Fairfield & Seat Sandal from Grasmere

2nd October 2022

Aside from the darker evenings has anyone else noticed the subtle changed that Autumn is here. Already the trees are starting to turn a golden red and the light just before dusk is magical. Autumn is my favourite time of year both locally and when out on the fells but if you're not careful those subtle changes can pass you by.

In the UK, and especially Cumbria Autumn takes on two different meanings, one for the valleys and another for fells. As I experienced today the valleys are still clinging onto the edge of Summer but it's the high fells where you experience a rapid change. Gone are the single layers, shorts and extra hydration just in case your caught short. Autumn on the fells can quickly feel like Winter. It's in this transitional period when walkers can get caught out.

Autumn has always been my favourite time of year whether on local dog walks or high on the fells, the seasonal changes beyond pallets of gold and red, it's not only the leaves that change colour so does the moorland wild grasses and if you add the light you get at this time of year, well you're in for a treat, but its worth remembering even though it's mild in the valleys the chances are it's going to feel sub-zero on the fells.

Wainwright Guide Book One
The Eastern Fells

Great Rigg Few people will climb Great Rigg without also ascending Fairfield, for the former is a stepping stone its bigger neighbour. Whilst providing this humble service, however the fell manages to retain a certain dignity.


Ascent: 3,176 Feet - 968 Metres
Wainwrights: 4, Stone Arthur - Great Rigg - Fairfield - Seat Sandal
Weather: Showers Clearing With Prolonged Spells of Sunshine. Highs of 15°C Lows of 9°C Freezing Level Above The Summits
Parking: Parking Spaces, A591 Grasmere
Area: Eastern
Miles: 6.2
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL5
Time Taken: 4 Hours 10 Minutes
Route: A591 - Greenhead Gill - Stone Arthur - Great Rigg - Fairfield - Grisedale Hause - Seat Sandal - Seat Sandal South Ridge - Tongue Gill - Mill Bridge - A591

Parking Details and Map
Nearest Post Code: LA22 9RF
Grid Reference: NY 337 408
Notes: Possibly the most convenient, and popular layby in Lakeland! The layby is found just outside Grasmere in between the village and the Swan Hotel. Despite this being a rather long layby parking here is very popular mainly because of the position and access to Helm Crag, Far Easdale and the Fairfield fells. Parking is free.


Map and Photo Gallery


Looking back on Helm Crag and Blea Rigg from Michaels Nook, Grasmere 08:15am 9°C

Apart from a lovely sunrise it was an uneventful drive north and despite todays forecast being one of sunshine over towards the south west thick cloud hung low looking like it was about to unleash a downpour. Before I left the car I double checked the forecast to see if it had changed which was still showing sunshine from 9am through to 1pm.

There was only three other cars parked up mine being the fourth so I span the car around so it was facing towards Grasmere ready for when I return later. It's a tad on the cool side and I wouldn't have blamed anyone for slipping on a pair of gloves but a hat might have been a tad overkill. With the sun still climbing into what can only be described as a typical Autumn sky I opted to ditch my DSLR in favour of my mobile phone which copes better in low light and is easier to keep dry. Two fell runners and their dogs run along the pavement on the opposite side of the road as I lock my car, cross an almost deserted A591 and join them on the pavement. I quickly lose site of the runners who by now jogging past the high end cottages before turning left at the sign posted Greenhead Gill.

The view towards Silver How, Grasmere and Wetherlam
I climbed the tarmac path alongside Greenhead Gill which was white in spate nevertheless, provided a nice sound track to the start of the walk. At the top of the tarmac path I turned left at the wooden footbridge over Greenhead Gill and began the steep ascent on the bracken flanked slopes of Stone Arthur.

The familiar lone tree found at the side of the path.
The bracken was still clinging onto life here and I was surprised just how much hung over the path to the point my trousers would come out t'other end soaked through. The path levelled for a while which was a nice but short respite before the path steepened again.

Looking back on ground covered.
Towards Helm Crag, Gibson Knott, Tarn Crag (Easedale) Ullscarf, High Raise (Langdale) The Langdale Pikes, Bow Fell and Crinkle Crags. With sunshine one minute and rainbows the next I'm happy I'm stood over here rather than over there.

Stone Arthur summit appears.
Between taking the last photo and this one the heavens opened for a few minutes which was just enough time to give me a soaking then before I knew it the blue skies returned followed by a cool wind. Yep Autumn is definitely here.

After the rain...
...came this lovely light. Great Rigg summit is still in shade in the distance which is where I'm heading next.

It might be the bright forecast that lures you onto the fell.
Buts it's the cloud and changing light that makes the day.

Great Rigg is just up ahead.
I'm always surprised at how Great Rigg from here looks like a quick hop skip and a jump when in fact the final 200ft is a lot rockier than it looks.

Splendid views back along the ridge.
Towards Erne Crag and Heron Pike with four of Lakelands lakes also coming into view starting with Windermere over on the left, Esthwaite Water seen centre, Grasmere right foreground and Coniston Water right distance.

Fairfield from Great Rigg.
With clearing skies I passed Great Rigg summit tapping it with my walking pole while contemplating to I go completely overkill and add a hat. You can't see him but there's a solo fell runner ahead in the distance while behind me two woman and their dogs chat Ed Sheran - I really am going to have to widen the gap!

