Allen completes Wainwright Book 5 - The Northern Fells


Date - 21st July 2010 Distance - 7.5 miles
Ascent -
Map - OL4
Start point -  Lay-by beside Orthwaite Road (NY 249324)


Summits Achieved

Name Height (ft) Height (m) Grid Ref
Great Calva 2265 690 NY 2908 3118
Little Calva 2106 642 NY 2822 3147
White Hause 1525 465 NY 2715 3239



Tetley & Grizzly strolled in to find Allen staring mournfully out of the window, with a book open on his lap.

"What's up pal?", asked Grizzly.

"I have been looking at the chapter in the Northern Fells book on Great Calva, the only one I have yet to climb. It just seems to rain day after day, so I don't know if Wednesday's walk will be on", he replied with a sigh.

"It is not all that steep a climb, but if I recall correctly the ascent is rather boggy and involves walking through heather, which makes the going more tough", mused Tetley.

"I agree", added Grizzly. "It was freezing cold on the top too, and I guess once Dad has taken you up there, Allen, he will not be in a rush to return."

Allen had also got the Birkett Almanac by his side, and replied, "especially as the walk will take us to the outstanding Birkett tops just adjacent, thereby completing that area."

Unnoticed, Shaun had trotted in with Little Eric riding on his back, and they had been listening to the exchanges.

"Hi pals", said Allen, who turning had spotted them.

"I have have some good news for you all", said Shaun. "Little Eric and I have been looking on Dad's laptop at the Met Office mountain forecast, which indicates that Wednesday will be a dry day."

"Ooh good", replied Allen his face brightening visibly.

Just then Dad wandered in. "I have just spoken to Uncle Eric. With the forecast of good weather on Wednesday, the planned walk is on to Great Calva, so Allen, after that you will only have one Wainwright left to climb."

"That's super Dad, and we must not forget that we will advance the Birkett challenge too", Allen replied.


The Walk

As it was a long drive we had to be up early, all lending a paw to get the picnic ready and stowed in Allen's rucksack. Once we heard Dad slam the boot of the car shut, we dashed out, calling goodbyes to Uncle Brian and settling on the front seat. The weather looked promising as Dad drove us north to Kendal, where Uncle Eric lives, and indeed we were to enjoy a completely dry day with superb views in the afternoon.

"Good morning Uncle Eric", said Tetley on our behalf. "We are looking forward to having your company today."

"Hello lads, nice to see you."

Decamping to Uncle Eric's car, we were soon on our way north to Windermere, Ambleside and along the A591 to Keswick. From Ambleside north the fells tower up on either side and we mused on the walks in the past to their summits.

As we passed Grasmere, Tetley said, "that's Silver How on the far side of the lake. It was the last Wainwright for Shaun and I."

"That's right", replied Shaun. "It's hard to believe that it was three years ago that we completed that challenge."

Soon we were passing Thirlmere reservoir, still rather low after the dry weather.

As we approached Keswick and mighty Skiddaw came into view, Grizzly said, "our objectives today, Great Calva etc, are above the valley behind the Skiddaw massif".

"Great Calva will be my 213th Wainwright, leaving just Grisedale Pike to climb", added Allen. Looking west he went on, "Grisedale Pike is in view, and we can see the clear path leading to its summit. I can't wait for the day when I will be walking up that path."

At the large roundabout, we continued on the A591 under the slopes of Dodd and then Ullock Pike, to take the right fork along the narrow road to Orthwaite.

Shaun advised, "just before Peter House Farm on the right is a layby where we park."

Eager to be off we jumped into Dad's rucksack and got settled.

Shaun pointed, "our route is through that adjacent gate, the road being part of the Cumbria Way. The first part is also the access road that eventually leads to Dash Farm."

"What's that across the valley?", asked Little Eric.

"Brockle Crag, with Great Cockup behind", replied Tetley. "The white streak is a fall of quartzite rocks."

Those readers who are familiar with our stories, will know that Dad cannot resist taking photographs of sheep, who often stand and pose for him, much to Allen's annoyance as prefers sheep picture free stories. That is except for the Herdwicks that we all love.

There were none in the fields here as we walked along today, Allen saying, "I am hoping Dad will not have an excuse to take a picture."

However seeing this a blackfaced ewe with her two almost fully grown lambs, Tetley said, to wind Allen up, "they are posing beautifully Dad."

"Humph", grunted Allen, as Dad got the camera out.

Soon a junction was reached, where the road continued left to the farm. Here the Cumbria Way continued right along the rough track. This was our route, clearly indicated by the sign on a cairn.

Ahead we could see the Whitewater Dash Falls, above which the track was to climb. "A spectacular sight after the rains", commented Little Eric.

As we strolled along, Tetley said, "that is an atmospheric shot of the ominously named Dead Crags with the mists swirling about them."

Above the falls, we reached a gate. Beyond, the track made a very short steep ascent, before levelling off. We were now on familiar ground. Above to the right is Birkett Edge, a steep ascent of which leads to the fell called Bakestall (2208ft), the route then continuing via Broad End, eventually to Skiddaw (3053ft).

"It was only last September, when we came down that way from Skiddaw", remarked Allen.

"That's right", agreed Tetley, "but I remember when Shaun, Grizzly and I first climbed Skiddaw in 2004, that Dad went up that way."

"Yes and it is every bit as steep as it looks", added Dad. "I felt sorry for the people we passed going up, as we descended last year."

Looking left Grizzly said, "that is a superb view of the upper fall on Whitewater Dash. Worth a picture for our story."

The track continues all the way to Skiddaw House, the remotest and highest Hostel in the Lake District, then on as a rough narrow path, under Lonscale Pike.

"On that day last September, when we had climbed Skiddaw and all the associated tops, we walked the whole length back to the car park, about 5 miles in all.", said Shaun.

