Walking the Birketts, Over Clough Head to Great Dodd

19th June 2021

It was February 2018 since I last walked Clough Head and believe it or not it was January 2020 since I last did a Birkett walk which I'm still struggling to digest, that's over a year and a half ago. Of course a lot has happened since then and although I'm still working my way through an ever increasing 'to do' walk list I still aim to complete the Birketts as soon as my walking schedule returns to normal which after today, kind'a felt that way.

I'm hoping we're not coming to the end of the dry spell after todays greyer than grey day on the hill when even across the tops it felt pretty cool against the skin I guess it's easy to take the nice weather for granted after such a long spell but after a forecast such as we had it's important to remember why we love the Lakeland fells, it takes a day like today to bring one back down to earth.

Todays route is pretty straight forward collecting Threlkeld Knotts before the steep ascent on Clough Head via Red Screes. Continuing south Calfhow Pike is next followed by Little Dodd and Great Dodd from where we descended north easterly onto Randerside then over to the top of Wolf Crags before finally descending onto the Coach Road where we where treated to views of the mighty Blencathra all the way back to the starting point. It's been way too long and it felt great to be walking in Birketts footsteps again.

The Complete Lakeland Fells
By Bill Birkett


This high mountain outing scales Clough Head via Red Screes and then continues to Great Dodd. The highest of the Dodds.


Ascent: 2,959 Feet - 902 Metres
Birketts: 6, Threlkeld Knotts - Clough Head - Calfhow Pike - Little Dodd - Great Dodd - Randerside
Weather: Cloudy, Brightening Up Around Midday. Feeling Fresh Over The Summits. Highs of 19°C Lows of 12°C
Parking: Roadside Parking, Wanthwaite
Area - Group: Eastern C/DODD
Miles: 8
Walking With: David Hall & Rod Hepplewhite
Ordnance Survey: OL5
Time Taken: 5 Hours 15 Minutes
Route: Wanthwaite - Old Coach Road - Wanthwaite Bank - Threlkeld Knotts - Clough Head - Calfhow Pike - Little Dodd - Great Dodd - Randerside - Matterdale Common - Wolf Crags - Old Coach Road

Parking Details and Map
Nearest Post Code: CA12 4UB
Grid Reference: NY 315 923
Notes: Wanthwaite, found between Threlkeld and Thirlmere is perfectly positioned to access Clough Head, the Dodds and High Rigg, however, the roadside parking is limited with space at both sites for up to three well parked cars each. More spaces for up to four cars can be found close to Wanthwaite Bridge. My advice is to arrive early to guarantee a parking place. Parking is free.


Map and Photo Gallery


Clough Head behind the Vintage Cumberland road sign, Wanthwaite 08:00am 12°C

Looking back on High Rigg above Hilltop Farm.
It wasn't the best forecast but we decided to go ahead with the walk anyway arranging to meet at the roadside parking at Wanthwaite. David and Rod arrived first then me shortly afterwards. It's a cool, cloudy grey start but we are fortunate as the cloud begins to peel away from Clough Head summit, those not so fortunate is anyone preparing to walk Blencathra or Skiddaw whose summits lurk somewhere beneath thick cloud. We left Wanthwaite catching up on Rod's week in Keswick and our wild camp exploits from last weekend and before we knew it we'd arrived at the sty bound for the quarries below Wanthwaite Bank.

Heading towards Wanthwaite Bank.
It's a steep start as we climbed to the left of the quarry and arrived at a second sty where beyond a field full of cows stood munching away. They were a friendly bunch and let us pass without incident. Up ahead is the gate which opens out onto Wanthwaite Bank, Threlkeld Knotts and Clough Head.

Looking across to Fisher's Wife's Rake.
The light isn't the best but you can see the steep grassy rake in the centre of the photo which I personally feel is one of the steepest ascents you can ascend without the use of rope. To the right and in the distance is Raven Crag where David spent yesterday afternoon.

Cloud topped Blencathra from Threlkeld Knotts summit.
We steered left after ascending Wanthwaite Bank and summited Threlkeld Knotts while taking in the view towards Blencathra whose summit was still topped in cloud, you gotta feel sorry for anyone up there today because not only is the summit cloud topped the light is very low and moody.

