Walking the Birketts, Gowbarrow Fell to Little Mell Fell

20th July 2019

I had to work todays walk around visiting family and some garden chores meaning I only arrived in Lakeland gone 3pm, which as a coincidence worked out well as the forecast was set to brighten up for the remainder of the day. Today I'm following Birketts Gowbarrow to Little Mell Fell walk, perfect for an afternoon outing, even better should the forecast stay true. Instead of starting this walk from Aira Force car park Birkett chose to start from Park Brow on the A5091 between Aira Force and Dockray. From Park Brow I descended easily as the sound of the waterfalls became evermore clear, concrete steps descend steeply where views open out over Aira Force before leaving the falls easterly from where I pick up the steep path bound for Green Hill.

The path is flanked by bracken and rises beyond Bernard Pike whilst views extend out over Ullswater and Glenridding. After taking a breather Green Hill summit is marked by a large cairn while up ahead the trig point perched upon a craggy outcrop marks the top of Gowbarrow Fell. Looking north easterly todays four summits come into view first collecting Great Meldrum Followed by Little Meldrum above Swinsburn's Park. Pass through the now felled woodland to easily collect todays fifth summit in Watermillock Common followed by the final steep summit of Little Mell Fell after crossing The Hause. Standing at the summit of Little Mell Fell marks the walks half way point after which there are no more summits to collect, instead return to Aira Force via the delightful path through Swinburn's Park before rounding the eastern flank of Gowbarrow Fell while taking in some of the finest views over Ullswater there is to offer.

The Complete Lakeland Fells
By Bill Birkett

Gowbarrow to Little Mell Fell

Crossing over the fine waterfall of Aira Force, a beguiling circular walk heads east along the tops and climbs above the north eastern shore of Ullswater before returning along thee southern flanks.


Ascent: 2,200 Feet - 670 Metres
Birketts: 6, Green Hill (Gowbarrow Park) - Gowbarrow Fell - Great Meldrum - Little Meldrum - Watermillock Fell - Little Mell Fell
Weather: An Overcast Start Turning Warm And Bright Late Afternoon. Highs of 20°C Lows of 18°C
Parking: Park Brow National Trust Car Park, Aira Force
Area - Group: Eastern - C/MEL
Miles: 8
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL5
Time Taken: 4 Hours 15 Minutes
Route: Park Brow - Aira Force - Bernard Pike - Green Hill (Gowbarrow Park) - Gowbarrow Fell - Great Meldrum - Little Meldrum - Watermillock Fell - The Hause - Little Mell Fell - The Hause - Road to Watermillock - Swinburn's Park - Memorial Seat - Aira Force - Park Brow

Parking Details and Map
Nearest Post Code: CA11 0JS
Grid Reference: NY 398 206


Map and Photo Gallery


Aira Force 15:15pm 20°C

I was undecided how busy I'd find the car park at Park Brow certainly after passing the Aira Force car park which was choka full, I turned left onto the A5091 and passed a layby which would have offered free parking had my arrival not been so late. Park Brow was just half busy with two families getting their kids ready for a day out one of whom came over to me possibly assuming I worked for the National Park and asked me a volley of questions while his children looked on including "besides the waterfall what was there to do" at which time I was placing my coins in the parking machine leaving me feeling almost responsible for the entertainment of his children.

I returned to my car and finished packing my gear which included a 'just in case' windproof. It's pretty mild here at valley level but I can hear the wind rustling the leaves in the woods below. With my car locked I followed the path from Park Brow and into the woods, almost instantly I start to hear Aira Force over to my left and after passing through a gate I descended steeply down the slate steps as my view opened out over the waterfall. There hasn't been any significant rain as of late but the falls never fail to disappoint as Aira Beck thundered between the steep chasm below the stone footbridge perched high above the falls. I head right then begin to climb towards the stone footbridge then head right again towards the start of todays first summit.

Looking back under brooding skies over Ullswater.
With Place Fell seen left, Arnison Crag, Birks, St Sunday Crag, Birkhouse Moor, Glenridding Dodd and Sheffield Pike all in view.

Further around we have Common Fell (Watermillock Common) and Brown Hills.
It might be dull and overcast but it's very hot and humid.

A similar view from Green Hill (Gowbarrow Park)
The ever optimist in me is keeping an eye out for the cracks in the cloud waiting for the blue skies to reveal themselves which according to the forecast should be happening about now.

The view from Green Hill towards Great Meldrum, Little Meldrum, Watermillock Fell and Little Mell Fell.
With Great Meldrum seen left foreground (light coloured fell) Little Meldrum far right, Watermillock Fell (grassy pointed peak) right and Little Mell Fell in the distance. Perfect.

Gowbarrow Fell summit trig point.
From Green Hill I had spotted a number of people at the summit of whom had left by the time I arrived meaning I had the summit to myself, not that I hung around now a fresh breeze was blowing making the hairs on my arm stand on end. Brrrhh come on sunshine!

A break in the terrain reveals a glimpse Ullswater, Sleet Fell, High Dodd, Winter Crag, Beda Fell, Red Crag, Rampsgill Head, Rest Dodd, Hartsop Dodd, Caudale Moor and Red Screes.
From Gowbarrow Fell it's just a short walk to Great Meldrum which is where I'm heading next.

Watermillock Fell and Little Mell Fell from Great Meldrum.
With Little Meldrum found to the right of the plantation over on the right.

