Saturday, 6 September 2014

High Rigg, Raven Crag & Castle Crag

GPS Track
Date: 06/09/2014
From: Dale Bottom

Parking: Dale Bottom
Start Point: William's Beck
Region: Southern Fells

Route length: 1.6 miles (2.5km)
Time taken: 00:45
Average speed: 2.09 mph
Ascent: 196m
Descent: 197m

Wainwrights on this walk:
High Rigg (357m)

Additional summits: None

Other points of interest: William's Beck

Route: William's Beck, High Rigg, Memorial Stone

I'm not going to hide from the stark facts - this was a shameless summit ticking exercise. There are some fells that just don't fit into a nice circuit or ridge walk but stand isolated and alone, not difficult to climb but challenging to actually figure out when to climb them. A trio of these form some of the smaller heights of the Central Fells; High Rigg and Raven Crag on the Thirlmere side and Castle Crag (the smallest of all the Wainwrights) on the Derwentwater side. What better way to spend an afternoon than climbing all three of them? I'd spent the morning tramping around Martindale in the clouds, what a difference a day makes.

First up was High Rigg, located between the ridges descending from High Raise and Helvellyn. It's a pleasant little fell, climbing to a height of 357m. We parked the car just off the road at the foot of William's Beck, a small stream the flows off the hillside. It forms a very neat and tidy ravine which draws the attention, so much so that we began to climb it with little hesitation.
William's Beck as it emerges from the slopes of High Rigg
Negotiating some of the slightly trickier sections
William's Beck
William's Beck
The beck is wholly formed by water that is captured on High Rigg, we emerged right into the coombe where it is collected. Though a bit damp underfoot we didn't come across any real problems in terms of deep pools or bogs so strode on, the summit already in sight.
The summit appears at the top of the stream
The moss that sources William's Beck
Skiddaw and Blencathra
The rock outcrop marking the highest point lies almost directly east of the top of William's Beck (straight on in our case) and we made short work of bashing through the bracken to reach it. There are no paths on this side of the fell though and, as we reached the summit, it's obvious that there is one that rises up from a nearby Youth Centre.
The view towards Helvellyn
Raven Crag over High Rigg's lower top
As is the theme of these small fells, High Rigg has a very good view, especially of Skiddaw, Blencathra and the Vale of Keswick. High Rigg resembles a model of the Lakeland Fells in miniature, complete with crags, intermediate tops, tarns and even a 'pass' crossing the ridge halfway along, complete with church. Better views of Clough Head and St. John's in the Vale can be achieved by moving to a small outcrop east of the summit.
High Rigg's summit
Clough Head
Beckthorns Gill
Blencathra over St. John's in the Vale
Hall's Fell Ridge is picked out in the sunlight
We left the top, along the path I mentioned a moment ago, heading north down to the church. It's easy going, the perfect short walk for a sunny afternoon Once we'd reached the road, it was a short stroll in the sun back to the car. One down, two to go.
The wide path leading off the summit
Dodd Crag and Castlerigg Fell
GPS Track
Date: 06/09/2014
From: Thirlmere

Parking: Car park at the Valve Houses
Start Point: Thirlmere Dam
Region: Southern Fells

Route length: 2.1 miles (3.37km)
Time taken: 01:11
Average speed: 1.7 mph
Ascent: 316m
Descent: 326m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Raven Crag (357m)

Additional summits: Castle Crag (404m)

Other points of interest: Thirlmere Dam, Ancient Fort

Route: Thirlmere Dam, Raven Crag, Castle Crag, Thirlmere Dam

A short drive later we were stood unsuccessfully trying to feed a car parking machine on the dam of Thirlmere. Unsuccessful because it was broken, which was lucky for us, not so lucky for the car park owner. Our aim this time was set on Raven Crag, an impressive rock face that overlooks Thirlmere.

