Walking the Wainwrights in 30 Walks - Walk 8 The Back O'Skiddaw Fells

3rd April 2016

Despite having a free weekend todays walk was confined to a Sunday due to Saturday's forecast where the district experienced quite a prolonged period of heavy rain continuing from Friday which left the fells feeling rather sponge like.

I'm slowly starting to tear away from the stigma that I created concerning what a Sunday walk should be which consists of ideally a walk under eight miles yet due to this years challenge of completing the Wainwrights in 30 walks I'm starting to find it impossible especially as we enter Spring where it doesn't know whether to rain or shine...I guess the words I'm looking for is a consistent forecast, which of course as a fell walker is asking the impossible. So now that I've nurtured my bones into some tough Sunday walks todays route; although over good ground takes in eight Wainwright summits first starting with Longlands Fell and ending with the Lakeland frontier that is Binsey.

I've walked this route a couple of times and only as recently as last November but back then and unlike today I will also be including Knott and, as an out and back, Great Calva before continuing to collect Meal Fell and Great Cockup thereafter before completing the walk with what felt like the arduous task of summiting Binsey...at what felt like a snails pace at times which in all, was all good training for what lies ahead.

Wainwright Guide Book Five
The Northern Fells


If the party consists of more than one person, and if, further, a bat, ball and wickets can be found in the depths of somebody’s rucksack, a cricket match can be played on a turf that many a county ground might covert.

Ascent: 3,617 Feet - 1,103 Meters
Wainwrights: 8, Longlands Fell - Brae Fell - Great Sca Fell - Knott - Great Calva - Meal Fell - Great Cockup - Binsey
Weather: Light Rain to Start Remaining Overcast, Some Bright Spells Throughout The Afternoon. Light Winds Across The Summits. Highs of 12°C Lows of 7°C
Parking: Parking Spaces, Over Water
Area: Northern
Miles: 14.3
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL4
Time Taken: 6 Hours 40 Minutes
Route: Over Water - Lowthwaite - Longlands - Longlands Fell - Top of Charleton Gill - Brae Fell - Little Sca Fell - Great Sca Fell - Knott - Top of Wiley Gill - Great Calva - Top of Wiley Gill - Frozen Fell - Meal Fell - Great Cockup - Orthwaite Bank - Orthwaite - Overwater Hall - Binsey - Over Water

Map and Photo Gallery


Looking back on Over Water and Binsey from the start of my ascent on Longlands Fell 09:54 7°C

It was a late start due to family commitments the evening before which saw me arrive at Over Water 09:15am. The forecast had predicted light cloud but not the rain I had driven through and indeed kitted up under way back at the parking spaces close to Over Water. However, I wasn't too worried as my route ahead could be seen, it was only Skiddaw's summit which had a covering of cloud which was on the move, had I have been on my way up there this morning there wouldn't have been any need for concern.

During kit up a white car pulls up along side mine but the driver, a middle aged woman doesn't get out instead she checks her location by map and pulls away soon after, I paid it no attention but it's not the last I'll see of the driver, for now anyway. The rain is light but it fills the puddles in the quiet lane leaving a mild but dull start to the walk, kitted up I lock the car and head out in the direction of Longlands, it's over a mile walk which will give ample time to stretch the legs especially during the steep pull through Lowthwaite whereafter I'll drop down onto the Cumbrian Way before picking up a narrow path onto Longlands Fell supreme north ridge, by which time it had stopped raining and the woman who had pulled up along side me back at Over Water was a couple of hundred feet ahead on the ridge after I had passed her car at the parking spaces close to Longlands Beck.

Mud and standing water was an early issue especially along the Cumbrian Way where even the sheep had had enough, progress along here was slow and so too was the start of the ascent from the Cumbrian Way onto the ridge due to the flat sodden ground but once height was steadily gained I soon left the pockets of water behind in favour of short grass where the rain water couldn't stand, just flow which made for a slightly quicker progress.

Picking up Longlands Fell north ridge soon after leaving the Cumbrian Way with Skiddaw in the distance.

