BB1524 : Beating the Bracken

Wednesday 8th July 2015

As you drive along the A590 between the Grange-over Sands roundabout and Newby Bridge, to your right is a wall of smallish fells than none of us had previously visited.  Indeed I had thought them inaccessible although a couple of the tops are mentioned in Wainwright’s Outlying Fells book for pensioners. Listed as Newton Fell, they were recorded as two separate short walks with limited access.

Recently, however, the southern part, Dixon Fell, was featured in a walk described in the Westmorland Gazette as a “challenging low level walk”.  The challenge was the lack of clear footpaths and lack of proper stiles which give rise to “difficult” wall crossings.

I had filed the description for use when inclement weather proscribed a more adventurous expedition.  Today was the day.

John Edmondson’s article made me realise that AW’s account was over 40 years old, long before Right to Roam (not, I suspect, that such matters would have bothered him too much).  Today, I thought, it should be possible to visit the north and south ends without too much bother.

Would I be proved correct?

We parked by the Crown at High Newton and picked up Edmondson’s route up onto Newton Fell.  Immediately we hit our first obstacle.  “Go through the metal gate” proved impossible- it was severely padlocked.  After a short deliberation we decided that, as we were already there and the route was in the public domain, we had the right to roam over it.

The Crown

Walk this way

We then followed his instructions to turn left to go up the valley with a tall dead tree on the right.  

Clear enough, but what he failed to mention, and this would be a feature of the day, was the thick walls of bracken impeding progress.

Nevertheless we battled our way through, greeting two fine horses en-route, to a viewpoint.

Climbing through the bracken

Martin and the horses

View south

Second challenge: to find the exit from the field.  Edmondson mentioned a "dilapidated makeshift ramp over the wall” but warned that “it’s a dangerous crossing”.  Correct!


..... and over

We tramped through bracken along to Raven Scar, the highest point of this part of the walk.  “Your next challenge” read the print “is to cross the wall ahead”.

As suggested we descended alongside the wall where the bracken was at times more than head high.  Perhaps that was why we couldn’t see the pond to which he referred, or more likely it was lacking water.  Anyway, eventually a suitable crossing place was found and we were able to climb, yes through more bracken, to the top of Bishop’s Tithe Allotment.

From here, it is said, you can see Tom Tarn below.  Oh no you can’t.  You have to drop down a bit before that comes into view.  

Terry battles the bracken

Tom Tarn

You can then see the locked gate over which you have to pass to reach the bracken leading to Dixon Heights and the ruins of an old viewing station, much dilapidated since Wainwright’s time.

Not everyone dislikes bracken

The viewing station

The path to the accurately named Back o’ Fell Road was waymarked.  And then it wasn’t.  Or maybe it was but a marker was obscured by....., well here is a clue:

An invasive green and poisonous fern (7) :   _ _ _ _ _ _   _

How did you guess?

So an interesting descent was pioneered.

On reaching the road we abandoned (as planned) the Edmondson Route and headed north to Tow Top Road.  

Martin muttered obscurely about the pleasures ahead but the signs indicating that it had been used for a mass bike ride must surely mean that it couldn’t be that bad.

Could it?  

An invasive green and poisonous fern

Oh, yes it could.  Three quarters of a mile of frustratingly steep road- one of those where you see a bend and think it is at the top, only to reach it and see the road continuing to curl away before you, relentlessly uphill.

Fortunately, once the top was reached it was a short downhill gallop to the Crown.  This pub is well worth a visit.  Refurbished under new management, Andrea and Abe were very welcoming and provided an excellent lunch of ham or steak sandwiches plus chips.

Abe & Andrea at.....

..... The Crown

Refortified, or was it weighed down by, the meal we headed north then climbed to High Newton Reservoir before turning north again along a good track.

High Newton Reservoir with White Stone behind

We found the path to Bog End Moss and we found a marker beyond the small tarn for the path we expected to take us south to White Stone.  

However, yet again we ran out of markers and found ourselves in “interesting” territory.

Somehow or other we found an exit from the wood and pioneered a route to White Stone involving a small loop as we missed it first time.

It had been obscured by the B word.

Nearly a comitibus photo

The plan now was to drop down to the road and head back to the car as Tony had time pressures.  Stan, however, had other ideas.  There was another top to climb if we were to do the job properly: Saskills and to prove it, there was a trig point.  We examined the radio masts until we realised our brains might get sizzled by microwaves!

Saskills and .....

..... its radio mast

We brackened our way across and then down to the High Newton Reservoirs.

High Newton Reservoirs

Strangely, when we reached the cars, Tony was no longer in a rush to get home so we revisited the Crown.

Comitibus :  High Newton

What to do with a pill box in your garden

All in all, it was a novel walk but, in the slight chance that anyone reads this with the intention of following some of the route, I strongly recommend that you do it outside bracken season.  I also strongly recommend visiting the Crown.  I know I shall again but perhaps without the encumbrance of brackenisation first!

Don, 8th July 2015

PS Sorry about the lack of quality of some of the photos.  I was using my new camera, which has some stunning features but I am as yet unfamiliar with its settings and it is rather less intuitive than my tiny, trusty, old Sony bombproof one.  Consequently several of the exposure settings were wrong.




Wednesday 8th July 2015

Distance in miles:


Height climbed in feet:



Newton Fell, Raven Scar, Bishop's Titithe Allotment, Dixon Heights, White Stone, Saskills


Don, Martin, Stan, Terry, Tony


To discover which Wainwright top was visited on which BB outing - although it may not be that up to date - or for the totals of the mileages and heights (ditto) see the Excel file: BB Log.

You can navigate to the required report via the Home Page

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To see which Wainwright top was visited on which BB outing see Which Wainwright When? This may or may not be up to date!

For the latest totals of the mileages, heights and Lakeland Fells Books Wainwrights see: Wainwrights.
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