A steep path climbs up through the Thirlmere Forest (a conifer plantation) before it meets and old forestry track where the going gets easier. On a sharp bend, the forest clears slightly and the sheer scale of Raven Crag can be observed. It's a mighty feature, a near vertical face of rock that falls a considerable distance effectively into Thirlmere.
Climbing the steep path through the trees
Raven Crag begins to make an appearance
Raven Crag
The forestry track continues on until it reaches a well defined but well hidden path that climbs further up into the trees. Made up of a combination of steps and steeply graded path, it's a tiring climb (Raven Crag is nearly 500m high). The odd fallen tree blocking the path adds to the exertion. Despite this, the steep path gains height quickly and before long it flattens as it reaches Castle Crag, a small outcrop just off the beaten path.
The path follows the tree line
The outcrop of Castle Crag
A final climb, again steep, is required to reach to summit of Raven Crag but, I assure you, it is most definitely worth it. The summit itself stands a little back from the edge of the cliffs but a brave excursion to the edge will reveal a stunning view of Thirlmere stretching out towards Dunmail Raise and a near vertical view down to the dam at the northern end of the reservoir.
Raven Crag's summit
Clough Head, Great Dodd and Watson's Dodd
Dunmail Raise
The view down to the car park and dam
White Side and Helvellyn
Castle Rock
We pottered around for a few minutes, waiting for a group of miscreants to clear off before starting to make our way down as well. Instead of heading straight back to the car, we stopped off at Castle Crag, which I mentioned a moment ago as, aside from being a Birkett, it is the site an Iron Age hill fort and worthy of investigation.
Skiddaw and Blencathra over The Benn
The mound surrounding the ancient fort
Iron Crag over Shoulthwaite
With our curiosity satisfied and another Birkett added to the list, we returned to the main path and retraced our steps back down to the car. Second one done.
Heading back through the trees
GPS Track
Date: 06/09/2014
From: Grange

Parking: Grange church
Start Point: Grange church
Region: North Western Fells
Route length: 2.7 miles (4.3km)
Time taken: 01:30
Average speed: 1.7 mph
Ascent: 201m
Descent: 202m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Castle Crag (290m)

Additional summits: None

Other points of interest: High Hows Quarry

Route: Grange, Gowder Dub, Broadslack Gill, Castle Crag

We required a longer drive this time, around to the opposing valley of Borrowdale to tackle the mighty Castle Crag (definitely a different one to the one I've already mentioned). I say mighty with tongue firmly in cheek - Castle Crag is the smallest fell in Wainwright's books, so small in fact that it doesn't even qualify as a Birkett (hard to believe given the nature of some of them) - it's just not high enough.

Castle Crag is a subsidiary outcrop of High Spy, Wainwright choosing to include a separate chapter thanks to it impressive independence from it's parent fell. Indeed, it has all the characteristics of a mountain, portrayed in miniature.
The sharp peak of Castle Crag
We left the car, this time by the small church in Grange, and followed the Cumbria Way along the lanes of Holmcrag Wood to Gowder Dub, a picturesque bend in the River Derwent beneath the slopes of Castle Crag. It's an area known as 'The Jaws of Borrowdale', a narrowing of the valley as it's squeezed between the surrounding fells.
King's How
Gowder Dub
Here, a bridleway bound for Honister leaves the Cumbria Way and makes its way up Broadslack Gill, a small stream falling from the slopes of Low Scawdel. We followed said path until it reaches a small foot bridge where we branched off. Castle Crag, despite its diminutive height, is still an imposing sight and the summit is still a fair climb away.
The bridleway alongside Broadslack Gill
Castle Crag
Castle Crag
Broadslack Gill and the steep sides of Castle Crag
After leaving the bridleway a small path starts the steep climb up Castle Crag. A small memorial is visible part way up so we wandered over for a quick look.
Memorial to William Hamer
Returning to the climb, the path begins a zig zag up a loose slate pile, the result of years of slate quarrying on the fell. Close to the summit is High Hows Quarry, an obvious yet impressive scar, surrounded by a series of curiously placed, upright slates. It seems that it's the tradition but no one seems to know why or when it started. It's certainly different, and quite a surprise for the first time. Above High Hows stands the summit. And what a summit.
High Spy across the valley
The path along the slate
The path into High Hows Quarry
Curious upright slates
Summit outcrop
Despite its height, Castle Crag has extensive views to the north and to the south, as if you had been suspended high above Borrowdale. To the north is Derwentwater framing Skiddaw and to the south is the entire Scafell range, basking in the evening light. There are much higher fells that simply cannot compete with this one - it's obvious why Wainwright included it as a separate chapter.
Rosthwaite Fell
Great Crag, Ullscarf, High Raise, Eagle Crag, Rosthwaite Fell, Glaramara, Great End and Scafell Pike - some panorama
Borrowdale and Skiddaw
Great End, Broad Crag and Scafell Pike
The summit proper is a large rock, complete with a large plaque commemorating the men of Borrowdale lost in the Great War. The plaque reads:
The war memorial on the summit
I was totally taken with this little fell and it was with a great reluctance that we bade farewell to retrace our path back to Grange. It was getting dark by the time we reached the car but it had been a tremendously rewarding afternoon out. Castle Crag is the best of the bunch but these small fells go to show that you can really experience what Lakeland has to offer without having to climb peaks like Helvellyn or Scafell Pike. These are fells that you can share with friends and family and for that reason, I will undoubtedly be returning soon with friends and/or family in tow.
Evening sky over Derwentwater
Moon over Ullscarf
The route back down....