It has to be said that Hen Comb might undulate a little but it doesn't really look like a hen's comb. It is, however, a lovely wide ridge of grass and mosses which runs roughly south west just next door to Mellbreak. To get on to the ridge at the northern end a ford across Mosedale Beck must be crossed. This is best done at the start of the walk as if it is in spate it would be better to leave the walk for another day.
Mosedale Beck drains a large area leading to a rapid rise after rain and make the crossing of the ford difficult and dangerous. The ford itself is between a small deep pool and a set of cascades, so cross at the ford or not at all.
The grass ridge climbs steadily in two main steps connected by a soft plateau. Ascending the second step onto the summit proves that peaty marshes can exist on a slope which is uncomfortably steep to climb in one hit. Once on the summit, dry with a hint of rocky outcrop, the views are extensive. Modest in stature it may be but the view rivals that from many of the higher fells.
Faced with a return down the ridge and across the ford again we thought it worth exploring the bridleway along the southern end of the fell. The name should give you a hint as to the under-foot conditions. It is called Mosedale, which means 'the valley of moss' and lives up to its name. You have to dodge quite enough boggy moss but most of the return down the valley between Mellbreak is on a good firm track.
Start the walk from Loweswater, but beware that parking is limited. Don't park in the Kirkstile Inn unless you are a patron. There are two informal spots. Above Kirkstile Inn is a gravel patch in front of the telephone box. Below the Inn across Church Bridge is another gravel patch which can hold a few cars. At the bottom of Scale Hill on the approach to Loweswater village, is a larger car park but starting here adds another 2.0km (1.2 miles).
Walk height profile
note that gradients are usually grossly exaggerated
From the telephone box parking spot, take the narrow lane on the left hand side signposted to the Kirkstile Inn. At the church bear left, and then right to pass below the Kirkstile Inn.
Cross Church Bridge, pass the other parking space on the right, and continue along the lane to Kirkgate Farm. Keep left through the edge of the yard area and into the rough enclosed lane.
Follow the lane to the end and go through the gate. Immediately turn right onto the track alongside the intake wall with a stand of conifers to your left. In 200m (220 yards) as the wall bears right, follow it down to the ford.
Cross at the shallowest point, beware that the stepping stones, of sorts, are very slippery. Better to get wet feet than fall over and there are cascades downstream from the ford so utmost care required. Do not attempt the crossing when Mosedale Beck is in spate.
Having wrung your socks out, proceed up the bank. Ignore the path to the left and instead follow the path ahead through the grass with a wall to your right. In a little over 200m (220 yards) from the ford, bear left to head for the ridge line. The path doesn't pass along the crest of the ridge yet. Whilst traversing along below the ridge and a fence, watch for a step-stile at the end of the wall that appears ahead. Turn right to the stile, and cross to the other side. Small dogs can get underneath the fence nearby, Collies and bigger will need to go over. Now the path makes a half-hearted effort at being on the ridge line but just go with it.
After Little Dodd the path widens as it becomes mossy and damp. There's quite a bit of bilberry about too. The fence across the path may be stepped over and dogs underneath again. Then the final wet climb to the summit.
The summit cairn of Hen Comb is not seen until the last moment. A small pile of stones is set on the top of a slight rocky outcrop amongst the grass.
From the summit cairn of Hen Comb follow the narrow path through the grass heading southwards. It soon bears slightly right to descend a slight ridge, and then joins alongside a fence. Ignore the sheep trods that criss-cross the path, keep heading downhill.
The bridleway may not be glaringly obvious even from above but you will find the gate and stile which lies across it. Gingerly cross the watery reeds before the gateway and turn left away from the gate - do not go through. The path, such as can be found, keeps mostly to higher ground. Keep left, and in just 100m (110 yards) try not to miss an indistinct split in the path. Take the left fork to keep to a slightly higher ridge of ground with wet bogs on either side. When the ridge ends, slant left across a reedy patch and keeping left skirt the southern flank of Hen Comb. Short sections of path exist amongst the grass, moss, peat, reeds, and water.
Surprisingly, after a while, a more consolidated path does start to materialise and beyond a small knoll the footbridge over Mosedale Beck appears. Beyond it lies a better, firmer path.
Cross the bouncy steel footbridge and join the track. Now you can at last pace out a little on a generally firmer surface. Just watch out for the odd boggy hole.
Go through the gate, the track swings right and left again around a fenced enclosure cross a couple of deep washed out fords.
Join with a better maintained track and bear left heading through Mosedale. The beck now meanders happily below to your left. To your right rears the grass, scree and heather slopes of Mellbreak.
Reaching the stand of trees again, go through the gate and follow the lane back to Loweswater.
If you like this walk then why not try one of our other nearby walks:
|Mellbreak and Scale Force||248m (273 yards) away|
|Lanthwaite Wood and Crummock Water||0.7km (0.4 miles) away|
|Gavel Fell and Blake Fell from Maggie's Bridge, Loweswater||0.9km (0.5 miles) away|
|The Grasmoor Six Wainwright Fells||1.6km (1.0 miles) away|
|Fellbarrow from Thackthwaite, Lorton Vale||2.8km (1.7 miles) away|
|A stroll to Holm Wood beside Loweswater||2.9km (1.8 miles) away|
|Burnbank Fell, Holme Force and the woods||2.9km (1.8 miles) away|
|Grasmoor via Lad Howes ridge||3.4km (2.1 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