200806218 : Mellbreak from Buttermere Village Walk
When : 18 June 2008
Who : Just me
Where : Lake District – England
Approx distance : 9 km 5½ miles
Significant height : 660 m
Parking : Car Parks in village or side of road above chapel.
Public Transport : Yes but limited times
Route Summary : Buttermere village ; Buttermere Dubs ; Scale Force ; Mellbreak ; Black Beck ; Crummock Water return via Buttermere Dubs.
This is the first of four walks I did on a short break of 4-days (3-nights) in the North West area of the Lake District. If you’ve read my post “20080618-21 Lake District – 4 Day Beak” intro you’ll already know a bit of background, but it’s not essential to what follows here.
I’d left home in Warwickshire fairly early in the day and the trip up the M6 had been OK, at least traffic wise. However, the weather had been atrocious most of the way with wind, rain and lots of horrible spray. The enforced concentration and moderate speeds did force good fuel consumption and according to the on-board trip computer I averaged over 52 mpg. Perhaps there’s a lesson there somewhere about how to drive all the time.
I arrived in Buttermere village around about lunch time, having driven over the Newlands Hause pass, which is a super little road, worth driving just for its own sake. There’s a car park at the top of the pass, close to Moss Fall waterfall, and there are some super views of the surrounding fells as well.
The weather had improved and the Sun was actually peeping through the clouds as I arrived in Buttermere (the rain had finally stopped as I was crossing Shap on the M6). I pulled in at the top of a long line of cars by the side of the road, just above Buttermere’s little chapel and before reaching the junction with the B5289. After a 5-minute peruse of my map, I decided to climb Mellbreak out to the north-west, standing proud above Crummock Water. There was no way I was going to waste this little window of half-decent weather.
The easy drop down the road, past the little chapel into Buttermere village was instantly recalled as if I’d never been away and after negotiating the right hand bend in the B5289, I turned left (not crossing the bridge over Mill Beck) to pass various buildings including the The Bridge and The Fish hotels (I think that’s what they’re called anyway). Picking up one of the bridleways, I crossed the flat meadowlands that separate Buttermere and Crummock Water Lakes.
The track soon reaches Scale Bridge, with it’s classic stone arch, to cross Buttermere Dubs which is a little river (or big stream if you like) joining the two lakes together like a sparkling umbilical chord, Buttermere constantly feeding Crummock Water with its supply of water. This is a lovely spot with a really gentle feel … perhaps it’s little bit of serenity is exaggerated by the rough fells around about.
Once across the bridge, I turned right and picked up the roughening path heading low level towards Crummock Water. After a short while, instead of staying low all the way to Crummock Water, I branched left on a distinct path angling up and across the low fell side. This path swings around in a big loop, ever more westerly, eventually picking up Scale Beck where it emerges from the deep gash of Scale Force. If you do this walk, on your away around the low fell side, don’t forget to look back at the views across Buttermere, to High Snockrigg, Robinson and onwards to Dale Head. Also from here, the views across Crummock Water to the Grasmoor massive are superb. If you’re lucky (as I was) the lofty top of Grasmoor, and its lower attendants of Whiteless Pike, Wandhope, etc. will be free of cloud, although I believe they are often shrouded in mist and low clouds.
Do make the very short detour into the bottom of Scale Force’s ravine. The falls despite being in permanent shade are worth a closer visit and can be absolutely spectacular. Looking back out from the waterfall, the southern flanks of Mellbreak rise steeply across the valley and appear much more imposing than its relatively lowly height suggests from the map.
Leaving Scale Force behind, my route took me west for a short while, heading for the quiet head of Mosedale and it’s wide boggy bowl underneath the shapely Hen Comb. However, instead of heading into Mosedale, I soon turned north, down a steep bank to cross Black Beck and then rising steeply, I picked up a distinct but not eroded path heading up Mellbreak itself. After a bit of a dog-leg in the route, this path turned more or less due north directly and steeply up the grassy pass through the bracken covered slopes.
I had slowed considerably, feeling particularly unfit; and I was beginning to struggle. My legs had obviously forgotten how to walk rough paths and mountains. There’d been a change in the weather too and although it was still dry, I had a feeling that was about to change. Despite these things, I was not going to back-off at this point; I dug deep and forced myself onwards. I followed my own advice that I tell my kids: pick out a spot a little way in front, such as a rock or a tuft of grass; then put one foot in front of the other till you get there; have a breather for a few seconds; and repeat the process … it works … it’s amazing how you can rise up a slope doing this. The views were fantastic and a couple of breather stops were extended with the good excuse of taking a photo. Eventually, after what seemed an age considering the distance covered, I reached the broad southern summit of Mellbreak.
The top of Mellbreak is stretched out for more than a kilometre. The southern top being some 3 metres higher than its northern partner. There’s a lower saddle between the tops and I was contemplating whether there was time enough to press on north, but looking westwards at the gathering clouds, I decided against this and instead took the advice of a lone walker I’d spoken to earlier on my ascent. I headed easterly to where the broad fell top begins to fall steeply down to Crummock Water. I’d been told how fantastic the views were, looking up the Buttermere Valley all the way to Dale Head and Fleetwith Pike. I didn’t get to see these views at their best though, because soon after leaving the summit, the first drops of rain appeared and within minutes the whole valley was enveloped in a great driving sweep of rain. Everything turned an uninspiring, uniform, flat grey colour and the views rapidly disappeared into the gloom. It was incredible how quickly the whole area had been taken over by the rain and I quickly “cagged up” with waterproof jacket and over-trousers. I promptly started to retrace my steps down from where I’d come. The ravine of Scale Force was now very indistinct just across the valley, all clarity gone behind the sheets of rain.
My legs again started to complain, this time about the steep descent. However, I dropped steadily, eventually picking up the first bridle track coming out of Mosedale heading towards Crummock Water. This path is relatively easy going, generally following Black Beck towards Crummock Water. As the fell started to level out nearing the lake, I branched right crossing the stream and passed some old but substantial sheepfolds being over- taken by some quite rampant bracken. From here the path swings round, heading pretty much parallel to the lake for a while, eventually rejoining the outward path to Scale Bridge, to re-cross Buttermere Dubs and the meadowlands back to Buttermere village.
I’d found the whole day quite physically taxing, because of my lack of fitness, and the very inclement weather. Apart from that it’d been a super little walk and I’d certainly “do” Mellbreak again perhaps as a more extended route taking in Loweswater.
I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….
Next walk = 20080619, Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks, Links = https://tothehills.wordpress.com/2008/09/15/20080619_fleetwith-pike-haystacks/ and https://tothehills.wordpress.com/2008/10/03/fleetwith-pike-video/