Clough Head via Fisher’s Wife’s Rake

11th August 2012

It’s true as of late that I am enjoying many a scramble throughout the summer months, I suppose at a point, I am taking as much advantage of the dry (ish) weather as I possibly can. Not content with just the one sweet from other the counter I guess, now it seems I am filling my pockets with all Lakeland has to offer.

Without delving deep this does has something to do with my disastrous luck over the past few months, I guess luck isn’t the right word but, if one thing can go wrong over & over & just when you think something cant possibly go wrong again… well you’ve guessed it, it did.

I guess my footprint on the fells this last two months is a transparent insight into what, during these awful times is bursting to get out, some find it easy to talk, but not me, I let my feet do the talking in a somewhat semi controlled fashion.

Things are slightly looking up but I do use the term slightly cautiously…

Back to the walk eh?

Anyone familiar with my blog can cast your mind back to mid May if you would & my ascent on Sharp Edge. That walk, or traverse should never have happened, because said day should of been spent on Clough Head & The Dodd’s, it was only through lack of parking that saw me on Sharp Edge that day.

Today I am here to recreate that walk back in May.

Fisher’s Wife’s Rake #

He was a kind chap that Mr Fisher, clever too. You see Fisher’s Wife’s Rake is set within the west face of Clough Head between two beast of crags, Wanthwaite & Bram Crag, it was here a couple of hundred years ago you would have found Mrs Fisher, hauling down one of the steepest gully’s in Lakeland chunks of Peat that Mr Fisher had dug away.

I’m trying to think although I have never dug for Peat – who had the hardest job & right now I’m only coming up with one answer, I guess your thinking the same?

I mean, how’s Mr Fisher going to get his hard earned crusty loaf of bread & butter for his lunch when Mrs Fisher is up to her neck in Peat, selfish, selfish woman…

Joking aside, I have only admiration for this woman, this athlete because after an ascent on Fisher’s Wife’s Rake I found it to be one of thee steepest rakes I have come across so far & had the gully been full of loose rock as most rakes usually are this ascent might not have been considered, thankfully the rake is mostly made up of steep grassy inclines & firmly fixed bedded rock, you can choose the alternative & head straight up the centre of the gully as I did & avoid the main path for reasons unknown this was the path I chose which I regretted slightly around half way up but for now, that’s by the by.

It all starts at a single Rowan Tree…

Wainwright Guidebook
The Eastern Fells

Clough Head is an interesting fell, not only for walkers and explorers but for the ornithologist and botanist, the geologist and antiquarian also; while the merely curious traveller may content himself; by puzzling out why and for what purpose Fisher’s wife trod so persistently that remarkable path to Jim’s Fold.


Ascent: 3,714 Feet, 1,132 Metres
Wainwrights: 4, Clough Head, Great Dodd, Watsons Dodd & Stybarrow Dodd
Weather: Hot & Sunny, Highs Of 23°C Lows Of 14°C
Parking: Wanthwaite, St Johns-in-the-Vale
Area: Eastern
Miles: 11.5
Walking With: On my own
Ordnance Survey: OL5
Time Taken: 6 hrs
Route: Wanthwaite – Hill Top Farm – Hill Top Quarries – Fisher’s Wife Rake – Jims Fold – Clough Head – Calfhow Pike – Great Dodd – Watsons Dodd – Stybarrow Dodd – Stybarrow Dodd West Ridge – Sticks Pass – Stanah – A591 – St Johns Beck – Bridge End Farm – Sosgill Bridge – B5322 -Wanthwaite

Map and Photo Gallery



Wanthwaite 7:47am 14°C

I arrive at Wanthwaite under deep blue skies & an almost exotic morning sunrise. I park the car with my passenger side buried within the hedgerow but at least I will be facing the right way for the return journey later.

I place my mobile phone on the roof of the car & take a stretch as I gaze upon Clough Head, wow I can make out Fisher’s Wife’s Rake from here which is a bonus, but way to early to make out some sort of path.

I kit up behind the car only to be joined by a Volkswagen Golf GTI identical to Lonewalkers only in black, nice car I think to myself.

Behind the wheel sits a young lad with his head buried in either a map or GPS, I cant tell. He’s transfixed & the longer he stares the more he realises that he’s parked where he shouldn’t be, he slowly reverse the car & heads in the direction of Thirlmere.

