Ullscarf via the Wythburn Fells

Walk Date – 7th September 2016

Distance – 6.9 miles

Weather – cloudy and humid with a slight breeze




01 Dob Gill car park

This is Dob Gill car park on the west side of Thirlmere and its empty, apart from our car. Nothing remarkable about that as it is midweek, the new school term has begun and most holidaymakers have gone home. What was remarkable was that as we approached the Pay and Display machine, clutching the necessary handful of pound coins, we found that the machine was covered over and beside it was a notice to the effect that parking was free for the time being because several of the footpaths were still closed following the damage wrought by Storm Desmond last December. Thank you United Utilities, that lifted the spirits no end and the coins went back in the ‘car parking tin’. Things look a bit gloomy at the moment but it is very warm and the cloud is supposed to break up by lunchtime.

02 The start of the walk

We turned right out of the car park and walked a short distance to this gate where the path up alongside Dob Gill begins. There is a footpath leading directly from the car park which goes up along the other side of the gill and we will return to the car park using that. As it is so humid we decided that we might be more comfortable on the open footpath rather than the muggy conditions we’d find in the forest. Once through this gate we head for the second one and then its straight up beside the fence.

03 The bracken is dying back

This is looking back down the path. What path? Well it is there but the bracken just hasn’t died back enough yet to be able to see it. The route is quite steep and the rocks and stones forming the path were not only hidden but were very wet and slippery so it was a bit of battle. The fence came in very handy for maintaining your balance whilst balancing one foot on a wet rock, and pushing the bracken aside with the other hand to see just where you were going to be able to put the other foot. You can just see a bit of the road down below with part of Thirlmere behind it.

05 Across the stile at the top of the path

We eventually reach the top of the path which was on the other side of this stile. I took a photo after crossing the stile because the other side was simply nothing more than a quagmire, and although this side wasn’t a great deal better I did manage to find a bit of firm footing to be able to stand long enough without sinking in up to the ankles. The duck boards at the bottom of the stile were a help but a few more of them at this point would have been handy as getting from here to the point at which I took the next photo offered only the occasional chance of dryish ground.

06 Harrop Tarn outflow

On firmer ground at last now that we have reached the outflow of Harrop Tarn. The outflow pours down Dob Gill which we have just walked up alongside. The tarn is the thin silvery strip of water amongst the reeds in the centre of the shot and behind it are the humps and bumps of Tarn Crags. Across the outflow is the path we will be returning on later this afternoon. Everything is very still, its very warm and there isn’t a soul to be seen. Having brushed ourselves free of bits of bracken, leaves and grass we move round to the left of the photo to pick up the next part of the route and for a short while we have the bliss of a dry, firm path under our feet.

07 A better view of the tarn as we climb

A much better view of Harrop Tarn now that we’ve gained a little height. Its difficult to get close to the tarn as the area around it is reedy and waterlogged. I expect the reeds will completely take over one of these days but for now the tarn seems to be holding its own.

08 Looking ahead to the Beacon over on the left

The Wythburn fells ahead of us as we continue and over on the left skyline is a structure marked on the OS map as Beacon. On our route map it is situated approximately at the point of the curved red arrow near the word ‘Waterfall’. As you can see the route is full of ups and downs and for most of the way you cannot see Ullscarf so you just have to be patient and know that it will appear eventually.

09 The southern end of Thirlmere

We’ve gained a fair bit of height now and below us is the southern end of Thirlmere, with the very busy A591 running along its eastern shoreline. Behind the Helvellyn range still has a lot of low morning cloud hanging over it. Its a lot less muggy up here now as we’re getting the benefit of a slight breeze.

10 Approaching the Beacon

We’re approaching the Beacon and the grassy path is still firm and dry and easy to follow.

11 View along Thirlmere from the Beacon

The view along Thirlmere from the Beacon. According to AW this would have been a much bigger structure had it not been for the actions of a group of schoolboys who were up here on a school holiday with two of their masters in the early 1950’s. AW wrote “the boys wilfully destroyed the beacon and rolled the stones down the fellside” and he called the two masters who were with them “two brainless idiots and a disgrace to their profession”. You can feel his anger jumping off the page as you read the rest of his account, and I totally agree with his sentiments. Those schoolboys, if still alive, will now be pensioners. I wonder if they ever look back on their actions and feel any pangs of conscience and guilt?

12 From the Beacon the view down to West Head Farm

From the Beacon there’s a fine view down to the southern end of Thirlmere and the farm just beyond it.

13 Close up of West Head Farm

A close up of West Head Farm from the Beacon.

14 The route ahead from the Beacon

A look ahead to the next section across the Wythbun fells. It looks a bit rugged but you can always skirt around all the rocky craggy parts. The cloud is beginning to break up so perhaps we will get a decent afternoon, although I’m hoping the sun doesn’t make an appearance just yet as there is still quite a bit of ‘up’ to deal with and I’d much rather do it without the sun beating down on me, especially as it is so very humid.

