Carrock Fell and High Pike

TWO Wainwright circular walk: Carrock Fell and High Pike (Caldbeck)

Walk Rating:⭐⭐

Time: 3 - 4 hours 

Parking: at the roadside underneath Carrock Fell (Grid Ref: NY354 337)

The sculpture that appeared on Carrock Fell in May 2021

Whilst High Pike is an extension of the sheep pasture that covers much of the Uldale and Caldbeck Fells, Carrock Fell presents a different character to a visiting walker. Made from volcanic rocks, rather than the slates and shales that make up most of the Northern Fells, it is rougher and rockier than its neighbours. The top of Carrock Fell is also the site of the remains of an ancient hill fort and, as a surprise addition in May 2021, also one of the mystery sculptures that appeared in various places around the Lake District in May 2021 (see picture above and below).

Carrock Fell's geology also made it an important site for mining, including for wolfram (tungsten) and other minerals. The old mining areas also extended to High Pike too, particularly for lead copper, and barytes. Therefore the walk below is hopefully of interest both for the landscapes it covers and for the traces of earlier occupation that you will find on the route as well.

Strava estimates a total walking distance of around 10km

1. The minor road leading around the east side of the Northern Fells, through Mosedale, gives a good introduction to the area with the fells rising up to the west , in contrast to the farmland to the east.

Souther Fell to the west of the minor road

2. It should not be difficult to find a place to park at the roadside to the east of Carrock Fell. From the road, walk towards the rocky side of Carrock Fell, looking for the path slanting upwards through the grass and/or bracken to the left of the crags. Take this path, 'Rake Trod' up the fellside.

Head for the path slanting up to the left of the crags

3. The path ascends steeply through a gully up through the crags on to the more open heathery ground above. The gully path is a bit slippery in places where it has been worn by walkers' feet. Continue north-west up the fellside, passing the ruins of a sheepfold.

After the gully, walk up the fellside past this ruined sheepfold

4. Continue upwards, climbing across some small fields of boulders, towards the east peak of Carrock Fell.

Walk across some small fields of boulders

5. The east peak gives a good view out over the agricultural plain below. In May 2021, it was also the site of one of the stone sculptures that appeared in various Lakeland sites at that time.

The east peak (with the sculpture that was there in May 2021)

6. Walk west, passing through further bands of rocks, the remains of the walls of the ancient hill fort which encircle the summit and can be explored a little if you have time. The well-built summit cairn lies to the west of this walled hilltop area (2169').

Skiddaw from the top of Carrock Fell

High Pike, beyond the ridge that you will be walking along

7. To continue to High Pike, continue roughly westwards along the rather featureless, and sometimes boggy, ridge beyond the summit of Carrock Fell. After about 2 km of walking, you will cross a track going down into the valley to your right. Continue westwards a little further, over the head of the Drygill Beck, then turn north, ignoring an old track skirting around the east side of the fell, to walk up the grassy slope to the top of High Pike (2157'). 

Walk up the grassy slope to the top of High Pike

8. After such a featureless stroll, the summit is something of a contrast. There's not only a cairn and a triangulation column but also, rather incongruously, a slate bench. The bench, replacing a wrought-iron original, states that it has been erected in memory of Mick Lewis, a local youth who died at the age of 16. To the north of the summit, stand the ruins of an old shepherd's cottage, which functions usefully as a wind shelter.

Carrock Fell, behind the cairn and slate bench

The triangulation column, with Skiddaw in the distance

9. Wainwright's Guide to the Northern Fells warns that, while High Pike looks gentle enough, walkers should take care in descending in mist because of the dangers caused by the old mine workings across its northern and eastern slopes. A short walk north-east from the top of High Pike, down to the track that skirts along its eastern flank, leads you to a good example of an old open shaft, now fenced off to avoid accidents:

Old mine workings (possibly the Driggeth No.12 Xcut)

10. Anyone interested in a proper exploration of the area should get hold of a guidebook, such as Ian Tyler's "The Lakes & Cumbria Mine Guide". Then you can properly trace the remains of the Sandbeds and Potts Gill Mines to the north of High Pike, as well as the Roughten Gill Mines to the west, and Carrock Wolfram Mine to the south. If I have understood Tyler's guide correctly, then the picture above is of the Driggeth No.12 Xcut, first worked by German lead miners in the sixteenth century. However, unless you are exploring further, head east from the open shaft, and then follow the track heading downhill to the spoilheaps that provide the remaining evidence of the Driggeth Mine.

On the Driggeth Mine track. Carrock Fell on the horizon.

11. The track runs along the north bank of the Carrock Beck, and then brings you out on the road, just north of where it fords the beck. Fortunately, there is also a footbridge to help walkers cross with dry feet!

A fell pony greeting walkers by the ford in the Carrock Beck

12. Walk back along the road south to your starting point. There are traces to the side of the road, under Carrock Fell, of the remains of the Carrock End copper mine. Tyler notes that this was attached to the Company of Mines Royal as long ago as 1570.

Worth knowing: Wainwright's Guide to the Northern Fells records that the young man, Mick Lewis, to which the bench on top of High Pike was erected was "a youth of Nether Row", a hamlet lying at the foot of the fell, to its the north. Wainwright liked the fact that the memorial plaque noted that Mick "loved all these fells". 

The memorial bench to Mick Lewis

I was interested that the newer slate bench includes a quote from Shelley's 'Adonais', his elegy to John Keats, saying "He is a portion of that loveliness, that once he made more lovely". The plaque notes that the young Mick Lewis died in May 1944, but I have found no reference to the circumstances of his passing. Apparently, the additional faded plaque is to Mick's mother, who died in 1970.

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