Thursday 9 June
Blake Fell (Marilyn, NY110196; 553m) and Burnabank Fell
At 4.50am I was suddenly jolted awake, flying out of bed and to the window in alarm, dropping the blind just as I realised that the noise and rocking was being caused by a sheep using Colin as a scratching post, not by an intruder. I didn’t see the sheep out of my chosen window, but I did see lots of cloud, completely surrounding me.
Even so, there was no chance of going back to sleep after my rude awakening, so at 6am off I set to crawl through the fog a few miles to the parking area at the south end of Loweswater and by half past I was walking towards my first hill of the day.
Beyond High Nook Farm the path gave the appearance of being little trodden, which struck me as odd, as this is a route described in Wainwright’s guide for this area, and I had been of the impression that if a route is described by Wainwright, then it will be well trodden.
Gaining a little height, I was soon between two layers of cloud
Not fantastically clear views, but it could have been worse – at least I could see where I was going
By the time I was on top the cloud was drifting in and out
As there’s a Wainwright (Burnabank Fell) just to the north of Blake Fell, which can be visited for very little extra effort, that’s what I did. Maybe it’s a hill that has merit in terms of its views in better weather, but all I found was an uninspiring grassy lump. My intended route (based on where Wainwright had told me there would be a path) from there was abandoned, as I could see no reason why I couldn’t just drop more directly off the side of the hill. Whilst a touch tussocky underfoot, it was an easy descent and I impressed myself by coming out exactly in front of the gate to access the path through the forest.
By the time I was heading back to Colin, the weather had improved remarkably:
It was only in chatting to a couple just booting up in the car park that I realised the likely reason why my ascent route was so little trodden: I’d completely overlooked the fact that there’s another Wainwright easily accessible to the south of Blake Fell, such that most people must do a circuit taking in all three. That’s exactly what I would have done if I’d noticed it. In fact, even on the route I took, I was within an easy ten minute detour to that extra top. That’ll teach me to focus too much on the main objective and not look what else is around!
Fellbarrow and Low Fell (Marilyn, NY137226; 423m) (with Smithy Fell, Sourfoot Fell and Darling Fell)
Moving a mile and a half down the road, I daubed myself in suncream before setting out for this final circuit of my trip. Alas, it was nugatory effort; the blue skies had lasted but a short while and the rest of the day was staunchly overcast.
My intention, right up to the point where I passed Askill, was to do this circuit anti-clockwise, but when I reached the byway it suddenly felt more natural to go clockwise, and much later I was to find myself very pleased with that decision.
First through, I had to get prickled on my way through a band of gorse and walk pathlessly (but very easily) up the side of Fellbarrow, where significant areas of the top were covered in cottongrass:
From Fellbarrow to my main objective (the Marilyn, Low Fell), I could have bypassed Smithy Fell and Sourfoot Fell, but they are such small pimples on the ridge that I thought I may as well go over them as not, and then I was onto Low Fell, where the lower summit of the two gave the best viewpoint, looking along Crummock Water and Buttermere, although it was patently not going to be a day for good views or photos:
The public footpath from Low Fell back towards my start point takes an unusually straight line, considering the terrain, dropping directly down off Low Fell and directly up the side of Darling Fell, as you can see in this snap:
From the top of Darling Fell (seventh of seven tops for the day, all with ‘Fell’ in their names) the route of the public footpath descends straight, and very steeply, back to the byway, but I opted to follow the line on the ground, going over a stile and taking a more natural way off the hill. It was down there that I became very happy to have had the whim to reverse my intended route, as I saw a chap toiling steeply upwards through the bracken (stopping to look at his map every few paces) on what must have been the line of the official path. Due to the bracken, the perfectly good path I was on was not at all obvious when viewed from the direction he had come, so if I’d done the route in reverse order I undoubtedly would have found myself in the exact position as this chap.
Rejoining my outward route for the last few minutes of the outing, I wondered how I’d missed this earlier…
… and also considered that if Conrad had been this way then he would have surely also photographed it for his ‘relics’ collection.
And that was my trip over, from a walking point of view, with these two outings of 5.3 miles with 1600’ and 5.5 miles with 1700’. Using Colin’s facilities to put myself into a presentable state for company, a drive down through Lakeland had me standing on Conrad’s doorstep by just gone 2.30pm and an excellent couple or three hours ensued over tea, cake (lots of cake ) and much chat, before I headed off homewards via a night at Ma-in-Law’s house.