Category Archives: Pennines

High Cup Nick 15.05.2016

For the second day of our weekend in Dufton, we decided to visit the spectacular High Cup Nick, with a return over the moorland summit of Backstone Edge.  First however, we wanted to wander through Dufton Gill to see the bluebells in sunlight.  Having wandered through the woods on the Friday evening, we knew it was a sight worth seeing.  They really were beautiful.  And there are so many – possibly the most I have ever seen in one place.  Annoyingly I found that my camera battery had died, but luckily Andrew’s was in full working order.  All of the pictures in this post were therefore taken by him.

Leaving the wood, we took a farm path that would take us almost to the bottom of High Cup Gill.  Most people follow the Pennine Way from Dufton village, but a relative had tipped us off that a more dramatic approach was to take the footpath that climbs right up through the bottom of the gill, exiting steeply at High Cup Nick itself.


The sunlight starts to break through onto to side of the gill


Looking back out of High Cup Gill

High Cup Gill is sometimes claimed as ‘England’s Grand Canyon’ and though it has to be said that this is something of an exaggeration, it’s probably true to say that it is England’s finest example of a glacial valley.  As height is gained and the sides of the valley start to converge, it does become slightly claustrophobic – but truly magnificent.



The slot on the left of this photo is the ‘Nick’ – a name that is often wrongly applied to the whole valley

The spectacular ring of crags that encircles the whole valley is part of the Whin Sill, an intrusion of dolerite (known locally as whinstone) that runs right through the northern Pennines, and forms such distinctive features as Cauldron Snout and High Force, as well as the Farne Islands and the outcrops on which Lindisfarne and Bamburgh Castles are built.  The highest section of Hardian’s Wall also runs across crags formed by the Whin Sill.


The climb out from the head of the gill was extremely steep, but this provided a good excuse to admire the view frequently.  Although there was a path throughout, it can’t be very well used as of the 30 or so people that we must have seen at High Cup Nick, not one had used our route through the gill, nor did anybody appear to be returning that way.


This is the view looking down from the nick itself

Once we’d eaten lunch and satisfied ourselves that we had spent enough time admiring the view, we left the crowds behind to head up on to Backstone Edge.


Climbing up towards Backstone Edge

On reaching the moorland above, I was pleasantly surprised to find that a footpath had come into being since my previous visit around ten years ago.  On that occasion, we’d had to wade through the ankle-deep heather, an energy-sapping experience that had worn the dog out and almost made us miss our train home.  This may have been before the implementation of the ‘right to roam’, which would perhaps explain why there were fewer people walking there at that time.


The author by the large cairn at Narrowgate Beacon.  The onward route followed the edge of the moor round to the right.



A last look back at High Cup Nick from Narrowgate Beacon

The path continued all the way to the summit of Backstone Edge (2293 ft); not really a summit at all, just a high point in a sea of rolling moorland.  The path seemed to run out beyond the summit, but by that time Great Rundale Tarn, our next objective, had come into view.  Oddly, although the tarn is named after Great Rundale, its outflow doesn’t feed that valley, but instead runs east, to join the Tees.


Great Rundale Tarn

Beyond the tarn, we followed an old mine track down into Great Rundale.  It was rather loose and stony, but made for a quick descent.


Heading down into Great Rundale


The lower reaches of Great Rundale.  The structure on the left is an old lime kiln.


Dufton Pike comes into view at the end of Great Rundale

Reaching the bottom of the valley with time and energy to spare, we decided to nip up Dufton Pike as it was such a nice day.


Cuckoo flowers on the track below Dufton Pike


Looking to Knock Pike and distant Cross Fell from below Dufton Pike


Zooming in on Cross Fell

Once the track that runs across the base of Dufton Pike is left, the ascent becomes very steep, though it’s grassy all the way.