Stopping to look back along the ridge shortly before arriving at Longlands Fell summit.

Skiddaw and the Ullock Pike ridge from Longlands Fell summit cairn.
On her way back down is what I can only assume is a local woman with a Collie dog which is chasing balls thrown from one of those ball throwing things (I forget what they're called) We pass with a 'morning' as the woman who I had seen earlier at Over Water leaves the summit after taking a few photos shortly before I arrive which, despite it looking busy here today, I find I have the summit to myself.

Brae Fell seen with Little Ska Fell and Great Sca Fell.
I took this photo soon after leaving Longlands Fell summit and in it you can see Brae Fell over to left and Little and Great Sca Fell (s) centre right. A prominant path navigates left then over the top of Charleton Gill seen running through the middle of the photo, it didn't take much effort to reach here and belive it or not most of the hard work for now is behind me...all that is left is the steady plods to reach most summits seen in this photo which is just one of the reasons why I love coming here, and that's not to mention the solitude.

Looking back on Longlands Fell seen shortly after crossing the top of Charleton Gill.
Which was a tad boggy this morning.

Brae Fell is just a short walk away now.
It was only after commenting on my Facebook Page on where I had been today did I receive a comment back from Helena Gregory who also noticed just how blue and grey the skies above the district are today, it didn't always look this way but amongst the observant, nice while it did.

Brae Fell summit.
It's a nice plod from the top of Charleton Gill in order to reach Brae Fell summit, the path swings in the opposite direction before swinging back at which point I always leave the path in favour of a less trodden route over hummocky ground, why I do this I have no idea as the prominent path is far easier to use but less direct.

Little Sca Fell seen shortly after leaving Brae Fell summit.

I arrive at the summit much the same time the woman who had been ahead of me, now seen as a tiny dot ahead who is preparing to leave 'mornings' are passed before I de-shoulder allowing myself to pack away my cumbersome camera case.

I think that's the last I'll see of the rain, hopefully anyway.

Views over Lowthwaite Fell, Longlands Fell and Binsey.
And not forgetting a glimpse of Over Water too.

Dramatic skies once more over Brae Fell.
Far less menacing than the clouds actually look, it's pretty nippy now I'm in the wide open but not cold enough for hat or gloves despite the odd breath seen in the air.

Views over Skiddaw, Burn Todd, Frozen Fell, Meal Fell and Great Cockup.
I stop to observe the route I will take from Frozen Fell seen as the grassy ridge in the left foreground which descends steeply into Frozenfell Gill before I will re-ascend onto Meal Fell, it's a route that I've always wanted to try despite the descent and re-ascent being devilishly steep I'm very much looking forward to treading on un-trodden ground later in the walk.

Knott from Great Sca Fell Summit.

The cloud is just about starting to lift from Knott right about now but I'm not looking forward to making the crossing too much due to how notoriously boggy it can get.

Talking about wet and boggy...why is it I always remember the puddle next to the summit more than I do the cairn...speaks volumes about just how wet this whole area is I guess.

Blue skies breaking through above Knott.

Knott summit cairn.

The crossing was as wet as expected and I'm not afraid to say that I kept to the long grasses sometimes trekking far and wide in order to avoid the bogs, yet I was delighted to witness the cloud break almost like opening a set of curtains as I summited the shoulder of the fell when all that was left as I arrived at the cairn was pockets of cloud and bright sunlight.

Just marvellous and a real highlight taken from the whole day.

Decsending Knott for Great Calva.
I'm not too sure if the Col between Knott and Great Calva has a name but for names sake I always refer to it as 'The top of Wiley Gill' Here I am descending onto the Col all the while observing where I will have to leave the path during my return from which I'll traverse a pathless route onto Frozen Fell, as suspected I'll have to re-ascend part of the way back up Knott before leaving the path on the flat (ish) ground you see in the right foreground.

Views over Bannerdale Crags, and a cloud topped Blencathra seen with Great Calva on the right.

Great Calva is by far the longest 'out and back' within my campaign so far which really isn't too much to write home about as I enjoy this type of walking very much, what I'm not looking forward to however are the bogs found between here and Great Calva summit, more so as I will have to deal with them after heavy rain and in ascent too.

