Date - 13th December 2009 Distance - (1) 2.75 miles. (2) 4.5 miles.
Ascent - 2800ft
Map - OL5 Start point - (1) Wanthwaite (NY 316231).
(2) Old quarry at Park Brow (NY 397211)


Summits Achieved

Name Height (ft) Height (m) Grid Ref
Threlkeld Knotts 1686 514 NY 3301 2302
Bracken How 1224 373 NY 3929 2105
Round How 1270 387 NY 3918 2081
Common Fell 1811 552 NY 3823 2046
Swineside Knott 1814 553 NY 3790 1972
Brown Hills 1808 551 NY 3778 1939



"Well after the euphoria of completing the Outlying Fells, I guess we will be back to ticking off some of the outstanding Birketts on Sunday", remarked Shaun.

"That's right", replied Tetley. "Dad talked about taking us to Martindale on the east side of Ullswater", he continued.

"I guess we will know soon enough, as I reckon that is where Allen is, finding out from Dad", said Little Eric, who as usual, was sitting on Shaun's back.

"Here he comes", called out Grizzly.

Allen came rushing in breathless as usual, so Tetley said, "now just sit a minute, so that you can tell us properly"

After catching his breath, Allen said, " we are not going to Martindale, as Dad is a little wary of the road in these cold and icy conditions. Instead we are going to climb Threlkeld Knotts, and then drive to near Aira Force, to tick off Bracken How and Round How"

"It will be great to get Threlkeld Knotts out of the way, as we pass it every time we drive along the A66 to Keswick", said Grizzly.

"That will mean that we will have done every summit on the Helvellyn Ridge too", added Shaun.

"Not me", said Allen a little downheartedly.

"Well I am sure that Dad will take you to most of your outstanding Wainwright tops next year", said Tetley.


The Walk

It was a frosty morning as we dived into the car ready for the off. The day was to be dry with some sunshine, much better than the rains of the last few weeks. It was that oft travelled route up the M6, passing by the Howgill Fells, some under early morning mists. At Penrith we took the A66 west, soon Blencathra coming into view to the right.

After a further few miles, Allen suddenly called out "there's Threlkeld Knotts". "Our turning must be coming up soon".

Sure enough we saw the sign 'St John's in the Vale", and Dad went left along the rather narrower road. After passing the site of Threlkeld Station on the long closed railway line from Penrith to Keswick, we soon then came to Wanthwaite, where Dad parked at the side of the road by a gate. There was ice on the road round the car, so Dad had to be very careful not to slip. We had settled in the rucksack and waited patiently while he got ready. Then he shouldered the rucksack and off we went. Just a few yards further along the road, we took the track left that is called the Old Coach Road, to pass through a gate ahead. Just beyond, this swollen beck was rushing down.

The path climbed steadily, bending right and then left at a junction, continuing with the wall to the right. Looking back down the track we could see Hill Top Farm that we had passed, backed by High Rigg & Naddle Fell.

Immediately the wall on the right ended, Dad crossed the stile, and continued on the narrow path that wound its way steeply up the old quarry tips, to a wide track. The instructions then said take the signed path that climbs steeply by a wire fence. Dad found it, but the sign is long gone, although halfway up there was a faded white topped post.

The stile in the fence at the top was crossed and we ascended the field beyond to climb the ladderstile to open fell.

"Just look at those superb views", called out Tetley.

"Must be worth taking a few shots", added Shaun.

"OK", said Dad, not needing a second asking to get the camera out.

Here is St John's in the Vale, white under its covering of frost.

And here beyond Low Rigg, are the Coledale Fells. The highest point to the left is Grasmoor and that to the right Grisedale Pike.

"I have a few of those still to do", remarked Allen.

"Yes", agreed Dad. "I will take you to tick them off next year.

The clear path now meandered on its way to the very steep ascent to Clough Head. We were not going that far today, and after a while went left and climbed to the summit of Threlkeld Knotts with its small cairn. We did not need asking to leap out and settle for our picture.

Across a depression stand two other cairns. albeit at a slightly lower level, but they provide a fine viewpoint. One has been fashioned into a neat pillar.

Directly across the valley was Blencathra with the village of Threlkeld nestling below.

