Monthly Archives: June 2014
From Wild Boar Fell to Baugh Fell
We awoke quite early, the rising sun shining on the back of the tent warming us up nicely. With a mix of dozing and chatting we passed the time until about 8am when Edward finally persuaded me to get a brew on. Breakfast was a sort of Alpen Porage -I always pre-mix the Alpen with sugar and dried milk so it gets stirred into hot water as a quick, warming fix.
After breakfast, while I was doing the necessary camp chores Ed went off to play on the ‘beach’ next to the tent. Amazing how such a simple thing brings so much pleasure to a small boy.
A while later we were packed up and ready to leave. Retracing our steps to the summit plateau we headed across to the fence line which we followed West then South before descending to Uldale Gill. The going was quite easy, not too boggy but still no paths. Definitely an area to test navigational skills in poor weather. We kept to the right hand bank (Northern) of the gill and contoured across the hillside before tracking around Grain Gill. We followed another fence line down Needlehouse Gill to the farmhouse access road where we stopped for a lunch break.
After a 25 minute rest and a fill of tuna wraps, lumps of cheese and chorizo we were on our way again. We descended to the very young River Rawthey and followed it upstream to Slate gill where we searched for a way up onto Baugh Fell. Near the gill were old quarry workings which made access to the fell quite tricky, unless you fancied climbing crumbly rock faces. I didn’t think Ed’s mum would approve of such a route so we sought out an easier grassy slope. From the top of Slate Gill we set off on a bearing of (more or less) South which would take us to West Baugh Fell Tarn -our expected home for the night. The walking was heavy going. Tussocky grass and patches of bog all on a reasonably steep hillside. After an hour (which felt like forever) Edward was getting tired and beginning to complain loudly. To distract him from his tired legs I’d ask him a question about Minecraft, a computer game he’s obsessed about. “Can you… …make cakes in Minecraft?” “Oh yes Dad, you can…” and so on for a while before remembering he was tired. “Are there… elephants in Minecraft?” Another period of forgetting the ache.
Eventually, after a couple of false horizons, heads of two other people appeared over the hillside. The first people we’d seen since mid-afternoon the day before. They were a couple with a dog out for an afternoon’s wander on the moor. They hadn’t expected to see anyone else either. We chatted a while about the emptiness of the fells and they expressed surprise that Ed was only six and carrying his own pack. We set up our tent on the shore of the lake while the couple enjoyed the view before setting off, leaving us the fell to ourselves. This time we’d set up the tent with the lake behind us. This was to allow views of the Howgills and of the sunrise and also to keep the porch sheltered from the breeze.
We spent the afternoon lazing in and around the tent, just chatting and playing top trumps (Transformers). An evening meal of roasted vegetable couscous with chorizo and dried apricots, instant soup and Jamaican ginger cake replenished our energy levels.
From certain angles the tarn looked almost like an infinity pool. The area surrounding it was barely above the water and dropped away steeply. Looking out of the tent made it look like we were on top of the world.
Bed time came quite early as I wanted to get a decent early start the next day. We had a train to catch and more importantly, I wanted to get to the pub in time for lunch before the train.
The Sunday morning sunrise shone brightly through the open door of the tent waking me at about 5am. I took a photo, rolled over and tried to get back to sleep. Half sleeping, half shuffling around in my bed I finally gave up at 6.30 and made coffee. After the usual breakfast we packed and were on our way by 8am.
The clear skies had given away to patches of mist and a cloud inversion between us and the Howgills. By the time we set off it was compass work to get us to the trig point at Knoutberry Haw, a handy marker point on the fence line we would follow for the next few hours.
The terrain here was some of the most challenging yet and progress was slow. There were loads of large patches of bog, some of which were alarmingly deep -my walking poles went in an awfully long way! After about three miles of hard work and descent from the fell (and distracting Minecraft conversations) we came to the road. I’d promised Edward that at this point I’d lighten his backpack and he could eat the last remaining cereal bar. Promises kept, we set off towards the pub.
