Arnison Crag and Birks

Walk Date – 15th February 2016

Distance – 3.25 miles

Weather – dry, sunny, very cold north wind


The spell of dry weather is still with us so we are making the most of the forecasted sunny day and taking a walk up to Arnison Crag and then over to Birks. Its not a long walk but it has plenty of variety and just enough height to get us above the  current snow line.


The path starts just to the left of the photo from the car park which belongs to The White Lion pub across the road there.

The path starts easily enough and passes alongside this marshy area known as Mill Moss.

After clambering over some icy rocky outcrops the path leads us towards a wall, which is hidden at the moment but its close by those trees. At the wall there is a choice of routes, going straight on through the gate will take you on into Glenamara Park, while turning left and not going through the gate will lead up to Arnison Crag. For the first time in months we have dry, solid ground beneath our feet, no mud or water to wade through, I’d quite fogotten what that felt like.

We didn’t go through the gate but turned left and began the climb up. All you have to do is follow the wall so navigation is easy, the difficult bit arises from the steepness of the path. AW gives the distance from the start point to the summit as three quarters of a mile with 1000 feet of ascent and my leg muscles have never found any reason to disagree with his calculations. Its a grassy path too so the sheep eat it down to ground level, and today it was icy thanks to last night’s snow flurry followed by a very hard frost. It was a bit like trying to walk up a sloping skating rink.

A look down at another particularly steep section alongside Oxford Crag, the longer grass alongside the wall gave a better foothold and the fence came in handy as a bannister. There are good views of Ullswater while you wait for your leg muscles to stop complaining.

Across the valley are Birkhouse Moor, on the left, and Sheffield Pike, on the right. The sunlit area in front of them is known as Glenamara Park, although its not the sort of park which has swings, slides, putting greens and a bandstand.

The gradient eases just a little beyond Oxford Crag and I’m still using the long grass and dead bracken rather than the icy path.

Between Ullswater and St Patrick’s Church below us is evidence of the debris left behind after the recent floods, and heavy machinery was thumping and clanking continuously in Glenridding over to the left, where huge amounts of stone and gravel were dumped by the flood waters.

Place Fell and Ullswater from Arnison Crag. This is the generally accepted summit although it isn’t quite the highest point. That is a little further along the ridge but its simply a grassy dome and not as interesting as this rocky platform, which needs only a little bit of a scramble to get to.

Yes, its a lovely sunny day but there was a very cold north wind on the summit and I had no idea what I was looking at since my eyes were streaming with water. Seconds after wiping it away it would be back again, just as bad as before.

Gavel Pike, the eastern shoulder of Saint Sunday Crag in the centre, and Birks to the right, from Arnison Crag.

Directly across from us is Birks which is where we’ll be heading for next.

The view to the south west  from Arnison Crag. Over on the left is Red Screes just sticking out above the long ridge of Hartsop above How. Also on view behind that ridge is Dove Crag, in the centre, then Hart Crag and a bit of Fairfield, with Gavel Pike and Saint Sunday Crag over on the extreme right.

Looking eastwards and the most dominant fell is Place Fell.

Looking south eastwards across Patterdale, the two tops of Angletarn Pikes on the left and the knobbly top of Brock Crags to the right of them. Gray Crag is over on the extreme right with High Street behind it.

On the skyline is the east ridge of Saint Sunday Crag, whose summit is way over on the right.

A bank of cloud obligingly moved in front of the sun so I could take a due south shot of the ridge of Hartsop above How.

While I had some cloud cover I took a closer shot of Dove Crag, Hart Crag and part of Fairfield on the lower end of the skyline.

We’re just about frozen solid after standing around for a few minutes taking in the views so we begin heading down off Arnison Crag summit.

Below us is the path which will lead us over towards Birks. Not a lot of folk about up here today, they’re probably snuggling up to a nice warm radiator, not everybody is as daft as us.

A view along Patterdale towards Hartsop village. The village is tucked away round the corner behind the lower slope of Brock Crags.