I take that back.
After taking in the view towards Blencathra I walked over to the west side of the summit and caught the sun breaking through over St-Johns-in-the-Vale which left a pleasant surprise for anyone on High Rigg this morning.

After summiting Threlkeld Knotts...
,,,we headed over to Red Screes to begin our ascent on Clough Head, it's a path I'm really fond of and is nowhere near as dramatic as it looks.

Come on guys I said action shot!
Not a smiley shot...geez!

Views across to Dodd, Skiddaw and Lonscale Fell.
With a splash of sun over Latrigg. That's Tewit Tarn seen in the Foreground with the peak of Lonscale Fell east ridge over on the right.

Clough Head summit.
The path rose steeply as we passed over Red Screes leaving a steady grassy trudge towards Clough Head summit cairn. By now the temperature had dipped and the wind had picked up causing David to add his soft shell jacket.

The last time Rod and I was here it was about -6° with fresh snow on the ground and a deep blue sky above our heads, I still count that day as one of the best Winter walks I've ever had and I'm sure Rod feels the same.

It's Calfhow Pike next.
Followed by Little Dodd (seen half way up Great Dodd east ridge) and Great Dodd far left with Thirlmere appearing far right.

Calfhow Pike bound (right)
Little Dodd is seen more clearly in this photo appearing over on the left.

Moody Blencathra and Clough Head.
Taken from Calfhow Pike summit.

Looking back on Calfhow Pike and Clough Head.
Blimey Skiddaw and Blencathra look almost apocalyptic in the distance.

Great Dodd from Little Dodd.
Despite summiting Great Dodd many times and given its proximity today is the first time I've ever visited Little Dodd which was very popular with the sheep until we arrived.

Watson's Dodd, Stybarrow Dodd, Raise, White Side, Lower Man, Hevellyn and Catstye Cam from Great Dodd summit.
With the exception of three mountain bikers behind us there isn't many folk about this morning, a grand view the non the less.

David and Rod admiring the sturdy summit cairn on Great Dodd.

Descending towards Randerside with views of Great Mell Fell and Little Mell Fell in the distance.
We took a pathless descent before linking back up with the main path between Great Dodd and Randerside a little further down which from afar we saw two young girls in ascent but we were too far away for a 'morning'

Little Mell Fell, Gowbarrow, Great Meldrum, Hart Side and Watermillock Common (Common Fell) seen over the Deepdale valley.
With distant views of Ullswater, Arthur's Pike, Bonscale Pike and Wether Hill.

Great Dodd from Randerside summit.
What a lovely descent that was, the two girls seen earlier are now returning to Randerside who can be seen over on the right.

Hart Side, Stybarrow Dodd, Raise, Helvellyn and Catstye Cam from Randerside.
It's Catstye Cam which inspires my attention this time.

Rod spotted one Stag and two Doe Deer and managed to get this excellent shot from approximately 450 yards away. Photo courtesy of Rod Hepplewhite
We broke for lunch at a sheltered patch of rock about a 450 yards from Randerside summit where Rod spotted three Deer one of which was a male stag the other two appeared to be two Doe's. With the wind confined to the tops our shelter provided the perfect lunch stop where we could look down over the top of Wolf Crags towards the Old Coach Road.

Looking back on Wolf Crags after crossing Mariel Bridge from the Old Coach Road.
With lunch over we reluctantly left and started a pathless descent over hummocky ground steering just to the left of Wolf Crags and arrived at Mariel Bridge where a Land Rover and Discovery had parked up. It was now midday and the temperature was approaching the late teens so off came the soft shell jackets in favour of T-shirts and top up sun tans.

Old railway waggon, Old Coach Road.
This one is found right next to the path and there are two more on the east flanks of Clough Head (below Mosedale) and another off the beaten track on Threlkeld Common.

Finally the cloud has cleared from Blencathra.
And even the sun has decided to come out.

High Rigg from the Keswick side of the Old Coach Road.
In contrast to what we had set off in it was now starting to feel like a real Summers day as we walked the last couple of miles taking in the grand views of Blencathra and Skiddaw, Our cars came into view from the Old Coach Road and all what was left was to pass Hilltop Farm and walk the last few yards along the B5322 while trying to avoid the traffic. Clough Head and Bam Crag below looked spectacular from Wanthwaite as we unlaced our boots while confirming our next walk in a few weeks time which has all the markings for another grand day walking the Lakeland fells.


Back to top