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

Weasel

Weasel

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

Penyghent

Penyghent

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

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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.

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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

Glen Sannox and Glen Rosa 05.04.2015

The through route between Glens Sannox and Rosa, via The Saddle, is often said to be the best walk on Arran that doesn’t actually ascend to a mountain summit.  It’s still a mountain walk though – The Saddle is at an altitude of 1417 feet on the ridge that connects Goat Fell with Cir Mhor, and given that both ends of the route are at sea level, there’s a fair amount of ascent and descent.  There’s even a short section of scrambling to add a bit of excitement to the outing. Throughout the ferry crossing, we’d been in thick fog, though given the excellent forecast we were optimistic that this would either burn off or that we’d climb through it and witness a cloud inversion.  It was still pretty foggy as we left the bus at Sannox and headed up the bottom of the glen, so we didn’t rush, in the hope that the clouds would begin to part.

Cascades in Glen Sannox

Cascades in Glen Sannox

Luckily, our optimism wasn’t misplaced, as the clouds started to clear the tops after we’d been walking for a couple of miles, so for the first time we were able to see the mountains that enclose the glen: Goat Fell, Cir Mhor and Caisteal Abhail.

Cir Mhor emerges from the mist

Cir Mhor emerges from the mist

A thin belt of cloud hanging below Goatfell

A thin belt of cloud hanging below Goat Fell

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Retrospective view down the glen to the fog-covered Firth of Clyde and the Ayrshire coast beyond

Just before we began the climb out of the glen, the path crossed the Sannox Burn, from which we were able to refill our water bottles and enjoy some of the tastiest water I have ever drunk.  As we began to climb, exciting views opened up towards Caisteal Abhail, and we were still able to catch glimpses of the fog hanging over the sea.

Slabs below Coire na h-Uaimh, with Caisteal Abhail behind

Slabs below Coire na h-Uaimh, with Caisteal Abhail behind

Just before the summit of The Saddle is reached, there’s a short scramble up Whin Dyke, though it’s fairly straightforward (grade 1 at a guess).  There is some loose rock though, so you do have to be careful, as I found to my cost!

Ascending Whin Dyke

Ascending Whin Dyke

The summit of The Saddle made a superb picnic spot and gave us ample time to take in the magnificent views.  My interest was also aroused by a curious looking rock formation that I took to be some kind of volcanic intrusion, but so far I have been unable to verify this.  Perhaps some kind geologist will be able to identify it for me?

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The (as yet) unidentified formationThe (as yet) unidentified formation

Looking towards Goat Fell from The Saddle

Looking towards Goat Fell from The Saddle

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Another view along the ridge leading to Goat Fell

The only problem with walking over a pass is of course that as soon as you get to the top, you have to start going down again!  Thankfully the descent into Glen Rosa is fairly kind on the knees, and the views back up to the peaks are equally as stunning as those from Glen Sannox.  The burn running through the glen also offers plenty of interest and beautifully clear water.

A rock pool in Glen Rosa

A rock pool in Glen Rosa

Looking back to Cir Mhor

Looking back to Cir Mhor

In its lower reaches, the burn enters a narrow rocky gorge and the National Trust for Scotland has erected a deer fence around an enclosure here to allow the natural woodland to regenerate.  It was heartening to see that the scheme is already reaping rewards, with birch and pine trees starting to return, even if the fence itself is something of an eyesore. It was around this area that we saw a golden eagle, a life tick for me and consequently a matter of great excitement!  We watched it for some time as it soared above the Goat Fell ridge, though unfortunately it was too far away to get a decent photograph.  Nevertheless, it was undoubtedly a highlight of the walk.

Waterfall at the head of the rocky gorge

Waterfall at the head of the rocky gorge

DSCN0246Even after the excitement of seeing a golden eagle, the day had one last treat in store for us – a glorious sunset as we sailed back to the mainland.

