Date - 10th November 2010 Distance - 2.3 miles & 3.7 miles
Ascent -
1200ft & 1380ft
Map - OL4
Start points - Hawes End car park (NY 247212)
Bowder Stone car park (NY 253169)


Summits Achieved

Name Height (ft) Height (m) Grid Ref
Skelgill Bank 1109 338 NY 2449 2056
Catbells 1481 451 NY 2441 1986
King's How on Grange Fell 1286 392 NY 2581 1665



"With Aunt Tish and Uncle Eddie coming to visit on Monday, I guess that Dad will want have a rest on Tuesday, so maybe we will be walking on Wednesday", mused Tetley.

Noticing that Allen was sitting in front of Dad's laptop, Grizzly called out, "what does the weather look like for next week?"

"Just a minute while I bring up the Met Office website", replied Allen, tapping away on the keyboard with his paws.

"Mmm", he said. "Monday looks to be a dreadful day with more rain and strong winds, and frankly Tuesday is not much better." Clicking another link, he then went on, his tone brightening, "currently Wednesday's forecast is superb with no wind and clear blue skies all day, so let's hope it doesn't change as the days go by."

"That is indeed if Dad plans to walk on Wednesday", stated Shaun.

"I'll go and ask", volunteered Tetley, as he trotted out of the room.

While he was away, Allen asked, "where do you fancy going Shaun?"

"Well if the weather is so good then somewhere round Keswick, as the views of the mountains will be magnificent", he replied.

Grizzly added, "well one idea would be to climb Catbells, so that we can bag Skelgill Bank, the one top that Dad has done and we haven't, and so finally catch him up."

As he was speaking Tetley walked in. "You must be psychic Grizzly as indeed we are walking on Wednesday, and Dad's idea is to climb Catbells. Afterwards he plans to drive round into Borrowdale, to climb King's How on Grange Fell."

Little Eric who had been quietly listening to the conversations, now piped up, "you will all bag two tops, but I will bag three with Catbells and tick off another Wainwright."

"Just great", said Allen. "Now all we have to do is keep our paws crossed that the weather forecast stays the same."


The Walk

Part 1 - Skelgill Bank, Catbells and back

Well the weather indeed did, and in fact Wednesday was an oasis of calm amongst days of rain and at times stormy winds. The day was for the large part cloudless and there was hardly any wind even on the summits.

Catbells is probably one of the most climbed fells in the northern Lake District, its distinctive profile being instantly recognisable to many of the tourists who visit Keswick. It is seen here from the shore of Derwent Water, rising behind Derwent Island. What many tourists will not realise is that there are in fact two summits. The lower rise on the right being Skelgill Bank, rising left to the rounded dome of Catbells.

This picture was taken in May 2002 and shows the jetties and one of the many launches that provide what is effectively a waterbus service to a number of destinations on the shores of Derwent Water. These are Nichol End, Hawes End, Low Brandelhow, High Brandelhow, Lodore & Ashness. These landings enable people to get to the more remote parts of the lake for various leisure activities including walking, without the need to take a car along the narrow roads, where parking can be difficult. This is often the case for the climbing of Catbells, where alighting at Hawes End, it is just a short walk to gain the path that ascends the fell.

This however was not the way we reached the start today, Dad instead driving through the village of Portinscale and under the slopes of Swinside, to find the small rough roadside parking area at Hawes End, just below the cattle grid. We were the second car to arrive, followed shortly by another car, after which the parking area was full.

"Perfect timing", said Little Eric.

Dad chatted to the three gentlemen in this car, who told him that they were on a walking holiday and staying at the excellent Kirkstile Inn at Loweswater. They too were climbing Catbells, but then going on to do the round via Maiden Moor, High Spy and Dale Head.

Soon ready, and with us safely settled in his rucksack, we walked round the loop in the road, to the signpost reading 'Catbells 1 mile', Dad taking care not to slip on the ice.

The good path climbed steadily, the magnificent views opening out as we gained height.

