Brim Fell

Published 24 November 2019

The top of Brim Fell, with the Old Man in the background

Dominating the skyline of the village of Coniston, is a fell known affectionately as the Old Man. The ascent of this 803m behemoth is a popular walk, but most people simply go up and then go back down again. But the Wainwright fell bagger notes that there’s two equally majestic fells nearby. And so they plot a walk that takes in Dow Crag and Brim Fell as well. It was a walk I decided to do on 7 July 2019.

“Did you come up from the top car park,” he asked. It took me a short time to mentally digest the question. The immediate answer that sprang my mind was to say no. That I’d come from Coniston.

But the cogs in my brain finally sprang into live and I realised that I had, at least, walked through said car park. And that meant I could answer “yes.”

If he noticed the delay in replying, he didn’t say anything.

“To get back, do we have to go up that?” he carried on, pointing at the fierce, sharp and sinister looking bulk of Dow Crag.

The biggest clue is that they’re not prepared for the weather at 700m above sea level. It was definitely warm and sunny down in the village but on that day there was a strong, cold wind blowing over the fell tops. And there were lots of people in t-shirts, rubbing their arms, trying to keep warm.

Ah. Another person without a map. He was my second in 30 minutes. Such is the popularity of Coniston’s Old Man, and the hills roundabout, that it attracts people who are – to be kind – not experienced walkers. Those who are not exactly prepared for navigating high fells. People who aren’t really equipped for the conditions.

The view from Goat’s Hause

One woman had wrapped her arms inside her top. If she’d tripped on a rock, she’d have fallen flat on her face with no way to help herself. Some years earlier, not far from this very spot, I’d seen a man in carrying a young baby in one arm. Not too bad in itself, but he was going down a steep rocky path at the time. Too his right was a long, rocky descent down to a tarn. He didn’t fall, but I couldn’t stop myself cringing inside.

I steered the man and his partner away from Brim Fell. It seemed far safer to have them go down Goats Hause back to their car. It was also near a nice tarn. Then I turned to the subject of my attention. No, not the Old Man itself. I was saving that for last. But Brim Fell instead.

Now there are some fells that are destinations. And there are some fells that are merely on the way. Finally there are those that you would never bother with, ever.

The path from Goat’s Hause to Consiton Old Man

Brim Fell sat most definitely in the middle camp. It wasn’t somewhere you’d generally bother to go in itself. More it would be the kind of place you’d visit if you were walking between Wetherlam and the Old Man. Many walkers would pass over Brim Fell and not notice it. It’s that kind of a place.
But I’d decided to do Wetherlam and the fells around it another day. And as Brim Fell sits a mere quarter of a mile north of the Old Man, it made sense to squeeze it in on this walk. Even if that did mean walking north a few minutes, then immediately turning round again.

Doing that, I found a large, pretty flat and pretty grassy fell top. A few stones scattered around. Not much more.

Well, other than a huge cairn. A large, very neat circular cairn. One painstakingly made with rectangular pieces of slate. This was not a pile of rocks, shoved up in hope they’d stay upright. This was a work of art. A masterpiece in cairn design. One that was almost as tall as my good self. Someone, or some people, had put a lot of work into this cairn. The result was tremendous. Yes, there were some good views from Brim Fell. But all the views of surrounding parts of the Lake District paled in comparison with that cairn.

Grassy and domey be the top of Brim Fell

I’d go as far as to say it was the best marker of a summit of the whole day. The Old Man of Coniston had a simple, stone built trig point. Dow Crag had some stones piled up on top of some rocks. And Brim Fell had a graceful, towering column that put them both to shame.

It provided the ultimate question. Why did such an otherwise indistinct fell, get such grand treatment? Did someone feel sorry for it? Worried that it was always the bridesmaid and never the bride? That Brim Fell needed it’s own chance to stand out? It’s own moment to shine?

If that was the case, it wasn’t working. Few walkers bothered to stop when they got to Brim Fell’s top. Their eyes were on another prize. One that was better known. And that left only me to potter around Brim Fell’s summit, and pay it some attention.

But to be honest, a cairn does not a summit make. There was only so much those tufts of grass could keep my attention. And soon I too began to wander elsewhere.

Like a moth to a flame, or ants to a pile of sugar, the Old Man was calling.

Next time: Consiton Old Man

A cairn on Brim Fell

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