Looking across the sunlight-dappled Eden valley to the Lakeland fells from the ascent


Looking to Cross Fell and the Dun Fells from our ascent route

The views from the summit (1578 ft) are magnificent; more so than those from higher nearby fells.  This is mainly due to Dufton Pike’s pointed shape, which contrasts with the rolling moorland more prevalent in these parts.  The difference in shape is due to the underlying geology – Dufton Pike is formed from Borrowdale volcanic rock, more commonly found in the Lake District.


Backstone Edge from the summit.  The track in the centre-left was our descent route from the former.


The view to the south.  The prominent peak is Murton Pike – High Cup Gill is immediately to its left.

A steep descent returned us to the old mine track and back to Dufton.  It had been a superb walk, made all the more so by the sheer variety of the scenery encountered, which proved if nothing else that there is much more to the Pennines than the ‘dreary moorland’ of popular repute.

All photos by Andrew Collins.



Cross Fell 14.05.2016

My brother Andrew and I were spending the weekend at Dufton Youth Hostel, and having woken up to a glorious morning on the Saturday, decided that Cross Fell would make a suitable objective.  Monarch of the Pennines, at 2930 ft, Cross Fell is one of the ten highest mountains in England (though in which position depends upon how you define a mountain – a debate I don’t intend to enter into here!), and is higher than Lakeland giants Pillar, Fairfield and Blencathra.  The last two of these are clearly in view from Cross Fell’s summit on a clear day.  We had planned a route that would take us from the tiny village of Kirkland via and old mine track to the Pennine Way, which we would then follow over the Dun Fells and Knock Fell back to Dufton.


Looking back down Kirkland Beck


The old mine track heading for Ardale


Kirkland Beck


Cocklock Scar


Looking towards Black Doors at the head of Ardale


A closer view of the Black Doors

The mine track made for a very easy and gentle ascent, with excellent views into neighbouring Ardale.  It’s a much easier climb than many much lower Lakeland fells, though also much longer.


Cross Fell’s summit dome comes into view

Shortly after parting company with the mine track, we came across a bothy at the side of the path.  It’s obviously been around for some time as it’s marked on the map, though what it could be used for, I found it hard to imagine.  There isn’t room to sleep inside and there is barely room to sit up.  Perhaps it was a place where coffins were rested when this track was used as a corpse road.


The bothy at 674348

Rather than tackle the screes surrounding the summit dome, we continued to the junction with the Pennine Way, joining the latter for the remainder of our walk.  As we climbed towards the summit, we could see a couple of small patches of snow stubbornly clinging on in hollows on the northern slopes of the mountain.


Looking northwards towards Cold Fell.  The tiny bright green speck on the right of the picture is a mountain biker.


Looking towards Alston from near the summit


A currick defending the summit plateau

We reached the summit just in time for lunch, which was handy as it would have been a shame to pass up on the opportunity to use the recently rebuilt wind shelter.  Unusually for a mountain famed for its winds, it was very still; almost silent at times.  Before sitting down, we had a wander across to the far side of the plateau.  On the way, we encountered a dunlin, which stood unmoving only a few feet away from us.  We thought it was probably trying to lead us away from its nest, so we made sure to tread very carefully to avoid standing on any eggs.


Dunlin (Photo by Andrew Collins)


Wind shelter and trig point on the summit

Whilst eating lunch in the summit wind shelter, we were joined by two gents whose large backpacks and conversation suggested that they were doing the Pennine Way.  In fact we were to encounter several other people who also appeared to be doing this.  I was slightly surprised, as I thought the Pennine Way had declined in popularity in recent years, though I guess this will be peak time of year for people to attempt it.

Though there is an extensive view of the Lakeland fells from the summit, I didn’t take any photos in that direction as it was a little hazy.


Little Dun Fell (with the cloud shadow passing over) and Great Dun Fell (with the radar dome) from a currick on the south side of the summit plateau.  The hill in the background is Mickle Fell, highest in Yorkshire.  (Photo by Andrew Collins)

From Cross Fell, we continued along the Pennine Way to Little Dun Fell (2762 ft) and Great Dun Fell (2782 ft).  Thanks to the radar dome on its summit, Great Dun Fell must be one of the most distinctive if also most unattractive summits in England.  Still, I’d take this over a wind farm any day (scenically speaking).  I was surprised that it is possible to enter and wander around the radar dome compound – perhaps someone in NATS management is a keen peak bagger?


