Published 3 December 2017

Arnison Crag’s summit cairn, with Birks in the background

Seen from the top of Arnison Crag, Birks just rather settles into the background

Want to do a horseshoe shaped walk that takes in Fairfield? And that starts at Patterdale? And takes in St Sunday Crag? You do? So did I, and I did on my third day spent in Patterdale. After a visit to Arnison Crag, I went to its unasuming neighbour, Birks.

From Arnison Crags, the top of Birks is a mere hop, skip and a jump away. If by that, you actually mean following a path, walking alongside a wall, and then following a broken wall sharply up hill. And that seems like a good enough definition of a hop, skip and jump to me.

To be honest, Birks rather sits in the shadow of its much larger, more visually impressive neighbour, St Sunday Crag. Hey, the latter’s even got a far better name. What kind of name is Birks anyway? Sounds like a name of brand of sandals or something. Or maybe a type of ballpoint pen.

Wall going up Birks

The Great Wall of Birks

Still, Birks itself is no minion, and requires a fair climb to get to its grassy fell-top. And even better, I had it all to myself. Well, if you discount the copious number of resident sheep that is.

Now that’s not to say the whole of the Eastern Fells were silent. It was a summer Sunday and the weather was good, so of course the fells were busy with walkers. It’s just that most of them were heading up to St Sunday Crag. Why wouldn’t you? It’s a star of the area. Birks, on other hand, just looks like a lump of soil, covered in grass, from afar. So whilst the main ascent route to St Sunday Crag from Patterdale passes not far from the summit of Birks, few are prepared to take the brief detour.

You could argue though, that those bypassing the top of Birks really weren’t missing much. The fell top – that I reached rather easily and extremely quickly – is rather plain. It’s just a long grassy plateau, with the highest point marked by a rather insubstantial cairn made out of a handful of rocks. If you did happen to be walking over it, and knew nothing of Birks’s status as a Wainwright, you’d barely look twice. And if you did know, you might not either.

Summit cairn of Birks

Blink and you'll miss it - the cairn marking the top of Birks

That’s not to say Birks is a bad fell, not worthy of a visit. Just that its bigger, brasher neighbours steal all the limelight. Birks barely puts up a fight in competition. But let’s be honest here. There can be some pleasure in visiting these little known fells. Pleasure mostly gained from knowing you’re visiting somewhere no one else is. And pleasure in having the place to yourself. Somewhere away from the masses in which to enjoy the peace and tranquillity.

And once you’ve had that pleasure – and it won’t really take that long – you can head off to somewhere just a little more impressive.

Next time: it could only be St Sunday Crag! You can see all of my photographs from my three days in Patterdale over on flickr.

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