Heading for Little Meldrum.
I left Great Meldrum and instead of heading left towards the fence line I head right and pass through this gate. It's been a few years since I was last here and since then the woodland has been partially felled leaving the place looking unrecognisable and not to mention a bit of an eyesore.

Little Mell Fell and Watermillock fell from Little Meldrum.

I counted three humps, the furthest away being the summit of Little Meldrum, why did I do this? Well the area is also flanked in bracken to the east leaving the actual summit difficult to distinguish while I fought through the bracken.

Incidently it was Birkett who wrote "A pond lies ahead" Descend to the left of this to pick up a track" "Follow this through the trees to a gate in the wall" The gate would have been found to the corner of the trees seen far left and so too would the track, now the track is being used an access to the road to enable the loggers to reach the plantation. I was so looking forward to seeing this hidden pond so you could imagine my disappointment when I saw it in its less than natural glory.

Looking back towards Great Meldrum and Gowbarrow Fell from what used to be the path.

There are signs indicating not to go beyond this point on the Little Mell Fell side of the plantation but none that I could see on the Great Meldrum side, the gate leading back onto The Hause wasn't padlocked and I can see that walkers are still using the path alongside the wall to reach Great Meldrum/Gowbarrow Fell so I'll leave it to the walkers own discretion if they want to venture through here although please be advised that today is a Saturday and I would well imagine that through the week this area would be under construction.

Little Mell Fell from Watermillock Common.
Whoop whoop the sun has eventually come out!

Little Mell Fell summit trig point.

I descended Watermillock fell and passed through the unlocked gate onto The Hause where a group of walkers sat and rested. Hi's are passed before I crossed the sty and began the short, but steep ascent on Little Mell fell passing a family who were on their way down. It was 16:45pm when I left The Hause and I reached the summit at 16:57pm, it wasn't so much that I was timing myself but more that I wanted to get stuck into the ascent before enjoying a ten minute rest all alone at the summit.

Bloody bliss that was.

The fantastic view north from Little Mell Fell summit.

And to the South.
Not only has the sun come out but the air clarity has really improved too. I tend to train my eye towards High Street then work my way out, there's too many fells to list in the picture it's best to enjoy the view just like I did.

Descending Little Mell fell with views over Watermillock Fell towards Bonscale Pike and Loadpot Hill to name a few.

Here looking towards a distant Gowbarrow Fell.
With the extent of the tree felling seen far left.

Heading towards Swinburn's Park after leaving the top of The Hause.
From The Hause I turn left and follow the road in the direction of Watermillock for just under a mile passing Cove Caravan Park to my left, after the road takes a long tight right turn I arrived at the signpost for Swinburn's Park.

Heading towards Swinburn's Park.

It was lovely walking the tree lined tarmac road as the sun shone through the branches over head and soon I arrived at the signpost stating 'Aira Force three and a quarter miles' I turned left and passed an elderly couple where Hello's were exchanged. The path rises and descends through some of Lakelands finest woodlands offering superb views over Ullswater and beyond.

Sounds like heaven to me.

While Foxgloves line much of the path at the start.

Here looking back on Watermillock Church while in the distance, Dunmallard Hill.

Almost back at Aira Force.
More tree felling was taking place on the lower ground below Swinburn's Park which didn't really affect my views as I followed the path through the steep sided woodland flanking Little Meldrum and Great Meldrum directly above. In the thick of the woodland the path is slippy underfoot with pine needles covering the entirety of the woodland floor yet soon the brightness of the afternoon breaks through as I continue towards the remains of the Old Shooting Lodge.

Ullswater from the eastern slopes of Gowbarrow Fell.
With Arthur's Pike, Hallin Fell and Bonscale Fell in the distance.

The amazing view back over Swinburn's Park.


In the distance Place Fell comes into view.
What a fantastic late Summer's day it's turned out to be.

Hallin Fell and Ullswater.
The Lady of the Lake has just left the Landing Stage at Aira Force and is making its way towards Glenridding.

Seen here about to sail past Place Fell.

The view over Ullswater towards Sandwick.
With Sleet Crag, Winter Crag, Steel Fell (Pikawassa) Loadpot Hill and Wether Hill beyond.

Place Fell and Ullswater.
I round the eastern flanks of Gowbarrow Fell and start my descent towards Aira Force all the while taking in the wonderful views over Ullswater.


A close up of Lyulph's Tower.
Lyulph’s Tower dates back to the 1780s and was built by Charles Howard, the 11th Duke of Norfolk, as a hunting lodge. The name comes from Lyulph, a Viking settler who is reputed to have given his name to Ulph’s Water which then became known as Ullswater.

Looking down on Aira Force falls from the footbridge.

It was around 19:30pm by the time I arrived back at Aira Force by which time the crowds had gone with just the odd visitor seen through the trees. The roar of Aira Force breaks the silence of the late day as the canopy of trees dulls the light. With the footbridge crossed I head left back to Park Brow regaining my steps steadily as I rise towards the car park. I am surprised to find I'm the last one in the car park as I break through the trees and into open light, the sunlight of an hour ago has faded while the cloud gathers above, there's promise of a lovely sunset but somehow I can't see it.

I go through my kit down routine and before I leave Park Brow I eat a late lunch before heading out along the shores of Ullswater then head right at Rheged Centre and south towards home, it was around the time I reached Tebay did I see that sunset through my rear view mirror with cracks of blood red light piercing through the cloud allowing a spectacular light show as far north as the Solway.


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