Great Mell Fell and Little Mell Fell before the rain came

31st November 2015

It's been a typical Autumnal mix of low cloud and plenty of rain this past week which is why I had planned to stay below the low cloud on todays walk. It's that time of the year I guess when we have to admit that gone are the long days where we can spend up to ten hours on the fells and where a little more effort is needed to accommodate the shorter daylight hours, with this I have planned a number of walks best suited for this time of year which should see 2015 out just nicely.

On todays walk I had originally planned to collect the three summits of the Mell Fells and Gowbarrow Fell, a walk that would indulge in around eleven miles starting from Brownrigg Farm close to Matterdale End, the weather forecasters gave me four rain free hours which I thought was enough to collect all three summits, even if I had to return in the rain.

Said forecast never materialised, in fact after checking the forecast before I left for Lakeland my four hours had been reduced to just two meaning I was in for a soaking. I have walked in all weathers that Lakeland can throw at me but rain, I have trouble planning walks around it.

This morning I am here to seek out that weather window, and those fells that I really should visit more often, lets hope the forecasters got it wrong.
Wainwright Guide Book One
The Eastern Fells

-Great Mell Fell

With its lesser twin, Little Mell Fell, it forms the portals to the Helvellyn range on this side. Its round 'inverted pudding basin' does not promise much for the walker and is rarely climbed. On closer acquaintance, however, it is rather more enjoyable than its appearance suggest because of the presence of the fine woodlands on the lower slopes: indeed pines and larches persist almost to the summit.


Ascent: 2,000 Feet - 609 Meters
Wainwrights: 2, Great Mell Fell - Little Mell Fell
Weather: Dry to start, turning overcast with scattered showers developing more persistent. Highs of 13°C Lows of 12°C
Parking: Roadside Parking, Brownrigg Farm
Area: Eastern
Miles: 6.3
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL5
Time Taken: 3 Hours
Route: Brownrigg Farm - Great Mell Fell - Brownrigg Farm - Nabend Farm - Little Mell Fell - The Hause - Road back to Brownrigg Farm

Map and Photo Gallery


Heading up the track shortly after leaving the car close to Brownrigg Farm 08.45 12°C

Last nights heavy rain had stopped but the run off from the adjoining fields was spilling over the lanes washing leaves and twigs across the narrow lanes. I had timed my arrival a little later this morning so I would arrive after the rain had passed and thankfully, my timing was just about spot on - only a light misting here and there was all that was left as dark clouds hurried across the skies ready for the next ones to develope. There is space for around half a dozen well parked cars here and seeing as there was no one else here I park easily reversing my car as close to the wooden fence as possible. Despite the fact that it had stopped raining large droplets of water hit the windscreen from a canopy of tress that line the track.

Every now and again a car would pass, perhaps a plumbers van or locals each giving me a look as I kit up. The track resembles a river bed and I am careful not to wet my gear as I place it on the car roof or in the boot right until the moment that I press the key to lock the car. Overhead a light wind blows through the tree canopy as I set off up the track which is littered with fallen leaves, above me those still clinging on give me a array of Autumn colour to walk under taking my mind of the wet and muddy conditions underfoot.

Little Mell Fell over retreating Bracken.
Once onto open fell side the track steepens over short grass and muddy foot holes which are great for ascent, but I'm not too sure how I'll hold up during descent as I'll be using the same path on the way back.

Possibly some of Lakelands most photographed trees.
With the short steep haul behind me the path passes through the lower woodland where evidence of the famous windswept trees can be seen.

So exposed to the prevailing winds, the trees grow horizontally.
Bilmey, can you imagine the countless battering these trees must take, yet, rather then being blown out of the ground they adapt to their surroundings which can only be mother nature at its greatest.

The Scots Pines found in the higher woodland.

Here the mighty Scots Pines take on mother nature adapting to lean rather than grow horizontally like the younger Larches, Birch and Rowan trees found in the lower woodland, even so evidence of Scots Pines that had been blown over still continue to grow along the path which provided me with shelter during a heavy rain shower.