"There's Skiddaw", called out Little Eric. "We climbed it just over a year ago, returning behind via the Skiddaw House path. Twice recently we have walked along that path too, first when we climbed Great Calva with Uncle Eric, then Sale How and Hare Crag on our own."

"That's right", agreed Allen. "Skiddaw is the snowcapped mountain in the centre, with Lower Man and Lesser Man to its right. The group to the left are Ullock Pike, Long Side and Carl Side with the lower summit of Dodd in front. We climbed those last May with Uncle Eric. They were four tops I needed to bag on the way to the completion of my Wainwright challenge."

"What's the name of the island with the house, on Derwent Water?", asked Little Eric.

"Derwent Isle, pal", replied Tetley. "I reckon that will be a super shot with Blencathra in the background."

To the west, right from the start, we had had clear views of Causey Pike with Rowling End in front, and Dad had taken a few pictures. However we like this grouping taken after the gradient had eased, once the initial steep ascent had been completed.

Setting the scene, Shaun said, "Rowling End is in the foreground rising to Causey Pike, behind which is Scar Crags then the higher fell of Sail, with Crag Hill just peeping over its summit."

"We climbed all those in June, again in the company of Uncle Eric", said Grizzly.

Shaun then went on, "Wandope is the fell behind and to the left of Sail. The adjacent ridge rises to Ard Crags, with Knott Rigg the lower fell at its far end."

"Absolutely breathtaking", said Tetley. "It's hard to tear our eyes away Dad, but we are eager to make the short stroll on to the top of Skelgill Bank."

Although only 1109ft in height it was very significant to us. Grizzly said, "at long last we have finally caught up with Dad on the Birkett challenge."

"I first reached this summit in October 1994, before any of you had been adopted!", commented Dad.

As we all jumped out of the rucksack, Shaun called out, "hurry up Dad, get the camera out and take our picture."

Dad took the shot looking west to capture the fantastic backdrop. Allen said, "to the left is Rowling End rising to Causey Pike with Scar Crags beyond. To the right the highest fell is Grisedale Pike, which was my last Wainwright, with behind Hobcarton Head and Hopegill Head."

In front we had an equally magnificent view across Derwent Water. Tetley said, "the closest ridge is Walla Crag rising to Bleaberry Fell. Behind is Threlkeld Knotts rising to Clough Head and right the tiny pimple on the ridge is Calfhow Pike, rising to Great Dodd, and right of that Watson's Dodd."

"I know we could look at this view for a long time", said Little Eric, "but I am eager to be off to summit Catbells and tick of another Wainwright."

"Come on then", said Shaun, "we had better get settled in Dad's rucksack."

The path descended at first to then come below the nose of Catbells, where we commenced the steep ascent.

"That is a superb view of Bassenthwaite", commented Grizzly. "Barf is the fell on the left and distantly right is Binsey."

We climbed on, and about 15 minutes later arrived at the bare rocky summit.

"I guess that at one time this had probably been grassy, but with the passage of many thousands of feet this is all gone", mused Tetley.

Surprisingly, we had the summit to ourselves so we were able to sit and enjoy the views. What captivated us the most was the quite wonderful view of Derwent Water. Keswick is the town at the head of the lake. Blencathra is the mountain to the right, while coming left is Lonscale Fell, the lower hill in front being Latrigg, a very popular climb from Keswick.

We then all companionably gathered round Little Eric at the cairn, to record his reaching the summit. The picture shows plainly the bare rocky top.

Shortly two young lads arrived and Dad chatted to them a while. One was a regular walker, but the other had not climbed a hill for about 10 years. We could see other walkers approaching, and a large party at the col.

"That's a school group", said one of the lads.

"The peace will soon be shattered", replied Dad. "Time to set off down. We wish you well on your days on the fells."

It was to be the same route, but Shaun suggested, "by way of a variation, from the col we can take the path descending half right. This will bring us to the bridleway, part of the Allerdale Ramble, that skirts Catbells' lower slopes."

At the bridleway we turned left for the easy stroll to the car.

Part 2 - King's How and the Bowder Stone

To save time, Grizzly said, "we will remain tucked in the rucksack."

