Wild Boar Fell & Mallerstang – a two day Wild Walk

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.

Wildboar Route on Map for blog

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.

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Day 1 12.8 miles / 900 m height gain (approx)

The walk-in was OK and did afford me excellent views of two viaducts

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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.

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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.

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Why so many?

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.

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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.

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A view towards Mallerstang Edge from under the railway

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.

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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.

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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.

Epilogue.

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.

Dales Superhighway – a four day wild walk

Whilst out on a family amble I discovered that our route formed part of the Dales Highway. The section we were walking from Stainforth to Faizor was very attractive, so I looked into details for the whole route. It runs for 90 miles from Saltaire to Appleby-in-Westmoorland. The low level section at the Southern end was not of interest to me, but the route it took through the Yorkshire Dales and over the Howgills looked inspired so I planned a four day section from Settle to Appleby which had the practical benefit of a train station at both ends making this a logistically easy linear walk. Having completed this I would suggest that if you are interested in the ‘hill section’ as I was then a better option still would be to terminate your walk at Newbiggin-on-Lune where you can get a regular bus to the train station at Kirby Lonsdale and from there, the train back to Settle. Read on to find out why…

Day 1 – Settle to Simon Fell (12.2 miles, 740 m)

One reason why I prefer the Dales for my winter walks is that the underlying geology means it is mostly free of much mud underfoot irrespective of recent rainfall. The first section along the Ribble was an exception to this. It seems to be a very popular route for local dog walkers. However I was soon at Stainforth Force and I was blessed with sunshine, the prospect of a dry path and excellent views just minutes ahead of me.

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I love the limestone formations of Smearsett and Pot Scar which you see on the path to Faizor.

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I ate my lunch overlooking Austwick Brook Dub, a pool in the brook which used to be used to wash sheep free of parasites in Spring and Autumn. Those farmers wresting sheep in chest deep cold water must have been hardy men indeed!

After lunch I came to another lovely section walking next to limestone pavement with Pen-Y-Ghent as the backdrop.

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I enjoyed the solitude whilst I could as 90 minutes later I was on the eroded motorway which is the ‘Three Peaks’ route up to Ingleborough. Whilst I find this the least attractive approach to this hill, it was a price worth paying for the route thus far, and the prospect of camping on Simon Fell, a satellite peak to Ingleborough itself. The cloud started to close in as I approached the top and whist I enjoyed views on arrival, I was enrobed in cloud by the time I got the tent pitched so have no pictures of the pitch on night one. Had it been the summer I would have headed to Park Fell to be undisturbed.

Day 2 – Simon Fell to Dent (12.9 miles, 500 m)

Whilst I awoke in the cloud, after striking camp I did not have to descend too far to be free of the cloud and to find that it was Ingleborough alone in wearing a flat cap of cumulous. The rest of the area was in bright sunshine. This afforded a wonderful view of Whernside.

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The official route does not take you over the top, but it was too good a day to skip the summit. At the top the remnants of the previous week’s snow where still in evidence.  It was very windy on high ground so I simply kept walking on and skipped lunch. The route through the Whernside Tarns was attractive but then it was  a slog along the stony track that leads down into Dent Dale. However, the walk along the river into the village was very pleasant once again. I arrived unfashionably early so opted for shelter, warmth and a liquid lunch in my favourite of Dent’s two pubs.

The morning had been a mixture of bright sun and total cloud cover, but the late afternoon was wholly warm and glorious when out of the wind. I pitched myself in the campsite (hands up! I didn’t wild camp every night) and enjoyed my book until an hour before dinner when I once again retreated to the Sun Inn. They had Tiffin Gold from Kirkby Stephen brewery which was tasty, moorish and nicely session-able at 3.6% ABV. I was back in the tent and asleep by just after 8pm, such is winter backpacking. Today had really felt like a holiday.

It was too!

Day 3 – Dent to West Fell : Howgills (12.6 miles, 740 m)

This was to be the best day. I started walking at 0830 and was greeted by warm sunshine.

