Walk Date – 8th January 2020
Distance – 2.8 miles
Weather – mild, dull, overcast, breezy on top
Monday was grey, gloomy and extremely windy, yesterday was the same with the added extra of heavy rain, and today looked like turning into a repeat of yesterday as we glumly watched the rain cascading down the windows. But, by late morning, the rain had stopped, the clouds above the Eden Valley began to break up and glimpses of blue sky were beginning to appear. Thus we began our usual routine when clutching at whatever brief spell of half decent weather came our way, a quick lunch, a few bits and bobs into a pack, and deciding on a walk which would fit into the few hours of daylight now left available. In the end we opted for Sale Fell, even though it does call for almost an hour’s drive to reach it, which might be considered a waste of an hour’s worth of daylight. However, when all the possibilities of similar walks over fells closer to home have been exhausted, almost to the point of being personally acquainted with every stone, rock and bump of them, you do eventually feel the need for a change of scenery. So Sale Fell it would be, it might be further away but its an easy and short walk offering some good views, despite its modest height of 1178′, AW’s list only contains six fells which are of lesser height. Heading west it quickly became obvious that the weather gods had decided that the cloud dispersal would end at Blencathra, as usual, and thus we carried on to Bass Lake and the back road to Wythop Mill in ever deepening gloom. The cloud remained, the wind was nothing more than a nuisance, (average wind speed 20 mph and gusting at 25 mph) and it didn’t rain. At this time of the year you can’t expect much more so you just have to fit a walk in whenever you can.
Lay-by on Wythop Mill lane – Lothwaite – Rivings – Sale Fell – Lay-by on Wythop Mill lane
Having parked up in the lay-by we crossed the road and walked the few yards to this gateway which marks the beginning of our route today. Once through the gate we were met by a group of mums out for a walk with their pre-school youngsters. One mum was warning the kids to be careful down the sloping muddy path and the words were barely out of her mouth before she slipped and landed squarely on one of the muddier bits. She didn’t hurt herself and got to her feet just as quickly as she had slipped, it was fortunate that they were almost down so she didn’t have to walk much further in a pair of wet and very muddy trousers. Been there, done that and its most uncomfortable until things begin to dry out.
At the top of the rise is the bench, the old wooden slats have been replaced so its a whole lot smoother to sit on now, with the church of St Margaret’s, Wythop Mill below the hillside.
The view from the seat looks back down the path we’ve just walked up, and across Bass Lake to Binsey. A nice view on a summer’s day but long distance views were very indistinct today.
Also from the bench area a look across the main path at the one we are about to take. It leads up to a well broken gap in the wall and continues up and then around the fell side. Not too steep and grass for the most part but today it was, like the one we’ve just walked up, quite muddy and slip-slidy.
A steady walk up brings us to the gap in the wall and a fine view back over the Embleton vale.
Bass Lake and Binsey from the path as we rise above the tree line.
We round the slopes and continue uphill on the main path to arrive at this gate, beyond which a small beck has to be crossed. The beck is narrow so there’s no difficulty getting across it, all we needed to do today was to avoid the sludgy morass on either side of it where previous walkers have trampled the rain soaked grassy banks into a quagmire.
Across the beck the path continues along a flatter stretch from where I took a look back towards Sale Fell. We could have turned off the main path at the wall and made for the summit via that route but this is already a very short walk and we didn’t want to make it even shorter so we’re taking the slightly longer ‘scenic’ route.
The path eventually rounds one of the slopes and begins to climb gently towards …..
….. the top of the de-forested hill at the Routenbeck end of Lothwaite from where we get this partial view of Bass Lake with, in descending order, Skiddaw, The Ullock Pike – Carl Side ridge and Dodd. The cloud base is obscuring the top of Skiddaw and there’s a misty greyness around everything, its very quiet too.
We turn off towards Lothwaite where you might just be able to spot a lone walker heading up it. Sale Fell reminds me very much of Hallin Fell, everywhere you look there are paths criss-crossing it and you can make up your route as you go along. You’ll get a very pleasant ramble whichever path/route you choose.
