Black Combe from Whicham Church

1st December 2011

Black Combe dominates the southern skyline, it really is as they say “as far south as a Lakeland Fell can get” which in turn, puts it in Wainwrights outlying fells category. I am all to familiar with Black Combe, all to familiar in the sense that: this fell caresses the south west skyline as you leave the Coniston Fells behind you and begin to drive through where mountain meets sea, I bet there’s many a sailor can pick out Black Combe from his cabin while he negotiates the Irish sea, as there is as many a motorist, as I used to up until recently & say, I must find the name out of that fell, there, as you make your way to Wast Water imprinted on your brain “its the fell in between the tiny hamlet of Foxfield & Whicham.

I’ve had this constant itch of late, which really right now I shouldn’t, I should be walking wherever my boots will take me, this itch comes in the form of “lets try new stuff Sharkey” & I want to, I really want to, one side of me is pulling for the likes of Skidda or Red Pike, the other is repeating “new stuff Paul”

So that’s where I am right now…

Or am I? stop asking yourself questions Paul, you’ll make it worse, ok, what if you mix it up a little, say, walk where ever you please one weekend, & the next make it special, does that sound ok oh mixed up one?

Suppose so brain says.

I do have other reasons for the confusions, well especially today I do, Last night saw me drive my car of 5 years to a dealer & swap her for a newer model, wow stop that right now, Paul hasn’t won the lottery! Paul is thinking ahead with one thing in mind, the cost of fuel & road tax I shelled out on my beloved 2001  Peugeot 406 Coupe, the sums just weren’t adding up anymore, she was great on the motorway but drank like a teenager around town, & not to mention the re-mortgage to tax her for 12 months, I had a specific model in mind which I’m sure will appear in the next few trip reports, but not this one.

I’m still in mourning for my old coupe, a person can get attached to metal just like they can skin.

Wainwright Guidebook
The Outlying Fells

Half of the panorama is the glittering sea, with the Isle of Man seen in stark outline and Wales, Ireland and Scotland as shadowy silhouettes on a high horizon of water. A fine array of mountains is the landward feature, the fells of southern Lakeland ranging across the scene appearing, at this distance, in correct perspective, while round to the east the Pennines and the Bowland Fells form the background to a colourful landscape of undulating terrain pierced by mong estuaries and dotted with small towns and villages. The coast is seen, an unbroken line, from St. Bees Head to the Isle of Walney.


Ascent: 2,066 Feet, 631 Meters
Wainwrights: Black Combe & White Combe
Weather: An Overcast Start With Gust On Tops – Turning More Unsettled PM, Highs Of 7° Lows Of 6°
Parking: St Marys Church, Whicham (foc)
Area: South western
Miles: 8.9
Walking With: On my own
Ordnance Survey: OL6
Time Taken:  
Route: St Marys Church Whicham – Seaness – Black Combe – Blackcombe Screes – Hentoe Hill – White Combe Head – White Combe – Whitecombe Beck – St Marys Church Whicham

Map and Photo Gallery



St Marys Church, Whicham.

Built in the Norman times during the twelfth century this humble sacred church has seen many a noble men pass through its Norman doorways, one being the famous Scottish commander, Robert The Bruce who stormed Whicham Valley via Black Combe in 1322, his men used the churches walls as arrow practice, to this day, the scratch marks they left behind can still be seen.


Ahead, Seaness.

The drive in was un eventful, I was on time to arrive in Whicham by around 8:10am, that was until I’ & about four other drivers one including another truck got stuck behind a Lithuanian juggernaut somewhere in between Grizedale & Whicham & although I was less than 7 miles from my target this took me an extra half an hour. Ok, I can think of a lot worse places to be than to be stuck behind our European counterparts travelling at 15mph, but as anyone reading this can mirror…it puts a little strain to the start of the day.

St Marys Church really is a special place & as I write this, I really wished I took upon more time to investigate its remarkable past.

For one reason or another I missed the right turn for the Church Yard & settle for an a joining layby, the entrance to the church yard & I’m sure on my next visit, I will pay it more attention.

Its bitter & cold as I get my gear together at the back of the car, I hurry getting my gear on kicking of my North Face mid’s without untying the shoe laces, I shiver slightly as the tropical temperature I had in the car slowly vacates my body.

Where’s my beanie?

I pack up & leave for this narrow lane & Seaness bound, I feel or (at least) I think in my hurriedness to get ready I have forgotten something? I pat my jacket pockets (I don’t know why, as I never carry anything in them) I jump from the ground, a sure way to hear my car keys jiggle in my pack, I seem to have everything as I take a long sip of Robinsons from my bite valve & head for my first hill top of the day, Seaness.


Passing Kirkbank Farm along the way.


Sunrise over the Whicham Valley & the Duddon Estuary.


Where Lakeland meets the Irish Sea.

I can not begin to describe how it feels climbing with the roars of the crashing waves, together with a gale that sounds like a roman legion is about to charge me, its an odd feeling inside which takes me a while to digest.



Nearing the top of Seaness.

The sun is slow to rise, dark clouds block its presence, but a strong winter sun will always domineer, for now anyway.


The Irish Sea from the summit of Seaness.

At only 214 meters, what Seaness can not give you in height makes up for it with its splendid views towards the north west coastline, on a clear day, you can take in views all the way from the Flyde coast in the south, & as far as the Scottish Mountains in the north, but not today, with strictly limited views. Today, I cant even see the Isle Of Man.


Black Combe as I leave Seaness.

With my back to the wind I can now enjoy this fantastic section of grassy path that will lead me all the way to the summit, Wainwright wrote about the path from Whicham Church as being good enough to obtain the summit in slippers, I tend to agree.