To the west of this was a commanding view of the Skiddaw Massif.

We could clearly see the route we had taken on the walk over these in September. First the steep path up to the point of Lonscale Pike, on the right. Then along left to cross Lonscale Fell and on over Jenkin Hill, to Lesser Man and Lower Man on Skiddaw, then finally to the summit ridge with its four tops - South, Middle, High Man (summit) and North. We remembered it was quite a day, an account of which can be found elsewhere on this site. To complete the first part of today's walk we returned to the car by our outward route.

"Where to now?", enquired Grizzly.

"We drive back to the A66, and head towards Penrith, but then turn right at Troutbeck", replied Dad.

So off we went, and soon we were turning off the A66.

A little further on, Tetley suddenly called out, "that's the caravan site that Uncle Bob was staying at, when we met him to climb Gowbarrow Fell, Little Mell Fell and a few other Birkett tops."

Then before long we passed through the hamlet of Matterdale End, and further on Dockray.

"We have been to Dockray before", said Allen.

"That's right", replied Shaun. "When we climbed the Dodds and Clough Head."

Shortly now at the brow, we saw on the left the large space of the old quarry, and this is where we parked. We had stayed in the rucksack, so all Dad had to do was shoulder it and off we went.

At the right side of the quarry a narrow path led up beside the wall to a stile by a ruined building. Once over the stile the ascent steepened, and getting up a very slippery rocky outcrop, required care. At a broken stile we crossed the wall then continued with it now on the left. Then a right angles to the wall we made our way over some small rocky ridges and valleys to the summit of Bracken How crowned with a small cairn.

You will see that Dad's stick is firmly planted in the ground behind us, and we are pleased to report that he did not forget it, when we set off again, and that he did not need reminding. Clearly ahead and nearer the wall the aptly named Round How was just a short walk away and soon accomplished. No cairn adorned its summit, so Dad kindly got the flag out to add colour to our picture.

Dad uses Bill Birkett's book as a guide on some of his walks, and this was the case today, but Dad does adapt them to meet his and our own needs. You will see that the wall stretches away in the background of the above picture. It was alongside this that the instructions said we should go, all the way under the slopes of Common Fell, Swineside Knott and Brown Hills. We needed to climb these too, so Dad decided to deviate to these tops. It was quite a climb by the wall, to eventually reach a brow of sorts, under the slopes of Common Fell. At this point we went right, climbing steeply.

Almost immediately Little Eric called out, "Dad, look at that superb view of Ullswater. Worth a picture don't you think."

The view is towards Glenridding, with the Hartsop Fells beyond. We think it looks icily cold in the winter light. A steady climb for about another 15 minutes, and we were at the summit cairn of Common Fell. From here a clear path meandered roughly west. It was along this section that Dad passed a young couple, the only other walkers he saw to speak to all day. Presently the path bent round left to climb imperceptibly to Swineside Knott. It is a pretty flat and undistinguished top, but a slight hump with a boulder was the summit, as far as Dad could determine. We sat behind this for our picture.

Brown Hills was next, and we thought that this was away to the right, halfway up a ridge.

Dad said, "although you would think so it can't be, as the change in GPS reference required is much closer. So after just a short walk, with again little change in height, we were there. A few stones had been perched on the edge of a little drop, at what seemed to be the highest point, so this is where Dad took our last picture today.

We now had to get back to the wall, so Dad made the short steep descent, stopping part way to take this shot of Ullswater with the sun catching the ridge of from the left Arthur's Pike, Bonscale Pike, Loadpot Hill and Wether Hill.

Directly opposite where we had descended, there was a stile over the wall, which was exactly where we needed to be to rejoin the original Birkett route. Over the stile the path led left on the delightful walk through Glencoyne Park eventually to the road, where a steady walk up regained the car. Dad had done quite well keeping his trousers clean up to this point, but the last part through the Park was very boggy, so they needed yet another wash. This was only for Dad to dirty them again on Tuesday. Uncle Brian is extremely understanding!

This is another area we had not visited before, and whilst we would probably go back to Threlkeld Knotts, the same cannot really be said for Bracken How etc.

Dad was hungry now, so he drove to Greystone House at Stainton, where he had some warming beef casserole with potatoes and carrots, and a pot of tea.


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