Caldew Horseshoe

The eastern face of Carrock Fell by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerAfter scraping ice off my windscreen before I set off it has turned into yet another sunny day. Blencathra is a tremendous temptation again but I took the Mungrisdale turning, drove through the village and passed through the hamlet of Bowscale to Mosedale Bridge where I was able to park on the grass verge. The sky is blue, not a cloud to be seen but even at valley level the breeze has quite a cold bite to it, perfect weather for walking in the hills.

I walked northwards on the road though Mosedale, past the front of Carrock Fell displaying its autumn colours and its lower slopes decorated with large boulders. After passing Stone Ends farm there is a flat area called Apronful of Stones, looking across it towards the crags of Carrock Fell I could see a path slanting across the face of the fell below the crags.

View from Further Gill Sike by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThe gradient was easy at first walking across grass and then through the dying bracken. The concave slope meant that the higher I got the steeper the path became, making it slightly awkward to get across loose stony ground until the stones gave way to bracken again. The path was now a narrow ledge across the steep, bracken covered slope leading to the grassy gully of Further Gill Sike. Another increase in the steepness of the gradient, then bracken gives way to heather and boulders, this steep interesting path is quite unexpected in these Northern Fells.

The eastern top of Carrock Fell by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerAs you reach flatter ground, the path through the heather splits into two and I took the right hand branch. The path disappears and reappears, or did I just keep losing it, as it takes you along the edge of the crags. From the path you can see the road below, it shows just how steep this side of the fell is. When I lost the path I climbed over heather and boulders, twice finding the path again and following it to the right. After finding the path for the third time I sensed that going left would take me higher and so it was as I came across a much more obvious path heading directly upwards.

As I reached the cairn at the eastern end of the summit plateau the views were extensive but hazy, Bowscale Fell was visible but uninteresting and Blencathra beyond it was just a grey mass. As I walked towards the summit the ring of stones became obvious although the description hardly does justice to the size of the rough wall that was built out of stones to defend the rocky summit.

Dry Gill and High Pike by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerAfter you have crossed the rough summit area you descend westwards at first and as the stones of Carrock Fell finish all you can see is miles of grass. The walking is easy on a sunny day, there would be much navigating to do in bad weather because the ground is flat and featureless so I am glad I can see where I am going. Having said that the path across the flat, sometimes marshy, ground is good enough to follow. After you pass the head of a dry gill, unambiguously named Drygill Head, you cross an obvious track, part of The Cumbria Way.

High Pike summit by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThe path to the summit of High Pike is obvious enough and leads to a smooth green summit containing a substantial shelter cairn, Ordnance Survey column and a bench made from slate. The views are extensive but hazy from this northern outpost but Skiddaw and Blencathra are unmistakable. I retraced my steps back down towards Drygill Head but bear slightly right and pick up the Cumbria Way path as it makes its way across the flanks of Great Lingy Hill.

This is all easy walking and the path is fairly obvious but I have walked off the edge of my map and haven't got the other one that I need. I'm having to use my Wainwright's Pictorial Guide to navigate by, it's a good job the large wooden sheepfold and the old shooting hut are still there. After the shooting hut the ground becomes quite wet but not too horrible before a bit of a grassy climb and then another easy walk to the flat summit of Knott with its substantial cairn.

The summit of Knott by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerGreat Calva is now in view but it is impossible to make a beeline for it, I have to lose height walking westwards around the head of Wiley Gill before having to regain the height all over again. The path leads up to the flat wet area between Little Calva and Great Calva, turn left and keep out of the many pools of water to get to a fence that leads all the way to Great Calva summit. A stile in the fence allows you to cross it but I'm not sure it makes any difference which side of the fence you walk along.

Great Calva summit by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThe summit of Great Calva is rocky, a welcome relief after all of that grass but the view is still hazy, the detail of nearby Skiddaw can not be seen. Now the bit I'm not really sure about, how do I get to Mungrisdale Common from here? Descending from the summit on a path through the heather towards the Skiddaw House road the steepness eases and I am tempted to make a beeline for Mungrisdale Common, I can see the sheepfold on the map and it doesn't look like too steep a climb.

Upside down sheep by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThe thirty minute descent was quite strenuous, as I got lower the heather got higher until it was up to my hips. Wading through pathless heather is always a bit of a worry, you can't see what boulders or holes are underfoot, fortunately the ground wasn't too bad but I was glad to get down the river. Maybe I wasn't glad to get to the river, it wasn't in spate or anything but it was just a bit too wide and deep to be comfortable about losing my footing on the way across. Back through the tallest of the heather to find the Cumbria Way path and follow it to Skiddaw House. The one bright spot here was the site of a sheep rolling around on its back, I don't know if was injured or just playing but it seemed happy enough.

Cloven Stone on Mungrisdale Common by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerCarry on past Skiddaw House and cross the river safely, then instead of following the cyclists towards Glenderaterra Beck I followed the faint short cut path towards Mungrisdale Common. This did involve striding over a fence and the climb straight up the fellside is a bit more difficult than it looked from a way off. Walking up grass always seems harder than scrambling over rocks and it seemed to take ages before I came across a faint path heading towards what passes for a top. What it lacks in height this hill makes up for in breadth, having passed the Cloven Stone it still seemed to take ages to get to the summit.

Summit of Mungrisdale Common by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerI'm assuming it was the summit, there is a new looking cairn there and I couldn't see anything higher. What a place this must be in mist, it resembles a moorland rather than a fell, the same flat grassy scenery for a long way around. From here the welcome looking fell straight ahead is Bowscale Fell but I know I can't get to it as easily as it seems. There is a path to follow, and several other paths not to be followed, but I lost it fairly soon so I followed the contours towards Glenderamackin col at the bottom of the ridge leading down from Blencathra. At least now that the sun was going down the views were much clearer, in one direction anyway, the sun was still very bright over Skiddaw.

Summit of Bannerdale Crags by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerAt the col I met another walker whose only guide was W. A. Pouchers book of the Lakeland Fells and not surprisingly he was having trouble deciding how to get down off the hill. Having sent him off in the direction of Bowscale Fell I went in the opposite direction over yet more grass to the summit of Bannerdale Crags. The cairn here is about the flattest and closest to the ground that I have seen, a few yards away is a cairn on the edge of the summit where the views were becoming clearer as the sun was setting.

Jets flying over Pillar summit by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThe route now is clear, following the edge of the crags and then I was able to make a beeline for Bowscale Fell. At the summit of Bowscale Fell the sun is shining as strongly as ever but the bite in the wind is noticeably sharper and I began to feel quite cold after just a couple of minutes. From the summit head in the direction of Carrock Fell towards what looks like an edge which is actually the top of the corrie containing Bowscale Tarn.

As you get to the edge and you are able to look down on the tarn, a path appears here and makes an unlikely looking turn in the direction of the tarn. The path is steep but safe and only a little bit eroded and takes you quickly down to the tarn, looking back up it seems unlikely that a path really is there. From the tarn a track wide enough for a tractor takes you back to the hamlet of Bowscale, turn right at the road for a short walk back to the car at Mosedale Bridge.

Today had exceeded my expectations, I didn't really think I would complete the full circuit but in the conditions it was impossible for me not to finish another fifteen mile walk in just over eight hours.

Andy Wallace 18th October 2003

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