Skiddaw and Lonscale Fell

Walk Date – 1st August 2016

Distance – 13.1 miles

Weather – mostly overcast with sunny spells later, chilly wind on tops




Hmm, it was supposed to be a bit sunnier than this today, but the skies are looking decidedly leaden as we set off from the empty parking area just beyond the Blencathra Field Studies Centre. The painkiller supplies have been replenished in the first aid kit and and I’m hoping that the two I’ve already taken will soon be getting to work. We’re taking the path ahead for a gentle walk along the Glenderaterra Beck as far as Skiddaw House. Once there we’ll see how things are and decide the rest of the walk at that point.

The path is quite level and runs along the flanks of Blease Fell from where there is a good view across to the north western fells, although the heavy overcast skies aren’t helping to show them at their best this morning.

Slightly to the left of the previous shot is this view across St John’s in the Vale, with Bleaberry Fell in the centre and Walla Crag just below and to the right of it.

Looking behind me at Clough Head on the left, with The Dodds and the Helvellyn range to its right. You can also see how gentle the path is, its just the ticket while I wait for the painkillers to kick in.

Further along and Lonscale Fell comes into view. If all goes well we may well be over there a bit later on.

06 Latrigg in the centre with the north western fells behind

The little fell in the centre is Latrigg which has been left with an unsightly bald patch after all the tree felling.

07 Further along the path and Great Calva comes into view

Further along now and the conical shape of Great Calva comes into view over on the right. The path is still nice and easy and the painkillers are beginning to work.

The path begins to turn as we cross this gill.

A short distance further along we cross Roughten Gill. The white specks in the distance are the plastic tubes protecting a planting of deciduous trees. As is often the case, this planting from a few years ago does not appear to have been a huge success.

The path takes us past this old sheepfold as it begins to turn towards the crossing of the Glenderaterra Beck.

As it turns the path leads us towards two beck crossings.

The first crossing, at Sinen Gill, which is …..

15 Bridge crossing number two with Lonscale Fell as a backdrop

….. quickly followed by the second one, with Lonscale Fell as its backdrop.

A look down the valley as we approach the gate. Once through the gate we will make the short climb up to join the Cumbria Way path which will take us on to Skiddaw House.

We stop by the signposted boulder at the Cumbria Way junction to remove a layer as its quite muggy at the moment.

“Wonder what time the next bus to Keswick is due?”

We follow the Cumbria Way route past Lonscale Fell to go through this very watery and muddy gate crossing.

I gave up on going through the gate and climbed over the fence on the left instead as the ground below it on that side and this was a whole lot drier.

We make good progress along the Cumbria Way path with Great Calva to our right across the acres of heather which is just coming into flower. In a week or so it will be in full bloom and the fells will be clothed in swathes of purple with the accompanying fragrant scent of honey. Notice the lone tree on the right, is it a escapee from the plastic tubes I ask myself?

Ahead of us is Skiddaw House where it will be time to decide where the next part of the walk will be.

22 Skiddaw House

Skiddaw House where clouds of midges appeared from nowhere and set about eating us, and where a cyclist was taking a break and who set about telling us all about his cycling trips. We escaped both hazards by moving on quickly.

We walked up behind Skiddaw House and its girdle of trees onto this path which leads over Sale How and up onto the Skiddaw ridge. My back pain has been subdued by the tablets and I’m walking OK so we take an executive decision and carry on up to Sale How. Once there we’ll review the situation.

The view ahead up to Sale How. The path is grassy, if a little soggy on the lower parts, with sweet smelling heather and no bracken to fight through. We had noticed the little group up there ahead of us coming towards Skiddaw House from the north western end of the Cumbria Way while we were being informed about cycling routes. They had the advantage of being able to turn onto this path without getting too close to Skiddaw House so they managed to avoid having to listen to it. We reached the Skiddaw ridge well before they did as they had a very long stop when they reached the top of Sale How.

Looking back from the Sale How path for a view of the flattened mound known as Mungrisedale Common, with Blencathra behind it over on the right.

As we gain height we begin to see more of the northern fells. Great Calva is on the left, next to it in the centre is Carrock Fell, and over on the right is High Pike. This area is wild open moorland, there are no tourist amenities of any kind, and consequently you don’t come across many people. We had seen no-one until the cyclist who pounced on us at Skiddaw House, and the three walkers in front of us who had managed to avoid him.

When we reached Sale How we had another back pain consultation after which we decided to carry on. Sale How is now behind and below us, and where we left the three walkers taking a lengthy break. On the skyline behind it is Blencathra, while over on the right is Lonscale Fell.

The view ahead, Skiddaw Little Man …..

29 From Sale How we continue on the path towards Skiddaw

….. and the long summit plateau of Skiddaw.

Almost on the Skiddaw ridge with a view of some of the northern fells behind us. As Skiddaw was cloud free and I was still walking well we decided we would carry on up to the summit.

A very brief splash of sunshine on Blencathra.

