People must wonder how bad the other fells must be after the experience I had on Holme Fell last year which still didn’t stop it being a favourite.
But like so many of the smaller fells, Holme Fell is interesting in a way that many higher fells just aren’t. A variety of terrain and plenty of nooks and crannies to explore make for a pleasant little climb and every bit worth a visit in its own right. Personally, I love the fells where you ascend through trees and suddenly burst out onto the top part of the fell and into a different world. Much better than slogging your way up an open hillside for the whole climb. The only thing I wish I’d seen on my visit is the view of Coniston Water as Wainwright claims it’s the best place to see it.
I climbed Holme Fell as a detour whilst walking the Cumbria Way last year. And a wet and windy day it was too. The cloud hung low over the fell as I approached it from Coniston. From Yew Tree Farm the path crossed muddy fields full of livestock, before heading up into the trees in Harry Guards Wood, and becoming steeper. Reasonably well sheltered from the weather, the climb was pleasant but still damp, as I looked for a fainter path on the left that would cut the corner off and get me to the summit faster.
I emerged above the treeline and my Blackberry went mad as I got my first mobile phone signal for over a day. But I was in cloud, it was damp and breezy and so I tried to ignore the outside world as I struck left through the murk for the summit. I found Ivy Crag after a bit of hunting through the gloom, and then crossed a small depression to the main summit. Not a day for taking in the view from the summit, mainly because there wasn’t one, I headed down with the intention of picking up the main path that crosses the fell and a return back the way I came.
Something went wrong though and I couldn’t find it. This later turned out to be because I was going in completely the wrong direction, probably disorientated by the hunt for the summit in the first place. But it didn’t really matter where I ended up as long as I got down and I found a gully which seemed to head down at an acceptable gradient. Down I went, only realising my mistake as I hit the treeline again, where I had to negotiate my way down a slippery leaf-strewn gully all the time ducking under and diving around trees. Several falls and slips later and I emerged from the gully with a wall ahead. And realised what had happened – I’d come down the wrong side altogether. With the wall on my right I followed it back to safety to meet with the muddy field path.
After that I visited Yew Tree Tarn which nestles alongside the road at the base of the fell. Watching swans taking off helped calm things down a bit, and get the climb in perspective. This would have been a really great climb in nicer weather. Hey, I’ll even go so far as to say I’d quite like to ascend the fell via that gully I came down – between Raven Crag and Calf Crag – it’s definitely best as an up-only route. And I’d like to explore more of the top.
It kind of defies common sense that I have this fell as one of my favourites. Yet when I compiled my list, each fell was compared against all those already on the list to see where it slotted in. And somehow it ended up where it did. I think it’s the ruggedness of the fell and the variety of features in such a small package (it’s the second lowest Wainwright), together with the promise of those views over Coniston Water that do it. One thing that consistently comes through in my fell preferences is small, rugged, interesting fells. I’m going to return to Holme Fell, but I’m going to wait for a nice day so that I can appreciate it properly.