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Dowthwaitehead, High Row, Old Coach Road, Calfhow Pike, Watson's Dodd, Birket Fell, Aira Beck, Cumbria.
[18.7 km]  Tue 05 Jun 2018

Lat/Long: 54.588511, -02.960930
OS Grid ref: NY 38000 21904

Overcast morning drive north on the M6 then off at Penrith to head west and return to the small car park at High Row. There was nobody there when I arrived and the van that I have seen on two previous visits wasn't there. It was for the workmen who have been working on the old Penrith Filter House being converted to a dwelling and they seem to have finished the work they were doing. As last week I set off southwest along the narrow lane to Dowthwaitehead Farm. The first of my objectives was to walk on a path I haven't been on before which turns sharply right just before the farm and climbs diagonally up the valley side. When I reached it there was a path marker post so I knew I was on the right track. However I wanted to briefly visit the farm to see if the farmer was around. He was and tending some sheep with a lady I assumed to be his wife. I asked if it would be possible in the future to leave my car next to the farm if I wanted to camp overnight on the hills. He said he used to allow cars to park previously but there had been an insurance incident with sheep and he no longer said it was OK. However he said I could park on the grass a little way past the farm. I said if I did park there I would leave a note at the farm with my details. His name is Mayson Weir.

Heading along the Old Coach Road
I returned to the path and found it a steady and well-engineered line which was obviously more substantial in the past. Some sections were ferns and grass still heavy with dew causing my boots to get wet. I climbed steadily upwards and over a small pass between High Brow and Low How. Due north and ahead of me was the Old Coach Road which I was heading for. Unfortunately the path crosses Blake Sike which is another area of terribly wet ground and no sign of the path in places. I was glad to reach the Old Coach Road at Groovebeck Fold and then followed it in a westerly direction over Mothersyke Brow and down to Mariel Bridge. My next objective was to investigate the path that runs up the valley directly to Calfhow Pike. This is a route I've never been on before even though it is shown clearly on the map.
It is sign posted off the Coach Road but points straight into a terribly wet boggy area which was impassable. I made a wide detour and tried to head up the valley side below Wolf Crags to try and find some dryer ground. I kept dodging the bogs until I finally reached Rowantree Fold which is an old sheepfold of stone with wooden gates and fences. It looks like it is used from time to time as the walls are still complete. It was still overcast but some patches of clear sky were breaking through. I decided to stop here and have my sandwiches before continuing up the gill and finding the path considerably better.
Rowantree Fold
t the head of the gill there was a steep scramble up out of the valley and any sign of the path vanished completely. I soon reached the main part below Calfhow Pike and followed it towards Great Dodd. I didn't follow the main path over the summit but tried to find the lower path on the southwest side which is clearly shown on the map but not well defined on the ground. It turns out that the route shown on the map is nowhere near where the actual path is. I continued towards Watson's Dodd but took the lower path to the east and headed up towards Stybarrow Dodd. The main path goes over the summit but I followed a lower path to the north which curved around slowly to Hart Crag and the collection of cairns on the summit area. It is in this area that I have previously noticed some very old excavations in the rock that looks like test excavations for minerals. I follow the path to Birkett Fell where I could see two figures stood by the cairn.
Birkett Fell
They were the first people I had seen all day. As I approached they walked towards me and I saw that it was a young lad and presumably his mother. Over the summit I passed the cairn and reached the stone wall where I turned right to descend for a short way before turning left slightly to descend the rough and pathless east side of the fell. I reached the main path which would take me back to Dowthwaite Head and followed it down towards the farm but not actually to it.
I crossed the footbridge and before entering the farmyard took a lower path to the east which is marked and clearly shown on the map. It passes through fields just to the west of Aira Beck and was an enjoyable walk to Crookwath. Here I join the minor road which is a dead end servicing a few properties. Up the road I passed the old Penrith Filter Station which is being renovated but no workmen were on site. I then returned to my car.
Water pipeline marker post

The old Penrith Filter House being converted to a dwelling