The Matterdale Fells, 22nd April 2003

On the first full day of my first Lake District holiday in three years, I set off to climb the three fells to the east of Matterdale, near Ullswater - Gowbarrow Fell, Little Mell Fell and Great Mell Fell.
From Keswick I took a bus to Penrith and then another to Glenridding, hopping off at park Brow Foot. A path into the woods leads to Aira Force, arguably Lakeland's most famous waterfall.
Two shots, showing the upper...
...and lower portions of the waterfall.
From the bridge over the top of the falls there is a dramatic view of the vertical drop from above.
Another view of Aira Force from above.
A path leads east from Aira Force around the southern aspect of Gowbarrow Fell. I climbed the largely pathless southern slopes to the minor top of Green Fell then wandered across the sombre moorland to the main summit.
The summit of Gowbarrow Fell, 1579ft. I'd seen nobody on the slopes of the fell, but encountered thirteen other people at the summit - four of them very young children, three of whom were exercising their lungs to their fullest possible extent. I got off that summit pretty damn quick. It's that sort of racket I come out to places like this to get away from.
Somewhere down there is Glenridding and the head of Ullswater.
Looking northeast, the lower limb of Ullswater is just visible.
The view northwest to Little Mell Fell, my next objective.
Looking back at the summit from the site of the former "shooting box", where I had my lunch.
The "family from hell" were still in earshot and, rather than have them accompany me along the rest of the path, I chose to strike off across Gowbarrow's outlier of Great Meldrum.
Down at the col I had a good view of Great Mell Fell.
I had to climb over a forestry fence and find my way down the slopes of Great Meldrum very carefully.
The proper path is just down there by the drystone wall. The weather is showing signs of brightening up.
Down off Great Meldrum to the path.
The path leads around the slopes of Little Meldrum...
...towards an unclassified road.
I followed this path (uphill most of the way) to the col between Little Meldrum and Little Mell Fell, known as The Hause.
From The Hause there is a permissive path straight up the flank of Little Mell Fell.
Twenty minutes later I reached the top of Little Mell Fell, a grassy dome reaching 1657 ft above sea level. 
The view from the top is really rather good. Here we're looking southwest into the Grizedale Tarn gap between the Fairfield group (left) and the Helvellyn group (right).
Helvellyn and its outliers seen from the top of Little Mell Fell
Great Mell Fell, my next and final objective. Blencathra lies behind.
The Dodds and Clough Head to the west.
The western half of Little Mell Fell is enclosed, so it was back down to The Hause by the same path. A footpath now led away to the west around the flank of the fell.
The weather was rapidly improving now and the scenery steadily improved. Plenty of gorse in flower on the south slopes of Little Mell Fell.
The Dodds seen across Matterdale
The path continued to wind around...
...the southern slopes of Little Mell Fell...
...during which time the clouds rolled back and the sun shone fully. 
The path approaches the valley.
The tiny hamlet of Lowthwaite.
Here I turned right onto the road.
Great Mell Fell seen just across the valley.
The Dodds again, looking beautiful in the afternoon sun.
To get to Great Mell Fell I have to take a small network of footpaths across the pastures in the valley.
Rights of way can be difficult to find in grazing country. 
I lost my way several times...
...but eventually hailed a farm hand driving an all-terrain vehicle to point me in the right direction.
He pointed out the way across the beck..
...and through the succeeding pastures... come out onto the road...
...beside Great Mell Fell.
In Wainwright's day Great Mell Fell was an Army firing range and access was difficult. Nowadays it's owned by the National Trust and there are no restrictions, but the fell is still pathless. The fell's flanks are steep and the least difficult way is up the eastern side, through the open tree cover.
I found myself labouring badly near the top.
Free of the trees, and a view opens up across the Eden valley to the northeast
The summit, contre-jour.
The summit of Great Mell Fell, elevation 1760ft - quite a respectable height. Looking northwards to the eastern outliers of Blencathra.
That's Gowbarrow to the south, with the hills clustering around the head of Ullswater beyond.
Helvellyn and the Dodds seen from the top of Great Mell Fell.
The way out to the A66 where I'm aiming to catch the bus back to Keswick. I've got 45 minutes to do it.
Straight down the side of the fell, a steep slope of spongy grasses and mosses and very easy on the feet.
Down the fell in twenty minutes. Not bad.
A retrospective view of Great Mell Fell from near the A66. I missed the bus by sixty seconds and there wasn't another for two hours - instead I caught one the other way into Penrith for an evening meal and then back to Keswick from there. A fine first day.

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This page last updated 25th October 2003