Aira Force & Gowbarrow Fell

18th August 2012

Its Friday evening & I’m looking at a last chance weather report, these things change like the wind & after all these years, I still beat myself up over them.

Today’s walk centres around my son Owen, he doesn’t know it yet but he’s going to do a bit of fell walking, that’s if I can prise him away from his Xbox that is. The poor lad isn’t going to know what’s hit him so how the heck do you get a 12 year old boy who’s only aim in life is to be at the top of COD’s (Call of Duty) leader board to enjoy some much deserved time with his owd dad?

Back to that damn weather…

Ok, said operation was set for Sunday & not Saturday on the account of yours truly would be spending a morning in work, Saturday’s weather looked good, better than Sundays even, but my planned walk or Owens expedition would be set in Eskdale & Hard knot via Lingcove Bridge, a mix of bareness beneath the big guns of the Scafell’s, topped off with a tour of The Hard Knott Roman Fort.

This Owen liked: Dad? yes son? what’s an expedition? never mind lad…

With the weather forecast being so un-predictable I thought I might need a plan B, Easy I thought, Helm Crag. Helm Crag would work in so many ways for young Owen but sadly not in the rain, I don’t like walking in the rain, I especially don’t like kitting up in the stuff & by going off Sunday’s weather report, this is exactly what we’d of been doing.

Parking in or around Grasmere on a Saturday afternoon is a big no-no & Eskdale? well, was just too far away. As the weather had ruled Sunday out, I needed a walk that would coincide with late afternoon parking & with enough charisma to entertain a 12 year old boy.

Aira Force & Gowbarrow Fell was the answer.

Wainwright Guidebook
The Eastern Fells

Gowbarrow Fell faces up Ullswater into the throat of the deep valley of Patterdale, and a feature of the view is the impressive grouping of the fells steeply enclosing it. Very little of the lake can be seen from the top of the fell because of the intervening high ground. Half a mile south from the cairn is a far better viewpoint, Green Hill.


Ascent: 1,069 Feet, 326 Metres
Wainwrights: Gowbarrow Fell
Weather: Overcast To Start, Turning Dry & Sunny, Highs Of 23°C Lows Of 19°C
Parking: Car Park, Aira Force (Charge)
Area: Eastern
Miles: 4.2
Walking With: Owen Sharkey
Ordnance Survey: OL5
Time Taken:  
Route: Aira Force – High Force – Gowbarrow Fell – Gowbarrow Park – Green Hill – Aira Force

Map and Photo Gallery



Owen crossing Aira Beck, 14:24 19°C

Owen was conveniently dropped off at my work at lunchtime sporting his brand new Regatta Crossland boots, owing to the fact that Owen will outgrow anything within 6 months, I simply refuse to fork out ‘big money’ for walking boots.


I left Wigan a little later by the time I had ditched the shirt & tie as it was already touching 12:40pm, time was made up on the drive up the M6 as I tried to recreate the story behind Eddie Stobbart & the guessing games we played at what was carried in the trailers we spotted.

By the time we reached Tebay, Owen had grabbed my Compass & was already a Captain Scott in the making, given a little tuition from his dad in the drivers seat.

A few spots of rain hit the windscreen in between Lancaster & Penrith & I was a little concerned as I spied the Howgills, or what I could see of them – as heavy blankets of cloud scurried their summits.

The north Pennies were just as unlucky.

Then came a little nervousness on my part, hoping we would be able to park at Aira Force given the time of the afternoon, its not very often I park here, & me being me had already a plan B parking spot, but this was some walk away at a free location on the outskirts of Dockray.

We arrived & thankfully parked with ease. £5.50 later & within the hustle of Aira Force CP we were soon on our way.


 Aira Force Beck in full flow.


The giant Sitka Spruce found along the pathway.


Owen getting to grips with possibly the oldest living object he has ever seen.

This Sitka Spruce is an estimated two & half metres in girth & is native to Alaska, only being introduced to the UK as late as 1831. ‘Sitka’ derives from the Sitka Sound in Alaska.

We press on with the crowds…


Aira Force.

