Fellbarrow and Low Fell

Walk date – 24th August 2019

Distance – 5.9 miles

Weather – very warm and sunny, slight southerly breeze, patches of high level cloud

Summer came back again, just in time for the Bank Holiday weekend, and with the forecast predicting some very high temperatures we decided against sweating our way up any of the higher fells today in favour of sweating our way up some of the lower ones instead. Our last visit to Fellbarrow and Low Fell was in 2016 so that was our choice for today. These fells are high enough to offer some good views but not high enough to make the walk feel like an interminable sweaty plod. The route we followed was a familiar one, although we last used it in 2008 when we walked it in the opposite direction visiting Low Fell first and then walking back over to Fellbarrow. Parking in Thackthwaite is limited to a small lay-by a short distance north of the village so we did wonder if we would be lucky enough to find a space by the time we arrived. As it turned out the lay-by was empty when we got there much to our relief. When we returned it was full and the car behind ours had parked so closely that we couldn’t get between it and ours to open the boot, J’s resulting remarks were rough enough to strike a match on!


Thackthwaite – Fellbarrow – Smithy Fell – Sourfoot Fell – Watching Crag – Low Fell – Thackthwaite

A very short walk from the car is the little hamlet of Thackthwaite and here, at Thackthwaite Farm, is where we turn right through the gates to pick up the path for Low Fell. The signpost on the verge also points the way should there be any doubt. It doesn’t seem to be a working farm any more though.

Initially the path, generally running with water as it was today, leads through a patch of woodland which gave some welcome shade as we walked through. The sunlight is being left behind as I take a look back.

The patch of woodland doesn’t last very long and here’s a look back at the gate which marks the end of it. Now we’re back in the sunshine …..

….. and walking up the open field with this view of the Low Fell ridge ahead of us.

The field path isn’t at all steep but its a very warm and sunny morning, especially with the sun on our backs, and we’d barely walked halfway up it when we had to stop to wipe the perspiration from our faces. I took a look across the field towards Mellbreak, on the right, and the High Stile ridge to the left, quite content that we weren’t climbing up there today, the brow mopping would have been even more frequent than it was today.

The sign on the fence diverts us off to the right where the gate beside the tree almost fell apart in my hand when I took hold of the upright to push the gate open. It came clean away from the uppermost horizontal spars but remained attached to the lowest one. I jammed it back together again when I’d passed through but it probably happened all over again when the next unwary walker came along.

Beyond the gate we carried on further up the hill beside a line of trees, which provided some very welcome shade, and from where I took a look across the lovely Lorton Vale. The top of Skiddaw is just visible on the skyline above the Whinlatter fells.

The very short walk beside the trees ends at this handgate where the path begins to curve up and around towards Low Fell. J is already on his way up the grassy track.

A look back from a little further up the path with Crummock Water just coming into view. Its plain to see from the shot that we didn’t have completely clear blue skies today, there was quite a lot of the thin milky kind which both helped and hindered in equal measure today. Helpful for the shade it provided whenever it drifted across the sun, and being a hindrance at the same time as it cast a muted light across the landscape giving photographs a rather subdued appearance.

A look ahead to Fellbarrow on the left, and Hatteringill Head on the right. We left the main path at this point and followed a faint track through the bracken over towards Fellbarrow. Much to my relief the bracken wasn’t up to my shoulders so the walk through wasn’t as unpleasant as it might otherwise have been.

Even with the bracken up we didn’t have any trouble following the faint path and, as this view ahead shows, some parts of the route were completely bracken free. There were some watery patches along the way, especially in the dip just below us, but nothing too serious or messy enough to impede our progress.

The path eventually swings across the fell, nicely avoiding a large swathe of bracken, and leads us alongside a wall topped with a fence. The main path we left a little earlier is now clear to see as it zig-zags it way over the fell side. That will be our return route later on.

Looking back across Lorton Vale for a very indistinct view of the Grasmoor group of fells, Whiteside being nearest the camera with Grasmoor to its right. Difficult to get a better shot at the time, the sun was obscured by the thin cloud and the light became much dimmer.

Hatteringill Head is behind the stile and at this point the wall meets up with a fence and a large roll of rusty fencing. A narrow gap between the fence post and the wall allows walkers to pass through but presumably prevents sheep from doing the same. The way up Fellbarrow goes off to the left and it doesn’t matter on which side of the fence you walk as it goes all the way to the summit, and beyond.

We shimmy round the fence post and the rusty roll of fencing onto the Fellbarrow path …..