Looking back at Seaness & the north west coastline from Townend Knotts.


Walney Island & the Duddon Estuary.


Looking back down the path towards the Duddon Estuary.


Low light over the summit of Black Combe.

I am in no way in need of a rest as I reach the summit shelter, but what I am in need off is a respite from the howling gales that have battered me all the way while on my ascent.

Seconds after I took this picture I am whipped across my freezing face by a strap from my pack, it catches me across my lips & whips my eye so violently it almost felt intentional. I seek respite in the shelter & read two poignant messages left behind for Peter, who will be solely missed by his family & friends, Peters father wrote “see you in the morning son”

Reading those messages left behind for Peter puts my perspective back together as the wind roars above my head, I take off my pack, the wind freezes the sweat on my back almost instantly. I reminisce about how only two days earlier, I picked up a thermal long sleeve top in Go Outdoors, thought about buying it, only to Put it back down again.

Right now I would give anything to have that thermal top on & although I have my fleece in my pack I do find wearing it would be momentarily, & as I dropped out of the wind the pack would have to come off again, I now leave the shelter for Black Combe’s south beacon.


Black Combe Tarn.


Black Combe’s southern cairn with a coastal backdrop.


Walney Island.

Despite the Icelandic winds, the view & the light today is simply amazing.


Blackcombe Screes & White Combe.

I leave the south cairn in search of the Blackcombe screes, with views slightly opening up over south Lakeland and towards the Coniston Fells it is here I change my route for today, my original route was to head north off Black Combe and then flank her lower slopes creating a circular route if you would. That was until I spot White Combe ahead, and not just White Combe but this…


Beautiful mile long ridge walk across Hentoe Hill & white Comb Head.


Having crossed White Combe Head I make for the summit.

Its great that now I am confident enough to change my plans while on the fells, but this doesn’t change my ever so decisive mind, I ponder at the thought, have I made the right decision? because my all out intentions was a two mile coastal return via the lower western slopes of Black Combe. Its not very often you can return from a days fell walking in Lakeland with the coast on your flanks, so this I was looking forward to. I check my GPS for a path down to White Comb Beck & sure enough as I do this I spot a significant zig zag path leading all the way to the valley floor, my mind is made up.


Black Combe & Anna Crag from White Combe.


A close up of Blackcombe Screes from White Combe.


The Coniston Fells from White Combe.


The Duddon Estuary from White Combe summit cairn.


The Whicham Valley from White Combe Head.

I’ve just gone through a light rain storm together with hail, the sky as you can see turned black & unleashed itself upon me briefly downing my spirits, as I take in this zig zag path that I spotted not half an hour before, I still ponder at the fact that I’m going to miss my coastal return as this was very much a significant part of my walk today, had I not had the shelter of Black Combe herself from the wintery shower I’ve just had, this now makes the my decision to return this way a little easier to swallow.


As I lower myself down the valley I start to get some light back, the sun is well hidden behind a wall of cloud so thick I struggle to spot its light, I can well & truly say that that is the last I’ll see the sun until it rises again over the Whicham Valley & by then I’ll be long gone.

To my left is the flanks of White Combe & White Hall Knott, to my right is Black Combe, centre is where I’m heading & maybe an early lunch at the side of Whitecombe Beck.


More rain showers ahead, this time I manage to dodge them.


Lunch at Whitecombe Beck.

The wind howls down the valley as I eat lunch while troll like I claim the bridge as my dinner table, Kid like I swing my feet other the beck as with one hand I eat my sandwiches, while the other stops the wind from blowing my butty box into the beck, momentarily I think about work and its pressures…

Targets don’t matter here…


Looking back up the valley with Hentoe Hill top centre & Whitecombe Beck to my right, it is here I leave the valley & flank Black Combe’s Lower south slopes.


The start of my 2.8 mile walk back to Whicham via Black Combe’s lowers slopes, this path as I’d never been here before was a welcome sight, I worried slightly I may have to walk this 2.8 miles back along a pathless A595 stretch of road so this path was  very welcome indeed, however, as I veered right onto the lower slopes the path isn’t as good as it looks here & not very recommended, this comes at my own cost of changing my plans while up on White Combe Head, so as stated it is a personal statement, maybe I was just cross with myself that the coastal path I intended was better & I just took it out on the ground underfoot, maybe it was the fact I saw three dead sheep along this path, one with its poor head stuck in wire fencing thus causing the sheep’s horns to become so entwisted in the wire, the fox’s took care of the rest, not even they ate the head which was still twisted, horns an all in the wire fence…

A horrible struggle took place & no animal should have to go through such pain, all because of a bloody wire fence, seeing this although as big a man I think I am, still saddened me at what that poor animal had to go through.


Looking back at White Hall Knott (L) this was my exit point from the valley I had just walked out of, the Duddon Valley sweeps its way across the patch work of fields, & the lower fell you see in the background of the picture is that of Knott Hill.


Looking over Silecroft Caravan Park on a gloomy December’s day.

Today despite my complaining about the winds & maybe some wrong decision making on my part today was my first outlying Fell experience & I know for a fact, not the last for I have already two more planned for early 2012, perhaps these will be undertaken when the ground has frozen over a little.

I will be the first to admit that today at times I missed the ruggedness that Lakeland has to offer, but in saying this, I am not truly experiencing all off Lakeland if I stick to just what I know, today although it may look a million miles away from the likes of Fairfield or Grisedale Pike, while walking with the sea crashing in on the wind swept coast the feeling that you are on the verge of one of England’s greatest national park’s is never far away.


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