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Selside, Branstree and Harter Fell

Date & start time: Saturday 3rd July 2010, 11.20 am start.

Location of Start :Roadside a mile before Mardale Head, Haweswater, Cumbria, Uk ( NY 479 118 )

Places visited : Rowantreethwaite Beck, Selside, Artle Crags, Branstree, Gategarth Pass, Harter Fell, Nan Bield Pass, Small Water, Mardale Head, Mardale Hotel.

Walk details : 8.6 mls, 2600 ft, 6 hrs 30 mins including lunch.

Highest point : Mardale's Harter Fell, 2552 ft - 778 m.

Walked with : Neil, Jo, John, Ann and the dogs, Jodie, Amber, Polly, Harry and Bethan.

Weather : Sunny with fine weather clouds but a cool breeze, strong at times.

 Selside, Branstree and Harter Fell at EveryTrail


With all the dry weather this summer a walk in the Haweswater area has an added potential for interest

as any low water level would tend to expose the remains of the old Mardale Village

drowned in the 1930's under the expanded Haweswater Reservoir.

With this in mind we drove over for a walk on the fells overlooking the head of the Haweswater,

enjoying the proximity of the lake for the whole of the walk and still having the potential for adventure at the end of the day.

Haweswater Reservoir, close to the Water Outflow Tower, from the new 1930's road up the valley.

Ahead, clear in the lovely sunny weather, was Harter Fell and Mardale Ill Bell.

We would ascend the Coffin Route path up and away from the lake

and complete the circle, by returning through the gate opposite from the lakeside path, later in the day .

A wider panorama as we leave the road behind.

The trees on The Rigg opposite lead to the ridge known as Rough Crag which curves around to the prominent peak of Kidsty Pike.

The island, Wood How, is much larger than normal due to the reduced water level. It's all those Manchester folk having too many baths !

The path used to join the old village to the neighbouring one at Shap and would have been used for communication between the head of the valley and the outside world.

It's Coffin Road name derived from the fact that before the Mardale Church was built, the bodies of the deceased would have been carried this way in order to be interred with a Christian burial at Shap Abbey. We're going back to the 18th century here according to John.

Wood How . . .

or " Jodie balancing a rock on her nose " as seen from a bracken covered hillside.

Probably the building was an old peat house used for storing and drying turf ready to be used as fuel for the villagers.

Kidsty Pike and High Raise are the fells behind.

More lovely dappled hill sides above a second old stone building.

Neil and Ann stop to admire the view back as we reach the summit of the old path.

By coincidence it was the weekend of the Saunders Mountain Marathon, a two day mountain navigation event

which was being run in and around this area.


One of the many competitors we saw today,

with six more in the distance.

We leave the main path

and head up for the summit of Selside.

Cresting the ridge we could look over into Swindale.

Fast moving clouds brought ever changing light and shade to the fells.

The waterfalls opposite can only just be seen due to the dry weather.

East of us were the Pennines and the village of Shap at the other end of the Coffin Road.

Selside Summit is marked by a large rock wind shelter, marked on the map as a "cairn" of some antiquity.

The view east was wide and spectacular today.

Following the fence line we crossed " Captain Whelter Bog ". . . what a wonderful name.

Fortunately it was dry today so crossing it was no problem

Our route crossed the line of the Haweswater Aqueduct, in a tunnel blasted through the rock some 1300 feet below our feet.

It was constructed to deliver the water from the reservoir to Manchester and when built was the longest such pipeline in Britain.

The tower was an old survey post used in the planning and construction of the project.

Looking back, it can be seen again as a small black pillar away in the distance beyond the fence.

Selside, our first summit today, is the darker topped second peak in the centre of the photo.

Up now to Artle Crags and the large cairn amongst the rocky outcrop.

It was also a checkpoint on the mountain event, successfully found by these competitors.

The yellow orienteering marker flag

is attached to the electronic recorder box.


Each team must wave their electronic armband close to the box

to register their team number and their time of arrival.


The statistics are then fed back to the organisers at race control.

Check here for more details.

A nice view . . . a good spot for lunch ?

Sheltering in the crags and out of the wind, we were able to enjoy the warm sunshine while we relaxed.

Onward now to Branstree . . .

a small summit cairn and an even smaller trig point . . . plus a log of wood, a remnant from an adjacent fence.

With the others ahead, I descend to the Gatesgarth Pass, with the large bulk of Kentmere Pike on the opposite side of the gap.

Our path ahead can all-to-clearly be seen climbing the grassy slopes of Adam Seat, before heading right towards Harter Fell.

