Saturday, 4 June 2016

Cross Fell, 2,930 feet. Cumbria. Pennine Way. England.

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A trip over the border to climb Cross Fell, 890 metres, 2,930 feet, the highest mountain in England outside the nearby Lake District  and also the high point of the long distance Pennine Way. It's a big beast of a hill notorious for having it's own powerful wind, the Helm Wind, which roars down its flanks during certain conditions and in ancient times was known as "Fiends Fell" due to the howls and shrieks sometimes produced by this unusual phenomenon at its severe best. The only named wind in Britain, incidentally.
It's also known for dense fog banks hanging over the summit so we were very lucky when Graeme, and Alex suggested a trip to climb it a couple of months ago on a lovely sunny day.
Our start point was from a small car park ( probably Kirklands as I don't have a map of that area) which lies to the east of Penrith, one of our favourite Cumbrian towns as we normally stop off there to get a Cumberland Sausage Supper after a trip to the Lakes. Although psychologically far distant in the minds of most Central Belt hill-walkers, fixated on the Scottish Highlands, this area and the adjacent Lake District can be enjoyed a mere two hour drive from Glasgow and both districts feel much closer time wise than anything north of Oban or Fort William thanks to wide straight roads. Having recently spent an hour stuck in the usual bank holiday traffic last Sunday heading down Loch Lomondside, a regular occurrence nowadays at this notorious bottleneck every sunny summer weekend this is a good if surprising alternative to avoid the masses. Arrive early though to get a space in the small car parks dotted around which does mean an early start and arrival before 9:30am.
As we climbed higher we started to get views over the 3000 foot plus peaks of the English Lake District, still draped in winter snow. Being taller and covering a larger area they attracted more clouds on and off throughout the day. Cross Fell is reminiscent of the Eastern Cairngorms or the Blair Atholl hills as it looks deceptively easy from the bottom but is one of those giant hog back monsters that always seem to take ages to ascend.
After a great dry start on good tracks the ground conditions turned slightly spongy the higher we climbed and the middle section introduced us to the typical featureless moorland, extensive bogs and boulder fields characteristic of the Pennine Way which runs down this high central spine of Northern England. In fierce wind conditions, driving rain or fog it would be really miserable up here and tricky to navigate with zero shelter apart from the man made structures that dot the landscape.
By the time we reached the summit of Cross Fell a bitter wind had picked up and it was no longer the calm warm morning experienced at the valley car park, where we had watched a red squirrel foraging for food beside the stream. Mostly obscured by vegetation or trees as it bounced around 50 feet away it defied our best efforts to get a clear photograph of it.
At this point we decided to split up. Graeme and David were happy with Cross Fell summit and would return the same way whereas Alex and myself, inspired by being in a new area, would carry on along this high ridge line to Great Dun Fell, 849 metres, 2785 feet and bag a tiny section of the famous Pennine Way. Tall cairns marked the path up here for Pennine Way walkers and I'd imagine you would be grateful to see them in poor conditions and limited visibility. At 268 miles, 430km long and over 30,000 feet of ascent in total it is reputedly England's toughest long distance footpath and you can see why here when much of the high level action takes place in such empty and featureless terrain with little in the way of shelter from the elements although the surrounding valleys are beautiful and pleasant of character. Good map and info here.

A flagstone path runs from Cross Fell over to Great Dun Fell to limit erosion of the surrounding bog.
We met four walkers on the way up the first hill and the only other person we bumped into after Cross Fell summit was this intrepid mountain biker racing along the flagstone highway at a great rate of speed. Far faster than I'd like to travel myself on a bike with such a tricky ribbon to follow so he must be good. Maybe we just caught it on a quiet day but many Munros in Scotland these days are far busier than this and it did have a remote empty feel all day.
Great Dun Fell has the usual golf ball radar installations adorning its summit. Some winter snow still lingering along this high escarpment.
On the way down we cut straight off the summit, heading for the village of Millburn. A nice descent with old mine workings, interesting animals and good views.
A herd of Belted Galloway Cattle, a tough distinctive breed well suited to upland conditions and limited grazing.
One of them had an itchy neck and was rubbing it on a lump of abandoned building.( probably mine workings as we had followed the rusty remains of an old overhead cable-way capable of lifting metal buckets of materials up or down the hillside.

