My first long walk, from the Tees valley to the Kirkstone Pass road in spring 1972, ended with a traverse of the Far Eastern fells, from Haweswater to Hartsop.

I remember coming over Harter Fell (2552ft) before the highest of the group, High Street (2717ft), and finally Thornthwaite Crag (2572ft), with its great cairn. Finally I dropped into Threshwaite Mouth, which seemed to me impossibly steep – I inched down on my bottom – before following Pasture Brook to the finish.

Here I hitched a lift to Glenridding with two old guys (as I then thought them), and wondered if one of them was – whisper it – Wainwright himself.

Ill Bell ridge

The Ill Bell ridge of the Kentmere Horseshoe

Forty years is a long wait to return to these hills; in fact, it was 44. In August 2016 I had a few days based in the camp site below Place Fell, and as well as the two routes in the Eastern Fells above, used it as an opportunity for the first two routes below.

That was it till March 2023, when I came back for a walk round the easternmost four Hewitts of the group, of which Branstree is the highest; then in May 2023 I completed the group with an extended Kentmere horseshoe.

Wednesday 24 August 2016. Caudale Moor, four miles.

A simple little jaunt. I parked at the top of Kirkstone Pass to give myself a 1500ft starter for the climb to the top of Caudale Moor (2502ft). There’s a little bit of crag near the start (Raven’s Edge) but otherwise it’s just a case of follow the wall. The top of the moor is flat, so the main challenge is finding the summit cairn, set back a little, which on a beautiful evening was all part of the fun. Same way back, which gives a chance to have a better look at the view behind me on the way up.

The ascent to Caudle Moor

The ascent to Caudle Moor

Saturday 27 August 2016. High Raise circuit, 11 miles.

It would be wrong to stay at the Side Farm camp site and not climb the fell immediately above, Place Fell. Originally I thought of doing it as a one-off, much as I had Caudale Moor, but one of the prime reasons for being where I was was in order to walk the fells north of High Street, and the idea of a horseshoe walk took shape. Even better, it finished with a boat ride back!

To be a proper circuit, I didn’t want to take Place Fell (2156ft) by the Boardale Hause route, for that would have meant retracing my steps. Though the fell’s western edge is guarded by crags, there is a weakness, taken by an old path that heads north-east towards the fell’s northern ridge. There’s a cracking view of the Helvellyn range across Ullswater, if you need to pause for breath.

But eventually the gradient eases and it’s easy to turn south towards the summit of Place Fell.

The Helvellyn range across Ullswater

The Helvellyn range across Ullswater

Approaching the summit of Place Fell

Approaching the summit of Place Fell

From here it’s a simple matter to descend by to the hause and continue on a good path which eventually twists round the beautiful Angle Tarn before heading to High Street.

I had other hills in mind however, and after rounding Satura Crag guessed that a thin path heading east would lead me onto the shoulder of Rest Dodd (2278ft), which it did.

Angle Tarn

Angle Tarn

Great Gable from Rest Dodd

Great Gable from Rest Dodd, across Deepdale Hause

From then it was a simple matter of keeping roughly south-east, nearly rejoining the High Street path, before the easy rise to Rampsgill Head (2581ft). Glancing ahead, the cairn on Kidsty Pike, just a few hundred yards away, was positively thronged. Maybe I should have made the effort but didn’t, continuing on the easy mile to High Raise (2634ft).

High Raise is the dominating fell of this little group, by virtue of its rocky top just about distinctive enough to be thought of as more than a satellite of High Street.

Approaching High Raise

Approaching High Raise

High Raise summit

High Raise summit

There is a subsidiary top, Wether Hill (2211ft), like Kidsty Pike a Wainwright but not a Hewitt, but unlike the Pike my route ran directly across it, following the old Roman road that traversed this hills. Over to my left, the Northern Fells looked inviting in the sun.

The Northern fells from Wether Hill

Just to show that the Romans could do crooked, the Roman road contoured round Loadpot Hill (2201ft), but I did not, for it was the last of the day’s five Hewitts. It’s an interesting place, with the relic of a shooting lodge just before the top, even if one of the flattest summits in Lakeland.

All that remained now was to descend to Ullswater. The top may be flat but its flank heading down to Howtown was not. I knew there was a path that headed down through the bracken, but how to find it? I had my 60-year old Wainwright guide with me, and really should have opened it, for it would have shown that the simple way was to join up with the former Roman road just below the summit and continue past some tarns above Brock Crag, the sketchy path soon becoming clear as it steepened.

Instead I continued north until I knew I was just above a beck that dropped to Howtown, then turned west. That’s not bad practice in itself; I didn’t want to get caught on the wrong (south) side of the beck. It wasn’t long before I could see the good path below me, and I was soon at valley level in the Howtown Hotel with enough time to sit on the grass in the sunshine and enjoy a pint. I would have enjoyed it even more if the pub were not almost the only one in Lakeland not to serve real ale. Still, the steamer jetty was not far away, and a boat trip is a very nice way to end a day.

Descending to Ullswater

Descending to Ullswater

At Howtown Pier

Monday 27 March 2023. The far far eastern Hewitts, 9½ miles.