Views into Rydal Beck.
Which captures a streak of sunlight down below.

Fairfield summit.
I managed to break away from the two women and enjoyed the final stomp over the summit shoulder where I was met by a swirling cloud and windchill that bit at my exposed hands. The summit was almost deserted with the exception of the two walkers ahead who descended towards Cofa Pike and a solo fell runner who had just come up the same way. After a quick 'morning' she was on her way as I made my way across towards the eastern side of the summit.

Where I look down over Cawk Cove...
...towards Black Buttress, Hutaple Crag and The Step.

Over the Grisedale Valley the cloud began to lift.
From the eastern flank of the summit I turned north while taking in the views as the cloud scurried over the summits of Dollywagon Pike, Nethermost Pike and Helvellyn.

It didn't take long for the summits to completely clear.
By which time exposed skin was starting to feel the pinch so I wandered across the summit in a westerly direction taking care not to slip on the summit rock where very thin layers of ice had coated the stone making it slippy underfoot.

Despite a mix of cloud and sunshine...
...Grisedale Tarn remained a vivid blue.

Seat Sandale seen over Hause Gap (course of stone wall) and Grisedale Hause (width/base of fell)

While descending Fairfield I was passed by a solo woman who took in the steep zigzags with ease, further down I pass a solo guy and we stop to chat and discuss each others routes, turns out the chap had ascended from Dunmail Raise via Raise Beck where he said the stone underfoot was very slippery 'same up top' as I pointed over my shoulder. After summiting Fairfield the chap would go onto St Sunday Crag and return to Dunmail Raise via Grisedale Tarn and Raise Beck 'nice route I thought'

Footnote: I'm sure it's not just me who likes to hear complete strangers routes, it's great to share and even better to walk them at a later date.

The view over Hause Gap towards Fairfield, Cofa Pike and St Sunday Crag.
With Grisedale Tarn and Tarn Crag seen over on the left.

A similar view which now includes Dollywagon Pike summit.
The ascent of Seat Sandal from Grisedale Hause will always be steep and as time progresses, eroded. I'd watched a solo walker in ascent who passed two guys making their descent who I would soon pass myself. The guys were semi equipped who as nice as they were 'moaned' about how steep and dangerous the descent was which kinda makes you wonder if they'd done their homework they might have been a bit more prepared for what they would encounter.


With the steep ascent behind me I continue to follow the wall towards the summit.

Seat Sandal summit.

It's not every time I venture out onto the fells do I encounter folk who require a little assistance to which I'm more than happy to help with but the guy who I'd watch making his ascent a few minutes earlier just didn't want to listen to reason.

The guy was sat down finishing off a hot drink from a flask and we kinda hit it off straight away him asking me of my route which I returned. The chap had left Patterdale to do 'the round' to which I replied "cool, you heading back via Fairfield or Dollywagon" thinking he was walking the Grisedale Horseshoe I was a little confused when he replied "no down there" pointing towards Tongue Gill. Still confused I replied "so your heading back up via Tongue Gill or Stone Arthur?" "I don't know the names followed by these words "loads of lines looked easy from home"

I keep my frustration in, the chap starts to hit me with all sorts of questions including had I climbed Seat Sandal before but interrupts me before I had time to answer. I am somewhat perplexed, the chap clearly needs some guidance but is refusing to accept it. I try one last time "just go over your round one last time" I've told you easy, down there. Well I can't say I didn't try. I watched the guy start his descent of Seat Sandal heading towards Grasmere hoping that he soon realises his mistake.

What really worries me is this; if this chap was to turn his ankle and require the help of MRT to attend where would he tell the handler where his location was?

Views over Cotra Breast towards Helm Crag, Gibson Knott, Sergeant Man and the Langdale Pikes.

Seat Sandal, Fairfield, Great Tongue and Little Tongue Gill.
What a lovely afternoon it's turned out to be.

The view back towards Seat Sandal with Hause Gap and Fairfield seen right.

Now that the sun had come out I found a boulder, de-shouldered and unpacked my lunch while looking down on the chap who was still in descent. The chap disappeared down the ridge line as I tucked into a lovely chicken salad on soft white and washed it down with long gulps of Summer Fruit. I was soon back on my feet when the chap re-appeared at the bottom of the ridge as he passed through the first of two intake walls, took half a dozen strides into the field before spinning around and started to re-trace his steps. Flipping eck mate if you'd only listened.

There was no awkward pass because I wasn't going to be the one to tell him "I told you so" the guy knew and hopefully a lesson was learned. The Autumn sunshine continued to beat down and not wanting to miss it I delayered to just my base layer. I passed through the first, then second intake wall which I followed towards the gated footpath which ran alongside a spatted Tonguegill Force. In the sunshine green leaves edged in gold clung onto the branches as traffic travelling along the A591 became louder as the sound of cascading water faded into the distance. It's a sudden exit back into reality as boot graces tarmac leaving the half mile walk back to the layby where I go over the highlights of the morning.

Starting the walk with a rainbow over your head, feeling the first real windchill of the season and ending the walk in Autumn sunshine was just a few of those highlights.


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