Buck to the Middle

Buckbarrow by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThe weather was the familiar combination of bright and breezy when I got to Wasdale, there was less cloud on the tops than I have seen recently but it didn't promise sunshine. I parked on the green area by the side of the road at Greendale, at the foot of Middle Fell, and walked up the road to reach the start of the ascent of Buckbarrow. The start point isn't obvious, it is opposite Harrow Head Farm entrance, whose track is also a signposted footpath; where a stream meets the road, there is a row of boulders by the side of the road, presumably to stop cars parking on the small green shoulder. As you reach the boulders, look to your right, under the branches of a yew tree, you will see a wall; walk under the branches, alongside the wall and you will find an obvious path.

The path goes upwards, making an obvious route through the bracken; it is muddy and becoming quite eroded in places but you gain height quickly, don't forget to look down for a view of Tosh Tarn. After you pass the head of a green gully, the path veers towards the rocky fa├žade of Buckbarrow; the ground becomes firmer and the bracken is less dense until View from Buckbarrow by Andy Wallace Andy Fellwalkeryou are walking mainly on grass. The path performs a disappearing trick, I think it contours around to the left in order to take an easier route, but I crossed a small stream at the base of a small gully and made a bee-line for the top of the crags.

In order to get to the crags I had to cross a wet, swampy area, which is probably what the path was trying to avoid; the path probably also makes you miss the small cairned viewpoint where you get the Wastwater Screes and the Scafells in one eyeful. There is no path, or none that I could see, as I walked across a small plateau, by the side of a correspondingly small summit tarn, and up to higher ground; I can never really decide which point is the highest on Buckbarrow. It is a relatively straightforward walk, slightly uphill, from the summit area to the prominent cairn at Glade How, which I would have thought qualified as the summit, before descending slightly and then back up to the cairn at Cat Bields.

Glade How by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThe cairn marks the start of the uneventful walk up the mile-long green ridge to the summit of Seatallan, whose broad summit is decorated with a large cairn-cum-shelter, reputedly of ancient origin, and a triangulation column. From the summit there is a good view of Mickledore with its couple of huge book-ends either side of it, it's probably the best place to see the relationship between Scafell and its Pike. There isn't a path but if you head generally in the direction of Haycock, you will naturally (because the other slopes are too steep) find yourself on a broad grassy ridge descending towards Pots of Ashness, a broad grassy hollow in between the high ground.

There are many faint paths across the grass, you have to decide which of Haycock's ridges you want to climb and make your way accordingly. I seem to recall that if you change your mind there is a deeper swamp to be negotiated if you try to cross the depression at the wrong place, and it's wet enough around the edges anyway. I didn't find the nice rocky ridge I was looking for, but found a grassy fellrunners' route up the south west ridge of Haycock; it took me up through bouldery The summit of Seatallan by Andy Wallace Andy Fellwalkeroutcrops to the surprisingly grassy summit plateau. After a short walk across the grass I reached the more familiar and expected carpet of stones around the summit crown.

I followed the wall from the summit in an east-north-east direction down to the col before following it all the way to the summit of Scoat Fell; no navigational problems here. I made the short but delightful detour to the summit of Steeple and back, just because I like it, before crossing the summit wall at one of its lowered points, and walking directly across the grassy shoulder of Scoat Fell to Blackem Head. I walked upwards, along the edge of the ridge to the summit of Red Pike, and descended using the lower path, a route across the flank of Red Pike that avoids the summit.

The summit of Haycock by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerI kept as low as I could, just to avoid any unnecessary climbing, which was probably why I lost any trace of the path, but I kept going until I reached the obvious path going down towards Scoat Tarn. Before I reached the Tarn, I turned right, stepping through long grass across pathless ground and avoiding the swamps without having to make too big a diversion. I worked my just below the boulders, around the lower slopes of Scoat Fell, towards the head of Nether Beck; I was sure I could see traces of a path but they could easily have been animal tracks. My short-cut worked well, I had lost a minimal amount of height so I didn't have much more climbing to do once I had scaled the far bank of the beck, back up to the base of Haycock.

Steeple by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerI walked back in the direction of Seatallan and eventually found the path I had used earlier; instead of taking my usual route, I followed a fainter path to the left, obvious at first but difficult to trace in the middle. It meant I didn't have to climb the steep grassy lower slopes of Seatallan; the path took me to the wet almost swampy area close to Greendale Tarn. It was wet but firm enough to support my weight, even though the ground was obviously wet through in places. I continued to follow the path and walked up the fairly easy slope up to the ridge of Middle Fell, and a reasonably easy sloping ridge took me to the summit that has one of the best mountain views in the Lake District.

Red Pike by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerI enjoyed the views of the Scafell group and Great Gable from the summit of Middle Fell but my camera batteries had long since given up so I was unable to capture them. The ridge path continues onward; the descent was steep on grass at first and then less so through an endless sea of bracken before getting back to the green green grass of Greendale.

Andy Wallace 12th July 2008

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