Gowbarrow Fell

Walk Date – 30th January 2017

Distance – 4.5 miles

Weather – sunny dry and mild


Its a beautiful sunny Monday morning here in the eastern lakes so I’m taking advantage of the good weather before the forecasted cloud moves in this afternoon. I’m taking a walk across an old favourite today, Gowbarrow Fell. Its close to home, has a variety of routes, is rarely shrouded in cloud and and offers some excellent views.



01 The path down to High Cascades bridge

I set off down this path towards Aira Beck in good spirits thanks to a notice on the National Trust ticket machine, in the car park behind me, which informed me that it was out of action and so I wouldn’t have to pay for parking my car. Straight ahead of me are the western slopes of Gowbarrow with all its lumps and bumps casting strong shadows across the fellside and looking a bit like an overdone currant bun.

02 Looking left from the path

A look over to my left at the other end of Gowbarrow as I make my way down the path. My route will take me up alongside the wall you can see in front of that stand of trees towards the centre of the shot. Its not a huge distance up to the ridge of the fell, as you can see, but the path can be very muddy, and therefore a bit slow going, at times, but I’m hoping it won’t be too bad today since we had a very hard frost last night.

03 Heading down to the bridge

Down to the gate, across the bridge and then a very short climb up the fellside to join the path which will take me through the wood and then out on to the open fellside and across to the wall. I thought the two walkers down there might be taking the same route as me but after crossing the bridge they turned right and continued down alongside Aira Beck, most likely heading for Aira Force down at the bottom.

04 High Cascades Bridge

Heading for High Cascades Bridge accompanied by the roar of Aira Beck as it tumbles its way down to Ullswater.

Once through this handgate the path begins crossing the open fellside towards the wall at the far end. The sun hasn’t penetrated this part of the path yet so it is still hard frozen with patches of ice here and there. Before I set out I added some mini grippers over my boots which worked a treat. These are really intended for walking on icy pavements as the metal studs are very small, just a couple of millimetres in depth, so they were ideal for the hard icy paths and iced over grass. They gave a good grip immediately with none of that slithering back when you push off with your boots.

06 A look back over the woodland path

From the same spot a look back through the woodland I’d just walked through.

07 Parkgate Farm across the valley

Parkgate Farm, across the frosty fields, with a snow covered Great Dodd over on the right.

08 Looking across towards Dacre

Before reaching the wall I turned right to take the path which leads up to the ridge. I had thought about going through the handgate in the wall and going straight on, which would have taken me to Ulcat Row, around the far side of the fell, and making the ascent from there, but I would have been walking in shade so I decided against it and stayed in the sunshine while it was there to be enjoyed.

09 Onwards to the gate

Being in full sun the path up to the gate was beginning to lose some of its firmness but I kept the mini spikes on since slippery with mud is just as bad as slippery with ice.

10 Close up of a snow covered Great Dodd

In the distance Great Dodd was looking good in its snowy coat so I took a close up. As the morning wore on and the sun continued to blaze down on it you could almost see the snow melting as the snow line retreated higher and higher.

11 Cloud building over in the west

Anyone walking the fells over to the west wouldn’t have been having such a sunny time of it today, and I was just hoping that it wouldn’t be making its way over here too quickly. Conditions underfoot on the way up here varied quite a lot, in some places the path was solid ice, in others it had melted leaving the ground very wet, very muddy and very trying.

12 Even more cloud to the south

Continuing up the path and a look over to my right revealed even more cloud and a distinct lack of views to the south across Ullswater.


Another look back as I climb beyond the stand of trees. The thick band of white cloud has obscured the snowy summit of Great Dodd over on the right.

14 Not much of a view to the south

Another look over to my right and noticing that the cloud has thickened and crept closer, its not boding well and I make a silent request to the cloud controller to keep it over there for as long as possible.

15 The hamlet of Dacre nestling in the trees

If you look very closely you might be able to make out two walkers, alongside the wall and just about to drop out of sight below the hill. They were a young couple who were in the district on a three day break and, as we met, stopped and asked me what ‘bagging a Wainwright’ meant. Apparently, while they were on Gowbarrow summit, they had met with some other walkers who had mentioned that that was what they were doing. This couple didn’t know what the other walkers were talking about so stopped me to ask about it. Having explained what it meant, lots more questions followed and we had quite a long chat. As we parted company they ended by saying they weren’t properly equipped, ruefully looking down at their trainers and then at my boots, and that was something they needed to do. When I reached this point I stopped to be sure they got safely past the icy section and then continued on my way. They were a nice couple and I hope they enjoyed their walk and their stay in the Lakes. I’m sure they will return.

17 A closer look at Blencathra

As I was waiting until they got down safely I took a closer look at Blencathra, still topped with snow and cloud. Views from there wouldn’t have been too good today I think.

18 A very icy pool beside the path

I’m a bit behind time thanks to the chat with the young couple but I finally reach the laid path across the ridge, with the pools of water alongside it showing just how hard the frost was last night.

19 Great Dodd on the right skyline with Clough Head over to the left

A look back from the ridge path to Great Dodd on the left skyline and Clough Head over on the right. I am now having my hair re-styled by a breezy south-easterly.

20 Blencathra and some of the northern fells from Gowbarrow summit

A group of walkers were just leaving as I arrived at the trig point on Gowbarrow so I had the place to myself for a few minutes before other walkers arrived. Here I’m looking westward towards Blencathra and some of the northern fells.

