measand End and the neighbouring fells from the top of Four Stones Hill. There isn’t a cairn to mark the summit although I did notice a couple of stones had been placed on one of the higher rocks. I didn’t bother with a photo of them.
Also from the top of Four Stones a close up of Selside Pike, on the left, and Branstree over on the right.
Another close up from the summit, this time of Harter Fell at the head of Haweswater.
Ahead of me, as I descend from Four Stones Hill, is the Low Kop to High Kop ridge. We last had a walk across there in August 2015. Its a fine walk across open moorland and just the thing for a sunny day in summer when you don’t feel like toiling up a steep and crowded path.
Just below Four Stones Hill is this little tarn so I made my way down it.
On my right as I descend is this ancient ring cairn while above me the RAF trainer plane is back, this time making steady progress northwards on what seemed to be the same flight path as it took on its outward journey.
A dusting of snow on the higher slopes of Measand End and its neighbours courtesy of Storm Doris on Thursday.
Down at the tarn with a view of Little Birkhouse Hill just beyond it.
Avoiding the general sogginess as far as possible I crossed the west end of the tarn to take this view of Four Stones Hill.
From the east end of the tarn the view west over to Measand End. As you can see there was some shelter from the breeze down here so there were some nice cloud reflections on the tarn’s surface.
A little further on from the tarn are the standing stones for which the hill is named although only these two remain. For what reason would someone go to the trouble of removing the other two?
A look back at Four (or should that be Two) Stones Hill …..
….. and a look back between the stones at Little Birkhouse Hill.
I had intended to carry on and descend alongside Measand Beck, which is flowing through that rocky ravine immediately behind the stand of trees in the foreground, and if you peer closely enough you might be able to pick out the white water of one of the falls in the beck. I reminded myself that I always return by that route so, as I’m standing just at the point where an inviting grassy path is going down to the left of this shot, I changed my plan and took the grassy route instead.
Here’s the afore-mentioned grassy path so down I go. Of course, now I’m thinking that there might have been some good photos to be had of the Measand Beck waterfalls as they would most definitely be full of water today, and there would be no leaves on the trees and shrubs lining the ravine so the views would have been clear to see. I resorted to a bit of reasoning, something along the lines of – it will be some time before the leaves return and that bucket loads of rain are bound to fall before they do, in which case you can come back and take some photos of the falls then. OK then, I’ll carry on down this path and stop thinking about waterfalls. Where the path appears to end at the bottom …..
….. it begins to curve around above the wall and the deer fence …..
….. and begins dropping down to meet the lakeside path along Haweswater …..
….. where it joins the path just beside the deer gate. During my descent, when I was a little way further back up the path, I noticed a walker and his dog passing through the gate from the Mardale Head side. That’s a grand total of two people I’ve seen today, neither of whom were close enough to say hello to.
On the lakeside path now and making my way back to Burnbanks village. I have never walked along this path without coming across puddles and soggy sections but today was worse than usual with long sections of it under water. Some you could side-step although not just here, unless you wanted a scratched face, a torn jacket or ripped trousers, prickly stuff is gorse. I’m glad I put the gaiters on.
Back in Burnbanks village and where my walk is almost at an end. The only sign of life was the walker I had seen going through the deer gate and he had just crossed over the road there to where his car was parked. All I have to do now is turn round, follow that road out of the village to the little junction and make the five minute walk back to where my car is parked. Its been a fun walk today because I like exploring these often ignored little hills, there’s no rush to get to somewhere else before time runs out on you and you can just please yourself about where you’ll choose to go and which route you’ll choose to get there. Had the day remained sunny that would have been a bit of icing on the cake, but it didn’t rain and I was thankful for that at least. Now then, where did I put my car keys?