The last time we placed boot on fell in the Lake District was New Year’s Day when we got a good old drenching on Place Fell. We teamed up with Dicko and Sue, and also the new ‘Team Hyde’ member, Alfie the Springer to get back into the swing of Wainwright bagging and set our sights on a quadruple quest starting with High Hartsop Dodd.
We all met the night before at the caravan site in Morland due to the Dicko’s becoming new residents at the site, route planned and we were set, although it did take us 4 bottles of red to sort it, we did it. The next day we packed the Aygo with four days sacks, four lots of boots and Dicko was sat in front trying to keep Alfie in the foot well but failing miserably as we headed for Ullswater and Brothers Water to find the car park at Cow Bridge and the start of a day of bagging. The route we had planned would take in High Hartsop Dodd, Little Hart Crag, Red Screes and Middle Dodd, which looking at the map looked a nice leg stretch and not too far.
The car park at Cow Bridge was quite full but I managed to squeeze the car into a nice little spot and we got ready. Getting ready took slightly longer than normal, due to puppy pinching socks. The moths from Sues daysack didn’t help either. Anyway, the happy bunch strolled off down the side of Brothers Water and even though the cloud was low, a few bits of blue sky were making an appearance as I felt for my Sig Bottle only to discover it wasn’t in my side pouch on my daysack and a quick run back to the car find it in the boot of the Aygo, followed by a quick run back to the others, who by the way didn’t wait so the return leg of my run was slightly longer than the first leg.
Heading south we took in the sights of Brothers Water and Low Wood then came out into open land and the farm track to Hartsop Hall and a sea of sheep waiting to be sheered, and an angry farmer doing a ‘Fenton’ impression as his trusty sheep dog wasn’t being so trusty and not paying a blind bit of notice of his instructions. We took a quick left at the farm over a meadow with the most randomly placed boulders and Dovedale Beck to lay eyes on the start of our accent. The map does show quite a steep start to our route but as soon as you see it up close and personal you don’t quite get the full affect. It reminded me of Fleetwith, a steep slope that needed to be climbed, and when you see sheep in harnesses you know you’re in for a decent thigh burner. There’s no getting around these sort of starts, it’s gotta be done to enjoy the experience. Alfie was bouncing around like a ‘gud un’ and I was keeping an eye out for sheep. Dicko set the pace and we were soon working our way up and Brothers Water was getting lower and lower, further and further away. Chins were still up when we hit the little bit of a scramble near the top, Alfie had no fear jumping from rock to rock as he kept us all in check. The cloud appeared to be getting lower and the tops of Hart and Dove Crag were disappearing to our right. Apparently at the start Kel had asked me if she could tie one of Alfie’s poo bags to my daysack, I can’t remember agreeing to this and only found out as I reached around my daysack looking for my water bottle, only to find something soft and squidgy in hanging for off the front, luckily my nails had been cut and I realised what the foreign object was, I wasn’t happy but the rest of the group said I’d agreed, I beg to differ.
The summit came quick and Alfie had acquired a bone from somewhere, we had come across a sheep that had gone to sheep heaven about 20 metres back so that’s got to have been the source. The summit brought a heavy mist enough to wet you so water proofs came out as we entered the misty cloud as we plodded on to Little Hart Crag. We found the summit ok, the cloud had cleared again and this was as good as place as any for bait. The temperature dropped slightly with the wind so we all sat huddled, a bit unusual for July but that’s the mountains for you. Alfie was doing the rounds looking for scraps of ham buttie but his luck wasn’t in so he went off to explore, probably looking for his new love, sheep droppings and wool.
Bait was a quick affair and we were back on track in no time, we dropped off the top and the path to Scandale Pass and looked at the ascent up to Red Screes, there were a few other walkers coming off Red Screes looking a bit damp, the top was covered in cloud but I was hopeful the small piece of blue sky which had appeared over Dove Crag would shuffle over to the top. We set off up and I did a bit of a Bambi on ice impression landing with a thud on the wet peat. Kel was happy with that as it’s usually her back side that spends its time on the floor. The weather gods were definitely on our side as we climbed the steady ascent to the top of Red Screes and we were met by blue sky and sunshine at the top. The view down to Brothers Water was very good and we had a bird’s eye view of our route down, well, we could see the direction we were going but not the actual path. Looking down the valley the Kirkstone Pass looked like a Scalextric set and cars minute . Red Screes isn’t the biggest fell but it’s a canny drop down when you peek over the edge. The summit is a good spot for a wild camp as well, apart from the water; the mini tarn is smelly and peaty. Sue perked up a bit as we were now going down, if she’d only knew what the ‘down’ would be like I think she’d have called mountain rescue.
We set of down and the first bit of the decent was good going, we still had to ‘top’ Middle Dodd which we did quickly and set off down. The going became steep and footings were precarious and I felt my ankle cracked a couple of times. Everyone’s joints were being tested, the only one of us who looked comfortable was Alfie who had been hopping around as Springer’s do. A bit of advice if doing this route is to turn right at the wall (399102) and walk to the permissible path and take that. We didn’t, if you look at the map (OL5) there is a small black line about (400103), it’s not a small black line in reality, it’s a sheer drop which creeps right up on you, if it’s foggy there’s a good chance you wouldn’t see it and take a 50 feet nose dive into the ferns. We took a left at the cliff and walked to the straight wall to follow down to join the permissible path lower down. As we approached the wall, I spotted a herd of cows near Caiston Beck, they were a good 200 meters away and we weren’t going anywhere near them but Kel told me to put Alfie on his lead. We are quite good with him and always put him on when anywhere near sheep etc, but these cows were some distance away and we were walking away from them so I just kept an eye on him. She said, “Ok it’s your call, but if they stampede and eat him it’s your fault!” The first few seconds were like an old Western film when the town is deserted and the brush wood blows though. I looked at Dicko whose face was just as confused as mine. “Eat!?” I said to my worried wife. “You don’t know what they’ll do!” she replied. “Well I do know they won’t eat him!” I said laughingly as she stared at the happy herd chomping on the Lakeland grass. That was it for a good quarter of an hour, all sorts of jokes fired at my embarrassed missus ranging from me singing the theme tune to ‘Rawhide’ to Dicko telling everyone to watch out for the dog eating wildebeest stampeding across the Glen.
We approached the small footbridge across the beck and I saw some killer sheep in the next field, prompting me to put the lead on Alfie in case the woolly canine cannibals attacked my defenceless pooch. The jokes did eventually die off as we joined the footpath that we walked along to start hours before. We got to the car and took off wet kit and heated boots, plus I finished of Dicko’s jelly babies.
Sat in the beer garden of the Brotherswater Inn the banter was good, even though I was slightly fuming at the £1 for an hours Wi-Fi that I wouldn’t pay. We’d had a good day and even though we were not hitting the highest peaks we had worked fairly hard, and for the first time back on the fells it was a canny leg stretch. Just watch out for the flesh eating Friesians!