It was supposed to be another day dedicated to the van conversion, however it had snowed a fair amount the previous day and overnight and we woke up to a glorious sunny day with clear blue skies. It was a no brainer – we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go for a walk and enjoy some snow, this was probably going to be that last bout until next year! We decided on a small peak on the outskirts of the Ullswater Valley – it’s on our way and wouldn’t take too long, allowing work in the van afterward, best of both!
Great Mell fell is a small hillock, situated on the higher flat land just north of Ullswater. It seems to stand alone, slightly apart from the mass of peaks as you head further into the Lakes. It is a short walk at only 3 or so miles long, the path in undeveloped but it is an easy enough route with great rewards.
You head up a bumpy farm track to get to the gate leading onto the fell itself. The path leads you round the back of the fell, the path is made purely from repeated use and is fairly muddy in places, you cross streams and duck under the low hanging branches of ancient trees along the way. Just before you start heading up, there is a small amount of bog to navigate – the ground is saturated, so even if you stick to the long grass your feet are submerged in water with every step. It definitely gets better in summer but I don’t think it ever dries up completely. The ascent is fairly steep, the track weaving from left to right passing a few more old gnarly trees on route, behind you is a sweeping view across the Eden Valley, right across to the Pennines.
The sun was bright and warm when we started out, it was a beautiful day and there was only a smattering of snow at the beginning. The grass was bright green and the surrounding hills were glowing white against the blue skies. We made our way through the quagmire before starting the climb, it’s another of those walks where you have to stop and turn around to take in the view behind you. The snow got thicker the further we climbed, the ground became white but the covering was a modest one. Getting most of the way up we came across the fell ponies which reside there (parts of the year at least), a string of about 5 or 6 ponies, dappled white and grey, with shaggy mains and calm, friendly temperaments. It’s hard to drag yourself away from them, especially when they are placed against such a beautiful backdrop.
At this point you come to the first crest, giving you a clear, far reaching view of the Ullswater valley. You can see peak after peak, and on this particular day they were all glistening white. Continuing on the ascent becomes more gradual, you enter what looks like a woodland pasture, well-spaced out trees, old, crooked and looking as they have all been bent by the wind. The ground is still wet even at the top, the muddy path had a deceiving white layer – every now and again a foot would sink through the snow and end up ankle deep in mud!
There is nothing to indicate you have reached the the top except big views, but it is obvious when you are there as the front of Great Mell is steep. You end up on a bit of a pinnacle, a wide flat pinnacle looking over to Blencathra and the western fells, the Ullswater valley and beyond to your left and the Pennines behind you. Despite how white everything had looked on the way up, the western fells looked significantly less snowy than the central ones.
After enjoying the view we headed down, this time taking a path heading down towards the front, the snow had been melting in the sunshine and every step had become and almost slip. It took a surprising level of concentration to try and stay upright, and then we would get distracted by the view in front of us and slip and slide down a section – lucky neither of us went over but there were several close calls!
Getting to the bottom we followed the farm track back round to where we had started, and headed off to get some work done in the van.