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My route would take me via Sedbergh. You might imagine that the path would follow the same route as The Pennine Journey, which I completed in 2019, but this is not the case. I was soon walking new ground with the Highway living up to it’s name and leaving the river earlier and heading over the ridge between Dentdale and Garsdale at a higher point. I loved leaving tarmac and rocky tracks behind and also the early panorama of the Howgills.

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One major highlight over my overall route was that I would be crossing the whole of the Howgill ‘range’ from South to North and seeing them set out before me whetted my appetite.

DSC_2557I had thought that the climb up to Calders would be hard work, but in my minds eye the peak seemed far closer to Sedbergh that it is in truth. The reality is that it is a steady walk which is not over steep. There was not a cloud in the sky which was wonderful, but don’t be mistaken into thinking it was warm.  The wind was a steady 30-35 mph and finding any shelter for lunch was a challenge. Thankfully, just before the final climb to Calders I was able to sit in the lea of a small hummock to eat my lunch. I rued the lack of drystone walls which are myriad in the Dales. Once fed I needed to press on to keep warm given the windchill. My route took me over the Calf, shortly after which I was able to collect water, but I had to break the ice at the edge of the tarn to access it.

The hills of the Howgills are not dramatic like those of Western Cumbria, nor do they have the limestone features of the Dales but something about them appeals to me, perhaps it is simply because they are different. One thing for sure is that they offer very little by way of shelter from the wind.

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The Calf (676 m)

After passing the Calf I had the fells to myself and I enjoyed romping along and drinking in the views as I headed for the most northerly top, called West Fell, which my research suggested would be a good place to camp. The wind remained strong and steady, the forecast told me it was not expected to rise overnight and it was evidently free of gusts. I know from my first test camp in the Soulo  that it was easily capable of handling this wind speed (Force 7) , but I was glad of the quality of the mountain forecast which I reviewed before choosing which tent to bring. When I got to my planned pitching point the ground was level but once again there was no hint of shelter. Looking further down the path towards Bowderdale suggested the ground was mostly soft and uneven for the next section. Soft ground is no good if you want your pegs to hold. (I found out the next day that my judgement was sound, there were no good camping spots further down on West Fell.)

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All the guys out and double pegged – Hilleberg Soulo

It was a really lovely evening if you discount the wind. Using what I had learned over the past four years of wild camping made what could have been a difficult tent pitch something controlled and reasonable. My top tip is to always double peg / back stake your first two peg placements. I had a great view over the smaller North Eastern Howgills but was not blessed with an ‘Instagram Ready’ sunset on this occasion. I knew I had to be setting off at 0730 the following morning so after dinner and finishing my book it was soon time for sleep. The buffeting of the wind must have been what woke me every two hours, but in between I slept soundly enjoying the juxtaposition of the strength of the wind and the warmth and security of my shelter.

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Day 4 – West Fell to Great Asby (11 miles, 140 m)

Whilst it proved a wet day, the intensity and frequency of the showers were far lighter than the forecast suggested. Sunbiggin Tarn is beautiful in the sunshine, less so in the clag. Day four was a massive anticlimax after days 1-3. Should you be following in my footsteps I would suggest finishing this route at Newbiggin and on a high. There is a regular bus from there to the train at Kirby Stephen.

But I don’t want to end this report on a low point…

Final thoughts.

The route which the Dales Highway takes through the Dales and the Howgills is really attractive and I enjoyed these days immensely. I’ve wanted the opportunity to camp on Simon or Park Fell for a couple of years, and starting from Settle makes either of these an ideal endpoint. Water can be gathered high up on the route to this ridge meaning you don’t have to carry it very far. I didn’t get a prolonged view but it was super whilst it lasted. It was fun to put my five season tent to good use and take advantage of elevated camp spots, especial night three in the Howgills. Having the map open whilst I write this has given me ideas to enhance this route still further for those who are happy to wild camp to take advantage of route options unfettered by having to reach fixed accommodation. I now have in mind an amended route, a ‘Superhighway’ if you like.  Once it’s complete I’ll publish here for comment.

