Walk date – 12th February 2020
Distance – 6.75 miles
Weather – sunny spells at first followed by several hail showers, windy at the head of the valley
Storm Ciara may be over and done with but in its wake the weather continues to batter us. Dark, menacing clouds scud across the skies, tipping their cargoes of rain, sleet and snow down on us with wearying regularity, and the gale force winds continue to howl and blast away at anything in their path. Outdoors everything that could be blown away is safely stowed away and we’ve been hunkering down indoors waiting for the all clear. The forecast for today wasn’t great but with only occasional showers and lighter winds being predicted we decided to stay off the fells and take a valley walk instead, before it all goes downhill again courtesy of Storm Dennis. With wet weather gear, soup and sandwiches duly packed we drove over to Kentmere for a steady little clockwise ramble around the Kentmere valley.
Kentmere Church – Hollin Lane – Scales – Hartrigg – Rainsborrow Crag – Reservoir Cottage – Kentmere Reservoir – Tongue House – Overend Farm – Low Lane – Rook Howe – Kentmere Church
Kentmere is well known for its limited car parking and even on a dull winter’s day like today the parking area by the church and village hall had only a couple of available spaces left by the time we arrived, although to be fair we didn’t arrive until 10 a.m. We parked behind the blue van back there beside the village hall and no sooner had we pulled in another car came around and took the last spot right behind us. A pair of young men in running kit got out, locked the car and set off walking up this road. Before turning the corner they stopped, just beyond the blue van and in full view of us, where one of them proceeded to relieve himself. I appreciate that there are no public toilet facilities available here but it would only have taken a few more steps to walk round the bend and do the necessary in relative privacy. J was fuming at his lack of good manners and public decency and despairing of the behaviour of young men nowadays.
The village hall’s honesty box suggested £3 as a suitable donation for a day’s parking with which we would have readily complied, however, J had a struggle to get the first pound coin in the slot provided, followed by an even greater struggle to insert the second one so we left it at that and set off northwards past the village hall along Hollin Lane. It wasn’t long before we reached this metal gate, which we passed through, and continued along the tarmac lane which eventually leads to Hartrigg Farm. The lane off to the left leads over to The Nook and beyond that the Garburn Pass track.
Blue skies, plus a couple of the tops of Cowsty Knotts, appear as we walk up the hill from the gate.
Raven Crag from further along the farm access lane. The good track makes for easy walking.
Shipman Knotts and Wray Crag get some sunshine as we begin to drop down the lane towards Calfhowe Crag.
The farm access lane dropping down to Calfhowe Crag, to the right of the shot. The footpath from Rook Howe joins the lane just by the gate a little further down.
Shipman Knotts and Wray Crag basking in the sunshine, and the pair of us are gradually removing bits of winter clothing and unzipping jackets as it becomes warmer, we’re even acquiring a moist sheen on our faces.
Kentmere Pike comes into view, as does Harter Fell behind it although thanks to its snow covering blending in with the cloud its a little more difficult to see it clearly.
Scales farmhouse and bank barn, a Grade ll listed building, the house dates from the late 1600’s, possibly even earlier, and the barn from the late 1700’s or early 1800’s.
Beyond Scales farm and we have a clearer view of Harter Fell and Kentmere Pike now that the low cloud has lifted a little. This longish sunny spell was most enjoyable, especially as its been quite a while since we’ve experienced one.
A snow covered valley head comes into view as we round the next bend. On the skyline are Ill Bell and Froswick, on the left, and Lingmell End and Mardale Ill Bell over on the right. Between them is the flatter area above Bleathwaite Crag leading over to Thornthwaite Beacon.
A look back along the valley from the same spot. The walk along the valley isn’t completely flat but as it only rises and falls quite gently it is barely noticeable.
Tucked in amongst the trees on the left is Hartrigg Farm. Imagine opening the bedroom curtains every morning and looking at the view down the valley, what a wonderful way to start your day eh?
At Hartrigg Farm the tarmac lane carries on down the hill to the farmhouse, the public footpath continues over on the left at the signpost. Beyond the gate the tarmac gives way to a rough and stony track.
Hartrigg farmhouse below us as we pass above it on the rough track.
As the track rises from the farm junction Rainsborrow Crag, Ill Bell and Froswick begin to appear …..
