Friday, 31 May 2013

Yorkshire 2000s - Fell Head, Bush Howe, Bram Rigg Top, The Calf, Great Dummacks & Calders

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Route: Howgill Church, Gate Side, Beck House, Beck Houses Gate, Whin's End, Fell Head, Windscarth Wyke, Bush Howe, The Calf, Bram Rigg Top, Calders, Little Dummacks, Great Dummacks, Rowantree Grains Fold, Arrant Haw, Winder, Craggstone Wood, Howgill Lane

Date: 31/05/2013
From: Blandsgill

Parking: Lay-by at Howgill Church
Start Point: Howgill Church
Region: Howgill Fells

Route length: 11 miles (17.7km)
Time taken: 03:57
Average speed: 2.8mph
Ascent: 880m
Descent: 884m

Yorkshire 2000s on this walk: Fell Head (643m), Bush Howe (623m), The Calf (676m), Bram Rigg Top (672m), Great Dummacks (663m), Calders (674m)

Additional summits: Arrant Haw (605m), Winder (473m)

Other points of interest: Craggstone Wood

The Howgill Fells provide the link between the fells of the Lake District and the high hills of the Yorkshire Dales. Sitting between the two national parks provides unprecedented views across both. The Howgill Fells are home to a number of steep-sided hills, huddled together as if being crowded into a corner. Wainwright described them as looking like a herd of sleeping elephants and I rather like that.

The fells are home to 8 of the highest Yorkshire Dales peaks and this walk covers 6 of them in an 11-mile loop. What better way to really get the ball rolling on my aim to climb all 40?

I was really looking forward to this walk as I'd never been to the Howgills and they've been a bit of a mystery to me until now. My first real glimpse of the hills came as I was travelling along the main road through Garsdale. A large layby next to the road (which I assume is there so people can stop to capture the view) allowed me to pull over and snap the picture below.

The Howgill Fells from the A684
Very enticing indeed.

The day started with beautiful sunshine as I arrived in Blandsgill to park at the small church as recommended by a number of other walking blogs. For me, parking on a Friday morning wasn't a problem but there is only space for a few (3-4) cars so I'd recommend arriving early on a weekend.
The car park at the church looking 'busy'
After carefully hiding away any valuables and locking the car, I started the walk by heading north along Howgill Lane to Gate House where a footpath sign directs you through the farm at Beck House and out onto the lower slopes of Brown Moor. From here, you get a great view of Fell Head, the first of the six 2000s that I'd be covering.
Fell Head from Brown Moor
The path takes you on an anti-clockwise climb around the small valley of an un-named beck, allowing you to gain a steady 150m of height before the first real challenge of the day, the steep climb up the grassy tongue to the lower summit of Fell Head. It's one of the most strenuous climbs I've done in a while as the climb gains 240m in height for 900m of horizontal distance; a 27% gradient. Luckily for me, the clouds rolled in at this point making the hike slightly more pleasant if that was possible.
The steep path up Fell Head
The relatively flat (compared to the steep ascent just completed!) walk around the head of the valley of Crooked Ashmere Gills is a welcome relief to the slog up Fell Head and reaching the summit proper reveals some fantastic views down the valley. After an hour or so of walking, the first peak had been reached without meeting anybody else.
The summit of Fell Head and the ridge around the head of Crooked Ashmere Gills
The view down Crooked Ashmere Gills. Fell Head is on the right, Bush Howe on the left
Dropping off the summit of Fell Head, you're faced with another steep climb up onto Bush Howe. Nowhere near as long as the one up Fell Head but almost as steep, I really felt this one in the legs. Reaching the top of Bush Howe revealed the rest of the route up to The Calf while adding the second peak to the list.
The path up to The Calf and just be seen at the top of the picture
As you can see, the climb up to The Calf is fairly steady and doesn't take a long time to reach the summit. At 676m, The Calf is the highest peak in the Howgills range though isn't particularly pronounced. It sits on the shoulders of the fells that surround it. Despite this, views on a clear day are extensive, taking in the three peaks of Yorkshire and the high fells of the Lakes.
On top of The Calf, photo courtesy of my trusty little tripod. The Lake District can be seen in the background.
It was here that I decided to take a break and stop for lunch and that I saw my first other hikers of the day, a couple from Halifax of all places, not far from my neck of the woods. They had come up The Calf from Cautley Spout which they could only describe as 'steep' which is not a surprise. That walk's for another day.
The Lake District from The Calf. The Scafells can be seen just left of centre on the skyline
Three peaks down, three more to go. The three in question lie in a tight triangle just south of The Calf and all sit at similar elevations. The first of the three would be Bram Rigg Top, a slightly unimpressive looking mound that does actually reach 672m. It can be reached by detouring off the main path and heading for a small cairn on the summit.
Bram Rigg Top from The Calf
After rejoining the path from Bram Rigg Top, Calders is the next peak that you reach. I, however, walked past the summit to strike out across to Great Dummacks. Great Dummacks is probably the least pronounced of all the summits on this walk. It's unlikely that I'd head over it on any other walk so a 20 minute round trip to the summit and back was required. If you imagine the picture above but slightly flatter, that would sum up Great Dummacks. No real summit feature to be seen and no real views either, thanks mainly to its flatness.

I was really in for a treat now as, on my return to Calders, the sun poked back out again. Calders is the final peak on this walk and is only 2m shorter than The Calf. The views from Calders really are spectacular and take in many of the 2000ft peaks of the Yorkshire Dales. I was able to spot (thanks to a guide I'll mention later) Wild Boar Fell, Great Shunner Fell, Swarth Fell, Baugh Fell, Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-Y-Ghent off in the distance and these just formed the background. In the foreground sits Garsdale and two other peaks, Arrant Haw and Winder. Also included in the view are the high fells of the Lakes and Morecombe Bay. Simply stunning.
The summit of Calders with Arrant Haw and Winder in the background

Panorama from the summit of Calders. The Yorkshire three peaks can be seen on the skyline to the left. Arrant Haw and Winder form the hill in the centre

Following the path steeply off the southern flank of Calders, you cross Brant Fell and pass a large sheepfold before climbing back up onto Arrant Haw. From Arrant Haw you can look back and admire the view of Calders, The Calf and Fell Head.
The summit of Arrant Haw
From the summit of Arrant Haw it's mostly downhill all the way back to Howgill Lane, with a quick snack stop at the summit of Winder. Despite being the lowest peak on the route, it still offers great views, particularly of the Howgill Fells and many of the peaks can be identified thanks to a pillar with a metal marker plate on it built in 2000 to commemorate the millennium.
Marker pointing out the visible features of the landscape
Trig point and marker pillar on the summit of Winder
Me atop Winder before the descent back to the car
Dropping down through a sheep field, I left the main path just above the Height of Winder and cut across to join a different path that leads through Craggstone Wood. The shady trees and tumbling water of Crosdale Beck were a welcome relief to the heat of the afternoon sun. It was now simply a task of following the path back to Howgill Lane and reuniting myself with the car.

I had a fantastic time walking the western Howgill Fells and found my experience to be the same as many other peoples. Fantastic views and not a soul around. Despite being relatively small hills, the Howgills are unique in their character and appearance, rising as a jumble of steep-sided grassy mounds without a rock or crag in sight. Just as the Lakes could be seen as a paradise for climbers, the same could be said about the Howgills for walkers.