Sunset over Arran

Sunset over Arran

Some pictures by Georgina Collins

Causeway Coast Path 29.03.2015

The Causeway Coast in County Antrim has to one of the most spectacular stretches of coastline anywhere in these islands.  I’d wanted to visit the Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede for some time, and with the walk between them being somewhere in the region of 10 miles, it seemed a good plan to walk from the one to the other, using the helpful bus service to make the journey in the opposite direction. Things didn’t look too promising when we alighted from the bus at the Causeway; the rain was heavier and more persistent than the forecast had suggested and didn’t seem to be in too much of a hurry to move on.  Undaunted, we headed down to the Causeway itself, telling ourselves that it was better to come on a wet and windy day, as this would keep some of the tourists away, and make the sea more dramatic. The Giant’s Causeway seems to divide opinion – I’d been told by some people that it was disappointing, while others had said it was one of the most spectacular sights they’d seen.  I suppose it all depends on what you’re expecting.  Personally, I thought it was amazing.  It may be relatively small, but what really impresses is the regularity of the formations.   Giants Causeway Giants Causeway1 ?????????? Giants Causeway3 Giants Causeway4 Giants Causeay5Legend has it that the Causeway was created by the Celtic giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (or Finn MacCool), so that he could fight his Scottish counterpart, Benandonner.  Perhaps this story was inspired by the presence of very similar formations on Staffa in the Inner Hebrides.  After all, at that time, it would have been much easier for the people of Antrim to travel to the Hebrides than to the rest of Ireland.  However, scientists now tell us that the 40 000 hexagonal columns are the result of a vertical breakage pattern in a cooling basaltic lava flow.

Although the Causeway is the highlight of this stretch of coastline, there are many fascinating formations to be found elsewhere.  Just beyond the Causeway is the Giant’s Boot, and beyond that, the Organ Pipes and the Chimney Tops.

Giant's Boot

Giant’s Boot

Organ Pipes

Organ Pipes

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Chimney Tops

Unfortunately, the exciting traverse path (visible on the above photo) is closed from a point just before the Chimney Tops are reached, due to land slippage.  We therefore had to turn around and ascend to the clifftops via the Shepherds Steps.  The cliff path is still a fantastic walk, though the lower path looks even better, and it’s sufficiently obvious that I think some daredevils must disregard the signs and barriers and use it regardless.

Looking back at the Chimney Stacks

Looking back at the Chimney Stacks

Luckily, the weather improved considerably shortly after we set out along the clifftops, and sun even began to shine!  Not so luckily, a couple of wet spots went unnoticed on the camera lens for a while, so some of the pictures are slightly spoiled by this.DSCN0107 DSCN0109 DSCN0112-2

The visibility even improved enough at time to allow us glimpses of Islay, with Rathlin was also being in view for much of the route.

Islay comes into view

Islay comes into view (far right)

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Rathlin Island

The whole route is so spectacular that it was hard to know when to stop taking photographs.  Here is just a selection from the next section, as we headed for Dunseverick Castle.DSCN0119 DSCN0123 DSCN0126 DSCN0136 DSCN0142There isn’t much left of Dunseverick Castle these days, but the setting is impressive enough.

Dunseverick Castle

Dunseverick Castle

Portnaweelan

Portnaweelan

Approaching Dunseverick Harbour

Approaching Dunseverick Harbour

Beyond Dunseverick Harbour, another section of the route has had to be re-routed due to land slippage.  Rather foolishly, we mistook the new path for the road-walking diversion that had been in place during its construction, and so ended up on the old path which although passable, was certainly rather awkward.  Shortly after this point, the path passes through a natural tunnel, which gives a lovely view of the wide sandy sweep of White Park Bay.

White Park bay through the natural tunnel

White Park bay through the natural tunnel

The next stage of the walk is a rather awkward clamber across slippery rocks, before crossing the full length of White Park Bay to reach Ballintoy.  Beyond Ballintoy, the coast coast is left (though only briefly) for the only time in the entire route, before rejoining it for the last half mile to Carrick-a-Rede.

