|Outline Map →||Route file →|
Date: 12 Jul 2003
Start / Finish: Nenthead. Car park & toilets.
Maps: Outdoor Leisure 31 North Pennines (West) and Pathfinder 569 Alston.
|Day 1||Nenthead to Viewing Hill||14 miles / 2100 feet (22.5km / 640m)|
|Day 2||Viewing Hill to Cross Fell||17 miles / 2660 feet (27.4km / 810m)|
|Day 3||Cross Fell to Benty Hill via Alston||19 miles / 1960 feet (30.6km / 597m)|
|Day 4||Benty Hill to Nenthead||17 miles / 2240 feet (27.4km / 682m)|
This started as a 3-day backpack but we added an extra day part way through, which is why the route breaks from the natural course for restocking supplies and involves some backtracking. The obvious route from Cross Fell is to continue the ridge over Fiends Fell and Melmerby Fell to Black Fell, this is shown on the map as a blue dotted line.
A narrow cobbled lane leads NE out of Nenthead to Dykeheads, where a signed bridleway sets off ENE along a track. At 786449 it turns R on the S side of a wall but there is no sign of a way, it is much easier to turn R on the N side of the wall and head NE through the old workings to arrive at the waymarked gate at 792453. Through the gate, a path leads N to the moor leaving a short trackless stretch to The Dodd, 614m. Heading SE the contouring track is quickly reached and it is easiest to follow this back round and down to the gate and then join the clear path E to Coalcleugh. A short way NE along the unfenced road we turned off SE and climbed on the R of Bridge Cleugh up easy slopes to Killhope Law, 673m.
A fairly clear path heads W from the summit but quickly becomes fainter and we lost it amid the peaty wastes, which were surprisingly wet. The obvious route on the map is the boundary line which follows the highest ground, but on this broad peat-hag ridge the line is not clear at all. We veered left too early and ended up traversing an interminable series of wet peat groughs before we finally arrived at the fence and turned left to Killhope Cross (there is a litter bin here).
Crossing the stile, a fence leads S to Dead Stones 710m and Burnhope Seat 746m. Unlike Killhope Law the peat and groughs here were quite dry. Descending to Scraith Head 792369, we decided to turn R and follow the fence SW to the B6277, omitting Harwood Common as we had lost too much time on Killhope Law. We collected some water at the waterfall on Crook Burn 783358 which was rather peaty and warm. A short way SE down the road a mine track turns off R to Holdenhurth Band where a tiny stream flows out on the R below, we collected water again here as it was far less peaty and cooler. An easy climb L leads to the cairn on Viewing Hill 649m where we pitched.
Returning to the track, an easy morning walk around Cow Green reservoir (no toilets or bins here) to the marked start of a Nature Trail. This passes over Red Sike at 816295, where we collected some good clear water, and leads to the Pennine Way (PW) and Cauldron Snout, which was flowing quite well. The PW heads westwards on a track and descends to join Maize Beck. The path became fainter as it followed the beck through a rather wet area and vanished in an array of bootprints at 754268. Heading NW over marshy ground it reappeared on our R as we arrived at the black gorge of Maizebeck Scar. The PW crosses it at a footbridge but we took the more attractive option of going through the gorge itself - great stuff. The PW then follows marker stones SW to High Cup Nick but we left them soon after the footbridge and climbed R on easy slopes to the rim of Backstone Edge. The short walk along here to Narrowgate Beacon gives great views of High Cup Nick and surrounding hills. Following the edge, the path passes one large cairn, misses a second to the L and arrives at a third at 730262, where a faint path heads off R towards the higher plateau and along to the trig point 692m. A short walk NW leads to the summit of Backstone Edge 699m.
We headed NNE to the shooting cabin near Great Rundale Tarn then NNW over rough tussocky ground first to a cairn on the skyline then to Knock Fell 794m, where the PW is rejoined. From here the walking is very easy and the boggy bits have been paved. We collected excellent water at Crowdundle Head but we could have waited till higher up as the stream was still flowing well just below the plateau rim. Arriving at Cross Fell 893m, we started to pitch but found that the summit area was too stony to get a single peg in. We found a spot about 100 yards E where we pitched successfully.
After admiring the great views of the Cumbrian mountains we continued on the PW N & E past Greg's Hut. We turned R along the track at 715360 then L at 719355 down to Crossgill Pants, another usually very boggy col where the peat was dry today. An easy ascent leads to Round Hill 686m.
We descended ESE to the valley track, though in hindsight we should have tried the descent via the N ridge to remain on high ground as it was very hot. Joining the PW at Garrigill we plodded in the heat to Alston (public toilets) where we restocked our supplies and continued on the PW to Gilderdale at 700471. Here we turned SW up a stony track to a disused quarry at 695461 where a fainter path continues SSW to to the fence along Horse Edge. A steady plod along the grassy ridge crossing some easy fences brought us to Benty Hill 609m where we pitched. Hartside cafe in view to the W, and the occasional sound of bikers whining round the bends of the A686, was the only intrusion in this remote corner of the hills.
Completing the circuit of Gilderdale head, the small rise to Hartside Height and Black Fell 664m was surprisingly easy on short grass most of the way. Now we knew what to expect - the next broad col is infamous especially around Woldgill Tarn, which is really just a bog, but again the peat was dry enough to thread our way through the hags in comfort. The next summit Tom Smith's Stone Top 637m is a good candidate for the wooden spoon in England's 2000' list, being saved from total ignominy by the presence of a small tarn close to the top which is mildly attractive (in the presence of nothing else). From here it is easy walking to Grey Nag 656m with its large cairn.
Heading first E along a wall then turning R SE along an adjoining wall, easy grassy slopes lead down to Woldgill Scar, whose steep sides are covered in high bracken and rocks but Woldgill Force was almost dry anyway. Skirting the bracken we arrived at Gilderdale Burn which was flowing quite well and the left side provides an attractive walk down the valley to the PW footbridge at 698479. Ascending SE the outward route is joined and we took the PW back almost to Garrigill at the footbridge at 740418. A footpath leads NE by the river to the road and we ascended the lane E towards Flinty Fell. At 766424 a signed footpath leads through the forest to the open fell and mine workings where the top lies over to the right. Descending NE round the plantation corner a track leads N to the top of Dowgang Hush which gives a pleasant return to Nenthead.