This group of four fells just west of the old A6 road barely qualified as Lakeland, in Wainwright’s view. And you can see his point; from the direction I took them at least, there’s barely a crag nor a lake to be seen.

But I had a good day for them, and it proved to be a decent afternoon taking advantage of the first week of summer time.

I came up on a morning train and took a taxi to the top of the Shap road. (The first cabbie I asked at Oxenholme station reckoned he didn’t know where it was; so much for the local version of The Knowledge.)

From here it’s a simple plod, following fences, roughly west over the intervening heights of Great Yarlside and Harrop Pike to the first of the four fells, Gray Crag (2293ft). I was met by Tina and Anna plus dog, and we roughly shared the mile to its neighbour Tarn Crag (2178ft). They had come up from Longsleddale, and soon returned the same way, but I was sticking to the high ground a bit longer.

Cross Fell from Gray Crag

Tina, Anna and Longsleddale

Branstree (2339ft) is a simple down-and-up plod, albeit with the day’s best views of the High Street range; it’s an entirely featureless top, unless you count a stone circle on a rectangular base that once house a (temporary?) trig point; surprisingly Wainwright, writing in 1957, made no reference to it. Things improve though on the descent, with bits of rock (Artle Crag) and a fine cairn.

The day’s final hill, Selside Pike (2149ft), is not too far now. To get there you have to pass through the tricky-sounding Captain Whelter Bog, but it was no worse than other bits of marshy ground earlier on.

Harter Fell and High Raise from the descent of Tarn Crag

Selside Pike from the cairn on Artle Crag

Mosedale Cottage bothy, the following day

Navigation had been no problem so far, with clear paths and fences in excellent visibility. To get down to my night stop, the Mosedale Cottage bothy, needed a bit more thought. After a short descent, I contoured round beneath some crags before veering right on steeper ground. There were wall gaps in just the right places, so someone must have done this before.

I walked out the next morning, in totally different conditions – mist and rain. It’s five miles of featureless moorland, NE then NNE, with not just the one track shown by OS but many, so keep your wits about you. I quite like this sort of thing, and there was a mega bonus in the end in the unexpected shape of one of Britain’s best chippies waiting for me in Shap.

Wednesday 3 – Thursday 4 May 2023. An extended Kentmere Horseshoe, 4½ miles / 12 miles.

The Kentmere horseshoe, a group of four Hewitts surrounding the valley of the same name, is one of the most popular fellwalks in the area.

I just had one problem – could I fit in the High Street outlier of Rough Crag, a Hewitt that is awkwardly placed on a spur of its parent?

The solution was a wild camp at one of the best Lakeland tarns, Small Water. With just a week before I set off for the Great Glen Way, it was perfectly timed.

This had the merit of giving me time to get up to the Lake District, in a similar way to the Far Far Eastern Fells described above. Indeed, the same cabbie took me to Kentmere church, an ideal jumping off point.

From here there’s a brief mile or so in the valley to Hallow Bank, the jumping off point for the steady ascent of Kentmere Pike (2400ft). It’s unusual for a popular Lakeland ascent in not being a right-of-way, but has clearly been in use as long as fellwalking has been a popular pastime in these parts.

From here it was a simple matter to drop down the NW ridge of Harter Fell, and then the Nan Bield pass, to reach Small Water, and an excellent pitch in this classic corrie.

Kentmere Pike, from the lane from the church

My pitch at Small Water

The ‘awkward bit’ of this excursion followed in the morning. How to get to Blea Water, and hence Rough Crag, without dropping down to Mardale Beck? I had a rough plan, but was prepared to follow the ground, and just past the stone shelters that are a feature of Small Water spotted a thin path heading in roughly the right direction.

Absolutely the right choice it was. I knew there was a route from Blea Water to Mardale Ill Bell over Piot Crag, and it seems this was an adjunct to it. Just by taking a bit of care at a couple of path junctions, I was soon at Blea Water without touching virgin ground. Rough Crag (2060ft) loomed ahead, the high point of the excellent east ridge of High Street, but a simple enough climb from here.

And next of course was the ridge itself, my first time on it, and an excellent way onto the plateau-summit of High Street – a revisit for me, of course.

The summit of Rough Crag, looking to High Street

The summit plateau of High Street

Turning south, the three western peaks of the horseshoe were clearly in view, closely grouped. First came Froswick (2360ft), then the major peak of Ill Bell (2484ft), and then the least exciting, Yoke (2316ft). There are a few bits of steepness on the first two, but the main issue today was the wind, especially on the two cols either side of Ill Bell. Very much ‘stand your ground’ time.


Cairns on Ill Bell

Typically, the horseshoe is completed a mile south of Yoke, turning east to Kentmere by the Garburn Pass. That was no use to me, as I wanted trains, and it’s quite practical to walk to Windermere station by the Garburn Road and the Longmire Road (in reality, they are tracks not roads). I deliberately added in a little diversion to Orrest Head, where Wainwright had first fallen in love with the Lake District, and determined to make it his life’s work: it’s a great panorama, from the Old Man to Ill Bell.

The valley of Trout Beck

The view from Orrest Head, with the Wainwright toposcope