We arrived at Carrick-a-Rede to discover that the rope bridge had already closed for the day, which was a shame as this would have made a fantastic finale to the walk.  Luckily, all was not lost as we were able to return the next morning, which at least meant that we were able to devote the time it deserved.

Georgina crosses the rope bridge

Georgina crosses the rope bridge

Looking down through the rope bridge

Looking down through the rope bridge

The rope bridge was originally constructed to allow salmon fishermen to access the tiny island of Carrick-a-Rede, which lies on the migration route for Atlantic salmon (hence the name, which means ‘rock in the road’ in Scottish Gaelic).  It has now been in use for around 300 years.  It certainly makes a wonderful end point for this magnificent and varied walk along the north Antrim coast.

Looking back to Carrick-a-Rede

Looking back to Carrick-a-Rede

Some photos by Georgina Collins.

Bowfell and Crinkle Crags 21.03.2015

Waking up to the forecast bright and sunny morning, plans were quickly made for a round of Bowfell and Crinkle Crags, with the option of Pike o’ Blisco if time and energy allowed.  We left the hut at around 9 am, making good progress along Mickleden and up the excellently repaired path that zig-zags up the slopes to the side of Rossett Gill.  What little cloud there had been first thing was rapidly burning off by this time, boding well for the views from the tops.

Rossett Pike from Mickleden

Rossett Pike from Mickleden

View down Mickleden from top of Rossett Gill

View down Mickleden from top of Rossett Gill

Angle Tarn from the head of Rossett Gill

Angle Tarn from the head of Rossett Gill

After a quick breather at the top of Rossett Gill, we decided to make a quick out-and-back to Rossett Pike (2136 ft), as this was one of Keith’s outstanding Wainwrights.  I was glad that we did as it only takes about five minutes to reach the top, and we were rewarded with superb views down into Mickleden and the head of Langdale.

Heading for Rossett Pike

Heading for Rossett Pike

Towards Langdale from Rossett Pike

Towards Langdale from Rossett Pike

After dropping down to the delectable Angle Tarn (must make this a destination for a wild camp someday), we headed up Ore Gap towards Bowfell.  From here onwards, stunning retrospective views to the Scafells, still with snow in the gullies, were to be had.  I made a quick detour to bag Bowfell North Top (2841 ft) – one of my outstanding Nuttalls – and was surprised to find a small tarn en route that was still completely frozen.  After bagging the North Top, I re-joined the others just below the main summit (2960 ft), where we were able to find a lovely sheltered spot to eat lunch.  In the sun, it almost felt like summer.

Esk Pike

Esk Pike

A frozen tarn below Bowfell North Top

A frozen tarn below Bowfell North Top

Bowfell fron the North Top

Bowfell fron the North Top

Langdale from Bowfell

Langdale from Bowfell

Scafells from Bowfell

Scafells from Bowfell

Crinkle Crags from Bowfell

Crinkle Crags from Bowfell

Marie left us a Three Tarns to head down the Band, as she was still experiencing some pain as a result of a broken ankle last year.  The rest of us continued over the Crinkles, though I couldn’t resist detouring to bag a couple more Nuttalls on the way – Shelter Crags North Top (2543 ft) and Shelter Crags (2674 ft) – particularly as on previous visits, I’d never been able to work out exactly which of the many lumps and bumps they were.

Scafells from Three Tarns

Scafells from Three Tarns

Bowfell from Shelter Crags North Top

Bowfell from Shelter Crags North Top

Bowfell from Shelter Crags

Bowfell from Shelter Crags

The views from the summit of Crinkle Crags (2818 ft) were outstanding, and I was just able to pick out the Isle of Man (though I haven’t been able to identify it in my photograph).  Just below the summit, the Bad Step provided the briefest of scrambling fixes (grade 1, but it’s only 10 feet high!)

