Selside Pike

Published 1 July 2018

Haweswater seen from the summit of Selside Pike

Haweswater seen from the summit of Selside Pike

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 Branstree, Tarn Crag and Grey Crag. But it all started at Selside Pike.

With the gorse bushes in full bloom, the track to Swindale looked frankly divine. Even if it had meant driving along several narrow lanes to get to it. Tucked

The final lane had been particularly narrow. My car – hardly massive, although equally, not tiny – barely seemed to fit on it at all. As I drove along, I could only hope no one would appear going in the opposite direction. There were no passing places at all, and if it had happened, there wasn’t much of a choice other than for one of the drivers to spend quite a bit of time reversing. You can perhaps sense my relief when I pulled into a small lay-by, and parked up.

Now, there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Swindale. It’s hardly well known, because it’s rather cut off from the rest of the Lakes. It sits on the “wrong” side of Haweswater so you can only drive to it from Shap. A drive that features the aforementioned narrow lanes, and many a winding corner.

Signpost pointing to Mardale via the Old Corpse Road, or Mosedale

Follow the corpses, or head to the Mose?

It’s a quiet corner of the Lakes, although not that quiet, for nowhere in the Lake District is truly deserted. Not when the area features four Wainwrights. The four most easterly Wainwright fells: Selside Pike, Branstree, Grey Crag and Tarn Crag. At 9:30, the lay-by already housed a couple of cars, and a 4×4. I clearly wasn’t going to have the place to myself.

Although there is a road all the way down to Swindale Head Farm near the head of the valley, there’s no space for parking along most of it. Drivers (and it’s hard to get to Swindale without a car) need to park up about two miles away in a small parking area. Or, if you’re like me and park in the wrong parking area, a three mile walk.

This would prove to be a bit of a nuisance at the end of the day, but setting out – and fresh out of a two and a half hour car drive from home – it was certainly no bad thing. The weather was a great (and in a Bank Holiday too!) and the road was lined with picturesque buildings and stone barns. In some respects it looked more like the Yorkshire Dales than the Lake District.

Three miles later at the road end, a decision had to be made. There’s two routes up Selside Pike from Swindale. The more direct follows the Old Corpse Road to Mardale. But for just an extra three-quarters of a mile, you can follow the Mosedale path instead. Head right to the end of the dale, and then go uphill. On the map it also looked easier to navigate. Useful as Selside Pike is one of those fells that the Ordnance Survey don’t mark an official path to the summit.

Road to Swindale, surrounded by hills and gorse bushes

The gorse bush lined road to Swindale

With the beautiful views behind me, it was a cracking choice. At first, anyway. The path uphill was sturdy, if a little steep, but was do-able. But it was finding the turn-off that proved to be the challenge.

My map told me I had to follow the path until I found a fence crossing my path. At that point I should turn off, follow the path and it would take me over Nabs Moors and then to Selside Pike’s summit. All very simple. Except – with an air of inevitability – I couldn’t find the fence anywhere.

This leds to the question: did it still exist? Had it been removed? Or I had just not walked far enough? It’s one of those dilemmas. It wouldn’t have been the first time the map showed a fence that was long gone, after all. Based on the presence of lots of young trees, it was clear someone had been doing some work in the area. Maybe the fence had gone as part of that? Who knew?

Nab’s Moor

The grassy wilderness of Nab's Moor

In the end I just went for it, making my own way towards Nabs Moor by whatever route I could find. Bouncing up and down on grassy hillocks I went, until I finally answered my question. Yes, the fence did still exist. There it was, looking all shiny and new, and most definitely all present and correct.

With the fence found, navigation would now be easy. All I had to do was follow it until it took an abrupt left turn. At that point, stop as you’re at the summit. A doddle. Nothing to it. Just walk up, and then walk down a bit, then walk up again! Keep with the fence and all will be fine.

Fence running along Selside Pike

Follow that fence!

That down bit was fun though. As I walked over Nabs Moor, the partial descent came into view. I saw it and shuddered at what was on the other side. A wall of hill. A steep, unremitting wall of hill. How is it even possible to stare at a hillside and think it looks vertical? Probably it was an optical illusion, based on the angle I was looking at it. But it didn’t look easy. A steep climb awaited me.

And it did wait. A faint footpath zig-zagged up the hill, staying pretty close to the wall. It was a steep climb, but one that thankfully didn’t need me to use all fours in order to do.

At long last the fence did its abrupt turn. A stone shelter stood nearby. I’d made it. This was the top of Selside Pike. Wearily, I wandered around the felltop, checkout the views.

The shelter at the top of Selside Pike

It may look like a giant pile of stones, but this is actually a stone shelter at the summit of Selside Pike

A few Lakeland fells could be seen to the west. High Raise, Rampsgill Head, Kidsty Pike. All fells I’d visited in my previous visit to the Lakes. Further beyond, well not much could be seen. But the real star was the view to the West. Shap. And behind it, the Pennines, stretching out into the distance, just about viewable through the haze of a warm, sunny day.

I sat down and rested. Soaked it all in. The climb up Selside Pike has started well, then become a trudge, but it did score on the ending.

And then I heaved my rucksack in my back, and went to see what nearby Branstree had to offer.

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

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