Wainwright is a tad harsh about these two discrete fells, which rise to the north of much of the Lake District. Okay, they are modest and easy heights, but impressive in their way – and there to be enjoyed and not rushed.
If Little and Great Mell Fell were in some other area, apart from the surrounding majesty of the Lake District mountains, folk would be queuing up to climb them.
And they are easy. I see, occasionally, requests from people wanting easy Lakeland fells to climb as they set out on their exploration of the Wainwrights. Both of the Mell Fells would come into that category.
So easy and so obvious, that we had not gone up them until yesterday. Driven past. Walked nearby. Admired from a distance. Glanced at as we drove along the A66. Yep, we’d done all of those. Everything but been up them. So fancying an easy morning and with the weather ideal for views, we set out.
Wainwright says you can get up Little Mell Fell in 15 minutes. It took us 18 minutes, though I’m twenty years older than AW when he wrote them up for his book The Eastern Fells. The path is steeper than I’d imagined, but the journey short.
The top is a delight, with far-ranging views over Ullswater and the northern Lakeland fells, then down to the Helvellyn range, of which the Mells are distant outliers. Then over Penrith to the North Pennines. And all to the accompaniment of soaring skylarks.
We were down again in about ten minutes.
On a lane between the two fells we came across a great many rabbits, and had a clear view of a young fox. Rather lovely countryside too, with a host of interesting paths.
The ascent of Great Mell Fell begins on an ancient trackway, then climbs on a clear and winding path, clustered with trees much of the way. Wainwright talks of bleached old trees close to the summit, and many are still there, suggesting that this great round hill was much more wooded in the past than it is now.
In Wainwright’s day, Great Mell Fell was a War Department firing range. Happily it is now free. Perhaps the Ministry of Defence could do a land audit and set free some other firing ranges, particularly in National Parks.
The view from the top is wonderful and makes the half-hour climb well worthwhile.
On the descent we got a good view of a Ringlet Butterfly and a crest of rocks covered in thyme. Those little extras that make any walk even more worthwhile.
So please don’t write off those modest Wainwright heights. They can be a delight.
Text and pictures (c) J and A Bainbridge