Allen's 5th birthday walk


Date - 25th August 2009 Distance - 7 miles
Ascent - 2113ft
Map - OL6
Start point - Parking by Whicham church (SD 135827)


Summits Achieved

Name Height (ft) Height (m) Grid Ref
South Top of Black Combe 1926 587 SD 1357 8515
Black Combe 1970 600 SD 1355 8548
Stoupdale Head 1548 472 SD 1515 8736
White Combe 1361 415 SD 1545 8628
White Hall Knott 1020 311 SD 1556 8559



"Poor Uncle Bob", said Grizzly. "He is having pretty poor weather for his fortnight at the caravan site near Coniston."

"Your right. It was rather wet when Dad and Uncle Brian went to see them", replied Shaun.

Just then Allen came bounding in. "I have good news. The weather looks pretty good for tomorrow and Dad has arranged to walk with Uncle Bob. We are climbing Black Combe, as Uncle Bob has never done it. It is my 5th birthday too, so it will be a great way to celebrate."

"That will be great", piped up Tetley, "as we will be able to tick off those Birketts, - Black Combe south top and White Hall Knott."

"Even better for me", said Little Eric, "as I have not climbed any of them before.


The Walk

Up early, Tetley said, "Happy Birthday Allen", giving him a hug.

"Thanks pal", as the rest of us gave him a hug too. "What a fantastic life I have going on all these adventures."

We think that we should mention that Black Combe is the most westerly fell in the Lake District, with just a few miles of flat country beyond it to the coast. Dad comes from Southport, a resort further south down the coast, where on a clear day Black Combe can be seen. There is a saying in Southport, that if you can see Black Combe it is going to rain, and if not, it is raining! Alfred Wainwright included this fell in his Outlying Fells book.

We had to be up early, because it was quite a long drive. When we set out, Little Eric moaned, "it's raining again!"

"Don't worry pal, I am confident the weather will be dry for the walk", replied Tetley.

He was right too.

The drive was first along the familiar A590 to Greenodd, where we turned off to follow the A595, that climbs up over the tops at Gawthwaite. From here we had a clear view to Black Combe. By-passing Broughton in Furness, we crossed the Duddon Bridge. Then on along the picturesque route to Beckside where we met Uncle Bob.

"Hi Uncle Bob, great to see you", called out Shaun.

"Good to see you lads. Looking forward to another good walk together."

The walk is not a full circle, so we left Uncle Bob's car here, and then all drove on in Dad's car to Whicham, parking by the church.

"What can you tell us about the church, Grizzly?", asked Little Eric.

"This is St Mary's. There has probably been a church here since the 12th century.  Constructed in stone with a slate roof, its plan consists of a nave and chancel in a single cell, a south porch, and a north vestry and transept. The east window is from the 17th century, and the north transept from 1858, when the church was restored.  Further changes were made in 1901–02 by architects Austin & Paley. The porch leads to a round-arched doorway that is said to be Norman in origin. As can be seen on the west gable is a double bellcote."

"Thank you as always for your research", said Allen. 

In the churchyard, stands an old trees that has this huge fungi growing on it.

Dad was now ready so we settled in his rucksack, Shaun instructing, "we follow the narrow path between the church and the old school."

At the end and down some steps, brought us to a narrow road. "Go left", called out Shaun. "The road leads to Kirkbank. We continue past behind the house and shortly come to a junction of paths. Our way there is right to commence the ascent."

"So I see, but the name on the signpost is mis-spelt", pointed Tetley.

The ascent is steep and unrelenting, so Dad and Uncle Bob took rests to take in the views.

"Black Combe looks magnificent with its slopes purple with heather and patches of contrasting gorse too", said Allen.

After a col, the gradient eased a little and the upper part of the fell came into view.

"Wow a wonderful sight, with further expanses of purple heather clothing it. I can see after a bit more ascent where the path traverses left across the fell", said Grizzly.

Before walking on we took the time to take in the views to the coast.

"Don't you think that's worth a picture", enquired Allen.

"Yes", replied Dad, as he got the camera out.

Having completed the traverse, the track turned up right. Shaun said, "looking further ahead we can see where the track turns left. At that point we will be just below the south top. There, we have to climb immediately right up the rough slope to reach this lower summit."

It is peppered with sharp rock sticking out of the ground. In the centre is a low circular pile of stones that marks the actual summit.