It was only a short journey until we reached the lower bridge at Aira Force from where I took this photo. The air was sticky & the crowds thick in numbers. To take this one shot I was in no-doubt in somebody else’s view, the mist from the waterfall filled the air & took away the mugginess out of the air.

With little time spent – we head up to the Higher stone bridge seen in the picture.


Owen looking down on Aira Force from the high bridge.

I decided to have a look myself in what can only be described as a queuing system. This made me feel claustrophobic & not very comfortable at all.


Looking down on Aira Force.

Note to self: do not drop the camera.


Aira Force Beck taken from the path before we reach High Force.


Passing High Force from the path.

The crowds littered the pathway & surrounding river sides with sun bathers & picnickers, which was only to be expected hence the lack of shots along this part of the walk.


I guess its this way then.

After leaving High Force behind do you then open up to open fell side. Pass through the wooden gate & head for the stone wall, it is here the path to the summit can be found.

Within the short space of leaving High Force at this point the sun came out as predicted, (they do get it right sometimes!) We needn’t of rest but we did, both father & son sat amongst carefully pitched boulders eating juicy Satsuma’s in the sunshine.


Big blue skies all the way to the summit.


Ullswater Head from the path.

Here looking towards the eastern fells under glorious skies.


The colourful flora only adding to the fantastic views.


What’cha doing Mr Bee?


Not to far from the summit as Owen catches the rays.


A close up of Dockray from the path.


A Clough Head skyline.

Here we have the Clough Head (R) & the Dodd’s seen from a eastern prospective. The fell in the foreground on the left is Common Fell.


Gowbarrow Fell trig point with Little Mell Fell on the left of the photo.


Found a little further left is Great Mell Fell.


The majority of the northern fells seen in one shot.


Owen basking in the sun as we enjoy a late lunch.

We are met at the summit by two female walkers who take their turns in taking pictures of one another at the summit trig point, a smile is passed on as they get out their maps & plan their next plan of action.

I however was planning my own plan of action as how to reach our next less inconspicuous summit of Green Hill & what is considered to be the best platform to view Ullswater from.

But that can wait a wee while, there’s a pork pie with my name all over it.


Looking south over Gowbarrow Park towards Green Hill centre left.

This was up until now my favourite part of the walk, this undulating drudge across wet bog as a cool wind sweeps across the open fell top.



Owen also is in fine spirits, as he leads the way across to Green Hill.


Green Hill summit cairn (Birkett)

I leave Owen sat at the cairn while I go off in search of some stunning scenery


Ullswater, Place Fell & a host of eastern fells from the top of Green Hill summit.

I take well over two dozen photo’s while perched on this little corner of heaven, If I had my way every photo would of been published but I simply cannot do that, this out of them all was my favourite by far.


The best way off the fell is over the undulating top to Green Hill, descending from there to Aira Force. If the bracken is high, it is worth while to search for the path.



Through the bracken.

The path from Green Hill’s summit is as described & rich in thigh high bracken, however never along the descent did we loose the path & found it another favourite part of the whole walk.


Owen leading the way.

The bracken eventually subsides & gives way to a gentle grassy decline, the walk is nearly over & I find it difficult to holster the camera with views as good as this.


Owen poses on a outcrop of rock with a fantastic backdrop.


Go on then you can take my picture too!


Ullswater Head.

Many more pictures were taken after this one, again too many to publish but I find this one is a fine way to end the walk. It sets the scene for a fantastic late afternoon on one of Lakelands hidden gems, Ok I admit: Gowbarrow Fell isn’t that hidden but in a way I feel the descent via Green Hill to Aira Force should remain a little hidden gem, especially on days like today.

Our brows are awash with sweat as we arrive back in the shaded greenery of Aira  Force & the idyllic path that will lead us back to the car park. Families still gather around the lower stone bridge as Owen asks me, Dad do you want to take some more photo’s of the falls? No its ok lad, I’ve got all the pictures I need today.

Owen cannot wait to get back to the car, there awaits no-doubt a can of luke-warm 7up, luke-warm or not as Owen takes a long gulp from the can, that’s the best 7up I’ve ever tasted dad, & that ticket in the windscreen is the best £5.50 I’ve ever spent.


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