Published 8 July 2018

Cairn on Artle Crag, Branstree

All the most dramatic views can be found at Artle Crag

On a glorious May bank holiday Monday, what better thing to do than spend the day exploring Swindale, and the four most easterly of the Wainwright Fells? And it was a great day that would see me visit four fells. It started at Selside Pike, and then went on to Branstree.

I hadn’t seen a single walker since I’d left my car a few hours earlier. But any illusion that I would have the Swindale fells to myself was quickly shattered as a large family arrived at Selside Pike at the same time as me; the younger ones instantly making a beeline to commender the stone shelter, lest any solo walkers get any ideas about being able to keep out of the wind.

Okay, so this wasn’t the busiest part of the Lake District. It was a Bank Holiday Monday, and I bet Langdale was standing room only. There was probably a queueing system in operation in the stone shelters out that way. With rigidly enforced limits on how long you could stay.

“Sorry mate, you’ve been in for ten minutes. Time to sling you hook and let someone else in.”

Path running along the ridge between Selside Pike and Branstree

The ridge walk between Selside Pike and Branstree

No, Swindale wasn’t quite at that level. But it was clear that most people used a different route to climb Selside Pike than the one I’d picked. There were suddenly walkers everywhere, most of them now tramping the same grass I was walking on.

With a mile between Selside Pike and Branstree’s summit, the journey between the two summits was never going to be challenging. It was a rather straightforward stroll. The instructions didn’t need to be much more than “follow the obvious paths.” Maybe followed by “Make sure that the fence is on your left hand side. Oh, and don’t put your foot in that bog? I said DON’T! Oh for goodness sake…”

Ah yes. The bog. Not a big bog. The walk between Selside Pike and Branstree is not some horrible peaty morass. It’s just there was a small patch, not far from the wire fence, that ran between the summits of the two fells. And, of course, I put my foot in that bog. My right foot as it happens. It always is. I found some more bog later in the day. Guess which foot went in? Yes, the right one. Has my left leg got some sort of anti-bog sensor? That it can detect where bog is and ensure its compatriot gets in there instead? Or is my right foot merely super unlucky?

OId survey pillar on Branstree

The hulking behemoth of a pillar on Branstree

There was a reason I didn’t notice the the bog. I was busy admiring a strange stone pillar stood a short distance on the other side of the fence. An old survey pillar, it had stood on the hillside for far more years than it was ever in use as a survey point.

There were two stone cairns on Artle Crag Pike as well. Cairns with a great view too. Views the walk instructions would definitely mention. “Stop here and have lunch,” they’d say. Instructions that are worth obeying. If you do, you’ll have a good lunch with a fine view of the mighty Haweswater reservoir.

The less observant may be forgiven for thinking Artle Crag’s cairns mark the summit of Branstree. Artle Crag was bold. It was exciting. It was Instagramable. But it’s not the one. Branstree’s highest point is actually a short walk way. It’s marked by a tiny cairn. And I mean TINY. ‘Blink and you’ll miss it’ territory.

Branstree's summit with a small cairn and a circular trig point

Behold! The mighty summit of Branstree!

Don’t worry. There’s a trig point too. Oh yes. But don’t think about resting your camera on it whilst you take a celebratory photograph of yourself. This is one of those trig points that’s nothing more than a round circle of concrete in the ground.

At least the views are good. Aren’t they?

Ah. Nope. They’re nothing compared to those over at Artle Crag.

Yeah, best forget it all. Go an revel in Branstree’s summit pretender instead. Seriously. You won’t regret it.

Next up: a ridge walk to Tarn Crag. View all 52 photos from the Swindale round, on flickr.

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