Thursday, 24 April 2014

Place Fell & Beda Fell

I took a day off work last week to go for a walk in the Lake District as I realised it had been almost a year since I last visited. I took just a random day off and hoped for the best with the weather and I got very lucky. Tuesday was that sunny that when I got home I had sun stroke, a bright red head and super hero white bits where my sunglasses had been. It was that clear that I could even see the Consiton Fells in the very far distance from the M61 as I approached Preston n my way up, something I don't think I've ever noticed before. Despite leaving at rush hour it was an easy journey as its the school holidays. I have an online spreadsheet on which I keep a log of every mountain I have walked up, which I haven't looked at or updated for quite some time. Looking at the spreadsheet I noticed that last year, which was an unusually quiet year for me walking wise, I did not walk up a single new mountain. Every mountain I climbed last year was one I had done before. So the plan for this trip was to climb something I hadn't before. I looked at a few options but one in particular stood out as I had always wanted to do it and it wasn't too difficult for an overweight out of shape me. Place Fell by the side of Ullswater was ideal. Not only a mountain I hadn't climbed before but also one that would take me into an area I was yet to explore.

Sandwick Beck, Lake District National Park
The Howgills looked as stunning as they always do on a day like this, I say it every year, one day I must go walking in those stunning looking hills. As the M6 started its long descent to Penrith after Shap I got my first glimpse of a few patches of snow left on the higher crags and gullies on the eastern side of High Street. I turned off the M6 at Penrith then headed down the A66 then the A592 towards Ullswater. There were very cute lambs in the fields leaping around in the sunshine. I felt very happy to be back in the Lakes and so lucky to be here on such a beautiful day. When I reached Ullswater I turned left towards Pooley Bridge, somewhere that despite my many trips to the Lakes, I had never needed to visit or drive through. I was pleasantly surprised to find Pooley Bridge was a typical quaint Lakeland village. I'll definitely visit here again one day and stop for an ice cream by the river. After passing through Pooley Bridge I turned right at a small roundabout following the minor road signposted Martindale. I turned right at the next road junction, again following signs to Martindale. The minor road runs down the eastern side of Ullswater passing the huge Park Foot caravan and camping park and the sailing clubs at Thwaitehill Bay, Sharrow Bay and Howtown.

Bridleway to Patterdale from Sandwick, Lake District National Park
Eventually the road reaches the foot of The Hause which is like a miniature Hardknott Pass or Wrynose Pass. I was quite surprised at how steep and winding this road was. I am certainly glad I wasn't attempting it in winter as I would imagine this is most probably impassible in winter conditions. Though saying that, you could probably just park the car here and walk up and over The Hause instead if need be. As the road descended from The Hause I followed signs for Sandwick and crossed a lovely bridge over the Sandwick Beck which looked awesome reflecting the blue skies and reddish brown hillsides. After negotiating an incredibly sharp right switchback turn and following the road for another mile I reached its end at the quiet hamlet of Sandwick. At Sandwick I parked up, geared up, then headed west along the bridleway to Patterdale.

Ullswater from Scalehow Beck, Lake District National Park
The bridleway was littered with dazzling red Peacock Butterflies and Skylarks flapped away just a dozen or so metres above the grassy flanks of Sleet Fell to my left. I was in heaven. When the bridleway reached a stone building on the right I turned left up the right hand side of a small stream and ascended an unclear path through bracken towards a path passing under a rocky outcrop marked on the map as High Knott. As the path rounded High Knott and ascended into the narrow valley of the Scalehow Beck the wind became strong and surprisingly chilly. Looking back towards Ullswater the views were really starting to open up. I was thinking that it would probably be a few hours and at least until Place Fells summit before I would see another person, but as I reached the quarry above Low Moss Gill I spotted a group of school children with leaders who were packing up camp after wild camping in the valley for the night, there was probably around twenty of them in total. They must have had fairly strong tents to have stayed in the narrow valley overnight as the winds were very strong. I waved at one of the leaders and made my way towards the old quarry building where I took shelter, donned the much needed wind shirt and had a drink and Snickers bar ready for the ascent of Place Fell.

High Dodd from Low Moss, Lake District National Park
From the old quarry building, which was a very effective wind break, I continued my ascent of the path towards Low Moss the flat wide grassy ridge between High Dodd on the left and Place Fell on the right. The Skylarks were now in abundance and making their usual crazy tunes. From Low Moss many of the guide books will tell you to go round on a path that avoids the direct route and instead takes a more scenic route via Mortar Crag and The Knight which I have to admit does give better views over Ullswater. I was quite enjoying the wilder side of the fell and its views towards the incredibly long High Street to Loadpot Hill ridge so I carried on up the more direct route. When I neared the top of Place Fell the views north towards the Helvellyn range came into view, with snow still clinging on to the cold gullies, it was an impressive sight.

Place Fell and Helvellyn in the background, Lake District
Helvellyn from Place Fell, Lake District National Park
As I approached the exposed summit the all round panoramic views were breathtaking. "What a day" a fellow walker said to me, a conversation starter that was used by the majority of the walkers I met through the day and they weren't wrong. Just before the summit there was a lovely tarn that reflected the blue skies and was backed by wild views towards the far eastern fells and that incredibly long ridge from High Street to Loadpot Hill.

