Parking: Layby at side of road
Start Point: St. Peters Church
Region: Far Eastern Fells
Route length: 12.7 miles (20.4km)
Time taken: 04:58
Average speed: 2.4 mph
Wainwrights on this walk:
Bonscale Pike (514m), Arthur's Pike (533m), Loadpot Hill (672m), Wether Hill (674m), High Raise (802m), Rampsgill Head (792m), Rest Dodd (696m), The Nab (576m)
Additional summits: Swarth Fell (545m), Red Crag (711m), Raven Howe (718m)
Other points of interest: Bonscale Tower, Martindale Deer Forest, The Old Church
Route: St. Peters Church, The Coombes, Steel End, Mellguards, Swarth Fell, Bonscale Pike, Swarth Beck, Arthur's Pike, Lambert Lad, High Street, Loadpot Hill, Wether Hill, Red Crag, Raven Howe, High Raise, Rampsgill Head, Rest Dodd, Deer Forest, The Nab, Nab End, Dale Head, Thrang Crag, Christy Bridge, Martindale
As it invariably ends up, flexibility is key when planning a trip out to the Lake District. I always harbour hopes that any chosen weekend will result in a glorious, sunny day with never-ending panoramas in all directions. Alas, as it usually ends up, I was greeted by a deteriorating forecast in the week leading up to our chosen weekend meaning our carefully laid plans for a weekend tour of Ennerdale quickly became diluted into a day-long scamper around the marginally less mountainous fells of East Martindale. Not for the first time this year, the waterproofs would be getting another workout.
Home to fewer than 50 permanent residents, Martindale Common, despite being only a number of miles from the A6, is a fairly remote area located to the east of Ullswater in the north eastern quarter of the national park. Martindale itself is a tiny hamlet, nestled between Hallin Fell and Steel Knotts, positioned at the end of two converging valleys; Bannerdale and Rampsgill. Our starting point was the church of St Peter. The Grade II listed building if often referred to at the new church, despite being built in the 1880s. This is to avoid any confusion with the church of St. Martin, the old church, thought to date from the 1220s.
Unusually, our walk started with a short descent, down from the hause that provides the platform for St. Peters church before rounding the foot of the ridge that climbs up to Steel Knotts. Our target was the steep path that climbs up Swarth Fell, the 350m ascent would be one of the more challenging aspects of the day but would get a significant height gain out of the way and place us nicely on the vast moor to the east of the valley of Rampsgill.
|Ullswater between Hallin Fell and Bonscale Pike|
|Hallin Fell and the zig zags up The Hause|
|Bonscale Pike and Swarth Fell, our impending climb|
|Part of the steep path that snakes up Swarth Fell|
|Steel Knotts in a brief (and all too rare) moment of brightness|
|One of a number of hazy rainbows we saw|
|A view down the slopes of Swarth Fell|
|The path leading towards the summit of Bonscale Pike|
|The summit cairn of Bonscale Pike|
|The two columnar cairns on the slopes|
|Bonscale Tower is the lower of the two|
|Into the depths of Swarth Gill|
|Swarth Gill separates Bonscale Pike from Arthur's Pike|
|A fat cairn on the brink of the slope marks the best viewpoint|
|The summit stands a number of metres distant|
|The summit of Arthur's Pike|
|High Street (the Roman road) as it leads towards Loadpot Hill|
Surprisingly, Loadpot Hill is adorned by an OS trig pillar, the only one we'd be passing today. Despite its relative lack of stature, Loadpot Hill seems to have put its efforts into being as large as possible, rather than as high. Including its ridge, Loadpot Hill covers and area of over 12 square miles. The summit of Loadpot Hill also marks the starting point of our undulating walk along the Roman road, culminating in the great meeting point of ridges; Rampsgill Head.
|Trig pillar on Loadpot Hill|
|The weather swirling in behind us|
|The summit of Wether Hill|
|Wether Hill after our descent|
|Another fleeting rainbow|
|Crossing Red Crag|
|Red Crag Tarn|
|The summit cairn and large shelter on High Raise|
Bypassing The Knott on account of the weather, we descended the pathless spur that leads down to a marshy depression between Rest Dodd and The Knott. We were then faced with a tiring tramp up the steep slopes of Rest Dodd in order to cross it en route back towards Martindale. With the weather remaining in its sullen state, the climb over Rest Dodd became all the more unappetising. Still, the alternative would have been a cloud shrouded traverse around the steep sides above Rampsgill or a long detour to the west, both of which would probably have been unwise.
After finally reaching Rest Dodd, the second time in only a few short months, we continued to the north east, down and impressive ridge that plunges towards Rampsgill before ending at a delicately balanced (and worryingly wobbly) stile. Finally, after a number of hours stumbling around in the cloud, we had finally dropped below the base and could see splendour of Rampsgill, despite the visibility still being quite poor. The undulating and almost indistinct summits of Loadpot Hill, Wether Hill and High Raise were finally matched up with their steep sided slopes, reaching down to Rampsgill. The hills had become mountains (so to speak).
|Crossing Rest Dodd|
|Descending Rest Dodd's northern ridge|
|The stile high above Rampsgill|
|Peat hags on The Nab|
Walkers generally seem to be tolerated however, except during the stalking season which appears to vary depending on what deer are being hunted. It seems a contradiction to strictly protect an area for wild native red deer yet advertise holidays to wilfully go and kill the animals for 'sport'. As I have not knowledge of the stalking industry, that's the only opinion I have or will offer. After all, we saw not a single glimpse of deer or deer stalkers on this wet miserable day.
|The summit of The Nab|
|Another indistinct rainbow above Martindale|
|The steep fall of Nab End|
|Dale Head and Martindale|
|A sultry looking Nab End|
|The lane leading from The Bungalow|
|A moody Martindale|
|The Nab pokes out from behind Beda Fell|
|As the sign says, The Old Church|
A not-too-dramatic mile or so later, we finally reached the car, a welcome dry refuge from from the soaking we had endured. In fact, I'm not ashamed to admit, my reluctance to put of my waterproof trousers had resulted in a very wet pair of feet, inside my boots. Let that be a lesson to any future foolhardiness. Still, well fitting boots and socks lead to warm, wet feet as opposed to blistered and crippled ones. There was also the prospect of a nice, dry pair of Inov8s in the boot, perfect for popping on to some damp toes.
So there concludes our tour of east Martindale, not the most picturesque I'll admit, but a stimulating day out all the same. In fact, it's an ideal route for novice hill walkers as there is little danger posed by sheer crags or difficult terrain. The High Street path is easy to follow, even if the weather is naff and the scenery around Rampsgill Head belies the 'hilly' nature of the approach from Ullswater. Definitely not one to overlook, though I'll make sure the weather is a bit better next time.