Great Crag and Grange Fell

Walk date – 21st March 2022

Distance – 5 miles

Weather – dry, sunny, light breeze, very hazy


The good weather continues so we decided to have a walk over to Great Crag and Grange Fell today. We had considered going on to Great Crag when we had a walk up to Watendlath in November 2021 but we decided to leave it for another day on that occasion. Its been quite a while since we last walked these two fells, August 2017 to be precise, so after a gap of five years it was time for another ramble over the humps and bumps of this pair of lowly fells featured in AW’s Book Three – The Central Fells.


Watendlath – Great Crag – Dock Tarn – Puddingstone Bank – Grange Fell – Puddingstone Bank – Watendlath

Great Crag across Watendlath Tarn. As we walked from the parking area over to the tarn we were joined by two fellow travellers, one adult collie and a puppy of the same breed, who seemed determined to keep us company.

When we stopped to take this shot of the tarn outflow and the old packhorse bridge they waited patiently alongside us …..

….. and then trotted along beside us as we approached the bridge. As we crossed over we heard a man calling out to the dogs and the adult one turned back. The puppy, obviously not yet familiar with the calling out commands or what it was supposed to do on hearing them, remained at our heels, bouncing along, full of the joys of spring and no doubt looking forward to a sunny jaunt in pastures new. It was not to be though and the farmer hurried over the bridge behind us, still calling out to the puppy who took no notice of him whatsoever, so J picked it up and handed it over to him. End of puppy’s day out.

We carried on over the path alongside the tarn to the point at which the laid path comes to an end and the soggy grassy one begins. Its a lovely morning, again with only a light breeze, and the tarn waters were sparkling beneath the fellsides of High Seat and its numerous crags.

Turning up the slope we reach a nameless beck, the water level low so it was easily crossed, and followed the path rising to the left of the shot which eventually leads us to a gate.

The gate is just behind us and the wooden post in the centre of the shot marks the junction of two routes. The left hand path is the one which will take us in the direction of Great Crag so that’s the one we follow.

A second post appears a little further on and here the fun begins. Great Crag is over on the right of the shot but, between here and there, a fair amount of squelchy plodding awaits us. We can’t recall ever walking across here when that hasn’t been the case. There’s not much you can do to avoid it so its just a case of gritting your teeth and getting on with it. Curses will no doubt be loud and frequent as we traverse the mire.

A look back towards Watendlath as we reach the laid stone path, this was just as wet having been taken over by whichever spring/beck managed to find it, but at least I could stand on something firm to take a shot.

A look back towards Grange Fell as we pass through the gate and finally leave all the wetness behind us. From this point there is a good pitched path, steep in places though, which eventually leads to the path alongside Dock Tarn. At the top of the climb we begin to keep an eye out for the path which will take us up to the top of Great Crag. There are several winding up through the heather so its just a case of choosing the one which takes your fancy.

The view to the west just before we turned right and climbed up to the top. Air clarity was poor today and all long distance views were very hazy. Nevertheless, Great Gable, on the left skyline, is instantly recognisable, followed by Green Gable, Brandreth and Grey Knotts with Pillar beginning to put in an appearance over on the right.

Misty views of the fells to the south from the same spot. Great Gable now over on the right followed by Lingmell and the Scafells. There’s a little more detail on Bessyboot and Glaramara over to the left but not much.

A very short climb from the previous spot brought us out to one of the two high points on Great Crag with its familiar view towards Watendlath and High Seat. Here’s a few views from the top …..

….. looking south to the other high point on Great Crag, both have cairns and their difference in height is marginal so either one will serve as the summit unless you’re determined to stand on the very highest point. We didn’t bother going across today. Not much of a view beyond it today given that the light was so bright, the breeze was just a little stronger up here too.

A little more detail showing up over to the west with Dale Head, on the left, and High Spy, on the right. Between them is the Hindscarth plateau.

Maiden Moor above the Borrowdale valley to the north west …..

….. below us is Grange Fell, that’s the next one we’ll visit on today’s walk. The Skiddaw group was little more than a blue-grey mass today …..

….. and looking to the east to the Dodds and the Helvellyn group wasn’t any better either.

There’s a clearly defined path through the heather from the cairn over to this viewpoint from where there’s this view of the village of Rosthwaite down in Borrowdale.

Down from the cairn now and making our way along the higgledy-piggledy Dock Tarn path, plenty of squelchy areas to deal with along here too.

The light breeze ruffles the water surface as we take a short break at the tarn. A cluster of flat topped rocks a little way above the path offered a convenient place to stop and let the world go by for a few minutes. A few walkers coming from the Stonethwaite path passed below us as they made their way over to the summit.

We retrace our steps back along the path to begin the descent. Walking across Great Crag always reminds me of crossing over Haystacks, both of them clothed in heather and rough grass with lots of humps and bumps, big outcrops, boggy bits and variously sized pools of water.

We’re back at the top of the pitched path so down we go …..

….. and then follow the permanently wet path over to the gate in the far wall and onwards over to Grange Fell. If you don’t mind dealing with the wetness this path is a convenient short cut.

A look back at Great Crag as we pass through the gate at the end of the short cut and follow the next section of the path over to Puddingstone Bank.

The view back to the top of Puddingstone Bank, to the right of the wall, just after our stile crossing. On the skyline are Low Saddle and High Saddle leading up to the high point of Ullscarf.

Misty fells, in varying shades of bluish-grey, to the south from the top of Brund Fell, the high point of Grange Fell.

We still have the same views as from Great Crag with slightly different aspects, here we have Dale Head and High Spy again …..

….. Maiden Moor and Catbells …..

….. the Skiddaw group and a smidge of Derwentwater …..

….. Jopplety How just below us and High Seat in the distance …..

….. and beyond High Tove, across the middle foreground, the Dodds and the Helvellyn group …..

….. immediately below is King’s How …..

….. another look south to Great Crag on the left. If you zoom in and peer closely you can just make out the pimple shaped Pike O’Stickle towards the left of the skyline.

 On the approach path below are two walkers, John and Sue from Newcastle. As we left the summit John recognised us from the web site so we stopped and had a few minutes chat. They are staying in the area for a few days so hopefully the weather stays just as settled as it has been for the past few days for the rest of their break. John told us he’d completed the 214 round of fells last year so congratulations from both of us on achieving that, its not an easy thing to do when you live some distance away. We hope you both have a great time during your four day break and it was lovely to meet you both.

We retraced our steps, more or less, back to the stile and the Puddingstone Bank path …..

….. and made our way back down to Watendlath.

Arriving at Watendlath after a gentle stroll down in the warm early afternoon sunshine …..

….. with a look across the tarn towards Great Crag and the path we started out on at the beginning of the walk. As we made our way back to the car we noticed that the cafe was open. We decided that a cup of coffee and a slice of cake might just be a good way to round off the walk so in we went. There was a notice chalked up on a blackboard just by the door which read ‘Cash Only, internet down again.’ Hmm, wonder if that crowd of financial delusionists behind the push for digital currency have considered that sort of drawback to their grand plans. Anyway, its not a problem as far as we are concerned, we always pay in cash and the coffee and ginger cake went down very well sitting in the sun in the cafe garden. A satisfying end to another walk in lovely spring weather, let’s hope it lasts for a while longer.

PS – The work we saw taking place on the hydro-electric scheme at Watendlath, during our November 2021 walk, is finished. The pipework is hidden by the landscaping and all the machinery and other work-related paraphernalia has gone. Apart from the new water intake structure you wouldn’t know anything had changed as they’ve done such a good job of hiding all traces of the upheaval we saw back then.