High Hartsop Dodd – A Sunny Evening Up High

Another beautiful day in the Lakes calls for another walk after work, just outside the Ullswater Valley, but not by much. We picked a fairly small Wainwright at the base of the Kirkstone pass, starting in the small National Trust car park ‘Cow Bridge’ in the Hartsop valley, a mile or so futher south than the village of Patterdale.

From the car park the walk begins along a large track through some woodland, it follows Goldrill Beck to the point that it leaves Brothers Water. Brothers Water is a very small expanse of water, much similar to the size of a tarn than any of the other lakes in the area, and due to its size it usually has some very pretty reflections. Nestled in the bottom of the valley, surrounded by towering peaks it is a very picturesque scene.

The path for this section is well made and obviously used for farm vehicles; it is wide and solid underfoot. On one side the edge drops off down to the water and on the other the bank rises fairly steeply, home to native woodland, filled with characterful gnarled looking trees. As we walked under the tree cover, sheltered from the hot day outside, the grass on the surrounding land was looking almost luminous in the bright light, the sky was bright blue and there was barely a cloud to be seen.

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Reaching the end of Brothers Water the track continues past fields, currently home to ewes and some rather chubby looking lambs. On the other side, up the bank, the trees start to thin so that the land resembles a woodland pasture more than the woodland it was just half a mile ago. We could see some small calves with their mothers further up the hill, nibbling the grass and generally enjoying their surroundings. Reaching the farm, we headed round the side and through their gate, at this stage you can either take a left and head towards The Brotherswater Inn about a quarter of a mile across the field, a nice pub with good views we have frequented a handful of times, or you can carry on straight with a slight left, heading towards the middle of the valley and the Kirkstone Pass.

The Kirkstone pass is the road connecting Ullswater with Windermere, it is a mountainous road with many twists and turns and lots of steep gradients. It offers beautiful views for its entirety but does also result in a lot of slow nervous drivers who are just not used to the terrain. This road lay to our left, far enough away that you didn’t notice the odd car heading past, but you could see it winding off into the hills in the distance.

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Continuing along our path, which at this point didn’t really exist however we could see the peak we would be climbing ahead of us and knew to just walk straight to it. High Hartsop Dodd seems to sit on its own, with the neighbouring fells rising up behind it. It has an almost pyramid shape to the front of it, with our path heading right up the front ridge/edge. We passed any more sheep on route and several large boulders, it always makes me feel insignificant stood at the bottom of a valley with rocks the size of small houses littered around us. I absolutely love that feeling of insignificance against nature.

Passing through a tiny barn and a couple of gates we found ourselves at the base of the dodd and ready to start the ascent. Even though it was getting into the evening, the sun was still beaming down from a cloudless sky and there wasn’t a breeze to be had. Climbing up was hot work but we kept good pace, looking ahead of us the very top seems like a crag face, Callum was almost convinced we would struggle to get up there – there was no actual path up this route, only a trodden track from the many walkers before us, but we optimistically carried on.

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It was a steep grassy path, thank goodness it has been so dry recently as I imagine it could be very slippery in bad weather! Up and up we went, picking out prominent features further up as good places to stop and cool down. The view was behind us, so everytime we stopped we would turn around and enjoy the scene the higher we climbed the more diddy Brothers Water looked, it was a beautiful evening. We ate up the height gain quickly and in no time found ourselves at the fence line which sat about two thirds of the way up, over a stile and all of a sudden the path began again – I am assuming we had moved from a permissive footpath onto a public one.

It seemed to get much steeper from here on in, the path cut back and forth, finding the most shallow route up the front of the fell.  It was a well-made gravel track, every now and again, however, the rocks would slip underfoot and for a split second we would feel as though we would be skating back down on our stomachs. The craggy section we had seen from the bottom was just a more rocky version of this path, just as steep with a few big steps thrown in for good measure.

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Once past this we were almost at the top, one long grassy incline and the peak would be ours. When faced with a steep climb Callum and I have very different techniques, I will race up 100m or so and then stop for a short break, whereas Callum will slowly trudge until he reaches the top – we must look quite comical constantly overtaking each other, with snippets of conversation at the intersections. During this section we came across a cool tree, there were only one or two on the fell side and this one caught our attention with its textured bark and interesting shape!

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Upon reaching the top, there was the tiniest breeze, which was lovely after the stillness of the walk thus far. The views were great, Brothers Water was now a tiny postage stamp on the landscape, the hills were green and the sun had lowered in the sky casting the valley bottom into shadow, a few fluffy white clouds had made their way into the scene – it was a beautiful evening and we hadn’t seen a soul since leaving work. We sat down on the grass and enjoyed the serenity for a while before taking some photos and making our way back down.

We retraced our footsteps back down, although our slow pace up had turned into a bit of a jog on the way down. We had hop skipped and jumped our way back to the stile in no time at all and then the same again for the rest of the descent. Nearing the bottom, back in sheep territory the lambs were full of energy and very inquisitive, hanging around just long enough to spook themselves before running off ‘springing’ as they went in the usual lamby fashion.  They were fun to watch, huddled in their 3s and 4s jumping off rocks and butting each other – one of the great things about Cumbria in spring and summer.

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Retracing our steps through the fields, past the big boulders and back alongside the lake accompanied by the sound of a lonely cuckoo – before we knew it we were back at the car and heading home. Another lovely evening and another Wainwright ticked off.

 

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