My jacket sort of gets placed in the usual place in-between my pack hood, then I decide to leave it in the boot, I decide to go with the forecast as no rain was predicted, this I recall being the first time I have ever left my jacket in the car on purpose!

By now I just need to lock the car & collect my mobile from the roof, the reason I left it in such an obvious place was so I wasn’t to forget it, this something, that I have become accustomed to on a number of occasions.


The Old Coach Road.

The Old Coach Road is found at the side of Hill Top Farm & not a mere two minute stroll from where I just left my car.

The Old Coach Road is approximately five miles long & gains an altitude of around 1’400 Feet & stretches from St Johns in-the-Vale in the west to Matterdale in the east. Some question whether the “Old Road” was actually used by teams of horses to passage between these two places or in-fact, whether the old road was used by by-gone peat farmers & miners in & around the Threlkeld Quarries.

Tis a peaceful place nonetheless & I find it a pity I wont be on it at any length.


The Wooden Sty.

The sty is situated at the end of a stone wall, after crossing the sty & a little ascent over broken stone do you then find yourself at the Hill Top Quarries. 


Old machinery litter’s the old quarry site.

Although the machinery is old I have a feeling that this particular piece of equipment is nothing to do with what was quarried here, I figure this was left by modern farmer some years ago. we’ll get back to it later…


Ruined signal points & narrow gauge track were amongst some of the old workings found at the quarry.


Narrow Gauge tubs piled up on the old quarry floor.

Between the years 1870 & 1937 Threlkeld Quarry blasted granite by the means of gun powder to supply granite amongst other things to be used on the Thirlmere Dam project & even railway ballast for the Keswick Carlisle line.

In 1880 the initial output of Threlkeld Quarry was pushing out 80,000 tons of granite, the tubs above would be pushed by gravity to the crushers down below the fell side.


Motor Rail Bedford.

Motor Rail Bedford forged much of the iron work in the narrow gauge mining industry including the cast wheels for the trucks. Formed in 1911 Motor Rail also provided narrow-gauge supply locomotives during the first World War & ceased manufacturing only as late as 1987.


My exit route from the quarry.

After time spent exploring the old quarry floor it was time to get back to the walk in hand, I chose to head for the pines you see at the quarry rim over on the right of the picture, Its a steep pull up & little did I realise just how low those pines grew as I had to bend real low as I passed through the pines.

You don’t have to climb the direct route as I did here, there’s a perfectly good path out of shot to the left that will take you above quarry.


Low sun.

After gaining the top of the quarry & leaving the pines behind was I then treated to a mild walk through thigh high wet Bracken, the sun shone directly as I aimed for the stone wall. Had I listened to myself & not headed up the direct route out of the quarry my hairy legs might of escaped the foreseeable drenching!

I make for the stone wall over to the right of the picture & at a low point make my jump over.


Fisher’s Wife’s Rake.

At still a distance away from the initial start of the climb, the Rake can be seen clearly, I took the lay of the fell side in hand & guesstimated a route to the bottom of the rake, however the closer you get the more obvious your route is as the narrow grassy path soon becomes visible.


Breaching hill side.

As you may have noted the sunrise was on the other side of the ridge, thus providing me with lots of shade & spectacular views.


High Rigg & Low Rigg over St Johns-in-the-Vale.


The infamous Rowan Tree marking the start of Fisher’s Wife’s Rake.

The Rowan Tree had been on my look out for the past ten minutes or so & soon becomes apparent as it stands alone at the bottom of the rake, I kinda messed up here a little as I took the path you see lower right to the bottom of the scree mostly because I wanted that in-depth scramble feel to add to the walk, the popular route however sits left of the Rowan Tree above the ledge you see.

Both paths eventually meet up about three quarters of the way up, this was the point the planning I had undertook previously did I then start to recognise the more popular route.

You know me Paul I thought, not with the popular & very direct hence the wet shorts!


A quick look back before I start my ascent, here we have Blencathra (R) & the Skiddaw Masif (L) whilst in the foreground lies the beautiful St Johns-in-the-Vale & Threlkeld.


Looking down Fisher’s Wife’s Rake.