….. and the track keeps company with them all the way to the reservoir. Froswick looks to have received a lot more snow than the other two.
Further along the track conditions were more difficult, lots of soft, slushy and slippery snow and many large puddles. Side-stepping the puddles resulted in sinking into the waterlogged and muddy grass around the edges. Still, the puddles came in handy for getting rid of a lot of the mud.
Tongue Scar across the valley stands out quite well thanks to its craggy nature but the snowy skyline of the fells behind it is now beginning to blend in with the clouds once again.
Rainsborrow Crag, Ill Bell and Froswick are still clear enough though as we drop down towards Reservoir Cottage.
The skyline is a little clearer now but darker cloud is building from the west as I take a look towards the head of the valley and our sunny spell has just about disappeared.
J has just extricated himself, and his pack, from the very narrow handgate beside the vehicle access one which, unless you wanted boots full of cold, muddy water, was practically unusable by walkers.
Having not had the slightest hint of a breeze so far, somewhere around this point the wind started strengthening but at least it was whooshing up behind us and not giving us the full in the face treatment.
Lingmell End, Mardale Ill Bell and Nan Bield Pass become easier to see as the cloud lifts once again. With a zoom in it might be possible to identify the shelter, sited in the U-shaped gap, at the top of the pass.
Approaching the gate just before we reach Reservoir Cottage where we exchange greetings with a couple coming towards us, which leaves three other people up ahead of us. How do we know that? Well, all the way along we’ve been noticing five quite distinct sets of bootprints and it was obvious that two of those sets belonged to this pair of walkers. Will we meet the other three as they walk back or will they be doing the same as we intend to and return via the path on the other side of the valley? Only time will tell.
A view back towards Rainsborrow Crag as the first of today’s hail showers passes over us, there was little point in donning wet weather gear as the spheres of icy pellets simply bounced straight off us and didn’t leave so much as a damp spot on our jackets or gloves. Every subsequent hail shower was just the same so I needn’t have bothered bringing my wet weather gear at all. Rainsborrow Crag is on the eastern flank of Yoke and there has been extensive quarrying in this area in the past. Spoil heaps are everywhere, although with their snow covering its difficult to differentiate between them and the rest of the rocky terrain.
Reservoir Cottage below the spoil heaps of Steel Rigg Quarry although it was not part of the quarry, it was built to house the caretaker of the reservoir dam. Nowadays the cottage and another building close by are used as a field studies centre.
A look back down the track as we head on up to the reservoir. A little further on we met the owners of the other three distinct sets of bootprints as they made their way back to Kentmere. We are now being blown up the track as the wind has strengthened even more and …..
….. and, as we reached the reservoir spillway, the skies had turned ominously dark and the ice pellets began dancing off our jackets once again.
Looking across to Lingmell End, Mardale Ill Bell and Nan Bield Pass from the spillway …..
….. then a little more to my left for a view of the spillway itself.
The ice pellets keep on falling, hence the white streaks above the water, and the strong winds sweep across the surface of the reservoir pushing the wavelets towards Lingmell End. Looks like there’s a whiteout going on over the High Street group of fells so anyone walking over there might be a little uncomfortable right now.
The bleak view along the spillway from the reservoir outlet.
We had thought we might walk all the way around the reservoir and pick up the path on the opposite side of the river for our return leg to Kentmere. The wind and the hail soon put paid to that and we decided not to spend any longer in the wintry conditions than we absolutely had to, so we turned around and headed back down to the spillway bridge instead.
The upstream view from the spillway bridge.
We drop down from the spillway bridge and cross the infant River Kent by means of this footbridge to reach the return footpath, parts of which can be seen on the opposite bank a few yards above the river.
A look back towards the dam wall and the spillway as we gain the path on the opposite side. We are now walking into the strong wind and the ice pellets from another hail shower are stinging us full in the face so it was a relief to stand with our backs to it for a few minutes. It kept on coming so we eventually had to make a move and I decided to put the camera away until things eased off a little.
It eventually stopped as we walked through the spoil heaps further down and I was able to get the camera out again for this shot looking ahead of us. The sunshine is long gone, heavy cloud continues to move across and the wind is still barrelling up towards us.
