|A snowy Blencathra in the setting sun|
I have climbed Blencathra several times including on an A-Level Geography trip when I stayed at the Blencathra Centre. This was before I got the fell-climbing bug so I was not very enthusiastic about it, particularly when we had to have a two hour class lesson after we got back down. I cannot remember a thing from that lesson (other than doing complicated maths in your head is a good way to stay awake – sounds odd but I had to think of something as I was pretty sure my teacher had noticed my head keep falling forwards) but I decided I should give the mountains in that area another visit. So in March 2011 I planned a walk to include Bowscale, Bannerdale Crags, Mungrisdale Common and Souther Fell.
|Looking down the Valley of Holly|
It was a beautiful day, although cold and I was looking forward to a great day walking. The first half of Bowscale was fairly easy and I thought all that work in the gym in the previous weeks had paid off as I must be fitter. Or so I thought. The second half was much steeper and I needed frequent view stops! I confess that I did have the occasional “I could be sitting by a beach in Barbados” thought but pushed them to one side and kept going. Bowscale did not disappoint. The views from the top were wonderful. As I have referred to in part one and part two of my ridge route blogs, once you are on the top of a mountain, you can walk for miles as you have already done a lot of the hard work. Such was the case to Bannerdale Crags – a simple high level stroll with striking views of Blencathra (the route up to that summit looked pretty steep so I was pleased it was not on my list for the day).
|Holly from High Dam near Windermere|
I often look up the meaning of the names of fells as some of them are fascinating. I do not think the word “Bannerdale” is particularly attractive but I think its meaning is. The word “banner” means “holly” and “dale” is “valley” therefore Bannerdale is the “valley of holly” and Bannerdale Crags would be “the crags in the valley of holly”. I think a valley of holly sounds simply lovely (if a little prickly). That said, I saw no holly at all, which was also the case when I climbed from Hartsop, which means “The valley of the deer” and did not see any deer!
The next mountain was Mungrisdale Common. Now here I need to be clear that in my view, Mungrisdale Common is not a mountain. It is a flat, marshy, dull plateau with no redeeming features. It was exhausting to get to because of the marsh and was simply not worth the effort. It has made it onto my list of “fells never to climb again” and the only other one on that list is Armboth Fell (I will write about that another time). Yes it was that bad. Wainwright said it is a place best left to shepherds and sheep. He was right and I suspect was having a joke at our expense when he decided to include it in his “Northern Fells” pictorial guide.
|Sharp Edge on Blencathra from the path to Souther Fell|
However, once I had escaped from the non-mountain I headed down a beautiful valley with a cool blue stream catching the sun as it meandered its way down between the fells. Looking back I could see Sharp Edge - one of the famous narrow ridges in the Lake District that rivals Striding Edge. My final fell of the day was Souther Fell, which was a fabulous mountain and even though my legs were tired, it was a great climb, passing an area called Mousthwaite Comb (another fabulous name). There is an interesting story about Souther Fell. Legend has it that in 1745 several witnesses saw a line of soldiers, horses and carriages marching across Souther Fell, but when they went to look in the morning, there was no evidence of this presence – no foot prints or hoof marks. The only solution offered was it having been some form of spectral or mirage caused by a reflection many miles away of the troops of Prince Charles marching on the West coast of Scotland. Fascinating.
My route was now homeward bound and I headed off the fell back towards the village of Mungrisdale, where I had begun. It was only a short route down according to my route planning but as I got to within a field of the Mill Inn and felt if I stretched I could almost touch it, the footpath veered to the right and it must have been nearly another half a mile to get back to the car! My feet were tired and in spite of the fierce signs saying no footpath straight ahead, I did wonder whether anyone would notice if I hopped across the wall and through the field. I have never been a rebel however and this act of disorder was too much for my conscience to bear so I dutifully followed the path to the right and the longer route round. My drink at the Mill Inn was well deserved after nearly 12 miles and I sat with my feet up on the benches outside overlooking the stream.
A couple of miles away from the Mill Inn is a beautiful stream called Carrock Beck. It flows down Carrock Fell and crosses the road as it meanders on its way, creating a ford. There is a footbridge across it and it is a wonderful place for a paddle (bare foot or wellies) and a picnic. It is a little gem in my view and in the early afternoon when the sunshine catches the water and the cascades it looks as though someone has taken some of the stars from the sky and hidden them under the surface. Of course I love the mountains but it is unexpected places like this, stumbled across by accident, that make the Lake District so special.