Friday, 22 August 2014

The Newlands Round

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Route: Little Town, The Vicarage, Skelgill Bank, Catbells, Mart Bield, Hause Gate, Bull Crag, Maiden Moor, Narrow Moor, Minum Crag, High Spy, Wilson's Bield, Dalehead Tarn, Dalehead Crags, Dale Head, Hindscarth Edge, Hindscarth, Littledale Edge, Robinson, Hackney Holes, Buttermere Moss, Moss Force, Newlands Hause, Knott Rigg, Ill Crags, Ard Crags, Aikin Knott, Birk Rigg, Gillbrow, Little Town

Date: 22/08/2014
From: Little Town

Parking: Car park near Little Town
Start Point: Little Town
Region: North Western Fells

Route length: 12.1 miles (19.4 km)
Time taken: 06:29
Average speed: 1.9 mph
Ascent: 1461m
Descent: 1465m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Catbells (451m), Maiden Moor (576m), High Spy (653m), Dale Head (753m), Hindscarth (727m), Robinson (737m), Knott Rigg (556m), Ard Crags (581m)

Additional summits: Ill Crag (Knott Rigg) (546m)

Other points of interest: Moss Force

I'd been eyeing up this walk for a long time, a couple of years at least, waiting for the perfect opportunity to savour the beauty of what is widely regarded as one of the most impressive areas of the Lake District - the Newlands Valley (part of the Derwent Fells). While not containing many truly towering peaks, any lack of height is easily overlooked by the sheer variety of shapely mountain profiles; where slender, airy ridges rub shoulders with burly crags and magnificent glacial valleys. I'd been told (or read) that Newlands MUST be saved for a clear day which we found towards the end of August.

The Newlands Round, as suggested by most authors, is a circular walk that takes in the fells of Catbells, Maiden Moor, High Spy, Dale Head, Hindscarth and Robinson. Not bad for a days work, however, we decided to add both Knott Rigg and Ard Crags to avoid them becoming a pair isolated 'must do later' type of fell. With this in mind, we parked near to Little Town, part way between the feet of Ard Crags and Catbells, our starting fell.

