The Nab

Published 4 October 2017

The Nab, barely visible in the cloud

The Nab. Somewhere in there.

Leaving Patterdale, Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk passes by several of the Far Eastern Fells. For my second day walking in the Patterdale area, I followed it, visiting seven different fells along its route. After Angletarn Pikes and Rest Dodd, I headed onto The Nab

Some fells fall into a category described as “awkward”. The Nab is one of them.

Now there’s nothing awkward about the fell itself. It’s just a fell. In itself, it’s nothing special. A tongue of raised land sitting between Bannerdale and Ramps Gill. A gradual slope coming down from Rest Dodd. There’s no tricky climbs, no scree filled ascents.

What makes The Nab awkward are its occupants. The deer.

When Wainwright visited the Nab in the 1950s, he did so furtively. The fell was strictly off limits to walkers. It sat entirely in the Martindale Deer Forest, and the red deer living there were firmly protected by Keep Out signs and barbed wire. Wainwright researched it surreptitiously, without asking for permission to visit lest it be refused.

These days the Nab is open to all. Like the rest of Lakeland’s fells, it is access land. We all have the legal right to wander freely around it. Anywhere we want, at all.

But it’s still a deer forest. Still a place for the animals to be protected and safe. So there is a convention for The Nab. One where everyone accepts that anyone can free to wander around, but where everyone decides not to, and instead accesses the fell using a a handful of preferred routes. Each of these preferred routes involves accessing The Nab via Rest Dodd. And when done, you retrace your steps and head back from where you came. This means walkers wanting the bag The Nab must first ascend it’s far taller neighbour, then descend nearly 200m to get to the Nab’s summit. And then do the whole thing in reverse.

That’s a lot of effort for a fell that, and let’s be honest here, isn’t all that. Alfred Wainwright describes it as “a most unpleasant morass of peat hags.” Still, at least the deer are happy. Deer that are believed to be the only pure bloodied red deer left in the UK as most other herds have cross bread with the Japanese Sika deer that were introduced to the UK 1860.

Peat haggs on The Nab

Peat and watery goodness - the Nab's speciality

With cloud level being low and visibility being very poor, I was not going to see The Nab at its finest. But then, when was I ever likely to be going back? Still, at least the path was obvious. This may be an awkward fell, but enough people had gone this way to make the path easy to see even in the worst of weather. Besides, recent heavy rainfall meant that it was now an impromptu stream. Even easier to spot in the poor light! Just follow the flowing water, and you’re away!

The path from Rest Dodd descended steeply, and then passed through an old stone wall that was definitely not high enough to contain the deer. Should any of them fancy a quick stroll up hill to check out the views, nothing would be stopping them.

Then I came to the peat haggs.

Now I know a thing or two about peat haggs. I have walked the Pennine Way after all, where the haggs can be big enough to give you nightmares. The kind where you stand on some innocuous piece of soil, and find yourself seconds later, stuck up to your waist.

The Nab’s were pretty spectacular. Some were taller than me. But as it turned out, their bark was worse than their bite. After spending a lot of time making huge detours to avoid walking through them, I found a point where no detour was possible. I had no choice but to walk through it all. And it was then that I found that the peat was a doddle to walk over. You could just walk right through it, without even getting your boots dirty.

There were even some deer to watch. A handful were peacefully grazing on the side of the fell; hidden enough that photographing them would be impossible. It’s like they knew…

After walking over the ridge for a while, it was time to head up a little to the Nab’s summit. This just a wide mount, marked only by the presence of a discrete cairn. Still, the cloud chose that moment to lift a little, so at least I could actually see where I had been walking.

From the cairn, the path continued, suggesting that not everyone stuck to the informal agreement on accessing the top of the Nab. I though, wasn’t going to defy convention. Besides, I had other fells to visit. So after resting for a few minutes, soaking in the view (cloud, cloud and more cloud), I did what any good walker should do on the Nab. I turned straight back around and went straight back to Rest Dodd.

Next time, it was back to Rest Dodd, and from there, The Knott. You can see all of my photographs from my three days in Patterdale over on flickr.

Cairn marking the summit of The Nab

Blink and you'll miss the top of The Nab

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