Harter Fell & Hardknott Fort

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By SheepFarmer on 06/10/18 at 1:35pm

Hills walked:
Harter Fell (Eskdale) (Wainwright, Birkett, Marilyn, Hewitt, Nuttall, HuMP, Fellranger, Synge, Sim, and Tump)
Date started:16/09/2018
Distance:8.7 km or 5.4 miles
Ascent:581m or 1906ft
Start OSGB:NY214011
Time taken:3:16

Moving time 2h 36m

This was my going home day of my holiday, so I had limited time available so planned something relatively easy. So it was just up Harter Fell from one side, down the other & visit Hardknott Fort on the return leg. GPX track & Profile below. GPX


Having packed up tent & stuff it was then a drive to park up at Jubilee Bridge at the Western end of Hardknott Pass just over the cattle grid. There is room for a few cars at this spot but I can see at busy times it would soon be full. The bridge gets you over Hardknott Gill with dry feet & there was plenty of water coming down when I was there after a stormy night. Conditions were dry above but wet ground with a murkiness to distant views & cloud down on the tops. The path was a wide hard earth & stone that followed a wall heading SW.

At the ford of the path & Dod Knott Gill, I took Pic 01 looking along Eskdale, with the high ridge in the background being that of Whin Rigg & Illgill Head that I'd walk along just 2 days previously. With the amount of water coming down this ford presented a bit of a problem as I feared that it would over top my boots & the odd big stone that would normally be a stepping stone had water bubbling over & I feared that with there smoothness they could be slippy so in the end I took a bit of a running jump just above the ford where is was narrower & grass both side & cleared it.

Pic 01

The path then continued in the same direction for another 5min at my pace before starting to bend round & heading South. It was then about 1 mile from the start that I turned off the Main path onto a narrow grass path cutting through the bracken & heather that heads NE directly to the summit of Harter Fell, although people had taken slightly different routes so that the were similar paths diverging & merging from time to time.

As what looked like a ridge up came into sight I took a path that lead up to it & off the direct path that had been my initial plan, the path I took is not marked on OS maps but is on the Waymaps & on my GPS ones, I think I took it as much because the top was in cloud but where the path I choose joined what was actually just a path coming up the SW flank.

Having read Wainwright before hand I knew that there were 3 tops to the fell, but by time I was approaching the top it was thick cloud around me, so that when I was near the top I when up one rock outcrop & it was only when I came down and was heading towards another that I spotted the trig pillar upon a different one & realised that what I had just been up was just any old rock outcrop & not one off the 3. So it was then a question of finding a way up to the trig pillar which is where Pic 02 came, showing also one of the other rock tops in the background, the other ones required more of a route picking scramble to the top of them.

Pic 02

My descent was down the NE side on a minor but obvious grass path although with the rain that I'd be having at night it meant that it was squelching under foot most of the way & I swerved round the odd muddy bit. I'd have liked it sooner but the sun was now burning back the cloud so that the views were improving & the temp warming up nicely. At one point the path angled across a little stream that was in its own gully that was over 6ft deep with steep sides, that required one to stop and asses for a moment ones best option for crossing, a direct descent or go on a bit and angle back up stream whilst descending which is the option I chose. Directly after the crossing I took Pic 03, looking into the Duddon Valley, with Grey Friar the fell on the right.

Pic 03

The path came on down in much the same fashion & came alongside, fenced & replanted forestry, where because of the fence limiting the spread of foot traffic ground conditions were more churned up & boggier in places, but as you drop down the views to the NW slowly open up until suddenly one sees the whole Hardknott Fort (pic 04) sitting there.

Pic 04

For me it was then down to the road along a bit before continuing straight on when the road turned a hairpin bend. It was then just a case of following where others had been, but avoiding the wetter spots towards the fort, with one deviation to get a view over it.

The fort itself is something worth visiting with walls a few feet thick & about 5 ft high on the outside, I suppose it's down to the remoteness of it that the stones were never totally robbed away for other purposes over the centuries plus it's position in the landscape makes it easier to understand why it's where it is. I went to the inside & walked round the perimeter where the soil is banked up to the outside walls so that you can see all round. Going out of the NW gate it's only a very short distance to the edge of Esk Dale after its turned a bend and is pointing NE (pic 05) and for me I could see across to Slight Side that I'd been over my first day, but the cloud covers the tops of the Scafell's beyond.

Pic 05

Looking over the SE ramparts came a good view up Hardknott Pass (pic 06).

Pic 06

From the NE gate looking over the Fort towards Dale Garth (pic 07).

Pic 07

Having walked the perimeter & across the middle to view the internal buildings, it's interesting to see the slight variations that show up between my track & the fort on the 2 maps & 2 aerial views on this site, none are perfect but since my GPS unit never seems to go below about 10ft accuracy according to its own display, I think that it's actually lower. It was then out the main gate and down to the road passing the remains of the bath house on the way, after another short road section it was back off-road for the small bit left of my walk, but before the end came zoomed views of Slightside (pic 08) & Bowfell (pic 09)- right of pic.

Pic 08

Pic 09

It was then back to the car & de-boot for the drive home, whilst thinking about how to fit in doing the walks I did in cloud again when clear for the views & also all the new fells one wants to do, whilst having limited opportunity to actually do them all. Finally to summarise my holiday over the 4 and a bit days I covered 53.5 miles length ways & 3.8 miles assent wise.

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