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Cross Fell & High Cup Nick / 2 days / 32 miles (51km)

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Date: 01 Oct 2007
Start / Finish: Dufton. Good roadside parking. Public toilets.
Maps: Outdoor Leisure 31: North Pennines.

Day 1Cross Fell & Round Hill14.1 miles / 4010 feet (22.7km / 1220m)
Day 2Bellbeaver Rigg, Viewing Hill & High Cup Nick17.3 miles / 1610 feet (27.9km / 490m)

A solo trip to the North Pennines covering most of the Cross Fell group of summits, including the very rarely visited Bullman Hills and Bellbeaver Rigg, and returning via Cow Green reservoir and High Cup Nick. Most of the route is easy walking but a few stretches are rough, pathless and pretty wet.

Note: the Access Land from Bullman Hills to Round Hill is managed as a grouse moor and dogs are not allowed under the access agreements.

Day 1 - Cross Fell & Round Hill

The Pennine Way (PW) makes an easy if long gradual climb to the hills, passing around the steep cone of Dufton Pike and crossing Swindale Beck at a footbridge, where a pile of stone slabs was destined to be set into the loose hillside. The clear air and sunshine afforded great views across to the Lake District mountains over Knock Pike.

Knock Pike & the Cumbrian mountains
Knock Pike & the Cumbrian mountains (01 Oct 2007__10:19:36)

Green Fell Spring provided excellent water as usual and today was just about perfect walking weather, clear warm sunshine and a cooling breeze. At the flat stony summit of Knock Fell the views opened up to the eastern Pennines with vast vistas of wild rolling moorland that give these fells such a feeling of spaciousness. The first of many paved sections of the PW approaches the access road to Great Dun Fell and its tessellated golfball dome. The ridge over Little Dun Fell to Cross Fell was totally deserted and the views were fantastic.

Approaching Great Dun Fell
Approaching Great Dun Fell (01 Oct 2007__11:20:46)
View east from Little Dun Fell
View east from Little Dun Fell (01 Oct 2007__12:13:34)
The Gilderdale fells from Cross Fell
The Gilderdale fells from Cross Fell (01 Oct 2007__13:19:28)

I replenished the water at Crossfell Well spring which was flowing very well just below the summit plateau. The stony track of the PW leads past Greg's Hut bothy to Backstone Edge, where I surveyed Bullman Hills that we last visited 12 years ago. I could see a distinct tractor track leading around the left side of the nearer and higher of the two hills, and it was an easy descent on grass to pick it up. The track was a bit wet in places but not bad, and it took me around easily to the lower hill beyond which is the Nuttall summit, a rock-studded oasis of cropped grass with a small cairn.

Long Man Hill from Bullman Hills
Long Man Hill from Bullman Hills (01 Oct 2007__14:30:32)

It is an easy stroll eastwards along the little ridge to the edge of the rough tussocky moor: from here I aimed SE for a shooting cabin with red shuttered windows, located at the site of an old mine and clearly visible today. There are vague hints of a tractor track here and there, and I finally forded the small stream to follow the cabin track which ascends to join the PW track. A short walk L after crossing Corn Rigg Sike, a shooters track leads uphill through a gate and a short way further, a fainter peaty track branches off L almost to the summit of Long Man Hill which now has a cairn.

I made a short trackless descent ESE to the line of grouse butts where several shooters tracks can be seen, the one to aim for is the rightmost one on the far side of Doups Burn which makes an easy walk down into the upper ravine of Cross Gill near a small waterfall.

Cross Gill ravine
Cross Gill (01 Oct 2007__15:43:27)

The track continues on the far side but soon degenerates into several faint peaty lines, I just picked my way up Round Hill by eye following whichever line looked easiest until near the ridge wall, where I spied the gate at 743365. Turning R on the far side of the wall, the cairned grassy summit lies just beyond another gate and fence and I made my pitch here. It had felt like a pretty hard day but an excellent one as the sun set behind Cross Fell.