After a brief stroll along the route between Little Town and Catbells, the path reaches the slopes of the aforementioned fell before making its way steeply up through the bracken to the small col between Brandelhow and Catbells' summit. Already, the day was shaping up to be a good one as the views across the Derwent Fells (those surrounding Newlands and Keskadale) are simply breathtaking. To the benefit of the reader, I also happened to have my grown-up SLR camera with me on this day, owing to some technical shenanigans being played by my usual walking camera. Though a bit bulky it was definitely worth carting it around for the day.
Newlands already shaping up to be a good one - Hindscarth and Robinson
Ard Crags, Scar Crags and Causey Pike
An exquisite panorama of fells 
Causey Pike and Rowling End
The ridge of Catbells with Derwentwater and Borrowdale to the left and Newlands to the right
The ridge leading up to Catbells was busy, as expected, with a large number of people making for the summit. Once achieved, most of them turned back, happy with their day's work and I don't blame them, the ridge and subsequent summit are a fantastic place to be with expansive views of Newlands, Keswick, Derwentwater and Borrowdale. It's hard to think of a more dramatic view for the effort. Speaking of the summit, a bare rocky top offers a splendid view of Borrowdale and Newlands alike.
The ridge leading from Keswick - Skiddaw guards the backdrop
Keswick and Derwentwater
Another excellent view of Newlands
Bassenthwaite in the distance
Catbells summit overlooking Newlands
The wooded valleys of Borrowdale
A tiny scramble leads off the summit into the depression of Hause Gate before starting a slow and steady climb up towards the wide summit of Maiden Moor. The views across the valley are still a sight to behold, ever-changing as we continued the climb. A fork in the path leads to a slight dilemma for the unaware, the main path bypasses the summit of Maiden Moor whereas the slightly shabbier looking path leads right to the top as well as passing above the impressive Bull Crag which falls to the valley floor with as much drama as can be found in Lakeland Fells.
Maiden Moor
Yewthwaite Comb and Trap Knotts
The path high above Borrowdale
Catbells backed by the Northern Fells
Being a Friday, the RAF were out to play
The summit lies off to the right
Barnes Gill carves its way through Bull Crag
The North Western Fells 
Catbells and Keswick
Maiden Moor's summit
Views from Maiden Moor are limited to those to the west, such is the broadness of the top. In addition, the meaning of the fell's name is obscure, the name "Maiden" is given to many prehistoric hill forts but there is no evidence that a hill fort ever existed on the fell. It may refer to a place where games or rituals were played where maidens took part, perhaps a little like a city centre on a Saturday night. Perhaps not.
Hindscarth and the imposing Squat Knotts
Hindscarth and Newlands
The path leading over Narrow Moor
As the path from the summit heads south, it rejoins the main route as it crosses Narrow Moor, unsurprisingly, a narrow ridge that links Maiden Moor to the loftier High Spy. As with the route from Catbells to Maiden Moor, it's a fairly uninteresting grassy plod, though the views (as always in this part of the world) more than make up for it.
Heading over the heather towards High Spy
Grange Crags, King's How and Grange Fell
A look back to Maiden Moor
Dale Head and Hindscarth
The summit of High Spy soon comes into view, a tall cairn marks the top and marked our first break. The traditional handful of Jelly Babies spurred us on towards Dale Head with the tantalising prospect of a well-deserved lunch. Why well deserved? Wilson's Bield stands in the way, a steep 100m below High Spy and an even steeper 250m below Dale Head. It was the part of the walk that I was least looking forward to.
Eel Crags on High Spy; Great Gable stands proud in the background
High Spy's large cairn
Sporting some new shades and a war wound from the previous day
An entertaining crossing of the infant Newlands Beck and a quick look at Dale Head tarn precedes the unpleasant climb. It's pretty tough work, though made slightly more palatable thanks to a series of stone steps that allows you to slowly plod away. There were actually in the process of being renewed, based on the evidence of a number of builders sacks full of rocks scattered alongside. A sweaty half hour or so later, we reached the summit, a place I'd visited only a few weeks earlier.
Dale Head is a steep climb
Dropping down to Wilson's Bield
Newlands Beck
Dale Head over Dalehead Tarn
The impressive craggy face of High Spy
A steep climb
Further steepness
The final bit of steepness
As I've probably eluded to throughout this post, the views are, once again, particularly good, this time directly down the barrel of the Newlands valley, backed by the king of sloping hills, Skiddaw. If ever you wanted to show someone a typical U-shaped glacial valley, this is probably one of the prime examples, though you can't really move around the Lakes without bumping into one.

As with High Spy, Dale Head is also marked by a tall cairn, this time teetering on the edge of the Dalehead Crags and Great Gable, the bold rocky face you can see in some previous photos. As you may have already concluded, Dale Head is the head of the dale, hence its name. Though only reaching 753m in height, Dale Head is also the high point of this walk. In addition to these exciting facts, it also marks a change in scenery as the mighty Scafells, the dramatic, craggy Buttermere fells and the small-yet-imposing Fleetwith Pike all come into view.
Dale Head and its large cairn
The Scafells looking magnificent
Hindscarth Crags 
With the sun hiding behind a thick blanket of cloud, the wind carried a serious autumnal chill so we ate fairly quickly before packing up and continuing on towards Hindscarth, the 5th peak on this walk. We decided to climb it for completeness, it would be a shame to miss it out as it can be easily bypassed if you remain on the ridge bound for Robinson. Despite this, it's an easy climb, a relief after the punishment of Dale Head.
Fleetwith Pike and Buttermere
High Stile and Red Pike
The undulating route to Hindscarth
Newlands, Maiden Moor and High Spy
A slow rise to the summit of Hindscarth
An untidy summit
The summit stands in the centre of a patch of bare rock, with a low wind shelter marking the high point. Views here are quite limited thanks to a broad plateau so we quickly turned around and headed back to the ridge. I'd visited Hindscarth a number of weeks earlier and had a more thorough poke around, you can see the results here.

