Sunday, 14 January 2018

The Bannisdale Horseshoe

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Route: Dryhowe Bridge, Whiteside Pike, Todd Fell, Capplebarrow, Swinklebank Crag, Ancrow Brow, Borrowdale Moss, Long Crag, White Howe, The Forest, Lamb Pasture, Sryhowe Bridge

Date: 14/01/2017
From: Dryhowe Bridge

Parking: Small laybay at Dryhowe Bridge
Start Point: Dryhowe Bridge
Region: Far Eastern Fells

Route length: 8.8 Miles (14.16 km)
Time taken: 03:54
Average speed: 2.2 mph
Ascent: 657m
Descent: 663m

Outlying Fells on this walk:
Whiteside Pike (397m), Todd Fell (401m), Capplebarrow (512m), Swinklebank Crag (Ancrow Brow) (555m), nameless (Ancrow Brow North) (541m), Long Crag (493m), White Howe (530m), The Forest (Borrowdale Head) (528m), Lamb Pasture (367m)

Additional summits: None

Other Points of Interest: None

The valley of Bannisdale forms part of the mysterious Shap Fells, encompassed within the Lake District boundary yet wholly Pennine in nature. It's a large area with numerous nooks and crannies such as Crookdale and Wet Sleddale and is often overlooked by people heading into the national park.

I too had intended to overlook it yet the forecast was for a day of very low cloud so I took a gamble on the fact that the Bannisdale fells only reach around 500m and may have snuck beneath the blanket.

Starting this walk is tricky if you're arriving by car. There's a solitary space on the lane at Plough Farm or the other option is at Dryhowe Bridge, as described in Bill Birkett's book. I have a feeling though that the local farmers object to this, as I have seen various accounts of gravel appearing in the layby and, indeed, when I arrived there was barely room for just one car. I also managed to overlook a small sign that said 'No Parking' nailed to the gatepost though I can't be sure if it meant on the lane or in the gravel-filled layby.
Dryhowe Bridge with Lamb Pasture beyond
The first climb of the day towards Whiteside Pike
Limited parking.....
The other minor concern is the very beginning of the walk which, according to the guidebooks, is through the gate and straight up the hillside. The gate, however, clearly says 'Private' though I chose to ignore this as it was early and the safety of the Access Land is a short distance up the hill.
A better view of the gravel pile at Dryhowe Bridge
Bannisdale
A hint of brightness early in the morning, the only bit of the day
Trespassing complete, it was time to get a move on, climbing through pathless grass to reach the first and shapeliest summit of the day - Whiteside Pike. It was obvious from the climb up that my gamble had not paid off with the higher Bannisdale fells shrouded in the cloud. No views today, unfortunately. If you're averse to grass, I'd probably stop reading now.
Bannisdale
Dryhowe Pasture and Capplebarrow
Sunrise on a murky day
Through the wall towards Whiteside Pike
Whiteside Pike
Whiteside Pike's summit cairn
Inscribed stone set into the cairn
A faint path leaves Whiteside Pike, dropping into a depression before crossing a drystone wall using a ladder stile. Ahead, just visible through the mist, is Todd Fell, a small, grassy dome which favours views into Long Sleddale.
Todd Fell
Through the wall once again. back the the fence which runs along the watershed
Looking back to Whiteside Pike
Todd Fell's summit - nothing to see here
The route from Todd Fell to Capplebarrow (and for much of the rest of the walk) is straightforward enough as a fence or, in some places, drystone wall encircles the valley. A faint path follows the fence, crossing Cappelbarrow before a reaching a trio of small humps along the ridge; Swinklebank Crag, Ancrow Brow and an unnamed height at the head of the valley - confusingly called 'Ancrow Brow' in the Outlying Fells.
Capplebarrow in the mist
Whiteside Pike still visible
Todd Fell
An old fence post
A newly constructed fence
A peek down into Bannisdale
Capplebarrow
A sea of grass
Following the fence
Peat hags
Swinklebank Crag
More grass in the mist
Ancrow Brow
From the head of the valley, following the fence is still advised to avoid any navigational difficulties in Borrowdale Moss, an expansive area of marshy ground. In fact, I found crossing the moss was aided by the foundations of a derelict wall which acts as a dry walkway across the moss, almost as far as Long Crag, the next fell on the walk.
A curious series of dams following the wall
The old wall leads right across Borrowdale Moss
The expanse of Borrowdale Moss
Approaching Long Crag
Long Crag has some very minor rocky interest - a brief distraction from the sea of grass that accompanied the walk. From Long Crag, I found it easiest to return to the fence and follow it once again before diverging to make the climb to the summit of White Howe.
Long Crag
Returning towards the wall and White Howe
Unlike any of the hills previously, White Howe does have a trig pillar despite not being the highest of the group. On a good day, the Howgills form a prominent part of the view.
White Howe
After miles of relatively easy walking a final short climb over The Forest is required before a steep descent towards Priest Gill where things began to get a little boggier though I finally managed to get back below the clouds. The diminutive Lamb Pasture is the final fell on the round and is easily accessed after negotiating a few farm gates.
A wall separates White Howe from The Forest
The Forest
A new stile allows easy crossing of the fence after The Forest
Theview start to emerge once again
Whiteside Pike
Looking back up to The Forest

Bannisdale
The Forest
Lamb Pasture
Lamb Pasture stands directly above Dryhowe Bridge through a line of small crags makes a direct descent tricky. Instead, skirting the crags to the south-east leads to easier ground and a descent to a farm track which ultimately leads to the bridge and the car, seemingly undisturbed in its space at the layby.
Looking out towards the River Mint
Whiteside Pike
Lamb Pasture
Whinfell Common
Dryhowe Bridge
So, there is a brief introduction to the Shap Fells - probably an area that is best explored on a brighter day to add some interest to the miles of grass. I can't say that this was a particularly memorable walk thanks to the weather but not bad for an early 2018 outing.