|OS Route Map →||Route file →|
Date: 05 Oct 2008
Start / Finish: Staveley.
Maps: Explorer OL7: English Lakes SE.
|Day 1||Green Quarter Fell & High Street||10.1 miles / 3360 feet (16.3km / 1024m)|
|Day 2||Ill Bell ridge & Sallows||9.7 miles / 1320 feet (15.6km / 402m)|
A short circuit of the far eastern fells above Kentmere, essentially a repeat of the walk we did in 2004.
This was yet another window of opportunity seized in a rapidly moving weather stream, when a band of torrential rain cleared southwards leaving very clear northerly air in its wake for the first leg, but reverting to windswept mist overnight. The views were magnificent throughout the first day but there were some quite dramatic local vistas in the morning of the second as the sun and mist fought their battle of the elements.
We were quite stunned by the activity of the National Park since our last visit: on High Street and Yoke there are now extensive wide surfaced highways snaking across the fells that are essentially roads, and certainly appear as such from a distance. We really wonder what the motivation is for all this and where it will all end, we'll have more to say about that soon.
The drive up the M6 was probably the wettest we have ever experienced, torrential rain that persuaded us to change the plan: we were heading to Lower Eskdale on a walk that would not be dry at the best of times, better to aim nearer and walk higher. North of Lancaster the predicted clear blue sky appeared ahead and we parked in Staveley - this would mean walking with no map, we would rely on memory. A good hint of the magnitude of the overnight rain was heard before it was seen: the roar of the weir at Barley Bridge.
Walking up Hall Lane, the road itself gave a creditable impression of a stream, frequently fed by rivulets of water pouring out from the bases of the stone walls. A notice near Park House advises that the small plantation of Birk Rigg is currently being felled and that timber operations may be in progress - the vehicles have certainly churned up the ground in a couple of places near the start of the Green Quarter Fell path, but apart from that it was an enjoyable and deserted walk in the cold breeze and sunshine to Cocklaw Fell, with Hall Beck and Skeggleswater Dike bursting forth in a series of rapidly flowing swollen tributaries. We left the bridleway to head N over a small hillock to the foot of Kentmere Pike.
A warm and sheltered climb gained the cairn on Shipman Knotts and the cold wind returned. At the next ladder stile we took the faint path NE to the rise of Goat Scar which gives a good view of Longsleddale rising to Gatescarth Pass with Tarn Crag and Branstree opposite. The plod up to Kentmere Pike seemed harder work than it should have been but the clarity of the views was superb.
At Harter Fell with its cairn of stones and ironmongery the views were very extensive, including the prominent trio forming the Cross Fell tops, the Warcop range and as far south as the unmistakable shape of Ingleborough. Nearer to hand the craggy face of High Street and its embedded lakes of Small Water and Blea Water are well seen by descending NW away from the obvious path to the rim of Black John Hole that gives an excellent aerial prospect. From here a thin path contours around the steep face to rejoin the main path down to Nan Bield Pass.
More cloud was forming as we climbed to Mardale Ill Bell and strolled along the level section above Blea Water Crag, meeting several groups making their afternoon descent. This is a lovely spot but further up we saw the new surfaced highway for the first time, curving up the fellside with the spoil cast aside and flanking it. The spoil will recolonise but this is one ugly scar, a far cry from a few well placed unobtrusive stones that help to prevent erosion at the occasional very bad spot. We left the path and headed directly for High Street to enjoy the views westwards.
Descending alongside the wall we discovered that the surfaced highway emerges at a cairn that marks the old route to Mardale Ill Bell, which made us think: is this really about preventing erosion or just making things easier for people who can't navigate?. This spot has something of a history of people getting lost and floundering in mist on these uniform sprawling slopes, often ending up on the wrong ridge or in the wrong valley. We confirmed our suspicion by following it down SE, and we left it to find a secluded shelf on the wet slopes for our pitch, a bit squelchy after all that rain.
A nice dusk sky was developing as the sun began to sink with distant views beneath the cloud layers, but in the tent we almost missed the sudden dramatic change to a vivid orange and shades ranging from grey to black which gave us a grand sunset, the best for quite a long time, with the columnar cairn of Thornthwaite Beacon prominent. To complete the enchantment we saw a pair of deer silhouetted on the skyline, they can just be seen in the picture.
As expected the magic didn't last and the morning was thick, cold windblown mist. Returning to the wall we carefully made our way without a map to the start of the Ill Bell ridge, where the mist was beginning to disperse sporadically in the cold wind and the sunlit valleys were coming into view. These conditions can give some very pleasing atmospheric views of the mountains in a different mood, similar to the rapidly changing landscapes we have experienced here before.
At Yoke we were out of the mist and we saw the extent of the second wide constructed highway: it caused some confusion for a moment because it really did look like a road further down, and it leads almost continuously from the summit to just above the Garburn Pass. Moving swiftly on, we crossed the stile at the pass and ascended to the modest height of Sallows, which now seems a rather more satisfying climb than its much higher neighbour, and noted the ridge of Crag Quarter as a possible route onto Yoke for the future.
Descending SE past the stone butts, we followed a small stream S through a gap in Long Crag to the bridleway track and sheepfold at 443027. An easy track leads SE by Park Beck and crosses it at good stepping stones, then crosses Black Beck by a stone building to arrive at Ullthwaite Bridge. A bridleway heads S to Browfoot and the lane that follows the River Kent SE to Staveley.