Yesterday the weather forecast was for rain and snow to arrive in Cumbria by 2.00 pm. I worked out that I could do the Wythop Fells in under 2½ hours and if it still looked fine I could go on and climb the lone summit of Hobcarton End. By breakfast at 7.30, the rain was due at 12.00: looking at the blue sunny skies I still reckoned I had enough time to at least do the Wythop Fells without any problem.
Talking of breakfast, I was being looked after and fed by Clive and Sue Beauvais at Thornthwaite Grange, their guest house just north of Braithwaite: to support the 542in2016 Challenge they’d generously put me up for the night in a comfy en suite room (actually I had a choice of bedrooms in the suite too)! Sue has obviously done a lot of running (including Land’s End to John o’Groats) and Clive once did all the Wainwrights in under 3 months, so we shared a pretty similar experience. If you’re staying in the area this year (or next!) please book in at Thorthwaite Grange, Howe Keld or the Royal Oak at Rosthwaite to support those who’ve supported the Challenge.
As soon as I got in the car I realised that the blue skies were flattering to deceive. Looking east was all blue, but west was grey and foreboding. I found the parking space at the little quarry near Kelsick Farm almost full (at 8.30!) but managed to squeeze in, so soon the boots were on and I was off.
It was a really steep climb to the top of Ling Fell, at 1,224′ (373 m), well-named considering the amount of heather on its slopes. The top is adorned by an OS trigpoint but the interesting thing, as pointed out by Wainwright, is the great view of Skiddaw, looking like it’s at the head of the valley – with Bassenthwaite completely hidden from sight. Not really an optical illusion, but a surprising view nonetheless.
The route to the next hill, Burthwaite Heights, was a bit uncertain, but I managed to find a way through the bog between the two fells without getting my feet too wet. A vague path rises through an area of Juniper bushes to an even vaguer summit – all is grass, without any feature whatsoever to mark the top (1,043′, 318 m), which is so flat anyway that you could have a football match up there!
A steep descent led to greener pastures, where lambing was underway – I came across a ewe licking her newly born littl’un clean, and thought what a cold day it was to be born!
Past Old Scales Farm, along a bridleway and through oak woodland (with Redstarts singing – after their recent journey from Africa they must have been wondering why they’d bothered to come to this freezing cold country). If you’ve never seen a Redstart you’ve missed a gorgeous little bird, slightly bigger than a Robin and very striking.
Another steep climb, after a little scare when I came across a footpath closure notice for forestry works, but on careful examination realised it just (only just) didn’t apply to me, and then I was at 1,132′ (345 m), on the pleasant top of Lothwaite – short turf with some exposed stone at the summit itself.
And now I was heading west and could see the rain coming, a grey curtain looking very foreboding. I almost jogged – on a lovely close-cropped grassy path, I must say – to the top of Rivings (1,099′, 335 m) and kept up the pace to the last summit, Sale Fell, where I had to go backwards and forwards between the two high points to make sure I’d been to the right one at 1,178 (359 m)!
There’s an interesting rock scar at the top, and whilst looking at this I decided to put waterproofs on – just in time, as the sleety rain came in with a vengeance as I descended back to the car. A delivery van stopped as I reached the track, the driver asking if he had found Kelsick Farm. I was pleased to reply “I’m not from around here… but it definitely IS Kelsick Farm!”
I made my escape just in time. Photos from a couple of hours later showed just how much snow fell in parts of the Lake District. I hope that lamb was OK.
So at the end of a successful two weeks I’ve managed to increase the number of fells from 93 to 143, leaving the significant number of 399 remaining. I’ve a busy week followed by another pre-arranged holiday (the last one, I promise) – and just for a complete rest, I’ll be having a week cycling! If the weather is kind I may just get one more day’s walking before I go.
Summary: 5 Birketts (including 2 Wainwrights) – Distance walked today 4.97 m (7.99 km), ascent 1,400′ (328 m).