Saturday, July 7, 2012

Fixing Scarth Gap

looking down to Peggy's Bridge at the start of the path
I have been volunteering with fix the fells for about six months now.  It's a great way to get outside into the Lake District without the need for an epic adventure.  It can be as tough or as easy as you want to make it.  There are plenty of stops for refreshments and refuels though.

Fleetwith Pike
 The people I have met are very friendly.  There is a real mix in terms of ages and background.

Today, we met at Hassness in Buttermere and the task in hand was the Scarth Gap Pass.

Scarth Gap Pass is a very popular route.  This is probably because it is the easiest (and prettiest) way of getting up to Haystacks which was Wainwright's favourite fell and famously, his last resting place.

Ironically, one of the main reasons that Wainwright was so fond of Haystacks was its remoteness and relative quietness.  It is now probably one of the most visited fells.  I doubt he would have seen the funny side.

the path going down to Buttermere Lake
 There was a good group of us out today, some old hands as well as newbies like me.  After working out the car sharing logistics, and loading up with spades, brushes, a mattock and some grass seed, we headed off past Gatesgarth Farm towards Peggy's Bridge before heading up towards Scarth Gap Pass.

The path was in pretty good condition. Somebody said they had actually done this path three weeks ago, which would explain the condition.

We did take the opportunity to put some additional steps in at one or two spots where it was needed.  Now this is a real art.  First you have a look at the path and work out where to put an additional stone, where the step down is too high and where people would be likely to leave the path for easier walking along the side of the path.  Next you have to find an appropriate stone.  Big stones are favoured.  I think different styles have been used over the years and for those that are really interested, there is some history to pitching paths.

 It was in working one of these big stones to the path that I managed to get my finger in between two big rocks.  Ouch!  I'm pretty sure I am going to lose a fingernail in the next few days.  I took a bit of a back seat after this but there were many hands and some good work was done making the path more appealing to walk.

One of the most important tasks is clearing the drains on the path so that water runs off the path rather than down it.  The drains usually need clearing out and sometimes repaired.

It's really nice walking back down the path with your spade, admiring your work on the way.  The people walking up the path were all really lovely and appreciative of the work we did.  A pact was made not to visit Scarth Gap for some time and then we packed away the tools and headed off.  Some people went for a cuppa in Buttermere but I headed up to Whinlatter to pick up my bike which had been serviced.

Now I have tomorrow to plan something epic!


  1. Great blog Paul! Hope your finger nail survives! I agree with you about the art form of the is a real skill!
    Hope to meet you soon on one of the volunteer days...
    Tanya Oliver

    1. Thank you Tanya. How cool is it that our paths (ahem!) have crossed in the blogging world before?

      Fix the Fells is great and I've heard nothing but positive reports about you from those that have met you. What's this I hear though about you putting your waterproofs on AFTER the walk?