In contrast to Hindscarth, Robinson has a fairly stiff climb to reach the top, this time along Littledale Edge. Not as difficult as Dale Head but still enough to require a couple of pauses on the way. My excuse is to take some photos but now you know the truth.
Leaving Hindscarth
Littledale Edge
A look back to the Honister Pass
Another steep climb
Looking to the summit of Robinson
Another shelter caps the top
The eastern face we climbed is probably the least interesting on Robinson, we'd see the more impressive north and western faces a bit later on. For now, we were content with a shabby summit cairn and the prospect of another descent, this time into the jaws of Buttermere Moss.
Buttermere Moss
Whiteless Pike, Grasmoor and Wandope
Tramping across Buttermere Moss
It is told (in Wainwright's book at least) that the name Robinson comes from a certain Richard Robinson who purchased estates in the Buttermere area many centuries ago. These included this unnamed hill which was then called "Robinson's Fell", later shortened to Robinson.

Back to Buttermere Moss though, an extremely wet area of land between Robinson and its subsidiary top, High Snockrigg. Once again, to quote Wainwright, Buttermere Moss is "a wide marshy depression from which water cannot escape except by being carried away in the boots of pedestrians" . Never has a truer word been spoken. Fortunately for us, this isn't the 1950s and we live in a world of waterproof fabrics so we emerged at the top of Moss Force with dry feet, Buttermere disappearing behind us and Newlands Hause in our sights. What was also painfully obvious was just how steep Knott Rigg is from here, the next peak on our agenda.
Newlands Hause and Knott Rigg
Moss Force
After tip-toeing down to the hause, we spent a moment collecting our thoughts before venturing on. The steep section presented a tiring challenge and it was with heavy legs we arrived at Knott Rigg, high above Keskdale. From here we could see the proud western flanks of Robinson, particularly the bowl of Robinson Crags.
Robinson Crags
Another steep climb awaits
Robinson and Keskadale
The ridge of Knott Rigg
A look back to High Snockrigg
A small pile of stones on top of Knott Rigg
Thankfully, the majority of the climbing for the day was over, albeit a straightforward walk along the ridge to Ard Crags. The two fells of Knott Rigg and Ard Crags form a delightful, heather covered ridge, sandwiched between the higher fells of Coledale and the valley of Keskadale with steep slopes that fall away to either side. In the late afternoon sunlight (now that the sun had decided to re-appear), the views across Newlands are particularly pleasing.
Wandope and Sail Beck
Crag Hill and Sail
The ridge continues north east
Wandope, Crag Hill, Sail and Ard Crags
The heather covered Knott Rigg
Wandope and Addacombe Hole
A final climb for the day
We passed Ard Gill, a small stream that presents a precipitous and extremely rapid route the valley floor, one you would probably care to avoid, arriving at the final stop of the day, Ard Crags. It was finally all downhill from here, a steep descent down the eastern ridge of Ard Crags, over the small outcrop of Aikin Knott.
Ard Gill
Ard Crags
The summit of Ard Crags
Causey Pike
The vista from Ard Crags
The full route for the day
Scar Crags
Birk Rigg
After a slight detour around a cow field, we headed through the farm of Gillbrow and on to a pleasant walled lane that follows Keskadale Beck. The final thing worthy of mentioning is the small church we passed just before we reached the car. Newlands Church is a 16th Century building, thought to date from pre-1570. In the 1840s, after the church had fallen into disrepair, it was rebuilt, with a small school building added to the west side.
Aikin Knott, a precursor to Ard Crags
High Crags and Maiden Moor
Newlands Church
In the summer of 1901, children's author and illustrator Beatrix Potter was staying at nearby Lingholm and often had the Vicar of Newlands Church and his family to tea. The vicar's young daughter, Lucie Carr, played with Potter's pet hedgehog during these visits and inspired the character of Lucie in The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle. The school was open until the 1960s before being closed, only to be refurbished in the 1990s and reopend as 'a place for quiet reflection'.
Newlands Church
A sunny evening in store
And that was that, a truly majestic, if not tiring, day out in the Derwent Fells. It's a real spectacle from start to finish and a worth while wait to complete it. The small area that encompasses the North Western Fells may just pack in some of the most exciting and diverse mountain scenery in the Lakes. What it lacks in height, it more than makes up for with its dramatic unpredictability and startling arrangement of fells and ridges. It really is walkers paradise.