Its hot, so hot I sweat like I have never sweated before, I feel my ear drums fill with sweat & have to plug them with my finger, this climb is not for the faint hearted of your everyday walker.

Past months dwellings leave me momentarily as I don’t even reach for the camera until I am close to the top, no exhaustion just pure loving it – that propels me to the top.

My Bloc Billy’s fall of the end of my nose & into the wet grass, bugger & damn (or words to that affect!) Out comes the wipe cloth & maybe a little rest stop.


Lonscale Fell & Blencathra from deep steep walls of Wanthwaite Crags.


Nearing the top of Fisher’s Wife’s Rake.

Yep, easy life that Mrs Fisher!! NOT!!

Peat Hauling in the Olympics? I think we have a gold…


Passing the top of Sandbed Gill.

The sun beats down as I un button my Crag Hoppers nose life shirt, I don’t care – no one can see the beer belly, my body desperately needs air & seemingly gets it from a cool light refreshing wind.


Off I go in search of Jim’s Fold, the summit still lies just under 700 Metres away.


Jim’s Fold.

A rather iconic sheep fold found along the route to the summit.


At last the summit comes into view.

It is here I spy my first walker of the day, he like me is feeling the affects of the heat & is walking bare chest, fair do’s I think, he is still quite a considerable way down the fell side & after the initial sighting I pay him no attention.


Clough Head summit trig point & shelter.

I pop open a Satsuma whilst at the summit and eat it split in two, that Satsuma felt like the first pint on a scorching summers evening & went down a treat.

I open the lid of my pack for a reason that I have since forgot, within the lid contains my zip pocket where I keep my car keys & First Aid Kit amongst some other close at hand gear, whilst searching round the pocket my car keys, some loose plasters & an array of stuff falls on the ground, the sound of my car keys hitting the ground causes a panic, I don’t know why but as I put them back into the zip pocket I said out loud.”Paul you are putting your car keys back in your pack”

Leaving ones car keys on a summit doesn’t even bare thinking about, I’m sure we’ve all had that feeling.


Great Dodd & Calfhow Pike (R) as I leave Clough Head behind.

This stretch of ridge has got to be one of the finest in Lakeland & was a very welcome part of the whole days events.

Remember the walker I spoke about earlier walking shirtless, well as I left Clough Head summit he gained it & all I can say at this point is this guy is one fast walker, he does catch me up but not before our own Olympic fell race (or sort of)

Incidently, what does Calfhow Pike remind you of? Give up? its got to be Loft Crag adopted brother, On a clear day you can spot Calfhow Pike from miles around.


Through the haze appears Great Mell Fell.


Great Dodd from Calfhow Pike summit.

I shall be there soon, maybe even sooner than I think…


Clough Head from Calfhow Pike summit cairn.


Something spectacular on Clough Head eastern slopes.

This is in actual fact a railway wagon, no-one knows how it quite got there or who left it, here using the camera’s x24 zoom I am able to pick it out, I smile & say Alen, but more on that later.


Great Dodd summit cairn.

The haul up to Great Dodd was a brutal affair, why? because the man in me came out, the sportsman & the idiotic.

The guy who had caught up with me on Clough Head was quickly gaining on me from Calfhow Pike & Great Dodd’s summit, this guy was not a fell runner just fit, mighty fit & sooner or later Paul your going to have to let him pass.

But not without a fight


Watson’s Dodd (R) & Stybarrow Dodd (L) from Great Dodd.

I leave Great Dodd feeling a little exhausted, I was ready to give in my Olympic challenge & maybe take in an early lunch, that was until I was joined at the summit by two other walkers who had gained the summit from Matterdale, I passed on my good morning but was ignored by both walkers who by now were taking of their packs for a rest stop at the summit shelter.

Well, I don’t know about you but I wasn’t about to share the shelter with two ignorant walkers so I pressed on, this giving me a lead on & maybe a gold medal.

In this, I take in the magnificent ridge walk before me, as the sun beats down & sadly the haze continues.


Great Dodd from Watson’s Dodd summit cairn.

Time for lunch.


Thirlmere & the High Tove Ridge from my lunch spot.

It is here the mystery walker finally catches up with me & defeat is accompanied with Tuna Mayo.