Oxendale fron the Gunson Knott gully

Oxendale fron the Gunson Knott gully

Out to sea from the summit of Crinkle Crags

Out to sea from the summit of Crinkle Crags

Descending the Bad Step (1)

Descending the Bad Step (1)

Descending the Bad Step (2)

Descending the Bad Step (2)

Beyond the South Top (2736 ft), I left the others to head off on my own on an extended Nuttall bagging trip.  I headed first for Little Stand (2428 ft), which has perhaps the best view of the Scafells of the entire route.  It was quite a relief to leave the heavily eroded paths behind – although this area is still really a part of Crinkle Crags, it’s away from the main ridge traverse or popular ascents and consequently sees far fewer people.  There are paths, but they are fairly intermittent, particularly in the wetter areas.  There’s still plenty of rock around, but far less than on the main ridge, so there are a few boggy areas, but also a number of attractive tarns.

Looking towards Little Stand

Looking towards Little Stand

The Scafells from Little Stand

The Scafells from Little Stand

Cold Pike and Pike o' Blisco

Cold Pike and Pike o’ Blisco

Leaving Little Stand, I headed next for Cold Pike Far West Top (2198 ft), which according to the Nuttalls ‘must be one of the most unfrequented summits in the Lakes.’  It’s an attractive top though, and I hope that this won’t be the only time I visit.  I continued to Cold Pike West Top (2241 ft), before finally heading for Cold Pike itself (2300 ft), which is a superb viewpoint for the Coniston fells and for Pike o’ Blisco.  By this time, the sunlight had started to take on its softer evening qualities, which highlighted the complexity of the landscape beautifully.

Cold Pike Far West Top above Gaitscale Gill

Cold Pike Far West Top above Gaitscale Gill

Looking back towards the Crinkles from Cold Pike

Looking back towards the Crinkles from Cold Pike

Pike o' Blisco and Red Tarn from Cold Pike

Pike o’ Blisco and Red Tarn from Cold Pike

Wetherlam from Cold Pike

Wetherlam from Cold Pike

I was tempted at this point to drop straight down to Red Tarn, but resisted and headed back up towards the Crinkles so as to visit Great Knott (2283 ft), my last ‘new’ Nuttall for the day.  It’s surprising that more people don’t make the detour as it’s only a couple of minutes away from the main path and is a fabulous viewpoint for the head of Langdale.  Still, I’m as guilty as everybody else, as I’d never visited it on any of my several previous traverses of the Crinkles.

Langdale from Great Knott

Langdale from Great Knott

Bowfell and Glaramara from Great Knott

Bowfell and Glaramara from Great Knott

Zooming in on Skiddaw from Great Knott

Zooming in on Skiddaw from Great Knott

Back now on the main path, I dropped down to Red Tarn, before making my final ascent of the day to Pike o’ Blisco (2313 ft).  Coming at the end of a fairly long day, this is quite a tiring climb, but it’s well worth it for the views from the top, as well as for avoiding the unpleasant descent into Oxendale.  I paused briefly at the summit to admire the breathtakingpanorama, before starting the long descent via Redacre Gill back to the valley.  So as to avoid walking on tarmac, I left the main path where a narrow traverse path heads directly for the head of the Blea Tarn road, and dropped down to the Old Dungeon Ghyll from there via the campsite.

Red Tarn and Wetherlam

Red Tarn and Wetherlam

Wetherlam and Swirl How from Pike o' Blisco

Wetherlam and Swirl How from Pike o’ Blisco

Langdale Pikes from Pike o' Blisco

Langdale Pikes from Pike o’ Blisco

Looking down into Great Langdale on the descent path

Looking down into Great Langdale on the descent path

Looking back up at the Crinkles from the valley bottom

Looking back up at the Crinkles from the valley bottom

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.

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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.

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Snow-covered pastures near Storiths

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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.

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Heading along the ridge

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.