Old Crown Round Recce 9th May 2021

A couple of weeks ago I was exploring the Northern Fells and minding my own business when it was suggested my route was similar to the Old Crown Round fell race. Fifteen days later I’ve signed up for the race and I’m back on the same fells taking part in an Old Crown Round recce. The race is 22.4 miles and 7218ft of ascent according to the organisers website. It starts at Hesket Newmarket and takes in a loop of most of the highest fells in the area. A few wet days has increased the chances that Candleseaves Bog between Skiddaw and Great Calva could be interesting.

I’m with John Tollitt, Dawn Metcalfe and Geoff Davis who is leading the recce and completed the race in 2019. Most of the day is expected to be quiet with bursts of activity on the tops of Blencathra and Skiddaw. We haven’t run half a mile before I feel something dripping on my right leg. An energy gel has burst and is covering me in stick minty goo. After a quick investigation I catch up to the others.

Ready to leave Hesket Newmarket

Carrock Fell

After the obligatory road section we enter some sheep fields and begin to gradually climb. Under the plantation, between the two mounds and over the stream at this narrow part. I’m already hoping there will be runners in front to follow on the day. We gradually make our way to Carrock Fell and the first real climb of the day is via a grassy track some of which might be runable in the race but not today. A little dance up the rocky top of Carrock Fell later and we have completed our first objective. We can see clag on the top of Blencathra and Skiddaw, navigation could get difficult if it drops further.

Bowscale and Blencathra from Carrock Fell


The next step takes three of us by surprise. Descending from the fell down to the River Caldew is definitely what race organisers call pathless and its rough ground. “Aim for that junction” Geoff says and we all thunder downhill for a few metres before realising the grass is deep and there are stones and pot holes in it. John falls over twice in less than half a mile and we slow down to prevent any injuries. Once down at the river there are three possible crossings and we decide to take the third which is furthest away from Bowscale. From here we can climb directly to Blencathra once we find the trod.

Rocks in the Caldew are quite slippy and the water is cool and refreshing on the legs. Climbing begins in a South Westerly direction. Blencathra isn’t visible in this featureless mass of grass but we know it is out there. The path never materialises and we continue uphill. Its at times like this you could do with a conversation but it always comes back round to “we have got another 15 miles of this” so I leave it and keep trudging.

A rocky lump gradually appears on the skyline and it is confirmed we are heading in the right direction. After joining the Bob Graham path the top is almost in sight. We take a quick detour from the path and end up at the top of Halls Fell. In my opinion the most tedious climb of the day is done. The mist we saw earlier doesn’t totally obstruct the view.

Dawn and John checking the map at Round Knott with Carrock Fell to the right

Mungrisdale Common

Next on our journey is Mungrisdale Common. It is a little underwhelming stuck between Blencathra and Skiddaw. To get there we retrace out steps and take a left fork in the path. The common is recognised by Alfred Wainwright as a peak in his Pictorial Guides To The Lakeland Fells. In reality it is more like a mini roundabout of adjoining paths out on the fells. We are about halfway on our Old Crown round recce only 11 miles to go.

Mungrisgale Common summit marker


Skiddaw is the 4th highest peak in the Lake District at 931m or 3054 ft. In this race it is accessed via Skiddaw House, an isolated youth hostel situated on the East of the mountain. Following the path across the common and down past the Cloven Stone. This stone was traditionally the border of the land controlled by the Lord of Threlkeld.

The Cloven Stone

Reaching the bottom we used a path through the heather on the Cumbria Way to reach Skiddaw House. Going around the side of the grounds we begin to climb Skiddaw. It is another grassy hill but the path is easy to follow and there is another runner and two cyclists pushing bikes up ahead. We never get close to catching any of them and by the time we have joined onto the main tourist path they are long gone.

The remaining climb up to Skiddaw is uneventful but the weather is closing in and there are a few spots of cold rain and the ever present wind. I’ve been Ok so far but I get my waterproof on and stick the hood straight up. There are a few people on Skiddaw but the weather has put many off.

View from a rainy Skiddaw


The next checkpoint on the race is Knott. Two more peaks remain on our Old Crown Round recce. This is where it starts to get interesting. There are several possible route choices from here to Knott all involve some potentially wet ground and a bit of navigation. Geoff has a plan which sounds good but it involves Candleseaves Bog which I’m not looking forward to. I’ve been up to my waist in it a couple of times on Bob Graham recces before and I’m not keen to repeat the trick. surprisingly it only takes a bit of leaping and bounding to avoid the worst of the puddles and only my feet get wet. We stay on the Bob Graham path towards Great Calva.

Little Calva (left) and Great Calva (right)

On the other side of the Calva’s is Knott. There is a strong path to follow from this side which leads directly to the summit cairn. It is much easier than the direct route I took from the South a couple of weeks ago. I’m surprised at the top by a message from my friend Kelly offering me some gluten free bread she has spare. I realise I’m hungry it has been a long day already. Luckily there is only one top left, High Pike. then a run back to Hesket Newmarket. The weather is ominous and it looks cold and wet on all the tops to the west now. Hopefully down below will be warm and dry.

The weather begins to close in

High Pike

Geoff finds us a better line to Lingy Hut than I took in April. It is far more runable and much easier on the legs. With more than twenty miles already completed easier on the legs is a top priority. It is a relatively easy run to the top and I’ve got the satisfaction the climbing is over. Only 500 metres to descend on the way back to the car. I have no idea which of the six paths to take off the summit so I’m grateful for Geoff’s advice to aim for the white windmill.

View to the north of High pike with the white windmill to the right of the photograph

Old Crown Round Recce Completed

While the paths didn’t exactly join we were mostly on one from leaving High Pike. The old mine and quarry we passed looked like it might have been interesting to investigate. It was a relief to see the same plantation of trees we had seen five hours before from above. As we dropped the weather improved and there were blue skies for the first time in hours.

A few walkers started appearing again and one helpfully opened a gate. We were back at the farm and only had the road to run down to reach our destination. In the six hours since leaving Hesket Newmarket someone had stretched the road making it what seemed five miles longer. After the excitement of the ups and downs on the fells the road was so boring I just wanted to climb over a hedge or follow a public footpath. Not a part of the race I’m looking forward to in July.


I had a great day in excellent company and I’m looking forward to the race. If the weather conditions are good it will be fantastic but in clag navigation is going to be difficult and I could be out there a long time. Thanks to Geoff for passing on his knowledge, John for the comedy fall routine and congratulations to Dawn who is marrying her long term partner Mike on May 15th. I’m sure they will remain very happy together.

Hesket Newmarket

We hope you enjoyed reading about our “Old Crown Round Recce”. Have you done the race? Do you have any tips for running longer races in the Lake District? Let us know in the comments below.

Read some of of other blog posts for more hilly adventures on dreamingofthefells.uk

Day trip to Wooler

Running in Newlands Valley after the second Covid-19 lockdown

Exploring the Northern Fells

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