Sunday, 18 December 2016

Hindscarth, Robinson, Knott Rigg & Ard Crags

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Route: Little Town, Low Snab, Pan Holes, Scope End, Red Knott, High Crags, Grey Stones, Hindscarth, Littledale Edge, Robinson, Buttermere Moss, High Snockrigg, Newlands Hause, Knott Rigg, Ard Crags, Aikin Knott, Gillbrow, Chapel Bridge, Little Town

Date: 18/12/2016
From: Little Town

Parking: Little Town
Start Point: Little Town
Region: North Western Fells

Route length: 9.4 miles (15.1 km)
Time taken : 04:31
Average speed: 1.9 mph
Ascent: 1,160m
Descent: 1,168m

Wainwrights on this walk: Hindscarth (727m), Robinson (737m), Knott Rigg (556m), Ard Crags (581m)

Additional summits: Scope End (412m), Red Knott (452m), High Crags (Newlands) (529m), High Snockrigg (526m), Ill Crag (Newlands) (546m)

I may have mentioned in the past that I think the North Western Fells have a special appeal to me. Nowhere in the Lake District are the fells so distinct and so interesting. Two of the great days out find their home in the North Western Fells; the Coledale Round and the Newlands Round. Today we'd be spitting the Newland Round in half, climbing Hindscarth directly along its north ridge before traversing Robinson, descending to Newlands Hause and returning to the car by the Knott Rigg ridge. It promised to be a grand day, and it didn't disappoint!

The forecasts were predicting the possibility of a cloud inversion and I threw open the curtains of our guesthouse in anticipation of finding a pea-soup of fog outside the window - a sure sign of interesting things happening above. No such luck. However, the clouds were much higher and much more broken than we had expected and by the time we set off, blue skies were threatening.
The Scope End ridge with Robinson off the right
We parked in a layby near Little Town where an honest box asks for a £3 contribution for a days parking. Setting off, we followed the road past the Newlands Church, a Grade II listed building which housed the local primary school until 1967. 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.
Newlands Church
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 reopened as 'a place for quiet reflection'. Heading along lanes to Low Snab farm, we were soon on the open fellside starting the climb up Hindscarth's Scope End ridge. The Scope End ridge is the most dramatic way to the top of Hindscarth.
Looking north along the Newlands Valley
The Newlands Valley with Skiddaw in the background
Looking across Newlands Beck to Ard Crags and Causey Pike
The bottom end of Scope End was the site of Goldscope Mine, a long-lived, though controversial, mine. It was originally developed by German miners imported by Elizabeth I who lived on Derwent Island off Keswick. There are still visible scars from the mining on the lower slopes of the fell.
Looking up to Wilson's Bield, the pass between Newlands and Borrowdale
The Scope End ridge and Robinson
The ridge climbs steeply at first before reaching Scope End, an outcrop partway along the ridge. From here the going is fairly easy as the climb climbs steadily over Red Knott and High Crags to a shallow depression below the final climb to the summit. The views throughout are stunning, made all the more interesting by low clouds spilling into Borrowdale and glimpses of interesting things happening in Buttermere.
High Crags and Catbells
The small top at Scope End
The full Scope End ridge
High Crags and Robinson
Robinson and the ridge of High Snab Bank
Looking along the Scope End Ridge from Red Knott
Despite the relative ease of the ridge so far, there is a sting in the tail - a steep 200m climb to the summit. A large shelter cairn marks the end of the climb and the summit shelter stands a little further still though fails to stand out on the plateau.
High Spy and Wilson's Bield

The layered fells of Scope End, Maiden Moor, Catbells and Blencathra
Hindscarth from High Crags
The Coledale Fells of Wandope, Crag Hill and Sail
The Newlands Valley
Panorama from the Scope End ridge
Clouds build around Pillar
The Scope End ridge
Cloud inversion in Borrowdale
Hindscarth's summit
We pressed on, cutting the corner to meet Littledale Edge - the ridge thank links Hindscarth to the neighbouring Robinson. Luck was on our side today, the Pillar group was taking the brunt of the cloud, leaving us relatively unscathed and free to enjoy the tremendous views.
Crag Hill and Sail
Looking west towards the Buttermere fells
Littledale Edge
Sun over Fleetwith Pike
Littledale Edge
Dale Head
Approaching the summit of Robinson
A short but noticeable climb follows a fence to Robinson's summit, marked by a modest shelter. Like Hindscarth, the summit area is largely level. Robinson is unusual in that it sits above two road passes. To the south, the road to Honister Pass begins its climb below the slopes of Robinson. To the north, the road from Buttermere to the Newlands Valley over Newlands Hause runs up the slopes north of High Snockrigg, then runs down the far side of Keskadale.
Robinson's summit
Rannerdale Knotts and Mellbreak from Robinson
Whiteless Pike over Newlands Hause
Buttermere Moss and High Snockrigg
From Robinson, the path descends quite steeply into Buttermere Moss, an area that, from a distance, looks like a simple grassy area. Under the surface, however, it is much more of a challenge. According to Wainwright, Buttermere Moss is "a wide marshy depression from which water cannot escape except by being carried away in the boots of pedestrians" and he spoke the truth. It's a place to put waterproof boots to the test.
Newlands Hause and the Coledale Fells
Robinson over Buttermere Moss
After a successful crossing and before descending to Newlands Hause, I made a short detour up High Snockrigg which commands a great view of Buttermere and Crummock Water.
High Snockrigg
Panorama of Buttermere
Buttermere village
Rannerdale Knotts, Rannerdale and Crummock Water

Stony steps carry the path down to Newlands Hause, the summit of the Newlands Pass that links Keswick and Buttermere. We took the time to break for lunch before starting the steep climb up Knott Rigg. What had been remarkable about the day so far was that, despite the weather, we had barely seen another walker all day.
Knott Rigg

As I mentioned, the climb up Knott Rigg is steep - a case of getting your head down and putting one foot in front of the other until it's over. Mercifully, it does not last too long and the Knott Rigg ridge is revealed. 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, the views across Newlands are particularly pleasing.
Climbing Knott Rigg
The Newlands Valley
Bearing down on Knott Rigg's summit
Sun over the Buttermere fells
Knott Rigg's summit
The view towards Ard Crags
Crag Hill and Sail
Ard Crags
The Newlands Valley
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.
Approaching the summit of Ard Crags
Ard Gill
Panorama from Ard Crags
Looking back to the summit
The valley of Rigg Beck leading towards Newlands
Newlands and Maiden Moor
Lovely early evening sky
Evening over Blencathra
Evening light over Hindscarth
This walk is a real spectacle from start to finish. 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.