Looking east from Little Dun Fell across the featureless Pennine moorland


Looking back at The Screes on Cross Fell.  The red colour presumably indicates the presence or iron ore.  (Picture by Andrew Collins)


Looking back to Little Dun Fell and Cross Fell from Great Dun Fell


Knock Fell and Mickle Fell from Great Dun Fell

Just below the summit of Great Dun Fell, the path drops down into a particularly good example of a hush.  These were created by lead miners by damming becks and then releasing the water once a large amount had built up, so as to remove the upper layers of vegetation and soil and thus (hopefully) reveal the lead ore below.  There are many examples dotted about the Pennines and although they are a bit of a blot on the landscape, they are fascinating relics of the industrial heritage of the area.


Dunfell Hush

On the climb up towards Knock Fell, I noticed a small area of limestone, complete with mini limestone pavement and a little further beyond, a tiny pothole.  A quick bit of research on suggests that this is probably an entrance into the extensive Knock Fell Caverns.


Limestone pavement on Knock Fell


The small pothole

The limestone can’t be very extensive at surface level hereabouts, as we were soon back onto the boggy ground more typical of the higher Pennines.  There are even a few small tarns dotted about in the vicinity.


Tarn near the summit of Knock Fell


Boulder field with the imaginatively named Round Hill in the background


Looking back at Cross Fell and Great Dun Fell from Knock Fell (Picture by Andrew Collins)

The summit of Knock Fell (2605 ft) is not particularly inspiring and even the summit cairn is a poor effort when compared with the nearby currick Knock Old Man.  The views are good though.


Knock Old Man

The descent from Knock Fell seemed long, but it was gentle and there was an attractive beck for company.  This eventually joins Swindale, which forms an impressive gill in its lower reaches.


Looking down into Swindale


Another view of Swindale

Just after I had taken the photo above, I saw a ring ouzel flying low across the bed of the gill.  I wasn’t close enough to identify it visually (or to photograph it), but was its distinctive call gave it away.  Unfortunately it went into hiding, so I didn’t get a second look.


Knock Pike from Swindale


Dufton Pike

The walk back along the valley bottom was very pleasant, with good views of Dufton Pike.  As we passed Halsteads Farm, unbeknownst to us, a sheep was being driven into the lane just as we were about the pass the gateway leading from its field.  On running into the lane and seeing us, it did an about turn and within no time at all was back at the far end of the field!  No doubt the farmer and the sheepdog were cursing our unfortunate timing.  Happily the remainder of the walk back to Dufton passed without incident.


Primroses growing by the side of the track we followed back to Dufton


Another view of Dufton Pike

From Your Front Door: The Chevin 25.04.2016

When I received an email from Zoe at Outdoor Bloggers requesting posts on the theme of ‘From Your Front Door’, I knew exactly where I had to write about.  My home town, Otley is dominated by The Chevin, which is really the first of the Pennine hills as you travel up the valley of the Wharfe.  The name is thought to derive from the Celtic word cefn, which features unchanged in the Welsh language to this day, and means ridge.  Nowadays, The Chevin is a Forest Park, and is well-loved by local people.  I recently headed out one evening after work to explore it anew for this post.

The most popular route up The Chevin is via the Victorian steps that climb straight up to Surprise View from Otley’s old railway station.  It’s a good route, but it is a very steep climb and you do miss out the western end of the ridge.  I prefer to use the paths that climb up from West Chevin Road, or as on this occasion, Sinclair Field.


Great Dib from Sinclar’s Field



The path climbs along an escarpment through the trees


Almscliffe Crag seen across the valley


Great Dib – the steep slope here is the result of a post-glacial landslip

I headed from Great Dip up onto the highest parts of The Chevin.  The summit itself isn’t particularly exciting and I didn’t visit it on this occasion.  Far more impressive is nearby Surprise View (925 ft), which most people believe to be the summit anyway.  This stands in an area of open moorland, well above the woods.


