A short walk on sunny Steel Knotts

Walk Date – 14th January 2017

Distance – 2.25 miles

Weather – dry and sunny with a northerly breeze on the summit


As most of you will know we had a very bad start to the new year and as the other one of us is at home nursing his injuries I am out on my own today, and this is likely to be the situation for some time. The day began pretty much like all the others have just lately with dull grey cloud everywhere you looked. By the time the patient was washed, dressed and breakfasted though things were very different, the cloud had vanished and the sun was beaming brightly from a clear, blue sky. The patient was equipped with all that might be needed for the morning so the nursing duties were put on hold while the nurse took a couple of hours off and drove over to Howtown to take a short walk up Steel Knotts. I parked at the bottom of the road because, although the narrow road looked ice free, I didn’t want to push my luck and find myself in difficulties somewhere along the zig-zag section. The possibility of meeting another car coming down is always there and having to deal with all that that entails on a steep, narrow and icy winding road isn’t something you look forward to dealing with.  Besides which its only a short, although steepish, walk up through the heathery paths to the Hause at the top which is where I wanted to get to.



02 Looking back across the zig-zags

A look back just a few minutes after setting off from where I had parked. Mine is the red car behind the two dark ones in the centre of the shot.

03 Ullswater from higher up the zig-zags

Further up and the view of Ullswater begins to open up. Below me is the path which takes you all the way around the slopes of Hallin Fell. Its a lovely little walk which is full of interest and one I could have chosen today, but it has been quite a while since I set foot on a fell so I opted for Steel Knotts instead. Its only a thirty minute drive from home to Howtown and the walk up to the summit is very simple and straightforward, so it was just the ticket for a couple of hours.

04 Place Fell on the left skyline from The Hause

Up at the Hause and I’m standing on the lower slopes of Hallin Fell looking westward. Just behind the houses is Beda Fell and behind it, on the left of the skyline, is Place Fell. The recent fall of snow has only resulted in a light layer at lower levels and it doesn’t seem to be much heavier up on the higher fells.

05 Beda Fell from the same spot

From the same spot I moved the camera a little to my left for this view of Beda Fell. The road below is the one I have just walked up beside and its now going downhill and on towards Sandwick where it comes to an end.

06 St Peter's, Martindale

I crossed back over the road to St Peter’s Church, where only two cars were parked out of shot on the right. The wooden signpost is pointing to the route I’m about to take.

07 High Dodd on the centre skyline

From the church I turned around for another shot across the valley and Beda Fell. The high point on the centre skyline is High Dodd, one of the subsidiary tops of Place Fell.

08 Lanty Tarn with Beda Fell behind it

I made my way through the shade up to a partially frozen Lanty Tarn with a view of Beda Fell …..

09 Lanty Tarn with Bonscale Pike behind it

….. and, looking the other way from the same spot, a sunny view of Bonscale Pike. Although I’m in the shade and it looks quite chilly it really wasn’t as cold as it might appear.

10 Hallin Fell

From the tarn I made my way up alongside the wall into the sunshine and get a grand view of Hallin Fell. There isn’t a sound to be heard or any movement to be seen anywhere at the moment, and I was surprised there weren’t more people around on such a sunny Saturday. Still, I’m not complaining as its nice to have the place to myself.

11 Gowbarrow behind a little bit of Ullswater

Slightly to the left of the previous shot and there’s a view of Gowbarrow Fell on the far shore of Ullswater. In the middle foreground you can just see the road heading up towards Sandwick.

12 Green fields in Martindale below

I moved to a higher path, as the lower one was very soft and muddy, but it was no better underfoot. Both had been well churned up by walkers, and as we didn’t have a deep frost last night, and now the sun is blazing down on this side of the fell, conditions were what you might call ‘trying’! You can see that the paths traverse across the side of the fell and rise only gently, so its not an arduous climb, but the soft and thawing ground seemed hell bent on hanging onto every step of my boots and only reluctantly letting go with a deep slurp as I tugged each foot out.    

13 Martindale and Beda Fell with a snowy Place Fell behind them

With the ground still tugging at my boots I plod my way across the fellside with Beda Fell and the green fields of Martindale for company. I’m now in full sunshine and there’s no wind so the jacket is unzipped and so is the fleece beneath it, my gloves have been stowed away for quite a while now. What a fabulous day to be out.

14 The view down to St Martin's church

Down below me is the old church of St Martin with its ancient yew to the right of it, and to the left of the church is Winter Crag Farm just below, what else but Winter Crag. You can start a walk up Beda Fell from the farm and the path runs just above the wall which can be seen running diagonally across the fell just above the farm. The path eventually parts company with the wall and continues on up to the little flat col where a bench seat has been conveniently placed so you can sit and get your breath back whilst enjoying the wonderful view from it.

16 Looking down to the head of Martindale

In front of me is the head of Martindale, the valley being brought to an abrupt end by The Nab over to the left.

17 A look back from the wall opening

Just a short way from this wall the path begins to turn up to the col between Steel Knotts and Brownthwaite Crags so I took short pause at the gap in the wall to take a look back …..

18 The Nab at the head of Martindale

….. and a look ahead for a better view of the head of Martindale. The presence of The Nab at its head creates two more valleys, Bannerdale to the right and Rampsgill to the left. This was as far to the left as I could go thanks to the strong and low sunlight.

19 From the col a look across Fusedale to Loadpot Hill and Bonscale Pike

Having reached the col and the wall running along it I perched myself on the steps of the stile to take this shot across Fusedale, the valley on the other side of Steel Knotts, and the view of the fells beyond. …..

