Friday, 18 April 2014

Rannerdale Knotts

GPS Track
Date: 18/04/2014
From: Hassness

Parking: Large car park in Buttermere village
Start Point: Dalegarth campsite
Region: North Western Fells

Route length: 6.0 miles (9.6 km)
Time taken: 02:32
Average speed: 2.3mph
Ascent: 524m
Descent: 539m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Rannerdale Knotts (355m)

Additional summits: None

Other points of interest: Rannerdale Valley

Route: Dalegarth, Pike Rigg, Buttermere, Wood House, Rannerdale Knotts, Low Bank, Grassgarth Coppice, Buttermere, Buttermere lakeside, Buttermere, Pike Rigg, Dalegarth

The small, unassuming fell of Rannerdale Knotts, surrounded on all sides by fells of much higher significance and elevation, has a claim that makes it one of the more remarkable fells of Lakeland, let along Buttermere where it is located. On first glance, the slow rising ridge appears little more than an offshoot of the lower slopes of Whiteless Pike, however, on closer topographic inspection, the little fell commands an idyllic location, thrust out into the valley and commanding an uninterrupted view of both Buttermere and Crummock Water. The perfect vantage point, it would seem, to set an ambush.

The secret valley of Rannerdale, tucked away from prying eyes, was supposedly the location of the Lake District's one and only battle; The Battle of Rannerdale Knotts. Let us momentarily set the scene; according to legend and folklore, there was a fortified homestead on the site of what is now Wood House, the white building that holds a prominent position at the head of Crummock. This white building was the home of Earl Jarl Boethar.
Rannerdale Knotts and the white Wood House, supposed stronghold of Earl Boethar
As the Normans were advancing through the Lune Gap on their way north to create a stronghold at Carlisle, Boethar’s men continually raided the convoys of troops in retaliation for having driven the natives away from their homesteads into the central, mountainous heart of the Lake District. Boethar was a champion of the people and a thorn in Norman's side.

His stronghold had been a closely guarded secret until friends of his were captured, brutally tortured and his Buttermere hideaway was revealed. It is said that the Normans planned an attack from the rear, from the direction of Cockermouth. To make sure of their victory, the Norman's brought a heavily armoured troop that would ultimately be their downfall. Fortunately for Boethar, his own spies had brought news of this attack, and he laid his own trap in the small valley of Rannerdale. He hid his fighting men in the once thickly wooded sides of the Rannerdale valley and managed to lure the Norman soldiers in. The trap was well and truly set.

The word was given and the struggling Norman soldiers, weighed down by their weapons and armour, were easily cut down by the swift fighting men under Boethar's command. The entire Norman troop was massacred.

The above story is thought to be a romanticised tale of native Britons resisting the forces of the invaders, penned by the late historian Nicholas Size in a 1930 novel titled 'The Secret Valley'. There is little actual historical evidence to support this version of events, however, the Buttermere area does not appear in the Domesday Book, which indicates that this part of Cumbria was not under Norman control in 1086. The central area of the Lake District is known to have been populated by the earlier Norse invaders in the early 10th century, and the word 'dale' is etymologically Norse. Perhaps there is truth in the tale after all?
The 1930 novel by Nicholas Size
Bringing things bang up to date, we spent a glorious afternoon scaling the modest height of Rannerdale Knotts, much to our delight. It's a fantastic little fell with an astonishing view worthy of any Lakeland Fell. Battling armies aside, here's how we got on.

Rannerdale Knotts lies a short walk from Buttermere village which, in turn, lies a short walk along the banks of the lake from our campsite at Dalegarth. Sara and I had always intended to climb Rannerdale Knotts in the afternoon after arriving and, in a fortunate consequence of timing, our good friend arrived just as we were readying to depart, keen to stretch off the weariness of a significant drive from the Midlands.

A very pleasant stroll along the lakeside path Pike Rigg, beneath the watchful eye of the towering High Stile range, leads you into the village of Buttermere before a bit of road negotiating takes you to the shores of Crummock Water and the footings of Rannerdale Knotts.
Hay Stacks and the Scarth Gap Pass
High Stile with Red Pike poking its head up
Fleetwith Pike and Hay Stacks over the clear Buttermere waters
The distant path begins the climb up Rannerdale Knotts
The climb up Rannerdale Knotts is a fairly short affair, split into three parts; the first being a grassy path that is both distinct and easy to follow. Slowly but surely, the views along Crummock start to open out, Mellbreak providing an impressive feature in the scene.
Crummock and the High Stile range
Looking up to Rannerdale Knotts
The fells surrounding Buttermere
Sara negotiates the grassy bank
After the grassy section, a steeper stepped area leads you up to the first views of Grasmoor, dominating the other side of the valley. After the stepped climb, we paused to take in the views, unaware that they were about to get a whole lot better.
A cairn marks the beginning of the steps
Mellbreak over Crummock Water
Sara pauses for a breather
Crummock Water and Low Fell
The third section is a bit of a free for all, a number of scrambly routes will eventually finish at the summit. As we reached the top of the final section, the whole scene unfolded, the Buttermere valley in one direction and Crummock in the other. It's a remarkable view for a fell that's so small, a view that we sat and gazed at for a good while. There was no place we would rather have been than out little sun drenched platform high above the valleys. It really is magnificent. We almost forgot to visit the actual summit before we departed. Almost.
The final section of climb
Grasmoor makes an appearance
Whiteless Pike over the Rannerdale valley
The final obstacle before the summit
The sumptuous views from our platform
The head of Buttermere
The Scarth Gap
Green Gable & Great Gable
The summit of Rannerdale Knotts
Sara and I at the summit!
An undulating ridge falls back towards Buttermere before falling abruptly into Mill Beck. This is the more popular route to the summit, an easy climb along a relatively flat ridge that's perfect for families with younger children. This is the type of fell you may bring a child to get them excited about walking rather than dragging them up something considerably higher. This route does lack the wow factor of what I like to call 'the big reveal' that we experienced climbing the steep face.
The knobbly ridge of Rannerdale Knotts
Looking back to the summit of Rannerdale Knotts
Rannerdale Knotts, Rannerdale, Whiteless Pike and Grasmoor
After dropping into Buttermere we stopped for a brew at one of the cafes before strolling down to the lakeside, intent on following the path round back to the campsite. This was quickly curtailed by a closed permissive footpath, designed to protect the ground nesting sand pipers. Vigilantly (unlike a certain jogger we saw passing) we returned to Buttermere to retrace our steps back along Pike Rigg to the campsite.
Newlands Hause
Sara above Buttemere
Fleetwith Pike from the lakeside
The afternoon sun lights up the trees
So far so good, the Easter break this year is shaping up to be a good one, a welcome relief to the battering the country has endured the last few months. Every mountain day like this makes you instantly forget those cold, wet, grey days that are often synonymous with the Lakes. Then there's Rannerdale Knotts, a cracking little fell with some huge views. I can certainly see myself visiting this little fellow again and again, the perfect fell for catching some late summer evening rays or some early morning mists. Also, the ideal warm up for some fells with more notable stature, namely, the famous Great Gable.