Sunday, 23 July 2017

A Greenburn Round

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Route: Fell Foot, Hollin Crag, Rough Crags, Wet Side Edge, Hell Gill Pike, Little Carrs, Great Carrs, Top of Broad Slack, Swirl How, Prison Band. Swirl Hawse, Keld Gill Head, Wetherlam, Wetherlam Edge, Birk Fell Hawse, Greenburn Beck, Bridge End, Fell Foot Bridge, Fell Foot

Date: 23/07/2017
From: Little Langdale

Parking: Fell Foot
Start Point: Fell Foot
Region: Southern Fells

Route length: 6.6 miles (10.6 km)
Time taken: 03:44
Average speed: 1.7 mph
Ascent: 887m
Descent: 902m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Great Carrs (788m), Swirl How (802m), Wetherlam (762m)

Other Summits: Hell Gill Pike (692m), Little Carrs (692m)

Other points of interest: Broad Slack

The name Greenburn may conjure up images of Grasmere and Helm Crag and you would be right - search Greenburn on the internet and that's usually what turns up. It's become a bit of a thorn in my side thanks to a few failed attempts at 'the round'. We'd be doing the Greenburn round today, though not the one you may expect.

A Greenburn also exists within the embracing ridge of Wet Side Edge, one of the many ridges that form the Coniston Fells. This Greenburn contains the remains of a natural water-body that was dammed in the early 18th century to provide water for one of the many mines in the area. The 250-yard long barrage has now been breached to leave behind a collection of pools and bogs. Our route today would climb Wet Side Edge to Great Carrs before continuing over Swirl How and Wetherlam and returning back into Little Langdale.

The first challenge was to find somewhere for the car to stay while we completed the walk. Fortunately, there are a handful of layby / gated entrances along the Wrynose road that are large enough for a car or two. One option was to park in Tilberthwaite though it made the round a little trickier. In the end, we left the car close to Fell Foot Farm.
The knolls of Rough Crags and High End make up Wet Side Edge
Little Langdale from Fell Foot
The first task was to cross the infant River Brathay and climb a few hundred metres up the slopes of Hollin Crag to reach the crest of the Wet Side Edge ridge where a further, step climb, takes you up and over Rough Crags. From here, Wet Side Edge sweeps up towards Great Carrs.
The crags of Wrynose Fell
Lingmoor Fell
Approaching the crest of Wet Side Edge
Little Langdale
Greenburn with Swirl How and Great Carrs at its head
Views up Greenburn to the head of the valley are sensational and we were treated to some superb sun during the morning. The climb along Wet Side Edge is fairly easy, allowing you to enjoy the views of the neighbouring fells. Two minor tops are located along the ridge; Little Carrs and Hell Gill Pike. We made good time in reaching the summit of Great Carrs.
Swirl How and Great Carrs
Great Carrs
Wetherlam
The Greenburn valley
Wet Side Edge
Swirl How and Great Carrs
Great Carrs
Pike O'Blisco
Looking down Wet Side Edge
Approaching Great Carrs
Greenburn
Great Carrs' summit
From Great Carrs, the ridge southward to Swirl How is named Top of Broad Slack, Broad Slack being a steep grassy slope climbing out of Greenburn between the crags. This is the site of a wartime air crash and bears the sad remains of a Royal Canadian Air Force Handley Page Halifax bomber. The undercarriage, together with a wooden cross and memorial cairn is on the top of the ridge with the rest of the wreckage spread down Broad Slack.
The war memorial on Great Carrs
During a night time navigation exercise in 1944, the RCAF Halifax from RAF Topcliffe became lost in thick cloud while over the north west of England. In an attempt to wait out the blanket of grey, they circled in the hope the cloud would clear, ultimately becoming hopelessly lost. To try and get a visual fix for the navigator, the pilot dropped the bomber out of the cloud base, with no knowledge of what was below him. Unfortunately, for both him, the crew and the aircraft, they were greeted by the great rising fells of Swirl How and Great Carrs. With no time to react, the aircraft hit the mountainside killing all on board.
The plaque on the memorial
A close-up of the cross 
Despite the crew perishing in the impact, the bomber remained largely intact and, to prevent other aircraft from spotting it and reporting it repeatedly, the wreckage was cut into a number of smaller, moveable pieces and discarded down Broad Slack, where parts of it are still visible today. Over the years, two of the four Rolls-Royce engines were recovered from the crash site by an RAF helicopter, one of which is now on display at the Ruskin Museum at nearby Brantwood. The undercarriage, together with a wooden cross and memorial cairn is on the top of the ridge, a sad reminder to us all of those men who never returned from the war.
Remains of the bomber in Broad Slack
Swirl How would be our next destination - it sits just a short distance away. Despite not being the highest fell, it is the geographical centre of the group, radiating ridges from the summit to all four points of the compass. The summit is marked by a fine cairn on a stony top, built close to the Greenburn edge of the ridge - the perfect place to break for lunch.
Swilr How and Broad Slack
Looking down Broad Slack
Greenburn and the fells beyond
Great Carrs
Swirl How's summit
We'd be heading down Prison Band, a steep, stony ridge that falls some 200m down into Swirl Hause before a more gradual climb back up the other side. The path hugs the side of the fell at Keld Gill Head before the final stony ascent to Wetherlam.
Wetherlam from Prison Band
Swirl Hause
Greenburn
In the past Wetherlam was extensively exploited for its mineral resources. The slopes on all sides are pitted with disused copper mines and slate quarries, making it the most industrialised of the Lake District fells though many of the workings are on a small scale.
Prison Band
The summit of Wetherlam
Lingmoor Fell
Wetherlam's most attractive side lies to the east with the rocks of Hen Tor and Hen Crag hemmed in by Steel Edge and Wetherlam Edge. Wetherlam Edge, which is where we were heading, is steeper and rockier than Prison Band as it descends to Birk Fell Hawse
Looking down Wetherlam Edge
Wetherlam Edge
Birk Fell Hawse
Wethelam Edge
From here, we decided to follow a Right of Way clearly marked on the map which, in hindsight, was a mistake. After an easy start down a grassy ramp, the way became overrun with waist (and sometimes chest) high bracken, obscuring ankle-turning boulders beneath. We'd come too far to turn around and head back so we carefully continued down the mountainside.
The way back into Great Langdale
Side Pike and the Langdale Pikes
Greenburn
Mercifully, we found our way out of the bracken and onto a path, one of the old mine tracks that criss-cross the area. The Greenburn copper mines remain a relatively well-preserved extensive and impressive mining landscape containing the remains of a wide range of upstanding and buried mining components dating from the 17th to the 20th centuries.
The mine track leading back into the valley
The Langdale Pikes
Wetherlam
The mine track leads to a bridleway to Fell Foot Farm where we found the car exactly where we left it - always a relief. No sooner had we got our boots off and climbed in it started raining. Usually, this happens the other way around - the gods were definitely smiling on us today. In all, a great day out among some of the Lake District's finest.