Aug 21 2010

Walk 17: The Howgills Revisited

Looking North West from The Howgill Fells

route: calders, great dummacks, bram rigg top, the calf, arrant haw & winder from sedbergh
date: 21st august 2010
distance: 9.6 miles
ascent: 2,639 feet
time: 5 hrs 20 mins
walkers: dave, leanne, sandra & simon

All things being equal, we shouldn’t have even been here today, but as anyone who has walked often knows, Mother Nature is nobodies equal. We had intended to do all eight of the Howgills on our list, in one walk back in July, but had to abandon due to a swift change in the weather. At the time that seemed like a failure, but with hindsight it was the right thing to do as safety must always come first. Not only that, but it gave us another chance to explore the fantastic scenery that the Howgill Fells provide, and this time from a different angle. We parked up in the car park next to the tourist information centre, nipped over to the shop for some energy snacks and we were about ready. We had our picture taken with Winder in the background, then headed off along the town street, passing The Bull Hotel where we stayed in July.

At the far end of the town street we continued before turning right immediately after The Dalesman and following the road round to the left. After a short while we took the farm track off to our right and went up towards Lockbank Farm. As we approached the farm we noticed a little someone keeping a very close eye on us.

We made our way through the farm and out onto the hill side. In front of us was a nice bench sat overlooking Sedbergh, but it was too early for us to reward ourselves, instead we turned left and followed the wall up for a short distance, before cutting back and skirting around Winder towards Settlebeck Gill. The numerous footpaths were quite easy to spot as they weaved around the various peaks in sight. We followed one such path around Winder so we ended up with Settlebeck Gill down to our right and Arrant Haw more or less straight in front. Even from here we could see the footpath that went up and over and another that skirted around it to the right.

We made our way towards the junction of these paths, where we found a sign telling us it was ¾ mile back to Winder and 2 ¼ miles to The Calf, which was our intended destination. We decided that as Arrant Haw wasn’t on our tick list we would go around it for now, besides which I had an idea that it may be similar to Winder in that the approach from the other side reduces the climb somewhat. As we went we had Wild Boar Fell away to our right, and this brought back fantastic memories of seven weeks earlier. The path dropped down a little before beginning the last climb up to our first port of call, Calders.

Once we had made the top we took our pictures and made our way over to Great Dummacks. We could see the raise in the ground but no visible cairn from a distance. We set off over the rain sodden ground, keeping one eye on my GPS to make sure we had an idea of where the top was.

We arrived at the location but found no noticeable cairn or anything to suggest it was the summit. I know it falls slightly below the required prominence of 15m to be a Nuttall so that may be the reason. Anyway, to us it didn’t matter. It was on our list and we had reached the top. Beaky shoved his walking pole into the ground and we had something to mark the top. From here we had an excellent view of some of the tops we managed in our earlier visit, and we could see Yarlside and Randygill Top as we looked down Bowderdale.

After a brief rest, we took our pictures and were soon on our way back to Calders. We chose to do this for the footpath and the fact we knew retracing our steps back to Calders wouldn’t be too difficult, as some of the ground gave the impression it may be soggy or uneven. From here we followed the clear footpath for a short while before we picked up a slight trail off to our left, and within minutes we were at the top of Bram Rigg Top. That was the eight of our Howgills done, and left us with just one remaining peak to complete our Yorkshire tops list. Again the cairn wasn’t too clever, but there was one to be found and we savoured the moment. From here we had two options. We could either head back, our job done, or carry on to The Calf. We decided that we should carry on to link up these three with the five we did earlier in the year. It was whilst stood at The Calf we decided to abort our first visit, due to the terrible weather we were experiencing. From our vantage point on Bram Rigg Top we could see the trig point at The Calf, so we made our way back to the footpath and headed for it.

As we went we heard a solitary cyclist (not the one of Sherlock Holmes fame) racing up behind us. We moved out of his way as he sped by, thanking us as he went. This was the first time we had seen anyone cycling during our travels and whilst it added a little variety, I can’t say I would want it to be a common occurrence. We climbed up to The Calf and unlike last time we could actually see more than 10 yards. There was a little tarn no more than 20 yards to the side of the trig that we hadn’t noticed before. We could see on to Bush Howe and Fell Head, both of which we walked last time. It felt like a totally different summit. The only thing that was similar was the wind, and we tried to find refuge in a little ditch that ran close to the trig as we had our lunch.

After lunch we decided to get a move on due to the temperature, which seemed really cold now as we had stopped for a while. We quickly made our way back to Bram Rigg Top and then on to Calders. As we did we noticed a sole walker heading towards us. As he neared I said to the others, “I wonder if that is Rich’s brother” and sure enough it was (we initially met him when we were climbing Birks Fell). We had a chat for 15 minutes and he said he was nearly done with his Yorkshire tops list. He only had Rogan’s Seat and Water Crag to do, and was pleased we only had Whernside left. We have joked since first meeting him that we know that he is retired, doesn’t have a car and goes everywhere by public transport, his brother is called Richard, as well as numerous other things about him, but we don’t know his name. If you are that man and are reading this, please send us an email to let us know and also if you completed your challenge. He asked us if he could take our picture (not with him, just a picture of us) then we said our goodbyes and on he went, towards The Calf as we carried on.

We dropped down from Calders and after we bumped into a sheep that turned the girls to statues, we began to climb up towards Arrant Haw. We made our way across and decided it would be silly to not go to the top as we were so close. From the top we had wonderful views looking back towards the Western side of the Howgills and the peaks we had done both today, and on our last visit.

Earlier in the day Leanne had miss heard me when I had named our current location and instead of hearing Arrant Haw she heard something like “Atto” and we had been pulling her leg ever since. As with all jokes on our walks, they are taken in the right spirit and don’t cause any friction between the group. This was an extra peak for us and the first time we had done such a thing. Another first meant another new feeling, and one of pleasure. There is no doubt a year ago I would have ignored this peak as we had already done what we came to do. These days I was pleased with myself for taking in an extra peak.

After soaking in the views we left Arrant haw behind and made our way towards the trig point on Winder Hill. It was all more or less downhill, with only a very gradual pull up to the trig.

We ticked another of our Yorkshire Dales trig points off and took interest in the peak finder next to it. I say peak finder because I don’t know what else to call it. Basically it resembled a sun dial with a line to each of the visible peaks. It was very interesting to look back and pick out peaks we have done and those in the Lake District we have yet to tackle. Once we had satisfied our thirst for knowledge, we made our way down from Winder and back towards Lockbank Farm, taking the more direct and steeper route.

We walked back into Sedbergh and called straight at the pub. We bought a beer and sat down to discuss our achievements, after checking that Leeds were winning of course. We were now only one peak away from achieving our goal and the finish line was very firmly in our sights. With each passing walk the line neared, and now it was within touching distance, it felt fantastic. I bet if you asked my friends and family back in February, if we would’ve completed this challenge they would have told me yes, but secretly thought no. My history was full of crazy ideas that I never saw through, so I wouldn’t blame them. The difference this time was the fact that every walk and every experience was pleasurable, no matter what the weather. The fact that I have my trusty little sidekick, Wu Tang, to share it all with me is a massive plus too. As things stand I have found a new hobby, and it won’t be one I will leave lightly. I really like walking and I hope I can keep it up for a long time to come yet. For now though my mind turned to Whernside and more importantly, the after show party…

Sir Edmund


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