20 From the col a look ahead to Steel Knotts on the right

….. and a look ahead to the next section of the route with Steel Knotts over on the right.

21 Lots of cloud to the west but clear blue skies over me

The wall veers away down to the left and I make an awkward clamber over it instead of crossing it sensibly back at the stile. At least there was no one around to witness it and so far I’ve not seen a soul. What I have been seeing from the start of this walk is how cloudy it is to the west of me. I’m glad I’m not over there today or I would have missed all this sun and blue sky.

22 The route to Steel Knotts

Me and my shadow contemplating the route ahead up to Steel Knotts summit. It might look difficult but it really isn’t and twelve minutes after taking this shot I was on the summit. That included the ungainly clamber over the wall, a steady plod across with some stops for photos along the way, so if you really put your mind to it you could be up there in no time at all.

23 Another look across Fusedale as I head towards Steel Knotts

Another look across Fusedale towards Loadpot Hill and Bonscale Pike as I make my way over.

24 Steel Knotts ahead

Steel Knotts straight ahead and the only way is up.

25 A view across Martindale as I wait for the summit hoggers to move

Having seen no one at all since I started this walk I was somewhat surprised, when I reached the breezy top, to find a group of walkers snuggled down into the shelter of the summit rocks and partaking of coffee and snacks. As they looked well settled in I spent a while taking in the views from various vantage points, and this one in particular held my attention. The darkish area of cloud just to the right of centre is over Blencathra with a line of cloud spreading southwards in line with it, so it looks like Clough Head, the Dodds and the Helvellyn range are also having a cloudy time of it today. The cloud may have been covering the fells even further to the west of those but it was impossible to see how far it was having an effect.

26 Lots of cloud still swirling around to the west

Looking due west across Martindale at all the cloud swirling around.

27 Looking back to Brownthwaite Crag and Gowk Hill from Steel Knotts summit

A stray wisp of cloud allowed me the opportunity to take a shot looking south back to Brownthwaite Crags and Gowk Hill. The fells on the skyline eventually lead up to High Raise, Rampsgill Head and on to High Street.

28 Pikeawassa, the summit of Steel Knotts

Finally the summit hoggers pack their stuff away and continue with their walk, so at last I can take this shot of the rocky summit, called Pikeawassa. The breeze was a bit of a nuisance but nothing more, and apart from that it was simply lovely up here today. Sunshine, blue sky, and just enough snow to provide that wintry feel and make it a really enjoyable walk.

29 The view down into Fusedale from Steel Knotts

I wandered over to one of the lower points for this view down into Fusedale with Bonscale Pike at the end of it.

30 The view along upper Fusedale

Looking south again from the summit, this time for the view down into upper Fusedale.

31 Beda Fell with Place Fell on the skyline behind

Looking to the south west and closest to the camera is Bedafell Knott, behind it to the left is Saint Sunday Crag, and to the right is Place Fell which, together with Steel Knotts and me, are enjoying some very warm sunshine.

32 Cloud still boiling up over the fells to the west

Sadly, it would seem that anyone on the fells further to the west would not be enjoying the same warm sunshine or any long distance views.

I’ve had the fell to myself and had the time for a good look around, but my summit time must come to an end so I take a last shot of the summit rocks as I leave to begin my descent.

Looking along Ullswater from a cairn which I think may mark the high point of Birkie Knott, but I can’t be certain of that as I didn’t have the gps with me to check. Note the banks of cloud over the north Pennines on the horizon. This is something which happens occasionally, where banks of cloud build up over the northern pennines, then there will be bright sunshine and clear skies across the Eden Valley and all the way over to Blencathra, where the banks of cloud will begin spreading southwards and westwards once again. Living in the Eden Valley is sometimes like being the sun filling in a cloud sandwich.

Making my way down Birkie Knott, that high bank of cloud is still covering the western side, and plenty of lower cloud still swirling around some of the fell tops.

I zoomed in across Gowbarrow Fell for a close up of the heavy cloud covering much of Blencathra and, it would seem, most of the northern fells beyond it, and I feel really fortunate to be over here in this sunshine enjoying my walk.

37 Ullswater from the descent

A wonderful view along the northern end of Ullswater as I continue to make my way down.

38 One of the Ullswater steamers on its way to Glenridding

Swirling cloud and lots of drama over the skyline, whilst one of the Ullswater steamers chugs its way serenely down to Glenridding, what a great day for a boat trip.

39 Still descending with a view of Hallin Fell

I have a view of Hallin Fell all the way back down to St Peter’s Church but the steep and muddy path still trying my patience.

40 Almost back down to St Peter's church

The church comes into view, and I can now see quite a few people making their way up to the summit of Hallin Fell. I thought about joining them but I just don’t have the time today so I’ll save that as another short walk for a sunny day.

41 More cars in the car park than there were when I set off

Down at the church and there are many more cars parked here, and beside the road, than there were when I started out, and on the other side of the church the road was full of folk getting ready for a stroll up Hallin Fell.

42 My little red car is waiting at the bottom of the Howtown zig-zags

Looking down the Howtown hairpins and almost back where I started. There’s just a short walk across the paths through the heather and my little red car is waiting down below in the centre of the shot, along with quite a few more than there were this morning. So that’s the end of my walk, and although it wasn’t very long and wasn’t very high, it was very enjoyable. It was good to be back, but now I’d better get a move on and go and see how my patient is getting on.