Walk date – 26th August 2019
Distance – 9 miles
Weather – a warm and very cloudy and dull morning but improving from early afternoon
It was supposed to be another hot and sunny day today but the Eden Valley was blanketed in thick fog when I looked out of the window this morning. We had decided to re-visit Roughton Gill today and do a little more exploring in the gill itself. We were only here in July but on that occasion we only had just enough time for a quick out and back up to the old mining area as we had arranged to be in Hesket Newmarket just after lunchtime. We didn’t worry too much about the fog in the valley, it often happens especially as autumn approaches, but on reaching the A6 and driving towards Penrith we could see that the hot, sunny day hadn’t yet materialised above valley level either. Above us was a thick blanket of greyish white cloud which reached almost down to ground level and didn’t look as though it was going to clear off any time soon. Blencathra was practically invisible as we turned off into Mungrisedale, as were all of the other northern fells along the way. The drive to Fell Side did not include sheep being herded along the narrow lanes today although meeting three enormous tractors, pulling very large trailers, one after another, increased the heart rate somewhat. Fortunately as we encountered each one we just happened to be close to a field gate where there was just enough space for us to squeeze into and to let them come by without any fancy manoeuvres on their part, or ours. There were a few cars already parked up at Fell Side when we arrived but there was still enough room for three or four more so we parked up without any difficulty, exchanging good mornings with a fell runner who was just setting off, and it was only five minutes or so before we were heading off in the same direction. The cloud cover, general haze and flat light resulted in some very dull conditions throughout the morning, until things slowly began to improve in the early afternoon, and the photos of today’s walk suffered as a result. On the other hand it was warm enough for shorts and t-shirts only, it wasn’t windy and it didn’t rain so the day had some redeeming qualities.
Fell Side – Roughton Gill – Silver Gill – Yard Steel – Great Sca Fell – Little Sca Fell – Brae Fell – Longlands Fell – Cumbria Way – Howburn – Burblethwaite – Branthwaite – Fell Side
The car park is down below the gate, out of shot to the right, which gives access to the start of the path up to the old mining area. The sky was no different here than anywhere else we had passed through this morning so we weren’t at all surprised by what we were seeing ahead of us.
Looking ahead along the valley where the cloud is hovering around the fell tops ahead. J declared that if that lot hadn’t shifted by the time we got to the mine he wasn’t going any further! I didn’t take many photos as we walked along the valley, the conditions were poor and I took more during our visit in July. This link will open in a new window if you’d like to see more of the valley walk from our July visit – https://www.wainwrightwalking.co.uk/roughton-gill-from-fellside/
As we prepare to cross Dale Beck we can see that the cloud has lifted sufficiently for us to be able to see the fell tops now and J’s optimism level has risen slightly as a result.
Opaque white skies above the mine area make the scene look even more desolate and forlorn than it already is, and its so deathly quiet that you could almost imagine the ghostly spectre of a bygone miner suddenly appearing around a corner. Well, you could if you had that vivid an imagination, or believed in ghosts.
Enough of ghosts, spectres and imaginary things and back to concentrating on the matter in hand, namely which side of the gill we are going to explore. The fell directly ahead, criss-crossed with old mining paths, is Balliway Rigg. Having considered a variety of options we eventually decided to keep to the path we are on at present and go straight ahead towards Silver Gill. At the gill we’ll cross over, follow the path rising across Balliway Rigg and follow it round into Roughton Gill. The path I’m referring to is the lower one just above the piles of stones on the left of the shot.
We’d had a good look round the mine area in July so we by-passed it today and carried on across the path some distance above it. Here we’re looking down into Roughton Gill as it meanders past the mine hut on its way to join Dale Beck.
The path continues to climb steadily above the gill and the spoil heaps and looking back I noticed a faint glimpse of sunlight landing on the top of Peterhaw. It didn’t last very long but we thought it might be an early indication that the cloud was going to begin breaking up. It didn’t.
The grassy terrace path dwindled eventually to this narrow ledge above the gill where the outcrops beside it provided reassuring support from time to time. The sight and sound of the falls wasn’t helping us to maintain our concentration either.
The path eventually takes us close by the gill with this lovely set of falls tumbling down into it. As you can see there is no similar path on the opposite side of the gill. There is a path over there but it is much higher up so perhaps the view of the falls might not be as good as it was from this side.
We climbed higher up the narrow path up to this next set of falls and then reached a point where it more or less petered out, which I think was just below the bottom waterfall in this shot. Here the steep gill sides narrowed quite sharply offering no safe route for a path so we had to climb out of the gill here and onto this grassy ledge which swung us back around Balliway Rigg.
