Walk Date – 3rd May 2017
Distance – 5.75 miles
Weather – dry and sunny but very, very windy
The dry sunny weather is still with us so it was off to Patterdale this morning for a walk up the western side of Place Fell which will keep us in the sunshine and out of the strong easterly wind as we climb up. We parked in a small car park opposite the Patterdale Hotel where the parking meter did not accept the new £1 coins, so there was a bit of delay before we could start out while our new coins were swapped for someone’s old ones. Once we’d fed the machine and kitted up we were on our way and walking back along the road to pick up the start of the path.
Pay and display car park opposite Patterdale Hotel – George Starkey Hut – Side Farm – Hare Shaw – Birk Fell – Place Fell – Round How – Steel Edge – Boredale Hause – Side Farm – Patterdale
While I waited I took this view of Place Fell from the parking area.
Also while the coin exchange was going on I took this shot from the car park. Just behind the wall is the road and across the road is the hotel with its beer garden sun shades neatly furled. By the time we get back I expect they will have been unfurled and thirsty patrons will be sitting beneath them at the picnic tables enjoying a glass of their favourite tipple, although in today’s strong wind eating and drinking outdoors under an umbrella might well be a little hazardous.
From the hotel its just a short walk, past the primary school, to this point where we turn off and walk along the lane alongside the George Starkey Hut towards Side Farm. The building is rather more substantial than a hut and offers self catering accommodation for a limited number of walkers and climbers, it must be popular since a notice in one of the windows advised pre-booking was essential.
The farm road crosses a little wooden bridge over Goldrill Beck which is flowing lazily down to Ullswater.
A car and a tractor pulling a slurry tank kicked up a puther of dust as they passed by us on the very dry farm road. While waiting for the dust to settle I took a look back, Birks is the fell on the left with the Helvellyn range over on the right. We’ll be seeing a lot more of them as our walk continues.
Over on the other side of the farm road we had this view of Glenridding Dodd with Sheffield PIke rising behind it. Its a beautiful morning but the keen easterly wind is pegging the temperature back so we keep our jackets on for the time being.
The farm track deposits us in the farm yard and we thread our way through past the shop, the farm buildings and the holiday cottages and finally out onto this path. The path, recently incorporated into the newly created Ullswater Way, is a very pleasant walk in its own right and offers some lovely views of the fells around Ullswater.
Not too far along from Side Farm we reach the point at which we turn off up this grassy path. This will lead us up to a higher path which runs parallel with this one.
The view across Ullswater from the path junction where one of the Ullswater steamers is waiting beside the Glenridding jetty ready to begin its day’s sailing. Glenridding village still isn’t fully repaired following the 2015 floods but as we drove through I did notice that Jenkins Field, the flat light green patch just to the left of where the steamer is moored, is now clear of all the boulders, rocks and stones which had been put there temporarily while the diggers cleared it all from the beck and the village. It looked to have been re-seeded so by the summer the village will have its field back again.
A look behind us at Arnison Crag, Birks and Saint Sunday Crag as we cross over the grassy path and leave the lower path behind. As we passed though the dead bracken I noticed that this year’s growth was starting to push through, a dismal sign which lets you know that before too long the damned stuff will be shoulder high and that, even if you are lucky enough to be able to find the path you want amongst it all to begin with, you will spend much of your time fighting your way through it and becoming more and more irritated as a result. If you’re not careful bracken can ruin what would otherwise be an enjoyable walk.
I know it doesn’t change much as we go along but on such a lovely morning with such a fabulous view it was hard to ignore and we just kept turning round to take it all in. On the skyline is the Helvellyn range culminating in Birkhouse Moor on the right with the tree covered slopes of Keldas below.
We’ve reached the upper path now which is as good an excuse as any for taking another look back, not that any excuse is needed when the scenery is as good as this.
Just a short way along the upper path we reach another junction where, once again, we turn off to the right and follow the grassy path towards the juniper covered crags. We are now sheltered from the wind by the bulk of Place Fell so its time to remove a layer and stow the jackets in our packs, even more so now that we are in full sun and climbing up there will no doubt be very warm work. Just below the outcrop on the left of the shot was a group of youngsters taking part in an Outward Bound trip, every one of them carrying such an enormous backpack that I began to wonder just how they would manage the walk up there.
