Aira Force, Gowbarrow Fell & Little Mell Fell

8th November 2014

I’m sure David would agree if I said we were both rather saddened at having to shelve our original walk today due to the bad weather which required a blue sky day & plenty of daylight hours. We both had been keeping an eye on the weather with a hint of hope but as todays walk suggests our hopes had been dashed.

Then came Friday evening during a phone call on where to walk or if to walk at all looking just how wet the day looked. David then suggested a walk from Parkgate Farm to visit Aira Force waterfalls fittingly after a period of wet weather the district had experienced this week which seemed a belting idea, from Aira Force we then could add onto the route depending on the weather, it turned out we managed to stay dry right until the latter stages of the walk which was a mile away from what the forecast had predicted


Wainwright Guidebook

The Eastern Fells

- Gowbarrow Fell:

The delightful lower slopes here are beautifully wooded, but low crags and bracken in abundance make them rather difficult of access except where they are traversed by the many pleasant green paths which add so much to Gowbarrow’s charm


Ascent: 1,942 Feet 592 Meters
Wainwrights: 2, Gowbarrow Fell – Little Mell Fell
Weather: Overcast With Showers, Fresh Across The Summits, Highs Of 10°C Lows Of 9°C Feels
Parking: Car park, Aira Force, Parkgate Farm
Area: Eastern
Miles: 8.8
Walking With: David Hall
Ordnance Survey: OL5
Time Taken: 5 Hours 40 Minutes
Route: Park Brow – High force – Aira Force – Gowbarrow Fell – Great Meldrum – The Hause – Little Mell Fell – Swinburn’s Park – Shooting Lodge – Gowbarrow Park – Aira Force – High Force – Park Brow

Map and Photo Gallery


Sunrise, Parkgate 08:00am 9°C

David was already parked up by the time I arrived at the large car park found at the top of Park Brow. We were first to arrive at the car park which meant parking was easy as I reversed my car up besides David’s. We greeted with a handshake & of course commented on how we both expected to be kitting up under a barrage of heavy rain.

Low cloud blanketed views over towards Hart Side which then stretched beyond Patterdale towards the Kirkstone Fells, views, or lack of them were pretty grim to say the least. Looking north east we had hints of blue skies which at least showed a little promise.

After kitting up in full waterproof gear we locked the cars before heading through the wooden gate found at the corner of the car park, it’s fair to say we could definitely hear the sound of the waterfalls well before actually seeing them.

Aira Force upper falls.

Our path lead us directly besides Aira Beck where we was met by a thundering roar from the many waterfalls that cascade towards Aira Force itself, it most certainly took a little time for the ears to adjust as we followed the path down towards the upper bridge & viewing platform.

Arriving at the upper Bridge.

Before long we had arrived at the upper bridge, the roar from the waterfalls had changed to what can only be described as a boom that was difficult to talk over. We stood on the bridge just gazing down watching the water crash all the way down to the pool below. I stood with my camera pointing down towards the falls when I realised one of two things, I seem to be top heavy peering down over the packhorse bridge & two; what if I dropped the camera, needless to say I quickly retreated.

We could have crossed the bridge & gone ahead with our journey towards Gowbarrow but we decided to take the short trip to the lower viewing point by means of going up & over the other side rather than straight down, it was only a little excursion & the views of Aira Force where equally impressive.

Looking down on the lower bridge from the upper Bridge.


Here’s  a close up of taken from the upper Bridge looking directly onto the falls, the sound of which was deafening.


The Memorial Plaque found on the upper Bridge.

It reads: This Bridge Was Built By friends In Memory Of Steven Edward Spring Rice CB

He Would Have Liked His Brother Gerald Who After 14 Years After Him Also Gave His Life For His Country, To Be Commemorated On This Spot

Aira Force from the upper level path.


And from the lower bridge.

The sound was amazing, trying to have a conversation down here was simply impossible. We were lucky enough to still have the place to ourselves whilst at the same time being covered in a fine mist, it was here David told me whilst back in 2009 himself & Jennifer had seen a dead cow back at High Force which feeds down towards Aira Force, David went onto explain that the water & the sound here today wasn’t a touch on how bad it was after the floods which saw the path we had just walked on almost get washed away. I mean what must a Cow weight to get washed away? as best to my knowledge a full grown Cow can weight upto 1 Ton.

Amazing, but sadly not for the cow.

Evidence of Landslip found in the lower falls.

David went onto explain that a Landslip had occurred here below a section of path that we had just travelled down just over two years ago causing this tree to come crashing down into the lower section of the falls, I guess it isn’t doing any harm but we did wonder just how long it would take mother nature & the force from the water to take care of it.

Time to move on.

The area around Aira Force is getting ready for winter as only a few trees remain with the plumage on.


Gowbarrow Fell seen shortly after leaving High Force behind.

We had soon left the falls behind & could now hear ourselves talk again. Our path underfoot is wet as water from the fellside pours over it as we make our way towards the stone wall from where we would take on the short ascent towards the summit.

Limited views over towards Birkett Fell & Dowthwaitehead.

Clough Head can be seen enjoying a cloud free moment seen over on the right.

Gowbarrow Fell summit seen with a section of our return journey through Swinburn’s Park; that’s the tree covered bit over on the right.

We were soon at the summit whilst at the same time enjoying a rain free morning although spits of rain were most definitely in the air, but for now it wasn’t causing us any issues.

Views over towards Boredale & Rampsgill.