Inversion – a two wild walk via the summit of Fountains Fell

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I was beginning to feel the winter blues drift into my airspace so Mrs W suggested it would be good for me to get out for a wild walking weekend. It has been a while since I was last out.  The first thing to check was the mountain weather forecast; this showed something rather unusual. A cloud inversion was expected in the Yorkshire Dales for the whole weekend. Foggy in the valleys but clear blue skies were to be expected on higher ground. Another impact of this is that the usual reduction in temperature with altitude scenario is reversed, with it warmer on the tops of the peaks than down in the valley. The dichotomy of sitting indoors looking out at the fog vs. walking on fell tops bathed in sunshine was enough to rouse my lacklustre enthusiasm. The route I chose is shown below:

Fountains Fell Route - Dec-21

The elevated moorland between Ribblesdale and Airedale only rises to 400-550 metres, but this was enough. As soon as I reached 360 m, I punched through the cloud into warm sunshine. Whilst it makes meteorological sense, it is still an odd feeling to walk out of the top of a cloud and suddenly feel a whole lot warmer. The precise height of the top of the cloud had not been forecast, it was just said to be ‘well below 700 m’ so there was a chance that I may not have been clear of the cloud until I was on my way up Fountains Fell. Walking up into the sunshine really lifted my spirits. I’d walked this section of path before and remembered the impressive limestone crags to the North of the path and was jubilant to see them again in glorious sunshine.

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My route took me to Malham Tarn and joining the Pennine Way around the Tarn before starting the gentle climb to the top of Fountains Fell.

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You have to divert off of the footpath to get to the actual summit which is about 700m SW of the highpoint of the footpath – unsurprisingly many had made this diversion before me. I knew from a review of Geograph photos that some flat level ground lay just to the West of the summit. Here I would like to plug Geograph to anyone planning a camping enhanced wild walk. Details on a 1:25k OS map are really helpful in shortlisting good spots to camp, but the pictures, they speak louder still.

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To my delight there was a nice level rock free spot right next to the summit cairn which allowed me to orientate my tent to have a view of both Pen-Y-Ghent and the possibility of a sunset over the top of the cloud inversion which was filling Ribblesdale (Yorkshire), the Ribble Valley (Lancashire) and its tributaries.

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After harvesting water from a small rivulet near the summit, it was time to get my legs into my sleeping bag and split my time between reading my book and drinking in the view. Because I’d started at sunrise and managed a fine pace I was fully set up a good 45 minutes before sunset. The sun was setting behind the cloud inversion thus it was not possible to take any pictures until it was kissing the horizon. After that words fail me, so I’ll leave it to a slideshow of how the colours changed over the next hour.

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My bladder woke me at 0230 but I opened my sleepy eyes to an unexpectedly bright light. I wondered if it was a torch but no, it was an extremely bright full moon! At 0630 it was time to make a brew and get packed up for a rather longer second day. I figured I’d rather walk the final stretch to the car (day 2) in the dark than pitch a tent in the dark in an unfamiliar location (day 1) so I started my walk from Langcliffe rather than Stainforth. In the summer I’d start from Stainforth to even the distance to 14 miles each day. I left my summit camp just as the sun bobbed above the Eastern horizon. First stop was Pen-Y-Ghent.

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From there I headed to the Western Side of the Horton Road (B6479). The limestone scars between Horton and Wharf looked inviting on the map. Here I have to confess to a navigational inexactitude. I kept following a well trodden path that stopped being the true footpath. I only noticed this as it faded out one kilometre into my error. The valley into which I should have headed to was filled with cloud / fog and I was already a long way off of my route so I thought I’d continue around the edge of the scar tops, enjoy the fine view and then hope to find a gentle slope down to the Wharf road.

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The map suggested to me that SD790, 700 looked a promising point to lose height, and indeed it was. I would not, however, recommend this to others due to a lack of convenient gates in the drystone walls that I needed to cross. The path free route I took across the tops was not arduous (deep heather often is, but this was not deep nor the ground uneven), was very attractive and legal as open access land. Had time been on my side, it would have been better to continue to Moughton Nab (SD798, 697) and pick up the footpath down to the road.