The wide grassy path eventually turns into quite a narrow footpath so its single file only along here. The higher path we left a short while ago can be seen towards the lower left of the shot where it is leading towards the juniper covered slopes of Silver Crag, the small hill on the left.
Much higher and the path begins to meander through the juniper bushes from where we can hear the chatter of the Outward Bound group as they gather their packs and get ready to start their climbing.
The view to our left as we thread our way through the juniper, gullies and rocks. It becomes a little steeper through here but there’s nothing fearsome to worry about and its an enjoyable section of the walk.
The path becomes stony as it winds its way up through the crags, nice and dry today thanks to the lack of rain just lately so no worries about slipping and sliding on them. The two parallel paths below us can now be seen, the wider light coloured lower one is alongside the trees, while the narrow and paler one runs through the dead brown bracken higher up the slope above the trees, with both of them eventually merging into one path at Silver Point.
The path brings us out to this shallow basin with the crag of Hare Shaw just out of shot on the right. A small but significant milestone had been achieved by the time we reached this point because the injured leg had managed to walk and climb up to here without the use of walking poles. The occasion was duly marked by cracking open a Mars Bar and stopping for a short break before we had to put our heads above the parapet and face walking in the wind once again.
Before we headed over to the summit of Place Fell we took a slight detour across to Birk Fell. Over on the right is Bleaberry Knott, the high point of Birk Fell, and had it not been so very windy we might have taken a walk up to the top of it. As it was, to take the shot, I had to lean against a large lump of rock to steady myself against the wind which was raging in from the right hand side, and not wanting to spend more time in it than was absolutely necessary we abandoned all thoughts of going up to the top.
Looking the other way towards the summit of Place Fell. Its clear that there isn’t a lot of shelter across here so the walk across this exposed section was very arduous. On the plus side this normally wet and boggy area was almost bone dry so at least we didn’t have to indulge in wearisome bog-hopping as well, which made the walk across a little less fraught.
Looking back at the route across from Birk Fell having achieved some slight relief from the wind kindly provided by the slightly higher ground on the right of the shot.
Apart from a steep grassy hill here wasn’t a great deal to see in front of us for the time being so I took another look back to see Blencathra and the some of the northern fells on the distant skyline, with a tiny section of Ullswater thrown in for good measure. Given the strength of the wind we opted to stay on the slightly lower path on the leeward side rather take the one which goes across the higher ground.
A couple of tarns below hint at a normally soggy area, they still held some water but a third one, out of shot to the left, was completely dry. On the skyline we have a better view of Blencathra and its neighbouring fells.
I braved the wind and nipped up onto the higher ground to this second waymarker cairn, hoping to stand on the outcrop to take a shot looking back at the feature known as The Knight. There is no photo of The Knight, need I say more?
Its not too far from the cairn to the trig column on Place Fell summit but I wasn’t going to venture any nearer to it because the wind was absolutely ferocious up here, even sitting down to take the photo was difficult with the wind blowing straight at me and making it difficult to hold the camera steady. We crouched down and practically crawled across to sit below the rocks over on the right and get our breath back. While we there, with the rocks at our backs providing some blissful shelter, we decided to stop for a while, have something to eat and drink, enjoy the view of Glenridding and the fells beyond, and generally brace ourselves for the walk back down.
After our break we inched our way further around the rocks but neither of us were prepared to go any closer to the trig column, and neither were any of the other walkers up here. The gale force winds were coming straight across from the Pennines over yonder in the east with very little in between to impede their progress.
I think the state of my hair says all that needs to be said about just how windy it was up here.
Well, its time to stand upright and start the descent knowing full well that we will be blown sideways for most of it. The walking poles are made ready, jacket hoods are on and pulled tight and so down we go. I would have liked to have taken a shot of the larger, and almost dried out, tarn behind us just below the trig point but it was just too much of a battle to even contemplate going across to it. I was quite surprised to see that these tarns still held water, maybe they are just a little deeper than the larger one.