Open moorland near Surprise View


The gritstone outcrop at Surprise View


The person in this shot is standing on the highest of the rocks at Surprise View


Looking north-west up Wharfedale.  Round Hill is the furthest hill in view.


Looking east from Surprise View.  In exceptionally clear weather, the white horse at Kilburn in the North York Moors can be seen.

From Surprise View, I headed along Miller Lane to the Danefield Estate, the lower and more densely wooded eastern half of The Chevin.


The sun was nicely catching this birch in Cleaver Wood

As I climbed up to Deer Park Plantation, a red kite flew just above the tops of the trees; a beautiful sight with the sun lighting up the underside of the body.  However, I wasn’t quick enough with the camera to get a photo.


Deer Park Plantation

The highest part of the Danefield Estate is crowned by a trig point, which must have had an extensive view when it was first erected.  It now stands forlornly in a fire break between Deer Park and Memorial Plantations.


The lonely trig point

The red kite came back to taunt me as I was standing by the trig point, this time making sure that it was just high enough in the sky to make a poor photograph.


Path junction at Flint Wood.  You could go for a different walk every day for a week or more on The Chevin, there are so many paths.

I headed down through Quarry Wood towards Caley Deer Park, passing the only wetland area on the hill as I went.


Wetland area above Caley Deer Park


Part of the old deer park

J. M. W. Turner used to stay at Farnley Hall on the other side of the valley.  The Hall was the seat of the Fawkes family, who owned the Danefield Estate at that time, and it was whilst staying with the family that Turner was inspired by a thunderstorm passing over The Chevin to paint Hannibal Crossing the Alps.  Turner would also later paint the crags themselves.


Looking across to Washburndale from above Caley Deer Park


Knotford Nook and the entrance to Washburndale from the ‘Turner viewpoint’, as I call it

From the deer park I headed back west, passing the Main Crag en route.  Though popular with climbers, there weren’t any about on this occasion.


Caley Crags


Another View of the crag

Beyond the crags, I headed through Poolscar Wood and soon found myself at one of my favourite spots on The Chevin, the bridge over the Holbeck.  One day I intend to walk the full length of this beck, keeping as close to the water as I can.


Looking up the Holbeck…


…And looking down

Foxscar Wood is home to the remains of an Iron-Age settlement, though it has to be admitted that a very good imagination is required to reconstruct it.


The site of the Iron-Age settlement

Danefield Wood, the westernmost of the plantations on the Danefield Estate, puts on a great display of bluebells in May.  I noticed that they were just starting to come out as I passed and made a mental note to return in a week or two.

The Chevin had one final treat in store for me – as I crossed East Chevin Road, I was witness to the most glorious sunset.  I’ll leave you with a few pictures of it – which show far better than my words can why you shouldn’t dismiss what you can find from your front door.


Fountains Fell 07.06.2015

Fountains Fell is a fairly shy and retiring mountain standing between the Malham Tarn area and Penyghent.  Its proximity to these honeypots and its comparatively unexciting form perhaps go some way to explaining its neglect.  Even the Pennine Way avoids the summit, crossing the fell around half a mile from the highest point.  Nevertheless, the full traverse of the ridge makes for a satisfying and enjoyable round with far reaching views across the Dales, and is a good choice for anyone seeking seclusion in this ever popular area.

Although it’s possible to climb Fountains Fell from Malham Tarn, I always feel that I’m cheating if I start halfway up the hill, so we set out from Malham village instead.  This also gave us chance to enjoy the truly spectacular limestone scenery of the cove and the dry valley en route.

Malham Cove

Malham Cove

Although we could hear the peregrines as we climbed the path at the side of the cove, we weren’t lucky enough to see them, and they were silent again by the time we had reached the top.  We therefore continued up through the Watlowes Valley and part way up, we were rewarded with the sight of a weasel running about in the scree just to the side of the path, seemingly oblivious to our presence.  It was certainly by far best view I’d ever had of a weasel.

