Friday, 31 January 2014

Binsey & Dodd

GPS Track

Date: 31/01/2014
From: Binsey Lodge

Parking: Layby at side of road
Start Point: Layby at side of road
Region: Northern Fells

Route length: 1.6 miles (2.5km)
Time taken: 00:41
Average speed: 2.8mph
Ascent: 182m
Descent: 192m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Binsey (447m)

Additional summits: None

Other points of interest: None

Route: Binsey Lodge, Binsey, Binsey Lodge

This may go down as my shortest trip report thus far, so much so that this is actually two separate walks bundled together into this one write up. The reason being that the two fells in question, Binsey and Dodd, both sit generally, and probably quite happily, isolated from any surrounding routes (though you could incorporate Dodd into a route up Carl Side). In addition to that, they're both quite small and unassuming, a perfect combination for a walk where the weather would be and its wintry worst. The forecast for the entire weekend was dire, the wind alone was expected to be gusting at 100mph so I snuck up on Friday to make the best of it as the following day would almost certainly be a write off.

First stop was Binsey (locally pronounced "Binsa"), an interesting little hill located at the very north western extremity of the National Park. It stands alone, detached from any of the recognised groups of fells, except for an almost indeterminate ridge that eventually finds its way to Great Cockup in the main collection of the Northern Fells. Why then was it included in Wainwright's iconic book series? For the very reason that "it is much too good to be omitted from these pages. For one thing it is a most excellent station for appraising the Northern Fells as a preliminary for their exploration. For another, it is a viewpoint of outstanding merit. For another, it possesses a grand little summit".

Arriving just before lunchtime (and just after it had started to snow) I had chosen the quick way up to the summit, a wide, noticeable track that leads from a layby beside to road directly to the summit. There are other, longer routes that start from various places that cross the summit (including ones that pass the site of the Caermote Roman Fort) but I was aiming for a quick there and back in order to head to Dodd in the afternoon.

With the car parked and some warm clothing on to protect from the howling wind, I grabbed the bag (that I definitely did not need on this occasion) and climbed the stile that leads on to the south eastern slopes of Binsey. It is from here that I may struggle to add any further details or expansion to the fact that there is one path from here that leads (almost in a straight line) to the summit. Head down against the wind (and passing another hard soul on his way down), I plodded along to steady incline to the summit.
The trusty stead in the layby at the start of the walk
A well trodden path snakes all the way to the summit
The path begins to capture much of the snow on the way towards the summit
Despite the small stature of the hill, the summit is very well appointed and includes all the features you might expect from a much larger, more famous fell. Reaching the top you can find; an OS trig pillar, a number of large wind shelters, a cairn-topped subsidiary summit and (if you look hard enough) the remains of an ancient burial tumulus. I'm well informed by both the writings of Wainwright and the many pictures available on the internet that the views from Binsey are exceptionally good, given its diminutive size. Standing to the north west of the National Park, the scene from the summit includes a fine panorama of the rest of the Northern Fells surrounding Skiddaw, a distant view of the North Western Fells around Codale, the full length of Bassenthwaite and an uninterrupted view along the coastal plain towards the Solway Firth. On a clear day Slieve Donard is visible 115 miles away. My day however, was not a clear day so the above information is merely what I've been able to gather from other posts across the web. The summit features were visible, but not much else. Still, with the climb being both short and relatively easy, if I'm ever around this part of the National Park on a clear day with an hour or two to spare, I'll surely be back.
The summit cairn
Binsey's OS pillar
Alone at the top
One of a number of wind shelters on the summit
Some of the small pools had, unsurprisingly, iced over
The cairn on the subsidiary summit
With the snow being propelled to the surface as opposed to just falling, it was time to turn tail and retrace my fading footsteps back down to the car. The ascent had been straight forward, the winds blowing from the south and west, urging me from behind to the summit. Now though, they were full in the face, bringing the wintry weather with them. With the visor of my hood firmly grasped, I tramped down to the foot of the slope with Binsey firmly added to the list of accomplished peaks. Now, it was off to Dodd.
The same trees I had passed on the way up were now taking a battering
GPS Track

Date: 31/01/2014
From: Mirehouse

Parking: Car park at roadside
Start Point: Dodd Wood
Region: Northern Fells

Route length: 3.7 miles (2.5 km)
Time taken: 01:33
Average speed: 2.4mph
Ascent: 479m
Descent: 483m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Dodd (447m)

Additional summits: None

Other points of interest: Dodd Wood

Route: Mirehouse, Skill Beck, Long Doors, Dodd, Long Doors, Mirehouse

Dodd sits in the shadow of the group of fells that make up the Skiddaw massif, loosely connected to Long Side and Carl Side though only by way of descending down 150m before a steep 400m climb back up Carl Side. Dodd is unconnected by the way of any ridges. This, for me, isolated it from a recent walk we did up Skiddaw and thus, I used this opportunity to tick it off the list. I've got one eye on saving Blencathra for last, to ensure that I finish the Wainwrights on one with known stature and this means that the small, isolated fells need rounding up before hand.

