Walk date – 31st October 2019
Distance – 5.6 miles
Weather – dry and sunny, cold easterly wind
Another sunny day dawned, the third one this week, and as the forecast had indicated the possibility of another overcast day we didn’t really have anything definite planned. No matter, coffee and sandwiches were quickly made and stowed into a pack and, after taking note of the icy roofs, fields and windscreens, cold weather clothing donned and off we went on the short drive over to Sandwick to take a stroll over Place Fell. We’ve walked Place Fell a number of times over the years so its a very familiar fell but its always a different experience every time we visit thanks to the weather conditions, the season, the light and even the time of day. Today was no exception, it was cold and windy but brilliantly sunny and the colours of the autumn landscape were absolutely glorious.
Sandwick – Scalehow Beck – Low Moss – Hart Crag – Place Fell – Hart Crag – Low Moss – Sleet Fell – Sandwick
The start of the path above the little hamlet of Sandwick .Two or three cars were already parked at the bottom of the road, out of shot to the right, but there’s generally plenty of roadside parking available out of season so we did not need to make a very early start, especially as we only have to drive a little over twelve miles to get here. The signpost indicates that Patterdale is three and a half miles distant but we’ll be leaving the path well before we get anywhere near Patterdale.
The Lowther Barn Tea Room stands right beside the path although if you’ve started walking from Sandwick you probably wouldn’t need any refreshments just yet. It would probably be just what you’d be glad to see if you’d walked the many ups and downs of the path from Patterdale though. Obviously closed today and I didn’t check for opening times but it might just be open at weekends.
Low Birk Fell straight ahead and here’s where we turned off to get onto the path up to Low Moss. We had a bit of a scrap with the ‘dead but won’t lie down’ bracken to reach it but we eventually emerged, unscathed and slightly sweaty onto the lovely green path …..
….. from where we plucked off the bits of bracken clinging our socks, trousers and jackets before turning around to look back at the view of Ullswater and Hallin Fell. I think the view was worth all the sweat and curses.
Out of the bracken now and climbing the green path alongside Scalehow Beck across which are the bronzed bracken slopes of Low Birk Fell the rocky top of which can be seen at the top right of the shot. There’s a lovely, well built little cairn up there, the view along Ullswater is wonderful and its well worth the effort of getting up there. Best to go up there when the bracken is well and truly down and out, or in April/May before it starts growing again, in both cases all the paths will be much clearer to see and follow. I wouldn’t recommend going during the peak growing time of June, July and August.
Looking back at Low Birk Fell from the green path. The bracken has been dying back since the end of August and only now, at the end of October, can one path just be seen, it wouldn’t be possible to see that in high summer when it will have grown tall enough to obliterate the path completely.
On the slopes of High Dodd, right beside the path, is this old quarry and across the valley …..
….. extending southwards from Low Birk Fell is the ridge line of Smeathwaite and Bleaberry Knott, the latter being the summit of Birk Fell, one of Place Fell’s subsidiary summits.
The green path became a little watery in places beyond the quarry building. This is a look back at the derelict building with Gowbarrow Fell behind the brackeny slopes of Low Birk Fell. We began to hear lots of shouting and hollering from here on as a couple of chaps, and their dogs, were just above us intent on getting the sheep rounded up, whether they wanted to be rounded up or not. Neither the men nor the dogs were having it all their own way either since the sheep had other ideas every so often.
A short stop for a Mars Bar and drinks at the sheepfold at Low Moss provided a good opportunity for this shot of Mortar Crag with the path across to it showing up very well in the bright light. The path comes down to meet the one we are following and we really ought to get round to walking over it one of these days. Whilst at the sheepfold we began to see a few more walkers …..
….. there’s one of them, just about to reach the top of High Dodd, a cheery young lady with her dog has just walked by us, and before her, a couple, walking at a strong pace up the steep slope from the sheepfold. About halfway up the lady of the pair stopped for quite some time, her male companion was oblivious to the fact and it wasn’t until he was about to disappear over the crest of the rise that he realised she had stopped, at which point he turned around and went back to join her. They were there a good few minutes so I’m guessing that the pace he was going at eventually became too much for his companion and she just had to stop for a breather. They eventually got under way again and perhaps next time he’ll remember to keep looking back and checking on his walking companion, if only to avoid climbing the same route twice.
We carry on from the sheepfold at a much more leisurely pace than theirs and, having temporarily forgotten just how steep this path becomes, also have to stop for a breather. Might as well take a shot or two while I’m at it although behind me there’s nothing but a green and rather uninteresting slope, and ahead of me I can see nothing but bright sunlight, which leaves me with this view to the east where just below is Beda Fell’s Winter Crag, followed by Steel Knotts while on the skyline behind them is Loadpot Hill.
A little further right and the higher and steeper slopes of Beda Fell become much more prominent over on the right.
Further right a little more and Beda Head, the summit of Beda Fell, comes into view across the middle foreground. Having got our breath back on we go again …..
….. to reach the top of the steep climb where we take another little breather and a look back towards High Dodd and the sheepfold below it. No view of the North Pennines today, they’re beneath that blanket of thick blue-grey cloud in the distance. Arthur’s Pike and Bonscale Pike, where we walked the other day, are over on the right hand edge of the shot. Now we have a bit more climbing to do …..