Place Fell summit tarn with the long ridge of Loadpot Hill in the background
After taking several photos from the summit of Place Fell I found a sheltered spot out of the cold biting wind to eat my lunch, tweet to Twitter and post to Facebook photos that were guaranteed to make all my friends, colleagues and website followers extremely jealous.

View north east from Place Fell summit, Lake District National Park
View south west from Place Fell summit, Lake District National Park
The views across to the Helvellyn range from Place Fell's summit were incredible. The remaining snow clinging on to the cold north east facing gullies created a contrast that added to the grandeur of the huge mountain landscape.

Glenridding and Ullswater beneath Helvellyn, Lake District National Park
I moved across to the side of the summit area to get a few photos down to Glenridding with Helvellyn in the background. I stood staring at views that rival anywhere on earth on a day like today.

Glenridding and Ullswater beneath Helvellyn, Lake District National Park
Striding Edge and Swirral Edge on Helvellyn, Lake District National Park
Brotherswater from Place Fell, Lake District National Park
I headed south from Place Fell and descended the surprisingly loose and steep path down Steel Edge to Boredale Hause. The views were now south over Brotherswater towards the eastern fells. At Boredale Hause I did think about walking up to the summit of Angletarn Pikes but decided against it and instead headed left towards Beda Fell.

Patterdale and Brotherswater from Place Fell, Lake District National Park
Boredale flanked by Place Fell left and Beda Fell right, Lake District
Instead of taking the proper path towards the ridge of Bedafeel Knott I instead chose a sheep path that clung on to the steep northern flanks above Boredale over Freeze Beck and Blue Gill. The sheep path was treacherously steep and almost non-existent in places. It was also one of those paths that wrecks your lowest foot as you are constantly battling with the slope sideways on. One reason I took this route was that I had an inkling if I had any chance of seeing the Red Deer of the Martindale herd it would most likely be in the sheltered valley heads of Boredale or Bannerdale. My inkling paid off and when I reached the scary Red Scar I was delighted to see far below me the Red Deer grazing and lazing in the sunshine.

Red Deer in Boredale, Lake District National Park
Place Fell across from Red Scar on Beda Fell, Lake District National Park
I sat at the top of the frightening drop of Red Scar and looking from left to right I could see Blue Skies, Mountains, Snow, Rivers, Lakes, Buzzards, Skylarks, Red Deer, Fellow Walkers and Sunshine. I sat there for around twenty minutes taking it all in.

The Nab and Rest Dodd across Bannerdale, Lake District National Park

After Red Scar I realised the steep sloping path was only going to get worse and my left foot was really sore. I decided to turn against the slope and clamber up it until I reached the crest of the narrow grassy ridge at Bedafell Knott. Looking along the ridge I could now see the rest of Beda Fell and the route ahead. Beda Fell was a lot quieter than Place Fell and felt somewhat wilder.

Beda Head on Beda Fell from Bedafell Knott, Lake District National Park
Walking along the wide easy going grassy ridge there were awesome views down into the quiet valleys of Boredale to my left and Bannerdale to my right. This would be a fantastic place for a wild camp as there was plenty of ideal flat dry grassy areas. I passed a man who was as happy as myself, he told me how Beda Fell is one of his favorite places to walk and I could certainly see why.

Ullswater from Beda Head summit on Beda Fell, Lake District National Park
I reached Beda Head, the highest point on the Beda Fell ridge and took photos. Ullswater reflected the endless blue skies dotted with fascinating wind sculpted plane contrails. From Beda Head I descended the narrowing ridge Low Brock Crags, Howstead Brow then Winter Crag before reaching a perfectly placed wooden bench above Garth Heads Farm.

Wind sculpted plane contrails above Ullswater
At the bench I turned left and descended the steep bracken path to Garth Heads Farm. At the farm the path passed through a narrow gap flanked by stone walls. Flying from wall to wall were dozens of Siskins, a unique small yellow bird that resembles a Sparrow, Finch and Budgie.

Boredale Beck bridge near Garth Heads, Lake District National Park
At Garth Heads I had to choose whether to walk back along the tarmac road for a mile to Sandwick or take a route on the map over Boredale Beck and along a marked footpath above the top wall rounding the flanks of Sleet Fell. I decided on the latter and headed towards what on the map appeared to be a bridge over Boredale Beck. Unfortunately the bridge turned out to be an unmarked ford. There was a small footbridge a few metres up stream, getting to it though meant walking through a wide and boggy area that wasn't pleasant. Looking down into the clear Boredale Beck I spotted hundreds of fly larvae which I presume are that of the Caddisfly strewn across the rocks.

Caddislfy Larvae in Boredale Beck, Lake District National Park
The ground on the other side of the beck wasn't great either. I navigated a stile in the top wall above a farm building then turned right and headed back towards Sandwick. I looked down to see two huge piles of dung that were far too large to be that of Red Deer. I turned a corner and there in front of me on the path were two huge cows with their calves. I'm not too confident passing these beasts at the best of times but when they are with their young I'm really not keen as they can be very defensive if they feel their calves are threatened. I headed up hill and traversed a slightly higher alternative route to avoid them. I sat in my car and refreshed my aching feet by removing my hot trainers and sweaty socks. It was a fabulous day out and my face was beaming with satisfaction all the way home.

Beda Fell across Boredale, Lake District National Park

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