Swindale Round with Father John

Name of walk Swindale Round with Father John
Date of walk 2013-08-08
Distance walked (miles) 11
Duration of walk 6 hours 0 minutes
Weather Warm but overcast
Peaks on walk Selside Pike, Branstree
Walked with Fr. John Inglis
Parking Road-side verge at Swindale Head

On Thursday I went walking with Father John. I first met John three years ago at the top of Gasgale Gill in the mist, looking a bit lost, so I stopped and asked him if he was okay. He was heading for Grasmoor, and so was I, so we walked together. He acts as the supply priest once a year for two weeks in August at Keswick’s Our Lady of the Lakes and St. Charles, and the other parish church in Cockermouth. His own current parish is in Surrey. I had already done three fells by myself that morning in the mist, and he was on his first. He had to get back to Lanthwaite Green car park for 3pm to get ready for 5pm Mass. My car was in the same car park. I told him we would be back by three and then proceeded to drag him up two extra fells that were not on his agenda! A good job he is fit! By the time we had reached Wandope the mist was beginning to clear, then by Whiteless Pike it had turned to blue skies and sunshine, quite a dramatic weather change and made for some great photos. Thankfully we did get back to the car park for 3pm. We kept in touch, I inundate him with walking emails and he sends me jokes, most of which I probably pass on to you! He now owns a Garmin GPS navigation device, purely to guarantee that he never, ever, needs to rely on the dubious navigation skills of strange women that he might meet in the mist.

John does most of his walking in the Keswick fells, so I thought he might appreciate something a bit different. So I tempted him with Swindale, which is an isolated valley to the east of the Haweswater Valley (Mardale). It is not an easy place to find so I picked him up from the presbytery and we drove there together.

The walk would include Selside Pike (2149ft) and Branstree (2339ft), Mosedale Cottage and a wander down the secluded waterfalls and plunge pools of Forces Falls.

A walk of just over 11 miles. This is not a walk that I`d do by myself, as Wainwright says: “The desolation is profound. Solitary walkers who want a decent burial should bear in mind that if an accident befalls them in this wilderness their bones are likely to adorn the scene until they rot and disintegrate”….Oh-er!!!

The road down to Swindale is single track. So before you enter the valley you have to park the car on the side of the road and walk the couple of miles to Swindale Head. Cars are forbidden to park beyond by order of Cumbria County Council, but this adds to its isolation as it puts off the casual tourists!


The Swindale Valley. The weather was warm but overcast....


Looking back down our ascent route beyond the trees....


Selside Pike summit shelter.....


A first glimpse of Haweswater....


Looking back towards Selside Pike from Artle Crag. A Haweswater survey post on the right below the tarn....


John with the two cairns on Artle Crag.....



Branstree summit with Harter Fell behind...


We find a spot with a view to stop for lunch.


Behind John is Mardale Ill Bell, High St., Blea Tarn and the route up Riggindale.....


We walk the steepish route down Branstree into the valley then head left across very wet ground towards Mosedale Cottage. This is a very empty and isolated spot.


A closer view.


This is the first time I have ever met anyone else here. Mosedale Cottage is a bothy. It is free to stay in, but you never know what company, if any, you will be sharing with. It has several rooms, one with a wooden sleeping platform. The main living area has very comfy leather arm chairs. Once I sit down it is a bit of an effort to get going again! These two guys were from Leeds and had come over via Wet Sleddale yesterday. They said it was hard work and very wet (Guys, the clue was in the name!), they also got a bit lost, so were totally shattered by the time they got here, as they were carrying everything bar the kitchen sink with them. It was their first venture out for a long time, but they seem to have enjoyed themselves and were looking forward to planning their next trip. So once we had rehydrated and availled ourselves of the facilities (I forgot to tell John to avoid the toilet, and just use the great outdoors, but he knows now!), we headed on our way through the valley.......


The bothy from the outside....


From further down the track....


We made our way to the top of Forces Falls and worked our way down the cascades. The sun was now out and it was even warmer.....


Our starting point for ascending Selside Pike is just beyond the square forest. When I was here last May there was no bracken. This completely hides the access points to some of the better and more photogenic plunge pools and waterfalls.....


Easy descent route? I must have been wearing those rose-tinted spectacles the last time I was here! That tree has fallen over! Why did I not notice it at the time?


Now we are down to easier ground.....


Approaching the drumlins....or are they moraines?


Looking back up to our descent route down the waterfalls.....


View down the valley. Three miles back to the car!

It had taken six hours to do the walk, but that includes all the breaks too. Apart from the end descent, it is quite a gentle walk, but can be very wet in places.
I enjoyed myself, John is highly entertaining to walk with.

I drove John back to the presbytery. I parked behind his car. When I left I had to reverse out around the side of the church(!!!) In my defence, can I just say, it is not my car. My car is still in Ireland with Brendan, I flew back, and I’m having to drive Brendan’s Skoda Tank. One of the reasons we take my little car is the Skoda’s poor visibility behind, which is useless for Ireland’s single track roads, where reversing is a national past-time. I had a bit of “difficulty” negotiating the small bend. I’d like to apologise to the Laurel and its floral associates that had a close encounter with my wing mirror, it was nothing personal! But my little “difficulty” had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I’m a woman! Let’s not fall in to stereotyping. If any woman doesn’t fit the stereotypical mould it is definitely me! We will speak of it no more.