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Free from the Fells Tubular Walks Far Eastern Fell Walk

Far Eastern Fells - Branstree

'Bother the Bothy?'

tubular-walks-logoSwindale is a quiet and secluded valley hidden away in the far eastern territory of Lakeland and even today is rarely visited by tourists.  The kind of people you meet are the hardy fell-types, keen to escape the throngs of central Lakeland, especially on a Bank Holiday and often attempting to find somewhere off the beaten track.  If you meet any of these people, at least glance them a smile or pass the time of the day, they'll be very much like you!

A compromise has to be met in order to keep the head of Swindale so quiet and visitor free, the car being abandonded near Swindale Foot.  For a couple of 'clicks' follow the metalled road to Swindale Head and from here it's an adventure into a wild, lonely and unfrequented area.

Passing into the upper jaws of the valley, it is the wonderfully named Hobgrumble Gill that presents itself tumbling through the crags, that make up the terminus of Nabs Moor and the eastern fringes of Selside Pike behind.  Hereabouts, the glacial landscape is seen in the form of eroded drumlins, the last vestages of glacially transported debris that was deposited as the last ice finally melted from this landscape perhaps as late as 11000 years ago.  The track actually crosses the terminal moraine of this glacier before running over the marginal moraine as it rises from the valley south of 'The Knott'.  The poorly drained and boggy ground to the right is the area where the ice was last to melt, producing a small glacially dammed lake, (Wainwright suggests it is the last vestages of a tarn).

Climbing gradually from valley level to the west of 'The Forces'  a new landscape appears.  This is a hanging valley and one of six Mosedales in the Lake District.  If you know them all, 'Mosi' from the Old Norse, means peat mosses or peat bogs and gives them all a characteristic feeling of dreariness and even in the driest of weather some wet walking underfoot.  This one is the highest in altitude of them all.

I won't beat about the bush, when I suggest that this Mosedale is like all the others and for some, the walk all the way to Mosedale Cottage might seem like an arduous undertaking.  However, this is one of Lakeland's forgotten corners and cannot be ignored.

There is no doubt that Wordsworth got it wrong when he wrote of the farm at Blea Tarn, the home of 'The Solitary' in his poem 'The Excursion'.  Probably a lot different a hundred years ago, but nowadays every tourist car bound for Little Langdale ventures that way.  Perhaps better to have written those famous lines in reference to a resident of Mosedale cottage, a full two miles from any other civilised home.

Mosedale Cottage is now a bothy as part of the Mountain Bothies Association and especially if the weather is poor, this would make an ideal place to take a break and even have lunch.  If you do visit the bothy, please take out all rubbish and please don't leave perishable food as this attracts vermin.  Make sure the doors and windows are properly closed when you leave.
Mosedale,'dreary valley,' is one of six upland valleys of that name in Lakeland, all being bleak areas of marshy ground between the slopes of higher fells.
Leaving the bothy behind, a short climb to the watershed between Mosedale and Longsleddale presents the ascent of Selside Brow and more or less the halfway point of your walk.  At this juncture you might be wondering where the real Lakeland has got to, but as you approach the summit of Branstree more and more familiar Lakeland fells raise their heads.  Branstree is unusual in that the trigonometrical station is a circular ring of concrete, not a concrete pillar, with the facilities for the theodolite set into the ground.  Walking north-west from the summit, it is worth wandering through the rocks that make up Artle Crag with its fine pillar or cairn.  Continuing the theme of surveying, a pillar belonging to the survey works for the Manchester Corporation and their schemes for water transmission can be visited and is similar to others found on Tarn Crag and elsewhere.

AW Says:"Occupies a fine position at the head of three valleys..."

Although the walking has rarely been challenging, the route along to Selside Pike gives excellent vistas across Haweswater.  With Kidsty Pike, Rampsgill Head, High Raise and Wether Hill behind, the walk gains some familiarity.  The route from the summit is more or less downhill all the way, descending Selside End in order to intercept the route of the Old Corpse Road.  Many readers will know about the origins of the corpse roads of Lakeland, but suffice to say that it's the route the coffins were carried over the fells to Shap before the church and consecrated ground at Mardale Green, themselves now a thing of the past and its site now several fathoms beneath water, except of course in those years of drought.

Remember to turn right on arrival at the Old Corpse Road, because an error here will have you in the wrong valley.  Reservoir ahead?  Your definitely going the wrong way!  The 'road' and correct route, drops down to Swindale Head.  All you're left with, is to find your way back to your car.  It might not have been the most dramatic or even familiar route, but it will be interesting to note how many people you've encountered along the way.  I'd like to wager it'll be less than 10 - report back if it's more, as you must have passed a school party and the kind of thing which had Alfred Wainwright hiding behind boulders!


The Route Map and Path Profile:



Walk profile for this walk


Nota Bene

Walking in the Lake District, Scotland or elsewhere can be dangerous especially for the inexperienced or in bad weather. It is the walker's responsibility to be properly prepared and kitted out. Walkers should always carry a map and compass when on the mountains and know how to use them.
Please remember that no hand drawn map, or well prepared guidebook is ever a substitute for the correct Ordnance Survey or similar Harveys Map (Lakeland Central Map or Lake District 1:40000) for an area. Especially in mountainous terrain, any errors of navigation can prove inconvenient at the least and in the most extreme circumstance may lead to serious injury or loss of life.   If you are in any doubt about your situation do not set out. For further information on fellwalking and to find advice and related articles visit the Online Fellwalking Club.

carry-a-route-cardAt the express request of the LDSAMRA always leave a route card to outline your day's intended route on the mountains.  Route cards for these walks are attached as part of the free walk downloads and a blank version is available in the 'Free from the Fells' section for your other felltop escapades.

Start point: NY 522 142
End Point: NY 522 142
Distance: 16km / 9.94miles
Max. Height: 713m/ 2339ft
Min. Height: 237m/ 778ft
Height Ascended:
632m/ 2074ft
Prominence: 137m/ 449ft
Estimated Time:
4hrs, 15 mins
Wainwright Book:
2 The Far Eastern Fells
AW 81/214

Other information:
82nd Wainwright
92nd highest in England
156th highest in England and Wales
Hewitt or Nuttall:
OS Explore (Orange covers) sheet:
OS Landranger (pink covers) sheet:

Download a PDF page of the 'Bother the Bothy' walk to take with you, but don't forget to take the relevant map and compass on the day.  The PDF contains all the information from this web page and can be printed out in full colour.

Download the walk

Remember, in an emergency dial 999 or 112 and ask for 'Police' (not Mountain Rescue), give your name, telephone number and location, your notes, map make and number. STAY BY THE PHONE and await further instruction.


Western Fells - Seat Allan
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