Holme Fell and Black Fell

Walk date – 14th May 2022

Distance – 8 miles

Weather – dry, cloudy and humid start, brighter later but very hazy, slight breeze


Six years have slipped by since our last visit to these two fells which is a shame because they offer walking routes which are quite delightful and full of interest. To quote AW, regarding Holme Fell in particular – ‘A craggy southern front, a switchback ridge, a cluster of small but very beautiful tree girt tarns (old reservoirs), and a great quarry that reveals the core of colourful slate lying beneath the glorious jungle of juniper and birch, heather and bracken, makes this one of the most attractive of Lakeland fells.’  A neat little summary of what Holme Fell has to offer. After the descent of Holme Fell we crossed the A593 to walk alongside Tom Gill up to Tarn Hows and onwards to Black Fell.  Unfortunately the misty conditions to begin with, followed by hazy ones later on resulted in poor long distance views but that was the only downside to today’s walk, a walk which was most enjoyable from start to finish.



Lay-by on A593 (Oxen Fell) – Oxen Fell – Hog Bank – Uskdale Gap – Holme Fell – Ivy Crag – Harry Guards Wood – Glen Mary Bridge – Tom Gill – Tarn Hows – Cumbria Way – Iron Keld Plantation – Arnside Plantation – Black Fell – Arnside Plantation – Iron Keld Plantation – Cumbria Way – A593 lay-by (Oxen Fell)

An empty lay-by greeted us  when we pulled into it which, after an hour and half’s worth of driving from home and noticing that the popular parking areas along the way were filling up quickly, was something of a relief. Once we were ready to go we only had a few short paces to walk back up to the narrow lane leading over to Hodge Close and the start of today’s walk. Its a misty, humid morning with no air movement whatsoever so we were soon into brow-mopping mode as we climbed the hill ahead of us.

At the top of the hill we left the lane, which carries on to Hodge Close, and passed through this gate to begin our walk across Holme Fell’s north east ridge.

At the top of the slight rise from the gate there’s a multitude of paths going in all directions to choose from. We opted to keep roughly to the right of the ridge but as long as our general direction is south it really doesn’t matter which one is taken.Nothing much by way of views at the moment because the cloud is very low.

As we crossed over Hog Bank I noticed a couple of deer on the path ahead of me but by the time the camera was in place they had run across to join the rest of the group and then kept an eye on me from a safe distance. They’re a bit difficult to make out so a zoom in might be necessary. Dead bracken is everywhere at the moment but there are plenty of green shoots appearing now so it won’t be long before the horrible green stuff is rampant again.

The view ahead as we continue along the ridge. The path we used alternated between leading us over some of the humps and bumps or threading us through them. It was impossible to know what would come our way beyond the next hillock, other than there would always be another hillock.

We’re approaching Uskdale Gap now so down we go again. More of the switchback ridge lies ahead, time for a bit more brow mopping.

The view back towards Great How through a very soggy/wet Uskdale Gap.

Climbing out of Uskdale Gap now with a very misty view of Windermere in the distance.

Another quote from AW’s introduction to Holme Fell – ‘slopes a thousand feet high can be just as rough and steep as those three times as long ….. so climbing  a small hill, what there is of it, can call for as much effort, over a shorter time, as a big one.”  How right he was, but fortunately the path led us around this one …..

….. although we did have a bit of a scramble up a nearby one to have a look at the views.  Just to the centre right of the shot only the tops of Pike O’Stickle and Pavey Ark were visible through the cloud. They look like bits of floating grey cloud in this shot.

Having taken in the non-existent views we continued threading our way through, over and around the various crags across the ridge but …..

….. there are still a few more to go before we reach the top of Holme Fell, which is on the right of the skyline with Ivy Crag over on the left. Walking the ridge consists of a series of height gains and losses which can feel as laborious as AW described. Holme Fell, at 1040’/317m, is one of the lower Lakeland fells but the nature of its terrain can be quite demanding at times. A zoom in on the grassy area below the top of Holme Fell will reveal the green tent of a couple of overnight campers. They were just opening the tent flap as I took the shot.

A big height loss coming up again but now we have a clear run through to Ivy Crag and Holme Fell.

On the way up I noticed that some of the cloud had drifted away from the Pikes. In the bottom right of the shot is one of the ‘tree girt tarns’ mentioned by AW. Its one of a couple of old reservoirs still remaining down there. The campers gave us a cheery ‘good morning’ as we passed them. No tantalising breakfast smells drifted our way so perhaps they hadn’t got round to that yet.

Low cloud still obliterating much of Windermere and everything to the south as we reach the summit stone and its cairn. A bunch of walkers were just beginning to begin their descent as we arrived so we had the place to ourselves from then on.

