The Wythburn Fells

23rd November 2012

Ullscarth has been high on the agenda for sometime now, it was just a case of finding the right time & the right place? I regard myself as a good planner, yet I couldn’t of planned this route on a more different day if I tried. Sadly Cumbria & much of the country has been victim to yet more floods & misery, non-the more so than the previous two days before I was set to find myself at the foot of the Wythburn Fells.

You must be bloody puddul’t Paul.

That was the remark I got from my Dad on telling him I was heading for Lakeland the coming Friday, Dad’ I understand where your coming from, but as I understand the heaviest of flooding was situated in the south of the county, which indeed was true.

My Dad did have a point though, I mean I didn’t want to add, or lay victim to my own stupidity should I find myself a cropper, I know what I’m doing dad don’t you worry, I’m heading as far north as I can & will as always, drop into Lakeland.

Within one hour of leaving my car my boots were full to brimming of freezing cold water, this I had to endure for the duration of nearly six hours, so maybe I was puddul’t as my Dad says, but maybe its going to take more than a few hours of walking with frozen feet to stop me enjoying myself on the fell’s I love.

Wainwright Guidebook
The Cenral Fells

- Ullscarth :

Of the Lakeland fells over 2,000 feet Ullscarth will generally be adjudged the most central, and it is a pity that Nature has not endowed it with distinctive superstructure worthy of the honour. If only the crags extended a thousand feet higher, and if only the summit took the shape of the Matterhorn!    Instead of which, the top of the fell is the dullest imaginable. The most central, perhaps, but not, alas, a very distinguished pivot !


Ascent: 798 Metres, 2,618 Feet
Wainwrights: 4, Ullscarth – High Raise – Calf Crag – Steel Fell
Weather: Bright To Start, Turning To Prolonged Winter Showers Falling As Snow Above 500 Metres Mixed With A Brief Thunder Storm. Highs Of 6°C Lows Of 5°C
Parking: Steel Fell Car Park, Wythburn, Thirlmere £7 for 24Hrs
Area: Central
Miles: 9.6
Walking With: On my own
Ordnance Survey: OL7
Time Taken: 5 Hours 50 Minutes
Route: Wythburn – Birk Crag – Harrop Tarn – Mosshause Gill – Standing Crag – Ullscarth – Greenup Edge – Low White Stones – High Raise – Sergeant Man – Deep Slack – Brownrigg Moss – Steel Fell – Steel Fell North Ridge – Steel End – Wythburn

Map and Photo Gallery



Steel Feel Car Park 07:56 6°C

Damn! I’ve forgotten my gloves.

I arrive in Lakeland just as the sun rises leaving a warm afterglow over the National Park, this is not to last. The drive in was uneventful, that is until I left the comforts of the A66 & made the turn for St Johns-in-the-Vale, the localised flooding Cumbria had been all over the news for was evident along the quiet lanes & precaution was needed as the flooded fields spilled across the B5322.

It is mild here in Lakeland with not a breeze at ground level as I kit up whilst sat on the drivers sill, it is here I don the gaiters for I know the fells have had more than their fair share of soaking the previous night.

I tie up my boots, in doing this I recur a slight niggle I picked up last week whilst in Grisedale which was an uncomfortable pain at the front of my shin, this I put down to over-tightening my bootlace, this time the bootlace instead of criss-crossing my shin gets tied around the back of the boot thus taking away any untoward pressure at the front of my shin.

I leave the Car park feeling £7 pound lighter after emptying my change into the parking metre, a cheap day on the fells?

Ill leave it up to you…

I simply can’t do that, ok, seven pounds is a little over excessive don’t you think? I mean, Glenridding, Keswick yes, but here in Wythburn? Ok I’m all for putting back into local economy & I know its still a cheap day out. I can only add that a seasonal tariff would work better here, but that’s just me…

Anyway, on with the walk grumpy guts.


I make a right turn out of the car park & walk just a short stretch until I pass the farm building here on the left, it is here I pick the path up for Harrop Tarn, not before a very steep ascent that is…


Thirlmere & Brown Cove Crags (Helvellyn Lower Man) from the start of my ascent.


A brief look back at Dunmail Raise before the sun breaches fell side.


Wythburn’s very own Lord’s Rake.

Great Scott, I didn’t expect that!


Looking back down from the top.

Ok, its a steep route & despite the fact the track was pouring with water this little scramble was a highlight of the morning.


