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A wild camp at Angle Tarn

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Camping at Angle Tarn under Angletarn Pikes

Angle Tarn on the ridge separating the valleys of Patterdale and Bannerdale in the eastern fells is a popular place to walk camp in the Lakes. I have camped there a number of times in the past but never written about it. More often than not I returned from a night out there with very few photos (if any at all) making it impossible to illustrate a blog entry. Actually come to think of it that applies to most camping trips I go on!

Anyway, recently I spent a night under Brock Crags overlooking Angle Tarn and did manage to bag a few photos. I took more than enough to illustrate an article about the camping trip so can recount the tale.

There are a few routes to Angle Tarn. It is approachable from the west starting out from either Hartsop or Patterdale. Even weighed down with camping kit neither of these climbs would take much more than an hour though. I prefer a longer walk so I feel I’m really getting away from civilisation. Therefore my choice was to approach from the north by walking from the old church in Martindale. The anti-clockwise route climbing up via Beda Fell and coming back down Bannerdale is about 10 miles. That’s just about right for me.


The climb from Martindale up Beda Fell

And so it was that I parked up near St. Martin’s church, the old church in Martindale one sunny, hot afternoon in August.

st martins old church in martindale from outside the front gate with two herdwick sheep
Two herdwicks loitering outside St. Martin’s church

On a very similar day a few years back I parked on the grass. After what turned out to be a very wet hike I returned to my car only to find that the verge had turned into a mud bath and my car was stuck. I did eventually make it home but only after politely asking a nearby farmer for help towing my car out. Remembering this I parked with two wheels on the road!

My first target was the foot of the Beda Fell ridge. Setting off along the road up the valley I soon turned onto the footpath under Winter Crag and climbed the flank of the ridge. After a short, sharp pull I got to Howsteadbrow and the start of the ridge proper. There is a conveniently placed seat at this point.

gowbarrow fell from metal seat on howsteadbrow at foot of beda fell surrounded by summertime bracken
View of Gowbarrow Fell from the seat at Howsteadbrow

Despite being overcast it was very warm so I took time for a break and made use of the seat. Not for too long though as the flying ants were out and annoying as hell!

Next up was the undulating climb up the ridge of Howstead Brow.

The climb up this ridge is normally pleasurable however thanks to the heat I’m not sure that was quite the right word! There was nothing for it but to plough on and get the climb over. Fortunately the steep part of the climb was soon behind me and I was walking along the summit plateau of Beda Fell. Beda Head, the summit, was soon in view.

footpath leading to beda head summit of grassy beda fell under cloudy skies
Approaching Beda Head, the summit of Beda Fell

On reaching the summit, you guessed it, time for another break! And a couple of photos of the view.

beda head view northwards along green grassy summit ridge above martindale fields
The view from Beda Head looking back along the ridge of Beda Fell
beda head view southwards towards heckbeck head and angletarn pikes
Looking south towards Angletarn Pikes from Beda Head

The second photo shows the route of the rest of the evening’s walk. My target for dusk was Angle Tarn which is in the hollow on the other side of Angletarn Pikes, the highest point on the ridge ahead.

The sun was getting lower so no more photo breaks for me. Time to get a move on. Fortunately it was starting to get cooler so the hiking got much easier.


Wild camping on Brock Crags

On rounding Angletarn Pikes, Angle Tarn popped into view and I could see a couple of tents straight away. They were hard to miss as they were bright orange! As I walked round the tarn I spotted a couple of better camouflaged tents too. As per usual at weekends, all the prime spots appeared to be taken.

There is plenty of space near the tarn but as it wasn’t too windy I thought I’d walk past Angle Tarn and head towards Brock Crags that overlook it. After a bit of scouting I found a patch of grass that was flat enough and big enough for me. Tent pitched and I could relax, just as the light was fading.

distant angle tarn during colourful sunset while wild camping at brock crags
View of Angle Tarn from my tent under Brock Crags

I wish I’d got here earlier but I had taken quite a few photos on the way so was later than planned. Never mind. In the semi-darkness I wandered to the summit of Brock Crags and discovered it was blowing a gale. Taking sharp photos from here in the fading light was too much of a challenge.