Between both upper and lower woodlands the path levels out leaving me feeling somewhat exposed to those famous prevailing winds, I press on.

Great Mell Fell summit cairn.

With the woodlands behind me I squelched my way towards the summit which is named as Tumulus on the Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer Maps as history states that the summit of Great Mell Fell was once the place of a ancient burial ground during the Bronze Age, it was only up until the mid 1950's was the ruins of an old tree stump that grew here was removed to make way for the stone cairn as we know today.

It had now started to rain and what started out as a shower shows no signs of ending sometime soon, with this I de-shoulder and get into my waterproof trousers before making my way to see what views, if there are any to see that is.

Murky views towards Clough Head.
Through the thickening cloud any distant fells can just about be determined although the bulk of Blencathra is almost hidden beneath a vale of thick grey cloud, below me I watch a white transit van head through to Matterdale End via the A5091, disappearing as it reached Great Mell wood below, I return to my pack which is lying on the summit cairn and shoulder up, looking towards the Dodd's I spot a rain shower approaching over the Old Coach Road, it soon arrives bringing with it more low cloud leaving my descent a wet, but very atmospheric indeed.

Descending through the cloud and rain.

Great Mell Fell Upper woodland.
Here options are opened as I am presented with two paths, I choose to go with the same path that I had used during ascent by sticking right which will once again lead me through the Scots Pines.

Eerie Scots Pines.

By now the cloud had thickened and the rain shower turned to a drizzle, still the mildness persist, after passing through the Pines my view opened up a little towards lower woodland and even glimpses of Little Mell Fell can be seen through gaps in the cloud, soon the drizzle stopped as I pass two women and a Terrier making an ascent, I must have looked a sight with my muddied and wet waterproofs but only 'Mornings' are passed.

I reached the steep bit after making my way through lower woodland, here the grass is short and the foot holes are muddied and slippery having nearly 'gone over' minutes earlier, only the retreating Bracken offers minimal grip as I ease my way down the steep grass slope. I soon re join the track thanking my stars I didn't slip, the lower track which as if by magic, is now bathed in light.

Heading down the track towards Brownrigg Farm.

It had taken me less than one hour to ascend and descend Great Mell Fell and by the time I had reached the parking spaces only one more car had arrived which I guessed was the two women's I had seen earlier. In order to gain Little Mell Fell my options were limited to two routes but I wanted to open up more, my first option was to use the track which passes through Brownrigg Farm, my second option was to walk the main road and head towards The Hause and make an ascent from there, but that didn't really appeal to me. Instead I head north towards Nabend Farm to try my luck with the Little Mell Fell north ridge, there is no permissive path shown on my map with the exception of a gate that I had found using Google Earth during the week, should I be unable to pass through I can always back track the half mile and use the lane from Nabend to Lowthwaite.

It always seems odd having to pass your own car having only left it an hour earlier, it had a scattering of leaves across the roof and bonnet as I walk past, ahead, I have just over a mile of road walking to do first passing what seemed to be a newly converted barn conversion, I was somewhat impressed as I tried not to look through the gleaming new windows or over the carefully manicured lawn that had been edged by old railway sleepers. To my left I can hear cows grunting and snorting, they are aware of my presence as I am theres but I can't see them as they are hid behind a high stone wall.

Soon after I make a right turn towards Nabend Farm where two farmers are chatting next to a muddied four wheel drive, they chat over the bonnet and return my 'morning' as I pass them by.

Passing Nabend Cottage.
Nabend Cottage is reached then passed making note of the junction on my right that I may have to return to should my plan not succeed.

Heading along the lane north of Little Mell Fell.

I recognised the old farm building from my Google Earth research, I should find my answer around the bend shown in the photo ahead, before I would reach the bend however I am passed by the two farmers in their 4x4, followed by around four of five more 4x4's one of which resembled a golf buggie but I think you know which type I mean.

