Walking the Birketts - A Circuit of Nether Wasdale Common

11th March 2018

I can remember the moment I decided that I wanted to walk the Birkett Fells, it was September 2017 and I put the idea forward to David who I was walking with at the time who sounded a tad surprised, mainly because after completing my last two walking projects during 2015/16 I said to David "no more big walking projects" adding in a 60 hour week and finding free time started to become a bit of a problem

Roll on six months and here I am taking on perhaps one of Lakelands largest walking projects with the Birkett Fells from start to finish, this of course had to be passed by err...the boss who kinda understands by now my love of walking the Lakeland fells. If you haven't already read my introduction to the Birkett fells on the Home Page you may have gathered by now that todays walk marks the start of one of Lakelands largest fell walking project by walking all 129 walks taken from Bill Birketts comprehensive 'The Complete Lakeland Fells'

With the project being so large I haven't set myself a complete date but between this day and the last walk I will take you through the exact routes incorporating all 541 Lakeland summits and I couldn't think of a finer place to kick start my first walk from than the valley of Wasdale.

The Complete Lakeland Fells

By Bill Birkett

A cairn marks Cat Bields though in no respect could this be considered as a top in its own right.


Ascent: 2,526 Feet - 770 Metres
Birketts: 4, Middle Fell - Seatallan - Glade How - Buckbarrow
Weather: A Cool Start, Feeling Spring Like With Sunny Spells. Highs of 15°C Lows of 8°C
Parking: Parking Spaces, Greendale, Wasdale
Area - Group: Western - W/PIL
Miles: 6.2
Walking With: David Hall
Ordnance Survey: OL6
Time Taken: 4 Hours 30 Minutes
Route: Greendale, Nether Wasdale - Greendale Gill - Middle Fell - Seatallan - Cat Bields - Glade How - Buckbarrow - Gill Beck - Greendale, Nether Wasdale

Parking Details and Map
Nearest Post Code: CA20 1EU
Grid Reference: NY 144 405
Notes: There is a room for around half a dozen cars next to Greendale Cottages, Nether Wasdale which provide perfect access for Buckbarrow and Middle Fell and beyond. The actual parking spaces are to the right of the cottages and not the spaces found in front which are for guests of the cottages only. Parking is free.


Map and Photo Gallery


Views over Wast Water towards Yewbarrow, Great Gable and Lingmell from Wast Water 08:20am °8C

Todays walk officially starts from Nether Wasdale in the hamlet of Greendale where we arranged to meet at the slightly later time of 09:00am and as usual I gave myself plenty of time before meeting David if only to soak in the valley knowing that it's been quite some months since my last visit, I'd missed the place. I didn't plan to spend too long taking photo's but whilst I did I heard the sound of rocks falling from the Screes, the distinctive sound of rocks spliting certainly got my attention but no matter how hard I tried I just couldn't see where they came to rest, not even a plume of dust, just the sound of rock falling echoing around the valley disturbing the morning silence.

The sun had been up for nearly two hours but still hung low behind the Screes in the southern sky leaving the valley largely in shade but it's mild, warm and with only a hint of breeze, in fact it's feeling pretty Spring like with the morning temperature already close to 10°C...a far cry from just one week ago where we experienced a staggering -13°C on Latrigg summit alone, damn it! we could have got away with wearing shorts today.

Buckbarrow from Greendale.
David had already parked up by the time I reached Greendale where I found him lacing up in the passenger seat of the car, the rapid change in temperatures had seen the ground thaw and turn to mud at the parking spaces which explains why David is lacing up inside his car, we greet with the usual handshake both commenting on the mild air "bloody hell, what a difference from last week" I guess we both knew that was coming. I laced up on the tarmac road while David waited for me then threw my jacket on which I somehow knew would be coming off very soon before setting off along a prominent grassy path (not seen in this photo) towards the steep lower slopes of Middle Fell.

Peering down into Greendale Gill from the acsent of Middle Fell.

It's a steep start but the views into Greendale Hill provide plenty of stopping opportunities to get your breath back, it was here we also decided to lose our outer layers leaving just the one single base layer even stretching to rolling up the sleeves such the warmth of the morning air.

A first this year.

A view of Lingmell, the Scafells and Slight Side with Wast Water below.

Splendid views over Blackbeck Knotts towards Yewabrrow, Kirk Fell, Great Gable, Lingmell and the Scafells from Middle Fell summit.

Having left Greendale Gill behind we tracked steeply before the ground levelled once we reached the shoulder of the fell. Any remaining snow had now thawed leaving the ground underfoot damp to say the least which meant the odd detour around the worse bits. Our scenery became rockier the closer we traced towards the summit as we picked our way the last few yards over boulder before arriving at the summit which by now was blessed in Spring like temperatures.

We had already agreed this was the perfect walk to take our time on and that was exactly what we did, who could blame us with views as good as this.

Here looking towards Haycock and Scoat Fell with the Nether Beck valley below.