15 Thirlmere from the Beacon

A look back along Thirlmere from the Beacon and the route we have travelled so far. Its not strenuous or difficult but it is time-consuming because much of the ground is permanently wet and you spend a lot of time trying to avoid the very wettest areas. In the photo there are a few light coloured areas, these are the dry spots. The dark brown/greenish areas between them are the wet areas and there are lots of those, so walking in a straight line from one dry spot to another is almost impossible. The path at such times becomes intermittent but it doesn’t really matter, you just keep going upwards and keeping to the higher dry ground as much as possible.

16 Looking back to the Beacon

I just happened to look back and notice a shaft of sunlight illuminating the Beacon which made it stand out rather well against the darker slopes behind it. It looks to be getting a whole lot brighter over to the north east too, we could do with more of that over here as it is still a bit on the gloomy side.

19 Fairfield still in cloud

We begin to turn to the south west and walk along above Nab Crags high above Wyth Burn. Taking a look behind we can see that Fairfield still has some cloud clinging to it, although it looks as though that will dissipate before too much longer.

20 One of the many tarns along the route

Another look back for a view of one of the many tarns to be found up here.

21 A look back at the route

A look back at the route taken so far and we’re still dodging the dark brown/green soggy bits.

22 The Helvellyn range now free of cloud

A look across to the Helvellyn range with their tops now cloud free. Helvellyn is over to the left with its summit being a little way to the right of the craggy slope at the end. Nethermost PIke is in the middle and on the right hand end is Dollywaggon Pike.

23 More tarns as we view the route ahead

More tarns ahead of us as we take a look at the next section to be negotiated. There are still plenty of ups and downs to deal with and still no sign of Ullscarf, but don’t think about it, just keep putting one foot in front of the other and enjoy the mildness of the weather.

24 Steel Fell across Wyth Burn

A grand view of Steel Fell on the other side of Wyth Burn and quite a stomach churning drop between so that’s as far as I’m prepared to go for a photo.

25 Helm Crag and Windermere

A less scary view of Helm Crag and Windermere as we begin to turn westward towards Ullscarf. There are bits and pieces of sunshine here and there but there is still an awful lot of cloud hanging over us. The views to the south were very poor and this shot was about the best that could be achieved today.

26 Another of the tarns along the route

Fairfield might have lost its cloud but its still under a great big one. We have a smidge of brightness although its not enough to give the tarn a bit of sparkle.

27 Across another tarn things are looking brighter to the north

A little to the left of the previous tarn is this one plus a couple of others. They are located on a grassy shelf not too far below the summit of Ullscarf.

28 Ullscarf comes into view

We plod on from the tarns and finally Ullscarf comes into view, although there’s still a bit of a way to go and a lot of it is very squelchy. At least its straightforward and we don’t have to clamber over any more rocks and craggy bits. As we got a little closer to the summit we saw two walkers in the distance who were just about to leave it. They were the first people we had seen since leaving the car park and by the time we got there they were making their way back to Standing Crag.

29 A splash of sunshine on Dollywaggon Pike

A look back at the grassy shelf where the tarns are located and noticing that Dollywaggon Pike and Seat Sandal have some sunshine on them.

31 Fair weather cloud over the Helvellyn range

On we go across to Ullscarf’s summit and the spirits lift as we notice the Helvellyn fells enjoying some sun and marvel at the fair weather clouds rising above them. Its amazing the difference a little sunshine can create, both in yourself and the scenery around you.

32 Ullscarf summit cairn

I wish I could bring you a more dramatic view from Ullscarf summit but apart from the cairn the summit area is flat and featureless, there are no ‘wow’ moments on Ullscarf. Its just another of those flat broad topped fells and which AW described thus ‘The top of Ullscarf is a cheerless place, even in sunshine.’ I wouldn’t go so far as to agree with the ‘cheerless’ but it is an uninspiring place and one which requires you to walk to the outer edges of it to get any sort of a decent view.

33 Looking south from the summit

The nature of the summit area means that the views all around are somewhat truncated but here are the tops of a few of the fells to the south west.

34 The view northwards from the summit

Looking the other way at the fells over to the north west.

35 The view west from the summit

Looking west across High Scawdel towards Dale Head and Hindscarth on the left skyline.

36 Fleetwith Pike in the centre with the Red PIke, High Crag, HIgh Stile ridge behind it

A closer look, over to the west of us, at Fleetwith Pike, in the centre of the shot, and behind it is the High Crag-High Stile-Red Pike ridge which we last walked over on a lovely spring day on 20th April this year.

37 Glaramara with Great Gable in cloud behind it

A close up of Glaramara and you would have been able to view Great Gable behind it but for the bank of cloud which suddenly rolled across its summit.

38 L to R - Crinkle Crags, Bowfell and Esk Pike

Looking a little sombre but still recognisable are Crinkle Crags to the left, Bowfell in the middle and Esk Pike over on the right. The fell below them with a hint of sun on it is Rossett Pike.