Watlowes Valley

Watlowes Valley



It wasn’t long before we passed the water sinks and reached Malham Tarn, where our objective came into view for the first time.

Water sinks

Water sinks

Fountains Fell comes into view across Malham Tarn

Fountains Fell comes into view across Malham Tarn

Beyond the tarn, we cut across to the bridleway that runs under Knowe Fell, before joining a path that was waymarked by the National Trust some years ago and which joins the ridge just to the north east of Knowe Fell.  There wasn’t much sign that anybody really uses the path!  It was a pleasant ascent though, accompanied all the while by the cries of the curlews, lapwings, skylarks and golden plovers.  There were also many mountain pansies and cuckoo flowers in evidence.  I investigated several shake holes as well, several of which had rabbit holes in the bottom, though it didn’t appear to me that any of them were in use by potholers.

Mountain pansies

Mountain pansies

Great Whernside on the horizon

Great Whernside on the horizon

Cuckoo flowers

Cuckoo flowers

The route along the ridge thankfully was much drier than usual, and we were soon enjoying the views across to Penyghent.  We also stopped to enjoy the antics of a couple of golden plovers for several minutes.

Golden plover

Golden plover



It wasn’t long before we reached the South Top of Fountains Fell (2172 ft), on which a neat new summit cairn now stands, it having been unmarked on my last visit.  Presumably this was erected by enthusiastic Nuttall baggers.  Just below this top lies Fountains Fell Tarn.  There were also large numbers of cloudberry plants growing in this area, though it was too early for any of the fruit to have developed.

Summit cairn on Fountains Fell South Top

Summit cairn on Fountains Fell South Top

Cloudberry flower

Cloudberry flower

Fountains Fell Tarn

Fountains Fell Tarn

Beyond the tarn, we made our way up the final rise to the summit of Fountains Fell (2192 ft), where we encountered a couple of amateur radio enthusiasts sitting in a hollow.  Not wishing to disturb them, we dropped down to cross the Pennine Way and continued on our way to Darnbrook Fell, the second of Fountains Fell’s subsidiary tops.  It was only in the vicinity of the summit and the Pennine Way that we met any other walkers on the fell.

Looking to Penyghent from near the summit

Looking to Penyghent from near the summit

Looking back to Fountains Fell from the ridge to Darnbrook Fell

Looking back to Fountains Fell from the ridge to Darnbrook Fell

Halton Gill in Littondale

Halton Gill in Littondale

The trig point on the summit of Darnbrook Fell (2047 ft) now stands well proud of the surrounding peat, demonstrating how quickly it has eroded away – in the course of no more than 80 years.

Darnbrook Fell's undistinguished summit

Darnbrook Fell’s undistinguished summit

From Darnbrook Fell, the ridge line led us down to the Malham Tarn to Arncliffe road, with improving views down both sides.

Looking down into Littondale

Looking down into Littondale

Limestone tiers on the slopes of Fountains Fell

Limestone tiers on the slopes of Fountains Fell

The mile or so that we had to walk along the road before we could join the Pennine Way to return to Malham Tarn seemed to drag on for far longer than it should have.  Having re-joined the outward route at the Tarn, it was a simple matter to follow it through Watlowes Valley and past the Cove and so back to the village.  In such magnificent surroundings, repetition is never a hardship.

Watlowes Valley re-visited

Watlowes Valley re-visited

Limestone pavement at the top of Malham Cove

Limestone pavement at the top of Malham Cove

Looking down Malhamdale from the cove

Looking down Malhamdale from the cove

Some photos by Georgina Collins








Three peaks in upper Dovedale 17.05.2015

It’s often said that there are no peaks in the Peak District (cue lengthy explanation as to how the Peak District came to be so named).  However, this is in fact completely untrue and our route on this day was to take us over two of the best defined peaks in the Peak District – Parkhouse Hill and Chrome Hill, along with the nearby Hollins Hill, which although less shapely than the other two still makes a worthwhile and satisfying addition.