"We just need to get over the very wet bit before we get to the very steep bit"

With the descent of Middle Fell behind us we found ourselves looking at the steep sided eastern flank of Seatallan we just needed to cross the notoriously boggy section of heathery grass before hand, a place, even through drought seems to retain the damp.

From the descent of Middle Fell a prominent path can be seen in this section before rising steeply between the scree in the centre of the photo and the single patch of snow seen towards the right, it's not so much the longest ascent but certainly one of the steepest.

That's Middle Fell seen with Greendale Tarn.

We could see around the edges of Greendale Tarn the ice was starting to melt away and we reckoned should the temperature continue to rise all of what remained of the ice would have melted away, peering further north we could see a definite 'white' over Low Tarn and Scoat Tarn indicating both Tarns remained frozen, it's amazing to think how cooler it was just 700ft further up the mountain it must have been.

Whilst we were stopped David took out his wind meter and took a temperature reading which read a staggering 13°C In 'real feel' temperature, that's a difference of 26°C where we recorded -13°C just eight days ago on Latrigg summit...Spring has definitely sprung.

Red Pike (Wasdale) seen with a glimpse of Scoat Tarn still layered in ice.
With Yewbarrow's Stirrup Crag, Kirk Fell and Great Gable over on the right.

Seatallan summit Trig Point and ancient Tumulus cairn.
Whilst making good time we decided to take a break and found two dry boulders which overlooked the Blengdale valley, there wasn't a sound it was just us, the Skylarks and the the drone of a plane passing thousands of feet above our heads, pure bliss.

Great End, Broad Crag, Scafell Pike, Mickledore, Scafell and Slight Side form Seatallan.

A break with a view, here looking towards Caw Fell and the head of the Blengdale valley known as Brown Band.

Here looking towards the head of Blengdale featuring Little Gowder Crag, Haycock, Scoat Fell and Black Crag (Pillar)
All the summits mentioned in this photo will at some point be gained as part of the Birketts meaning right now I am secretly rubbing my hands together despite my previous numerous summits, I guess that's what walking the Lakeland fells does to you.

The pleasant descent towards Cat Bields from Seatallan.
From Seatallan the rest of the walk will be mostly down hill as we descend Seatallans SW ridge towards Cat Bields, this is great walking territory matched with striking views of the Cumbrian coast.

Seatallan from Cat Bields.
Despite Bill Birkett claiming that "with all respect Cat Bields didn't deserve a separate summit" gaining its cairn from Seatallan more than makes up for this, what a fantastic ridge walk, all down hill with splendid views over Stockdale Moor, the Blengdale valley and of course, on a clear day as we have today, the Cumbrian coast.

Looking back at Seatallan from Cat Bields.
Incidently, that's Kirk Fell, Great Gable and Middle Fell over on the right.

Glade How impressive summit cairn.
A prominent path steers direct left from Cat Bields where our third summit soon comes into view, reaching it however, after thaw and rain is a tad tricky due to the general bogginess underfoot, nothing that a couple of de-tours didn't solve mind.

The summit of Buckbarrow (seen left) as we approach from Glade How with Whin Rigg and Irton Fell in the distance.
From Glade How it's a simple case of following the prominent path until you 'drop on' Buckbarrow summit, seen here over on the left.

Scafell and Scafell Pike from Buckbarrow summit.

Looking back Glade How (foreground) Cat Bields (L) and Seatallan from Buckbarrow.
It maybe bright and Spring like but boy was it wet down there.

Descending Buckbarrow towards Gill Beck with beautiful views over Nether Wasdale and Dent seen far right.
Reaching Gill Beck from the summit of Buckbarrow can be quite steep and keeping an eye out for the path from above is recommended due to the twisting craggy terrain. We soon spot the large sheepfold to our right (and keep it there) by continuing with our steep descent until the path crosses Gill Beck at a narrow point.

Nether Wasdale.
The remainder of the descent is now done with Gill Beck over on our left the sound of which now accompaniied us back to the road seen below.

Here Woodend Tarn can be seen as the road disappears behind the wooded area below at Harrow Head.
I am reminded of the last time I was here when I completed my Wainwrights in 30 Walks project at the end of the Summer 2016, there's definitely a connection with starting and ending projects here in Nether Wasdale which I hadn't noticed until we started chatting about it moments earlier!

Illgill Head and Whin Rigg from Gill Beck.
We're almost back at the road now with stunning views over the Nether Wasdale and the Wast Water Screes.

More stunning scenery towards The Scafells.
With the rooftops of Greendale in the foreground.


It was decided before we would head back along the tarmac lane we would stop for lunch, this, our fourth break in only six and a half miles but I guess that's what a walk such as a Nether Wasdale circuit brings out in you, it can't be walked nor ticked off, it has to be appreciated and I reckoned once lunch was over and we walked that last half mile back to Greendale under a warm Spring sun I completed my first official Birkett walk on what felt like one of those days when you can actually feel Spring unfolding as the miles went by.



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