39 The view back along Ullscarf as we leave

After we left the summit area I took a look back just to show its broad and featureless expanse, and the huge bank of cloud which has been hanging over us for some time now. With so little breeze to give it a shove in the right direction its not likely to be going anywhere any time soon either. The path carries on behind me from this fence post and on towards …..

40 Following the fence down to Standing Crag

….. the next corner fence post and from here its just a case of following the fence.

41 The little outcrop by the tarn made a nice spot for lunch

Its well past lunch time now and the clouds have definitely broken up over the Dodds. Shall we find a place to sit in those outcrops down there and have something to eat? So that’s what we did and we even had a short spell of sunshine to go with it, very nice. The two walkers we had noticed on Ullscarf top had just rounded this corner so they must have been walking very slowly because we weren’t rushing and yet we had just about caught up with them. We didn’t see them again when we got going again after our lunch stop so they must have got a bit of a move on from this point.

43 Heading for Standing Crag with Skiddaw and Blencathra on the centre skyline

Lunch over and we continue following the fence over to Standing Crag. Its not exactly blazing with sunshine along here but the cloud has broken up quite a bit and the light is much better. In the centre of the distant skyline Skiddaw looks to be having quite a prolonged sunny spell.

44 High Saddle and Low Saddle

Across the fence are High Saddle and Low Saddle, two small peaks on Coldbarrow Fell. I wonder why that has a separate name when on the map it just looks like the north western shoulder of Ullscarf.

45 A view of Blea Tarn from Standing Crag

The view from Standing Crag, the large tarn over to the left is Blea Tarn. There are two more Blea Tarns as well, one in Langdale, and the other in Eskdale. There’s also a Blea Water which is over in Mardale just to add to the confusion. The three smaller tarns to the right are un-named.

46 Another view of Blea Tarn as we descend from Standing Crag

Making our way down from Standing Crag and we’re heading for the gate at the bottom of the shot. From there we’ll follow the path as far as the tarn on the right which has the fence running through it, and somewhere around that point we’ll pick up the path which leads back down to Dob Gill.

47 Another tarn with a fence running through it

Safely down off Standing Crag so I take a closer look at the tarn with the fence running through it. Imagine being the one who drew the short straw and landed the job of wading across and unrolling a length of wire fencing over to the next fence post, while the rest of the work gang stood around having a good laugh.

48 From the tarn a look back at Standing Crag

A look back at Standing Crag which we’ve just descended. The path more or less runs alongside the line of shade at the foot of the crag. As you can see it has turned into quite a pleasant afternoon.

49 Approaching the forest path

From the tarn we headed down over more wet grasses and through waist high bracken to reach the gate in the forest fence.

50 Making our way through the forest

Through the gate and making our way down the forest path. This was just about the only dry section of the path along here.

51 The path joins the forest road

The path eventually joins up with the forestry vehicle track which makes for easier walking, and here we turn down to the right for the walk back down to Harrop Tarn.

52 Back at Harrop Tarn

A view of Harrop Tarn from the opposite side to this morning’s view.

53 Back to the tarn outflow

Back at the tarn outflow but now on the opposite side. Here we take a left turn and follow the path which goes down alongside Dob Gill.

54 Waterfall in Dob Gill

One of the larger falls in Dob Gill. There were several along the way but the views were blocked by the trees.

55 More forest path to negotiate

Following the path down through the forest. Care needs to be taken on the path down here, the gradient is steep and the stones are damp, mossy and covered in leaf litter. It is also much darker than it looks, the automatic flash activated for this shot which indicates how much gloom there was.

56 A look back up at the forest route

A look back and, despite the gloom, the way the light was filtering through and highlighting the leaves and the logs gave the clearing quite an appealing appearance.

57 The gate leading to the car park at dob Gill

We’ve reached the end of our walk now and once through the gate there are just a few more steps down and we’ll be back in the car park, that’s the lighter coloured area towards the left of the shot. We’ve got muddy trousers and boots and our socks are full of bits of bracken, heather and leaves but we’ve had a good walk in very pleasant weather. This area is always on the wet side and unless it hasn’t rained for quite a few weeks you know what you’re in for if you choose to walk around here. For that reason its not somewhere that ever gets very crowded so you can almost guarantee a bit of peace and quiet. Apart from the two walkers we saw in the distance on Ullscarf top we have seen no-one else. It was only when we were back in the car park that we met another walker. He was looking at the large map on the notice board and trying to work out why he and his wife hadn’t got to where they’d intended on their walk. He tried to explain but as he wasn’t certain which route on the map they had started out on it was a little difficult to help him to come to any satisfactory conclusion. Never mind, they’d had a two hour walk somewhere or other and breathed some good fresh air whilst exploring a part of the Lake District that they’d never been to before. He returned to their camper van none the wiser as to where they’d been and we got in the car and went home.