Sunday, 16 November 2014

Uldale - Walking in the Northern Fells

Longlands - Longlands Fell - Brae Fell - Little Sca Fell - Great Sca Fell - Meal Fell - Trusmadoor - Great Cockup - Over Water

In various situations in life I find myself rooting for the underdogs. It's always uplifting to see someone or something come out on top despite the odds. I have a similar approach when picking a walk to do in the Lakes. Sure a walk up Blencathra, Scafell, Helm Crag or Coniston Old Man is pretty hard to beat. But the Lake District is also full of unsung heroes, fells which don't have the height, views, challenges and legends that the big guns do. Nonetheless they each have a charm of their own, and with such fells you also get a chance to escape the crowds.

This walk around the Back o' Skiddaw meant a chance of a quiet walk on a busy weekend. The Uldale Fells are a group of fells right on the northernmost edge of the National Park, with only Binsey beyond. As far as walking goes these fells are more leisurely than lively. Most of the walks are on grassy slopes, with the occasional steeper climb here and there but overall it's straightforward.

If anything, as they are all fairly similar in look and feel, you do have to keep your wits about you when navigating.

We parked at the small car park at Over Water and made the short walk along the road to Longlands, then headed out on our grassy climb. The walk up to Longlands fell was straightforward without much chance to go wrong and as we got higher the views behind back over Binsey, the Solway Firth and Scotland beyond opened up.

From Longlands Fell our next target was Brae Fell, which on paper looked like a short hop away, but the relatively deep Charleton Gill meant making a detour before the final ascent to reach the bulky cairn that adorns the summit of Brae Fell.

Here we left the views over Solway behind, heading "inland" into the heart of Uldale. It was a straightforward walk across to Little Sca Fell and Great Sca Fell just behind. By this point with the fells are quite similar-looking it can be disorientating, but you do get a wonderful feeling of solitude and serenity.

The next part of the walk saw us head in an almost straight line, coming down from Great Sca Fell, onto Meal Fell and then Great Cockup. The summit at Meal Fell was an interesting collection of lumps, cairns and a decent shelter and so it was here that we settled down for our lunch.

The most challenging part of the walk lay ahead as we had to cross the wonderfully Tolkienesque Trusmadoor to get to Great Cockup.

This ravine actually looked worse than it was, and the purple heather clad slopes made it all very picturesque. Once we had completed the steep climb up it was a simple walk over to the summit of Great Cockup and then down to Little Cockup.

The end of the walk was actually the hardest part, as there didn't seem to be a direct path back down to the road. We headed for what looked like a track towards the farm buildings of Stockdale but it was soon evident that this was private land, and a farmer's wife who saw us soon afterwards was friendly enough but it was clear that we had gone slightly wrong!

Apart from that this was a delightful excursion to the north of the national park and an area what we will be revisiting for sure.