The circular sheepfold, known as Whether Fold, appears below us. Now whether the name alludes to ‘whether or not’, or ‘wether’ as in castrated ram, or is simply a mis-spelling of ‘weather’ I have no idea. Now I’m wondering whether I should have even mentioned the name in the first place! Never mind about all that, the weather over Rainsborrow Crag looks somewhat bleak at the moment and sure enough along came another hail shower. The camera went away again.
By the time it passed over we had reached this cross wall where the gate had been padlocked so the only option was the hand gate and stile. The strong spring on the hand gate was as fierce to deal with as Arkwright’s till in ‘Open All Hours’ …..
….. but its no match for a double Weetabix breakfast and J waits and holds the gate for me.
More flurries of hail accompanied us down to Tongue House Barn where one of the local farmers had deposited a sheep feeder. Naturally the sheep know where it is and make a bee line for it during the lean winter grazing period. The combination of waterlogged ground and the feet of many quadrupeds did not make for trouble free walking and our boots were soon covered in a mixture of brown mud and other debris which I’d rather not think about. Somewhere just to the north west of the barn is the site of an Romano-British enclosed stone hut settlement and farmstead which, on a better day and with no snow on the ground, might have been searched for as it seems that the layout is reasonably well preserved. Not quite the day for it today though so we pressed on.
Tongue House Barn in the distance below Rainsborrow Crag and Ill Bell.
We’re well down the valley now and no longer subjected to the strong wind, presumably the flat and open land allows it to spread out and thus decrease in strength. All we’re experiencing now is a light breeze.
Looking back up the valley towards Tongue Scar and the Ill Bell group. It was difficult to decide where to walk along here, the lane to the barn was thick with mud and riddled with puddles while the grass was so waterlogged that as we stepped on it puddles of muddy water encircled our boots, the colour of which is now brown as opposed to the blue-grey they were to begin with.
The path eventually comes close beside the river …..
….. so we have a pleasant stretch of riverside walking during which we passed this old pack horse bridge which the many sheep along the track were making full use of.
Looks like more hail showers are taking place over the head of the valley as I take a look back from the squelchy path.
Overend Farm where, out of shot on the left, there is a junction in the path. The left hand path eventually joins up with High Lane and leads over to Green Quarter, on the opposite side of the valley to where we are parked, so we go through the closed gate across the right hand path instead …..
….. which leads us round the back of the farm …..
….. and along a slightly less muddy route. It was good not to hear any more slurping noises around our boots for a while.
Fell tops and cloud still merging as I look back along the valley from Low Lane.
Across the valley are the various riggs, knotts, and howes of Crag Quarter, with the snowy lower slopes of Yoke behind them on the right.
The ewe by the wall up ahead had approached the beck and stood for a few moments deciding whether to get her feet wet or use the slab bridge, eventually deciding that the paddling route was more to her liking. A couple of minutes later along came this ewe who was much more decisive and walked straight across without so much as a second’s worth of hesitation and, immediately after her …..
….. along came another one who was just as decisive and went straight across, no messing.
Plenty of weather still going on at the head of the valley.
We leave the path from Overend Farm at this tall step stile where J strikes a climbing pose for me, or maybe he’s just checking his laces.
On the other side of the step stile I noticed this large split boulder, not quite at the same as the one in Far Easedale but just as intriguing.
Following the path from the step stile for just a short distance brings us to this bridge where we cross the River Kent once again …..
….. from where another short length of path brings us to the narrow opening in the wall where we turn left along the walled lane …..
….. which in turns opens out onto this open path wending its way past some very large rocks and boulders. A glimmer of sun landed on Shipman Knotts as I took the shot looking back to the walled lane.
The track leads us round the Rook Howe house where bits of blue sky are starting to turn up again. As usual, now that we are nearly back in Kentmere the weather decides to play ball again.
We leave Rook Howe behind and make our way down to the church with this look over towards the houses of Green Quarter with the fell carrying the same name right behind them.
Well, that’s us back at Kentmere village hall and J already has the tailgate open and is shrugging off his pack. The little blue car with its two runners which parked behind us just as we arrived has now gone only to be replaced by another, and I expect the occupants couldn’t believe their luck to find a parking space available when they arrived. A mixed bag of weather but a good day overall and, apart from a surfeit of mud, a very enjoyable walk. Better get off home then and scrape the gunge off these very wet boots. They should be clean and dry by the time Storm Dennis is over.