After this, the rest of the day is what I’d class as a ‘walk out’ – something to be done quickly to finish the day. I’d really enjoyed climbing Pen-Y-Ghent and seeing all the limestone formations. It was time for a swift pint then to drive home. Here I should give a shout out to the landlord of the Craven Heifer at Stainforth who keeps his beers extremely well and who poured me as good an example of Thwaites IPA as I’ve ever had. It’s not a modern style IPA, but still the hop oils shone through very nicely.

Panhandle Perambulation – A two day Wild Walk in the NW Dales

Our family day walks in the Yorkshire Dales are unusually restricted to the Southern areas as the journey time to somewhere such as Dentdale is deemed too far.  So with Mrs W heading away with Junior to see her brother for the weekend, I poured over a map and came up with a two day route with a fell top overnight stop.

Barbon Fell Route Map

The Opensource map suggested there was a path, unmarked on the OS Map, from a parking spot just outside of Leck up to the shoulder of Gragareth and indeed it was there complete with gates and stiles.  I didn’t get to see the notable ‘Three Men’ until my return on day two however.

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The (former) highest point in Lancashire – Gragareth

Once up onto the ridge the path was much smoother and well walked and afforded great views over Kingsdale towards Ingleborough and Whernside.  Ironically my route all but coincided with my winter weekend walk of 2018 which also took me to Great Coum.  I was simply the other side of the wall, which marks the former boundary between Lancashire and Westmorland.

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I had lunch in the shelter of a peat hag with a fine view of Morecambe Bay.  After ascending Great Coum the descent to Bullpot Farm was gentle.  Bull Pot is one of the entrances to the UK’s largest cave system which stretches some 70 km in total, dendron like, length.  Ultimately I dropped down to Barbon Beck and the foot of my second ridge of the weekend.

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When I plan a route like this I look at the overall structure of the ridges and places I will be able to source water but don’t often focus on all the other details.  Thus the ascent up to Castle Knott was a good deal steeper than in my minds eye.  Just the time to add two litres of water to my pack weight!  I reviewed the water options on the fell top and the two tarns looked very small, and the past few weeks had been very dry so I carried my beck water up with me. (I found the tarns to be stagnant and alive with fly lava, so a sound decision despite my water filter.)

I was very hot by the time I got to the my new ridge-line, but from here it was just less than a kilometre to the top of Castle Knott.  My original plan was to camp on the col just beyond this top but the wind was light and the views from the top inspiring.  Walking NW along the shoulder that extends away from the main ridge yielded a flat spot large enough for a solo tent with views over Morecambe Bay, the Kent Estuary and the Southern Fells of Cumbria – perfect!

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On the menu in the evening was a freeze dried meal from a company I’d not tried before, Lyo of Poland.  I was attracted by their use of all natural (and low FODMAP) ingredients and enjoyed my Five Spice Chicken very much.  In the UK they can be bought from Basecamp Foods – I suspect that I will be going back for more.

Overnight the cloud dropped and when the sun woke me at 0400 I was surrounded by cloud.  I had hoped that the breeze would keep my tent dry, but thankfully the pan-handle shape of this week yielded an extra bonus… …after getting a few more hours shut-eye.  I had brought a bum bag with me for essentials and although I packed up all the rest of my gear, I left it in the tent with the hope that tent would be dry for my return there-and-back walk to the end of the ridge.  Despite a lazy start, I was walking away by 0830 and by this point the cloud had lifted above 3000′ yielding panoramic views.  The ridge from Castle Knott to Great Maws was really like the Howgill’s in its shape and nature.  An hour later I was sat at the end of the ridge enjoying a fabulous view the Howgill’s themselves and also down into Dentdale.  I love this part of the world, and whilst the cloud cover meant it wasn’t a great day for photographs, I’ll let them tell the rest of the story.

