Top o’ Selside

Walk Date – 2nd July 2018

Distance – 6.1 miles

Weather – sunny and very hot


Back from holiday, which was great while it lasted, so with luggage unpacked, laundry done and groceries bought we’re back to normal and its time to put boot to fellside once again. We’ve had a longish lay-off and with the weather still very dry and sunny and temperatures soaring we decided to ease ourselves back in by taking a walk based on the Top o’ Selside route detailed in AW’s ‘The Outlying Fells of Lakeland’. We didn’t follow his route exactly and also added on a couple of hills which he didn’t include just to make the walk a little longer. The highest point of ascent was only 1101′ but it was more than enough to deal with as we battled our way through and round the bracken, heather, bilberry and endless rocks and boulders on a very hot day. AW described the route from Brock Barrow to Top o’ Selside as being akin to ‘wilderness gymnastics in a tangle of bracken and heather’, and with the bracken obscuring most of the route across today it was hard to disagree with him.



High Nibthwaite – Brock Barrow – Low Light Haw – High Light Haw – Stang Hill – Arnsbarrow Hill – Top O’Selside – Low Parkamoor Road – High Nibthwaite

The little hamlet of High Nibthwaite has no parking facilities so we parked a short distance to the north alongside the wall beyond the Water Park centre from where I took a look back along the narrow road between Coniston and High Nibthwaite.

From the roadside parking we walked the short distance down to High Nibthwaite with views of Coniston Water on our right. The building with the jetty on the opposite shore is the former Lake Bank Ticket Office where tickets for boat trips around the water would have been purchased in times gone by.

The start of the walk in High Nibthwaite where we take the little lane between the house and the green hedge. The post box in the wall and the red telephone box are useful indicators for the starting point.

A short walk up the lane leads to this wooden gate and once through it there is a choice of routes. We take the track signed for High Bethecar, the other one is signed for High Parkamoor which we’ll use for our return route.

A smidge of Allan Tarn is on view, to the left of centre, as we look along the Crake Valley. The tarn is on private land but it is visible from the road on the eastern side of Coniston Water just to the south of High Nibthwaite. Apparently it featured in Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons books where it was named Octopus Lagoon.

The path winds its way around the base of Brock Barrow which at present is absolutely smothered by bracken. AW’s route was up through the steep gully but on such a hot day we were never going to follow it even if we had been able to locate a path across.

The walk up to Brock Barrow was trying to say the least, the sun directly in our faces, the bracken was above my head and so thickly intertwined that the path was completely obscured. It was just a case of fighting our way through it and hoping that we didn’t step into a deep hole or stumble over an unseen rock. J was only a yard or so ahead of me but it was difficult to see him at times.

Finally, and much to our relief, we emerge from the bracken as we follow the route across the long grass to the broken wall which encircles the summit of Brock Barrow. Beyond the wall the bracken took over once again but mercifully it wasn’t quite as tall so it was a little easier to deal with.

The high point on the skyline is our next objective, Low Light Haw, seen here from Brock Barrow summit. Hmm, wonder where the paths are?

A fabulous view of the Coniston fells from Brock Barrow summit.

Looking to Low Light Haw from Brock Barrow. There is a fine cairn close by but I omitted to take a shot of it, probably because we were talking and trying to decide on a route across. We’ll just have to come back when the bracken dies back and remember to take a shot of it then.

Coniston Water and the fells beyond as we make our way through the bracken and head towards Low Light Haw.

Looking back to Brock Barrow from Low Light Haw where we arrived after another scratchy struggle through thick vegetation. We decide its time for a mop down and to take some liquid on board. Its very hot but now we have the cooling effect of a lively breeze coming in from the south east which is sheer bliss.

Looking north from the summit cairn on Low Light Haw. The high points to the right of centre are Stang Hill and Arnsbarrow Hill, with Top o’ Selside just to the left of them. Its difficult to make out but the hill in the centre in front of them is High Light Haw. That’s where we’re off to next and it looks as though life is about to get a little easier because we can now see a clear route across, hallelujah.

Another look at that wonderful view from Low Light Haw.

Approaching High Light Haw where the bracken has largely given way to grasses, bilberry and early flowering heather and where we can at last walk freely and easily.

Looking back to Low Light Haw as we arrive on the top of High Light Haw and once again we reap the benefit of the lively breeze. Just as we arrived at the top a farmer, a very nice chap, arrived on his quad bike and came over for a chat. He was out looking for his sheep and hoping to drive some of them back to the farm so he could get their ‘jackets tekken off’. Turned out that he had 800 sheep all of which he shears himself so he brings them down a few at a time. My sympathies went out to him when he mentioned his back problems, thankfully mine seem to have sorted themselves out and things are back to normal again. He’d left his dogs at home because it was too hot for them and they got tired very quickly, same here I thought. We stood chatting for well over half an hour about this and that, as you do, so we had a good rest and he had someone to talk to for a while. We said our cheerios and off he went on his quest while I wandered around to take some more shots.