Being a Friday, I managed to park the car at the foot of the track that begins the climb into Dodd Wood. Strictly speaking, the layby is designated for coaches only but I suspected that there would be little chance of hoards of people turning up given that its was a) Friday and b) bucketing it down. Unluckily for the car clampers, I was correct and the car was exactly where I left it upon my return.
The car nestled away in the coach only space. No coaches today mind
The Forestry Commission track leading into Dodd Wood
Back to Dodd though. Dodd sits on land owned by the Forestry Commission and, as a result, is heavily wooded (Dodd Wood). Until the last decade, tress extended all the way to the summit though a campaign of restoring heather moorland on the fell has seen the summit cleared of trees to the benefit of the hill climber. Dodd Wood is home to the only pair of nesting Ospreys in northern England. An open-air viewing platform was opened on the slopes of Dodd in June 2001 which gives a clear view of the nest from a safe distance. Dodd Wood is also one of the remaining, though declining, strongholds of the Red Squirrel in Great Britain.

Away from wildlife, the climb along the Forestry Comission track is very pleasant, the trees providing a contrasting scenery to much that can be found in the Lake District. They were also providing a welcome shelter to the worsening weather. After reaching little over 300m, the rain had turned to snow and was falling at a fair rate, albeit generally sideways.
Approaching the snow line
Some small waterfalls tumble off the side of Long Side
Definitely snow now
I'll admit to a navigational error now, which is made all the more embarrassing considering I was following a wide forest road. As the road reached a crest and flattened, another joined from the right from the opposite side of a small valley. I intended to follow that road back down and pick up a path that ran to the summit. Unfortunately, what I should have done was continue on my original route where I would have found an easy, signposted route to the summit. Instead, I ended up with an energy sapping slog up through the snow on the north western ridge having not found the intended path.
A view down the ridge that leads up to the summit
No path to follow here....
Despite not being my intended route, the climb was actually quite exciting, a series of steep sections separating a number of flatter terraces. What I hadn't appreciated was just how much of a climb was required to get to the summit, over 150m. Eventually though, I did reach the summit and was finally exposed to the full force of the wind and snow. Not wishing to hang around, I had a quick peek at the summit feature, a stone memorial pillar with a brass plaque that reads "In memory of John Lole and Ian Sandelands, Ist Seaton Scout Group" before picking up the main path back down off the summit. Had it been a clear day, the views again (like Binsey) would have been impressive. On a parting note, it is known that Dodd was home to a Scottish hermit called George Smith during the 1860s. He who became known as the Skiddaw Hermit. Living on a ledge on the fell in a wigwam type tent, he remained there in all weathers because he liked the outdoor life. Maybe he should be referred to as the father of wild camping?
A view up the ridge
Looking down the ridge from near the summit
The final push to the very top
The summit marker
Dodd summit
Following the well paved path lead me through the wind and snow back to the point that I referred to earlier, the signpost marking the way towards the summit. Had I ventured just a few metres more, I would have found it and saved myself a lot of effort. You live and learn. And learn I did. Reaching this point, I thought about following the path that leads to the south and around the southern flanks before deciding it would be best to follow the path I had taken on my ascent. By now, the footprints I had left earlier were all but covered by the fresh snow.
The snowy descent
Passing through Long Doors
The towering slopes of Carl Side
The aforementioned signpost
Following the path down, I eventually reached the snowline and was greeted by the change in state of the precipitation from snow to rain. At least the wind had died down by now and the car wasn't far off. As I mentioned earlier, I was relived to find that no one had taken offence to me using the parking spot for coaches.
Returning to the path towards the car park
Much more shelter within the wood
Out of the snow once again
A quick, Superman-esque change into some dry clothes later, I was ready for a romp around Keswick before a hairy, snow bound drive over the Pass of Dunmail towards Ambleside and eventually Coniston. Who said the smaller fells are no fun? I'd like to certainly visit Binsey again, simply because it's such an easy fell to climb and the rewards, by all accounts, befit a fell with much more stature. I'm sure I'll visit Dodd again in the future but the lack of any views for the majority of the climb make for a fairly uninteresting visit. I think combining it with Carl Side and eventually Skiddaw would make for a much more eventful walk. Not that mine wasn't!