HARTER FELL, DEMMING CRAG & HORSEHOW CRAGS,
from BIRKS BRIDGE, SEATHWAITE

 


Summary

Date - 10th October 2010 Distance - 5.25 miles
Ascent -
2800ft
Map - OL6 Start point - Birks Bridge car park (NY 235995)

 

Summits Achieved

Name Height (ft) Height (m) Grid Ref
Harter Fell 2142 653 SD 2188 9971
Demming Crag 1722 525 NY 2224 0022
Horsehow Crags 1421 433 NY 2238 0079

 

Preface

Shaun, Tetley, Grizzly, were enjoying a mug of tea and chocolate biscuit, while idly chatting the afternoon away.

"Well since we reached 500 in the Birkett challenge, I suppose we could be said to be on a mopping up operation, as there was just 40 to go", mused Shaun.

It's hard to believe that when Dad discovered the book, we had only done around 300", replied Grizzly.

"That's a lot of miles and many thousands of feet of climb, that Dad has had to do to get us this far. What a lucky lot we are", said Tetley with the utmost sincerity.

"We have completed the Eastern area and we have just a few left in the Southern and Northern areas, the bulk of the outstanding being in the Western area", called out Grizzly, who was looking at the list on Dad's laptop.

"Where's Allen?", said Shaun. "It's not like him to miss out on his tea and biscuits."

"Don't know", replied Tetley.

But hardly were the words out of his mouth, than Allen came striding in with Little Eric, poking out of his rucksack, and with an excited look on his face. "The forecast for the weekend is good, and Dad has said he is definitely going to take us for a walk on Sunday, but he wants us to come up with a suggestion of where."

"Well its got to be ticking off some of the remaining Birketts", said Little Eric.

"Dad has talked about Skelgill Bank and King's How, near Keswick, but as he and Uncle Brian, have only this afternoon returned from Armathwaite Hall, we can hardly ask him to drive up there again on Sunday", said Shaun.

Grizzly, who was scrutinising the outstanding list again, said, "how about we suggest doing Demming Crag and Horsehow Crags, as that would complete all in the Southern area."

"Yes, and maybe if I ask nicely, he will climb Harter Fell first too, so that I can bag that Wainwright", added Little Eric. "It is a logical way to do it anyway, from what I can see looking at the map."

"That will be starting from Birks Bridge near Seathwaite, where we started, when we climbed it in 2005, although we actually climbed from the west side, as Dad took us to bag Green Crag first that day", said Tetley.

"So, if Dad agrees with our suggestion, we will actually climb the east flank, so ascending by a different route", added Allen.

"Well, what are you doing still standing here Allen ", said Tetley. "Off you go and ask Dad."

Not needing a second asking, he dashed off, soon to return with a wide grin on his face. "It's on. Dad thinks it is a great idea."

 

The Walk

Birks Bridge is just beyond Seathwaite in Dunnerdale, and although we had not been here for five years, much of the journey there was familiar to us. Dad had decided not to set off too early for once so we were able to have a bit of a lie in, but nevertheless we made sure that we were up in good time to get the picnic ready and stowed in Allen's rucksack. Dad loaded his gear, and when we heard the boot slam shut on the car, we dashed out and settled on the front seat.

The route was along the A590, Barrow road, to Greenodd, turning right here to climb up past Gawthwaite, where the distant ridge, with from the left of Black Combe to the fells above the Corney Fell Road, Whitfell and Stickle Pike filled the skyline. All these had been climbed and we chatted amongst ourselves, about those adventures. It was a beautiful autumn day with cloudless blue skies, as we dropped down to skirt Broughton in Furness, and come to Duddon Bridge, where immediately before, we turned right up the Duddon Valley, and after a few miles reach Ulpha Bridge.

As we neared here, Tetley said, "that's The Pike with Hesk Fell behind, to the left." We climbed those in February 2006."

"I remember it well, the cloud was down and we could hardly see more that a few yards", replied Shaun. "The top is flat, but since Wainwright wrote his book a fence has been erected that crosses the summit, so helping us find the highest point", he went on.

The road passes the church, and a little way beyond we have usually turned left to cross Birker Fell, either to walk to fells from the road, or continue down to Eskdale, from where there have been a few adventures, and in fact there will be more, as some of our outstanding tops are to be reached from there.

Today we ignored this road, and kept on ahead along Dunnerdale, the high ground to the right forming the Coniston Fells. The road was narrow, extremely so in places, and Dad's big car seemed to fill it completely. Fortunately there was little traffic and when we did meet a tractor coming the other way, there was just enough room to squeeze past. We passed through the tiny village of Seathwaite with its pub and church, then after about another two miles we reached the parking area at Birks Bridge.

As Dad got ready, we noticed that there were a group of Mountain Rescue people engaged in training rescue dogs. We saw some of this, as we followed two gentlemen with a dog, over the bridge and along the forest road. Suddenly the dog veered off to the right and stopping by a tree, started barking. He had found the man who had concealed himself up the tree. Wonderful, and what an asset they must be, when searching for walkers lost on the fells. We do hope, however that Dad never needs their services.

The track led to a junction that led to The Birks (Hostel) and then along a footpath east.

"I think we are going the wrong way", called out Shaun, who was looking at the map.

Dad looked too, and said "you're right. We are not on the path I thought we were. Silly me."

"Well it is not often you go wrong", said Allen

Returning the short distance to the junction, we walked left for a few yards to find the sign, designed with bears and sheep in mind, pointing the direction to Harter Fell.

To the left was this complex of walls, once used as sheepfolds. The forest road, stretching away in the background, was the one we had walked along from the car.

The path climbed steeply, passing on the left Mart Crag, then reaching a gate in a fence, close to the rocky outcrop of Maiden Castle.