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The return walk yielded fresh views and lost nothing for having been walked before.  The tent was dry upon my return so I struck camp and dropped back down to Barbon Beck for lunch.  I suspected that the rest of the walk would simply by a necessary ‘walk out’ but was delighted by the beauty, and ultimately the narrowness of Ease Gill. It is dry rivers such as this which point to the possibility of cave systems underneath – the water needs to be flowing somewhere…

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Another path which was only to be found on the Opensource map led me straight back to the car.  It had been a very enjoyable and empowering weekend and an other example of how it can be good to walk lesser know fells between the bigger peaks.  You get to see the spender of the larger peaks but without both the the full height gain and the heavy traffic they attract. The day had been getting warmer by the hour, and now I was down at valley level I experienced the full power of the sun.  Fortunately I was able to drop the roof on the car and drive home topless!

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Renewed Freedom in Ribblesdale – a two day wild walk.

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Freedom!       Finally we are allowed out overnight, so long as we stay in self contained accommodation. I figured you don’t get a much lower chance of social mixing than in a solo tent onto top of a remote fell, so I took advantage of being on a three day week and headed for Ribblesdale. My objective was to spend a night on the apparently unremarkable fell of Cosh Knott. Whilst it seems to offer little as a fell in itself, its magic is in the views that it affords. It is somewhere I’ve visited once before but I did not manage to capture any photographs due to a fully drained camera battery. Whilst the sunset and rise was not spectacular this time, my recollection of this location will ever be in my memory for seeing the sun setting over Ingleborough and then the magic of a cloud inversion the following morning.

This time my idea was to take a more interesting ‘route in’. Unless many popular YouTuber’s, my wild-camping is facilitates a better, wilder, walk and is the cherry atop the cake; It is not the cake in itself.  Last time I followed the Horse Head Ridge around from Arncliffe, this time I walked up Ribblesdale from Stainforth. My inspiration was a stretch of the Dales Highway and it didn’t disappoint. A middle ground walk, not across the tops, yet not along the river. If you are on a multi-day walk in the Dales I find this works very well and is exactly the approach which Wainwright took with his Pennine Journey. I’ll allow some photo’s of the majestic limestone formations to tell the story…

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After a late lunch next to the Ribble the next section was a mundane, yet necessary, link between areas of virtue. I upped the pace to get to an enjoyable short section of The Pennine Way and then up the rough grassland to Cosh Knott. The ground was rough but not boggy. One of the practical beauties of this spot is the spring at SD 832,778. I filled my bottles and headed up to the trig point.

I got my tent pitched just ahead of a flurry of hail and headed inside for a brew. Sadly the clouds spoilt the sunset, but not the splendour of isolation and the views I was blessed with the following morning. It proved a cold night at -6 C but I was delighted with the performance of my winter rated Thermorest which allowed my sleeping bag to fully live up to it’s specification (-15 C).

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The flip-side of the cold night was clear skies and great views the following morning. Reputed as the best view of the Three Peaks in the Dales, I was delighted to agree.

My route on Day 2 was to take my up Plover Fell and onto Pen-Y-Ghent. Last time I did this in sub-zero conditions I struggled with the verglas on the rock steps at the top of the popular footpath section to Plover Fell. This time I was equipped with my micro-spikes but found that the weather afforded me dry rock with good grip despite the cold night. I didn’t hang around on the summit of Pen-Y-Ghent because it was humming with ‘Three Peakers’ but instead struck back onto the Pennine Way and headed for Fountains Fell. The view of the lesser seen East side of Pen-Y-Ghent was beautiful and the frost on Fountains Fell beautified its normally mundane appearance. This was to be my first time up Fountains Fell on a clear day and from this direction. Lunch on the summit was very satisfying. Again, what it lacks in inherent splendour is made up for by the views it affords.

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Now it was time to head back to the car but unlike the farmland on the second half of day 1, the high pasture between Malham Tarn and Stainforth is really pleasant. Wide, firm, grassy bridleways with lovely crags initially then views of Pen-Y-Ghent and Whernside once I’d passed back over the shoulder of Fountains Fell. What a great two days I’d had and it was almost legal 😉  It is a walk I’d repeat and has wetted my appetite for walking a longer section of the Dales Highway in the years to come. Ahead of that I already have my next long walk planned, I am really looking forward to some coastal walking. The freedom of taking a tent means I have two routes planned, one on the West Coast and one on the East and I’ll make my choice depending on weather in early May….