We leapt out and gathered for our first picture of the day. "Great that's the first Birkett of the day ticked off", cheered Allen.

Then Uncle Bob posed for his picture.

Nearby stands a huge tall circular cairn from which there is a fine view down to the Duddon Estuary.

This is taken looking south, and you might notice that the clouds look rather foreboding.

A little later Dad phoned Uncle Brian, who said, "it's been pouring with rain all morning in Morecambe."

Dad replied. "apart from a little drizzle it has been dry all the time here", to Uncle Brian's surprise.

This was due to the fact that there was a strong north-westerly wind, that had thankfully blown the bad weather further south.

Crossing this summit area, we descended to a col containing this small tarn...

...from which a short ascent brought us to the main summit with its trig point contained in a circular shelter.

Notice the small cross. This is a memorial reading - In loving memory of R M A Benson. Born 22nd February 1909, died 4th March 2007.

"Wow", said Tetley. "He certainly had a long life. 98 when he died."

It was photo time again for us, so we dived out of the rucksack and sat by the trig point. "That's a catch-up for me", cheered Little Eric.

It had been warm when we set off but up here it was much cooler so Dad and Uncle Bob donned their coats. While we had lunch, they chatted to a gentleman with his young son. They were just in shorts and T-shirts, and we could see plainly that the young lad was shivering. They had not brought any coats. It just goes to show that on the fells you need to be prepared for anything.

Just by where Dad was sitting, he noticed this graffiti carved in the rock dated 1864. He guessed it was a couple whose surname started with 'L'. "I wonder who they were?", mused Grizzly.

Taking our leave of the summit, our way led in a north-easterly direction quite close to the rim of the dramatic Black Combe screes, where we paused while Dad took this picture.

Meanwhile we were being closely observed by this lamb. Its mother, as you can see, is quite unconcerned and ignored us completely.

The path became boggy as it descended gently to reach the ridge of White Combe. "We will be going along that, but first is the matter of summiting Stoupdale Head", said Shaun. "To do this we have to walk ahead for a little way, and then strike left to the cairn."

"That's another catch-up", called out Little Eric, as we settled for our picture.

Then as we made to get into the rucksack Dad said, "Stay there Allen, I'll take your picture for your birthday."

Backtracking to the ridge, Dad and Uncle Bob then made short work of the walk to the large cairn at the summit of White Combe. Uncle Bob kindly took Dad posing here.

photograph courtesy Bob Woolley (Uncle Bob)

Then we gathered on the rim of the shelter.

"Wow", called out Allen. "Looking across now you can see how Black Combe gets its name."

"Yes", agreed Tetley, "Dad needs to take that shot for our story."

"True", called out Shaun, "but just look at that view across to the Coniston Fells. I can recall some wild and wet days when we have been up there."

"Your right, replied Grizzly. "Do you remember that horizontal hail storm, it made us look like snowmen!"

"There's White Hall Knott, our last summit today", said Little Eric. "None of us have visited it before."

The route was obvious. A steep descent to the col, then striking right to the narrow ridged summit.

"Final picture time", called out Tetley.

Now while Dad was busy with this task, Uncle Bob had been studying the map and terrain. "I suggest a steep descent down the face to then pick up that track through the bracken."

It was necessary to take care, but this was accomplished without too much difficulty, and then the track led all the way to the gate and the main track. This shot shows our descent path.

At the gate we met some riders who were going up the fell. They thanked Dad and Uncle Bob for opening the gates for them, remarking on our perfect timing. Here they are getting organised for the start up along the bridleway.

Dad's boots were very clean up to this point, but now it was necessary to negotiate a very muddy path to the road, so they were well and truly mucked up.

At the road it was just a quarter of a mile right to Uncle Bob's car at Beckside (SD 153847). He then drove us to Whicham and Dad's car. We did not go straight home, rather Dad followed Uncle Bob to his caravan at Park Coppice. It was nice for Dad to see Aunt Ann and the family again. She very kindly made a delicious meal for Dad - shepherd's pie potatoes and vegetables. Just what he needed, and it saved him having to get something when he got home. About 18:15 we finally set off for home, after a great walk and day out with Uncle Bob!!

We have now done all the tops in this group of fells, Allen saying, "I have celebrated my 5th birthday in style."


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