BROWNTHWAITE CRAG, GOWK HILL & RED CRAG from
ST PETER'S CHURCH, MARTINDALE

 


Summary

Date - 9th May 2010 Distance - 6.5 miles
Ascent -
2000ft
Map - OL5 Start point - Layby opposite Martindale Church (NY 436191)

 

Summits Achieved

Name Height (ft) Height (m) Grid Ref
Brownthwaite Crag 1457 444 NY 4430 1734
Gowk Hill 1545 471 NY 4448 1669
Red Crag 2333 711 NY 4503 1518

 

Preface

It was Friday afternoon and over a mug of tea and chocolate biscuits, we were chatting about the previous day's adventure.

"It was a great day for you Allen", remarked Tetley.

"Yes it certainly was. I ticked off a third of my outstanding Wainwights. Now with only eight to go, I really feel that I will achieve completion of the challenge this year", Allen replied.

Grizzly piped up, "the views were wonderful. Ullock Pike was my very first Wainwright, which I climbed in July 2004. I had forgotten what a super walk that ridge is."

Ever practical, Shaun mused, "I wonder whether Dad will take us out on Sunday?"

Little Eric replied, "if you give me a ride on your back I will go and ask him."

So off they trotted.

Presently returning, Little Eric said excitedly, "yes a walk is on."

"Where to", interjected Tetley.

"Well, Shaun reminded Dad about that walk from Martindale, to climb Brownthwaite Pike & Gowk Hill and then up to the ridge above to bag Red Crag", Little Eric went on.

"Those are outstanding Birkett tops, which Dad has been meaning to take us to for a while, but for various reasons he had had to defer the walk", said Allen.

"Well it will be great to finally get them done, so roll on Sunday", called out Shaun.

 

The Walk

To get to the start we left the M6 at Penrith and took the ever familiar A66 west towards Keswick, very soon turning left by Rheged along the road to Pooley Bridge. On the way we passed a man driving an old tractor.

"I wonder where he is going?, said Tetley.

Just then we came to the stately home called Dalemain, and Shaun called out, "he's going here as there is a vintage tractor rally today."

"Just look at that line up of old tractors", called out Allen, as we passed by.

"Wonderful", replied Grizzly.

Soon Ullswater came into view and we turned left along side, then right over the bridge into the village of Pooley Bridge. It was straight on to the crossroads, where we turned right, to drive the at times narrow road along the east side of the lake. We passed the entrance to Sharrow Bay, a very exclusive hotel, then continued to Howtown. This is one of the places where the Ullswater Steamers that ply the lake stop. Very popular with walkers, who sail from Glenridding to here, then walk back by the lake under the slopes of the dominant hill Place Fell. Dad drove on and soon we were climbing the narrow steep curves to reach St Peter's Church, Martindale our start point. As he drove up we were rewarded with a view along the lake with the steamer making its stately progress to Howtown. Unfortunately Dad was not able to stop to take a picture.

Dad parked in the layby opposite the church, under the slopes of Hallin Fell. There were quite a few other cars there with people getting ready to set off too, and we saw some start along the wide clear path up Hallin Fell.

By now Dad was ready and we had hopped into the rucksack and got ourselves settled. We walked past the gate to the church, to gain the open fell.

Allen then immediately called out, "that will make a nice shot of the church to start our story."

"OK", replied Dad, hauling the camera out of its bag.

That done, we then walked right, making a high traverse under the craggy lower face of Birkie Knott. On the fellside and in the fields below were many of our beloved Herdwick sheep, and when one stood and posed, Dad just could not resist snapping a picture.

The path continued above the wall, to a point where it dropped away right, high above the old church.

Ahead now was this fine view over Martindale, with The Nab rising in the centre. This is part of the Martindale Deer Forest, and on the occasions we had climbed to its summit we had been fortunate to see some of the deer. To the left is the valley of Ramps Gill, rising to Ramps Gill Head, whose top is just covered by cloud.

Now, Dad is very experienced on the fells, but he admits that occasionally he does make mistakes with route finding. Here was one of those occasions, and he later said that he had not read well enough, the clear instructions in Bill Birkett's Almanac. What he should have done was walk on ahead for a short distance to find the path rising from the right. Instead we descended to the valley floor, then following the path right by the wall. This in itself was in fact fine as we were heading in the right direction, albeit at a lower level. The OS map showed a path rising up the hillside and reaching this, Dad headed up. The map does not show the zig zags, so we got off the path and crossed instead the rough fellside and after climbing a fence, finally regained the proper path. Well it added to our adventure!