The farm building where I picked the path up is middle right of the photo.


Tarn Crags (L) & Harrop Tarn is revealed.

My path now takes me around the forestry track on the right of Harrop Tarn & up through the wooded area towards the col seen centre, but that is a little while away yet so I enjoy the beauty of Harrop Tarn whilst under morning shade.


Passing Harrop Tarn on the forest track with a …


Beautiful sunrise behind me.


Taking a right.

After a short walk along the path are you presented with the option to carry on or head right sign posted Watendlath.

Take a right here.

The track gets a little narrower & its best to look out for this short sign post on the right that will take you up a gentle incline through the wooded area you saw in picture seven.


The track is all but useless in that the mud would swallow you whole, it was here I had to opt for a route through the trees over on the right.


Looking back on the Helvellyn ridge as the sun breaches Tarn Crags.


Blea Tarn (Watendlath)

By now both my feet had been commandeered by the soaking wet ground underfoot as a membrane of freezing cold water encases itself between my socks & my bare feet, Oh well I thought, my feet were a little on the warm side anyway…

Not !!


Standing Crags from standing wet!

On reaching the top of the col you are given the option to head straight ahead towards Watendlath or north towards the High Tove/Central ridge.

I make a left towards Standing Crag & more wet ground.


Looking north towards Bell Crags from my Standing Crag ascent.


High Saddle & Low Saddle from the top of Standing Crags.


Much of today’s walk has a theme of following fences or indeed old fence post’s, a great navigational tool should you ever need them.

It is whilst on my ascent of Ullscarth do I loose much of the mornings sun in return for grey & more grey.

If ever a forecast was wrong, this was that day.


A host or eastern fells from Raise to Fairfield stretching South form Ullscarth summit cairn.

In between the last two photos I passed through a band of hail sweeping eastwards, I wouldn’t say it was cold as it was still rather mild if anything, it was here I donned the hood & walked with clenched fist until I reached the summit, here, off came the pack in search of a spare pair of gloves, not waterproof I might add as they were an old pair of Berghaus fleecy gloves I’ve had in the bottom of my pack for sometime now, I also carry a full-on pair of winter ski gloves but I think that’s a little too extreme just yet.

The fleece gloves worked just nicely, snug as a bug I press on for Greenup Edge


Not before a quick photo looking south as I keep a keen eye on the cloud above.

Prolonged sunshine my a## !


High Raise from Greenup Edge.

This a much favoured part of the walk as it was new territory & indeed flat. (but still very boggy)


Looking across to my last fell of the day as it winds its way through the Wythburn valley, Steel Fell.


Now looking west towards Eagle Crag (R) & Sergeants Crag (L)

It was now time for a little ascent needed to reach Low White Stones & High Raise bound.


Wythburn, Calf Crag (Far R) & Steel Fell (R)


Ullscarth & Greenup Edge from Low White Stones.

Here comes the…



As I make my final approach for High Raise I find myself within a hail & snow shower, headlong I pass my first walker of the morning with a geary ‘Mornin’


High Raise summit trig point & shelter, best to sit the snow shower out.


Sitting it out.

I tuck myself as low as I could within the walls of the shelter, I perch myself upon a wet rock as I figure I ain’t gonna get myself any wetter today.

I here voices & expect to be joined within the shelter at any minute, I wait & nothing…

I pop my head over the stone wall & sure enough about thirty yards from the shelter stand what looks to be a man & woman adjusting their clothing, ok I thought they’ll be here any minute, minutes later I again pop my head over the wall & find that now the couple are walking away from the shelter in the same direction they came in (Thunacarr Knott)

It is now exactly 11:06am

11:06am was the exact time I experienced one of the most frightening & strangest phenomenon I have ever experienced in my walking career

A blinding flash of light followed not two seconds later by an almighty crack of thunder.

Oh bugger…

My heart raced not only to get my butt into gear but to predict the next flash of lightening, it was clear I was situated well within the thunder storm as the gap between both lightening flash & thunder barely registered.

I knew as I guess you the reader knows, that being on top of a mountain during a thunderstorm is the most dangerous place a walker should find him/herself, I need to get down as I now shelve the plans for an ascent on Sergeant Man.

Distant rumblings un-nerve me as I re-figure my route, by now I am a short distance from the summit & the little more un-nerving is I now have my back to where I first saw the lightening flash, should it lighten, I’m not going to see it until I hear the thunder.


