Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Yorkshire 2000s - Great Whernside

Open Space Web-Map builder Code

Route: Kettlewell, Dowber Gill Beck, Hag Dike, Great Whernside, Blackfell Top, Black Dike Hole, Tor Dike, Tor Mere Top, Starbotton Peat Ground, Starbotton Cam Road, Starbotton, Dales Way

Date: 26/05/2013
From: Kettlewell

Parking: National Park Car Park
Start Point: Kettlewell
Region: Yorkshire Dales

Route length: 10 miles (16.1km)
Time taken: 04:40
Average speed: 2.1mph
Ascent: 707m
Descent: 707m

Yorkshire 2000s on this walk: Great Whernside (704m)

Additional summits: Blackfell Top (699m), Tor Mere Top (628m)

Other points of interest: Providence Pot, Tor Dike, Dales Way

Great Whernside stands tall, overlooking Kettlewell and its summit, like its larger namesake, forms part of the boundary of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Sara and I have been to Kettlewell many times in the past but never ventured up the slopes towards Great Whernside. It's fair to say that my appetite for hill climbing wasn't what it is now so it came a bit of a surprise just how close Great Whernside is to Kettlewell and what a great walk could be accomplished. What better way to spend a bank holiday weekend with friends?

Contrary to typical bank holiday weather, we were blessed with clear skies, bright sun and a light breeze. A perfect day to soak up the scenery of the Yorkshire Dales. We met a couple of friends, Lizzy and Jordan, at Kettlewell and, after improvising some parking we kitted up and headed out through the village. We had decided on a circular walk that started with a climb up alongside Dowber Gill Beck, a fine example of a landscape feature of the Yoredale rocks; smooth-faced waterfalls.
The smooth-faced waterfalls formed as water passes over varying layers of rock
Dowber Gill Beck
After a steady climb in the warm sunshine, we approached a large group of people who appeared to be heading the same way. Burdened by their numbers and small children, we quickly passed as they stopped for a break and left them behind. The top of the path leads to the location where Hag Dike Gill Beck and Dowber Gill Wham meet to form Dowber Gill Beck. At this location you can find Providence Pot; a substantial cave system that comprises a series of large chambers and narrow joining passages. It is easily accessible to cavers thanks to its sturdy concrete surround, complete with manhole cover! More information can be found here.

From here, we turned back on ourselves and headed up a steep path that climbed out of the Dowber Gill Beck valley before crossing a peaty bog to reach Hag Dyke. Hag Dyke is a Scout Hostel acquired in 1947 for the Ben Rhydding Scout and Guide Group. It's history of occupation dates back to 1730 but it's possible that it was built in the late 1600s as a miners accommodation for the nearby Dowber Ghyll lead mines.
Hag Dyke sitting proudly on the slopes of Great Whernside overlooking Wharfedale below
As midday approached, the climb up towards the summit steepened as we left Hag Dyke behind. The frequent breeze was a welcome inclusion to ward off any over-heating at this point. After negotiating a 100m climb, we caught out breath on some limestone outcrops before venturing across the boggy slopes that lie just below the summit. It's fair to say that my green boots didn't stay green for long.
The steep climb up from Hag Dyke 
Sara stops to catch her breath before crossing the bogs
Jordan heads across the bogs towards the summit
After a further 200m climb, we reached the summit of Great Whernside. The summit scenery reminded me a great deal of some of the Peak District edges, particularly the scattered, square millstone grit boulders ("Whern" is derived from "quern" meaning millstone). At 704m, Great Whernside is the 6th highest hill on the list detailed in my previous post. Until 1997, there was no public right of way to the summit before two paths were registered up to and across the summit. In 2000 the mountain became access land meaning you can now explore it all at your leisure. We took the opportunity to grab some lunch in the sheltered rocks before continuing along the summit ridge towards Blackfell Top.
The millstone grit topped summit of Great Whernside (704m)
Posing with the trig point
Looking north from the summit towards Blackfell Top and Blackfell Crags in the distance
The walk here was easy going, passing a large ramshackle shelter before starting a descent perpendicular to the summit ridge. Crossing Black Dike, another boggy area, we reached Tor Dike. Tor Dike is a 2000m long linear earthwork comprising of a ditch and rampart built in the 1st century AD by Iron Age tribes to defend themselves from the Romans. As you can see from the picture below, it's an impressive feature as the path climbs up alongside.
Tor Dike
Crossing the road that leads from Coverdale into Wharfedale, we entered the Access Land at Great Hunters Sleets and followed the rough path towards the summit of Tor Mere Top. Looking back presents a fine view of Great Whernside.
Panorama of Great Whernside from the path up Tor Mere Top
After a fairly strenuous climb through the afternoon heat and the long grass, we reached Tor Mere Top. At 628m it could be considered to be one of the Yorkshire 2000s however, the list I'm following is determined by the hill's status as a Nuttall, Hewitt or Marilyn. Unfortunately, Tor Mere Top's status as a Nuttall was revoked following improved mapping, removing its classification and its inclusion in the list.
The grassy summit of ex-Nuttall Tor Mere Top
With the briefest of stops to check the map, we started the descent towards Starbotton Cam Road to begin a 400m drop into Starbotton. Starbotton Cam Road is easy enough to walk down but the reflective white stones and stillness of the air in the valley made for a fairly hot and tiring descent. The road has some fine views of both Starbotton and also into the valley of Cam Gill Beck. Before long we reached Starbotton and crossed through the village to join the Dales Way, the walker's motorway, to head back to Kettlewell.
Sara follows the brightly lit Starbotton Cam Road to Starbotton
Starbotton Cam Road as viewed from the Dales Way, between Starbotton and Kettlewell
All that remained was a 2-mile stroll along the River Wharfe, dodging the sheep and crayfish, back to Kettlewell. It was at this point that we agreed it was a good idea not to increase the size of the walk by including Buckden Pike as the legs were starting to feel the strain. Buckden Pike will just have to be saved for another day.

All in all, I really enjoyed this walk, particularly as the weather was on our side for once. Morale is certainly much higher when cold water isn't being blasted into your face. The Dales is a wonderful place when the sun is shining, especially when spring is in full flow and the colours are at their brightest. Fingers crossed the weather will be as kind to us during future walks. I have a feeling that the landscape of Great Whernside will be synonymous with many of the walks I'll be doing as part of this quest. We'll just have to wait and see.

Next stop, the Howgills.