On this path we now made good progress and soon the first summit of Brownthwaite Crag was reached. . A few stones almost lost in the small boggy depression marked the top. We were to be disappointed that none of the tops today had cairns, so to please us Dad got the flag out to brighten the picture.

"Where to now?, asked Little Eric.

"We continue south to cross the path that circles the fell and then climb directly up the hillside to Gowk Hill", replied Dad.

So down we went crossing the depression and soon we were climbing the slopes of Gowk Hill. Its summit is a wide grassy area with two mounds. The west one has a few stones at the spot height marked on the OS map.

"Why are you not taking our picture", cried Allen.

"Because the east top over there is slightly higher", replied Dad.

So we walked the short distance to it and found the lone stone marking the summit. You can just see it behind Allen.

To the east stands the ridge running north from High Raise over Loadpot and Wether Hill, along which runs the remains of the High Street Roman Road. Dad has taken us along various sections of this before, but this was prior to knowing about the Birkett fells. As a result one top, Red Crag, had not been visited, so we resolved to tick it off today. Going due east we descended, and crossed to the base of the ridge to pick up the path (dotted on the map). This climbed quite steeply across the face of the ridge, finally gaining the main path that runs along the top. Rounding the wall we headed south, then crossed the wall and made a diagonal traverse to the fence, climbing steadily along side. The cairn came into view, so Dad climbed the fence to reach it.

"Made it", called out Tetley, as we prepared to decamp from the rucksack.

"Hang on a minute", cried Dad. "This is not the summit."

"Where is it then", said Allen, sounding rather exasperated.

"Just on that next rise to the south", replied Dad patiently.

In a minute we were there, and hopping out of the rucksack, and settling on the ground for our picture - if only that cairn had been here!

Wondering about the origin of the name Red Crag, we did some research when we got home. The map shows that there are craggy outcrops on the western face, that apparently have a reddish colour.

"For a change there are good views today", remarked Tetley.

"Yes", replied Shaun. Then continuing, "I think that view to the north is worth a picture."

The lake is part of Ullswater with behind from left to right Gowbarrow Fell (1579ft), Great Mell Fell (1762ft) and Little Mell Fell (1657ft). More distantly behind Great Mell Fell, the dark hill is Carrock Fell (2174ft), the ridge from it running left to High Pike (2157ft). We recalled climbing that on a snowy December day and sitting on the snow covered seat for our picture.

Ready to set off again Allen remarked, "there seems to be a good path on this side of the fence."

"Your right, and I intend to use it for our return route", replied Dad.

It ran straight and true leading to the wall above Mere Beck. A gate on the right provided a way through the wall, then crossing the ravine we regained the ascent route. We stood a while looking at the wonderful view of the fells to the west. Dad took this shot for our story.

In the foreground is the highest part of The Nab (1890ft), and behind from left to right Dove Crag (2598ft), Hart Crag (2698ft) and Fairfield (2863ft). These are some of the fells that form the Fairfield Horseshoe.

Following the path down, we then crossed rough ground to pick up the excellent wide smooth grassy path that skirts left below the summit of Brownthwaite Crag. Further on it passed through the wall and under the slopes of Steel Knotts. Here we saw more of our lovely Herdwicks, including this ewe with its almost totally black lamb.

This led to our outward path above the wall towards Birkie Knott. Here looking down we could see the old church, St Martin's.

So on along the path under Birkie Knott, we soon reached the car. We settled on the front seat ready to have the rest of our picnic. Dad got his boots off, then headed down the steep road. The view along Ullswater was beautiful and Dad was able to find a place to pull off and take the picture. A steamer is docked at Howtown Pier. The prominent hill at the top of the lake is Dunmallat (787ft). This is one of the Wainwright Outlying Fells, climbed by us in April 2007. Little Eric has not climbed it as he had not been born then.

Another excellent day and three more Birkett tops ticked off. We have said it before, but we are a lucky lot to be taken on all these adventures. Another big thank you to Dad.

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