A look back down the valley from the path we had reached from the gill. We should have found a path which would have turned us back towards Roughton Gill once more but we didn’t. Perhaps J didn’t notice it or its so faint as to be almost invisible, especially when you’re below where it might be located. Whatever the reason we didn’t find it and so we remained on the one we were on which curved around Balliway Rigg and led us up Silver Gill instead.
The mining area is gradually disappearing behind the Rigg as we climb the path above Silver Gill. High Pike appears through the cloudy haze on the right skyline.
Silver Gill eventually becomes a much gentler climb, and more to J’s liking, when we reach the upper reaches. All that remains to do is turn around and make the very short and gassy climb out.
High Pike again, now on the centre skyline as we top out of Silver Gill, much to J’s relief, he’s not at all keen on walking above high sided ravines, especially when all you’ve got for a path is an intermittent sheep trod high above the steep sided gill, and up ahead of you is a headwall strewn with outcrops.
Before we headed for Great Sca Fell we made the short diversion from the top of Silver Gill across Balliway Rigg to take a look down at Roughton Gill. The gill below us looks much like any other at this point as it meanders steadily below the steep slopes of Iron Crag and Great Lingy Hill before making its series of dramatic plunges down to the valley floor. I also spotted a path between us and the gill, coming up from the gill and leading towards the lighter coloured area just below us. Perhaps that’s the one that we were looking for. I had a good look at the gps route map when J had downloaded it and I could see that we had pretty much climbed the whole of Roughton Gill before we’d had to turn away from it so we weren’t too disappointed, and we had good views of two sets of its waterfall. Whether there were any more in the section we didn’t manage to walk through I don’t know, but just seeing those two sets was good enough. From here we about turned and headed west over the pathless tussocky grass of Yard Steel. Along the way we chanced upon a well trodden path coming from the direction of Yard Steel which took us straight to …..
….. the cairn marking the summit of Great Sca Fell. A patch of sunlight has landed on Knott in the distance so obviously there were some chinks in the cloud, but the skies remained predominantly a dull greyish white.
Another view from the cairn, this time towards High Pike over on the left with Carrock Fell in the distance on the right.
A short stroll takes us down and then gently up to Little Sca Fell during which we were the beneficiaries of a very pleasant little spell of sunshine. We had planned to take a break for something to eat when we reached the shelter over there but saw two walkers arrive there, from the other side, just before us. We didn’t really need the shelter today anyway and when we got there we wandered over to the left of the shot and had our break enjoying the views of the fells in that direction.
On the way over I took a couple of shots, this looking down to Meal Fell and Great Cockup on the left, with Little Sca Fell, Lowthwaite Fell and Longlands Fell on the right …..
….. and this one with Frozen Fell and Burn Tod on the left and Meal Fell and Great Cockup now on the right. The cloud is just beginning to clear from the top of Skiddaw behind Burn Tod.
From our lunch spot the view down towards Lowthwaite Fell and Longlands Fell …..
….. with Meal Fell and Great Cockup directly below us and where there is little sign of the cloud breaking up beyond them.
Its completely different behind us though and blue sky has appeared at last as I took a look back at Great Sca Fell with the top of Knott just peeping up above it.
Looking south towards Skiddaw …..
….. and then north towards Brae Fell which is where we’re off to next.
Its a great little tramp across to Brae Fell and once again we had a couple of sunny spells to enjoy en route. From Little Sca Fell we had seen a largish group walking up to Brae Fell from Longlands. They reached it just as we were starting our lunch break and we could still see them up there so it looked as though that was their lunch break destination.
Other than the occasional soggy patch to detour around its a perfectly straightforward walk between the two tops and it doesn’t take long to reach Brae Fell.
A look back to Little Sca Fell and Skiddaw, there is still a lot of cloud around but it is breaking up, albeit very slowly.
Over on Brae Fell now where all of a sudden summer broke out again creating a very colourful canvas on High Pike and its surrounding hills, what a difference a couple of hours has made.
I had to be content with this one and only uninterrupted view of the cairn on Brae Fell as the group of six or seven walkers were still sitting on the other side of it.
We had a committee meeting on Brae Fell to consider what we wanted to do next. We could have descended from it northwards to pick up the Cumbria Way path but as it was still only early afternoon we decided to walk over to Longlands Fell and gain the Cumbria Way path from there. We re-traced our steps on the path back towards Little Sca Fell until we reached this junction where we took the right hand path and headed over to Longlands. Above Knott and Little Sca Fell patches of blue are also beginning to appear.
