|Elevation||857 m (2,812 ft)|
|Listing||Hewitt, Wainwright, Nuttall|
|Range||Lake District, Eastern Fells|
|Topo map||OS Explorer OL5, Landranger 90|
The Helvellyn range runs broadly north-south for about 7 miles, remaining above 2,000 ft (600 m) throughout its length. Great Dodd is near to the northern end of this ridge, with Clough Head to the north and Watson's Dodd to the south. The fell is a typical "Dodd" with a smoothly rounded profile, clad primarily in grass and bracken. Great Dodd lays claim to a wide tract of land to the north east, descending gradually over five miles to the vicinity of Troutbeck.
Great Dodd stands at an acute angle in the Helvellyn range, with the "northward" continuation to Clough Head actually starting off westerly, before swinging around the head of Mosedale. Before the unnamed col is reached, the ridge throws up the small rock tor of Calfhow Pike (2,165 ft). In more rugged areas of the District this would have little significance, but here amid the wide vista of smooth green slopes, Calfhow Pike is a landmark visible for miles around. It has little prominence although some guidebooks list it as a top. The connection to Watson's Dodd is a short grassy promenade running south westerly with little reascent at the far end. The ridge path in either direction is broad and clear, with a shortcut contouring to the west of Great Dodd's summit for those in a hurry.
The long north eastern ridge drops first to Randerside (2,375 ft), a subsidiary top bearing a rash of stones. From here it broadens into Matterdale Common, becoming steadily wetter underfoot, before splitting into two on either side of Groove Beck. The more southerly ridge heads over High Brow (1,885 ft), fringed by Dowthwaite Crag which broods over the road-end settlement of Dowthwaitehead. The further tops of Low How (1,630 ft) and Cockley Moor (1,492 ft) are passed before this branch of the ridge peters out in extensive conifer plantations, and then the ground climbs again to Great Mell Fell. The northern branch of the ridge is edged by Wolf Crags above the Old Coach Road, beyond which a wide prairie sweeps north across Sandbeds Moss and Flaska to the A66 and the dismantled Penrith to Keswick railway.
Between the north east ridge and Clough Head is the head of Mosedale, one of many valleys in the district bearing that name. Groove Beck, which divides the north east ridge into two, becomes Thornsgill Beck and then Trout Beck, before finally uniting with the waters of Mosedale to head west for Keswick as the River Glenderamackin. The dale separating Randerside from Stybarrow Dood and Hart Side also undergoes a bewildering sequence of name changes as it flows to Ullswater. Beginning as Browndale Beck it flows through the hanging valley of Deepdale, becomes Rush Gill and finally at Dowthwaitehead is renamed Aira Beck. This is the head stream for the famous waterfall of Aira Force, a popular destination for tourists.
The western flanks of Great Dodd are drained by the short streams of Beckthorns, Ladknott and Mill Gills, all of which once fed St John's Beck. As part of the Thirlmere reservoir scheme, completed in 1894, a water race was constructed to divert the latter two becks southward to the lake. There is some outcropping rock here at the bottom of the slope, Lad Knott being the principal feature.
Old Coach Road
The Old Coach Road referred to above was the main throughroute from east to west before the coming of the railways. It still provides a fine walking route from Dockray around the northern end of the Helvellyn range to the Vale of St John. The close up view of Wolf Crags is particularly good. Recent damaging overuse by off-road vehicles should now cease following changes in legislation.
NB There is absolutely no evidence to support the theory that this road was indeed a coach-road save the fact that it is so marked on OS maps. The original road crossed what is today a metalled road in St John's-in-the-Vale at Wanthwaite and continued to the river (St John's Beck - formerly the River Beur) in the vicinity of Bridge House. Frome here it looks as though it might have climbed up to the col which houses St. John's Church.(More research required) If it did follow this route (via a ford) it would be impossible for even an empty coach to make that climb. This segment of the article is highly questionable; it is not enough to merely accept a map label. An objective review is required.
Geology and Mining
There is evidence of historic mining activity in two locations on Great Dodd. Fornside Mine on the western slopes has the remains of two levels driven for copper. At the base of Wolf Crags on the north east ridge there are the remains of a 90 ft level on a quartz vein. Little is known of either venture and it must be assumed that they were commercial failures. Geologically the fell forms part of the Thirlmere Member of the Lincomb Tarns Formation. Part of the Borrowdale Volcanic series, this consists of parataxitic lapilli-tuff.
Summit and view
The summit area of Great Dodd is a short ridge with the highest point at the north west end, marked by a small cairn. A larger wind shelter lies to the south east. Another cairn lies part way down the western slope on the path to Clough Head, marking the minor top of Little Dodd. The view is good, with much of the Lake District and a portion of the northern Pennines in sight.
Great Dodd can be climbed from Dockray, or from further up Aira Beck at High Row or Dowthwaitehead, although parking here is limited. Either branch of the north east ridge can be ascended directly, or Mosedale can be followed up to Calfhow Pike at its head. All of these routes are abominably wet underfoot until Randerside or Calfhow Pike is reached. The car park at Legburthwaite provides the best access to the west, and from here any preferred route can be followed up the pathless grassy slopes.
- Birkett, Bill: Complete Lakeland Fells: Collins Willow (1994): ISBN 0-00-218406-0
- Alfred Wainwright: A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells, Book 1: ISBN 0-7112-2454-4
- Adams, John: Mines of the Lake District Fells: Dalesman (1995): ISBN 0-85206-931-6
- Woodhall, DG: Geology of the Keswick District- a brief explanation of the geological map. 1:50,000 Sheet 29: British Geological Survey (2000)
- Richards, Mark: Near Eastern Fells: Collins (2003): ISBN 0-00-711366-8