But this is why we walk right?

Great Calva is just ahead.

Skylarks accompanied my ascent and took my mind away from the bogs underfoot from which negotiations were made. Ahead is Great Calva's summit and more bog hopping but not as much as I had to deal with in ascent which should make the last half mile a very pleasant one with only one thing on my mind.


Great Calva summit cairn.

It was a steady pull onto the summit of Great Calva as I am reminded of the coiled loose fence wire which straggles the area just below the summit, a memory so vivid it seems like I was only here yesterday but a whole ten months have past since then. The summit shelter is soon reached without pausing to take a photo of the summit itself I re-arrange a couple of flat rocks before de-shouldering my pack and ease myself down low enough to let the wind pass comfortably above my head. Streaks of cloud and a little haze obscure Knott for now as I look down whilst eating lunch at the wooden foot bridge which crosses Wiley Gill before the path continues along the Cumbrian Way now flanked by the Caldew.

I don't often finish my lunch often saving some for the end of the walk but today I'm so comfortable sat here in the shelter I savour every last bite regretting the moment when I have to pop my head back into the summit winds much like you would as you get out of a warm bed in a morning, but time is ticking on and I force myself to make the move before re-shouldering my pack, from then I hop over the wire fence from where I took this photo of the summit cairn.

Within what seems like seconds lunch was soon forgotten as I start to retrace my steps over sodden ground while making star fists with my hands trying to get a little warmth back into them although I might be in luck as it seems the sun is about to come out.

Looking back on Great Calva before retracing my steps back to the Col.

Back at the Col found between Knott and Great Calva.
I made good timings retracing my steps often remembering the boggier bits which I could navigate around. The sun was beaming down and the temperature had increased accordingly yet should the sun get obscured by cloud, the dip in temperature was instant. Ahead a steady ascent is needed as I pin point a position from where I'll leave the path onto Frozen Fell.

Stopping to look back over Wiley Gill, Great Calva and a cloud topped Blencathra.

Burn Todd from the top of Wiley Gill.

Frozen Fell.
After leaving the comforts of the path behind I made my trackless ascent on Frozen Fell and soon found myself looking upon a vast sea of wild grasses accompanied once again by the sound of Lapwings who could be heard over the summit winds. It was hard work made easier at times by finding sheep trods that lead through the grasses which halted in at the odd Peat Hag which had to be navigated. Whilst making the crossing at the northern tip of the summit I came across a stream of water which dropped loudly underground, the water so clear you could see your own reflection looking back at you, in circumference it was no bigger than a dust bin lid but it captured my imagination for a few moments before I proceeded to make my way further north across the summit soon greeted by the sights of Great Sca Fell, Little Sca Fell and in the distance, Brae Fell.

Views over Great Sca Fell, Little Sca Fell and Brae Fell from the summit of Frozen Fell.

Arrving at the northern tip of Frozen Fell with long distant views towards Lowthwaite Fell and Longlands Fell.
This sounds like something from a Lord of the Rings movie, but 'Im about to descend into Frozenfell Gill.

Hazy views over Meal Fell, Great Cockup, Over Water and Binsey.

Meal Fell was shouting distance away, infact I could almost lip read what the people stood at the summit were talking about but my main concentration had to be to get down safely as Frozen Fell's northern ridge which descends into Frozenfell Gill is extremely steep and the only way to tackle this efficiently was to zig-zag my way down using three to four steps at a time.

I soon picked up the technique making swift use of my walking poles with each turn, the fell side would drop away sharply revealing more steep ascent but soon after some knee twisting turns Frozenfell Gill appeared as I picked my crossing at its narrowest point.

Views up towards the Col between Little and Great Sca Fell from Frozenfell Gill.

In the opposite direction Frozenfell Gill contributes into Burntodd Gill.

What a place!! Sadly I dont have any time to explore the area as I am about to get my second wind in order to climb my way onto Meal Fell.

Second winds don't often come, and when they do it's best not to waste them, especially when faced with a steep climb.

