Little Gems – Holme Fell


Coniston Water from Holme Fell

Holme Fell is a true Lakeland fell in miniature, rough, aggressive, craggy, and spoiled only by its complete lack of height, just over 1,000 feet.
Geographically, the fell lies north of Coniston village, under the shadow of the Coniston range. Wetherlam’s third, and most diffuse ridge, culminating in the exciting (from below) ramparts of the Yewdale Fells, is bordered to the east by the shy, sylvan Tilberthwaite valley. A low ridge runs from Wetherlam across the head of the valley, which is closed off to the east by the rough sprawl of Holme Fell, which falls away towards the uplands between the Coniston range and Windermere, which includes Black Fell.
The summit of the fell is defended by a rim of crags that is only breached on the eastern flank. Take the Ambleside road north out of the village, into the long, flat, sylvan valley beyond. The road hugs the western side, underneath the Yewdale fells: if the weather has been wet and the becks are in spate, it’s worth pulling up just to look at the tumbling waters. When Holme Fell appears, directly ahead, a side road escapes left, to Tilberthwaite and the main road turns right, across the valley. The gap of Tilberthwaite opens alarmingly wide, the skyline disappearing completely in a most unLakes manner. Pass a side road signposted Hodge Close Only, and the entrance to Yew Tree Farm then, as the road turns left again on reaching the other side of the valley, look to park among the woods on the outside of the corner. This is the recognised car park for the scramble up besides Tom Gill to the picturesque Tarn Hows. If this is full, which on a sunny day is quite possible, there is off-road parking available further on the road, by the artificial fishing tarn.
Walk back, taking great care as this is a busy road, to the entrance to Yew Tree Farm and turn in at the gate. Almost immediately, take the gate to the right, closing it firmly behind you, and finding a path that heads away round the corner of the fell ahead, through fields of overgrown grass. The noise of the road is still there, if slightly distanced, and this is a pleasant stroll round to the eastern side of Holme Fell.
After about a quarter mile, the path starts to tend leftwards, towards the base of the fell. All this flank is quite thickly wooded, and the path makes its way into the trees and begins to rise.
It continues to climb at the same, steady, even angle across the flank of the field. below and to the right, the ground falls away sharply, although for most of the way there is enough of a screen of trees to your right to avoid any risk of vertigo, and whilst the ascent is never easy, it’s completely safe.
After a time, the trees begin to thin out, the sound of cars diminishes and is replaced by the sound of running water. This marks the approach to Uskdale Gap: the path begins to lose a little of its steepness and emerges into the open under the rim of crags, before turning into the wide channel of the Gap. Follow this up, keeping the beck to your right, and emerge onto the edge of a scruffy, rock-strewn top, with paths streaming away north and west.
Ivy Crag, decorated by a prominent cairn, lies directly south, and from there turn west to pick your way to the summit rocks.
Holme Fell’s situation, close to the high wall of Wetherlam, restricts its view, but the full-length prospect of Coniston Water is the obvious highlight, and a fine reason, alongside the exercise, be up here in the first place.
A return by the same route is perfectly feasible, but it’s always more fun to find a different route, and the paths across the back of the fell are too wide and too inviting not to explore. It’s worth a stroll even if you plan on descending via Uskdale Gap, but if you direct your steps towards the north west corner of the fell, you can find a steep and winding path down through the woods on that side, that, if approached with care, brings you down onto the Hodge Close road.
Stroll back along the tarmac, with no worries about traffic disturbing you, and Tilberthwaite Beck bubbling beside. Just short of the main road, a gate leads onto a field path back to Yew Tree Farm, paralleling the road but avoiding the risks of having to walk that, until you reach the farm entrance and have to complete your journey back to the care with your eye on the copious traffic.

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