Red Screes seen from Wansfell summit
|Elevation||776 m (2,546 ft)|
|Prominence||c. 260 m|
|Listing||Marilyn, Hewitt, Wainwright, Nuttall|
|Range||Lake District, Eastern Fells|
|Topo map||OS Landrangers 89, 90, Explorer OL7|
Red Screes is a fell in the English Lake District, situated between the villages of Patterdale and Ambleside. It may be considered an outlier of the Fairfield group in the Eastern Fells, but is separated from its neighbours by low cols. This gives Red Screes an independence which is reflected in its prominence.
Red Screes is a ridge of high ground which runs for nearly 7 km in a north north-easterly direction from the town of Ambleside, and reaches a maximum height of 776 m. This ridge narrows at either end, giving it the shape of a long upturned boat. It is separated from neighbouring fells by Scandale Pass to the west (c.516 m) and Kirkstone Pass to the east (455 m). These two low cols mean that Red Screes is seen as an independent fell when viewed from the south of the Lake District. They also give the fell sufficient prominence to be classified as a Marilyn. There are two minor subsidiary tops: Snarker Pike (644 m) on the south ridge and Middle Dodd (654 m) on the north ridge. Each of these, however, has very little prominence above the ridge (less than 10 m).
Red Screes forms part of the main watershed of the Lake District, which runs in an east-west direction across the summit and the two adjacent cols. All streams to the north eventually flow into the Solway Firth, and those to the south flow into Morecambe Bay. The boundaries of Red Screes are formed by the four streams in the adjacent valleys. To the south, Scandale Beck drains the western slopes and Stock Ghyll the eastern ones. These both join the River Rothay a few yards apart just to the west of Ambleside. To the north, Caiston Beck drains the western slopes and Kirkstone Beck the eastern ones, and these join where they reach more level ground at the end of the ridge. Thus the boundaries of Red Screes are formed symmetrically by four valleys, with the fell between them, rather than rising at the head of any one of them.
The broad southern ridge rises gently for four and a half kilometers from Ambleside. The lower slopes have been planted with small areas of mixed woodland and are extensively compartmentalised by an array of dry stone walls. North of the summit, the ridge narrows at Smallthwaite Band, before widening again to the summit of Middle Dodd. Beyond this, the descent is steep and rough though mainly grassy.
The western flanks are also rough, mainly grassy with some rock outcrops, rising steeply from Scandale and from Caiston Glen. The eastern side has been eroded by two steep corries (known at coves in Cumbria). These give it a more rocky appearance, with two miles of screeslope looming above almost the full length of Kirkstone Pass, and well seen from the A592 road which crosses the pass. It is from this view that the fell takes its name. Prominent on Ordnance Survey maps is Kilnshaw Chimney, although in reality this is just a narrow gully beneath the summit.
Red Screes is named "because of the character and colour of its eastern face." The screes which cover the steep eastern slopes above the Kirkstone Pass appear to have a reddish colouration from the lichens which grow on the stones.
Middle Dodd is the central of the three dodds as seen from Hartsop Hall: (Low) Hartsop Dodd, Middle Dodd and High Hartsop Dodd. These names have nothing to do with relative heights but with their positions in the valley. Dodd is "a northern dialect word of uncertain origin indicating a rounded summit, often a spur of a more massive hill."
Summit and View
The summit area is a broad plateau with a dressing of grass and stones. Two unnamed corries are cut into the eastern face and between them a flat topped promontory juts out with the highest point on its northern edge. A number of large cairns have been built and an Ordnance Survey triangulation column stands nearby Adjacent to that is a circular stone shelter. A few yards to the south is Red Screes Tarn, a small permanent waterbody with no plant life in evidence. A number of smaller pools can be found after rain. The view is excellent in all directions. Helvellyn is seen to good advantage, beyond the crags of Dove Crag and Fairfield and over Deepdale Hause. High Street and the Far Eastern Fells are seen over the immediate bulk of Caudale Moor. To the west the skyline is formed by the distant Coniston, Bowfell and Scafell fells. The immediate view down the eastern face to the Kirkstone Inn is spectacular.