Heading over to Longlands Fell …..
….. which is another very enjoyable tramp across the grasses. As usual I find myself wondering why AW chose not to include Lowthwaite Fell, on the left, in his guide to the Northern Fells, especially as it is higher than its neighbour, Longlands Fell, which he did include. I have looked for some explanation in the guide several times but I haven’t been able to find anything which provides any answer.
J has a ‘sock’ moment. Bits of grass, seeds etc have weaselled their way down his socks and he can’t stand it any longer so the socks come off, the assorted herbage is picked off, feet meet socks and boots once more and all is well with the world again. Meanwhile I took a shot of Little Sca Fell and Knott to while away the ’emergency stop’.
With feet and ankles comfortable once again we carry on towards Longlands. Waiting for J to catch up I take a look across Charlton Gill to Brae Fell where I could see tiny figures beginning to descend across the ridge on the left, so the summit group must be on their way down at last.
Sunshine on Brae Fell and Little Sca Fell across Charlton Gill …..
….. but still on the cloudy side beyond Over Water and Binsey as I look to the west from Longlands Fell summit cairn.
Another sunny view towards Brae Fell and Little Sca Fell from Longlands Fell and where …..
….. it has turned into a very warm and sunny afternoon as we start to descend Longlands. At the path junction just below we take the right hand path and make our way down to the Cumbria Way which is still some distance below us.
A look back up to Longlands summit before we drop down further and the view disappears.
Eventually the Longlands path meets up with the Cumbria Way and here we turn right for the walk back to Fell Side. In the dip just a little way in front of J the waters of Charlton Gill were flowing freely across the path. Anything on wheels would have crossed the ford easily but there was a little too much water to risk walking through it today. I didn’t fancy walking the last couple of miles or so in waterlogged boots so I hunted around, below where the sheep are, to find somewhere suitable to practice my long jumping skills. I didn’t get the chance though because we found a very narrow spot which required nothing more than a stride to get across after which it was back to the Cumbria Way
Here at Howburn Farm the rough track of the Cumbria Way turns into a tarmac lane providing access to the farm and its caravan/camper van site.
Just a short distance further along and we’re approaching the bridge over Burblethwaite Beck. If you fancy buying a property around here there was a For Sale sign close to the farm out of shot to the left. Perhaps its called Burblethwaite Farm but we weren’t walking close enough to it to find out. What a great name though, Burblethwaite, wonder if its onomatopoeic given the proximity of the burbling beck. This was a very peaceful walk back, the lane was traffic free for the most part with only a couple of vehicles coming past us, and the farmland gently rising and giving way to the open fells. The lower slopes of Brae Fell are on our right and above them is High Pike, views of which we enjoyed for most of the walk back.
Mum and calf and assorted companions just lazing away the afternoon. Well, its much too hot to do anything else anyway.
By the time we reach the little hamlet of Branthwaite we feel as though we’re being slowly fried. The sun is on our backs and its baking hot down here in the valley. As we round the corner and cross the bridge J groans when he sees the road gently rising just beyond it. For the ensuing three quarters of a mile back to Fell Side it continued to rise steadily and every time we reached what we thought was the end of it another uphill stretch appeared resulting in more groans and more swigs of liquid.
Finally Fell Side comes into view and we tramp downhill for the last few yards towards the house in the centre of the shot where we turn to the right, and then walk the short distance up another rise to where the car is parked. One of the large tractors and trailers we met this morning also turned up the same lane from where the driver skilfully reversed the entire rig and expertly steered the huge trailer up into the farm yard. He, and his fellow drivers, will have been to-ing and fro-ing between fields and farm all day so no Bank Holiday Monday time off for them. If its ready for gathering in then it gets gathered in, regardless of Bank Holidays. We stow our gear into the boot and quench our thirsts once again before setting off on the drive home. All went well until we reached the roundabout over the M6 at Penrith where we joined a long and slow moving queue of traffic resulting from a variety of causes, all the traffic lights for a start, plus folks going home after the Bank Holiday weekend, folks returning from the agricultural show in Keswick, and a vehicle breakdown on the bridge spanning the M6 which a chap from one of the recovery services was hooking up to his truck before towing it away. The young lad whose car had broken down was standing around looking despondent and embarrassed. Things didn’t improve once we’d left the roundabout as the queue continued on to the next one, just a short distance away at Eamont Bridge, where a lorry had also broken down. Police cars at its front and rear had closed off one of the lanes so all the traffic was being funnelled into the two remaining lanes. It was a relief to get back home and put the kettle on.