A fine view of the Levens estuary and Morecambe Bay from High Light Haw.

Black Combe in the distance above the foot of Coniston Water.

Its those Coniston fells again.

Across Coniston Water we can see the Dunnerdale Fells, Caw and White Maiden.

Stang Hill and Arnsbarrow Hill on the skyline. Hmm, looks like there’s a heck of a lot of bracken in that dip between here and there.

The path off High Light Haw starts off clearly enough and passes by this little quarry on Bethecar Moor on the way over.

A look back to High Light Haw across Stang Moss. The path disappeared into the bracken a little way across so we made it up as we went along and then suddenly stumbled upon it once again. It was very, very hot walking through that little dip, the breeze disappeared on us, and I’m as limp as a wet noodle. Several slugs of water later and …..

….. we’re on the summit of Stang Hill and looking over at the Coniston fells again. Stomachs are rumbling but we walk the short distance across to Arnsbarrow Hill where we’ve decided we’ll take our food break.

A flat seat, a back rest and a foot rest, just perfect for a spot of lunch. I don’t even mind the breeze whipping my hair into a tangled mop, I was just grateful to sit down for a while.

After lunch I rook a few shots from the summit of Arnsbarrow Hill. Just below our lunch rocks was this well maintained sheepfold …..

….. a closer look at the estuary and Morecambe Bay …..

….. then a look back at Stang Hill.

Time for a few close up views – Brown Pike, Buck Pike and Dow Crag …..

….. Caw and White Maiden …..

….. Coniston Old Man and Brim Fell …..

….. and Dow Crag and Coniston Old Man.

Down from the top for a closer look at the sheepfold which is still in good repair, maybe the farmer we met earlier keeps an eye on it.

It looks a little tangled and impenetrable but the path between here and Top o’ Selside was quite straightforward and there were no problems along the way.

We pass by Arnsbarrow Tarn above which the summit cairn of Top o’ Selside is just coming into view.

Looking back to Arnsbarrow Hill as we start to climb up Top o’ Selside. Will it rain before the tarn dries up completely?

Just a few more yards to the summit cairn on Top o’ Selside …..

….. where we get that fantastic view again.

A closer look at Black Sails and Wetherlam above Coniston …..

….. Coniston Old Man, Brim Fell, Swirl How and Swirl Hause …..

….. Dow Crag, Coniston Old Man and Brim Fell …..

….. the Dow Crag ridge …..

….. Caw and White Maiden with the Walna Scar road over on the right.

The views to the east were a little hazy but a zoom in reveals the Helvellyn range on the left skyline with Fairfield over on the right. The wide path in the foreground runs between Low Parkamoor and High Nibthwaite which we’ll eventually join after our descent off Top o’ Selside.

Further to the right is Fairfield again followed by Hart Crag and Dove Crag.

Little Hart Crag in the shade over to the left, followed by Red Screes, Caudale Moor and Stony Cove Pike.

Further to the right again where Thornthwaite Crag leads over to High Street with Ill Bell the high point over on the right.

Ill Bell again on the left with Harter Fell and Kentmere Pike on the skyline beyond.

Back to the actual view of the eastern fells from the summit cairn on Top o’ Selside.

Taking a breather at the cairn on a blisteringly hot afternoon.

Wetherlam and Coniston village again with the Low Parkamoor road wending its way towards us.

A lovely grassy path leads us down from Top o’ Selside …..

….. and takes us gently down towards the foot of Coniston Water. We are now in the lee of the high ground to the east of us so we have lost the breeze completely and the heat is stifling.

Peel Island below us which it is believed also featured in the Swallows and Amazons books under the name of Wild Cat Island.

Not far to go now before the path meets …..

 ….. the road coming along from Low Parkamoor, the post marking the spot at which the two paths connect.

A beautiful view along Coniston Water to the Coniston fells from the road.

The road starts off well enough but deteriorates along the way. It has been used by off-roaders and is worn down to bedrock in many places.

After weeks of no rain where the heck has this come from?

The road improves again but a little further on …..

….. its back down to bedrock again. Is my imagination working overtime or does this shot have a slightly Mediterranean feel to it?

Back in High Nibthwaite and the mid-afternoon heat is overwhelming. We still had a little more walking to do before we were back at the car but quite a bit of it was in the shade of the trees which made it much more bearable.

The entrance to the Water Park centre and the car is parked just beyond the gateposts. It has been shaded by the trees all the time it has been parked there and we can’t wait to sink into the cool interior and escape the blazing sunshine and the sweltering heat. Well, its was only a short walk with very little ascent so distance and height were not the enemies today, the heat and bracken were the real taskmasters. Note to self – if the heat continues have an extra pair of shorts and t-shirt in the car to change into at the end of our next walk, the ones I’m wearing are soaked through.