I let him win!

As the loser looks on at the winner of the Clough Head to Stybarrow Ridge walk he calmly walks onto Stybarrow Dodd to claim his gold medal.

I guess stranger things have happened at sea, nope its just you – you weirdo.


Stybarrow Dodd summit cairn.

Ok, I claim a fondness for this cairn I always have, want to know why? because although I am now into double figures with Stybarrow locating it for the first time was a tadge difficult given the fact that the cairn lies a little of the beaten path, if you find yourself in low cloud as I did that first time locating the cairn after a search was something special & that’s why I have a fondness for it, I’ve even built two small cairns myself coming from either Sticks Pass or the way I have just come from Watson’s Dodd, indicating on where to leave the path, both cairns are barely visible now as the weather or other walkers have kicked them across the path but the larger of the stones still remain where I left them.

The difference between the Stybarrow’s lower summit just over on the left of the picture is nothing less than five metres, this lower summit is also marked by a substantial cairn but is not the main summit, it’s pretty easy to get caught out on this one.


Heading for Stybarrow’s lower summit on where I have a clever plan.


Stybarrow Dodd’s west ridge.

Instead of heading down to Sticks Pass I head over the top of Stybarrow Dodd lower summit onto its east ridge, Sticks Pass cuts across the bottom of the ridge from left to right so in no time I will meet back up with Sticks Pass, but for now I enjoy this grassy descent immensely & consider it a favourite part of the whole walk.


Looking back up Stybarrow’s east ridge.


The views from my descent are simply amazing, even as far as Bassenthwaite Lake & north west Lakeland.


Thilmere & the Wythburn Fells.



After the last part of Sticks Pass descent which is considerably steep reaching Stanah was a much welcome sight & particularly nice on the feet. Stanah is the setting for many a walker kicking there boot heels to feel if their toes are still in there.


A gentle scurry along the A591 until I reach a wooden sty just after crossing the road bridge over St John’s Beck.


High Rigg & the Clough Head ridge forming St Johns-in-the-Vale.

My plan is to use the Woodland Trail which passes beneath the slopes of High Rigg (L)


The Woodland Trail.

Reaching the seclusion of the trail was easy, after climbing over the wooden sty head into the wooded area where you are met by a short climb, after a wee while two paths present themselves before you, heading left here will take you summit bound for High Rigg, head right as I did & its a fantastic two miles back to Wanthwaite with St Johns Beck never far from ear shot.


Calfhow Pike is up there along the ridge, with the dominance of Bram Crag far left.


Whilst passing through Low Bridge End Farm I had the delights of meeting Trevor!


Hay bailing the old way.

This was a fantastic scene watching a 35 year old David Brown tractor pull along this hay bailer, the young lad in tow, neckerchief knotted around his neck could of been forgiven for stepping right out of the 1930’s, his job with the wooden rake was to tidy up what hadn’t been picked up by the bailer.

Being a bloke I had to do some delving into the history of the David Brown tractor, did you know that David Brown was the UK’s third largest tractor manufacturer between the years 1939 & 1986, bet you didn’t know that did you!

Oh & by the way, does that bailer the tractor is pulling look like something you’ve seen before? Skip back to picture four, startling resemblance don’t you think?


Here’s what she looked like new back in 1973, in Orchid White & Power Red.


Clough Head from Sosgill Bridge.


Hay Bails & Blencathra

It was time to reconnect with the B5322 & more to the point reality. Its quite difficult in when I can say which was the favourite part of this walk, Fisher’s Wife’s Rake almost seems like yesterday as the scorching sun burns my forehead neck & arms into submission. I feel I have seen a part of Lakeland rarely seen from the crags & that is farming Lakeland, industrial Lakeland from the quarries to the fields, these are the memories that will bury deep.

Me, I’m off back to little ole Wigan, home to the Cotton industry more importantly… That cold beer that’s been waiting for me all week.

Today has been a rare good day & shall not be forgotten lightly.

If you want to read more about the Old Coach Road & indeed the mysterious Railway Wagon on Clough Head eastern slopes look no further than here.

Because They’re There is hosted by fell walker & writer Alan McFadzean & was the inspiration behind the smile on first sighting of the Railway Wagon.


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