I pick up the path that will descend me via Mere Beck, a little less nerved the more I descend, It is here I concentrate on not losing the path as the visibility drops to within a few yards at its worst.


The storm moves eastwards giving me some clearer visibility.


I’m not out the woods just yet but thankfully its moving in the opposite direction, its now Helvellyn’s turn as I listen out for more rumblings & flashes of light, thankfully they do not come.

I could now concentrate on getting down, the storm may have passed as it has dumped a gathering of fresh snow & hail underfoot, getting down now needed concentration & the balance of a gymnast.

The grass & rock now resembled an ice rink, I shudder to think of how many times I jolt my body back & forth trying to save myself from embarrassment & not having to finish my walk in wet clothing.

Out came my walking pole which gave me the stability I needed, not much as my boots offered little to no grip under the now wet snow on top of wet grass, I sit here typing this with muscle jointed & flexed in & out of submission just trying to keep upright.

I must of looked a sight as I made my way for Calf Crag, a summit that wasn’t on the agenda yet seeing as I was forced of the mountain I had no option to exclude Sergeant Man.

Calf Crag it is.


Calf Crag summit cairn.

After some careful negotiating I finally made the awkward descent to Calf Crag, I pass a woman walker & her black collie dog, at the same time, training jets unique to Lakeland roar over Thirlmere reservoir & continue northwards.

I’m not making bad time despite my previous slow descent, my feet now trapped in ice cold boots are screaming for warmth.

I make them wait until we get back to the car, I don’t see no point in putting dry socks into a wet boot, & besides I tell myself, you’ll appreciate it more whilst sipping on your hot coffee.

With this I press on over Brownrigg Moss in search of Steel Fell, it seems the weather hasn’t finished with me just yet.


Steel Fell seen form Calf Crag.


Steel Fell seen form Calf Crag.


Steel Fell.

A narrow path leads you across the bog & mosses, sometimes this can be hard to navigate as the path runs through deep bogs & very wet ground underfoot, the tarn ahead is a good fix so with ten freezing toes I head off across the ridge & do a little bog trotting.


Greenup Edge reflections.


Steel Fell summit cairn & job finished.

My tour of the Wythburn fells was almost complete as I take a brief shot of Steel Fell summit cairn within the mist of an approaching hail shower.


In keeping in the tradition of fence following I continue along the summit top & find my descent via Steel Fell’s north ridge.


Climbing over this broken sty along the way (the hand guide had snapped at the bottom)

Heading right here would take you down the steep path & Dunmail Raise bound.


Dunmail derives from King Dunmail, reputed to be the last King of Cumberland, 945 AD


Thilrmere & Steel End from my slippery descent.

The path steep in progress flanks the woods to the right then joining up with another path that runs underneath which then gives you access to West Head Farm (white building just over the tree tops)


West Head Farm, Wythburn.

Dogs bark as I make my way through West Head Farm, my gear, my bones soaked through to the core, I repeat my actions on what to do upon reaching the car parked just around the corner.

Start car, turn heater on full, dry camera with bar cloth, take off socks & boots & dry feet with bar cloth, apply my ever awaiting dry socks into my dry north face mid’s, sip hot coffee from flask.

My walk wasn’t quite over just yet, research on Wythburn lead me here…


Wythburn Church circa 1640

In 1894 Manchester Corporation flooded the hamlets of Wythburn & Armboth to create Thirlmere reservoir, this was done by flooding two natural lakes to create Thirlmere as we know it today.

Wythburn church is all that exists of both the farming communities of Wythburn & Armboth, I go inside in search of something special.


Christ the Good Sheppard.

The rain & hail continue to pour down as I explore my pristine surroundings of Wythburn Church, I feel humbled to walk the stone floors of this hallowed building, the scene of history for the humble farmers of Wythburn & Armboth as I look upon an ever lasting memory towards those early Lakeland farmers & the days before Manchester Corporation.

My walk & indeed my day is at an end, its time to connect with reality & that means re-tracing my steps back to a small car park situated behind the church, I could of been forgiven for saying that I had seen enough of Lakeland today, my scare with thunder, my freezing limbs, my bruised bones after taking slip after slip descending in the snow, my body steams almost with sweat as I hold my camera in my froze soaked hands, yet the church is quiet & its just me & the Good Sheppard & for a few short moments, all that was forgotten.


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