Geology and Mining
All the rocks of Red Screes are part of the Borrowdale Volcanic Group, formed on the margin of an ancient continent during a period of cataclysmic volcanic activity during the Caradoc Epoch of the Ordovician Era, roughly 450 million years ago.
The lowest (and oldest) rocks, around the base of the fell and on the southern half of the south ridge, belong to the Seathwaite Fell Sandstone Formation. This consists typically of bedded volcaniclastic sandstone and siltstone, with some beds of tuff, lapilli-tuff, and volcaniclastic breccia. These were formed in shallow seas by the deposition of silt, sand and gravel of volcanic origin.
Overlying those deposits are rocks of the Lincomb Tarns Tuff Formation, found on the eastern and western sides of the fell and the top of the southern ridge. These rocks are predominantly dacitic lapilli-tuff, interpreted as welded ignimbrite. They were formed by explosive volcanic eruptions of viscous and highly gaseous silica-rich magma.
Rocks of the Borrowdale Sill Suite are found on Red Screes within both of the above two rock units. These were formed by the intrusion of sills of silica-poor magma contemporaneously with the volcanic activity of the Caradoc Epoch.
Overlying the Lincomb Tarns formation unconformably are rocks of the Esk Pike Sandstone Formation, found along the two sides of the northern ridge. These are predominantly massive bedded volcaniclastic sandstones.
The highest and youngest rocks of the Borrowdale Volcanic sequence found on Red Screes belong to the Middle Dodd Dacite Formation, found on and north of the top of Middle Dodd, and with a small area along the edge of the northern corrie of Red Screes. These rocks were formed from a dacitic lava-flow from the eruption of viscous or semi-mobile lava rich in silica from steep-sided volcanoes.
Mining and Quarrying
Kirkstone Quarry (named Pets Quarry on Ordnance Survey maps) is prominent on the southeast side of Red Screes, below Kirkstone Pass. It has produced green and blue-black slate for building and architectural purposes. At present Burlington Stone markets three types of stone called Kirkstone Brathay Blue/Black, Kirkstone Sea Green and Kirkstone Silver Green.
There is evidence of mining in Caiston Glen, with the mouth of a level opening about halfway up the beck. This was an unsuccessful trial for lead and extends about 80 ft into the fellside. There is a further small working nearby.
Well-used paths approach the summit from four directions. From the south a track up the southern ridge gives convenient access directly from Ambleside, leaving the road from The Struggle about one mile north-east of the town. This leads over Snarker Pike before reaching the summit. From the east a steep track straight up from Kirkstone Pass is very popular with visitors. This, however, is steep, and considerable erosion to the path has been repaired by laying stone blocks along much of its length. From the west the path from Scandale Pass gives an easier approach, and may be gained from either Ambleside, or from the north via Caiston Glen. From the north a more direct approach over Middle Dodd is possible, but is very steep and is unmarked. A path appears near the top of Middle Dodd, and then leads along the northern ridge to the summit of Red Screes.
- Wainwright: A.: A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells, Book 1: The Eastern Fells: London: Frances Lincoln (2003) : ISBN 0-7112-2227-4
- Richards, Mark: Near Eastern Fells: Collins (2003): ISBN 0-00-711366-8
- Gambles, Robert: Lake District Place Names: Hayloft Publishing (2013): ISBN 1-904524-92-3
- Blair, Don: Exploring Lakeland Tarns: Lakeland Manor Press (2003): ISBN 0-9543904-1-5
- British Geological Survey: 1:50,000 series maps, England & Wales Sheet 38: BGS (1998)
- BGS Lexicon of Named Rock Units: http://bgs.ac.uk/Lexicon - also available through the BGS's iGeology smartphone app. Accessed 27th October 2013
- http://www.visitcumbria.com/amb/kirkstone-pass Retrieved 26th October 2013.
- http://www.burlingtonstone.co.uk Retrieved 26th October 2013
- Adams, John: Mines of the Lake District Fells: Dalesman (1995) ISBN 0-85206-931-6