Saturday, 7 May 2016

A Fusedale Round

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Route: The Hause, The Coombs, Howtown, Mellguards, Swarth Fell, Bonscale Pike, Arthur's Pike, Wartches, Lord's Seat, Lambert Lad, Loadpot Hill, Groove Gill, Gowk Hill, Brownthwaite Crag, Steel Knotts, Birkie Knott, The Hause

Date: 07/05/2016
From: The Hause

Parking: The Church of St. Peter
Start Point: The Hause
Region: Far Eastern Fells

Route length: 7.5 miles (12.1 km)
Time taken : 03:31
Average speed: 2.1 mph
Ascent: 754m
Descent: 774m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Bonscale Pike (524m), Arthur's Pike (532m), Loadpot Hill (671m), Steel Knotts (432m)

Additional summits: Swarth Fell (545m), Gowk Hill (470m), Brownthwaite Crag (444m)

Other points of interest: Fusedale

I'll forgive you if you haven't heard of the diminutive Fusedale, hidden away in Martindale which is in itself, a place rarely visited by most Lakeland tourists. Accessed by a single, narrow road that hugs the shores of Ullswater, Fusedale is a small valley sandwiched between the ridge of Steel Knotts and the huge northern arm of the High Street ridge. It makes for a very rewarding afternoon leg-stretch.

There is plenty of space to park at the church of St. Peter which sits on Martindale Hause. Despite being built in the 1880's, it is the newer of two churches in Martindale, the older one dating back to around 1220 which is very old indeed. Our intended route would make a high level circuit of Fusedale taking in the fells of Bonscale Pike, Arthur's Pike, Loadpot Hill and the return ridge of Steel Knotts.

We began by leaving The Hause and dropping down in Howtown, a disappointing start to the day. Not because Howtown isn't a stunning little hamlet, no. It's always a disappointment to begin a fell day by losing elevation you ultimately need to make up again later on. Still, we knew a steep climb was ahead of us.
A view down The Coombs to Howtown
The Hause that leads into Martindale
Mellguards and Swarth Fell behind
At Mellgaurds Farm, a faint path starts its way up the grassy slope behind marking the start of main climb of the day. We'd be making the steep climb up Swarth Fell the tops of Bonscale Pike and Arthur's Pike. Some would argue that these two peaks are no more than subsidiary tops of Loadpot Hill or Barton Fell but Wainwright's book has now made them objectives in their own right.
The imposing Steel Knotts
A steep climb ahead
Hallin Fell
Steel Knotts, Howtown, Hallin Fell and Ullswater
Steel Knotts
Hallin Fell and Ullswater
Looking over Steel Knotts to Beda Fell and Place Fell
Hallin Fell with Gowbarrow Fell beyond
One of the Ullswater steamers
It was a hot afternoon, the first really warm days of the year and the first time the shorts had been dusted off and made their way out of the wardrobe. We plodded up building up a sweat in the process until we made it to Swarth Fell. I had missed out on the Birkett summit last time I was here so we made a stop prior to crossing the undulating grass to Bonscale Pike.
Swarth Fell
Bonscale Pike stands above the hamlet of Howtown at a height of 524m. The summit is marked by a cairn on an outcrop of rock though there is a fine pair of columnar cairns that are positioned on the rim of the crags. The lower of the two is optimistically referred to as Bonscale Tower though they are both similar both in appearance and height. After a quick pause for a bite to eat, we continued on, down into the valley of Swarth Beck. The erosive force of the short stream, over time, has widened the valley enough to create the two adjacent fells. After Bonscale Pike, the second of the two (when approached from the south) is Arthur's Pike.

Bonscale Pike's summit cairn
The two towers
Despite its name, Arthur's Pike is a pretty dour fell with no real prominence or interest, apart from the views down into Ullswater (though these views don't belong to the summit itself). We didn't stop for long, despite the warm weather, a cool wind quickly removed any semblance of summer.
Swarth Bek
Looking back to Bonscale Pike
Arthur's Pike
The vast expanse of Wartches
Loadpot Hill rises up ahead in a smooth grassy swell - reached by following the High Street Roman road. It was not identified as a Roman road until the early 19th century, although it is named in 14th century documents as ‘Bretstrett’ or ‘street of the Britons’, and so was evidently considered to be of some antiquity even at this date. It linked Brougham (Brocavum) to Ambleside (Galava). The Romans knew what they were doing - the walking is easy and Loadpot Hill is conquered in no time.

Loadpot Hill along the Roman road
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.

An OS pillar on Loadpot Hill
Heading south from the summit we passed the ruins of Lowther House, an old shooting lodge. All that remains today is the old stone foundation and piece of the chimney breast. We followed the Roman road down in the depression that separates Loadpot Hill and Wether Hill diverting off to make a pathless traverse of the slopes above Groove Gill.

The remains of Lowther House
Groove Gill
Following the slopes to Gowk Hill
Drystone wall at the head of Fusedale
A very hazy Rampsgill
Loadpot Hill
Having managed to maintain a sensible height, we visited the top of Gowk Hill which marks the beginning (or end) of the narrow ridge of Steel Knotts. Gowk Hill has a fine view of  Rampsgill and The Nab but it was too hazy to really get any decent photographs. It had turned cold as well as the sun sunk behind a bank of cloud so we made our way swiftly along the ridge to Steel Knotts' summit.
A peek into Fusedale
The excellent Steel Knotts ridge
The last rise of Steel Knotts
The Nab
Like Helm Crag, Steel Knotts is capped by an entertaining eruption of rock called Pikeawassa. I have no idea why it bears this name though 'pike' is an old various of peak. 'Awassa' however, is a city in Ethiopia, an unlikely source for a small rock on a small mountain in England. Either way, to conquer Steel Knotts is to conquer Pikeawassa which we duly did.
The ridge continues north without losing much height before two options are presented. Head north east and descend to Howtown to head north west back to The Hause - obviously your route will depend on where you've parked the car. We took the north west ridge, a steep and loose route through Birkie Knott and Cotehow that finishes at the back of the Church of St. Peter.
Fusedale and Steel Knotts
Birkie Knott
The Church of St. Peter's
Despite the initial climb, this is a route that presents no real difficulties in terms of serious fell walking. The hilly ridge of Loadpot Hill is fairly gentle once you're on it - the Romans knew this, hence why they chose the ridge top rather than the valley bottom. As ever, the far eastern fells were devoid of people, even on a fine day like today. My advice - if you want to escape the crowds, get yourself to Martindale.