Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Grange Fell & Great Crag

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Route: Watendlath, Black Waugh, Joppletyhow Moss, Grange Fell (Brund Fell), Puddingstone Bank, Great Crag, Bowdertgate Gill, Watendlath

Date: 09/09/2014
From: Watendlath

Parking: Watendlath
Start Point: Watendlath
Region: Central Fells

Route length: 3.9 miles (6.4 km)
Time taken: 02:05
Average speed: 1.86 mph
Ascent: 354m
Descent: 361m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Grange Fell (410m), Great Crag (436m)

Additional summits: None

Other points of interest: Watendlath Tarn, Surprise View

After a fairly exhaustive couple of days in the high fells, we were in need of something a little more tame and a little less demanding. I brazenly stated that I thought the Far Eastern Fells would be the first book I'd complete, which was a lie. After an extensive trip around the Central Fells, only two more remained un-walked - the volcanically formed Grange Fell and Great Crag.

The two fells can be found on a descending ridge from Ullscarf, close to the villages of Grange and Rosthwaite and encompassing the hidden hanging valley of Watendlath, the starting point for our morning out.

Accessed by a narrow road, Watendlath sits over 250m above sea level but consists of little more than a farm, a very nice packhorse bridge and a picturesque tarn. Despite it's diminutive size, the area is a very popular tourist spot, renowned both for its beauty and the fishing in the tarn. The area and the farm are owned by the National Trust whose car park we used to begin our walk from.
Packhorse bridge in Watendlath
Ether Knott beyond Watendlath
It's a very straightforward climb to the top, the very summit being revealed only once you're approaching Joppletyhow. An indistinct path wends its way alongside a drystone wall before a handsome ladder stile is required to cross it. It's a bit wet underfoot in places but nothing too unpleasant.
The route follows the wall most of the way
The grass covered slopes of Grange Fell
Great Crag in the distance
Joppletyhow Moss
The summit outcrop of Grange Fell
The entire plateau of Grange Fell is covered in rocky knolls, like islands in a heather-clad ocean. There's some debate over which knoll is in fact the highest, some books quoting Brund Fell, others the more distant Ether Knott. Wainwright's book considered the former, which we reached via a short scramble.
The summit
Cue a pleasant, if not a bit hazy, view over Borrowdale and up to Scafell Pike, enhanced by moving off the summit to the west. Great Crag is the next objective, the route between us and it clearly marked out below us. We returned to the ladder stile and followed the drystone wall down to the crossing at Puddingstone Bank. The bridleway here passes between Rosthwaite and Watendlath before continuing on to Thirlmere. As for us, we crossed the bridleway into a broad marsh that guards the slopes of Great Crag.
View along the ridge of Grange Fell
View across the summit
The handsome Castle Crag
Rosthwaite Fell and Glaramara
After a brief yet steep climb, the path levels out onto a puzzling terrain of large hummocks, it not being clear exactly which marks the highest point. Contrary to what the OS maps says, it is in fact the mound perched on the edge of the fell, overlooking Rosthwaite. In fact, the fell is so quick to point out that you undoubtedly climbed to the wrong summit (as marked on the map) that it has two competing high points on the same ridge, both topped by cairns. The first, looking into Borrowdale and the second, looking back towards Watendlath, which was now basking in a hazy sunshine.
Great Crag
View back to Grange Fell
A brief moment of excitement
We somehow managed to waste half an hour simply sat around on Great Crag and, unsurprisingly, we had the entire fell to ourselves. After a few semi-celebratory photos to mark the completion of my first book, we re-traced our steps back to foot of the fell and the bridleway back to Watendlath.
The ridge along the summit of Great Crag
Summit cairn
Obviously happy to finish the Central Fells book
Watendlath beneath High Seat
The route back is a very pleasant stroll downhill, right towards Watendlath Tarn, so nice in fact that we passed a gentleman completing the feat whilst wearing no shoes - intentionally I believe. By the time we'd reached the village, there were a number of people milling around and the car park was getting towards being full. As I mentioned at the start, Watendlath is a popular place.
Grange Fell from Great Crag
The path back into Watendlath
Watendlath Tarn
A novel use of an old boat
The packhorse bridge from the start of the walk
There was one last thing of note, the lookout of Surprise View. Befitting the hanging nature of the Watendlath valley, there is a viewpoint perched high above the valley, overlooking the lower shores of Derwentwater and the the fells of Maiden Moor and Catbells. It's a great little spot, worthy of an evening's drive.
Panorama from Surprise View
And so, with this walk, I reach by second Wainwright milestone - after climbing my 100th in the spring, this marked the first completed book. The Central Fells arguably contain some of the most visited fells (the Langdale Pikes) and some of the least frequented (Armboth & High Tove) but it demonstrates just how diverse the Lake District is across it's relatively small footprint. It's no wonder that it draws so many people from far and wide. Despite finishing this book, there's a long way to go still but, given the modest total I started with a year or two ago, the walks have come thick and fast and I'm certainly well on course to climb them all by my 30th. I turn 28 in a month so I'd better get a few more climbed before that.