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Dubwath, Setmurthy Common, Watch Hill, Iselgate, Cumbria.
[16.4 km] Tue 12 Mar 2013

NY 1929 3148
Had a clear cold drive to Bassenthwaite Lake. It was -7degC when I left home and -4degC when I passed Tebay, which was surprising as it’s usually colder. Passing Keswick on the A66 I continued to the end of Bassenthwaite Lake and turned off at the B5291 then immediately turned off to the right to park in a lay-bye north of Brathay Hill. I set off walking south then turned right up a track by the buildings of Low Crag. I was on an old track which had sections with a tarmac surface suggesting that it used to be driveable. I reached a lane and turned right to Higham Hall. It was surrounded by fences and a tall gate. Its website describes it as “one of only a handful of independent residential colleges in the north of England providing a range of open learning experiences for adults.”

South view from Elva Plain

Elva Plain Stone Circle

I turned left and headed west up the hill. The road was free of traffic as I headed towards Elva Plain. My first objective of the day is the ancient stone circle near the farm of Elva Plain. The map doesn’t show any footpaths near and I didn’t know what the access conditions would be. Instead of going through the farm I headed up the fields by a small patch of woodland. Through fields and eventually a gate I reached the field containing the stones. They were quite impressive even though quite low. There was nobody about and I couldn’t hear anything from the nearby farm. I left the site to head upwards towards Elva Hill to get a better view of the surroundings. I reached the public footpath that descends past Elva Plain buildings. A land rover came up the track to the farm but I couldn’t see or hear any sign of work going on.

Elva Plain farmhouse

Back on the road I continued west by Setmurthy Common and Peel Wood. There were tracks heading into the trees and a couple of small lay-byes indicating people walked in the woods.
The Forestry Commission signs were unhelpful giving very conflicting information saying "open to all" then further on "No unauthorised persons allowed beyond this point" then "We apologise for any inconvenience" then it said "forestry operation are currently taking place" which they weren't.
I find these 'catch all' statements completely stupid and unhelpful.
My next objective was Watch Hill but I couldn’t see any obvious path up there. The map doesn’t show any but fortunately the farmer was descending the hill on his quad bike and joined the road though a gate up ahead. Once He’d gone I just reversed his route and enjoyed a splendid climb below Dodd Crag and up to the lovely grassy summit. I reached a stile through the fence that accesses the higher end of Setmurthy Plantation but no paths are shown on my map.

Stupid and unhelpful.

I turned west and followed the wall to the footpath. In Wainwright’s ‘Outlying Fells’ guide book for the area he writes “a stroll on grass so simple that boots are incongruous footwear for it and bare feet appropriate.”
I turned right to follow the woodland track down the hill towards the road. I met the first walkers of the day coming up the track. It was a delightful walk though the woods. At the road I descended to Isel Bridge which crosses the River Derwent.

South view from Watch Hill

Grasmoor from Watch Hill

Setmurthy Plantation

Nearby was Isel St Michael's Parish Church so I wandered over to have a look. The name sign says it dates back to c1150 on a pre-Norman site. It was definitely worth the minor detour but a I was disappointed to see it was locked. I would have loved to look inside. Back on the road I headed east past Iselgate then left the road to pass Long Close Farm and into the partly cleared Isel Old Park Wood.

Isel St Michael's Parish Church

I was near the banks of the River Derwent and could see it down below. I wanted to follow a path that branches off the track and down to the river. I overshot it slightly as there was no path marker to show its position. Through Becksalkeld Wood I emerged into open fields and crossed them to Herdwick Croft.

Isel St Michael's Parish Church

The path goes round the buildings but wasn’t obvious. The road is reached at Ouse Bridge which I found a puzzling name. Half way over I stopped to admire the view across Bassenthwaite Lake as this is the main outlet. A short road walk took me back to the car.

Bassenthwaite Lake from Ouse Bridge