Watch Hill

Route Introduction

Watch Hill and Setmurthy Common are included in Alfred Wainwright’s Outlying Fells of Lakeland. The fells are situated on the northwestern edge of the Lake District National Park. This route card suggests a fantastic walk for someone peak bagging the Outlying Fells of Lakeland.

Adventurer Nic walked this route on Saturday 6th June 2020. These were Outlier numbers 17 and 18 of 116 for Nic. Here, she explains how you can bag these outlying fells too.

Watch Hill Route Stats

Fells: Watch Hill (235m) and Setmurthy Common (254m)

Total Distance: 7.3km / 4.54miles

Total Ascent: 180m / 591ft

Approx Walk Time: 2.5 hours

Grid Reference Start: NY 137313

Watch Hill Route Report

The Lead Up

Our previous peak bagging walk was a hike up Faulds Brow in the far north of the Lake District. Walking Wainwright’s Outlying Fells of Lakeland with my boyfriend James has given me the opportunity to explore new and wonderful places, and in this case, it has made me appreciate the hills closer to home. Watch Hill is our local Outlying Fell and the one I’ve hiked the most. It’s a really great little fell with awesome views over the northwestern Lake District mountains and down into Buttermere.

We have walked up Watch Hill from home in the past, but on this occasion we parked in the layby to the south of the fell, where the main road out of Cockermouth splits beside the Bitter Beck.

The Ascent

Two lambs on Watch Hill

It was early evening as we walked west on the path along the main road before reaching a kissing gate which led into a field.

This field often contains sheep and lambs in the spring/early summer.

The lambs were very curious and not at all skittish on this occasion.

We ascended following the right of way north east through the farmers fields, to another gate.

Gorse bushes lined the way as we ascended gently, keeping the dry stone wall on our left.

Right from the start, the stunning Lake District panorama began to open up, with views to Skiddaw, Grisedale Pike, Hopegill Head, Grasmoor, High Stile, Red Pike (Buttermere), Scoat Fell, Mellbreak, Starling Dodd and Great Borne to name just a few.

James Forrest ascending Watch Hill
James Forrest ascending Watch Hill

We left the wall as it dipped down towards the edge of the woodland and we continued up the grassy ridge, aiming for the highest point.

The Summit – Watch Hill

Alfred Wainwright described the top of Watch Hill as ‘a most delightful promenade’ and I would have to agree with him.

Adventurer Nic on the summit of Watch Hill
Adventurer Nic on the summit of Watch Hill

Linking the Fells

We progressed along the rippled ground, sticking to the crest of the wide ridge in the direction of the woodland at the end of the ridge.

Rippled ground joining Watch Hill to Setmurthy Common with Skiddaw in the background
Rippled ground joining Watch Hill to Setmurthy Common with Skiddaw in the background

It’s widely assumed that the ripples are the remnants of medieval field systems known as ridge and furrow.

The Summit – Setmurthy Common

Adventurer Nic on the summit of Watch Hill-Setmurthy Common
Adventurer Nic on the summit of Watch Hill-Setmurthy Common

The summit of Watch Hill (Setmurthy Common) is the highest knoll next to the corner where two boundaries meet beside the woodland.

Adventurer Nic at Setmurthy Common
Adventurer Nic at Setmurthy Common

After pausing on the summit we went over the stile and continued into the woodland.

The Descent

The sky was threatening rain so we were pleased to be under the cover of the trees. We followed a thin path at first which soon led to a steep but short downhill section.

James Forrest entering Setmurthy Woods
James Forrest entering Setmurthy Woods

We then picked up the main forestry track which was wide and made for easy walking.

James Forrest walking on the Setmurthy woodland trails
James Forrest walking on the Setmurthy woodland trails

The forest path undulated and we walked to the soundtrack of birds tweeting away in the higher branches.

Woodland View in Setmurthy
Woodland View in Setmurthy

The woodland eventually exits through a gate and back onto the field we originally ascended.

It was simply a case of following the wall back down to the road. However, our descent was quite eventful! Firstly, it started tipping it down with heavy rain which led to us half walking and half jogging for the last fifteen minutes of the walk. Then we encountered some cows which were congregating around one of the gates. Luckily they dispersed with minimal persuasion.

Looking like drowned rats, we retraced our steps back to the car.

Wrapping Up

We made the short drive back to James’s house to dry off and the following day we headed to the south east in a quest to summit Whitbarrow.

About the Author

Photo of Adventurer Nic on a Loch in the Scottish Highlands

Adventurer Nic is a Munroist, Wainwright ‘Compleator’ and is hiking her local Outlying Fells of Lakeland in the wake of the corona virus pandemic. Let her know what you thought of this post by dropping her a comment.

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