Walk date – 4th June 2022
Distance – 5.7 miles
Weather – sunny with fair weather cloud, a cool and blustery east wind at height
The views of Fellbarrow and Low Fell which we saw on our last walk prompted us to repeat the same journey westward today, albeit to different start point, and walk once again over these lovely little fells. Its not a long walk by any means, neither does it include any very high fell tops, but what it does have, in abundance, are some outstanding views from the handful of intermediate tops along the undulating walk from Fellbarrow to Low Fell. This group of fells is entirely self-contained, being separated by Loweswater and the river Cocker from all its near neighbours. To the west the land quietly descends to the coastal plain and to the north the picture is much the same as the land extends away towards Carlisle, so this little self-contained group of fells is very much on the outer edge of the Lake District National Park. Don’t let any of that deter you for, in forsaking the lure of the high fells, your reward is seeing and appreciating the beauty and grandeur of all that surrounds you on this seemingly lowly group of fells. Its a grand little outing, especially on a day like today.
Thackthwaite lay-by – Public footpath from Thackthwaite Farm – Fellbarrow – Smithy Fell – Sourfoot Fell – Watching Crag – Low Fell – Old quarry road – Thackthwaite lay-by
Walking back up into the village from the deserted lay-by to find a new sign welcoming us to Thackthwaite. Maybe not new as in just placed there a few days ago, but we didn’t notice it on our last visit in 2019, and it would be hard to miss it, so it must have been installed sometime during the intervening years. We continued up the hill, turned right at Thackthwaite Farm where a wooden signpost indicates the footpath to Low Fell. To begin with the rough path leads uphill through a patch of woodland. The path through the wood, full of midges today, doesn’t last very long and we were soon back in the sunshine and crossing the open field.
The Low Fell ridge from the field crossing. The high point towards the centre of the shot is the appropriately named Watching Crag, its a high and airy spot to watch anything going on below and more than a little breezy up there today. We were troubled by nothing more than a slight breeze behind us as we crossed the field.
As we crossed the field we had this lovely view of the High Stile ridge and Mellbreak over on our left. Its a beautiful sunny morning and, so far, not a geoengineering (a.k.a. chemtrail) plane can be seen, anywhere. Have they run out of fuel or chemicals or is there something going on behind the scenes.?
The old dilapidated gate has been replaced since our last visit, when it almost fell to pieces as I opened it, so emergency repairs were not needed today. From the gate we continue on up the hill to …..
….. another gate which leads onto this old quarry road overlooking the lovely Lorton Vale. This rises gently up the slope eventually curving around the end of the Watching Crag section and continuing uphill via a few hairpin bends or zig-zags, however you prefer to describe them.
Looking back at the view from the old iron gateposts where Crummock Water is just in view.
As the quarry road began to rise and curve around the end of the fell we left it to follow the path over to the ridge line leading up to Fellbarrow, The path is a little indistinct to begin with but eventually becomes more established as it goes along. Meregill Beck is just ahead of us in the dip in the fellside. A flock of Herdwicks were quietly grazing these lower slopes, they are a very hardy breed and are usually found on the higher upland fells so you rarely see them at lower levels. They weren’t in the least concerned by our presence.
Over to the right of our path is one of the nameless foothills of Whin Fell.
A view back to some of the Grasmoor group of fells from the gently rising path followed by …..
….. a look across to the old quarry path we left a short while ago. We have crossed Meregill Beck now and a more well trodden path has materialised.
As we get closer to the ridge line the path runs nearer to the wall and provides a view of the group of much higher fells across Lorton Vale. Whiteside and Grasmoor being the nearest and thus the most prominent. So far we have seen only one person who was descending down to Thackthwaite using another path some distance away, out of shot on the right.
We’re at the beginning of the climb up to the ridge so before getting started we took a look across to Whin Fell and its summit of Hatteringill Head, we could just make out the cairn over on the extreme left. I noticed that the rusty roll of wire fencing was still in situ beside the stile just as it was in 2019.
There’s a choice of two routes across Fellbarrow, one on either side of the fence. It doesn’t matter which one is followed they both end up at the summit.