Having explored the bumps and hollows round Brock Crags in the last of the day’s light I returned to my tent for bed.

The location proved to be a very comfortable surface to lie on. Sadly I managed very little sleep thanks to the side of the tent whacking me in the face every few minutes in the billowing wind. And so as soon as the sky started getting light I was up and active.


Watching dawn at Angle Tarn

Tent packed I returned to the path leading back down to Angle Tarn.

footpath from brock crags to angle tarn and angletarn pikes in pre-dawn blue light
Footpath leading back to Angle Tarn

The wind had eased slightly but it was still gusting. On arriving at the tarn I wasn’t surprised to see there was no chance of seeing any reflections. Plus the colourful tents were pitched where it was hard to keep them out of photos.

tents on the shore of angle tarn with backdrop of helvellyn at dawn
Wild campers at Angle Tarn at dawn

Ok, I could have edited them out of the photos but there was no real colour to the dawn sky anyway. As I’d had a rough night I decided to chill out and wake up rather of running round taking snaps. Sometimes its better to live in the moment rather than try to record it.

Half an hour later Angle Tarn was bathed in sunlight. And it was warming up quickly despite only being 5:30am. Evidently it was going to be another warm day. Not being particularly bothered about getting a tan I decided to leave the wild campers to their sleep and turn towards home.


Walking along Bannerdale to Martindale

As soon as I started the descent down into Bannerdale I was back in shade and it was noticeably cooler. However I knew that as the sun rose this wouldn’t last. My route was straightforward, the footpath gradually descending into the valley running above the line of a dry stone wall.

footpath from angle tarn descending into a shaded bannerdale valley above dry stone wall
Descending into Bannerdale

While walking along this stretch of path I caught sight of a herd of red deer down by Bannerdale Beck. The Martindale area is well known as the home of a decent sized herd and they all seemed to be out. Sadly they were far too far away to get a photo, as is often the case. And anyway as soon as they spotted me they were off. Even so such sights make getting up at such an hour all the more pleasurable.

Having got the steep bit of the descent out of the way it was high time for another break. The rising sun had caught up with me and it was time to remove some layers. And take a photo.

heck crag above the green bracken covered bannerdale valley
Looking back up the footpath leading from Angle Tarn into Bannerdale below Heck Crag

The dry stone wall clearly marks the route of my descent.

From this point the going was much more level. Soon enough I reached a barn that I had passed many times before and taken many photos of. I wasn’t going to turn down the chance to add another to the collection.

I had never been here at this time of day so never seen the barn backlit like this. I liked the result and its probably my favourite photo of this barn to date.


Along the small country lane in Martindale

A few hundred yards beyond the dilapidated barn the footpath leads to Dale Head farm at the head of Martindale. The rest of my walk was along the small, traffic-free country lane along the length of Martindale. It was much easier going and as it was only 7:30am I took my time.

martindale country lane lined by dry stone walls weaving between old barns in summer
The country lane in Martindale

Eventually Hallin Fell at the end of the valley came into view.

martindale country lane leading towards hallin fell under blue summer skies
Martindale lane leading towards Hallin Fell

My car was parked at the foot of Hallin Fell near St. Martin’s Church and I soon arrived back there. Before leaving I did manage one last photo.

I couldn’t resist taking this as I’ve rarely seen Martindale look so good.

And with that photo another wild camp at Angle Tarn had come to an end. I was particularly tired after this one and looking forward to a good night’s sleep. On the plus side I also had a few photos to process and add to my Lakes photo collection.

A wild camp at Angle Tarn was last modified: August 23rd, 2020 by Gavin Dronfield

Further reading:

  • Lake District Wild Camping
    August 2020 : A list of wild camping locations in the Lake District tried and tested out by yours truly

  • Blencathra wild camp in autumn
    September 2015 : The tale of an amazing misty night out wild camping on the summit of Blencathra.

  • Wild Camping on Allen Crags
    July 2020 : Climbing Allen Crags from Stonethwaite via Langstrath for a night's wild camping


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