…so on that cliff hanger, and until next time, thank you for reading.

A final taste of freedom – A two day wild walk via Buckden Pike.

Rumours abounded that Lancashire was going to become yet further restricted and trips outside the county were not just ‘advised against’ but actually illegal. I’ve no moral qualms going for a wild walk against ‘advice’ a little away from home… …because by design I keep within the spirit of the (wise) guidance as I’m well away from other people – the idea is to be not just ‘socially’ but splendidly isolated!  However I’m no law breaker so I wanted to grab the last chance for a micro-adventure before COVID Tier 4 / 5 came into force.

The air was clear, the amount of sunshine exceeded the forecast and there was a good amount of snow above 300 m so I’ll keep my words brief and allow the pictures to tell the story of the glory of the Yorkshire Dales on a clear winters day.

My Route

My route, starting / ending at Kettlewell

Day 1 (Kettlewell to Buckden Pike)

Day 2 (Buckden Pike to Kettlewell)

  • Soulo
  • Sunrise
  • Fire & Ice
  • Wharfdale & Old Cote Moor

Lessons Learnt

  • My Grivel Spider micro-spikes were excellent for these conditions – full review here.
  • My water reservoir didn’t freeze but the filter did.  Must prepare enough water for the following morning next time
  • I should upgrade my Thermorest for a thicker model for next time My Prolite 3 is good down to single digit temperatures, but if I’m to get the best from my -15 C bag I need a mat to match it.
  • Grabbing opportunities like this one is well worth the effort.

A dusting of snow and two below (-2 C)

After two weeks of continuous rain here in the North West we was blessed with a forecast for a sunny weekend.  A little chilly perhaps but I felt in the need of some sunshine, so I was kindly granted a weekend pass by Mrs W, packed my rucksack and headed off to the Yorkshire Dales for a two day walk with an overnight stop under canvas (well silicone impregnated rip-stop nylon to be exact).  After my two outings in 2017 I am a total convert to the concept of micro adventures.  This time it was a circumnavigation of Kingsdale.

A Pennine Journey – Part 1

IMG_7953I have been fortunate to have walked all of England and Scotland’s National Trails, bar one, and thus I’m always keen on a fresh idea for a long distance walk. Pouring over a new OS map last year something caught my eye, a LDP called ‘A Pennine Journey’. This was new to me, but I tend to view most ‘new’ LDP’s with some scepticism. Most, it appears to me, have been devised to pull in grant funding to a local authority or to appear in a tourist brochure. Few if any seem to have been designed as great ways to explore great geography without compromise. It was this lack of exciting new route opportunities that led me to devise my 8-in-5 walk around the Lake District that Mrs W and I enjoyed in 2012 and led to walking a section of the GR10 in 2016.

The Pennine Journey was different though, as a little web research revealed to me. It is a walk based on a route devised and walked by Wainwright in 1938. In his case he wanted to escape the pervasive negativity all of Britain was feeling, with a looming expectation of war with Germany. His goal was to walk across the Central/Eastern Yorkshire Dales up to Hadrian’s Wall (something he longed to see) and then come back by a more Westerly route. The more I looked into this, the more the route appealed to me. We were not seeking escape from anything as significant as WW2, just the chance to leave the hassles of work behind for a week in the fells. Wainwright seemed to have picked a route with just the right pleasure : challenge ratio that appeals to me. The Pennine Way tips this ratio to far to the former in my opinion (unless you really enjoy bog-snorkeling!) and the Dales Way is something too tame to attempt before I’m 70. A rough outline of the route is shown below, we had only a week so walked the first half, from Settle to Hexham.

PJ Map

Wainwright would have wrung his hands that we walked without reaching his primary objective, Hadrian’s Wall. However for me the logistic simplicity of getting a train back from Hexham defined our end point (and the start of Part 2 when opportunity allows in 2018 / 19)

For us, it is unusual to holiday so close to home, but being blessed to live within a 30 min drive of The Dales is no hardship. So even though we only woke at 0730, we were starting our walking holiday by 0930 – a pleasant change from a pre-walk plane ride. There is a really good guide to the walk edited by David Pitt but I’d had decided to try and split the initially daily distances more evenly that is suggested in the guide.

