Maiden Moor

Published 12 January 2020

The summit of Maiden Moor.
The summit of Maiden Moor. Probably. It was rather hard to tell.

There’s a photograph of my son when he was about eight months old. He’s in his mum’s arms, and has an enormous grin on his face. Behind them is Derwent Water, and we were all standing near the summit of Catbells, the beautiful, nobbly fell that is not far from Keswick.

A lot has changed since then. For starters, said son is now seven. And in the years between that photograph and now, there have been many photographs of him. But that one remains one of my personal favourites. It’s the backdrop. The location. The extremely wide grin. It all comes together wonderfully.

I thought of that photograph as I sat at Catbell’s rocky summit. As I sat, my son would be at school. Learning phonics, maths, or something. All whilst I sat on top of a fell he’d visited six years earlier.

Looking towards Keswick and beyond from Catbells
Looking towards Keswick and beyond from Catbells

And then I stopped. I hadn’t driven two and a half hours, and walked for another sixty minutes, to reminisce on that photograph. No, I come to see what lay beyond the top of Catbells.

See, when we’d walked up Catbells in 2013 as a family, we’d gone to the top, then come down again. All day walks, and a baby who demanded regular feeding and nappy changes, don’t mix very well.

So when I was last here, I’d looked wistfully at the ridge that carried on beyond the summit to Maiden Moor, and beyond. And then turned my back on it and headed back to the shore of Derwent Water. Now though, it was time to rectify the situation.


It had been rather last minute. I’d spent the morning in my home office, my brain struggling with the best way to combine two databases. They didn’t want to cooperate, and I was still trying to work out a solution as I entered the kitchen. So when Catherine suddenly said “Why don’t you go away for the weekend for your birthday?”, my brain didn’t take it in. Thinking about SQL joins will do that to you.

And when everything did click, my brain started panicking. Go away? Where? Why? Do what? Doesn’t not compute. Argh! It was midday on Tuesday. Catherine was suggesting I head off on Friday. I was due to be in London for work on Wednesday. There wasn’t much time to do the organisation, yet alone thinking of a plan.

The Lake District was the most obvious place to go. I’d been hoping to find a spare day to drive up there anyway; bag some more of the old Wainwrights. So I pulled up the YHA website and looked what was available.

Not much, it transpired. There were some bed available at Coniston, Windermere, Wasdale Head and Buttermere. Everywhere else was full. Notions of a few pints in the Golden Rule public house in Ambleside, were swiftly discarded.

After much thought, that evening I booked two nights at Buttermere. It was out on the Western side of the Lake District and I knew next to nothing about that area. It would be a good chance to explore.

That finally decided, all I needed to do was work out where I was going to walk. The most important decision being for the Friday. I knew I’d set off around breakfast time, and get near Keswick around ten-ish. Something that was “on the way” to Buttermere felt like it made sense. And once idea was hit on, it all started coming together. A walk that explored beyond Catbells was the obvious choice.


Catbells and Derwent Water
The mighty Catbells and Derwent Water, seen from Maiden Moor

I joined a small convoy setting off downhill from the summit of Catbells. Although it soon became obvious that most people’s fell climbing was over for the day. Half a mile south from the summit, almost everyone else took a path downhill towards the bottom of the Derwent Valley. I was almost alone in heading onwards to neighbouring Maiden Moor.

A well made path, far wider than it needed to be, weaved its way along. Thick clumps of heather lined the path, some still showing off their purple blooms, even in mid-September.

It was an easy climb. Gentle. Tranquil. I could see a couple of walkers were some way ahead of me. And presumably there was someone behind me somewhere. But it felt like I was alone. That the whole fell was there only for me. My only companion was a cold breeze blowing over the hillside. Not that much earlier, I’d been too warm. Now though, my decision to wear my warmer clothes was firmly vindicated.

A mile and a half of easy walking was then followed by a game of “hunt the fell top.” For Maiden’s Moor is one of those rare beasts: a fell without a clear and obvious summit. In most others there’s at least one clue, one indicator as to where the highest place is. A cairn. A trig point. A bit of metal fence post. Or even a wind shelter. But not Maiden Moor. It had nothing.

Catbells and Derwent Water
The mighty Catbells and Derwent Water, seen from Maiden Moor

I did find one cairn. It had an excellent view point looking back at Catbells and down to Derwent Water. So good that I stopped there and had my lunch. But it definitely wasn’t the highest point. That I could tell by looking at the lay of the land.

With no visual clues of where the summit was, I assessed options. I could map out the area into 1m square grid and trample over each one. That way I’d be bound to hit the highest point, even if I wouldn’t know it. Or I could guess. Stride off, pick a patch of grass that looked a little higher than its neighbours, and decide that would do.

It was by far the quicker and easier option, so I set off over some rough ground looking for a likely candidate.

The summit of Maiden Moor.
The summit of Maiden Moor. Probably. It was rather hard to tell.

One picked, I celebrated my achievement. Then noticed that not far away was a tiny cairn. And when I say tiny, I mean there were a handful of rocks placed on top of each other. Had someone else decided this was the summit? Or was there some other reason for this microscopic marker?

Who knows if that was the highest point of Maiden Moor. There was a chance it was. There was a chance it wasn’t. I had no idea which. But it was there. And it was something. And it would most definitely do.

Next time: onwards along the ridge to High Spy.

Your Comments

Vic Flange

12 January 2020 at 12:21 pm

Enjoyable read, Andrew.
One thing: you show the date visited as 2013 (presumably recalling your previous visit). I guess you meant 2019? Regards.

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

13 January 2020 at 9:08 am

Whoops. Yes, a copy and paste error that’s now corrected. Thanks!

Your Comments