Walking up Fellbarrow with a view across Lorton Vale of the Whinlatter group. Starting on the left, and going clockwise, are Kirk Fell (the lesser known one) and just behind it is Graystones, then comes Broom Fell, Lord’s Seat and Whinlatter, all encircling the Aiken Beck valley. The slopes of Swinside rising eventually to Hopegill Head are over on the right and the Skiddaw group takes up the centre skyline. Air quality is a little hazy today.
The trig column on Fellbarrow where Carling Knott, Blake Fell, Burnbank Fell and Owsen Fell are forming the backdrop. The cotton grass is still in bloom and both it and us were being bossed around by the cool and blustery breeze. Would it be even stronger over those tops? Quite possibly.
A closer look at a section of our last walk. Blake Fell is the highest point with Burnbank Fell on the right. We didn’t walk over to Carling Knott, in the shade to the right, on that occasion.
The view over to Watching Crag as we began to descend Fellbarrow. The zig-zags or hairpin bends showing up clearly. That will be our descent route back to Thackthwaite a little later on.
A look back to Fellbarrow after we crossed the fence and began to walk over Smithy Fell. The OS map shows the location of a disused quarry on the south side of the fell so we wondered if there had been a blacksmith’s forge (smithy) there when the quarry was being worked, hence the name Smithy Fell. Maybe, maybe not.
Looking ahead to Sourfoot Fell, probably so named because of the boggy morass at the foot of it. Today’s crossing of it was as soggy and squelchy as it usually is but at least the path avoids the worst of it. Of the two paths visible on its slopes we decided to take the right hand one today and walk across the top just for a change. There is a boundary stone up there but I forgot to take a shot of it when we got there. We met our second person of the day as we dropped down to the bottom, this was a fell runner so we only had a very brief exchange of greetings as he ran past us.
Looking back to Smithy Fell and Fellbarrow from the short, steep climb up Sourfoot. The fell runner disappeared over the crest of Smithy Fell as I was lining up the shot.
The southern end of the Low Fell ridge from the walk across the top of Sourfoot Fell …..
….. and a look ahead towards the Grasmoor group.
Whiteoak Moss, still covered by cotton grass, below Great Borne and flanked by Hen Comb and Gavel Fell. Below them is High Nook Farm. We’re dropping down off Sourfoot now and about to re-join the old quarry path.
The old quarry path is just below us and once through the gate there is just the one path to follow. The fence line continues up Watching Crag so we decided to go up there first. The sheepfold, if that’s what it is, does not appear on the OS map which is strange as they usually do.
Views from Watching Crag: Lorton Vale and the Grasmoor group …..
….. and Crummock Water with its surrounding fells. Very blustery up here but not dangerously so, more annoying than anything else. We dropped down to the little hillock just below us for a look back at …..
….. Watching Crag …..
….. and ahead towards Crummock Water. Despite the protection of the surrounding fells the surface of the water is showing the effects of the lively breeze. We found a sheltered sunny spot and spent a few minutes just enjoying all the fabulous views.
We returned to the main path and continued on towards the summit of Low Fell …..
….. where we lose some of the height only to have to regain it a little further along. It could be thought of as the walking equivalent of a roller-coaster ride with lots of ups and downs although you do get a lot more time to view the scenery.
About halfway up the fellside, just as the gradient becomes somewhat steeper, a stile is waiting to be crossed. The two planks forming the steps of the stile are quite close together so you don’t gain much height as you step from one up to the other. Negotiating the top bar might therefore be a little awkward for anyone with an inside leg measurement less than a certain length. That’s a polite way of saying you might do yourself a mischief in your nether regions if your legs aren’t long enough to clear the top bar.
At the top of the climb from the stile and a look back along the ridge. Two walkers on the path below are heading this way so that’s only four people we’ve seen so far. Where is everybody on such a lovely day?
A few more minutes and then we reach the summit cairn on Low Fell. There are excellent views all around but there is an even better viewpoint just a short distance away so …..
….. that’s where we are off to next. Beyond the gate and coming up from the right were another three walkers, who were ascending from the Loweswater side of the fell, faces flushed pink from walking directly into the sun and, probably, the effort they were putting in. We passed through the gate and kept to the path beyond heading for the southernmost point at the end of the fell. The single layered windproofs went back on while we were on Watching Crag where the breeze turned cooler and livelier.