Passing below the rocky top of Arnison Crag, its much more interesting than the grassy domed highest point.

Looking back at Arnison Crag, with Angletarn Pikes over on the right, as we make our way over to Trough Head.

Place Fell on the skyline, with Arnison Crag just below it. Easy walking along here and the wind was behind us for the most part.

Making our way towards the lower slopes of Birks.

Some of the eastern and far eastern fells on view over to our left, Gray Crag is in the centre with High Street behind it, Hartsop Dodd is to the right of it and Caudale Moor, which is over on the extreme right of the skyline.

In the centre, Brock Crags, Angletarn Pikes to the left of it, and to the right of it, Gray Crag. The snow covered far eastern fells beyond them.

The winner of today’s most unusual cloud competition.

Fantastic cloud formation beyond Saint Sunday Crag. There were lots of unusual cloud shapes today but I thought this one was one of the more extraordinary ones.

The north wind may be perishingly cold but it does bring clear air with it. The clear cold air brings out the detail on the fells.

Knowing that there would be little by way of shelter from the cold wind on top of Birks we decided to get out the hot soup on the sunny slopes of Cold Cove, just below the col between Birks and Saint Sunday Crag. Here we were out of the cold wind and enjoying some very warm sunshine, courtesy of some convenient flat topped rocks. We had some good views to go with the soup and on the skyline are some of the snow covered far eastern fells. The next photo shows a view just a little to the right of this one.

Coldcove Gill to the bottom right of the shot.

Fortified by the hot soup we begin to make our way up to the col between Saint Sunday Crag and Birks. Our view is of the north east ridge of Saint Sunday Crag, the summit is over towards the left just in front of that bit of wispy cloud behind the skyline. It doesn’t look it but the snow was about a foot deep over here and hiding fat clumps of tussocky grass so it was  tough going for a while. In places the frozen crust would hold but in other places it didn’t and down you’d sink onto a tussocky clump, you definitely need the walking poles to keep your balance on this sort of stuff.

From the col, a view of Catstycam over on the right with the summit of Helvellyn just above the shaded V over on the left. The long ridge of Striding Edge running across the middle of the shot.

As we turn up towards Birks summit I take a look back at Saint Sunday Crag’s north east ridge on the left and part of the Helvellyn range on the right. Just before we reached this point we met a couple who had been trying to walk up the ridge path but had to abandon it because it was too icy and they didn’t have any spikes with them.

Heading across the top of Birks towards the summit, which is in the centre of the picture. Firm, crunchy snow under our feet now as the route has been well trodden, so the going is good.

The broad top of Birks with Place Fell just showing behind it.

Approaching the summit of Birks with Ullswater beginning to appear again.

A look back at Saint Sunday Crag and the Helvellyn range as we make our way across Birks.

The two of us on a very cold and windy Birks summit.

A look back as we start to descend from Birks.

A lovely view of Ullswater as we make our way towards Thornhow End.

Sheffield PIke on the left and Glenridding Dodd, with the two rows of cottages below it, just to the right of it.

Me and my shadow looking towards Place Fell. The camera went back in its case at this point as we are about to walk down to that lighter brown area towards the bottom left of the picture. That’s where the path down Thornhow End begins and its steep so you need to concentrate on getting down safely rather than fiddling around with a camera.

Safely down, so I take a look back at Thornhow End, our route down from Birks. I think its clear why you need to concentrate.

At the end of the path down Birks we take a right turn along this path through Glenamara Park with a view of Arnison Crag ahead of us.

A little further along the path and we have a view of the whole of Arnison Crag.

Crossing Hagg Beck, where a lot of stone debris has been deposited during the recent floods.

Looking back at the Hagg Beck crossing.

A view of Ullswater from the walk back through Glenamara Park and it was a whole lot warmer down here out of the wind.

Silver Birches glowing in the sunlight as we reach the end of the path. Its only a short walk from the gate back to the car park so today’s short, but very enjoyable, walk comes to an end.