21 Looking east across Ullswater

Looking east across Ullswater to the cloud covered northern Pennines, with their long white snow line showing just below the cloud.

22 Little Mell Fell beyond the trig point

Little Mell Fell standing in isolation beyond the trig point.

23 A look back at the route from Gowbarrow summit

Having spent a few minutes arguing with myself up on the summit I finally opted for the Green Hill path as my return route. I generally return via the terrace path above Ullswater as the views are particularly good, but I thought I should take another one just for a change, especially as I’d already seen that views to the south were not good today. Once I was down the rocky sections I took a look back at Gowbarrow summit and the path I’d been following. The route across can be a soggy affair sometimes but it wasn’t too bad today, only semi frozen and beginning to show signs of squelch after being in the sun all morning, but all things considered not at all unpleasant to walk over.

24 Another view over to Blencathra

Another look over to Blencathra as I walk across, conditions over there haven’t changed much all morning.

25 View across to Watermillock Common

Looking over the humps and bumps of Gowbarrow towards Watermillock Common, that’s the one with the long wall rising up it over to the right. That could be a possible contender for a walk across come the next fine day. The only other time we’ve been over there ended with our walk being abandoned thanks to low cloud, a strong wind and heavy rain, so it would be good to see what the views are like from up there on a better day than we had then.

26 Beyond Watermillock Common on the skyline are Hart Side and Birkett Fell on the left with Great Dodd over to the right

A closer look at Watermillock Common and behind it, on the left, are Birkett Fell and Hart Side, with Great Dodd over on the right.

27 Ullswater and surrounding fells from the cairn on Green Hill

After an enjoyable tramp across Gowbarrow’s undulating length I arrive at the cairn on Green Hill and this view along Ullswater towards Glenridding. Its a shame that the cloud is rather spoiling things but in the centre the dark mass of Glenridding Dodd rising up to Heron Pike and then Sheffield Pike can be seen reasonably clearly, together with Watermillock Common over on the right.

28 Looking over to the far eastern fells from Green Hill

Turning round for the view behind me I can see a long line of cloud has arrived over the High Street range of fells. Gowbarrow is still bathed in sunshine so I spent a little while wandering around and just exploring all the little nooks and crannies to be found up here. It was nice to be able to do that for once and not feel that you’d better get going over to the next fell. You can’t move on to another fell from Gowbarrow since its not part of a range so the only way from here is down.

29 Arthur's Pike and Bonscale Pike from Green Hill

Looking across Ullswater to Arthur’s Pike and Bonscale Pike, and over on the left the tree topped Heughscar Hill. Heughscar is a handy little walk for us on low cloud days since its start point, in the village of Askham, is only four miles from home.

30 Green Hill summit cairn

The cloud is coming closer as I take a last shot of Green Hill cairn and wander over to another of the viewpoints.

31 Looking south along Ullswater

The little headland in the foreground, jutting out into a shimmering Ullswater, is Aira Point.

33 Straight across Ullswater is Hallin Fell, and behind it Loadpot Hill with a dusting of snow

Straight across Ullswater is Hallin Fell, and behind it, Loadpot Hill with a dusting of snow. One of the Ullswater steamers is just appearing, over to the left, on its way from Howtown to Glenridding.

34 Lots of lively cloud activity over the fell tops beyond Ullswater

A closer look at all the lively cloud activity above the fell tops beyond Ullswater I begin to make my way down.

35 Beyond Aira Point one of the Ullswater steamers makes its way to Glenridding

Beyond Aira Point the steamer continues on its way to Glenridding and Ullswater’s shimmering surface is temporarily ruffled by the backwash.

36 Descending the easy grassy path some lovely views ahead

Calm returns to Ullswater as the steamer disappears round Silver Point and I continue down the easy grassy path heading for Aira Beck.

37 The view across to my right as I descend

On my right as I descend, the road in the photo leads up to the little hamlet of Dockray and then on to join the A66. I am parked in a former quarry on the left of the road, just about where it starts to turn towards the right of the shot. The trees below me are lining the banks of Aira Beck.

38 A look back at my descent route

I’ve reached the bottom of the Green Hill path so before I leave it I take a look back at the route I’ve been walking.

39 Beyond the gate is the path down to Aira Force, but I turn right and walk above Aira Beck

At the path junction, and beyond the gate down there is the path down to Aira Force. I’m not going to visit the Force today so I turn right and walk above Aira Beck to make my way back to the car park.

40 Falls in Aira Beck

One of the many falls along the course of Aira Beck.

41 High Cascade Falls

This set of falls is known as High Force, although the bridge just above it is named High Cascades Bridge, so I suppose its down to individual preference as to which name you choose to use.

42 Almost back at the bridge where I started out earlier

There’s the aforementioned bridge so I’m almost back where I started out from earlier this morning.

43 Across the bridge and I take the path on the right for the short walk back to the car park

A quick chat with two walkers on the bridge as I was crossing, and now I just have to take the path on the right for the short walk back up the hill to the car park. As you can see, the cloud has finally reached Gowbarrow, things have gone very dull and I think I’ve had the best of the day, so my sunny little walk, and one I have throughly enjoyed, comes to an end. Time to nip off home and get the kettle on I think.