"Aye lad", agreed Dad. "It was a long trek. I do not plan to repeat that again in the foreseeable future."

"Fortunately today, we only have about another 3/4m under the slopes of Little Calva, to the Dead Beck, to start the ascent of Great Calva", said Allen.

We were now in the great wilderness of Skiddaw Forest. A vast heathery amphitheatre at the base of the eastern slopes of Skiddaw. It is a forest without trees, the word "forest", being its archaic usage, that refers to the status of the land as a hunting reserve.

Looking right as we strolled along, Tetley said, "the hill above Skiddaw House is Sale How and the nearer one Hare Crag."

"They are Birkett tops, and we still have those to climb", added Grizzly.

"So we will have one more adventure along this track to tick them off", said Allen.

We were in fact to realise the ambition to climb these on 21st September 2010, involving an 8.5 mile walk, from the same starting point as today.

We arrived at the small bridge that crosses the Dead Beck, seen here from the the thin path we had immediately taken left that meandered upwards through the heather.

This path climbed steadily, to eventually join another path coming in from the right, where it was just a short walk to the south top. We say this because unsuspectingly there is then another short ascent to the summit proper. From below and indeed from a distance it has the appearance of a symmetrical pyramid, but this picture taken across the valley from Hare Crag, shows the twin tops clearly. How tiny the digger looks too.

After a pause at the south top for the view, we climbed the short ascent to the large cairn at the summit.

"Hooray", called out Allen. "That's Book 5 Northern Fells completed."

"Well done pal", we replied in unison", giving him a hug, after we had jumped out of the rucksack.

Then, we settled on the cairn for our usual picture...

...after which, Allen had his picture taken on his own to mark his achievement.

The bulk of the climbing done, Uncle Eric said, "time for lunch. We can sit in the lee of the cairn."

"Oh yes", cheered Allen, "after all the climb and the excitement of bagging my 213th Wainwright, I'm hungry."

"Excitement or not you are always hungry", laughed Tetley.

Grizzly told us, "according to Diana Whaley's book on Lake District place names, Calva probably means 'the hill where the calves graze'."

Munching away on our sandwiches etc., we enjoyed the wonderful views, including this down The Great Central Fault.

We can do no better than to quote from the Great Calva chapter in Wainwright's Northern Fells, to describe this -

'Lakeland is severed by a great geological fault: a deep trough running north and south across the district. The lakes of Windermere, Rydal Water, Grasmere and Thirlmere lie in this trough and the main road north of Ambleside takes advantage of the simple passage it affords. Dunmail Raise at 782ft being the highest point. The rift continues through the Vale of St John's and the Glenderaterra valley to Skiddaw Forest, where, situated exactly at its head, there rises the graceful cone of Great Calva. The trough is steeply bounded by high hills on both sides, notably the Helvellyn range. Great Calva's unique position provides it with a view along the direct line of the fault, so that, despite the mountains crowding into the scene, there is a remarkable vista, like looking along the sights of a gun, through the heart of the district to the low Windermere fells in the extreme south.'

"Well", said Little Eric, who had looked in wonder at the scene, "that is something we have all learned about Lakeland today."

Time to be off again. Shaun said, "we follow that path that leads down by the fence"

This eventually cut half left across boggy ground to climb gently to Little Calva, and its summit cairn.

"I can't help but think that the ground seems higher just to the north, across the fence", mused Tetley.

"Maybe", replied Shaun, "We will cross it anyway, as that is our route."

Setting off, we descended down the shoulder in a north westerly direction.

"After we pass close to the steep declivity of Foul Gill, we should find a narrow path that is marked on the map", advised Shaun.

Quite soon Little Eric pointed, "here it is."

This headed north over the fell, and Allen then said, "there's our last objective for today, White Hause."

The path contoured round the ridge and at the most convenient point, we made the short easy climb right to White Hause.

"Birkett says a boulder of volcanic origin marks the summit", said Allen.

There are a few scattered about, Tetley saying, "that one seems to be at the highest point. Time for our final picture of the day."

That's a fine view across to Binsey with Brockle Crag in front", pointed Little Eric.

"We nicknamed that Wheelie", laughed Grizzly. "And our nickname for Great Calva is Big Chopper."

"That's Dash Farm in the trees down there", said Shaun. "We have to get to it then follow its sinuous access road, back to the start."

Contouring down, we made for the gate to Dash Farm, Allen saying, "that is the route indicated in the Bill Birkett's book."

Arriving there a sign on the gate stated there was no right of way through the farm.

"Oh dear", said Little Eric. "What to do now."

Shaun said, "if we walk right along the wall to that gate, we can then cross the field and get to the track that comes from further along the Orthwaite road. Turning left there will bring us to the farm road, that we follow to the start."

So back at the car, Grizzly mused, "that's another corner of Lakeland fully explored and further progress with the Birkett challenge."

Suddenly there sheep everywhere, the sheep dog doing its best to try to control them.

Some then ran off down the road in the direction we had come this morning. It is just as well that this is an extremely quiet and little used road. Then the farmer appeared on his quad bike, racing off down the road, to reappear a short time later, the flock gathered and herded off to where they were supposed to be.

"Well that was a bit of excitement to round off the walk", said Allen a little breathlessly after having watched the action.

"It was a good job you kept a low profile, Shaun, as you might have been rounded up too", said Tetley, laughingly.

We then settled in Uncle Eric's car, and off we went back along that narrow road. Those who have read our stories before, will know that there is nothing Dad likes better than to round off a walk with some refreshment. So unsurprisingly, they stopped at Dodd Wood and went to the Old Sawmill Tearoom. A refreshing pot of tea was the order of the day and Dad had a delicious piece of chocolate cake. The tearooms can be recommended.


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