Great Dodd, Watson’s Dodd, Stybarrow Dodd, Hart Side and Birkett Fell

Walk date – 12th April 2021

Distance – 9.1 miles

Weather – very sunny start, some cloud later, slight breeze


We’ve been having a settled spell of weather recently, dry and mostly sunny although it has still been quite cold with plenty of heavy overnight frosts. Today was forecast to be a little warmer with not quite so much of the north westerly breeze which has been bothersome lately. To take advantage of this we decided on a longer walk today, over the Dodds and returning via Hart Side and Birkett Fell, which makes it the longest walk we’ve done this year. The fells were largely deserted, we saw just six people and exchanged a few words with only two of them so to all intents and purposes we had the fells to ourselves. Here’s how the day went:


High Row – Brats Moss – Randerside – Great Dodd – Watson’s Dodd – Stybarrow Dodd – Hart Side – Birkett Fell – Dowthwaite Head – High Row

The way ahead from the High Row parking area. Its a cold and frosty morning but the sun is shining and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. The track ahead has had some attention since we were last here, many of the sunken areas have been filled in so next time it rains there shouldn’t be quite so many huge puddles to deal with.

Not too far along the track is a bridge across Groove Beck. In the top right corner of the shot is a signpost indicating the route we will be following today. The sign reads ‘Public Bridleway, Great Dodd 2 1/2 miles.’

A look back at the bridge as we pick up the path to Great Dodd.

A little further along the path and Great Dodd comes into view. As we’d stopped for a photo we took our jackets off, it was becoming very warm as the sun rose higher.

A look back to where Gowbarrow Fell was just starting to appear above the tree plantation.

Further along still and Stybarrow Dodd joins Great Dodd on the skyline. A solitary cloud appears between the two.

Looking back to the Mell Fells from the crossing of Brants Moss. The bridleway route from the bridge comes in from the right hand side of the shot and meets up with the path leading over to the top of Wolf Crags. The path over to Wolf Crags is clearly visible in the shot. Good viewpoint if you have time to spare. Brants Moss can be a very wet and dreary place but after a week of dry weather it wasn’t too bad. The ground still had some ‘give’ in it but at least it wasn’t saturated and crossing it wasn’t as laborious as it has been on previous occasions.

Blencathra under a cloud and Clough Head appears on the left of the shot. Strange how the cloud appears out of nowhere and this has been the pattern for several days now. We start off with a clear sunny morning and gradually these ‘cotton wool’ ones begin to develop. Sometimes they have merged to form the dull grey blanket covering, other times they remain quite distinct and separate from each other as they did today. The cloud formations today were fascinating to watch. We don’t usually walk the fells at the weekend and on Saturday we had a drive over to Tan Hill. We left home in conditions similar to the photo above and arrived at Tan Hill in a blizzard of snow. No, we didn’t get out and go for a walk. Similarly on Sunday when we just had a walk over Moor Divock from the farm access road above Helton. By the time we reached the path junction to cross over to the stone circle the skies had darkened and along came a hailstorm. We  were pelted with hail all the way back to the car.

A look back at Brants Moss and Great Mell Fell from our coffee break stop on Randerside.

The path from Randerside up to Great Dodd. Hmm, there’ll be a few pit stops along the way then. A solitary patch of snow still lingers above Lurge Gill.

The path bends to the left for the last push up to the summit so before carrying on here’s the view from that point. Skiddaw group on the left, Clough Head in the centre, and Blencathra to the right.

A look back over to Randerside, on the right hand side just below Little Mell Fell.

On the final push to the summit now and behind us is a fabulous view of Skiddaw and it neighbours …..

….. and a view across Keswick towards Bass Lake and the Lord’s Seat group of fells. Just below us is the path coming over from Clough Head and just above that is Calfhow Pike.

After a two and a half mile upward trek the last few feet of the climb seemed never ending but we eventually reached the summit and its views of the Northern Fells beyond Clough Head. Slightly more breeze and a little nippier up here but not enough to put our jackets back on.

A short stroll over towards the Thirlmere side of Great Dodd gives us a wonderful panorama of the fells beyond. The battalion of lovely clouds drifting above them changed the views from minute to minute. There are too many to name but many of you will be able to identify most of them. There’s no sign of any emerging greenery across there just yet, the fells are keeping their winter brown coats on for the time being.

A similar scene looking towards the south west with a smidge of Thirlmere appearing below Watson’s Dodd.

Making our way over to Watson’s Dodd. As we began to descend we saw one solo walker suddenly appear on Great Dodd from the Clough Head direction. He didn’t follow us over to Watson’s Dodd though. He was the first person we’d seen today and as can be seen from the photo there’s no-one around ahead of us either.

A view down into Thirlmere from Watson’s Dodd …..

….. and a look back at Great Dodd from the cairn on Watson’s Dodd.

Looking south west with the Coniston fells on the left skyline, over to the right are Crinkle Crags and Bowfell.

Time to head over to Stybarrow Dodd and find somewhere to take a break and get the sandwiches out.

On the way over we see two more walkers making their way from Great Dodd over to Watson’s Dodd, with a zoom in you might just be able to pick them out.

Might as well take a shot of Great Dodd too now that its got some sunlight on it.

On Stybarrow Dodd now and looking towards the rocky top of Raise with the peak of Catstycam and the Helvellyn group just behind it. It was difficult to get a good picture of Raise today. Too many clouds kept drifting across the sun and plunging it into shadow for much of the time which resulted in Raise’s rocky top being indistinguishable from the Helvellyn range behind it.