Pitch on Round Hill
Pitch on Round Hill (01 Oct 2007__17:25:50)

Day 2 - Bellbeaver Rigg, Viewing Hill & High Cup Nick

The morning was dull grey and the cold windblown mist and dew had soaked the landscape as surely as rain, but it cleared Round Hill as I packed the soggy tent and I could see the early light on Cow Green reservoir.

This morning was one of the very few occasions when I put my gaiters to good use: knowing the terrain I had packed them in anticipation of these conditions, long grass and spongy sphagnum moss made sopping wet by the dew and mist. This was the first test of the Trekmates Rannoch gaiters which I purchased to replace the trusty Paramo ones, which were excellent performers but too bulky and heavy for backpacking. The Trekmates did the job well enough, although the front hook kept coming off the lace which didn't seem to matter.

An easy descent eastwards near Calvert Burn brought me to the old mine track down to the Tyne Head access road. I turned R for a short way and took to the pathless slopes of Bellbeaver Rigg, quickly reaching a neat cairn by the old mine workings. These have the appearance of grassed over shake holes and by threading between them the walking is easy on short grass. I aimed SE for a small ruin and crossed the nearby fence to find that the heather on the far side was mercifully very short, and the summit cairn is a quick walk beyond.

View from Bellbeaver Rigg
View from Bellbeaver Rigg (02 Oct 2007__08:45:38)

I walked SE to a slightly lower cairn which is a good vantage point to survey the descent: there are two distinct peat bogs below and I picked a line aiming between them with only a very short patch of peat groughs to cross, initially SW then S to follow the R side of Tynegreen Sike down to the old mine track at Troutbeck Foot. There is a good view of the Tees and Trout Beck as they begin their journeys from the upper slopes and combine to meander down to Cow Green reservoir.

The mine track heads eastwards above the Tees and fades out after crossing another stream. Again there are faint fragments of wet tractor tracks to assist progress over the shoulder of Metalband Hill to Crookburn Foot, where I easily forded the burn and climbed on another somewhat clearer track to reach Holdenhurth Band and the main surfaced reservoir track. I continued climbing to an outcropping band of rock and walked along it a short way, then struck out towards the summit of Viewing Hill. There is a cairn on the highest point overlooking a flat rock-strewn peaty area. Some curtains of mist had appeared over Burnhope Seat and the sky turned grey, but on the descent southwards it gave a moody picture of sunlight on Cow Green reservoir.

Sunlight on Cow Green reservoir
Sunlight on Cow Green reservoir (02 Oct 2007__10:30:00)

It was an easy and highly enjoyable walk along the reservoir track with the sun gaining strength and the grey clouds thinning. At the car park there are information boards describing this area and its rare flora and fauna, and I followed the 'nature trail' (which is just a handful of markers directing people along a short path and then the access road) to the dam and Cauldron Snout. From the track on the far side of the dam there is a good elevated view of Falcon Clints and the Tees.

Top of Cauldron Snout with Mickle Fell
Top of Cauldron Snout with Mickle Fell (02 Oct 2007__11:53:35)
Falcon Clints & the Tees
Falcon Clints & the Tees (02 Oct 2007__11:58:38)

The PW follows an undulating line over the lower slopes of Meldon Hill above Maize Beck and descends to hug the beck where the path becomes indistinct. For some reason I always seem to forget to stick very close to the riverbank where the going is quite dry, and I ended up in some very wet stuff a little higher up. In any event where the beck bends northwards towards Maizebeck Scar, any hint of a path disappears and I made my own way directly towards the dark grey rock of the scar and the footbridge that spans it.

Maizebeck Scar
Maizebeck Scar (02 Oct 2007__13:52:36)

An easy walk on cropped grass brought me to High Cup Nick, which amazingly was deserted today, and although beautifully clear there was a strong and quite cold wind blasting over the rim. The PW makes an easy and rapid return to Dufton.

High Cup Nick
High Cup Nick (02 Oct 2007__14:07:02)