A circular route from the Newlands valley
The Lakeland hamlet of Little Town is as quaint as it sounds and it was from between here and Newlands Church that I began this route. Walking back up the road for 100 metres or so towards Little Town, I doubled back up a path up to the right which very soon joined a wide track leading up the Newlands Valley towards Dale Head and the steep sided peak of Hindscarth to its right. I walked ufollowing its twisting course to my right. After perhaps a mile and a half, the track passed between 2 spoil heaps - a relic of mining activities that occurred here in the past.
Now the view opened up of the wild scene at the head of the Newlands Valley - a sharp contrast to the wooded lanes of Little Town and the lower dale. Here 2 paths led off to the left - both lead to Dalehead Tarn - the second by a convenient rest rock.
Ahead the path sloped gently down to the river and could be seen - not so gently - ascending the opposite slope towards Dale Head's crags. As I watched, a beam of sunlight shone through an invisible gap in the clouds and like a searchlight, moved steadily across the rugged slopes, illuminating momentarily the grass and stones with an enhanced colour. Then it was gone as the upper winds shifted and closed up the gap to the Sun.
Crossing the river proved to be no problem and the obvious way ahead followed a grassy ditch-like feature in a rising traverse of the fellside with the river rapidly disappearing below. Opposite, the craggy wall of the fell known as High Spy filled the view while hehind the light and shade moved rapidly across the lower dale watched over by Skiddaw to the North.
Presently my path turned a corner into a gully and crossed a stream that flowed from a rocky ravine just above. Here I stopped for a short rest as a violently gusty wind began to buffet down the slope from above bringing with it sprigs of heather apparently ripped from the earth. This along with the cloud shadows moving at express train speed should really have warned me of what lay ahead!
My ascent continued, this time via wide grassy zig zags in the path. Above lay a high rocky buttress, an impregnable looking wall of crags. My route would take me up behind them and from here it was difficult to see how without getting involved in at least a difficult scramble. As I drew level with the base of the crags though, the fellside opened out into a wide bowl in which lay the ruins of an ancient miners' hut. Passing the hut the path climbed again up a steep rough section before traversing left across a wonderful grass and bilberry shelf above the crags but unseen from below.
Here the wind returned in earnest though thankfully most of the buffetting was towards the slope rather than the steep ground below. I continued in a gently ascending traverse of the strip of easy ground with the line of crags below and steep scree above. Wainwright describes this route in the North Western Fells as "a mountaineering must" and it is indeed a wonderful and varied way to the summit of Dale Head. The same guidebook mentions an awkward scree slope just before the ridge is reached though this presents no problem - perhaps the route has changed since - though the original miners' path is upwards of 400 years old.
The views now opened out to the South with the Langdale Pikes seen from an unfamiliar angle and Bowfell and Esk Pike rising grandly beyond. As I started up the wide ridge though, the wind returned with a vengeance. The forecast had been for 65 mph winds earlier in the day though these gusts were well over 80 - possibly around 100 mph. After being blown over a couple of times I debated whether to descend this ridge and return via Dalehead Tarn but I persevered, and in a crouching position, made my way towards the summit.
Strangely, higher up on the south side of the ridge the wind was much reduced and my ability to walk upright was restored. It still made itself known though and I was accompanied up the ridge by a noise that sounded as though a jet aircraft were flying just out of sight below. As the top of Dale Head was reached the sheltering effect was lost and I had to lie flat at one point or be blown down - at this point I abandoned plans to continue to Robinson opting for the nearer Hindscarth.
I was again sheltered as I followed the path overlooking the steep slopes that fell to the Honister Pass with the lower part of the road clearly visible 2000 feet below and Buttermere sparkling in the sunny valley like a jewel. My route turned away from this pleasant scene across the grassy plateau leading to Hindscarth. Hindscarth has 2 shelters - one on the highest point and one on a subsidiary summit just to the North. It was here I stopped for another rest and to finish lunch before continuing down the ridge ahead.
Scope End is the narrow heathery ridge leading down from Hindscarth straight to the Newlands Valley and I followed this ridge - an enjoyable walk with panoramic views all the way. The gale that raged high up became a mere breeze as I descended. The path emerged not far from Newlands Church which I passed to cross the bridge to where I'd left the car earlier in the day.
Pete Buckley October 2009
Summits >>> Dale Head 2473ft/754m >>> Hindscarth 2385ft/727m
Essentials >>> Up 700m >>> Down 700m How Far? 11.7km >>> Start and finish at Newlands