I realised I was well north when Radio Lancs transformed into Radio Scotland. There was a lot of fresh snow and judging from the puddles it had been a wild night. I arrived at my first objective after an hour and a half driving and waited in the car whilst a sleet shower passed through. I was planning a day mopping up five scattered Wainwright outlying fells in the Northern Lakes to save motoring mileage, none of them really justified separate trips. Seven hours later, and in far better weather, I had completed the task and was on my way south.
Faulds Brow, Caermote Hill, Clint Crags, Watch Hill and Dunmallet.
This area is a quiet backwater – ‘do you ken John Peel’ the huntsman, not the DJ, born and buried in Caldbeck. From Faulds Brow, I had views over farming land down Bassenthwaite, past Skiddaw into the snowy central fells and to the north the Solway Firth with Crifell prominent. I parked up next to Caermote Roman Fort but could see little of it and was soon on the top of the Caermote Hill with its ‘memorial boulder’. Two local families are remembered. Routledge and Dean. An extension to St. John’s Hill revealed little.
I was in need of a coffee and was pleased to find by the roadside the excellent Great Escape Cafe in Moota Garden Centre – a seasonal hot cross bun was a boost. This place has an interesting history – a former second world war German prison camp. It is not mentioned as to whether any did escape. Apparently, there was a chapel on-site with paintings from the prisoners, what a shame nothing has been saved.
Next, I was on Clint Crags but couldn’t be sure of the highest point which seemed to be on the edge of a limestone quarry. More interesting were the limestone pavements below – they were obvious but covered in moss to give them a unique atmosphere. Why are other pavements elsewhere cleaner? On this hillside, there were several, what looked like new, shake holes possibly as a result of all the rain.
My drive to the next group of hills took me past the Norman St. Michael’s Church at Isel, unfortunately, it was closed because of flooding. The daffodils in the grounds were at their best. It is unusual for a church to be situated so close to a river liable to flooding. There are signs everywhere regarding red squirrels but I didn’t spot any. More of a problem the lane I was taking was signed as closed due to work on the bridge over the River Derwent – more flood damage. But luck would have it that at the very moment I arrived they took down the barriers having completed the repairs thus saving me a lengthy detour.
The walk up Watch Hill and onto the higher Setmurthy Common was the best of the day. A delightful grassy promenade in the sunshine with Cockermouth and the coast behind and views into the Loweswater Fells. I managed to find a quick way back to the car using mountain bike tracks down through the plantations.
These quiet backwaters would be worth exploring in a more leisurely fashion. But today the busy A66 took me down Bassenthwaite, past Keswick and to Pooley Bridge. Here the destroyed bridge, dating from 1754, has been temporally replaced with a Bailey one, just completed last week and bringing life back to this community. The floods this winter have been devastating and Wainwright’s sketch of the old bridge now has added nostalgia. It cost me £2 to park which seemed expensive for the 30mins walk up and down Dunmallet. Surprisingly I saw deer grazing in the woods and a woodpecker was spotted close by. That was the only plus as the summit is completely tree covered so what would have been fine views down Ullswater are now denied.
My Winter project to visit all the Outlying Fells in Wainwright’s book is proving interesting but is now running into Spring, too many other distractions.
A long day and unfortunately a long post.