….. with a look back down once we’re over the steep initial climb which thankfully is only a short one. More of the Skiddaw group has appeared on the skyline.

The view across Cumbria’s coastal plain where we can just about make out the hazy outline of Criffel, beyond the Solway Firth, in Dumfries and Galloway.

The summit of Fellbarrow comes into view at the stile. Walkers using the path on the other side of the fence are able to cross over using the stile opposite the trig column.

Fellbarrow summit with glimpses of Carling Knott, Blake Fell and Burnbank Fell on the left skyline. We downed packs at the stile for a few minutes while J attacked a Mars Bar, before it gave up the ghost and melted completely, and we both topped up with drinks. As I removed my pack I noticed that the shoulder straps were wet through, and every item of clothing I was wearing was absolutely soaked, with J reporting likewise. As I peeled the wet layers away from my skin I thought that today the walk from Thackthwaite to here must rate as one of the sweatiest one and three quarter miles we’ve ever walked.

Looking toward the Skiddaw group from Fellbarrow’s summit where the cairn has acquired a post since we came in 2016. The stile I mentioned earlier is just to the right of the trig column.

J isn’t waving at me he’s trying to brush away a cloud of flies which suddenly appeared out of nowhere, a zoom in will reveal the annoying horde to the left of him. This was a recurring event today and different gangs of these pesky little beasts kept appearing all the way along the ridge. There was a very slight breeze which was nice for us but its wasn’t strong enough to keep these nuisances away. We moved on swiftly.

We leave the summit and when we were beyond the reach of the flies I stopped to take a look over towards Carling Knott, Blake Fell and Burnbank Fell with the lower slopes being obscured by Darling Fell. Between them is Loweswater which we’ll get a view of a little later in the walk.

We begin to drop down the steep path from Fellbarrow to make our way over to Smithy Fell, following the fence all the way over to …..

….. the stile which we cross to continue on over to Smithy Fell. When we crossed over here in 2016 a metal gate was still attached to the two uprights although the fence attached to them was long gone. The gate has obviously been removed and put to better use.

A closer look at the zig-zag path as we make our way down from Smithy Fell and on to Sourfoot Fell.

Tramping down towards Sourfoot Fell on the slopes of which two paths can be seen. The one to the right is a short steep climb to the top, the one to the left curves around just below the top and carries on towards Low Fell summit. We choose the less sweaty option and take the left hand path.

A look back towards Smithy Fell and Fellbarrow and …..

….. a little further on, from the slopes of Sourfoot Fell, another look back at Smithy Fell, Fellbarrow and Hatteringill Head.

Another cloud of flies swarmed around the gate so I took a look back at it when we were well past them. The path coming over from Fellbarrow meets up with the main zig-zag path at the gate so from hereon there is just the one path over to Low Fell.

A little further on and the summit of Low Fell comes into view, but first …..

….. we make the small diversion over towards Watching Crag and take a look at the views from there.

The Grasmoor group still appear indistinct across the valley …..

….. but there’s a good view of Crummock Water from Watching Crag. The thin veil of cloud makes the surrounding fells look a little dour but Rannerdale Knotts, the low fell on the left, and the High Stile ridge opposite are visible enough. The unmistakeable hump of Great Gable is on the left skyline.

We return to the main path and make our way over to Low Fell …..

….. where another steep, and thankfully short, climb awaits us. There’s a stile to be crossed about halfway up which is a handy point to take a slug of something liquid and prepare your legs for the last bit of the climb.

The view back towards Watching Crag from the stile and then its onwards and upwards.

Over the rise we catch our breath and from where this shot of Whiteside was taken. The cloud has drifted away again allowing a much better shot of the fell looking very colourful in its coating of purple heather. The ridge walk from Whiteside to Hopegill Head is showing up nicely too.

There are still a few more up and downs to deal with but we can now see the summit of Low Fell ahead of us.

Looking back where J is making his way over to join me. The sun blazes down between a couple of cloud patches and once again we enjoy every little bit of breeze which comes our way along here. There’s not much of it but its very welcome when it turns up now and again.

The view back to Fellbarrow from Low Fell summit and, just like life, its a journey full of ups and downs. I muse idly about what our total ascent will have been by the time we are back at the car. I could have worked it out but I’m not interested enough to make the effort.

Looking across Darling Fell towards the coast from the cairn on Low Fell before …..

….. we carry on across a few more up and downs making for the very end of the fell.

Another look at Crummock Water along the way where things haven’t changed very much thanks to the cloud cover. A bit of blue over the water would have been nice to brighten up the view a little.

