Flat Top Fell – A Sunday on Caudale Moor

Caudale Moor and Hartsop Dodd

On days like this, when the gulf of a day’s work I no longer believe in looms large, I dream of the Lake District. It looks like I will not be taking up a job that will interfere with my planned Patterdale Expedition.
But that will be a valley-based operation, except for the crossing of Kirkstone Pass on the bus from Windermere (and that’s going to be an experience! If it’s a double-decker, I’m going upstairs.) So let me dream of some walking experience out of Patterdale that I’ve not previously recollected here.
There aren’t that many that I haven’t written about, here and there, but one does remain that bears re-living.
After I got my late and much-lamented shiny black Volkswagen Golf, I found it easy to run up from Manchester for a day’s walking on a Saturday or Sunday, to pick up an increasing number of Wainwright’s from my decreasing list of those yet to bag. There was a simple pleasure in the ability to just be there and back in a day, with ample walking time between.
At some point, I was going to have to tackle Caudale Moor, the name Wainwright gave to the sprawling, multi-ridged, flat-top fell that buttresses Kirkstone Pass to its east. Like Caw Fell, its expanse makes it something of a long walk for, like Caw Fell, its flat top. However, unlike Caw Fell, at least it’s not isolated. That I also had its satellite fell, Hartsop Dodd, to collect pretty much determined that the approach had to be from Hartsop, although it would probably have been my best bet anyway.
I motored up on Sunday morning, Manchester to the M61/M6 and off onto the Kendal bypass, through Windermere and up through Troutbeck. Patterdale always has been one of my favourite valleys, and Ullswater my favourite lake, though I wasn’t going that far north today: just past Brothers Water and turn right along the short road to Hartsop Village,
Hartsop looks as if it lies in the bottom of the Hayeswater valley, which is the obvious route of ascent, but it also sits below Threshthwaite (‘Threshet’) Glen, which lies between Gray Crag and Hartsop Dodd, and which can only be accessed by going round the back of the village. It’s narrow, flat and secluded, and I felt as if I had entered a secret place. Hartsop remained partially visible behind but it rapidly seemed to be far away.
I was on my own, happily so on a Sunday morning in which Hartsop itself had been occupied by the beginnings of a fell race I was to cross later on. Threshthwaite Glen was dead straight and mostly flat, rising eventually into Threshthwaite Cove, a little higher, a little wider but still as empty as a Tory’s promises. The exit from this secluded place is a steep wall at the far end, visible a long way off. This is Threshthwaite Mouth, which is paradoxically better known from its other side, above the end of the Troutbeck Valley, and the long emptiness behind the mini-ridge of Troutbeck Tongue.
All the climbing was concentrated into the middle of the walk, by angled paths up the wall to Threshet Mouth, some of these lines a little soft underfoot, with increasing steepness until I came out upon the Mouth, ready for a break, and then onto Caudale Moor itself.
I had an excuse for an extended breather: almost as soon as I reached Threshet Mouth, the fell-racers came skipping and jumping down the steep rocks eastward, from Thornthwaite Crag, and racing across the short, flat col to tackle the equally steep rock westward leading up. Courteously, I placed myself off to one side of the path, letting them through until the mass had gone and I could continue in good conscience that I was not interfering with the chances of any runner.
That left me in good heart and leg muscle for pulling myself upwards on the most interesting terrain of the day. Like most such slopes, I could only see a short distance ahead and could only gauge my progress by what I could see of Thornthwaite Crag behind me, but by this time, I had developed a taste for scrambles, as long as they were not too rough, and compared to things like Stirrup Crag on Yewbarrow, this was definitely not rough.
The top of Caudale Moor lacks intrinsic interest, being a vast green plain, stretching out in all directions. The summit has multiple names, Stoney Cove Pike (the highest point) and John Bell’s banner among them, and I used Wainwright’s summit plan to ensure that I stood at all the significant points whilst I could. I’d enjoyed the solitude below, and the scramble to the top, but any summit that reminds you more of an aircraft carrier deck than a Lakeland fell does not stir you to repeat visits. Had I been younger, I might well have had time to consider a return visit, but my guess that this would be my only visit would prove to be correct.

Patterdale fron the descent

At least it was a dry, clear afternoon, with ample time left. There were no valley views until I left the top walking north towards the ridge declining to Hartsop Dodd, which gave me the best views of the day, into Patterdale, a view that grew increasingly intimate once I was past the latter.
The walking was on grass, there was a wall for guidance and I could march or stroll as I preferred with no worries about taking my eyes off where I was placing my boots.
Once I was across the Dodd, and on my way down into the valley, I had to start paying more attention to the ground underneath my feet, as this started to slope away with increasing rapidity, to the point that, as I got lower and it all got a lot steeper, I started to get concerned about exactly how I was going to return to the valley. If the rate of descent continued to increase, I was going to be trying to walk down a vertical slope by the time I was in reach of Hartsop.
But of course it didn’t get like that, though my knees were starting to feel something of the strain, and I came off the ridge into the bottom of Threshet Glen, rejoining the path close to the valley mouth, with an easy stroll back to my parking field on the other side of the village. No fuss, no strain, just a day of sun and wind, another couple of fells taken off my diminishing list, and the return to Manchester, hoping vainly to beat the long queues that always held us up, passing the exit from the Blackpool Motorway and all the way to the M61 turn-off.
That was why I eventually worked out that Saturday walks were a better bet, without the gauntlet of people leaving Blackpool after their weekends.

7 thoughts on “Flat Top Fell – A Sunday on Caudale Moor

  1. I like the idea of going up from Threshthwaite Glen. There’s a fine Crag up to your right as you approach the Mouth, as I recall. I did your walk (in part) the other way around, ascending Hartsop Dodd, which is probably easier than descending it, but when I reached Threshthwaite Mouth, I carried on up Thornthwaite Crag and came down over Gray Crag (also an alarmingly steep descent.

    It was early spring. Just the odd streak of snow, crisp sunshine and the song of the skylarks—magical. I’d love to do it again, so may follow your route next time. Still 97 more Wainwright’s to bag first, though.

  2. There you go: I ascended Gray Crag and descended Hartsop Dodd. The Lake District is so wide and varied. 97 fells left: have you chosen one you’re saving for last yet?

  3. Catstye Cam. It’s the biggest one I haven’t done. It’ll be Striding Edge/Swirral Edge (which I have done) finishing on Catstye.

  4. I’d bumped into him three or four times that morning but didn’t suspect who he was until on Catsye Cam. I didn’t dare ask, but got my confirmation a fortnight later when I popped up in his Country Diary in the Guardian.

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