Leaving Earl Sterndale, it was surprisingly chilly for mid May and I soon had to pause to add en extra layer.  We headed up and over Hitter Hill, which provided early views of all three ‘peaks’.

Parkhouse and Chrome Hills from HItter Hill

From left to right: Parkhouse Hill, Chrome Hill and Hollins Hill

From below, Parkhouse Hill looks quite intimidating.  In fact, it is an easy climb on grass, and only takes around ten minutes.  In no time at all, we were enjoying far reaching views from the summit (1180 ft).

Approaching the summit of Parkhouse Hill

Approaching the summit of Parkhouse Hill

Chrome Hill from the summit of Parkhouse Hill

Chrome Hill from the summit of Parkhouse Hill

Descending from the summit via the west ridge, there are several options for easy grade 1 scrambling.  I must admit that I chose to bypass some of them as the wind was quite strong and I’m not as confident in my down-climbing ability!

Easy scrambling on the way down

Easy scrambling on the way down


Not as scary as it looks!

Unfortunately, it’s necessary to descend all the way to valley level before the ascent of Chrome Hill begins.  It’s a slightly longer ascent to Chrome Hill, though it isn’t as steep as Parkhouse Hill.  The retrospective views to Parkhouse Hill and lower Dovedale are magnificent and provide a good excuse to pause on the way up.

Parkhouse Hill from Chrome Hill

Parkhouse Hill from Chrome Hill

Chrome Hill’s summit (1394 ft) is also a magnificent viewpoint.  It surprised me to discover just how much smaller Parkhouse Hill appeared to be.

Hollins Hill from Chrome Hill's summit

Hollins Hill from Chrome Hill’s summit

Parkhouse Hill from Chrome Hill's summit

Parkhouse Hill from Chrome Hill’s summit

There is also some easy scrambling on the descent from Parkhouse Hill, though it is less continuous and easier than on the latter.  We also found some intriguing rock features en route, including a natural arch and a cave.

Natural arch

Natural arch

More easy scrambling moves

More easy scrambling moves

Cave on the descent path

Cave on the descent path

A slightly circuitous route has to be followed to reach Hollins Hill, but it’s a pleasant walk passing Tor Rock and with impressive views back to Chrome Hill.


Looking back at Chrome Hill

Hollins Hill is very different in form to Chrome and Parkhouse Hills.  There are no sharp ridges here, though the northern edge drops off quite steeply, giving excellent views across to Chrome Hill on the other side of the valley.  Its summit (1476 ft) is the highest of the day and is crowned by an ancient tumulus.

Chrome Hill from Hollins Hill with High Wheeldon in the background

Chrome Hill from Hollins Hill with High Wheeldon in the background

Below Hollins Hill, we passed through a short stretch of woodland where there was a beautiful display of bluebells.

Bluebells below Hollins Hill

Bluebells below Hollins Hill

Bluebell carpet

Bluebell carpet

Shortly afterwards, we crossed the infant River Dove to enter Staffordshire for a short distance. Our return route took us through the picturesque village of Hollinsclough and alongside the youthful Dove, before traversing the lower slopes of Parkhouse Hill and re-crossing Hitter Hill to return to our start point in Earl Sterndale.

Parkhouse Hill proving that there really are peaks in the Peak District

Parkhouse Hill proving that there really are peaks in the Peak District

Some photos by Georgina Collins

Beamsley Beacon and Round Hill 18.01.15

Strangely enough, despite having lived in Otley for almost two years, I had never climbed Beamsley Beacon or Round Hill, even though I must have been able to see the latter almost every day.  Indeed, Round Hill must be as close to home as Ilkley Moor, yet I have walked on Ilkley Moor countless times.  Keen to remedy this omission, and looking forward to seeing the renowned views from Beamsley Beacon at last, we planned a route that would take us up to it from Bolton Abbey, along the ridge to Round Hill, and down to Ilkley for the bus home.  Although fairly modest in terms of distance (around 10 miles), we thought it would be enough for a short January day, particularly as we were expecting to find snow underfoot.  The weather forecast promised a largely bright and sunny day, but that turned out to be somewhat overly-optimistic…

Alighting from the bus at Bolton Abbey, we made our way across the river (using the bridge rather than the submerged stepping stones), and up the bridleway to Storiths.  Just as we reached the higher level path on the eastern side of the river, the snow began to fall, which did at least provide an atmospheric view down to the priory.


