I’ve pondered over maps many times to try and plan a really good circular two day route to take me over Wild Boar Fell. Initially I wanted to use a high level route over the Howgill Fells as my return path but I could find an agreeable way across the valleys at either end. East Baugh Fell would be an option in the summer but is reported to be very boggy in the wetter months. When I walked along the North side of this fell as part of the Pennine Journey and this was both ‘moist’ and thigh high in reeds. Whilst I’ve had reports that it is better (and reed free) on the South side, you still have the valley crossing at the North end of the walk to consider and there is no way to avoid a fair amount of road walking. Whilst I accept the necessity of a little road walking on a longer trip, I seek to avoid it for a weekend outing.
The route I walked is shown below and I think it can be said to have been 85% successful. On the day I was returning from Great Shunner Fell to Garsdale I found Cotterdale to be significantly under par as I shall expand on below.
But let’s start with the good stuff. To have a high camping spot at my half way point, and somewhere sensible to park the car I decided to start from Garsdale Railway Station. The omens for the walk were all positive with me spotting a red squirrel and three donkeys before I even left the car park.
Day 1 12.8 miles / 900 m height gain (approx)
The walk-in was OK and did afford me excellent views of two viaducts
Whilst there is no formal footpath up Swarth Fell / Wild Boar Fell this is open access land and there is a well defined path on the ground. Interestingly this seems to follow the county boundary between Cumbria and North Yorkshire. The character of these hills is very much like the Howgills but with some limestone crags to be enjoyed on the Steilhang slopes.
My walk was some weeks into a very dry spell so it was interesting to observe which pools and gills were still filled. Since I was harvesting water as I went (to reduce weight carried) it was more than just a casual interest. The pools which are noted only on the 1:25k map were all dried up, those large enough to be on the 1:50k map, such as the larger one which is on the coll between Swarth Fell and Wild Boar Fell, were well filled and looked likely to remain so all year around. A point to note if you, like me, plan a variant of this walk in the future.
The cairns on top of Wild Boar Fell were fun.
The weather was pleasantly warm – this was the weekend before the ‘Red Alert’ heat wave of July ‘22 – and after lunching at the top of Wild Boar Fell (WBF) I allowed myself a 30 min snooze. Whilst the crags of WBF were best enjoyed from the other side of the valley, I did get a taste from my lunch spot.
The route down then along the River Eden whilst not stunning, was pleasant and the route up out of Outhgill easy to find. It was at this point I was reminded of a pre-trip conversation with Mrs W. Be sure to look for water sooner (lower down the hill) than normal we agreed – and this was a sound conclusion with the higher gills being dry.
I’ve found it great to harvest water ‘as I go’ but it does need a little more thinking about. However it drops over a kilo of my pack weight so it’s worth that extra mental effort, and anyway for me the planning and anticipation is part of the fun.
The final push up to Mallerstang Edge was hot and hard work because of it being so steep, but I took in in 50 m elevation chunks and was soon on the ridge. The first top of High Seat was to be my last of the day. At 709 m it took me by surprise to find that it is taller than both Pen-Y-Ghent (694 m) and Buckden Pike (702 m). Just beyond the summit I found a flat spot with a great view of Wild Boar Fell and Hangingstone Scar.
Day 2 – 13.0 miles / 330 m height gain
An unpredicted rain shower woke me at 0500, but it soon lulled me back to sleep. The showers stopped as a breakfasted and I was on my way at 0820 with the fell tops to myself. I didn’t see anyone until I started to descend the Pennine Way from Great Shunner Fell at 1100. When I thought of the rammed car parks in Horton and Ribblehead I was pleased with my choice of route.
Once I had walked 30 min down the Pennine Way, I struck off right on a bearing heading for the isolated end of a Bridlepath which would take me down through the forestry plantation into Cotterdale. Don’t go to Cotterdale! On the day I was there is was alive with flies and afforded footpaths which had last been walked by the person who put the signs up! They were thigh deep in grass, had not been walked for years, and lacked any positive virtue.
Once out of Cotterdale my path was a pleasant walk out back to the Railway Station.
Should you plan to walk a route similar to mine I would suggest it would be best after a good dry spell as the ground between Hugh Seat and Great Shunner Fell (GSF) is clearly a bog with the all the fun that would involve had it been saturated with rain. I was very pleased with my wild camping spot and would have been equally happy with the top of Wild Boar Fell and its views of Mallerstang.
Sitting here reflecting on my route afterwards I wonder what I might do differently should I walk a similar route again. The majority of my route was very enjoyable and I was pleased to have both climbed and seen (from across the valley) the mighty Wild Boar Fell. Whilst the plain between Hugh Seat at Great Shunner Fell (GSF) is not ‘amazing’ I think taking in GSF – for which I have a fondness – then backtracking to Hugh Seat and then following the Lunds Fell Ridge down would be a choice worth exploring. Another option could be a linear walk from Dent Railway Station via Great Knoutberry Hill (the name appeals to me) over WBF then down into Kirby Stephen. Then you could return by train. I’m no rail enthusiast, but it must be a most picturesque route which would allow you to relive you memories of your outward journey.