I cannot recollect having ever walked over the fells east of Ullswater, so today is going to be an adventure: exploring new territory, gazing upon new views, experiencing new ridges.
We park at Martindale Old Church. A church has been on this site since 1220. The present building was probably built around the late 17th century. The large yew tree in the churchyard is believed to be over 1300 years old. We cross Christy Bridge and climb up to Winter Crags. From the bench, on the ridge, the views are fantastic, but it is too soon for a rest. We turn left towards Beda Head – the first Wainwright of the day.
Wreckage on the fell
I tell Hannah, that a Lockheed Hudson bomber crashed just past the summit in November 1942, during a night navigation exercise. I also mention that we might see herds of red deer – the only pure red deer blood-stock in England. We climb over the summit of Winter Crags and follow the path to Beda Head.
Hannah discovers a small shelter just past Low Brock Crags on the west of the ridge and can’t resist exploring. She dashes over to it. Obviously time for a snack stop. Squeezed into the narrow ‘room’ we demolish two Lion bars and hot Vimto. I think she would have happily sat there all day, sheltered from the wind, but I suggest that we go and look at the king’s house – she was out like a shot.
The wind picks up, we stagger along the path. It was forecast for winds gusting at 80 mph over the fell tops today – we are prepared for them – although I must admit their strength catches us both by surprise. Since we started to climb the Wainwrights in January I have used Weatherline for each walk. We have completed 10 walks and each time their forecasts have been completely accurate. Fell top conditions are provided by the two assessors, Jon Bennett and Graham Uney, who daily climb Helvellyn to bring us these reports. Thanks guys.
After the summit of Beda Head the ridge dips and crosses Beda Fell before rising to Bedafell Knott, behind which the rugged twin summits of Angletarn Pikes jut above the horizon.
Sheltered from the wind, in the lee of the ridge, we sit and watch a herd of red deer grazing below The Nab. I had remembered to bring the binoculars this time. I point out The Bungalow: the red-tiled buildings nestling at the foot of Mere Beck, which today was roaring down from High Street throwing white plumes into the air. The building was originally a deer-hunting lodge built in 1910 by the Earl of Lonsdale for a visit by Kaiser Wilhelm.
Above The Bungalow, the ridge of High Street, the ancient route of a Roman road runs for approximately 23 miles from Askham,
near Penrith to Ambleside. It is the most elevated Roman road in the UK and connected the forts of Brougham (Brocavum) and Ambleside (Galava). The route was considered a day’s march for a Roman centurion.
We shoulder our rucksacks and once again lean into the biting wind. There is no sign of any aircraft wreckage, although we spend a few minutes looking. Doug Brown, in his book, ‘Lakeland Hikes’ describes the site as being just to west of a small tarn after the summit, but in this wind, any inclination to linger quickly disappears.
A bridleway crosses our path. An old route, that was once used, I suspect, by ponies laden with supplies heading from Martindale to Patterdale.
The guidebooks describe the area around Angletarn Pikes as confusing: they are right. Ahead of us lie a mass of hills, depressions, bogs, and a myriad of paths. Navigation could be very dangerous for the casual walker in misty conditions.
The wind is violent and gusting as we climb the southern pike. We grip the rock. The descent is tricky. We scramble over rocky outcrops before heading across the fell to the true summit. A crag about 15 foot high, juts from the hillside. I look at Hannah, and know what she is thinking. During summer I expect we will be consulting scrambling guides quite frequently. Already we have planned the ascent of St. Sunday Crag via Pinnacle Ridge.
A short scramble and we are on the summit. I take pictures using a shutter speed of 1/1200 sec – the wind is that strong. Later, from out of 12 images only one was without camera shake. I laugh at the thought of using a tripod, and of having to go and retrieve it from the tarn after the wind has blown it away.
Sunbeams over the fells
Sunlight breaks through the clouds as we climb Place Fell. Beams of light glide along the valleys, turning drab, grey fields into brilliant, green carpets. Patches of sunlight glide over Beda Fell. I snap a larger lens onto the camera and, using my rucksack for support, wait for the sunlight to reach a group of walkers that are heading for the summit. The sun dances around them, painting the hillside, chasing them, but never reaching them. I want the sunlight to highlight the summit just as they cross it. Sunbeams move tantalisingly close but never settle on it. While there is still a chance, I wait. The walkers cross the summit and disappear. I wait a little longer. More clouds build up. I know the picture is gone.
From the summit of Place Fell we head for the sheepfold, then follow the path that runs along the side of Sleet Fell. The descent from the summit into the valley is unremitting, descending nearly 800 foot in just over a mile.
Just as we are descending the last few feet to Garth Heads I hear a high-pitched yelp in the valley. It is Hannah who spots them first: two buzzards are gliding on the thermals. She is already searching for them through her binoculars. I start to shoot some video of them. With strong winds racing down the valley, and the birds darting all across the sky, it is not easy, but I managed to shoot a few seconds of them in focus and in flight. After about five minutes they fly over the ridge and are gone. This was undoubtedly the crowning moment of the day. Hannah just couldn’t believe it.
Hallin Fell, our final Wainwright of the day, is a casual ascent. From St.Peter’s Church we take the tourist path. I can see why AW describes it as a route that can be done in bare feet. A wide green carpet stretches out before us. The impressive cairn is about 12 feet high. The walk down from Hallin Fell, in the evening sunlight as it throws shadows across the valleys before us, brings an end to a fantastic day.