|Outline Map →||Route file →|
Date: 11 Nov 2007
Start / Finish: Newbiggin-on-Lune. Roadside parking near the church.
Maps: Explorer OL19: Howgill Fells.
|Day 1||Green Bell & Randygill Top||5.0 miles / 1660 feet (8.1km / 505m)|
|Day 2||Yarlside, The Calf & the West Fell ridge||10.0 miles / 2060 feet (16.1km / 627m)|
A short circuit of the north eastern hills of the Howgill range, approaching via Ravenstonedale and Green Bell and returning along the West Fell ridge.
A wet and windy weather stream was predicted to clear southwards by lunchtime, and so it did as we set off towards Ravenstonedale Common in the very clear air left in its wake. The clarity persisted throughout the second day and we had the first frost of the season on the tent.
There may be no rocky mountain vistas in the range but the Howgills have some of the best hill scenery in England, with sharply incised valleys and steep sided shapely hills that we saw at their best on this trip. The total absence of walls and fences needs sharp navigation in mist near the hub of the range, lest you descend into the wrong valley or set off along the wrong ridge.
We took the narrow lane S from the A685 through Sandwath and turned L at the T-junction across a small dip to the track marked on the map, which climbs gently southwards over Tailor Mire and Wythe Mire. Further up a prominent cairn on the tiny rise of Hunthoof Pike gives the first good views of the day and a glimpse into Great Swindale, one of several dales in the Howgills with namesakes in the Lake District, that opens into Weasdale further down. A short climb beyond is the trig point of Green Bell which gave fine views to the Wild Boar Fell range.
A good path continues SW and we made a detour to descend Spen Gill and locate good water for the night. Climbing back to the path we were soon at the summit of Randygill Top with more extensive views including the High Seat ridge, and we could just make out the stone men on the distant Nine Standards Rigg.
The cold wind was still quite strong and biting by now as the sun was sinking, and we descended to the col before Kensgriff to seek some shelter for the pitch, the bulk of Randygill Top shielding us from the worst of it. We appreciated the first outing of the stove this winter season to make a hot drink as the temperature dropped rapidly at dusk.
The wind had dropped and the morning dawned clear with the first hard frost of the season on the tent and frozen pools at the col. It was an easy climb to Kensgriff but the NE face of Yarlside ahead looked dauntingly steep from this vantage point. We remembered this as a knee-wobbling descent from our last visit 12 years ago, but the flanks are well 'stepped' and it was not as bad as it looked. There is a good retrospective view of Kensgriff and Randygill Top from the slopes.
We descended southwards to the head of Bowderdale Beck, where fell ponies were grazing, and followed it down steeply westwards to the valley bottom, with a distant view of Cautley Spout on the far side. A path climbs alongside a small stream to the R of a sheepfold and there is a good view of Bowderdale from here.
The path peters out higher up but a short climb further we joined the excellent path coming up from Bowderdale that ascended gently to a frozen pool at a saddle. The distant Lake District mountains stood out sharply in the cold clear air and sunshine, as did the ravines in the steep slopes falling to upper Langdale. The trig point on The Calf was just a short out-and-back detour and a lovely one it was too, with great views and a second pool with attractive swirl patterns in the ice.
From the first pool a clear path heads NE and becomes a track that traverses the West Fell ridge northwards over Hazelgill Knott all the way to Bowderdale Foot. This easy and very enjoyable walk is flanked by typical Howgill hill scenery of steeply folded hills and valleys with Langdale dominating the view ahead.
At Bowderdale Foot we followed the lane NE under the A685 and took the quiet road that leads over Parrock Moor back to Newbiggin, giving a last view southwards to the hills.