Gibson Knott

Published 26 February 2023

The summit of Gibson Knott on a cloudy day.
Not the best of conditions, but I had at least made it to the top.

It’s September 2022 and I’m back in the Lake District for another three days of fell bagging in glorious weather. My first day was spent a-wandering round Weatherlam and its near neighbours. After a good nights rest, I was ready to start a walk of epic proportions, visiting four quite spread out Central Fells all in one day. It started with a climb of Raven Crag, a visit of Armboth Fell, and the a bit of a walk to Gibson Knott.

Gibson Knot is absolutely nowhere near where I stood on Armboth Fell.

Well, okay, that’s an exaggeration. They’re both in the Lake District, in the range of Central Fells. It’s not like one’s in Australia and the other is in Norway or something.

But they’re not exactly next to each other. You can’t stand on Armboth Fell, look across the countryside and go “ah, there’s Gibson Knott, only half a mile away.”

In his Central Fells edition of his famous Lake District walking guide, Wainwright gives no suggestions for walking from one to the other. This is because they are not next to each other. However Gibson Knot was a fell I needed to visit. Okay, needed that’s an exaggeration too. No one was holding a gun to my head and threatening my life if I didn’t go to Gibson Knott or anything. But it was the next stop on my day’s walking itinerary. And to complete that itinerary, I needed to get from Armboth Fell to Gibson Knott. So I concocted a mad, borderline insane, plan to walk between the two.

Three stakes tied together in the middle of a wire fence.
These three stakes appear to celebrate the summit of Watendlath Fell. But it’s not a Wainwright so we won’t worry too much about it.

And it was all done by playing join the dots with fells. Wainwright gives a walk along the ridge from Armboth Fell to nearby Ullscarf. And from Ullscarf you can walk to High Raise, before peeling off at Greenup Edge, and heading towards Calf Crag. And from Calf Crag it’s a simple ridge walk to Gibson Knot.

It sounds so simple (does it? – ed) but we’re talking about an epic journey of around six miles between the two. Okay, describing it as epic is a bit of an exaggeration, but there’s an argument we should leave that running gag there.

Still, it was a six mile walk I was going to do. And despite this being quite a big walk in a busy part of the Lake District, during five of those miles I saw only one human being and one dog. There’s probably a reason for this.

Peaty pools of water on Coldbarrow Fell.
Peaty pools on Coldbarrow Fell.

I will spare you the gory details of all this journey, for the good reason that there wasn’t any. The three mile walk to Ullscarf followed a fence over boggy ground. There isn’t that much to tell you beyond that. Only that a certain guide book author declared “this is one of the wettest walks in Lakeland, and not one to be undertaken for pleasure.” Ah, right. Thanks

Also, he added “ordinary words are inadequate.”

Oh.

Well, despite that, I had to try because I am the kind of person who tries. Honest. But if I’m honest, the walk rather blurred into one. It was grassy, it was boggy, and for the most part I followed a fence. It wasn’t anywhere near the wettest walks I’ve ever done in the Lake District. But that may have been because we’d had an exceptionally dry year. Still, if you’d taken all the peat bog I walked through, wrung it out, and put all the water into Thirlmere reservoir, the reservoir would need to be doubled in size.

A pile of stones marking the summit of Ullscarf.
Ullscarf is not the most exciting of places, truth be told.

This wasn’t my first visit to Ullscarf. I’d first visited it in the autumn of 2019. It didn’t appear to have changed much since then. Its summit was every much as boring as it had been three years earlier. So after a reviving Chorley Cake or two, I carried on along the ridge walk to High Raise. As I walked, Wainwright encouraged me with enthusiastic statements about the “dullness of the immediate surroundings.” Oh and that “there are many better walks in Lakeland than this!” Well, gee, thanks AW.

A mile or so on I came to Greenup Edge. Here a path heads downhill towards Grasmere. Wainwright used this path when creating his Coast to Coast walk. If you follow his instructions between Borrowdale and Grasmere, you’ll walk this way. I had some twelve years earlier. It all felt rather familar. Especially as on both days, it had been wet. The path’s been lined with stone steps, and each one was incredibly slippery to walk on.

A simple path on Greenup Edge.
Greenup Edge. Time to veer off to somewhere else.

Still, as the area the path went through was called “The Bog” on the map, slippery stone slabs were arguably the lesser of two evils.

I can tell I’m doing a good job of selling this walk to you.

Whilst the path carried on to the valley floor, I turned off at a spot called Browrigg Moss. At a junction a path led to Calf Crag. This was another fell I’d visited before, first arriving there in the summer of 2013. On that day Calf Crag had been covered in cloud and it was impossible to see anything. This return visit was, it must be said, an improvement as there was a view.

A little further on, my ultimate destination came into sight. Gibson Knot is a mere one and a quarter miles away from Calf Crag. I’d aimed to do it in 2013 after doing Calf Crag, but bad weather that day meant I went to the pub instead.

The summit of Calf Crag.
Calf Crag. I’d been here before, but the last time it had been covered in cloud.

I’d like to say that, nine years later, I was making up for this omission. But it had been such a long walk from Armboth Fell that I had started to zone out. In some rare positivity Wainwright described the section between Calf Crag and Gibson Knott as a “beautiful walk”. All I could tell you was that last mile involved lots of bog. So no real change to the previous five miles then. As for the “splendid views” he promised, well cloud was coming in. If I’d been there a few hours earlier, it might have been different. But now the cloud was coming in thick and fast.

And so it was that I got to Gibson Knot after a long journey, but can tell you little about it. It had taken me a couple of hours to get there. Now I’d arrived. And really, that was as much as I could say.

I sighed and hoped my next destination would prove to be a bit better. After admiring the cloud for a few minutes, I set off for Helm Crag.

Next time: err, Helm Crag?

The ridge running from Gibson Knott to Helm Crag.
The ridge from Gibson Knott to Helm Crag.

Comments

Vic Flange

26 February 2023 at 11:36 am

You may know this already but the ridge route – and, yes, I found it a “beautiful walk” too – via Gibson Knott and Helm Crag is one of the ‘recognised’ options on the Coast-to-Coast. When I walked it, I made a point of taking all of the high-level options (e.g. Haystacks, St Sunday Crag) partly to bag some of the Wainwrights.

What motivated you to tack Armboth Fell and Gibson Knott onto the days’ walk rather than continue via High Tove, High Seat, etc?

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

27 February 2023 at 9:21 am

When we did the Coast to Coast we stuck to the “main” route, mostly due to the weather which was terrible. But there’s a part of me that would like to go back and do the various route options through the Lakes. Maybe one day.

And yeah, the reason for going from Armboth Fell to Gibson Knott rather than High Tove and High Seat’s quite simple – I did both of those two fells in 2020. I also had other incentives to do Gibson Knott and Helm Crag sooner rather than later, but that will be revealed soon!

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