Looking down to Bolton Priory and the Wharfe from the high-level path on the eastern side of the river

Undaunted, we made our way to Storiths and followed a pleasant field path across to the A59, before dropping down to Deerstones and ascending towards Beamsley Beacon from there.  Despite the snow, the paths were surprisingly easy to follow.


Snow-covered pastures near Storiths


Looking up to Beamsley Beacon from near Ling Chapel Farm

On beginning the climb along the ridge to the beacon, we were very quickly enveloped in mist, but as the ridge line is fairly rocky, it wasn’t hard to follow.  It didn’t take long at all to reach the trig point, but there was no view – in fact by this time we were in near whiteout conditions.


Heading along the ridge


At the trig point with the beacon site behind

Beyond Beamsley Beacon, I had my doubts as to whether or not we should continue, as visibility was very poor.  However, the path was just about visible as a depression in the snow, and my compass bearings confirmed that this was taking us towards Round Hill, so we decided to give it a go.  It was actually very atmospheric and enjoyable, and proof (if any were needed) that you don’t need to go to the Lakes or the Highlands to find challenging navigation (although the consequences of getting lost in a whiteout there would of course be much more serious.)


The onward path to Round Hill

Shortly after passing the trig point, we reached the actual summit of Beamsley Beacon (1312 ft), which is named ‘The Old Pike’ on the map, but doesn’t seem to be marked on the ground in any way.  Beyond here, the terrain became much more featureless, with only the occasional boundary stone to act as a marker, including one set into a natural boulder, named by the OS as the ‘Grey Stone.’  Shortly after this, we reached the wall running across the top of Round Hill.


The wall near the summit of Round Hill

The summit of Round Hill (1342 ft) came as something of a disappointment really, as it is marked only by a very small cairn and is really only a slightly higher mound on a moorland plateau.  It’s certainly much less distinctive than Beamsley Beacon, even though the latter is only a subsidiary top of Round Hill.  I can’t say what it is like as a viewpoint, as we could only see mist and snow.


On the summit of Round Hill

The descent from Round Hill was pretty straightforward, initially following a wall, before joining a shooting track and then a lane down into the town.  On the way down, we passed through Middleton Woods, which it would be good to explore on another occasion.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable walk, despite the weather.  Although we were disappointed not to have seen the views from Beamsley Beacon, the day was made memorable by the winter conditions and interesting navigation.  I will now have to go back and do this walk on a day of bright sunshine a blue skies!

All photos by Georgina Collins.

Middleton Fell 31.08.14

The last day of August saw me finally getting around to Middleton Fell.  I’ve been meaning to climb it for years, but somehow never yet managed it.  You could be forgiven for never having heard of Middleton Fell.  It features on few walkers’ radars, which I suspect is largely attributable to two factors – firstly, its failure (by two feet!) to reach 2000 feet, and secondly, its failure (by a similar margin, as it happens) to gain inclusion in the Yorkshire Dales National Park – the boundary wall runs right next to the summit trig!  Happily, this omission, which is due to the fact that the same wall also forms the boundary between Yorkshire and Westmorland, may be rectified later this year.

It was a perfect walking morning when I left Barbon – warm (but not too warm), a gentle breeze blowing, and good visibility.  The first section of the route, through the fields, is none too obvious (a foretaste of things to come on the return route), but once above the intake wall, navigation couldn’t be simpler.  The initial stages of the ascent are very steep, but with fine retrospective views (unfortunately marred, though not ruined, by a recently-built wind farm) towards the Lakeland fells.