"Which way are we going from here", asked Little Eric with his paws crossed, as he was hoping that Dad would continue up Harter Fell, so he could tick it off.

"As we have come this far, on up to the summit", replied Dad. "I doubt there will be a proper path by the fence anyway, so I would only make the walk harder."

"Thanks", replied Little Eric with glee

So we continued along the clear path, climbing steadily, to reach a junction marked by a cairn. A group of our lovely Herdwicks were browsing the grass here, and yes, you've guessed Dad had to get the camera out.

The marker cairn can be seen behind. Here we went left below the crags. It then wound its way up through them, to the summit area of Harter Fell. Here there are in fact three rocky outcrops, the most southerly having the trig point, where Dad later took our picture. For the majority of walkers, this is considered the summit, but in fact the highest point is the next rocky outcrop to the north. This shot is taken from the trig point.

There are a number of routes that can be used to scramble to the top, Dad choosing one to the rear. The very highest point can be seen and the smallest ever cairn - just one small stone had been balanced on the top. There was not space for us to sit there, so we squeezed into the crevice just to the right, for our picture.

While we were doing this and soon after when Dad took our picture at the trig point, the summit was deserted, apart from two gentlemen we had passed on the ascent. But, suddenly there were walkers everywhere, individuals and what we guessed was a guided party. We had just got back into the rucksack in time.

Dad chatted to two gentlemen, who told us they had climbed four summits in the Coniston Fells yesterday, and had nearly been blown off Dow Crag. Dad recounted an attempt in January 2005, when he had been forced to abandon the ascent, such was the strength of the wind. One of the gentlemen was an experienced walker, but the other man was just starting out on the Wainwrights. Dad wished him well on his quest. We are glad we are not just starting out! Time for lunch so we sat on some rocks to eat our sandwiches and have a drink. By now the gentlemen we had talked to were sitting on the summit rocks, and Dad called his goodbyes to them as we headed off on the next part of the walk.

"Which way is it now?", asked Little Eric.

"We retrace our ascent route as far as the cairned junction. There we take the path left, heading north", said Shaun who had consulted the map.

The path north descended steadily. Ahead to the left we could see a domed hill, that was Demming Crag, our next objective. After a while the path levelled, and here Dad struck of left across the rough grassy terrain to climb to the summit of Demming Crag. No cairn marks the summit, but a small rocky rise in the grass was clearly the highest point. Despite the clear weather is was quite a breezy day, so we sat in the lee of this for our picture.

From the top of all the fells today we enjoyed quite magnificent views and we took a few minutes to marvel at them, before continuing on. Descending the same way, to then bear left down the bank of Castlehow Beck, we regained the main path where it crossed a gill. Leaving it immediately, we swept left to a great bog below the sheer craggy face of Demming Crag. The bog was skirted on the right to a fence ahead. This was crossed and then it was leftward over further bog and rough grass to climb to the summit ridge of Horsehow Crags, its left end being the highest point. Just before reaching the summit we came across two more of our lovely Herdwicks, who looked inquisitively as we passed by. You will see that their coats are dark brown, indicating that they were born this year. They start almost totally black, turning brown by about a year old. Then finally in adulthood their fleece turns blue/grey.

We hopped out and settled for our obligatory picture at the summit. As we have said, the views were magnificent from all the summits and we just sat a while taking them in. We could see the cars making there way along the steep narrow road of Hardknott Pass, which, with Wrynose Pass, connects Eskdale with central Lakeland (one of the most thrilling and challenging drives in Lakeland, achieving at times a gradient of 1 in 3!). Above the road we could see in amazing plan view, the remains of the Roman fort.

Hard Knott Fort (known to the Romans as MEDIOBOGDUM), was one of the loneliest outposts of the Roman Empire, built between AD120 and AD138. As can be seen, it is on a spectacular site overlooking, to the west Eskdale, and south and east the pass which forms part of the Roman road from Ravenglass to Ambleside. The walls surrounded granaries, barracks, and a commandant's house. The baths, with a sequence of three rooms can be seen outside the main walls. An area of flattened ground is believed to be a parade area.

Over the summit of the pass stands its namesake fell, but it was beyond that our eyes were drawn to the mountains.

These are Lakeland's highest peaks, from the left Scafell (3162ft), Scafell Pike (3210ft), Broad Crag (3054ft) - tucked in behind, and to its right the double summit of Ill Crag (3067ft). We will be climbing some of these next year as Broad Crag, and the little pointed top of Pen on the ridge running down from Scafell Pike, are amongst our outstanding tops.

"I could look at this scene for ever", said Little Eric in wonder, "but we had better be moving on."

"Yes", agreed Allen, reluctantly.

As we crossed east over the ridge of Horsehow Crags, clearly below we could see the gate in the fence that we had to make for. It was not far, but the ground was very rough grass, with hidden rocks, so it took a bit longer for Dad to reach the gate. Here we joined the bridleway, through the cleared forest area. This meandered, not losing much height, and we began to think that this was not the right path, but Dad reassured us that eventually it would descend. At one point the remains of a felled tree trunk had been fashioned into a seat, which we could not resist posing on.

Continuing, the path as Dad had predicted soon began to descend steeply, and eventually brought us to the forest road, we had walked along this morning. Turning left we soon reached the car. Another super walk, and what magnificent views we had been treated to. Just the perfect day to do this walk.

It was mid afternoon, but as quickly as was safely possible, Dad headed home and on the way, went to Jane and Sam's, Hat Trick Cafe, at Low Newton. The good thing too is that for once we get to go in as well. He had tea and a large portion of delicious apple and blackberry crumble with lots and lots of custard. They do spoil him!

Thanks Dad, as always from us all.

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