The cairn on Stybarrow Dodd with Watson’s Dodd and Great Dodd, both in shadow, on the left and right respectively. Behind them the Skiddaw group and Blencathra. The tarn, out of shot on the right, was dried out today. We walked past the tarn and dropped down a little way to the small shelter on the eastern side of the fell and took a break for about ten minutes or so.

A few shots of the views from our lunch spot. The sunlit fell in the foreground is Raise, the greyish line along it is the collapsed flue leading up to the old chimney. Immediately behind is Birkhouse Moor followed by Hartsop Dodd and then Stony Cove Pike on Caudale Moor. I expect you’ll be able to identify all the others in the shot.

A little further to the left with High Raise, Rampsgill Head, The Knott and High Street on the skyline.

After our break we drop down Stybarrow Dodd to make our way over to Hart Side, the sunlit fell over on the left. Just behind Hart Side is Birkett Fell which will be our last fell of the day. Straight ahead of us and partly shaded is White Stones but we’re not heading over there today so a little further down we’ll branch off the main path and bypass it.

Our walk across to Hart Side was done under a very large cloud which knocked the temperature back quite a few notches. Fortunately we’d put our jackets back on when we had our lunch break but even so the sunshine and the warmth awaiting us on Hart Side was very welcome. Here’s a look back at Stybarrow Dodd from the prospecting trench on Hart Side.

The cairn on Hart Side plus a partial view of Skiddaw and Blencathra. A solo walker doing what looked like a ‘power walk’ arrived and departed while we were here. No kit, other than walking poles, was being carried and being dressed only in leggings and t-shirt it seemed as though she wasn’t intending to be out for any great length of time.

From here we head over to Birkett Fell, a zoom in will reveal the cairn on the top.

It doesn’t take long to get to Birkett Fell, here we met a two more people whose accents suggested that they were visitors from the south of the country. Also not going very far as they didn’t have any kit with them either, so probably just out for an afternoon stroll in the sun.

The view back to Stybarrow Dodd, Hart Side and Great Dodd from Birkett Fell. We’re under a large cloud again, they’ve slowly increased in size so we’re spending rather longer in the chilly shade now.

The tablet bearing the name of the fell, its set into the cairn facing the Ullswater side. Ullswater was saved from being turned into a reservoir thanks to an impassioned speech by Lord Birkett QC in the House of Lords on 8th February 1962 against Manchester Corporation’s proposal to create a weir on the River Eamont at Pooley Bridge which would effectively have created a reservoir and raised the level of Ullswater by about three feet. Opposition to the proposal was immediate and a petition of over 500,000 signatures was gathered. The petition was debated in the House of Lords and Lord Birkett’s ‘deeply felt and eloquent’ speech was powerful enough to win the day. Here’s a quote from it “Thus far and no farther. Go away. Come again another day, if you will. But in the meantime, do that which ought to have been done before. Produce the hydrological data on which the House can come to a proper decision. Until that is done, you have no right whatever to invade the sanctity of a National Park”.Sadly Lord Birkett died of a heart attack just a few days later. Would that we had such resolute and determined politicians today.

The High Street range is plunged into deep shade as the clouds drift across.

As usual we descended Birkett Fell alongside the wall and here at the stile we turned left onto the path leading down to Dowthwaite Head. Sheffield Pike and The Helvellyn group on the skyline behind.

Watermillock Common as we start out on the eternally wet and boggy path. It never seems to dry out so if you come along here be prepared for a squelchy walk down.

Approaching Dowthwaite Head Farm which had an air of desolation about it. When we arrived it was obvious that it was no longer occupied, the usual motley collection of vehicles and farm equipment was gone, the outbuildings emptied of their contents, and the fields which would normally be full of ewes and their lambs at this time of year were devoid of life. It made us both feel quite sad because in the past we have often seen the farmer busy around the place, and exchanged a few words with him, as we walked along the road and through the yards, and to see that it is not a working farm any longer was quite depressing. I cannot find anything about the farmer, Mr Mayson Weir, other than the farm had been in the same family for 60 years, or the reason for the sale. I did a bit of research later and here’s what I found –

and this –

– so the farm was sold in October 2020 to an unknown bidder who was willing to continue to the bidding war to get what they wanted. It will be interesting to find out who the unknown bidder is, they obviously didn’t seem to have an upper bid limit so it must be somebody very wealthy indeed. For some reason I find the whole thing very dispiriting.

Of course as we walked back along the road up to High Row we were unaware of all of the above and we were still discussing the emptiness of the farm and the fields and the possible reasons behind it all. If I manage to find out the whys and wherefores I’ll let you know. Anyway this shot of Gowbarrow indicates that we are almost back at the High Row parking area and the end of today’s walk. Its been a good day and a very good walk but my back is telling me that it would really appreciate having a rest in a comfy chair accompanied by something hot and soothing served in a cup. Meanwhile, on other matters things are chugging along in the background –

If British TV and newspapers are your only source of information you will not have been told about any  of the following:

Judgement in Weimar, Germany re face coverings and children –

Hague International Criminal Court accepts complaint filed by People of the Truth group –

and here –

and the group, Doctors for Covid Ethics, have sent an open letter to the European Medical Agency warning that administering inadequately tested and inadequately monitored gene-based Covid-19 vaccines represents dangerous medical experimentation, which is banned by the Nuremberg Code. Here’s the link to their letter –

The link to the list of signatories to that letter is here –

Some of the letter is technical but the paragraphs which follow the word NOTICE at the end of the letter make it quite clear what their intentions are. I wish them every success.