Shaun then read out the walk stats for Catbells from the GPS, which Allen noted down. Then he zeroed it, ready for the next stage, before turning it off.

"We return via Portinscale to the A66, then go through Keswick and along the Borrowdale valley to the Bowder Stone car park", advised Shaun.

Behind this, tower the tree clad near vertical slopes and crags of King's How, at the west end of the uplands of Grange Fell.

Here, Dad shouldering the rucksack etc. Shaun said, "exit the car park and walk along the road in the direction of Keswick to a signposted gate."

Beside this is the Hodgson memorial, passed relatively unnoticed by thousands of people in their cars every year.

The inscription reads -

In Memoriam
W. Hodgson
"He prayeth well who loved well
Both man and bird and beast"
"For the dear God who loveth us He made and loveth all"

Grizzly said, "it is known as Hodgson's Well, the attractive stone monument and water trough being ablaze with wild flowers in the summer. William Hodgson is one of the Lake District's forgotten artists. He had a great talent and was destined to become one of the greats in that profession. In his short life he executed many excellent works in oil and watercolour, his most important picture being 'Daniel in the Den of Lions'. Sadly he succumbed to a lingering disease and died at the early age of 18. The monument was erected in his memory by his parents."

"How sad and tragic", said Little Eric somberly.

"Which way now?", asked Allen.

After consulting the map Shaun replied, " we go through the gate and follow the path, towards Long Crag, then follow it left to join the bridleway."

This we did Dad having to tread carefully to avoid a very boggy area, after which we were soon at the junction with the bridleway.

"Right here", called out Shaun, as he consulted the map again.

The path climbed at first, then came close to a wall, and dropped to a gate in it.

"Now it's through the gate and then before we reach the next wall we need to look for a path going off to the right", said Shaun.

After a further few hundred yards, Allen called out, "I can see the gate in the next wall over there, so we must be close."

"There it is just at the point where the path bends left", called out Tetley.

The path was narrow and after crossing a small stream, wound its way steeply up the fell. The path had been repaired and graded into a stony staircase by the National Trust in the past, but the wet conditions meant Dad had to take care not to slip. The gradient never slackened until a level area was reached by a fence.

Looking at the map, Shaun said, "we ignore the stile in the fence, and keep on climbing up by it."

As we climbed the path swung away from the fence, before turning back towards it and reaching another level area.

Tetley said, "the high ground, ahead to the right must be the top King's How, but there is no sign of a path going in that direction."

Then Dad said, "the path swings right round that knoll, seemingly going back the way we have come."

But, once round this, it then went left climbing over rocky ground to circuit the higher ground to the right and then finally wind through the heather.

Just below the highest point is the memorial tablet, that makes sense of why the hill is called King's How. The inscription reads -

In loving memory of
King Edward V11
Grange Fell is dedicated by his sister
as a sanctuary of rest and peace

Here may all beings gather strength
Find in scenes of beautiful nature a cause
For gratitude and love to God giving them
Courage and vigour to carry out His will.

At the time, Princess Louise was president of the National Trust and determined to purchase this view point of Grange Fell, and make it, through the National Trust a gift to the public in memory of the late King. This was written in a letter to the West Cumberland Times of 17th August 1910, that also went on to say that there were further acres of the fell that could be added, if a further £750 was given. This balance was soon raised by public subscription and Grange Fell, which included Bowderstone Cottage and the well known tourist attraction, the Bowder Stone, became the property of the nation.

Just a few yards along the path and climbing the remaining few feet we were at the summit. Little Eric said, "as the second line of the verse on the memorial plaque says, this is truly a place to find scenes of beautiful nature."

The view down the length of Derwent Water can only be described as breathtaking, and we stood in awed silence looking at it.

Then rather quietly, we settled to have our picture taken. The cairn had collapsed, but the stones were still there, so Dad built a small one for us. Shaun is sitting on the top.

Not only did we have that wonderful view to the north, but away to the east was a line of high snowcapped mountains. Allen said, "that is from the left, Helvellyn Lower Man and round to Helvellyn, Nethermost Pike, High Crag, Dollywagon Pike and to the far right part of Fairfield."