From there it would climb over Little Harter Fell before leading on to the rounded top of Harter Fell in the distance.

- - - o o o - - -


A new fence but an old boundary stone.

Presumably the "L" stands for the Lowther Estates

as we descend to the pass.


- - - o o o - - -

Out of the breeze the temperature soars and we take a layer off before starting the next climb.

The gate on Gatesgarth Pass . . . with another orange marker.
Bethan made friends with a competitor resting briefly at the junction.

These engineered paths may cut down on excessive erosion but it will be years before the new scars they have created ever heal over.

This path was wide enough to drive a car up . . . but I bet if they had asked for planning permission for a road this size they wouldn't have got it !

- - - o o o - - -

Ooops . . . have I got carried away ? . . . back to the nice walk . . .

Climbing Harter Fell we get a direct view down to the head of Haweswater.

The extent of the low water level can now be seen as the old field walls start to show clear of the water.

" Haweswater from the Third Cairn "

In his Far Eastern Fells book

Wainwright included a sketch with himself leaning against a rock

looking down on the valley below.


With the aid of a pipe from Jo's rucksack,

(she doesn't smoke by the way, it was left over from the Orrest Head Walk)

the re-creation of the drawing is almost complete.


[ Move your cursor over the photo to see how we did ]

Well ... we were close !

At the top, the "first" cairn of Harter Fell

and the old iron fence post collection that characterises any picture of this summit.

John now leads the way down to Nan Bield Pass

and we get our first view of Small Water, a classic, glacier created corrie lake under the crags of Mardale Ill Bell.

On the opposite side, Kentmere Reservoir, its waters shimmering in the afternoon sun.

Following the natural path down from the top . . .

. . . passing the Nan Bield Shelter, a haven from the wind for other folk today.

Small Water and Haweswater and the distant Pennines from more or less the same spot.

" Going Down "

The water from the lake almost appears to flow directly into the reservoir.

The illusion of the telephoto lens removes the mile gap between.

Neil by the large rock with myself and the dogs down at the water's edge.

Jo and John walk down, deep in conversation perhaps.

We all meet up again at the lake side.

Bethan and Harry enjoying the water . . . as ever.

Alongside the path three stone shelters have been built

presumably to protect travellers in the event of sudden bad weather.

They are each large enough for two inside . . . if you're good friends.

Classic Lakeland.

Our route down from the pass can be seen on the fell side above Ann.

Looking forward after we leave the lake, our path follows the Small Water Beck down the fell side.

The old . . .
. . . and the new.

In view of the mile-long road walk back three of us leave our rucksacks in the care of Jodie (Ann & Neil) and head down on the lakeshore.

The cars are parked in the distance somewhere between the two ears.

Taking the opportunity to explore

we follow the recently exposed, old valley road rather than the green lakeshore path.

Piles of stones, all that remains of an old barn or house.

Warm sun has dried and cracked the lake mud.

I believe this is the old track down to where the Dun Bull used to stand.

The water level isn't low enough to expose the old ruins of the hotel itself.

We join the green path as it continues on down the lake.

More old walls are emerging from the lake.

Wood How island can be seen in the middle of the lake ahead. This would have been the location of the old Mardale Church.

This is a framed map of the area (from the new hotel) . . .
. . . and a close up of the old village plan.

Presumably the ruins of the old Grove House at the foot of Hopegill Beck.

The stumps are all that remain of once proud trees that surrounded the house.

The field gate posts of the old Goosemire property look across to Kidsty Pike once again.

Time to climb up alongside the beck to the cars . . .
. . . and collect Ann, Neil, Jodie and our rucksacks.

The contrast between today and 1934.

A nostalgic look back at Mardale in 1934. (photo from a local guide book, Mardale Revisited )

The Dun Bull Inn can be seen to the left with the Church and buildings near Chapel Hill to the right.

[ Move your cursor over the photo to contrast with my first photo from today, taken from more or less the same place]

Post walk refreshments served at the Haweswater Hotel

[ Thanks too, for the opportunity to photograph the framed map of the valley ]

Mmmm . . . Tea with a view.

- - - o o o - - -


Technical note: Pictures taken with either Ann's Canon 75 or my Canon G10 digital camera.

Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.

This site best viewed with . . .books and old maps to enjoy the walk even more.

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Previous walk - 1st July 2010 George Fisher's Summer Cruise

A previous time up here - 31st July 2004 Rough Crag, a Wainwright and OFC walk

Next walk - 8th July 2010 Haystacks with Hilton and Sarah