Bass Lake and the Skiddaw group from the path up to Lothwaite. Lovely views, its just a pity there’s so much murk around.
Up on Lothwaite and a look across to Sale Fell and the smaller hump of Rivings just to the left of it. Behind Rivings the darker shape of Ling Fell can just be seen. A dog almost sneaked into this shot but I noticed it in the viewfinder just as it wandered in and began investigating around the boulder.
The dog and its owner wandered off to the left giving me the chance to take a shot of this superb view, after which we both just sat on the bench and did absolutely nothing for a few minutes. Well, there was no need to rush, the top of Sale Fell is only fifteen minutes away, if that, so we stretched things out as much as we could. It was a bit draughty though, now that we were feeling the breeze up here, so our hoods went up but it wasn’t too unpleasant at all. Now and again we even had a glimmer of sunshine.
Looking across the Wythop Valley towards Ladies Table, the small, partially de-forested hill on the left, with the tree covered slopes of Barf and the bare slopes of Lord’s Seat on the skyline.
Further to the right, across more of the lovely and peaceful Wythop Valley, is Lord’s Seat once again, followed by the long stretch over to Broom Fell after which the dip of Widow’s Hause rises up to Graystones.
Graystones and its neighbour, Kirk Fell, on the skyline below which is the green mound of Burthwaite Heights with Old Scales Farm nestling below that.
On we go for the short walk over to Rivings, the bump on the left …..
….. which boasts a very large cairn, quite out of keeping with its very modest stature but which provides a modicum of foreground interest for this shot over towards Ling Fell …..
….. and also for this shot looking across to Sale Fell. The lone walker, in black, who we saw heading over Lothwaite can just be seen on his way up the Sale Fell path.
He is still plodding up as we set off towards the cross wall …..
….. but had disappeared from our view by the time we reached it. From here another steady climb leads up to Sale Fell’s summit.
The path coming up alongside the wall which I mentioned earlier with Binsey in the background.
Skiddaw still cloud capped as I take a look back from the path …..
….. and a closer look back at the de-forested hill and Lothwaite to the right of it.
Another few yards brings us out on the top of Sale Fell although there is no cairn or trig point to mark the summit. This scrape of bare rock is all there is to it.
A few shots from the top, first looking back towards Lothwaite with Skiddaw and some of the Northern fells behind it …..
….. looking back towards Rivings with Ladies Table just behind it …..
….. then looking across to Barf, Lord’s Seat and Broom Fell …..
….. Graystones, Kirk Fell and Ling Fell …..
….. and finally J, well tucked in against the wind, consulting the gps with Cumbria’s coastal plain stretching away behind him.
We begin to make our way down and once more have a view of Bass Lake and Binsey …..
….. before we begin to drop down to the path we started out on. Beyond the wall is the beck we crossed and the green path which eventually led us round to Lothwaite. We were last up here in 2018 and at that time it looked as though the de-forested hill had been left unplanted. Obviously not, and now tiny green trees are beginning to cover the hillside once again so forest walks can once more be taken, in a good few years time of course.
We dropped down to the main path again, which as can be seen steepens just a little at this point, so I took a look back up to the gate we passed through earlier.
The view down to the gap in the wall as we make our way back down …..
….. and five minutes later we are back at the bench and the path back down to the lay-by. We’re a bit wind-blown so our faces are tingling and my hair now resembles Wurzel Gummidge’s on a bad day. Apart from the mother and toddler group at the beginning, the man and his dog on Lothwaite and the lone walker in black gear ahead of us we’ve seen nobody else at all. Even though it has only been a very short walk it has been very enjoyable. Acres of peace and quiet, a modest amount of exercise and all the fresh air you could ask for worked its usual magic leaving you feeling all the better for having nipped out, if only for a couple of hours. It would be nice if the weather would settle down for a while though so we could get out for a full day instead of nicking an hour or two here and there.
On a drive into Penrith today (Thursday) we noticed snow on the tops of the North Pennines so, presumably, some of higher the Lake District Fells will have a covering too. Its still overcast and murky today and the forecast for the next few days doesn’t look all that promising, ho hum.