(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

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 it was raining, but thankfully it cleared up on the way. 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. The walk was not a full circle, so leaving Uncle Bob's car here, we then all drove on in Dad's car to Whicham, parking by the church.

Where this large tree, in the churchyard, had this huge fungi growing on it.

A narrow path led between the church and the old school, then down some steps to a narrow road, which leads just to Mirkbank. The path went round behind the house to a junction of paths, where the incorrectly spelt signpost directed us right, to commence the climb up the fell.

The ascent was steep and unrelenting, so we took rests to take in the views. Black Combe itself looked magnificent its slopes purple with heather and patches of contrasting gorse too.

After a col, the gradient eased a little and the upper part of the fell now came into view - another fantastic sight with an expanse of purple heather clothing it. We could see that after a further climb, the track traversed left across the face of the fell and then turned up right. 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.

When we reached the point where the track turned up right, we could see further ahead, that it turned left. However, at this point we were now just below the south top, so Dad and Uncle Bob climbed immediately to the right up a 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. Here 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 had been pouring with rain all morning in Morecambe. He was rather surprised when Dad told him that apart from a little drizzle it had been dry all the time here. This was due to the fact that there was a strong north-westerly wind, that had blown the bad weather further south. Now crossing this summit area, we descended to a col containing a small tarn, from which a short ascent brought us to the main summit with its trig point contained in a circular shelter.

It was photo time for us, and we dived out of the rucksack and sat by the trig point.

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, but 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'. We wondered who they might have been?

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. His mother as you can see was quite unconcerned and ignored us completely.

The path became boggy as it descended gently to reach the ridge of White Combe. We were going along this, but first we had to reach the summit of Stoupdale Head. This involved walking on ahead for a little way, then striking left to the cairn. As it was Allen's birthday, Dad took his picture on his own, as well as with us all.

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)

"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!"

Below we could see White Hall Knott that was to be our last summit of the day. None of us had visited this before.

Descending steeply to a col we then struck right to its narrow ridged summit. Jumping out we posed for our picture as usual.

Now while Dad was busy with this task, Uncle Bob had been studying the map and terrain, and suggested a steep descent down the face to pick up a 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, that we would otherwise have taken. 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.

A little later strung out as they climb further up, with White Hall Knott above.

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 celebrated his 5th birthday in style too.



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