Getting lower and entering productive farmland again

Further down we encountered a field of heavy horses enjoying the afternoon sunshine and fresh spring air. Nature gets revitalized by the onset of "Spring" as well it would appear.
By this time it was feeling like a long hike back to the car but luckily kindhearted Graeme eased our suffering by driving to meet us, picking us up in this neat village square. A bus shelter view and a well earned rest stop.
On the journey back we stopped off at the Little Chippy in Penrith for our traditional hill-walking fare of Cumberland Sausage and Chips. They don't sell these tasty treats in Scotland in any chip shops we know so this local produce is always sampled when we are down in Cumbria. A great day out and an unexpected destination.
We had a wander around Penrith in the evening before getting our chip suppers but this new development area, while interesting, appeared empty and had none of the character and long history of the original town centre close by.
Our mecca for hungry hill walkers. Great chip shops can be hard to find but I've yet to discover a bad one in Cumbria. Cumberland Sausage Heaven.

I'm not a fan of tribute bands normally but I came across this group on You Tube recently and they really capture the soul, magic and essence of the original artist to a high degree. Obviously you need the original songs and material/creator in the first place to start with but as Kate Bush rarely tours and her tickets are like gold dust I would happily watch this band live- not as any inferior substitute but as a unique experience in their own right. At £60 to £100 plus pounds a ticket I would never expend the energy to see K.B. anyway in person as it usually involves dates in major English cities rather than Scotland but I would definitely go to see Cloudbusting and really enjoy it... and at £12 to £20 pounds that is well within my budget range for bands.
On the strength of their videos online they could do a nationwide tour in their own right and fill halls across Britain and Europe if they so desired but the music industry being what it is today even the original artists struggle to make a reliable living at it and they probably have full time jobs that pay better money on a dependable month to month basis. Worth a watch. Real star quality and dramatic tension achieved.


Kay G. said...

Another wonderful post! I am glad that biker didn't mow you down, maybe bikers are more careful of walkers over there, we have to really watch out for them here!
Those cows are gorgeous! I am glad to know the name, "Belted Galloway". There are some near my Dad's house and he says that people call them "Oreo" cows. (Oreos are cookies here and they are dark with white inside!)
Love your walks and climbs, but I imagine I could do without that wind that is so strong that it has been NAMED!

Rosemary said...

We are off to the Lake District soon, but these days we wont be climbing up high like yourselves - it will have to be the more gentle valley walks.
We have Belted Galloway on the Common where we live put there by the National Trust - I remember when we lived in Scotland you only ever saw them around the Gatehouse-of-Fleet area and now they have become very popular all around the world. Our local children call them Panda cows.

Linda W. said...

Enjoyed the recap of your latest hiking adventure!

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Kay,
We were quick stepping off the path to let the biker zoom past as he didn't look like stopping. Many years ago I was nearly hit by a mountain biker then a man on horseback, both going at breakneck speed, in Hyde Park in London as I wasn't expecting such a fast pace in a city park(I failed to notice they had introduced individual lanes for different sports and had wandered off the walking one)
Felt like a country bumpkin in the big city.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Rosemary,
If it's not too far from where you are staying in the Lakes, Keswick and Ambleside are lovely little towns to visit and the easy balcony trail around the base of Loughrigg Fell, 335 metres, passing Loughrigg Tarn, Grasmere, Rydal Water back to Clappersgate has some of the finest scenery anywhere in Cumbria but most of the low level walks in the Lakes are special.
Hope you enjoy your trip.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Linda.

Neil said...

Cross Fell is on my to do list. An interesting area that I have yet to explore. Hadn't thought about a day trip but I suppose that it's no further from Glasgow than is Aviemore.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Neil,
Yes, it's easily done in a day from Glasgow and one best walked in decent weather. Cross Fell from the Penrith side is also the shortest way up and I would hazard a guess the most scenic as we all enjoyed the experience. You would need to arrive early though as the car park only takes around 7 or 8 cars at the road end and other parking opportunities nearby looked slim.
142 miles Glasgow to Aviemore.... 116 miles Glasgow to Penrith.

Carol said...

Those ponies are 'Fell & Dale' ponies - the largest (I think) of our native pony breeds. They're noted for their strength and weight-carrying ability.

Haven't done Cross Fell/Great Dun Fell yet but aim to in not very long - perhaps next year...

You know, you've got to turn off 'Captcha' - it's now making us click on around 20 photos (about 3 or 4 rounds of them) before we can comment and it's driving me mad!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
I wondered why I was getting so many page hits at over 1000 plus a day. I'll look into it. Doesn't happen when I click on them so I was none the wiser. Thanks.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
That should be it off now. You no longer need to click on my photos full screen :o)
Hopefully, I wont get hit with loads of unsolicited crap.

Anonymous said...

Cross Fell and the Penrith chippy - not a bad day out