We joined the main path up to the summit of Skiddaw from where we had this view of Keswick, Derwentwater and the surrounding fells. Just by the fence corner post in the centre there was a little family problem taking place. There was Mum, Dad, young son and older daughter, and the girl had sat down on the grass and was refusing to go any further despite Mum’s encouragement. To be fair the young lass did look very weary having already had a long walk from the Gale Road car park. At this point she was looking up at another section of climbing and I imagine, that to her, it just looked like a step too far. She wasn’t too far from the top, but although her parents were telling her that I don’t think she believed them. They’d probably been saying that all the way to this point and maybe it was wearing a bit thin. As we reached them I mentioned that the two of us were in possession of bus passes and although we were really, really old we were going to get to the summit no matter what. If we didn’t we would always wish we had and we would have wasted all the effort we had put in so far. Mum reminded daughter that she was only 11 years old and that if we could do it then so could she. Anyway, something had an effect and up she got and set off again with Mum and me and we struck up a conversation between the three of us which kept the girl’s mind off walking the last few hundred yards.

On the way to the summit I pointed out to the girl this view looking across to Ullock Pike and Bass Lake, and it was nice to see her interest in the walk returning.

There they are, Dad and son, who got carried from time to time, in blue on the left. Daughter, with pink rucksack, and Mum just ahead, the trig column clearly in view, and much relief all round I expect. When we reached the summit, I congratulated the young lass who looked very much more cheerful by then, and Mum thanked me for the help.

At the trig point Dad noticed our gps and asked us what height reading it was giving. He then included that bit of info in a video for which the owner of the tan coloured boot on the left did the recording. Dad had been volunteered for a charity mission which involved him doing 22 press ups on 22 consecutive days, so he recorded an introduction and then did the press ups on Skiddaw summit.

By now a huge black cloud was hanging over us, the wind had got up and it had turned very chilly indeed so we turned tail and headed off. There was the usual constant stream of people up here so I didn’t bother with any photos, apart from this one which takes a look back at the summit area.

Down we go, we give Skiddaw Little Man a miss and head across to Lonscale Fell. The walking is mostly downhill from this point so there are no problems regarding my back.

41 A look back along the super-highway

A look back along the super highway leading up to Skiddaw. You’d have to try really hard to miss the path up here wouldn’t you?

43 Looking back at Skiddaw from the path to Lonscale Fell

Instead of going through the gate in the fence back there, we turned left off the main path and followed the fence line across to Lonscale Fell.

44 Looking ahead to Lonscale Fell

Looking ahead to Lonscale Fell where there are no crowds, and the only things moving about are us and the sheep.

46 Blencathra from Lonscale Fell

It doesn’t take long to reach the summit and the haphazard pile of stones which marks it. This is a view of Blencathra which is to the north of the summit.

47 Looking south from Lonscale Fell

Looking southwards and it looks like the cloud might be breaking up a little. The windproofs are off now that we are lower and the jumpers might have to be removed before much longer too.

49 The Dodds, Helvellyn and Thirlmere from Lonscale Fell

From the summit we head southwards for the view across St John’s in the Vale but the cloud is making it difficult to see the fells very clearly. You can see Thirlmere in the distance though.

51 The north western fells from the descent

We follow the grassy track down and get a better view of the north western fells now that the sun is beginning to break through.

52 Latrigg with Derwentwater behind

I think our walk leader must have been on auto pilot as there was a navigational discrepancy at this point. It should have been a left turn at the marker post as we needed to go across in the direction of Threlkeld. The jumpers are now off and its getting very warm.

53 Into the bracken

It became even warmer down here. The clear path became obscured in the shoulder high bracken and we just had to make for Whit Beck as best we could. Had we turned left at the marker post we would have been walking in the right direction back to our start point along a smooth grassy path, my back would have appreciated that much better than this.

54 Looking over Whit Beck

We made it out of the bracken and rejoined the Cumbria Way path just above Whit Beck …..

55 The Skiddaw range from the Gale Road area

….. which leads us down to the parking area at the end of Gale Road. From there I took a look back at the Skiddaw range.

56 Blease Fell

We continue along the flanks of Latrigg on the path which runs just above the area of tree felling shown in an earlier photo. We still have a way to go as the Blencathra Field Studies Centre is situated on the slopes of Blease Fell over there. Its somewhere between the large area of bracken and the green fields below it.

57 The damaged bridge on the old railway footpath

At Brundholme there is a reminder of the power of Storm Desmond at the beginning of December 2015. Before the storm it was possible to cross the field and join the old railway path between Keswick and Threlkeld. It was a very popular route with walkers and cyclists taking you over several of the original railway bridges which crossed the river at various points. Two of the bridges were swept from their stone piers by the flooded river. If you take a look back at the walk we did on 30th Oct 2014 there is a photo of the same bridge which illustrates just how high the waters rose.

58. A view of High Rigg as we return to the Blencathra CentreJPG

We’re now almost back at the Blencathra centre and there’s a lovely view of High Rigg through the trees as we walk the last few yards. Well, it turned out to be quite an eventful walk in one way and another, especially as it started out as nothing more than a tentative ‘let’s see how my back holds up’ kind of walk. We’ve walked just a bit over 13 miles, visited two fells, encouraged a young lass to keep going, taken a turning that added to the length and gave us a fight with the bracken, and walked the last couple of miles in boiling hot sunshine, none of which did we plan, or could have anticipated when we started out this morning. All I can say is that those two painkillers did their job for most of the time, but now their effect has worn off and I’m ready for a couple more, washed down, of course, with a nice cup of tea.