Sunday, 2 July 2017

Yorkshire 2000s - Birks Fell

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Route: Arncliffe, Brayshaw Scar, Old Cote Moor, Old Cote Moor Top, Birks Fell, High Combe Stoop, Moss Top, Middle Moor, Litton, East Garth, Roselber Wood, Guildersbank, New Barn, Arncliffe

Date: 02/07/2017
From: Arncliffe

Parking: Arncliffe
Start Point: Arncliffe
Region: Yorkshire Dales - Southern Fells

Route length: 9.6 miles (15.4 km)
Time taken: 03:50
Average speed: 2.5 mph
Ascent: 501m
Descent: 502m

Yorkshire 2000s: Birks Fell (610m)

Other points of interest: Littondale

Continuing my recent trail of Yorkshire Nuttalls I turned my attention to an area I've looked at many times but never got round to doing - Birks Fell. The fell forms a long ridge with divides Littondale and Wharfedale and, if looking at a map, forms the distinctive sweep of hills in the centre of the National Park.

The fell can be climbed from numerous locations, Kettlewell often being the favoured starting point. I, however, chose Arncliffe for two reasons - the first is that parking in the village is free and secondly, I've walking along the Dales Way in Wharfedale many times so it was time for something new. The route would climb Birks Fell by Old Cote Moor, cross the top and descend back into Littondale via Access Land on Middle Moor before returning to Arncliffe along the valley.

It was a warm day, though still a bit cloudy and breezy day though things were due to improve as the day wore on. The first task is the climb up to the main ridge from the valley, a vertical distance of around 300m which begins steeply but soon reaches an easier gradient after passing Grayshaw Scar.
The River Skirfare in Arncliffe
Arncliffe with West Moor behind
The first steep climb out of the village
Climbing out of Littondale
Yew Cogar Scar
The ridge top is broad but does have a good view of the distant Great Whernside and Buckden Pike. A wall runs along the top of the ridge - the perfect navigational aid if the weather is poor. The climb towards the summit is certainly one of the easiest I've come across - gaining just 100m over a couple of kilometres.
A wall runs along the top of the ridge
Looking down the ridge towards Wharfedale
Great Whernside
Buckden Pike
A trig pillar marks a vantage point, however, this is not the highest point of the fell - that lies a little further on. A path crosses the top here connecting Buckden to Litton and, moving towards the east a little, provides a fine view of the village of Buckden, Buckden Pike and Wharfedale.
The trig pillar on Birks Fell
Buckden Pike
The route to the high point of the fell begins a little off-piste before a faint path begins to appear. It passes a Birks Tarn, something of a rarity in the Yorkshire Dales, which seemed to be attracting the attention of the local bird-life. The summit of the fell sits atop a grassy rise a short distance further.
Heading for the summit
Looking towards Cray
Yockenthwaite Moor
Birks Tarn
Birks Tarn
Birks Fell's summit
The fell continues on to Horse Head Moor, which was once thought to be higher and had the status of Marilyn, however, a recent survey of Birks Fell found it to be higher than the 608m originally thought. Measuring in at 610m meant that the fell became a Marilyn in place of Horse Head Moor and elevated it to Nuttall status also.
Open moor looking towards Pen-y-Ghent
I wasn't going to be heading as far as Horse Head Moor, instead, following the head of the valley of Crystal Beck to Moss Top and making a pathless descent through the heather to Middle Moor. Eventually, a track appears which leads down to small village of Litton. Middle Moor has a superb view of Littondale.
Peat hags at High Combe Stoop
High Combe Stoop
It was turning into an excellent afternoon
Birks Fell from Moss Top
Middle Moor and Littondale
Pen-y-Ghent at the head of the valley
Cow Close and Pen-y-Ghent
Darnbrook Fell and Litton
The return to Arncliffe is along the banks of the River Skirfare, a tributary of the River Wharfe. It's an easy stroll through fields and woodland which eventually arrives at Arncliffe. It passes through Scoska Wood, a strip of ash woodland that is designated as a National Nature Reserve and the largest area of ash woodland in the Yorkshire Dales.
The River Skirfare
The River Skirfare
Scoska Wood
Sink Hill Barn
New Barn
Yew Cogar Scar