The Back O' Skiddaw is an area of high moorland which feels quite remote and relatively quiet. Comprising mainly of grass and mosses it holds onto the rainfall well in its peaty uplands. A dry summer is helpful to the walker who ventures here: to have a spring in his or her step rather than a squelch with each footfall. Heather inhabits the mid-slopes, with summer bracken often choking the lower. Great Calva and Knott are typical of this scene as you will find on this circular walk.
The valley of Mosedale, not to be confused with the one behind the Wasdale Head Inn, cuts deeply into the eastern edge of the Northern Fells with the River Caldew meandering across its floor. The Caldew's source high on Skiddaw flows north east around the southern shoulder of Great Calva and is joined by many gills and becks before it even reaches our valley. Much of that journey is accompanied by the Cumbria Way, which rejoins the Caldew later to head north to Carlisle. Near the head of Mosedale is the Carrock Wolfram Mine. Originally opened in the pursuit for Galena it was found some white quartz veins held tiny quantities of Wolfram otherwise known as Tungsten ore. During two World Wars the mine produced this highly valuable mineral, and intermittently right through until 1981. Only in 1988 were the last buildings destroyed and some landscaping carried out although many traces of this industrial past still remain. Today the valley resounds to the low of cattle in the fields, sheep on the fells, and cascades on the Caldew. An occasional car breaks the pastoral serenity carrying walkers perhaps heading for one of the few spaces in which to park and leave the vehicle.
Look out for juniper, darker and more ordered, in amongst the gorse close to the road.
Unless you have a Land Rover or similar high ground clearance vehicle it is probably better not to attempt to park on the far side of the bridge over Grainsgill Beck. Park on the verge, just before the road climbs there is a patch of grass for maybe 4 cars.
Walk height profile
note that gradients are usually grossly exaggerated
Continue to the end of the tarmac road and turn left over the stone bridge crossing Grainsgill Beck. The rough cobble like track here has a very short signpost hiding in the bracken "Public Bridleway Skiddaw House".
Continue along the track, not veering off or climbing the fellside, keep ahead as it fords Burdell Gill and then becomes more of a path. Just past the ford keep right unless you like an early introduction to boggy puddles. The path traverses just below the lone tree.
Remain on the path, passing an old barn beside the path, until reaching the fence, gate and a circular stone sheep fold.
Go through the gate, cross the bridge, and instead of climbing the bank ahead, bear right to follow Wiley Gill. The path is narrow, and damp. Cross the mossy 'moraines' and swing left to climb a ravine up the bank. At the top follow the path through the thick heather and bear right to a gate in the fence coming down the fellside. Go through the gate and turn up left to follow the fence up. This side of the fence is mainly pleasant grass, with blaeberry and tufty deer grass.
Reaching the fence corner cross it at the corner hurdle. Dogs can squeeze below the wire here. Turn right up to the summit cairn of Great Calva adorned with bits of old fence just 100m (110 yards) or so further on.
From the summit bear left to descend just to the left of the tarns in the depression then aim slightly right for the fence corner where there is a stile - no provision for dogs.
Turn right now heading northwards. There is a path of sorts but it gets lost easily in the moss and grassy tussocks, thankfully threading its way between the wetter patches. Skirting the top of Wiley Gill on the right, bear right heading north east across the col.
Ascend the path on the other side of the depression which gets quite steep. Approaching the summit of Knott the gradient eases onto the domed top. The summit cairn is a plain pile of stones.
Continue over the summit dome bearing slightly right to proceed eastwards. The ridge going down to Coombe Height is slightly further right, and Carrock Fell is slightly left. The path gets quite boggy and again is easily lost.
Lingy Hut, the lone building, can be seen over to your left. Follow the path as best as you can as it avoids the peat hags before bearing left to descend towards Grainsgill Beck. Now with Lingy Hut ahead drop down to depression to cross the beck. Immediately, turn right to start the descent into Mosedale. A path is not entirely obvious until you have gone 50m (55 yards) or so.
Quickly the view opens out into the valley, cars parked at the end of the tarmac road just tiny dots far below.
The mine workings come into view. If you managed to find the heathery path, stick with it as it joins a meandering slightly easier path coming from Lingy Hut. Continue dropping down a tongue of grass and rocks. Approaching the mine workings, cross the track, drop down through the working area, and continue ahead, keep slightly right never far from the beck on the right, onto the tarmac track down to the bridge at the end of the road.
If you like this walk then why not try one of our other nearby walks:
|Carrock Fell and High Pike||2.6km (1.6 miles) away|
|Bowscale Tarn - Tarn of the Immortal Fish||3.0km (1.9 miles) away|
|Bowscale Fell||4.1km (2.5 miles) away|
Unless otherwise stated the text in this walk is the copyright of Hug Solutions Ltd trading as The Hug and the photographs are the copyright of Elizabeth Oldham. Hill data is derived from Database of British and Irish hills which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Maps contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011 and paths © OpenStreetMap Contributors,CC-BY-SA, 2011