Exploring Gowbarrow Fell

Walk date – 30th January 2022

Distance – 3.3 miles

Weather – Brief sunny start then very overcast, cool and windy


After a very windy week and a very stormy Saturday we had a lovely start to Sunday morning, blue skies, bright sun and little wind, but it had been rapidly replaced by thick cloud by the time we reached the parking area in the old quarry. Strong winds were again forecast for the higher tops hence our decision to head for Gowbarrow where the likelihood of being blown sideways was likely to be much less. This low fell attracted a good number of walkers today, probably for that very reason. Unfortunately the sunny start to the day didn’t last and, as the photos show, the surrounding  views from Gowbarrow were severely limited by the very low light and heavy cloud.



Quarry car park – High Cascades bridge – wall path to summit – Green Hill path southbound – nameless top at 464 metres – Green Hill path northbound to path junction – descent westward on well used path  (unmarked on OS maps) – path beside the wall – High Cascades bridge – quarry car park

Arriving at the High Cascades bridge spanning Aira Beck after the short walk down from the car park. Just a handful of cars were parked there, one of which departed as we were getting ready, although the little lay-by opposite was full, which is understandable because there’s no parking charge there. Why? Probably because the National Trust doesn’t own the A5091.

Aira Beck. Usually the rocks and the bridge are crowded with people but its quiet and deserted today.

Clear of the wooded area now and out onto the open fellside with a view of Parkgate farm and Watermillock Common just behind it.

The view northwards towards Dockray and Matterdale as we approach the turn off for the path alongside the wall. The sunny morning has completely disappeared and the heavy cloud has taken charge of the weather.

Path reconstruction is still in progress. Our last visit was in November 2021 so we were interested in seeing how the work had progressed in the meantime. There’s still a lot left to do and so the walk up here is very messy in many places with lots of bare earth, now very muddy, bags of stones and lots of loose ones lying around. Its more like an obstacle course than a path at the moment.

A glimpse of sun over Parkgate farm, quick, take a shot before it disappears!

A top down view of the obstacle course. A group of walkers below us pause for a breather before getting to grips with the jumble of stones. Hopefully it will all be OK when its finished.

The view back down as we reach the well established path at the top of the climb. The little hamlet of Dockray is tucked away in the clump of trees to the right of Parkgate farm. Stybarrow Dodd, Watermillock Common and Great Dodd fill most of the skyline.

Before taking to the path to the summit we paused and took a look around, it wasn’t encouraging. Birks and Saint Sunday Crag are just visible, as are Birkhouse Moor and Glenridding Dodd. Everything else is lost in cloud.

Beyond Dockray low cloud is covering Blencathra while Clough Head, over on the left, remains clear.

Sheffield Pike and Watermillock Common are clear enough too but nothing much to see beyond them.

No sparkle on Silver Point and Ullswater today and Birks, Saint Sunday Crag and Glenridding Dodd remain fuzzy shapes in the mist.

Looking back from the path when a few seconds of sunlight appeared over us and the Dodds. We can already see quite a lot of people on the summit of Gowbarrow and we have several walkers ahead of us, gonna be busy up there then.

On the summit where I took a few shots and waited until the rush died down. Great Mell Fell takes up most of the shot with Souther Fell and Carrock Fell over on the left …..

….. looking south at the Green Hill route we’ll take shortly …..

….. and the view eastwards across Gowbarrow towards Ullswater and beyond.

A gap in the traffic occurs so J does his posing duties with Little Mell Fell in the distance …..

….. and again this time with Great Mell Fell.

The brief sunny spell we’ve just had has moved across to Great Meldrum and Little Mell Fell and that was the last we saw of the sunshine for the rest of the walk.

It was a bit draughty on the top and more walkers kept arriving so we didn’t hang around for much longer. Once off the top we had a brief pause to have a drink and then got under way again. Here’s a look back at the summit from the Green Hill path.

Looking at the route ahead from the southbound path. I had to wait a few minutes just beyond this point when J asked me where my gloves were and I immediately remembered I had taken them off when we had paused for a drink. He went back to look for them and returned, triumphantly waving them above his head, about five minutes later. Fortunately we had stepped away from the path to sit on some rocks while we had our drinks so they were still on the rocks just where I had left them. Towards the bottom right of the shot, just above the bank of heather in the foreground, is the path we will take to begin the descent. Looking ahead at the weather coming towards us we decided to head for the nameless bump at 464 metres, over on the right, and then return to the path in the dip below to make our way back down.

Things aren’t looking any brighter around Ullswater …..

….. or over Place Fell and its neighbours.

From Hill 464, as we named it, the view across Ullswater towards Arthur’s Pike and Heughscar Hill …..

….. and then across to Airy Crag, the summit of Gowbarrow. From here we retraced our steps and headed for the path in the dip between Airy Crag and Hill 464. The path on the right of the shot is the one we used to descend from the summit.

When we reached the path junction in the dip we turned off to the left and followed the well trodden path through the various humps and bumps on Gowbarrow. Just before we turned off we could see a solo walker coming towards us on the path down from the summit who looked to be heading in the direction of Green Hill. We took to the path in the dip and carried on with the descent. A little further along J took a jolt to an ankle when a clump of grass gave way under his foot, so we stopped for a few seconds until it felt OK again. During those few seconds the solo walker we had just seen on the path appeared and passed by us and we exchanged the usual greetings. The walker remained a few yards in front of us as we carried on and on coming to a path junction she turned right and followed the steep path which obviously would take her back to to the summit she had only left just a short time ago. We turned left and followed the path downwards until we eventually came to the spot from which the above shot was taken. The sheep had been having a bit of peace and quiet until we turned up. There is a path below us in the shot but the one we were following is behind us as you look at the photo. Shot taken we went back to the path and continued with the descent.

Moody views along Ullswater from the descent path.

Looking across to Airy Crag from the descent path and wondering why the solo walker had decided to take the path leading back up there.

Further along the descent path and the wall and the path beside it come into view. In the top right a solo walker comes into view and it looks like the same person we saw earlier.

This is a much quieter route than the wall path, its a very pleasant one too as it winds its grassy way between Gowbarrow’s various humps and bumps. Low cloud is still hanging over Blencathra …..

…..  but for the moment things look a little less gloomy over Watermillock Common and Sheffield Pike.

J pauses while I take a shot to illustrate where this path joins the one alongside the wall, which is just below the final steepish part of the climb where the outcrops are. As the two paths joined we could see that the solo walker we noticed in the photo two shots back was indeed the same one who had followed us along the path in the dip below Airy Crag and then followed the path back up to it again.

More cloud drifts around Ullswater’s fells as we make our way down the obstacle course that is the partially reconstructed path. For much of the way down to the gate I didn’t use it and preferred to use what remains of the previous path which was much closer to the wall and much less troublesome.

Back on the path across the open fellside now and heading for the woodland above Aira Beck. The solo walker passed by us as I took the shot and remained just ahead of us as we made our way back to the bridge.

On crossing the bridge the solo walker settled down on the rocks just below it at the far end and we could see a map being unfolded and then studied, possibly to try and identify which path we had used. Gowbarrow Fell, like so many others, is criss-crossed with lots of well trodden paths but unfortunately most of them are not marked on the OS map. As we walked back up the hill to the quarry we felt the first few spots of rain. Ah well, we’ve had two hours worth of fresh air and exercise in dry weather so at least we got some benefit out of a very gloomy day.