Fine retrospective views; Hutton Roof Crags on the horizon

Fine retrospective views; Hutton Roof Crags on the horizon

As I climbed, I noticed that the rock was not the millstone grit typically found in the higher parts of the Dales, but appeared to be more slate-like, like the Howgills immediately to the north.  Indeed, the whole character of the fell is more akin to the Howgills than the rest of the Dales.  On reaching Eskholme Pike, the gradient eases considerably, and a reasonable path develops.  This leads in time to Middleton Fell’s only subsidiary top, Castle Knott (1765 ft).

North along the ridge from Castle Knott's summit cairn

North along the ridge from Castle Knott’s summit cairn

Casterton Fell from Castle Knott

Casterton Fell from Castle Knott

The col below Castle Knott is rather boggy, but as there had been little rain recently, was not too difficult to negotiate.  The slopes beyond, which lead up to the summit of the fell, had a patchy covering of heather in full bloom, which made a pleasing contrast to the uniformly grassy nature of Castle Knott.  I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I reached the summit, which is also known as Calf Top (1998 ft).  This is an excellent viewpoint, with the Howgills, Dentdale, and the Lakeland fells being particularly well seen.  In fact, the Lake District is sufficiently close that it is possible to pick out individual fells: I managed to identify Black Combe, Great Gable, the Langdale Pikes, Ill Bell and several others.

The Howgills from the summit trig

The Howgills from the summit trig

They don't really show up very well at all in this picture, but there is a superb view to the Lakeland fells from the summit

They don’t really show up very well at all in this picture, but there is a superb view to the Lakeland fells from the summit

Around a mile beyond the summit, a stile to the right allows access to Combe Scar, which is a particularly fine viewpoint for Dentdale.  From here, I heard a pair of buzzards calling to one another, and watched as they were chased by crows.  Unfortunately, they were too far away to photograph.

Upper Dentdale from Combe Scar

Upper Dentdale from Combe Scar

Lower Dentdale and the Howgills from Combe Scar

Lower Dentdale and the Howgills from Combe Scar

Returning to the ridge path via a second stile, I continued westwards, accompanied all the way by little flocks of wheatear, as indeed I had been for much of the day.  The main path starts to descend after a mile or so, but I stayed with the ridge as far as the trig point on Holme Knott.

More Lakeland views on the ridge to Holme Knott

More Lakeland views on the ridge to Holme Knott

Here a met a couple of gents who had walked up from Sedbergh, bringing the total number of other walkers met to five!  Proof if any were needed that it is possible to escape the crowds, even on sunny Sundays in August.  From here I dropped straight down to Middleton, passing Fellside farm en route.  A narrow strip of Access Land continues right down to the A683, and at one point the route passes through a lovely area of devil’s-bit scabious, where a red admiral posed beautifully for me, though not for long enough for me to photograph it!

Wildflower meadow seen in descent

Wildflower meadow seen in descent

I had hoped that it might be possible to follow the old railway line back to Barbon.  This is the old Clapham to Low Gill route, which briefly formed part of the Midland Railway’s main line to Scotland, prior to the construction of the Settle to Carlisle line.  However, there was no sign that access is available, and I was instead left to follow a succession of field paths, which though pleasant enough, certainly don’t compare to the heights above.  They are obviously not very well-used either, and although they are perfectly passable, it is necessary to refer to the map constantly.  Incidentally, at Low Wood Farm, there is an information board giving details of a permissive path up on to the fell via Brow Gill.  What a shame this isn’t marked on the map.

Castle Knott, seen from the field path near Ullathorns

Castle Knott, seen from the field path near Ullathorns

Millhouse Beck, the prettiest point on the return route

Millhouse Beck, the prettiest point on the return route

I eventually arrived back at Barbon around seven hours after I had left, and having enjoyed the walk immensely.  Middleton Fell richly deserves to be better known, and certainly merits inclusion in the National Park.  If I had to pick out the highlight of the walk, I would say without hesitation that it is the views, particularly towards the Lake District.