Roger Butler sees the best of winter on the fells in this walk around over Kentmere Pike and Harter Fell

This walk, which is 16km/10 miles in length, and involves 665m/2180ft of ascent, is a great way to explore Kentmere Pike and Harter Fell. A traditional Lakeland hunt echoed around the top of Kentmere and the cluster of weathered farmers had their binoculars firmly fixed on the hounds swarming across the flanks of Raven Crag. Beyond the great wall of Kentmere – a three metre-high dry stone dyke which hugs the lane up to Brockstones – another local watched on his own. “The Welsh boys are here today,” he announced with enthusiasm, and it certainly looked like they were in for a busy time.

A Lakeland Walk

Our day was fairly hectic too, but began with a pleasant amble past Stile End. Bright sunshine was here at last and the clumps of rushes gleamed a deep shiny ochre. Thick ice covered the puddles and the streams were tinkling with snowmelt. A hawthorn was adorned with no fewer than seven separate gloves, all no doubt dropped by passing walkers and now proudly displayed in the form of a sacred wayside shrine.

I bent down to fiddle with the camera and felt a warm damp patch spreading down the back of my thigh. Fortunately, it turned out to be nothing more than hot tea from an upside-down flask and we were soon striding onto Shipman Knotts, where the wall alongside the path wriggled as if it had been built after a long night in the pub. The fields down in Longsleddale looked spring-like but up here the snow was still crunchy. Maybe too crunchy, because with an almighty splash I suddenly found myself wading in a peaty soup amid howls of laughter from the children.

Chilly feet were now to be expected and the first breeze cooled the fingertips as well. Duvet jackets came out when we stopped for lunch and haggled over who should drink what remained in the flask. A snow-covered plateau, where melted footprints looked as if a yeti had trundled by, stretched towards Kentmere Pike. The few people we met all wore great big smiles and red rosy cheeks and everyone knew the day was quite special. The light almost hurt the eyes and, by a stile entombed in a deep drift, someone shouted a greeting: “Who needs to go abroad?”

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Cross Fell

All day, however, the Pennines seemed coated in a heavy mist, though the beacon on Cross Fell peeped through like a giant snowball. The rollercoaster ridge ended on Harter Fell, where the cairn was fashioned from old rusty fence posts and the snow and ice appeared to have been spread and shaped by a huge spatula. The long north-facing slopes above Haweswater looked treacherous and we kept well back from the rim of the crags.

We descended past the shadowy cliffs of Black John Hole to reach the Nan Bield Pass. The stone shelter that marks the top of this ancient route was brim full with snow but the path into Kentmere was clear. A last glint of sun hit the top of Ill Bell as we contoured above the darkening recesses at the head of the valley.


[1] From Kentmere village follow lanes leading N to Brockstones.
[2] At top of steep lane head R on good track signed for Stile End and continue E to top of pass. Leave track and take path N to Shipman Knotts.
[3] Continue N, then NW, by wall on broad ridge to Kentmere Pike. Continue NW, then N, on to Harter Fell.
[4] Turn W at summit, then veer NW down rocky ridge to reach Nan Bield Pass. Take path S from pass and gradually descend to valley floor after 3km. Path turns to track leading to Overend.
[5] Fork R on track (Low Lane), turn R after 1.3km to cross footbridge, turn L and join pathback to start.
Kentmere Pike and Harter Fell, Cumbria