Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Fiends Fell and Melmerby Fell–A Reconnaissance

On the 15th of September I’ll be leading a guided walk for the Wednesday and Saturdays Walking Group (Wednesday Walkers Walkihng on Saturdays) and I’d said that the walk would be on Fiend’s Fell; Fiend’s Fell being just a bit North of Cross Fell for those who’ve never heard of it and it’s also in exactly the same place for those who have heard of it….
Before any guided walk can take place, of course, it’s usually quite a good idea to work out the actual route and doing a reccy is reccymended (see what I did there?)
There’ll be another reccy about a week before – that is to say, at the end of August, but in the meantime, me and LTD went off to a sultry Melmerby village, between Penrith and Alston to explore a route.
The now finalised route will go on quiet rough lanes towards Gamblesby, then follow an old road which leads up the steep Pennine scarp towards Hartside Pass. After this it visits Fiend’s Fell and Melmerby Fell before descending by a lane back to Melmerby.
At the top of Hartside Pass there was once a cafe, once well supported by bikers and the occasional hiker but now in ruins having unfortunately been destroyed by fire this past winter. The route was originally intended to go this way, but a little way before the cafe, LTD noticed a new footbridge across the ditch beside the track and a waymarker post pointing uphill with a thin trod heading straight for the summit of Fiend’s Fell.
We did go to the cafe to have a look and found a way through grouseland (tracks, burned heather, grouse butts, traps)  on some quite rough ground which eventually produced an ATV track which also went to the top of Fiend’s Fell. But the other way is better, and, frankly, there’s not much point in visiting the ruined cafe unless it’s for an ice-cream, there being an ice cream van there. Under pressure, I would lead the walk to the cafe should there be sufficient demand for cornets or, indeed, lollies.
Additionally, September 4th is at the height of the grouse-shooting season, so avoiding the butts is probably  wise. I may need a Plan B in case they’re shooting on the day – this would likely be an approach to Fiend’s Fell directly from the West, as opposed to the North, or even avoiding that hill and  going straight for the next hill to the South.
Fiend’s Fell is at 614 metres and sports a trig point and a cairn and some comfy bilberry plants on which to lounge about. In September, there may well be bilberries and, it seems likely that the approach lanes will be abundant with brambles, so when we do the walk, an ample supply of vitamin C will be provided free of charge to all participants.
The route then heads South towards Cross Fell and climbs gradually to Little Knapside Hill and then to Knapside Hill which has a currick – that is to say, a large cairn with a shelter and a cracking view of the Eden valley and the Lake District, and more bilberry and short, springy turf on which to laze or snooze whilst soaking up the sun. The going gets easier with altitude and it’s only a short and easy hop to the top of the walk at 709 metres and the cairn on Melmerby Fell
So far, we’d avoided much in the way of intense heat, having set off just before it got very hot, and, at midday we were up on the high tops where there was a lovely, cooling breeze, and it would have been nice to stay high and, perhaps, wander over to Cross Fell on the easy and gentle ground and benign, not to say superb conditions, but we had to follow the route and so, we headed towards Blencathra and found, after some exploration, a gap in the extensive scree slopes marking the edge and this gap lead to a sheepfold and a track which lead all the way back to Melmerby, where it was shimmering hot. Too hot for the dog’s paws on the road, in fact and, despite LTD’s hatred of water, I made him have a short paddle and dip in the two becks which are crossed. LTD walked mainly on the grassy verges and , somehow, we collected a small tribe of sheep which lead the way all the way back to the village, eventually invading a farmyard and causing farm staff to rush about shouting and waving their arms.
The walk is just about ten miles with 2100 feet of ascent and seems to work quite well. The fellwalking part, in good conditions, is superb and easy and the views are huge. In wet, windy and misty times, it might well be a bit of a challenge.
Come back in September to see what actually happened!

fiends fell reccy

1 comment:

Dawn Linney said...

It looks as if you had a hot day in the sunshine! Well done on your reconnaissance, it looks as if the group are going to do some good miles.