Looking back over Frozenfell Gill towards Frozen Fell once I had reached the shoulder of Meal Fell.
Talk about hard work.

Here, I pause to look back on Little Sca Fell (left) and Great Sca Fell (right) before heading for Meal Fell summit.

Binsey and Over Water from Meal Fell summit cairn.
An hour ago Binsey looked so far away and now it's starting to look and feel much closer, as it turns out I'm still miles away but it's all good ground between here and there.

Great Cockup from the micro valley of Trusmadoor.
Meal Fell is descended soon finding myself crossing the micro valley of Trusmadoor, despite feeling tempted every time I find myself here I assure myself that one day, I will walk past that cairn and through Trusmadoor, but not today, instead I take on the steady ascent onto Great Cockup under a warm afternoon sun.

Little Sca Fell, Great Sca Fell and Meal Fell from Great Cockup.
Where I meet a chap who told me he had just descended Burn Todd, but who also asked "which summit is this" I went onto say Great Cockup and the guy repeated my words if only to confirm them, a nice chap who returned back towards Trusmadoor.

Binsey and Overwater as I make my descent over Orthwaite Bank.
Despite Binsey being in sight I didn't seem to be in any rush to get there, instead I enjoy the grassy stroll descending Orthwaite Bank as far as the stone wall before heading into Orthwaite passing a family found close by the road side enjoying a picnic.

Passing Orthwaite Farm.
Soon after I will pick up the Bridleway towards Over Water Hall by crossing the stone wall into open farmland where if my memory serves me right, I shall have to watch out for the attacking Buzzard.

Binsey is seen as I cross the wall onto the Bridleway.
A sign post is reached soon between Orthwaite Farm and Orthwaite Cottage, here I cross the stone wall via a set of steps, two up and two down. From the top of the wall however, I spot the many Sheep in the field grazing with their new born Lambs which instantly set alarm bells ringing, however it would seem that the Sheep are in the left of the field as the Bridleway passes through via the right, I keep a tight right and manage to pass through hardly noticed.

The moat featured pond found close to Over Water Hall.
It was a wet and boggy affair passing through the pastures of Over Water Hall and to be honest, I was pleased to have them behind me, all I could concentrate on now was reaching the summit of Binsey. After passing through the grounds of Over Water Hall I take on the long tarmac driveway before reaching the entrance gate from where I take a left turn onto the narrow lane which I had driven on hours earlier in order to reach the car park at Over Water, it's funny how you don't notice the decline in the road except when your walking back up it, but soon, after a steady plod Binsey Cottage is reached and so too is the gate which opens out onto the open fell side.

Looking back on ground trodden from my ascent on my eighth and last summit of the walk, Binsey.

The sun breaks through the cloud high above Great Calva, Dash Falls and Bakestall.

The north western fells from Binsey summit.
I had expected to see the crowds in their hoards during my ascent on Binsey but only managed to pass two couples and their dogs who were on their way down, we pass with a smile as the summit cairn, followed by the trig point slowly comes into view. I had every reason not to spend any time on my last summit of the day, after all, it's a Sunday walk and things need to be done at home but I had to give this walk the respect it deserved and I do this, by not sitting in the shelter away from the cool wind but by just standing there, alone, just me and my thoughts whilst looking back over trodden, and much loved ground.


The Back O'Skiddaw group seen from Over Water.

After having my respected summit time I made my descent under the gloom of a Spring afternoon which started to feel much later than it actually was but this all changed when the sun did come back out briefly as I made my way back to the car whilst passing Over Water. Despite the brief appearance from the sun I was itching to delayer feeling more uncomfortable more than anything still wearing the same layers as I had set off in over six hours ago but I'm too close to the car to start faffing about.

Soon my car is reached and I get my delayer, the puddles of this morning have now dried up and are long gone, it's only six hours ago did I set off in the rain only to end my walk under afternoon sun completing another walk within my campaign feeling utterly contempt that I have kept my wish while collecting the summits I had set out to do all the while spending a great full day on the fells.

By eck I'm gonna ache tomorrow.


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