Through the Viewfinder
And What Alice Found There
Hartsop and Patterdale are quickly becoming some of my favourite areas for walking. Two lovely, quiet villages away from the hustle and bustle of larger tourist towns, sitting at the base of Kirkstone Pass and surrounded by impressive peaks on all sides - what more could you want! I used to camp in this area a lot when I was younger at Sykeside Camping Park (highly recommend it!) and in recent months I have found myself returning here for various walks, including my recent hike up to Angletarn Pikes. There's something about how peaceful it is that just draws me in - very rarely seeing other hikers on the fells and feeling like the only people around for miles is a wonderful feeling. So once again I woke on Sunday morning and found myself heading back towards Hartsop, in search of some new fells to conquer...
In the small cluster of fells that surround Kirkstone Pass there are only a few that I haven't been up - two of those being High Hartsop Dodd and Little Hart Crag...until last weekend! We decided to head over to Brothers Water and park in Cow Bridge Car Park. It's a free car park but there's a donation box if you want to leave some change. From there we took the footpath along the west shore of Brothers Water with lovely views over to Hartsop Dodd and back over to Angletarn Pikes. The weather was dry and sunny with blue skies making an appearance, making the first part of the walk quite enjoyable. We carried on along the footpath until we reached the farm buildings and from there we crossed through a small gate and into the field next to the campsite. Crossing the field it soon became apparent which fell was High Hartsop Dodd - the big looming peak straight ahead which looked really steep!
The path took us straight up - no easy route up this fell! With the sun shining down it actually felt quite warm at times and for the first time in about 6 months I actually did part of the walk without my coat or my gloves on! The views looking back to Brothers Water were stunning and the surrounding mountains looked so beautiful in the sunshine, just screaming out to be hiked up. So many fells, so little time! As we climbed higher we began to get great views over to Red Screes and Kirkstone Pass, weaving through the valley like a river. It was a lovely sight, and strangely enough the fells are starting to feel familiar to me now that I've walked up quite a few. Looking towards Red Screes and Middle Dodd I remembered when I climbed up to their summits looking out at where I was now stood. These fells really do feel like home now!
In true Lake District style the sun didn't stay out for long, and as we neared the summit of High Hartsop Dodd the mist began to descend. We luckily still had a view on the top but soon enough we were engulfed in the cloud and Brothers Water slowly disappeared behind us. The coats went back on and up we trudged to make it to the summit of our next fell: Little Hart Crag. This part of the walk was less enjoyable as we had no views, the air got colder, the wind started to pick up and it was also very lightly raining. On a clear day the walk would have been great along this ridge, but never mind! The last summit push was quite rocky and at one point we though we were at the top but couldn't see anything for the thick mist. It was only when we started to move on and begin the descent that suddenly a cairn appeared out of the fog marking the real summit!
After a brief moment of being lost on the top we eventually found the path to take us down the side of the fell and into the valley. The path followed an old fallen down wall, now replaced with fence posts. On our way down we came across loads of frogspawn on the path next to a large puddle. After nearly stepping on it before realising what it was, we decided to move it off the path into the safety of the water - judging by the amount of frogspawn already in the puddle there's going to be a lot of frogs hopping about on Little Hart Crag soon! After another quarter of a mile or so we reached a ladder stile on the wall to our right and at this point we knew we had to bear left away from the wall to drop down into the valley. Finally we dropped below the cloud level once again, and we began to see further than only 10 feet ahead which was nice!
The descent took longer than we expected because it was quite rocky, and where the rocks were wet it was quite slippy in places too. After a dramatic fall on the mud by myself (this is becoming a regular occurrence on walks now) we eventually made it onto level ground. As we neared the fields and farm buildings again we heard what we thought was the farmer shouting to his dogs, but instead it appeared that we'd stumbled upon a hound trail. Hound trailing is a popular Lakeland pastime which I've quite often come across when out walking (you can read more about it here). The first clue is usually someone shouting constantly but you can't quite make out what they're saying, and then you see the trail of dogs racing along the fellside, followed by a group of people watching from somewhere below through binoculars to see which hounds are in the lead. After watching for a while we then left the noisy group of dogs behind and carried on across the fields and back towards Brothers Water and the car.
If you're looking for a walk that won't take up most of your day then this would be a great option. It took us about 4 hours in total (including loads of stops along the way for photos) and was fairly easy walking, apart from the rockiness on the way back down. On a dry, clear, summers day this route would be ideal for a quick walk out in the fells before heading into Patterdale, Brotherswater Inn, or up to Kirkstone Pass Inn for a drink and something to eat. There's loads of car parking available and throughout the whole walk you're rewarded with fantastic views over the whole valley. The walk could easily be made shorter (a route around Brothers Water would be lovely) or longer, heading up onto Red Screes & Middle Dodd, or looping round over Hart Crag and down Hartsop above How. With so many options this area is just ideal for starting a walk - and an even better option would be to camp at Sykeside and have a whole weekend (or week) of walking adventures!
Our route is below, but as mentioned there are loads of different ways you could do this walk: