Mungrisdale Common

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Mungrisdale Common
Mungrisedale Common from Atkinson Pike, Blencathra.jpg
Mungrisedale Common from Atkinson Pike on Blencathra
Range: Lake District Northern Fells
Summit: 2,077 feet NY312292
54°39’8"N, 3°4’10"W

Mungrisdale Common (pronounced 'mun-grize-dl'), is a fell in Cumberland, in the Lake District's Northern Fells. Although Alfred Wainwright listed it as one of the 214 featured hills in his influential Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells it was his least favourite. He commented that it "has no more pretension to elegance than a pudding that has been sat on".[1]

The name of Mungrisdale Common is applied to the hill which forms the widest area of the common land and broken hills streatching west of Mungrisdale village, which is three miles from the hill's summit, divided from it by wilder hillscapes and the upper dale of the River Glenderamakin, which ultimately loops down to the village.


Mungrisdale Common lies north of Blencathra, of which it is an outlier. Gently graded grassy slopes fall from Atkinson Pike, Blencathra's northern summit. Upon meeting the head of Blackhazel Beck this shoulder divides in two, the north eastern arm connecting to Bannerdale Crags and the north western branch continuing to descend to Mungrisdale Common. Beyond an almost imperceptible depression the reascent is only 6 feet.

After the brief plateau of the summit the descent continues westward toward Skiddaw Forest. Confusingly this forest contains no trees—other than the windbreak of Skiddaw House — but is a marshy upland area at around 1,300 feet surrounded on all sides by higher fells. Three streams flow from Skiddaw Forest, dividing the Northern Fells into three sectors. Dash Beck runs north-west, the River Caldew north east and the Glenderaterra Beck south. The three ranges of the Northern Fells are the Skiddaw massif to the south west, the Blencathra group— including Mungrisdale Common— to the south east and the area colloquially known as 'Back o'Skiddaw'[1] to the north. Skiddaw House, the lone building in the forest, has variously seen service as a shepherds' bothy and a Youth Hostel.

The Glenderaterra Beck lies to the west of Mungrisdale Common and its tributary, Roughten Gill, forms the southern boundary. A further feeder on this flank is Sinen Gill, whose waterfall is one of the fell's most notable features.[1] The River Caldew lies to the north, across which is Great Calva, most southerly of the Back o'Skiddaw fells. Despite its uninspiring appearance Mungrisdale Common does therefore stand on the important Eden-Derwent watershed, though it is not well defined at this point. Water from the southern flanks reach the sea at Workington while rain falling on the northern side heads for the Solway Firth below Carlisle. This watershed continues across Skiddaw Forest between the headwaters of the Caldew and Glenderaterra, linking onward to Lonscale Fell in the Skiddaw range.

Mungrisdale Common carries a very small cairn at the approximate summit, only constructed since Wainwright first encouraged climbing of the fell by including it in his 1962 guidebook. Two more prominent ancient cairns also grace the fell, one to the west of the summit and the other on a tongue of ground between Sinen Gill and Roughten Gill. A small stone pillar (marked 'stake' on OS maps) stands on the watershed at the head of Glenderaterra Beck and a further prominent Cloven Stone marks its continuation higher up the slope. Both have served as boundary stones.[1]


In common with much of the Northern Fells the Kirk Stile Formation of the Skiddaw Group predominates. This is composed of laminated mudstone and siltstone with greywacke sandstone and is of Ordovician age. Unusually however, this is overlain by considerable beds of peat in the vicinity of Mungrisdale Common.[2]

The Glenderaterra valley was the scene of some mining activity in the nineteenth century. The northern workings were first named Glenderaterra Mine and later Brundholme Mine. These were driven primarily for lead, but also copper ore and baryte. The returns were never economic, the mine being abandoned in 1920. A little to the south was Blencathra Mine, worked unsuccessfully until about 1880.[3]


Wainwright's disappointment was not restricted to Mungrisdale Common's profile and he also remarked that "Any one of a thousand tufts of tough bent and cotton-grass might lay claim to crowning the highest point...A thousand tufts, yet not one can be comfortably reclined upon, this being a summit that holds indefinitely all the water that falls upon it"[1]

The view includes a striking window to the south west between Lonscale Fell and Blencathra, revealing unexpectedly a run of high fells from Pillar to Crinkle Crags. Elsewhere the view consists of those nearby fells surrounding Skiddaw Forest.[1]


"For people who won't be told"[1] Wainwright suggested ascents from Keswick or Threlkeld by way of the Glenderaterra valley. An alternative would be from Scales or Mungrisdale via the Glenderamackin col. Most ascents are likely to be as part of a climb of Blencathra, the intervening ground being gentle of gradient.


Apart from the sub 1,000-foot Castle Crag, Mungrisdale Common is the only 'Wainwright' not to feature in Bill Birkett's Complete Lakeland Fells.[4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Wainwright, Alfred: A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells, Book Five — The Northern Fells (1962)
  2. British Geological Survey: 1:50,000 series maps, England & Wales Sheet 29: BGS (1999)
  3. Adams, John: Mines of the Lake District Fells: Dalesman (1995) ISBN 0-85206-931-6
  4. Birkett, Bill: Complete Lakeland Fells: Collins Willow (1994): ISBN 0-00-218406-0