A look back at the summit as we fight our way across, it was just impossible to walk in straight line over here.
Even down in the valley the surface of Brothers Water is churned up by the strength of the wind so you may be able to imagine what it was like up here. I’m beginning to feel somewhat punch drunk thanks to the continuous slapping of my hood against the side of my face.
How this shot of the far eastern fells came out unblurred I have no idea because as I took it I just couldn’t hold the camera steady and all I could see on it was some shaky green fuzz! A horrendous gust of wind, which must have been well in excess of 50 mph arrived just as I was putting the camera back in its case and my hood was whipped clean off my head. It was impossible to stand so all we could do was crouch down and wait until the gust subsided before we could carry on any further. Even when it did I had to crawl across to the path by doing what I can only describe as a crab walk.
Looking down Steel Edge to Boredale Hause. Coming towards us was a family of four, two of whom were very small children, so when they approached us we felt obliged to suggest that they hold on tightly to the little ones as they climbed. I wouldn’t normally offer advice unless asked but I felt quite worried for the safety of the children, I hope they managed to understand what I was saying since, from their accents, they seemed to be foreign visitors with only a few words of English. A situation not helped by the fact that the wind was whipping my words away almost as soon as I uttered them.
After what seemed like an eternity our loss of height brought a degree of protection from the wind and I was able to stand without fear of being blown off my feet. On the centre skyline straight across from me is High Street and I imagine walking in the wind across there today would have been even more hazardous than it was up here since, beyond it to the east, there’s nothing much to slow down the wind between it and the Pennines.
The view from Round How as we continue our descent.
Continuing down the pitched path having just stopped to have a chat with a party of four who were taking a break in the shelter of a small gully just a little way behind us. The two ladies in the group had decided they were going no further but the two men were intent on making it to the summit as they hadn’t been up there before. Once again we mentioned the ferocity of the wind and having thanked us for the warning off they went. The two ladies eventually began making their way down behind us.
Safely back down and making for the derelict structure alongside the path where, at last, we were able to catch our breath, remove our jackets and generally sort ourselves out. While we were there the two ladies caught up with us and continued on to Boredale Hause, while I wondered how their menfolk were getting on behind us.
Back down at Boredale Hause where we took a short break just to enjoy the sunshine and the absence of any wind. The ruined building is named on the route map as Chapel in the Hause, which always intrigues me. Apparently it was once a chapel in medieaval times and was built here so that those living in the valleys on either side would have a place of worship. Anyone wanting to come to the chapel would have to climb a good distance up from either Patterdale or Martindale to attend any services held in it which says something about the strength of their religious beliefs, tenacity and stoicism.
From Boredale Hause we begin to make our way back down to Patterdale via the path to the ittle hamlet of Rooking. The other path in the shot returns to Patterdale across the slopes of Angletarn Pikes and brings you out onto the valley road at Bridgend.
Turning onto the path to Rooking hamlet, the little collection of houses at the bottom of the path between this point and the wide and white Side Farm road which is going across the centre of the picture.
Along here we encountered another group of heavily laden Outward Bound youngsters toiling their way up, all of them sweating heavily since here there was no wind and the sun was blazing down on them all the way. The two men who had continued on up to Place Fell summit also came along behind us and one of them said to us “You really weren’t kidding about the wind were you, we’ve never been in such a strong wind as that before.” They had reached the trig point but hadn’t lingered as they were very worried that they were about to be blown over.
Side Farm below us as we cut through the disused quarry area above it heading for the path alongside it which we started out on.
Back on the farm road and I took a look back at Place Fell, Side Farm and the disused quarry just to the right of it. The wind was still blowing strongly through the valley but it was nowhere near as bad as it was up on the summit, so the walk back from the farm to the car was very pleasant in comparison. At just under six miles we haven’t had a very long walk today but we feel as battered and pummelled as if we’d done twice that distance and I think we’ve earned that cup of tea we’ve promised ourselves when we get back home.