LOWER ESKDALE & MUNCASTER FELL
from MUNCASTER CASTLE

 


Summary

Date - 16th March 2016 Distance - 7.25 miles
Ascent -
1130ft
Map - OL6 Start point - Muncaster Castle car park (NY 098 966)

 

Summits Achieved

Name Height (ft) Height (m) Grid Ref
Hooker Crag on Muncaster Fell 757 231 SD 1120 9832

 

Preface

It was Monday just the day after our walk in the Newby area. Tetley and Southey were quietly reading their Dalesman and Cumbria magazines, when the whirlwind that was Allen came dashing into the room.

"Great, great, great", he called out.

Looking up Tetley said, "whatever is the matter. Now just take a breath."

"OK pal", he panted. Then calmed down, went on. "Dad has checked the weather and tells me that we will be walking with Uncle Eric on Wednesday."

"Super", interjected Southey.

"The thing is though, we have been tasked with coming up with a suggestion, including a hill."

About to put our thinking caps on, we were interrupted by the arrival on Shaun, Grizzly and Little Eric with the tea and cakes.

"First things first", said Southey going to get the mugs and plates.

Then he and Tetley helped Shaun fill the mugs.

Little Eric said, "Grizzly and I have been a bit busy, so there is just one choice of cake. Chocolate, coconut and cherry slice."

"That's OK pals," replied Allen. "It is one of my favourite cakes."

"Mine too", agreed Tetley. Then taking a bite he said, "just scrumptious."

So content our thoughts turned back to walks, Allen explaining the situation once again.

Shaun mused, "I know that we have done the Wainwright Outlying Fells, but Uncle Eric has some outstanding. Maybe one of those."

"I like that idea", agreed Grizzly. "How about we suggest Muncaster Fell?"

"It is going to be a nice sunny day, so the views will be good, agreed Tetley.

Allen had got the Outlying book. "When we climbed it we just went to the summit and back, and did not do the circular walk taking in Lower Eskdale, so in fact some of the ground will be new."

"So, we have a plan and for me it will be another summit bagged", said Southey. "You had better go and see if Dad likes it.

"OK", agreed Allen, draining his mug. "Will you refill it for me?"

"Sure pal", replied Shaun. "It will be waiting for you."

Soon he returned. "Dad likes it. Now all we have to see is if Uncle Eric agrees, when Dad speaks to him on Tuesday night."

 

The Walk

So we awoke to a quite glorious day with lots of sunshine. "It's going to be a good day", cheered Little Eric, as he helped to pack the picnic and stow it in Allen's rucksack.

The drive was rather familiar, having been done many times to climb the mountains and fells in the southern and western areas. Nearing Duddon Bridge, Tetley asked, "are you taking the main road to Muncaster?"

"No lad. I know the road is narrow but it will be quicker to go over Corney Fell."

As we reached the summit, the Buckbarrow Fells were sharp and clear. "Not like the last time we climbed them, when they were covered in mist", commented Grizzly.

Once down again to the main road, it was not many miles to the large car park opposite the grounds of Muncaster Castle, where we met Uncle Eric who arrived a few minutes later. We called a cheery, "good morning."

"Good to see you lads,", he replied.

Soon ready the way was a short distance back along the road to a sharp corner, here leaving the road and going straight on up the wide track called Fell Lane.

The lane climbed steadily to reach a brow and then descended a little to a junction, where our route was ahead keeping right.

A track where a notice read private went left and at Dad's urging, we went along this a few yards to view the pretty Muncaster Tarn.

"Picture time", called out Shaun.

Reminiscing Tetley said, "it was January 2009, when we first came along here. We had had four seasons in one day. First we went to climb Knott. Reaching the top, and looking out to sea the sky was as black as night and for an hour it just rained hailed and blew a gale. We were safely hunkered in the rucksack tucked under the cairn, but poor Dad got soaked through."

"Oh, I remember it well", agreed Allen. "We all felt so sorry for Dad. But then as happens, the storm cleared and the afternoon was blue skies like today and Dad took a similar picture of the tarn."

"And it got shown by Dianne Oxberry in the North-West Tonight weather forecast", rounded off Grizzly.

A few yards further another junction was reached where stands this three-armed signpost.

"It is right here along the Eskdale Trail", advised Shaun. "We will return along the track that goes straight on."