Not a lot further to go now before we reach the viewpoint at the end of the ridge and where we plan to take our lunch break.

The view back to Low Fell and J wilting in the heat.

Looking back along the Low Fell ridge and where Fellbarrow can just about be seen peeping up over towards the left.

We’re not quite at the end of the ridge but this cairn is very close to it. Behind it Great Borne is on the centre skyline. To the left of the cairn is Hen Comb and to the right is Gavel Fell.

Across from us are Carling Knott, with Blake Fell just about visible behind it, and Burnbank Fell.

From here we can see a stretch of Loweswater, not in view for much of the walk, with Holme Wood covering the lower slopes of Carling Knott and Burnbank Fell.

Just a few paces from the previous cairn is this one and the fabulous view from it. On a day like today its a lovely place to stop for a lunch break so the packs come off and we flop down and set about the sandwiches, hoping that we wouldn’t attract swarms of flies in the process. We had a very pleasant twenty minutes or so just tucking in and enjoying the views.

I had a little wander around with the camera after lunch, first for a look over to Grasmoor and its steep northern face. It looks unassailable but there is a route up it. Its not one that we will ever be undertaking though as neither of us has the head for those kind of climbs. …..

….. then another look over to Crummock Water …..

….. and from the cairn a view of Mellbreak, Hen Comb and Gavel Pike, with Great Borne, Starling Dodd and the High Stile ridge on the skyline.

Yours truly enjoying the sunshine by the cairn.

The green fields surrounding High Nook Farm above which is Gavel Fell.

A look along Mosedale between Mellbreak and Hen Comb …..

….. and another look over to Whiteside before we make our way back along the ridge for our return journey.

Here we go, re-tracing our steps over the humps and bumps back to Low Fell. The breeze seems to have disappeared altogether now and its very hot across here. My brow mopping towel is working overtime.

The two big ‘uns appear again.

As we headed back along the ridge we began to meet other walkers. One group was a Mum, Dad and their little boy who looked to be about four or five years old. He was leading the way and as he came alongside me he stopped to tell me that he had been going up and down a lot of mountains today and that in front of him he could see there were a lot more to go up and down. I asked him if his legs were tired which he had a bit of a think about before nodding his head and telling me that yes they were. I sympathised and told him that mine were a little bit tired too. By the time his Mum and Dad reached me he had moved on to have another serious chat with J telling him about all the flies he had seen and how they had been biting his Mum. J informed him that there were some more ahead so he’d need to keep a lookout for them and let Mum know about them. A lovely bit of chat with a grand little lad.

Back through the gate where the paths go their separate ways and over to the left is the path we used on our outward route. On the left of the shot is Sourfoot Fell, then over to Smithy Fell and on over to Fellbarrow. We met a family group along here. Dad was waiting at the gate for the rest of them to catch up and told us they were going over to Low Fell first and then going over to Fellbarrow on their return. I didn’t envy them the steep climb up Fellbarrow in the afternoon heat, especially as all of them looked extremely hot when they eventually reached him.

Heading down the zig-zag path now with Fellbarrow and Hatteringill Head directly in front of us.

Straddling the path a little lower down are two gates but the fencing to which they were once attached has long since disappeared. They are just another one of those little curiosities, and reminders of times past, which fell walkers will come across from time to time.

This is a lovely path, wide and grassy all the way, and we had a very pleasant walk back down to Thackthwaite. It was obviously less than pleasant though for a couple of red in the face and perspiring solo walkers who were steadily trudging up it.

A lovely view over Lorton Vale as we walk the gently descending path.

The Grasmoor group lit by the afternoon sun as we near the bend in the path and return to the field gate.

Walking beside the line of trees bordering the field. In the dip below the sheep is where the watery path through the wooded area begins ……

….. and which leads us back through the yard, out onto the road and back down in Thackthwaite where we started. Beside the finger post is a polite request for red squirrels to drive slowly. I didn’t know they could read never mind drive, feel free to groan! The red post box over on the other side of the road has almost disappeared into the greenery and I wondered how much use it gets nowadays. I suppose the postman/woman still has to call round and check though, just in case. Other than the buzz of an invisible lawn mower somewhere nearby the hamlet was very quiet and we met no-one as we walked the short distance down the road and back to the car. This is a great short little walk, high enough to require a bit of effort and to provide some good views, but not so high as to become a debilitating uphill slog in very hot weather. A most enjoyable little outing on a very hot day.