….. well, quite a bit more climbing in fact, as we turn up to face the tiered outcrops of Hart Crag with added encouragement now that Place Fell’s trig column is at last in sight. Onwards and upwards then.
Once over Hart Crag there is not much further to go and here I’m just below the summit of Place Fell with a look back at Hart Crag.
J poses nicely by the trig column having only just made it up there before a family party arrived and full marks to the little girls in the party who bounded up before the others but had the courtesy to wait until I had taken the shot. We didn’t stay up here much longer, the wind was strong and cold and …..
….. after taking this shot of the un-named tarn just below the summit …..
….. we scuttled round to the leeward side, found a sheltered spot and got out the sandwiches and coffee. Nice spot for a break with a view down to Glenridding, Glenridding Dodd and Sheffield Pike. Sticks Pass on the centre skyline has Stybarrow Dodd and Great Dodd to the right, and Raise and White Side to the left. The air quality was a little hazy today so views were rather indistinct today.
After lunch it was back to the summit area where we had to wait a few minutes while another family group clambered up to take their photos. By the time all was clear my fingers were numb, despite having gloves on, and eyes and noses were streaming in the keen, cold wind.
Like Icarus, I was getting a bit too close to the sun here with the result that High Street, over on the extreme right of the skyline, has been almost washed out. However Rampsgill Head, to the left of it, and High Raise, to the left of that, have survived although they too are very hazy. The Nab and Rest Dodd, across the middle foreground, have fared a little better though.
Taking photos in any other direction was pointless, although it didn’t stop me trying and ultimately binning them, so we made our way down to the tarn for a few shots of that instead.
The wind ruffled tarn, followed by …..
….. a look across to the rocky plinth and trig column on the summit of Place Fell where walkers were constantly arriving and departing.
Hart Crag above the tarn with the wind gusting much more strongly. It was flippin’ parky up here now so it was up with the jacket hoods and a quick march over to the path to descend out of the chilliness.
Blencathra and the northern fells on the skyline as we start our descent. Just below us is The Knight, the rocky cluster on the left, with a very marshy area between it and the summit of Birk Fell.
The spectacular view ahead of us as we begin to make our way down from the rocky summit area towards Hart Crag. Behind it are High Dodd and Hallin Fell and a couple of smidges of Ullswater. It looks empty of walkers but there was about a handful of people at various places below us.
We were eager to get out of the shadow of Place Fell’s summit area since the combination of shade and the cold wind resulted in a marked drop in temperature. It was a relief to get back in the sunshine.
We’re almost back at the Low Moss sheepfold now but instead of returning via the path we followed this morning, i.e. the one tracking horizontally across the base of High Dodd, we’re going to use the one showing on the extreme right of the shot which skirts around the fell and leads on to Sleet Fell. For the time being we still have bright sunshine but cloud is gradually beginning to build and move ahead of us.
We’re now on the path just mentioned and rounding the slopes of High Dodd on this wide grassy path and heading over to Sleet Fell just ahead of us a little lower down. As the shot shows we’re still enjoying some sun but there are a lot of large shaded areas everywhere and the cloud seems to be building quite rapidly. The men we heard hollering and shouting earlier are still on the fellside behind us and still trying to round up all their sheep. The sheep seemed to be running rings around the dogs and were finding plenty of places to hide themselves in. It was amusing to watch but the men and the dogs must have been more than a little weary after a few hours of trying to round up some very stubborn sheep.
A look down to the colourful fields of Martindale from this lovely airy path but we were wondering for how much longer we would be enjoying the sunshine. A very large and lengthy band of cloud was now overhead, the edge of which was just a little to our left, so the Ullswater side of High Dodd was in full shade while we continued to enjoy the sun a little longer on the Martindale side.
Dropping down High Dodd now and heading towards Sleet Fell beyond which a much less colourful landscape is in view. The only other sunny patch is well beyond Dunmallard Hill in the direction of Penrith.
A little further on and the cloud shadow is beginning to creep up on us and the rich colours on the fells are beginning to lose at little of their fire, oh well, it was lovely while it lasted and its nice to be out of the wind at last. We’re almost at the junction where the path below us in the shot meets up with the one we are on but we won’t be descending by that route. If we did we would emerge in Martindale with a spot of road walking back to Sandwick so we remain on this one and eventually cross over to return to Sandwick via Sleet Fell, a much more enjoyable route.
The lights went out as we crossed over Sleet Fell with nary a sunny patch in sight, although …..
….. we did see a very brief beam of light below us as we were descending Sleet Fell, which looked very much as though a torch had been switched on and specifically aimed at that handful of fields in the valley.
That was the last of the sun for the day and although it looks to be much later it was still only just past two o’clock and plenty of daylight still available for walkers still out on the fells. We’re almost done though and there’s only the little matter of carefully negotiating the descent of Sleet Fell. It isn’t a very high fell at a little over 1200′ but what it lacks in height it more than makes up for in steepness.
Hallin Fell, on view all the way down as we make our way towards Peggy’s seat just a little further down and where we can take the brakes off at last. From the seat we only have a few more yards to walk before we’re back at the car ready for the drive home. A surprising little dazzler of a day but it looks as though that might be the last one for a few days, the forecast for the next few days is looking decidedly damp!