LITTLE DODD & HEN COMB from MAGGIE'S BRIDGE, LOWESWATER

 


Summary

Date - 21st August 2011 Distance - 5 miles
Ascent - 1680ft
Map - OL4 Start point - Maggie's Bridge (NY 1345 2103)

 

Summits Achieved

Name Height (ft) Height (m) Grid Ref
Little Dodd (Loweswater) 1188 362 NY 1321 1927
Hen Comb 1670 509 NY 1321 1811

 

Preface

It was tea time, and as we enjoyed mugs of tea and biscuits, Little Eric remarked, "it's not like Allen to miss out, as we all know what a tea belly he is."

"It could have something to do with the fact that the laptop screen is displaying the Lake District weather forecast", replied Shaun.

Peering at the screen Grizzly, said, "it looks to be a fine day on Sunday. I guess Allen has gone to tell Dad, and find out if we are walking."

Glancing out of the door, Tetley called out, "here he comes now. Pour him a mug Shaun, as we will get nothing out of him until he has that in his paw."

"Thanks", said Allen, accepting the mug gratefully. "Dad has confirmed that a walk is on for Sunday. We are to do Hen Comb and Little Dodd, from Loweswater. The latter will be another outstanding Birkett top ticked off."

Little Eric added excitedly, "Hen Comb will be my 100th Wainwright. Perhaps Dad will take my picture on my own at the summit.

"I'm sure he will pal", replied Tetley.

 

The Walk

Yet another long drive, north on the M6 then west along the A66, followed by another of the seemingly endless trips over Whinlatter Pass.

"Here we go again", said Grizzly. "We nearly know every foot of this road."

"Well, the good news Lads is that this is the last time we will have to fully cross this pass, and the last time we need to go to Loweswater", replied Dad.

"We still have Hobcarton End to do, which is accessed from the pass", called out Allen.

"Yes I know, but we will only need to go as far as the car park before the Visitor Centre, for that one", replied Dad.

Once over the pass, we turned left and continued, ignoring the road to Crummock Water, and on ahead towards Loweswater village.

"Are we taking the route suggested by Birkett?", asked Shaun, who was reading the book and looking at the map.

"Well Lad, as you can see, Hen Comb is not linked to any other fells, and is flanked on either side by becks, that can be hard if not impossible to cross after rain.", replied Dad.

"We've had plenty of that lately", said Tetley with feeling.

Continuing Dad said, "Birkett suggests a route that involves crossing Mosedale Beck, but I reckon that might well be uncrossable, so I have decided to take the route on the other side."

"So we will be starting from Maggie's Bridge", said Shaun once again consulting the map.

A very narrow lane in Loweswater village leads to the unsurfaced National Trust car park by Maggie's Bridge. Secure in Dad's rucksack, we crossed the bridge, following the access track towards High Nook Farm. If there is a track in a field with cows in it, you can be certain that they will be sitting on the track. And, sure enough this was the case here. They had young, which can make them aggressive, so Dad kept as close to the wall away from them. Fortunately they were completely unconcerned by us, and we passed without incident. Beyond we continued through the farmyard, and walked on to pass through the gate in the intake wall to open fell. A wide path led on, and where it split, we took the left fork. It would have made the walk easier if we had followed the wall left, by the gate, but we were only to find this out on the return. The fells towered around. Mellbreak to the right, Carling Knott left, the Fellbarrow Group behind. Ahead was Gavel Fell as seen in the picture below. High Nook Tarn can be seen, with the beck descending on the left being High Nook Beck that runs on past the farm, becoming Dub Beck and emptying into Loweswater. The beck on the right runs off the slopes of Blake Fell and is not named.

As we walked along and climbed, Tetley exclaimed, "we have been this way before, back in July 2005. Then we took the right fork crossing the valley, to cut back on the path along the slopes of Carling Knott, on the way to Burnbank Fell". After we continued to take in Blake Fell, Gavel Fell, Hen Comb and Mellbreak."

