Monday, 22 April 2013

Harter Fell

I went to the Lake District on Saturday to meet a group of old friends who were staying at Eskdale Youth Hostel. It took ages to get there: why I thought there might still be snow on Hardknotts Pass I don't know. I set off early in the morning and perhaps I was feeling over-cautious, or perhaps my memories of negotiating its tight hairpin bends of mind-boggling steepness with their black-rubber skid-marks left me thinking I didn't want to risk the road if there was even the tiniest chance of encountering any ice. I decided to make my way along the Northern edge of Morcambe Bay instead and then travel to Eskdale via an alternative route that took me past Broughton-in-Furness and through the village of Ulpha.

I got there in the end. Eskdale is a magical place: for some reason it isn't overrun by people the way so much of the Lake District is. I think this goes for most of the Western side of the region. There are people around but in moderation.

We decided to climb Harter Fell. This rocky hill separates Eskdale from the Duddon Valley. A good path from the foot of Hardknott Pass crosses a stream and ascends diagonally across the foot of the Fell. Once it disappears over the horizon it turns leftwards towards the summit and steepens noticeably. To the left and right small outcrops tempt anyone with a taste for rock-climbing to interesting deviations from the route. Before long, the path arrives at a collection of rocky tors, the highest being the summit of the Fell.

The sky was clear and the air, when you could shelter from the wind, warm. We spent a happy half hour at the summit, eating our sandwiches, scrambling around on the rocks and enjoying the view of Morcambe Bay to the South and, to the North, of the Eskdale Horseshoe: a long, inviting ridge that stretches from Scafell in the West to Crinkle Crags in the East via Scafell Pike itself and the shapely peak of Eskdale Pike. The position also affords an excellent aerial view of the ruins of the Roman fort at the foot of Hardknott Pass.

Leaving the summit and the path behind, we made our way with the aid of the map to the top of Hardknott Pass. We sat there for a while, watching the efforts of cyclists heroically turning their biggest gears on those steepest of slopes. At one point we considered shouting in unison Get off and push! but decided it would be rude and didn't. Now and again motorcyclists roared by, leaving behind them a smell of hot oil, a smell that always takes me back to my childhood and the machine my father used to ride on to work.

Photo: Mike Knapton
We crossed the road and made our way down the path to the Roman fort. This is a wonderful place. I never have the patience to read the short essays displayed on boards at strategic points in such places and prefer to soak up the atmosphere.

Back at the Youth Hostel, we decided to make for Ulverston, as it boasts a first-rate fish and chip shop.


patteran said...

This sits (walks?) well with my recent reading of Simon Armitage's 'Walking Home'. Although it was many decades ago, I remember with nostalgia my own enforced treks across dales and moors when I was at school near Wetherby. Hated as an adolescent malcontent, greatly enjoyed in the recollection!

Gwil W said...

It's good to get out now that the days are longer. I was up Whernside a couple of weekends ago and there was a bit of snow and ice still clinging on. It's the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Fell Race (or the 3 pigs race as the usual jokers call it) which as you probably know upwards of 900 runners visit the summits of Pen-Y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough this coming Saturday. So nothing for there for the lonely walker. But I'm sure there'll be a great atmosphere.

Rachel Fenton said...

Hair-pin bends - I have fond memories (and a few hair-raising ones) of travelling such northern lanes in my youth. Ah, Dominic, your posts fill me with nostalgia. I'd love to walk up there.

Is Armitage's "Walking Home" book worth the investment, Dick? Was it the Guardian that did a sort fo trailer for it - or maybe I saw it on his website - I thought it looked good - anyhow, somewhere I've seen him recalling what was left in his sock (?) at the end of a reading...

George said...

I would have enjoyed being there with you, Dominic. The ruins of the old Roman fort seem familiar and make me wonder if the C2C is nearby. That said, I suppose the ruins of most Roman forts often look much the same. Maybe my memory is of those on the Hadrian's Wall path.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Glad you had a glorious day for your walk even if there was a cold wind. I thought you had probably gone on Saturday. Imagine it was a long way round, although I know the Duddon valley well as I have friends there from long ago. Those sort of days fortify you for a few weeks to come don't they?

Dominic Rivron said...

Thanks for these comments, everybody.

patteran: I've not read the SA. Strange how one can enjoy things in retrospect - such things can develop into passions in adulthood.

GwilW: Still the odd bit of the white stuff here and there.

RF: They say distance makes the heart grow fonder.

George: It's not adjacent to the C2C which crosses the Lakes further North but there might well be other Roman ruins that are.

WG: They do.