Beyond Gowbarrow & Ullswater the cloud dramatics common to Autumn here in Lakeland continued over Sandwick & into the Boredale valley on the opposite side of Ullswater, here illuminating the Beda Fell ridge.

Great Meldrum & Little Mell Fell from Gowbarrow Fell.

Even though we hadn’t gained much height the wind had a cold chill to it, had we have been walking any higher or staying in the open for much longer the hat & gloves most certainly would have come out.

Here our route can be seen as we would first head over Great Meldrum seen in the foreground from where we had to negotiate a little bog hopping before arriving at The Hause at the foot of Little Mell Fell, but, all that is a little while off as we enjoy the light displays over our heads.

Beda Fell with low cloud limiting views over towards the Rampsgill valley, while on the left, Hallin Fell.


Beda Fell & Sleet How seen with a glimpse of Ullswater seen as we cross towards Great Meldrum.


Here, looking back on Gowbarrow Fell from the short ascent on Great Meldrum.

It’s only when you see Gowbarrow Fell summit from Great Meldrum is it realised just how prominent the top actually is giving the hill a real summit look something of which is hardly distinguished when viewing from Ullswater or even from the approach to the summit itself.

Great Mell Fell enjoys a brief hint of sun seen from Great Meldrum.


Our route towards Little Mell Fell.

The morning was turning out to be mild & pleasant as we left Great Meldrum behind, here our route can be seen as we make a direct line for the corner of the trees seen in the left of the photo although the path we used to descend Great Meldrum by did try to take us towards the right before we corrected ourselves.

Just follow the wall.


Here, looking back towards Gowbarrow Fell.

After leaving the pines behind we crested a gentle hill before passing over a wire fence where The Hause was only a moments walk away. Earlier we had spotted a couple with their dog making an ascent on Little Mell Fell, other than those people we again seemed to have the place to ourselves.

Here looking back over The Hause with Gowbarrow partially hidden behind Underwood.

We left our grassy path seen in the right of the photo before crossing The Hause from where we picked up the direct path that would lead us all the way towards Little Mell summit, underfoot our path is steep & wet, on the upside it’s a very short ascent which is over relatively quickly.

Little Mell Fell summit Trig Point.

We soon arrived at the summit where again we were met by a brisk wind casing my nose to run & my hands to feel the chill, quashing this I schoolboy-like warm them in my trouser pockets. Here David & I strike up conversation about many things as I add that the last time I was here it was the week before I completed my Wainwrights back in November 2011, almost three years to the weekend.

After our chat I decide to take my hands out of my pockets! before descending the way we had just come back down towards The Hause.

Taking in the lane towards Watermillock.

Besides a few cars passing we walked the narrow lane down the centre only allowing a couple of dare devil cyclist’s as they pass at full speed, we could only look on as they took the lines of the lane on their narrow tyres under wet conditions, my hat went off to them.

Soon we would pass Cove Caravan Park where we were surprised to still see it still quite busy given the time of year, ahead we would continue for a couple of hundred yards or so before taking a right turn through a wooden gate signposted Swinburn’s Park.

Entering the Woods through Swinburn’s Park.

Our path first lead us below Priest Crag before entering the woods which ascended sharply across two sections, up ahead we spotted a large group of walkers split into two, we soon caught them up one of whom asked us was this the right way for Aira Force.

After passing on our good mornings we continued & entered the woods which was something that I had been looking forward to as many of my walks don’t always involve walking through woodland.

At times it was eerie quite other than myself & David talking.

Both of us commented just how much ‘teeming with wildlife’ this area must get come dusk time although I don’t think I’d like to go of the path looking just how steep the sides are.

Looking back over Swinburn’s Park & the woods we had just walked through.

By the time we had left the woods behind the predicted showers had caught up with us causing David to reach for his jacket whilst we stopped to admire a waterfall not far from the Shooting Lodge found close to the path. It was also here we would be over taken by more walkers, I guess we couldn’t walk & talk at the same time which just shows despite the rain, what a great time we were having.

Hallin Fell seen during a respite in the rain showers.


Place Fell & Ullswater seen with the last of the Autumn colours from the fell side.

Our path would now descend back towards Aira Force as we took in the grand views over Ullswater which despite the gloomy mood still managed to spread some Autumn magic as the light slowly started to fade.

Lyulphs Tower seen with Place Fell.

What started off as a shower had become more persistent as by the looks of things the rains had moved in for the remainder of the day.

Place Fell from Gowbarrow Park.

We press towards Aira Force wondering just how busy it will be, we soon got our answer as we spotted quite a lot of people on both the lower & upper bridges all snapping photos of the falls.

The view down on Aira Force from the upper bridge.

We arrived back at Aira Force to see the falls one more time before we headed back to the cars & even though we had been here only hours earlier the sound & the sight of Aira Force was still enough to take the breath away, we were soon joined by a large group of people all wanting their own look down on the falls which I guess was our queue to exit.

Aira Beck.

We start to retrace our steps from this morning still in awe at the power of the water just yards to our flanks, ahead & on the other side of Aira Beck groups of walkers undeterred by the weather spend the afternoon much the same as David & myself have, by not letting a rainy day spoil what Lakeland has to offer.

As we leave the tree lined path behind the rains gets much heavier which causes in my case, the hood to go up, all that is left is a short haul back to the cars as I take in the remaining views of Ullswater as a grey murk descends about the place, we both expected to see a busy car park when we returned but was surprised to see that only one other car had parked there.

Two walkers walk past looking drenched to the core as I switch my engine on ready to warm up the car & with all our wet gear packed into the boots of our cars we bid farewell until next time.


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