After 2 days of isolation we were all of a sudden back into the busy world. Packs of motorbikes whizzed past. Lycra-clad cyclists slightly-less-than-whizzed past -some looked downright knackered. I checked my watch, we had plenty of time for the extra mile to the Moorcock Inn. Edward was keen to get to the pub as he insisted he would have an adult portion. My wallet longed for the days where he’d be satisfied with a child’s portion. We arrived at the pub at 11:40 -twenty minutes before opening time. We took off our packs and sat at an outdoor table enjoying the sun and the views and wondering what we’d be eating.
The pub opened at 12pm on the dot and we were first inside. Half a coke, a pint of the local ale and a menu were ordered. We pored greedily over the delicious sounding choices, settling eventually for a pork and apple burger (Ed) and Lamb Koftas with feta cheese salad (me). We sank into some chairs by the window and relaxed, Edward happy to be finished walking.
The food arrived and was consumed rapidly. I enjoyed mine but was quite jealous of the plump burger with large slab of local cheese which topped it.
Another round of drinks, the bill paid and we shouldered our packs for the final time.
We took the Pennine Bridleway back to the train station as it was slightly shorter and not along the road. I was surprised to find it as it was not marked on my recently purchased OS map of the area. We got to Garsdale station with about 20 minutes to spare, just a little while longer to enjoy the views.
This was my first visit to this area but it has whetted my appetite for more. I’ve not felt isolation like it anywhere in England. No people, no paths. Definitely my cup of tea.
If Wordsworth wanted to ‘wander lonely as a cloud’ he’d be hard-pressed to manage it in the Lake District these days. A much better option would be to head to the far Eastern edge of Cumbria, in a place which is partly in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
The valley of Mallerstang is North East of Sedbergh, East of the Howgill fells and South of Kirkby Stephen. It is bordered by rugged fells and contains at least two ruined castles. There are suprisingly few visitors, despite it being clearly marked on Ordnance Survey maps and not requiring teleportation to reach it. It has a train line and everything.
Edward and I took took the train from Shipley at around 11am on Friday morning. By 12.30 we were in Kirkby Stephen at the Northern end of Mallerstang. We shouldered our packs, checked the maps and set off. Within 5 minutes Edward had stumbled, unused to carrying a pack. I removed some of the gear from his pack into mine and we were off again. We headed East towards the River Eden which flows through the valley, aiming to follow it towards Pendragon Castle.
The going was very easy, footpaths marked on the map were either farm tracks or trails of discoloured grass across fields.
After a short while we came across the ruins of a castle that I’d not noticed on the map, Lammerside Castle. We had a poke about inside it -as had several sheep from the look of it. A few photos later we continued south towards Pendragon Castle which was doing a good job of not being seen. We arrived at the castle to see several signs declaring it closed for repairs and there was no access to it. Oh well, best get onto the fells then.
We retraced our steps a little way and began to climb up the valley side towards Wild Boar Fell. A farmer fixing his dry stone wall would be the last person we’d see until late the next afternoon.
The views around the valley were very good, nothing to dramatic or awe-inspiring, just good hill and moorland country, unspoiled by heavily worn paths or herds of walkers. The ground showed very little sign of walkers ever being there in the first place. As we ascended towards Little Fell (559m) and High Dolphinsty Edward began to tire. He’d not uttered a word of complaint so far despite walking for several hours and carrying a load of about 3kg. “Almost there” I said. Countless times. “Just a bit farther…”. The ground began to steepen as we climbed towards a rocky promontory called The Nab. It was a sharp rocky edge with steep cliffs below it -quite a different character to the rolling grassland we’d travelled across so far.
Our destination was a wild camp at Sand Tarn a little way to the West and below the summit of the Nab. We turned towards the trig point of Wild Boar Fell, every step Edward was getting more tired and a little grumpy. Immediately after passing the trig point the ground falls away and the tarn is clear to see. This had an amazing effect on Edward who was all of a sudden recharged and ready to go. We got down to the lake in no time and he’d already chosen a spot for our tent. Throughout the day we’d discussed what makes a good place for your tent (not a swamp, flat, not in the strong wind, good views). The tent was pitched a couple of metres from the lake shore close to the sandy beach at the end. As soon as the tent was up Ed was off circumnavigating the lake, all tiredness forgotten.