"And wow, there a beautiful view of the Borrowdale valley", pointed Grizzly.

It was with great reluctance that we left these scenes of such splendour and took the path down from the top. Just a few yards beyond the memorial plaque we came to a marker cairn.

Shaun called out, "we need to go right here, and descend to that stile in the fence then on along the path and cross the ladderstile in the wall."

"OK", replied Dad.

The initial path was narrow steep and rocky, so Dad took his time to ensure we got down safely. From the stile in the fence there was a good view back to the summit tors of King's How. The descent path starts at the lowest point between the two tors.

Beyond the ladderstile, the clear path continued to climb over the lower slopes of Brund Fell that incidently is the highest point overall of Grange Fell. This was followed by a steep descent in the direction of the village of Rosthwaite.

"As far as I can see, when we get down by the plantation, we need to turn right by a wall", said Shaun looking closely at the map again.

When we reached the wall Dad said, "there does not seem to be any path along by the wall, but if we climb the stile over it, there is a good path going right just a few yards beyond."

Shaun replied, " I reckon that is the way we need to go."

So, Dad climbed the stile over the wall and then immediately took the path right that led to a gate in a facing wall. Through this the path descended steadily through the lovely woodland, to finally reach the road.

"Right here", called out Shaun, "then in a little while we go right on a path that will be signed to the Bowder Stone."

It was not long before we were taking the turning, and soon the Bowder Stone came into view. Dad had been here before, but not us. The stone is huge and in unison we called out "awesome".

It is by far the biggest free-standing lump of rock in the Lake District, measuring just about 60ft (18m) in length and standing 27ft (8.18m) in vertical height. The weight is thought to be about 1250 tons. There are two possibilities as to how the stone came to be where it is. First it could have been brought down by the ice in the Ice Age, but due to various factors this does not seem to be likely. The second is a rock fall, and the evidence for this is overwhelming. Not just the Stone itself needs to be considered, but also where it lies in relation to the form and nature of the steep slopes above it. These slopes are surmounted by Bowder Crag, above which lies the summit of King's How, where we had been earlier. There seems to be little doubt that it came from Bowder Crag as the result of a catastrophic rock failure. The fact that the rock of the Stone and the crag are the same, adds further weight too. It has been a tourist attraction for over 200 years and is currently in the care of the National Trust. A building can be seen in the background, this being Bowderstone Cottage and as late as the 1920's and 1930's still functioned as a tea room and souvenir shop. Something Dad could have wished was still the case, as he was gasping for a cup of tea by now!

A ladder enables visitors to reach the top, and we could not resist scampering up, so that we could have our picture taken.

As Dad did this a young couple arrived with their 5 weeks old baby.

Dad called down, "I won't be long", seeing they wanted obviously to climb to the top.

On coming down, the husband looked quizzically at us, so Dad explained, and told them about our website.

He immediately said, "we understand."

They were from Cockermouth, and although their house had not been flooded, nevertheless they were affected by what happened. Many of the shops had reopened and Dad told them that he and Uncle Brian would be visiting in December, when staying at Armathwaite Hall.

He said, "do please come and spend money."

"We certainly will", Dad replied.

Then saying goodbye we headed off along the path to the car, moving to the side to allow two couples to pass. Just a little later we heard someone calling out. It was the wife of the young couple, who had Dad's stick in her hand. One of the group of two couples had spotted it, and the young couple had realised it was Dad's.

He said, "I am always doing this." He then briefly related the other instances of losing his previous sticks.

The husband laughed saying, "well at least you are helping to keep the shops in business."

How right he is. We just raised our eyes heavenwards, and remarked to ourselves, "what is he like!!"

Allen whispered, "just wait until we tell Uncle Brian."

We all then walked back together, Dad chatting with them. They are fell walkers too, but this had been curtailed recently with the birth of their baby. Today was his first walk!

So at the end of another great day, we say thanks Dad as always.

He was in need of sustenance, so stopped at Junction 38 services, where he had steak and ale pie, new potatoes & vegetables, with tea. Then refreshed and invigorated we continued south on the M6 and so home.


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