25th May 2013

Seclusion among the far eastern fells


Walk Overview
Time 7.00am to 12.45pm
Duration 5 hr 45 min
Distance 11.4 mile
Ascent 3300 ft
Walking with On my own
Mardale Head - Gatescarth Pass - Brownhowe Bottom - Tarn Crag - Grey Crag - Harrop Pike - off path to Selside Brow - Branstree - Artle Crag - Captain Whelter Bog - Sellside Pike - Selside End - Hare Shaw - Old Corpse Road - Haweswater - Mardale Head
Fells visited
Directory places visited

Starting Point Information Centre
Car park, Mardale Head, Haweswater

Although I've listed this one as being a car park, the truth of the matter is, if you don't get here early you'll end up having to park along the roadside. At times the line of cars can stretch back along the road for quite someway, but this doesn't really matter. Simply park up at the end of the line and away you go.

Parking is free and despite its popularity there are no facilities at all.


Route Map

I don't normally stop to take pictures on the way to start a walk. Yes, I already know I'm lazy so you don't need to tell me. Today, I managed to talk myself into stopping the car and going to all the trouble of opening the boot, taking out the camera and taking a couple of photos. Okay, it's not really that much trouble, it's just that I don't usually bother. The easiest thing would be to leave the camera in the front of the car and perhaps I might be able to take more pictures of scenes like this one.

It was absolutely gorgeous here this morning and I could tell today was going to be a real treat.

Harter Fell forms an impressive head to the valley as you Mardale Head and as tempting as it was, my route today would take me over the top of Gatesgarth Pass and then in the opposite direction to Harter Fell. Today, I was in search of peace and quiet; well away from the bank holiday madness that many other areas would no doubt experience today.

A view back down Gatescarth Pass. Unfortunately this part of the walk was done in the morning shade but never mind, I knew the sunshine wasn't far away at the top of the pass.

Up in the sunshine at the top of Gatescarth Pass and despite it being quite cool in the early morning shade, I was now pleased I'd put the shorts on. On the skyline is the easily recognisable Kidsty Pike and to the right of that is High Raise.

All that height gained and now I need to loose some of it again as I head down to Brownhowe Bottom; that's the flat bit down there. If I just carried on walking I'd end up in Sad Gill, Longsleddale and eventually in Kendal.

Crossing a rather dry Brownhowe Bottom. To be honest, in an area renowned for being wet under foot, everywhere was much drier than I'd expected it to be. You won't get any complaints from me on that score. If ever a place inclines me to walk off path then this is it, , , , needless to say dry therefore very good and most welcome.


It was somewhere about this point that I joined the fence and the path to Tarn Crag. Over on the left you can see the Sad Gill side of Gatescarth Pass zigzagging down the fellside. Over on the right is Branstree. If you're not familiar with this area take notice of the wall. Branstree can be seen from far and wide around here and the wall acts as an easily recognisable feature should you wish to reassess where you are or where you're heading.

And here I am next to the pillar on Tarn Crag. If you happen to be here on a clear day like this, spare a moment to take a close look into the water. You won't see any fish but you will see the remains of the wooden structure that used to be attached to the pillar. I suspect the peaty water and mud is helping to preserve the wood.


Tarn Crag summit found a short distance from the pillar.

On route to Grey Crag you pass Greycrag Tarn at a distance. For obvious reasons I've never been across to the tarn.

Looking back across to Tarn Crag.
As I was walking across the flat area, I spied a large herd of deer some way off, over on my left hand side. So, rather than doubling back across here as I'd originally intended, I included Harrop Pike in the route and headed across towards the deer from there.
You've probably worked it out for yourselves but my left hand side as I was walking across, is actually the right hand side of the picture because I'm looking back.

Grey Crag summit.

That's Harrop Pike over there. Although it looks a long way off, it takes no time at all to get across there.

A view back to Grey Crag.

Harrop Pike summit.
Despite Branstree being separated from this spot by the north east ridge on Tarn Crag, the fell and its wall are easily visible over there. From here I took an almost straight line off path route across to the wall. On route passing by the deer I'd spotted earlier.

They're almost impossible to see in this picture but the deer are still in the same area as they were when I saw them earlier. Brilliant, let's see how close I can get to them.

Okay, perhaps I'm not that close but this is pretty good for such an open area like this. They soon spotted me, got on their feet and after assuming I was a threat, they were off and out of sight.

Down there is Mosedale Cottage. Surely one of the most isolated buildings in England.

And a close up.

Once over the grassy ridge, you have an uninterupted view across to Branstree.

Complete seclusion; fantastic. Apart from a guy setting off from the car park at the same time as me I still hadn't saw anyone else. I know this isn't everyone's idea of a good fell walk but being in this type of place gives me more satisfaction than any other I care to mention. I have nothing against other people and I can get on with most folk, but ever since I was a young kid I've been more than comfortable with having only myself for company.
Having said that, I can understand why most folk wouldn't want to be somewhere like this on their own. Not just from a 'finding you way' point of view but from the fact that many people wouldn't be confident with this degree of isolation.

As seen as though I've been going on about the wall on Branstree, here's a picture of it.

and another one, this time looking across to Tarn Crag.

Branstree summit with it's miniature cairn. I suspect that members of the cairn appreciation society don't come here very often.

This is impressive cairn found on Artle Crag must be visited by the CAS quite often.

Haweswater comes into view on route to Selside Pike.

and there's Selside Pike; an easy walk from Branstree except for the need to cross Captain Whelter Bog.

After periods of wet weather, crossing the bog can leave you with mud half way up your legs. No problems today apart from one small jump which was completed without any splash at all.

Selside Pike summit. It doesn't seem quite as hazy over in the Eden Valley now the day has progressed a bit.

On the walk down from Selside Pike you get this fantastic view down to Swindale. This has to be one of the least visited valleys in the Lake District.

That's it, , , I couldn't wait any longer for something to eat so I found a little rocky outcrop and plonked myself on there to eat everything I'd brought with me. As I made my way across to Hare Shaw over there, the bag might have been a bit lighter but my stomach certainly felt much heavier. I haven't quite grasped the concept of rationing food.

A close up of Kidsty Pike and High Raise.

I'm on the Mardale Corpse Road which would take me off the fells and back down to Haweswater.

A view across Haweswater to Mardale Ill Bell, High Street, Kidsty Pike and High Raise. The short valley running away from the lake is Riggindale.

Looking around to the left and you can see down to Mardale Head and the car park, now full to overflowing.


What a contrast from the scenery up on the fells I'd been walking on all morning.


A close up of Wood Howe.

Tranquil Lakeland. With all the height lost, the pictures now have an appearance of looking across rather than down on things. It was lovely walking along here today. I'd almost forgotten what it's like to walk in hot conditions like this.

Yes, it was me that disturbed the geese. They were all happily feeding on the grassy bank and then I come along and frightened them.

Down by the waters edge and it's now only a short walk back to the car.

David Hall -
Lake District Walks