This was a delightful track with woodland to the left and right at times.

We were on the look out for a tall pepperpot like monument, and passing a house, Little Eric called out, "there it is."

Being in the private grounds it cannot be visited, Dad snapping a picture from the track.

In 1464 Sir John Pennington gave shelter to Henry VI, who had been found wandering by shepherds, after the Battle of Hexham. This tower known as Chapels was erected in 1783, by John, Lord Muncaster to commemorate the place where the fugitive King was supposed to have been found. The legend tells how Holy King Harry on his departure left his drinking bowl behind in gratitude, saying that as long as it should remain quite whole and unbroken the Penningtons would live and thrive in the place. Today the bowl is still intact and is known as the 'Luck of Muncaster'.

Coming to the buildings of Higher Eskholme with its lovely garden, Southey commented, "that bridge over the stream is bear sized."

"And for me too", laughed Shaun.

Shaun said, "Wainwright refers to a battered sign and a hump in the ground marking the site of a Roman Tile Kiln, somewhere beside the track."

The track led on and on Grizzly commenting, "we must have missed it."

Then a little further Tetley pointed, "there's the sign."

Unsurprisingly not much to see, but Uncle Eric kindly stood on the mound that was the kiln's site.

The battered sign reads. 'These Roman Tile Kilns are protected as a monument of national importance under the ancient monuments acts 1913-1953. Ministry of Public Buildings and Works.'

The track widened and once there had presumably been a gate, but all that remained was the stile on the left. Uncle Eric and Dad however decided to climb it! Well as they say it was there.

Soon a climbing path went off left. "Our route", instructed Shaun.

It climbed through an area known as Horse Parks and on up towards a small hill called Rabbit How. Bearing off right we saw this overgrown narrow stone edged path that runs quite straight. "Wainwright indicates that this may have been the route for the pack ponies to carry the tiles to Hardknott Fort", Tetley said.

Walking parallel to this and by cutting across left a good track was gained and led us left through a kissing gate. Continuing a short way Shaun then said, "we bear left here."

The path was a bit indistinct and churned up at first, but then became clear, being buttressed at times, as it passed below Silver Knott. On and on we went as the path meandered across flat areas between outcrops, finally coming beside a wall and on to a gate in the cross wall ahead.

Gaining height the views up the valley were majestic. Here below from the right, distantly the pyramidal shape of Esk Pike, then Slight Side rising to Scafell with Scafell Pike behind. Finally to the left in the distance is Kirk Fell. In the shadowy foreground the houses are the village of Eskdale Green.

And below. On the right the unmistakable shape of Harter Fell, with closer running left to right the rugged ridge of the Birker Fells the highest being Green Crag towards its right end.

"Hey we had a grand day exploring the Birker Fells, during our quest to climb the Birketts", remarked Little Eric.

"Hard to believe, but that was back in May 2009", replied Tetley.

"My how time flies!", exclaimed Allen.

Beyond the gate there was a choice of paths, the one right seeming the better surface. This climbed and dipped as it meandered on with the summit objective of Hooker Crag, the highest point on Muncaster Fell now in view, topped by its trig point. Finally there was a short steep climb to attain this and we wasted no time in scrambling out and settling on the top for our picture.

"Wow", cried Southey with awe in his voice, "what superb views."

Immediately behind us is the ridge running up to Illgill Head its left side being the famous screes that fall vertically into Wast Water. To the left the fell in shadow is Yewbarrow, with the distant ridge running left containing Pillar and Scoat Fell.

"This proves once again that you do not need to be on the highest hills to get the views. Here we are only at 757ft", remarked Grizzly.

"I'm hungry", complained Allen.

"No surprise there", laughed Tetley.

"I agree lad, it's time for lunch", said Dad.

To get out of the wind we found a nice spot just below the summit, to enjoy our sandwiches cake and warming tea.

"That's better", said Southey. "I'm ready for the last part.

A clear path led down, providing us with this view looking back to Hooker Crag.

This eventually brought us to the three-armed signpost once again, keeping on ahead to follow Fell Lane to the the road and then the short way to the car park.

"What a super day", said Southey.

"Yes", agreed Uncle Eric."Thank you for doing it again lads."

"You're welcome", Tetley replied.

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