Green Crag

Published 21 June 2012. Last updated 7 November 2019

Eskdale, oh beautiful Eskdale. If you’ve never been, you really should. Tucked away, off the beaten track at the south west of the Lake District, Eskdale is a beautiful place, and you can’t go wrong with a fell walk from the village of Boot, taking in Green Crag and Harter Fell.

The 26th highest out of 30 in Wainwright’s Pictorial Guide to the Southern Fells, the 489m high Green Crag isn’t exactly a massive fell, especially when you consider that the same book includes England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike. Still it was in the book and I was in the area. Besides, there’d been some strong winds overnight and I thought going up a smaller fell first to test out the weather conditions might just have been a good way to start. Green Crag it was then.

From a starting point of the Woolpack Inn, Wainwright provides two options for climbing Green Crag from Eskdale. Both make use of old peat roads, used by those who used to harvest the fells for fuel. As a preference Wainwright recommends heading up the more obvious path up to Low Birker Tarn and returning by the vaguer path down Penny Hill. Naturally the man had to be obeyed.

But then whilst studying the maps before setting off, I couldn’t help but notice that the Ordnance Survey listed another path – a solid, clear bridleway up to Lower Birker Tarn. A more direct route, it seemed preferable to the meandering paths that Wainwright had suggested using.

On the ground though, things seemed less clear. The Ordnance Survey’s bridleway was impossible to find and whilst AW’s route was less direct, at least it had the huge benefits of being clear, solid and, well, existing.

Well for a while anyway. Not long after passing an abandoned peat hut, the path slowly disappeared regularly in to the undergrowth with only the presence of a large tarn to one side providing confirmation that I was in roughly the right place.

And then as I turned a slight corner some crags came in to view. Rocky lumps and huge boulders up ahead. One of them would provide my summit, even if the path did seem to be going off in the wrong direction for quite some time, before righting itself at the last minute.

Green Crag and Lower Birker Tarrn
Green Crag and Lower Birker Tarrn

There wasn’t far to go as the path headed towards a small ridge between two large crags. On my left, The Pike. And on the right, Green Crag. The Pike’s not much smaller than Green Crag but this is a walk for winners, not losers. The Pike had lost. Green Crag had the crown by 20m.

Clambering over bounders and the odd gentle scramble were all that stood in the way of me and a summit cairn, and were soon dispatched leaving me at the top and admiring the view.

The cairn was tiny, but the view large. To the west, the town of Barrow and Sellafield. And to the east, it’s two peaks standing together bold as brass, a fell I’d be tackling later in the day, Harter Fell.

As I stood there I felt the need to laugh. Goodness knows why, but I wanted to so I did. And why not? I’d seen no one else around on the fell – or indeed since I’d left Boot – so who would know? Who would care? I sat on a small cairn on a relatively small fell and laughed loudly.

I laughed less on the return journey as I struggled to find the path down on the other old peat road; the fact that this one didn’t even appear on the old Ordnance Survey map didn’t help. But then given they seemed to have imagined an entire bridleway, well perhaps that made up for it.

The summit cairn on Green Crag
The summit cairn on Green Crag

Next time: Harter Fell


Alistair Smeaton

15 September 2018 at 7:10 pm

the green lines on os maps (whether they are ‘footpaths’ or ‘bridleways’) represent historic rights of way and have little and sometimes no connection with paths on the ground!

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