Monday, January 21, 2013

Low Fell and Fellbarrow

from the Birkett top of Loweswater Fell looking over Crummock Water and surrounding fells

The Birketts are a list of the 541 Lake District fell tops over 1000ft.  Bill Birkett's Complete Lakeland Fells details the fells with 129 circular walks taking in the whole list.  Most of the Wainwrights are also Birketts.  Wainwright was more subjective in his selection of peaks, some of the Wainwrights are not peaks at all, just prominent points on a spur or a ridge.  At the time of writing this, I have no idea how many Birkett fells I have completed, I would estimate in the region of 300.  Today's walk was with the purpose of bagging the Wainwright peaks of Low Fell and Fellbarrow but also with an eye on the surrounding Birketts.

The walk we did was more or less the FELL 1 - Fellbarrow Round from Loweswater described by Birkett.  As well as the Wainwrights of Low Fell and Fellbarrow (also Birketts) we took in Darling Fell, Loweswater Fell (which Wainwright included as Low Fell), Sourfoot Fell, Smithy Fell and Hatteringill Head. Here is the route, circles are Wainwrights, triangles are Birketts:

climbing up to Darling Fell
We set off from Loweswater up the track signposted "Askill B&B/Bridleway" that links to the old Mosser Fell Road, a road that I once made the mistake of driving down having mistakenly read a sign to say, "Not suitable for large vehicles" when it actually said, "Not suitable for vehicles".  

I recently made the, less serious by far, mistake of cycling along this road on my road bike.  

The road is in far worse condition now than when we first drove along in our car (about seven years ago), no doubt damaged further in the 2009 floods as well as by other idiots such as myself driving along it (actually, my wife was driving, I was hanging out of the window bending branches back to allow us to pass).  

The bottom part of the road, towards Loweswater is deeply rutted and it would be impossible for get down it with a car now.  On my cycle ride, I did meet about four landrovers out for a drive coming the other way, no doubt laughing at me for taking this route.  As a walk, it is perfectly fine though.  Just don't try it in a car.

looking back down the steep climb up to Darling Fell
A year or so ago, we did try to make Low Fell one of Hannah's Wainwrights but she decided she was tired quite early on and neither I nor my wife were keen to carry her the rest of the way so we turned around.

As we climbed today, I recognised the point that we turned around, near the rusty old tractor or mower.  Today though, a bit further on and we were up onto the open fell.  Although this is open fell, there are lots of fences to climb over on the route we took.  

Wainwright commented on this in Book Seven, "Sheep normally live their lives on the heaf they were brought up on, convinced there's no place like home, and need no fence to persuade them to stay."

Before long we were climbing alongside a fence, using it as a handrail navigation feature to the top of Darling Fell.  Shortly after crossing another fence, we were at our first Birkett of the day.

Loweswater.  Carling Knott above the trees across the lake.  I was running around that area yesterday

Darling Fell summit cairn.  Loweswater Fell summit cairn can just be seen in front with the climb up the fence.

descending to Crabtree Beck and then a steep climb back up
with Low Fell on the left of the fence and Loweswater Fell on
the right.
There are some brilliant views from the top of Darling Fell but David told me that the views from Loweswater Fell were even better so we didn't hang around, especially as there was a bitingly cold wind at this point.

The path follows the fence line steeply down to Crabtree Beck and then steeply back up to Loweswater Fell and Low Fell.

It seems that Birkett views Loweswater Fell and Low Fell as separate summits whereas Wainwright saw them as different tops on the same fell saying that, "It has many tops, uniformly around 1350 feet, rising from a ridge.  The most southerly eminence [Loweswater Fell] has the main cairn and a perfectly composed view of mountain and lake scenery, a connoisseur's piece."

Low Fell, the northern peak, is the higher of the two.  This is the grid reference I have for the Wainwright summit.  Others suggest that Wainwright considered the southern peak as the summit, in a similar way to as on Seathwaite Fell, choosing a more prominent area with a better view as the top rather than getting tied down to silly little things like it not being the highest point.  Either way, we visited both.

from Loweswater Fell, the connoisseur's piece!

just beyond the summit, beautiful views down over Crummock Water with Melbreak prominent on the right.  Rannerdale Knotts looks tiny on the left of the lake.  A bit of Buttermere Lake is just visible beyond.

Melbreak, another fell with two tops, is distinguishable by its M shape.

left to right, Whiteside, Grassmoor with Whiteless Pike ridge leading down to Rannerdale Knotts at the edge of the lake

closer view of Grasmoor, Whiteless Pike behind and Rannerdale Knotts.  Robinson is to the right of Whiteless Pike and then it looks like the square profile of Fleetwith Pike and the domes of Haystacks are also visible at the other end of Buttermere Lake.

the north top or Birkett's Low Fell

boundary stone
We continued along the ridge, feeling admittedly a little bit disillusioned with the Birketts as we had difficulty distinguishing Sourfoot Fell and Smithy Fell as distinct peaks.  I suppose the same could be said of some Wainwrights, it's just that the Wainwrights are better known.

On Sourfoot Fell, we found a boundary stone, shown on the OS map, it is maked with F on one side and M on the other.  I have seen these before along High Street where an L marks the boundary of the Lowther estate.  

There are lots of M's around, Melbreak, Mosser, Miresyke?  My guess would be Mosser.  For F there is Foulsyke which would be my best guess.  I have tried to look for more evidence but could find none so if anybody knows, I would be interested in finding out.

death on the fell!
There is a small prominence to the west of the boundary stone and I ran around to the top of this just in case this was the Birkett summit.  It's so small that it does not appear on the maps, it rises and falls again between the contour lines.

Moving on towards Fellbarrow, the other Wainwright Fell we were going to today, we were pleased to see a small hill between Sourfoot Fell and Fellbarrow.  This was Smithy Fell.  After a bit more fence climbing, we appeared to be at the top but were not entirely sure (some online research has confirmed that we were).

We think that the top of Smithy Fell is marked by a, not very exciting, fence post.  We took some pictures and carried on towards Fellbarrow.

Fellbarrow is marked by an OS trig point column and a small cairn.

Smithy Fell?


Hatteringill Head
From Fellbarrow, there is an obvious further hump which David correctly identified as Hatteringill Head.

It didn't take long for us to get up here, take a few photos and then head back over grassy, what would usually be boggy, land.  In hindsight, it would probably have been better to head back over Fellbarrow.

A few more fences were crossed until we got back to the road which took us back to the car.

I really enjoyed the walk, it was a very cold day and I think it would have been unpleasant to be on the higher fells.  These two Wainwrights are among the nearest to me, Loweswater is about 10 miles from home, yet I have neglected them.  Perhaps this is because I thought I would save them for a day when I didn't have a lot of time or perhaps it's because I wrongly assumed that they were a bit dull.

The route we took would be an interesting route to run with lots of undulation and soft grassy hills.  Once at Loweswater Fell, the ups and downs are fairly manageable.  The view from Loweswater Fell/Low Fell is, as Wainwright says, one for 'connoisseurs'.  Don't neglect these fells.

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