A superb climb on to the East Fellside from Melmerby with a nice stride to Melmerby Fell and a detour to the rocky-topped Cuns Fell.
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I first climbed Melmerby Fell back in 2007. On that occasion I'd started high up at the Hartside Cafe and done a fairly easy route via the Maiden Way and returning over Fiends Fell. As time has gone on I've had a nagging sense that in taking that route I'd not really seen the best of the fell - the steep slopes overlooking the Eden Valley. This route allowed me to approach the fell from a different direction whilst also allowing me to bag the Dewey top of Cuns Fell.
After a fairly genteel walk out of Melmerby via a minor road and then a track leading through Rake Beck Wood the walk began to pick up interest as I left the woods behind and the large mass of Melmerby Fell began to loom above me. In addition to the long skyline of Melmerby High Scar the limestone outcrops of Melmerby Low Scar and Blea Scar, up to my left, also caught the eye. The initial climb on a winding path up to Gate House was one of the most enjoyable ascents I've experienced in the North Pennines, not least because of the super views across the Eden Valley towards the Lake District.
"The top of Melmerby Fell is unusual by North Pennine standards as it is largely covered in short cropped grass, perfect for striding along."
From Gate House the path climbed further, past a a noticeably rocky area to eventually reach a prominent cairn on Knapside Hill. The views in all directions were superb but with the top of Melmerby Fell not far off I pressed on. The top of Melmerby Fell is unusual by North Pennine standards as it is largely covered in short cropped grass, perfect for striding along. I got something of a shock when I arrived at the summit cairn to find that it was absolutely covered in crane flies (daddy longlegs to most people). It was a hot day without much of a breeze so there was quite a lot of insects flying about but it was still very unusual to see so many of this particular insect in such an exposed place.
There was actually so many insects around the cairn that I sat some way off to eat my lunch before descending south on pathless slopes to a wall junction at the southern end of Melmerby High Scar. The next stage was a 'there and back' mission to bag Cuns Fell. I hadn't been sure how easy this section was going to be but as it happened there was an excellent path leading down through a gap in the scar to Hause Mouth from where it was a simple climb up on to the top of Cuns Fell.
Cuns Fell was another unusual North Pennine top, not only for its steep slopes but also for its rocky summit which was more fitting for the Lake District. Rarely visited and certainly not in any walking guide that I've come across Cuns Fell was most definitely worth the effort of climbing down from and then back up on to Melmerby Fell in order to visit it. The precipitous views down into Ousbydale from the summit were particularly good. Melmerby Fell and the long line of Melmerby High Scar also looked very impressive viewed from this angle.
Having left Cuns Fell and climbed part way back up Melmerby Fell I then made my way to the Maiden Way which I followed all the way to Ladslack Hill. Despite cloudier conditions this section continued to enjoy some excellent views. From Ladslack Hill I took evasive manoeuvres to avoid some cows and then followed the line of an old mine tramway down to Ardale Beck where there was a rather large and well-preserved kiln. Crossing over the beck I then followed another track to Townhead. At this point I had the option of returning via the back roads or using various field paths to get back to Melmerby. Wishing to avoid any further bovine action I took the road option and was glad I did. Not only was there no traffic but the verges of these narrow back roads were awash with flowers.
Helped not least by the lovely weather I thoroughly enjoyed this walk. Not only was it ones of the best I've done this year but it was also one of the finest walks I've done in the North Pennines. Having approached it from two directions I can categorically state that this route is much better than the original one I did in 2007 and as a result Melmerby Fell is now one of my favourite Pennine hills.