A view towards the Langdale Pikes which are much clearer now but the surrounding views were poor by and large …..

….. Black Sails and Wetherlam, above them blue sky patches are beginning to appear …..

….. although not over Coniston Old Man …..

….. and not above Pike O’Blisco and the Pikes either.

A fine view of Windermere, which would be even finer if there wasn’t so much mist/fog/cloud around. As we weren’t in any hurry we had a bit of an exploratory wander just below the summit area before making our way over to …..

….. Ivy Crag. We did a little more exploring around the crag before picking up the descent path through Harry Guards Wood and down to Yew Tree Farm.

Harry Guards Wood, where we met a walking group making their way up, is more or less behind us now and now its just us and this local pony on the open fellside below the woodland. The pony took no notice of me but …..

….. made a beeline for J and received a handful of grass in return. J has a natural affinity with horses having spent many years with them in his younger days so he always gets very chummy with any that happen to come our way.

The descent path comes to an end just beside Yew Tree Farm so we crossed the A593 and took a short Mars Bar break at Glen Mary bridge. Constant traffic on the road with several vehicles pulling into the car park only to find it full and having to drive straight back out again. Hoping to find a space here just after 11.15 am on a fine Saturday is wishful thinking. Fortified by our break on we go up to Tarn Hows via Tom Gill. Here’s a few waterfall shots I took along the way …..

As usual it was very busy at Tarn Hows with lots of families having a day out just walking around the water or having picnics on the grassy slopes. The cloud is gradually breaking up although the sun hasn’t made an appearance just yet.

We carry on around the tarn and eventually leave the shoreline path at the stile to make our way over to the Cumbria Way path. As we climbed the stile I heard a little boy ask his parents if they could go over it as well, I suppose it looked a bit more exciting than just walking along the path. The family continued along the path so he didn’t get his request.

Tarn Hows and the path around it from the Cumbria Way path which is just a short distance  from the stile we crossed.

The sun finally broke through as we followed the Cumbria Way up to the gate leading to the path through the Iron Keld plantation …..

….. which now has hundreds of young trees growing on both sides of the path. The last time we walked this path was 11th September 2011 and a look at the photo I took of this path then reveals how denuded of trees it was. Back then these trees hadn’t even been planted so a lot has happened in the past eleven years.

We left the Iron Keld path after passing through a gate and bearing right on the path across Arnside Plantation although trees are fewer and further between up here than they are on the lower slopes. The top of Black Fell is in view and there’s a good path all the way to the top. Here’s a few hazy views from the summit …..

Bowfell, Great End and Allen Crags over on the left, the Langdale Pike on the right and Lingmoor Fell between them.

Crinkle Crags and Bowfell.

Coniston Old Man and Wetherlam.

Black Fell’s trig column.

Lingmoor Fell and the Langdale Pikes.

The Crinkles and Bowfell again.

Taking a lunch break just below the trig column with a very hazy view, to the north east, of the fells beyond Ambleside.

The view beyond the ladder stile but we don’t cross over it today as we’re going to re-trace our route back down to the Cumbria Way path.

Back down to the gate leading onto the Iron Keld plantation path. Over on the left is the path leading to, and from, Black Fell.

 We encountered a lot of cyclists pedalling hard as we came down the Iron Keld path and just as I opened the gate another four arrived. Its a very rough and stony path and uphill all the way so it can’t be easy to negotiate but it was obviously very popular. The Cumbria Way path is even rougher and stonier.

We passed Tarn Hows again on the way down and judging by the voices we could hear plenty of people were still taking a walk around it.

Wetherlam from the very rough Cumbria Way path on a lovely afternoon. We were almost at the end of the path when we had to step to one side to let four Land Rovers drive by. They all carried the same logo, so probably some kind of adventure business and we did wonder why four vehicles were needed. Only the fourth one had passengers, and just two at that, the previous three had none. Maybe all the drivers fancied an afternoon’s off-road driving in the sunshine despite the lack of passengers.

The rough Cumbria Way path gets a tarmac surface a couple of hundred yards back from the turn off for High Arnside Holiday Cottages and it was a relief to have solid ground beneath our feet again. The road by the green sign is the A593 and the lay-by is just around the bend in the road below us. The Hodge Close lane we started out on is behind the wall on the other side of the road so we’ve come full circle and the end of today’s walk. The sun eventually appeared and made amends for the cloudy start and although the long distance views were very hazy we’ve had a most enjoyable walk over a couple of fells we’ve not been anywhere near for six years. There’s a whole lot more that we haven’t visited in that time frame too, and some even longer than that, but we’ll get around to them eventually.