Obscure Corners – Walna Scar


Walna Scar fell, and it’s road leading upwards

Technically, Walna Scar and its environs is not that obscure a corner. It’s a part of the Coniston fells, the continuation of the Dow Crag ridge after it has descended over Blind Pike and Buck Pike. But it’s not in the Wainwrights, or not to those of us old enough to remember the Blessed’s reluctant rejection of the very idea of the Outlying Fells, in the closing pages of Book 7.
On the other hand, there’s enough interesting and attractive country, and summits, on that long ridge accompanying the eastern wall of the Duddon Valley, and Walna Scar fell is the only 2,000′ plus top in those Outlying Fells, making it an obvious target for a day in which solitude is a primary desire.
And I confess that solitude was specifically what I required on this outing, as it took place on FA Cup Final day, 1998.
I am a long-term football fan, and I love the FA Cup. Since 1968, I have lined up on Cup Final Day to watch the whole proceedings, throughout all of BBC and ITV’s coverage (the BBC has always been best). I was seriously committed to the Cup Final, but I didn’t want to watch that year. Each year, I’d choose a team I wanted to see win, but the choices on offer were Arsenal under the still-relatively new Arsene Wenger and Newcastle United under the former Liverpool manager Kenny Dalgleish.
I passionately wanted to see Wenger lose the Final. I passionately wanted to see Dalgleish lose the Final. I could not sit there and see either of them win.
So, with no alternatives available short of crossing the Vibrational Barrier into Earth-2, I boycotted the game and went to the Lakes instead. I didn’t even discover the result until the Sunday paper was delivered. The Lake District is a wonderful alternative to most things under the sun.
The road to Walna Scar the fell is the road to Walna Scar the pass, of course. It was a sunny May Saturday, and despite the limited nature of my expedition, I didn’t award myself a lie-in: alarm at six, hit the road at seven, the Cumbria border at eight, and parked up at the head of the narrow, climbing lane past the old station generously before nine.
I have a history with the Walna Scar Road, dating back into my father’s life-time, when on a soporifically hot August afternoon, we took up Wainwright’s recommendation about the sweet and gentle gradients of the Boo tarn approach, long since obliterated by quarry activity. Easy it might have been in normal conditions, but all of us struggled to lift our heavy legs at all, and we managed no more than three zigs and two zags before giving up and trudging down to the shore of the Tarn to rest.
Later, at least one of our multifarious visits to Goatswater was made by following the Walna Scar Road as far as Cove Moor, before turning up into the wide basin above.
And one of my very first solo expeditions was to Dow Crag, and thence the Old Man, via the pass and the ridge.
The point is that, as far as the pass, the way is as rutted and eroded and busy as any walk in the Conistons is likely to be, and the solitude you seek will not surround you until you break with the processions and, at Walna Scar top, turn left, not right, up the bare, trackless grass slope that leads away from the high fells.
The top of the fell is absurdly easy to reach: 100 feet of climbing, and the ground levels out onto a wide, grassy top, with the small summit cairn less than fifty feet away.
But that brief ascent makes all the difference. The crowds have gone a different way, no doubt marveling at your eccentricity in going off in the wrong direction, and now you are on your own for the next couple of hours.
All the hard work has been done, but Walna Scar’s summit invites a gentle stroll west and south, towards the two subsidiary summits of West Pike and White Maiden, little more than half a mile away.
West Pike, the lower of the two, overlooks the Duddon Valley, a sovereign guarantee of beautiful views. Visit this first, and return to White Maiden.
This, for me was the highlight of the walk, as this narrow, slightly peaked top, looks out over a steep fall to the upper valley of the River Lickle, a place of closely planted trees and logging, a wilderness with no seeming access, especially from White Maiden. Further west, a jumbled ridge with no paths enabling the continuation of the walk, leads to the rough but shapely Caw, worthy of a separate expedition in itself another day.
There’s no more progress to be made in this direction, but the walk and the solitude can be pleasantly extended by descending the eastern flank of White Maiden, crossing a gently rock-strewn slope towards Red Gill, which, further downslope, becomes Ash Gill Beck. There are no paths, but when you reach the former bridge, cross the Beck and work left towards Ash Gill Quarry, where a good track heads across the fellside towards the lower slops of the Old Man.
I actually got into trouble near the bottom of this section, not from the landscape or anything like that, but from my left contact lens, which abruptly dried out completely on me.
This was not nice at all: it immediately became so dry, and so painful that I had to extract it, but I had not brought the lens carrying case with me, nor did I have my glasses in the rucksack. The lens was far too dry to even attempt to pop back in, and all I could do was to gently decant it into a compartment of my wallet (which I never usually carried onto the fells) and carry on with grossly mismatched eyesight: excellent in my right eye, extremely myopic in the left. It was such a hot, sunny day that it was far from ideal to maintain a permanent squint.
From the base of the Gill, it was a simple stroll towards the Walna Scar road as it emerges from the shadow of the Old Man. At this point, you might expect to kiss your solitude goodbye, but there are ways. I started down the old route back to Torver that I’d not walked in over twenty years, to give myself a view on Banishead Quarry and it’s waterfall and pool. Though this loses a small amount of height,, which is not recommended on a hot Saturday, it enabled me to strike off east, on sheeptracks that toyed with being intermittent, but which conducted me back comfortably to the roadhead, in peace and quiet. indeed, the main drag was visible more of the way, a hundred yards and more to the left, and if the track was ever seriously threatened, I would just have walked over there. But it kept me away from people until the time came to swing back towards the gate, and the car.
The quiet part of the walk is relatively short, there being no feasible link from Walna Scar fell and its subsidiary to any other high ground, and even the crossing of the lower part of the Moor cannot be said to be lonely, but on a day when you wish to get away from all others for a time, this is an enjoyable short expedition, during which you will learn nothing as to the progress of football matches taking place in London.Walna Scar fell, and it’s road leading from Coniston

2 thoughts on “Obscure Corners – Walna Scar

    1. Oh dear, yes. All of the fun of walking along with perfect vision on the right and total unmitigated blur on the left! Good job I was coming back down. Incidentally, the lens revived perfectly after going back in the fluid!

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