Cockup to Calva

View of Dash Falls and Dead Crags from Great Cockup by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerWhen I woke up I heard the rain hammering against the window and the motorway journey was unpleasant in the torrential rain and spray. At Dunmail Raise the clouds lifted a little and the rain stopped for a few minutes as I passed through Keswick but the dark clouds over the hills promised a wet day. It was still not raining when I met Andrew Leaney at Peter House Farm near Orthwaite, maybe we might be lucky after all.

We walked along the road to the base of Orthwaite Bank, there is a gate there with a sign bearing the name Uldale Commons. Through the gate straight ahead is the start of the bridleway to Burn Tod; we turned left and walked uphill by the side of a wall over plain grass at first but a grassy track soon became obvious. The path takes you past Orthwaite Bank and through a reedy, muddy area until you can see the conical shape of Little Cockup and a couple of faint grassy trods turn right towards it.

Burntod Gill by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThere is a less faint path heading towards the small col on the right hand side of Little Cockup but we continued uphill on the first grassy slog of the day. The small cairn at the point of Little Cockup gives a good view of the surrounding Uldale Fells and across Over Water to Binsey. So far the weather was holding up and staying dry but there was more than a hint of a cold breeze as we carried on upwards. There were faint paths that appeared to lead up to the broad ridge but they soon disappeared when we got there and we walked over rough grass until we got to the plateau with a cairn at the heathery western end of Great Cockup.

From there we had the best view of the day of Dash Falls and Dead Crags and we found a path too. We followed the path along the broad ridge, it isn't easy to be certain which of the cairns along the way is the summit, just to be sure you have to visit them all. Also on the ridge we came across a Fox hole, it seems a curiously remote place for anyone to catch a fox - well away from any other potential prey that a fox might be interested in. It is a reasonable assumption that the last cairn on the ridge marks the summit, from here you can see down to Trusmadoor and the whole of the ascent of Meal Fell.

Charleton Gill by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThere is an easy path down to the plain but intriguing little col, or is it a pass, called Trusmadoor. What I like most about this place is the colourful valley of Burntod Gill, the small ruined shelter at the foot of Burn Tod suggests that this place wasn't always as remote as it looks now. There is a likely looking path going around the base of Meal Fell but to get to its summit you have to take the less obvious one straight up the grassy slope. For a while the view back down to Burntod Gill becomes even more colourful and interesting.

After another slog up to the summit plateau of Meal Fell, there is another choice of candidates for summit cairn. There is a rare rock outcrop with an oversized stone-built shelter that would make a good summit but the small cairn on the next rise is probably the highest point. The cold wind started to bite and I should have put more gloves on but it was a bit more sheltered as we got off the summit and walked down to the grassy col before the next climb towards Great Sca Fell. The grassy path goes straight up towards the summit of Great Sca Fell but we took the slightly easier left hand branch that takes you to a dip in the ridge between it and its Little companion.

Longlands Fell view of Skiddaw by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThis is real Northern Fells country, wide open grassy plains where you undulate between the summits rather than ascend and descend. We turned left along the broad ridge and shortly afterwards arrived at the summit of Little Sca Fell with its unusual shallow bunker that makes a good shelter. There is an easy, broad undulating ridge that takes you to the summit of Brae Fell with its large cairn and extensive views across the lowlands to Scotland. I suggested that we make a beeline for Longlands Fell from here, Andrew pointed out that there was a deep valley in between but I said I thought it would be alright.

There is an easy green descent through rough grass towards Charleton Gill, from above it looks as though its sides are impossibly steep and rough. It is an interesting steep sided valley typical of the northern fells where the streams carve easily through the hills. There is no difficulty getting into the gill and there is a short steep climb to get out of it but it is an interesting place to visit and worth the small amount of effort. We crossed over the bridleway that runs parallel to the gill and made our way diagonally up the grassy sides of Longlands Fell to its small and occasionally sunlit summit.

Great Calva by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThere is now a path to follow, descending to a col and then climbing up to Lowthwaite Fell which is bigger and higher than Wainwrights Longlands Fell but it is barely mentioned by him. There is a faint but obvious path but it is still a bit of a slog over grass to regain all the height we have lost to get back to the summit bunker on Little Sca Fell. While we made use of the bunker for shelter I realised how cold my hands had become and had trouble putting some bigger gloves on. We carried on undulating to Great Sca Fell, the icy wind brought in several showers that contained traces of sleet but it never looked as though it was going to start raining properly.

At the summit of Great Sca Fell we met a couple of other walkers, they were the only other people we saw all day and one of them wasn't exactly keen to be there as she trudged along well behind Mr. Enthusiasm. There is a distinct lack of contour lines on the map between Great Sca Fell and Knott and inevitably the flatness means wetness, the path became increasingly muddy until the final bit of ascent to the summit of Knott. The views from here are not very photogenic, the only thing with any colour is Great Calva and you only see that properly as you start to descend from Knott towards it.

The descent from Little Calva to Dash Falls by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerFor once there is a distinct descent, an easy dry path on grass before an increasingly wet and muddy ascent to the wettest and muddiest of the northern fells. The broad ridge of Great Calva is a swamp with the path finding its way through pools of water, each footstep is made with care in case you sink into the mud but somehow you manage not to break the surface. You have to make your way over to a fence to cross over a stile and find your way through the mud as best you can before making the final climb up drier and stonier ground to the rocky oasis at the summit of Great Calva.

We walked back down to the mud and stayed on this side of the fence, the plain soggy ground is replaced by heather but the path through it has its own unique muddiness. The summit of the heathery top of Little Calva is a little bit drier but all you have for a view is the back side of Skiddaw. The path through the heather continues in the direction of Dead Crags until you start to descend in a small gully. The gully starts as a small stream but the water soon disappears and Dry Gill lives up to its name.

Looking back to Whitewater Dash by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThe path has been running parallel to the fence since the stile on the ridge but the two become one for the final steep descent. There is a narrow eroded path through the heather, the fact that you are able to hold on to fence prevents further erosion as walkers prefer hanging on to the fence to struggling down a steep heathery slope. At the bottom of the slope there is a path to a footbridge across Dash Beck but I found it easy enough to step over the fast flowing stream of water; the steep grassy bank was a bit awkward to climb up and my legs got caught up in some abandoned fence wire.

There was lots of water in Dash Beck and the waterfall of Whitewater Dash made a fine display. There is a pleasant easy walk back to Peter House Farm if the cyclists keep out of your way.

Andy Wallace 1st April 2006

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