This is a lofty viewpoint with nothing to interrupt the splendid views. Here’s a long shot looking along Crummock Water, followed by …..
….. a zoom in on the water and Rannerdale Knotts in particular. We kept seeing lots of car windscreens glinting in the sunlight as cars made their way around Hause Point and along the shoreline road. Its getting on for noon now so if the drivers were looking for parking places they might well have been disappointed today.
To the right is this view of Whiteoak Moss again and its surrounding fells and …..
….. a little further to the right just a portion of Loweswater is on view.
The viewpoint and the view from it. The blustery breeze became bossy again so we found a sheltered spot, just off to the right, and had a short refreshment break. We didn’t really need a break but any excuse will do to just stop for a few minutes and enjoy all that nature had to offer on such a lovely day. Here’s a couple of shots from our sheltered spot …..
….. looking across the head of Loweswater towards Great Borne …..
….. our view of the viewpoint …..
….. with a zoom in on the same view. We spent about ten minutes sitting in the sunshine and marvelling at everything around us. As usual there is always a reluctance to leave but leave we must and so we begin to retrace our steps back to the summit cairn.
Another glimpse of Loweswater along the way back over.
The view across to Darling Fell rising above Crabtree Beck. How good to be able to see the sea beyond it too, even if it is a little hazy.
Returning to the gate with another pair of walkers crossing over below us, perhaps heading for Darling Fell.
Two of the big ‘uns, Whiteside and Grasmoor, across Lorton Vale.
Back at the summit cairn and looking ahead at our route back.
Almost back at the stile now. Two walkers on the slope beyond taking a break and rummaging in rucksacks. Getting the lunch boxes out perhaps?
All of a sudden the path got busier. Two walkers heading in the same direction as us, the other four making their way towards us. The two walkers walking up the slope disappeared from view and we didn’t see them again. Did they take the Sourfoot Fell path and headed over to Fellbarrow we wondered?
Back at the gate where the path splits, so its straight ahead on the old quarry road for us. No sign at all of the two walkers ahead of us as we walked down the quarry road so they probably did go left at the gate and went out of sight around the slopes of Sourfoot Fell.
Smithy Fell and Fellbarrow as we take to the old quarry road. We were sheltered from the breeze by the slopes of Watching Crag so had a very sunny and breeze free walk back down. Its a lovely afternoon now.
Two gates, but there hasn’t been a fence for a long time. Both gates still in working order albeit somewhat weatherbeaten. I’m glad they haven’t been taken down even though they are no longer necessary, walkers generally like to see these old landmarks along the way.
A good clear skyline on the fell tops across Lorton Vale. All easily recognisable so I won’t bother to list them all. Just around the next bend we met another chap walking up who said it was too nice a day to sit watching the Queen on tv. From the Liverpool area judging by his accent. Sunny days are too few and far between to stay indoors and watch television so we didn’t disagree with his sentiments.
Crummock Water comes back into view as we round the last bend in the old quarry road. The water looks as though its about to slosh over the lower slopes of Mellbreak so obviously I didn’t check the horizontal line carefully enough.
Everything is looking very green and lush as we reach the field path once again and make our way back down to Thackthwaite.
Back in Thackthwaite as we reach the end of the woodland path and not as many midges through there as there were when we started out.
A left turn onto the lane at the end of the path and then there’s just a short walk down the hill back to the car. Thackthwaite was very quiet, as usual, and we often wonder if anyone actually lives there on a permanent basis because we’ve never seen anyone around. Perhaps its only a collection of holiday lets now. A family of three, Mum, Dad and son, were about to set out for a walk up Low Fell and asked us for directions from the lay-by as well as asking us about our walk, so of course we spent a few minutes having a chat with them before starting the drive back. This is a most enjoyable walk, especially on such a good weather day, plenty of interest, lots of up and downs, and simply wonderful views. Most enjoyable of all was the complete absence of aeroplanes, criss-crossing the sky and spewing their chemical payload everywhere, every day should be free of them.