The sound of banter and laughter awaited me around the corner up ahead as all the 4x4's including their drivers had stopped at the gate which had been left open, I approach cautiously making note of any sign on the gate but find nothing 'morning' I get a rumbled return from most of the farmers as I ask 'am I ok to pass through the gate' aye ok if your on your own, I explained my intention of rising quickly in order to get to the ridge ahead, use the path 'Quad path' o'theer but mind the cows, which meant I wouldn't be ascending the ridge pathless, this was great news and I thanked them for allowing me to pass through.

The farmers were right to warn me of the cows, in fact I had seen them from far below whilst studying the ridge, there was around two dozen just grazing and I made sure I kept a wide berth so as not to disturb them, one cow however is trans-fixed and rightly watches me from afar, don't worry girls I'll soon be out of here.


Little Mell Fell from the north ridge.

Despite having permission to gain access to the north ridge I still felt like I had cheated my way up there, after all the farmer was only being polite and for that I could only thank him for. There was a show of light during my ridge ascent and it looked at one point like the sun might break through the thick cloud, but nothing materialised despite the suns best efforts.

The north ridge was by means a short crossing over grassy ground which rose steadily as I now flanked high above Foxhill Farm with murky views over towards Great Mell Fell, up a head a short but steepish ascent is all that is needed in order to gain Little Mell Fell summit. Soon the familiar wire fence is reached and I am now walking with path underfoot al-beit a drenched one, more so as I reached the col seen up ahead where negotiating a rather sodden bog whilst being watched by dozen sheep took place, with just the one steep push and with no false summits I soon found myself at the trig point.

Little Mell Fell summit trig point.
I recall my last visit to Little Mell Fell coincidently back in November 2014 when the new website which you are now viewing was just a pipedream, the work involved to take my old website to the new website took five months of pain staking work night after night, after all the hard work the new website was launched in March 2015 from that pipe dream which started at this summit, I will always hold fond memories with Little Mell Fell and everything associated with it on that November day.

Gowbarrow Fell from Little Mell Fell.
It had started to rain again soon after leaving Little Mell Fell summit and a bleakness had also descended, the forecasters said that mist would roll in around noon and here it was earlier than expected, my initial plan was to summit Gowbarrow Fell via Great Meldrum seen through the murk in the left of the photo, it wasn't just the low visibility that changed my mind, the heavy rain was the final decision maker, as I decided now and then, it would be just the two summits today.

Heading towards Bald How.

Having negotiated the boggy ground at The Hause I made my way towards Matterdale End via Goosegreen and Bald How, having already passed Goosegreen where a farm worker was tidying up his front lawn I passed with a 'morning' before heading towards the white cottage you can see through the trees over in the right of the photo.

It had stopped raining by now but Gowbarrow Fell still remained below cloud, content with my decision I was able to enjoy the quaint lanes and Autumn scenery at my own pace which made the walk back to the car a rather slow, and enjoyable one.


Coming through...
I've got to say how impressed I was by the teenage boy and his sheep dog who herded this flock of sheep, followed by the next herd still in the field along the lane and back towards Bald How Farm to his waiting dad at the top of the lane who...

Seems to have a lone Ewe standing beside him,
Perhaps this lot were all males and for one of them it was his lucky day! Joking aside watching a trade passed down from father to son was great to witness, the young lad was dressed top to toe in waterproofs and looked in great spirits when other teenagers his age are probably still in bed or glued to their mobile phones.

Only minutes away from Brownrigg Farm.
The colours of the tree lined lanes never failed to dissapoint.

Back at Brownrigg Farm.

Cutting a walk short is a decision that I never like making, but the pro's simply out weighted the con's and despite the cloud still lingering over Gowbarrow Fell by the time I reached Brownrigg Farm, it doing so made my decision that much easier to swallow.

Having just spent three hours walking in cloud and drizzle it was that last mile and a half back to the car that I enjoyed the most whilst dawdling beneath a canopy of Autumnal leave kicking stones not wanting my walk to come to an end by which time, the drizzle had returned and the mist had descended once again. It still wasn't quite midday and I was feeling hungry, so rather than rush back home I ate lunch in my car, soon the windows start to mist up causing me to drop the front two, I take a deep breath of Lakeland air, start my engine and bring a close to three hours of great walking before the rain finally set in.


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