 Day 1 – Settle to Halton Gill. (14 miles)

A dry start, and only one day forecast to yield rain in the next eight gave us a spring in our step as we left Settle. By late morning one great bonus of AW’s route became clear. It gave you routes to Dales Honeypots than were virtually unwalked. This not only means more wilderness and less people (always good in my book) it also means new vista’s on familiar hills.

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The real route goes around Penyghent and takes you past Hull Pot. This giant sink hole is very impressive, but having seen it before we decided to take a detour over the summit. It was windy on top but worth it. IMG_7905

As soon as we started on the path to Plover Hill it was amazing to note that every other walker that day was taking the ‘standard route’ up and down to Horton, not one person was to be seen on Plover Hill. We thus soon left the madding crowd far behind. The view down to Litton Dale, Foxup and Halton Gill soon opened up before us. Our accommodation that night was to be one night in a self catering cottage. We were fortunate to be able to book it for just the one night and carried with us a homemade curry which just needed reheating.

Day 2 – Halton Gill to Stalling Busk (13 miles)

IMG_7911Day two was rather overcast and hazy. Our route started in earnest, steeply out of Littondale up to the Horsehead Pass. From there we dropped down to Hubberholme in Wharfedale only to find someone had stolen all the water in the Wharfe!

I jest of course, it is a unusual feature of several Dales rivers that when the water table is low they run underground for some strengths only to reemerge further downstream. Arriving in Buckden I was disappointed to see that The Buck (PH) was closed seeking a new landlord. Beer was substituted for tea and cake at the excellent Westwinds café. Mrs W was delighted. We then headed via Cray to a Green Road that crosses over the attractively bleak Stake Moss and down to the Hamlet of Stalling Busk. Our host was both quirky and really welcoming. When I said I was going out for a stroll to see the architecturally unusual local church I was volunteered to take her dogs for a walk with me. Ahh, the benefit of being married to a vet, making me [perceived to be] naturally good with all animals. Roast beef, with meat from the family herd ended the day very nicely indeed.

…to be continued in A Penning Journey Part 2

Buckden Pike

Many people reserve their blog postings for epic tales of ‘daring do’ involving vertiginous climbs and wild camping in the wilderness. However with a 2 ½ year old in tow an amble in the Yorkshire Dales seems just as note-worthy. Well perhaps it was a little more than the average amble, as it involved 9 miles, 530 meters height gain and reaching the top of the fourth highest peak in the Dales. And not being in the top three meant it was relatively quiet which was really pleasant.

Our route started from Buckden and took a glancing route up onto Buckden Pike complete with Trig Point. Junior now recognizes them and shouts ‘a Trig Point Daddy!’ with the same enthusiasm I feel inside at seeing one of these iconic land marks.

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Sun Hat & Snow Suit – both required for a Spring Day in Yorkshire!

So taken with them was I as a youth that two of us set ourselves the challenge of finding all those on the Isle of Wight in sub 12 hours. There were around 110 as I recall (of the ca. 6190 in the whole of the UK).

As we reached the summit and enjoyed the view we could see a band of what looked to be rain coming towards us. All three of us wrapped up against this and started heading along the ridge only to find we were to be sprinkled with snow. Snow, in April? And this after almost unbroken sunshine on our ascent. Well it was better than rain and soon passed. Sections of the ridge were rather boggy, and each time one of us found a particularly soft spot it was accompanied by a little voice asking ‘What just happened?’ the most popular phase of the moment with Junior. Next time we will try the earlier descent from the war memorial to avoid this wet section.

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He slept for all the descent but woke in time to walk over the bridge over the Wharfe and then to ‘drive’ a mini-digger we found abandoned in a nearby field.

The final highlight was getting back to the Buck Inn for a pint of XB for me, tea for Mrs W and a hot chocolate for Junior (without the whisky chaser on this occasion).