"That was some walk", replied Dad with feeling. "It was a terrifically hot day, and after we had descended the side of Hen Comb, and crossed Mosedale, we were faced with that steep ascent to Mellbreak. It was so energy sapping, I really do not know how I got up to the summit. Was I glad to get back to the Kirkstile Inn and those welcome cool thirst quenching drinks."

"Well, no problem with heat today", said Little Eric.

By now we had climbed below Black Crag, where we took one of the many narrow sheep trods to descend steeply to the valley, across which we could see our objectives, the rocky knuckle of Little Dodd, with the grassy dome of Hen Comb rising right.

In the valley we came to the Whiteoak Beck.

"Ooh it's flowing fast", said Little Eric with some trepidation. "Not safe to cross here", he went on.

"How about trying further to the left, by that bend", called out Shaun.

We walked along, and Dad said, "you're right, I think we can get over here."

Taking care and using his stick to balance, Dad boulder hopped and then it was done. We were safely across, and dry feet too, for Dad.

A similarly steep climb up the opposite slope followed, to the shoulder, where going right the narrow trod soon led to the rocky knuckle of Little Dodd, its grassy summit being unmarked.

"Will you get the flag out to add colour to our picture?", called out Tetley. "It will really crack out in this stiff breeze."

"Sure Lad", replied Dad.

"That's the Birkett ticked off, so just seven to go", cried Grizzly.

Secure in the rucksack again, we trudged on ahead across, unsurprisingly, rather wet boggy ground, to then climb steadily the dome of Hen Comb, and reach the summit cairn on a little rocky outcrop.

"Hooray", that's my 100th Wainwright", called out Little Eric.

"Congratulations pal", we all cried in reply.

Dad took our usual picture, then this one of Little Eric on his own to mark his achievement.

Looking ahead Allen said, "that's Starling Dodd, Gale Fell & Great Borne where we were last week." Then turning round he called out, "that's a superb view of Loweswater and Fellbarrow Group. This picture more specifically shows Darling Fell, which we had ticked off a few weeks before. On the left rising from the lake can be seen the track we took, which eventually leads to Mosser."

"Tetley remarked, "it looks very dark over Buttermere, with Fleetwith Pike and Honister Crag sticking out left, behind.

"Perhaps it's as well we are not walking in Borrowdale", added Grizzly.

"Time for lunch", said Dad. "Let's sit over there by those rocks just below the summit, so we will be out of the wind."

We all sat quietly munching our sandwiches etc, all the time enjoying the views, and Dad snapped this of the whole of the Fellbarrow Group, dappled by sun and shadow.

Setting off again, we retraced the route down Hen Comb, to follow a tractor track that skirted right of Little Dodd, with a fine view of the Vale of Lorton. The distant fells in the centre running right are Kirk Fell (Lorton), Graystones & Whinlatter. The road over the pass runs below them.

The track led down eventually to the intake wall, where going left beside it, we descended to the Whiteoak Beck once again. The banks were steep and getting across looked to be difficult, but fortunately there was a pole with a frame below to catch debris, secured across the beck.

"I'm going to sit on that pole, and shuffle left, to get across", said Dad.

He did just that, although was a bit scary as in the rucksack we were hanging over the beck. At the opposite side a convenient rock gave a firm footing for Dad to get off, then he climbed the fence to regain the path. Just a pity there was no one there to take a picture!! Continued on by the wall to reach the outward track by the gate, and so return through the farm, passing the cows that had kindly moved off the track, as can be seen below. Well it makes a change from sheep!

As we approached Maggie's Bridge once again, looking left was Mellbreak, this view of its abrupt steep northern end.

In the chapter on Hen Comb in book 7 Western Fells, Wainwright, says - 'It is the sort of fell sometimes climbed, but rarely twice. It is unfortunate in having Mellbreak as a neighbour.' Well apart from Little Eric this was our second visit, so we guess we will not be going to it again for a long time, if ever!

As we set off for home, Grizzly, said, "I guess it is time for food now Dad?"

"Absolutely", replied Dad. "I'm going to Greystone House at Stainton, as usual.

Here he enjoyed delicious apple crumble with custard, and a pot of tea with extra hot water.

"Thanks for another enjoyable day Dad", we said as he drove us on home.

"You're welcome Lads", he replied

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