Burnbank Fell

Published 15 March 2020

A ciarn
The summit cairn. Simple but it does the job.

Tucked in the far western corner of the Lake District, Loweswater is a delightful spot with some lovely fells to wander over. On a Sunday in September, I tackled four of them starting with a tour of the local woodland, and a climb up Burnbank Fell.

It doesn’t matter how long I stay in the Lake District. It is never long enough.

Actually, let me caveat that. It doesn’t matter how long I stay in the Lake District when the weather is reasonable. It is never long enough. I mean, when the weather is terrible, I can’t get out of there fast enough. In 2009 when walking the Coast to Coast, we had a months worth of rain in one day. The other days in the Lakes on that trip weren’t much better. I was rejoicing when we passed into the Eden Valley where everything was much nicer. It wasn’t an isolated incident.

But this trip, the weather had been pretty good. Far better than I’d expected a mid September weekend to be. Especially after a grim, wet and miserable summer. So this trip, well it simply wasn’t long enough.

Good things do have to come to an end though. It was Sunday. Later that day I’d need to drive home, see the children, and prepare for work the next day. Still, there was time for me to walk a few more fells before I did all that.

I didn’t want to get home too late, so I reckoned I needed to set off mid afternoon. And I didn’t want anything too strenuous else I’d have aching legs as I drove home. So I scouted my Wainwright guides for something relatively easy, and found a small range of fells to the north of Loweswater Village. Fells that were not quite at the north western edge of the Lake District, but pretty close.

A road with a fell in the background
The track to Holme Wood, near Loweswater

Parking up at a car park a short way from Loweswater Village, I set off to visit the first on my list. Burnbank. A rather small and indistinct blob. Although one with a good waterfall.

The foot of the hill was home to Holme Wood, a large National Trust owned woodland. It was here that Holme Beck crashed down the hillside; the water zig-zagging its way through a series of cascades as it rushed to the nearby lake.

Surrounded by trees, it was hard to tell exactly how many zigs and zags Holme Force did. I counted five, but it was possible there were some more hiding behind the greenery.

Holme Force waterfall
Holme Force. Photography does not do it justice.

It was a lovely spot. The water was hypnotising. And I’d have happily lingered for longer had there been a bench or stone to sit on. Or any flat land at all, to tell the truth. So I carried on walking, doing my own zig-zag as I followed the path up hill alongside the beck. Up and on I went, through a series of tracks in the trees, until one arrived at a gate that led into open country.

Here, next the top of the beck, was a stone to sit on. And I did that, listening to the gushing sound of the water as it flowed along. It was a rather pleasant spot. Had I been of the artistic equation, I would have definitely found the view pleasant to draw or paint. Holme Beck in the foreground. A backdrop of the fells on the other side of Loweswater. It was rather splendid. But alas I had no paints. No pencils. Also I can’t draw for toffee. All I can do is tell you it was lovely. And that will have to do.

A gate in a wall
The gate heading out of Holme Wood

A terraced path arrived at a drystone wall, and I peered at the instructions in my Wainwright guide. A couple head of me had gone through the gate in the same wall, and then seemed to be turning up a path to climb up Burnbank. But my guidebook said to turn before the wall and head steeply uphill over rough ground. So that’s what I did. I mean, I could have followed those two walkers. But it was possible they were going somewhere completely different. Besides, instructions was instructions.

As such, I struggled up an almost vertical hillside climb, and clambered over some large boulders. And then I found a path. A nice, easy looking path. One with a pair of walkers on it. And me a couple of metres behind them.

I did my best to make it looked like I’d enjoyed the exertion. That I loved and loved the thrills of grappling with fence posts for stability. That there was some amazing view to admire. The odd rare plant only found on that clamber. Although I wasn’t convincing myself, yet alone anyone else. Instead I slunk behind them, feeling a tad embarrassed.

A bench with a view of Crummock Water
The best views from Burnbank Fell can be found on this bench

The path levelled out near Burnbank’s southern cairn. This is, it must be said, where the views are. Loweswater and beyond. Sights to behold. If you were only bothered about getting the best views, you’d need go no further up Burnbank. This would be the perfect place to end your walk. Those on the rather arbitrary pursuit of the highest point of a hill, need to follow a simple path to the summit. And that’s what I did, finding Burnbank’s summit marked by an old iron fence post and a tiny cairn.

The views? Well they weren’t as good. Of the mighty body of water that is Loweswater, nothing could be seen. And heavy cloud off to the west prevented me from seeing the Irish Sea. Still, that wasn’t the point. Was it?

Next time: Blake Fell

Fence posts at the summit of Burnbank Fell
This is the summit of Burnbank. Looks lovely, doesn’t it?

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