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Geltsdale & Cold Fell / 2 days / 22 miles (35km)

OS Route Map → Map GPX Route file →

Date: 16 Jul 2005
Start / Finish: Brampton. Free car park in the town.
Maps: Explorer 315 Carlisle and Explorer 043 Hadrian's Wall.

Day 1The River Gelt & Cold Fell12.3 miles / 2700 feet (19.8km / 822m)
Day 2Tindale Fells & Talkin Tarn9.4 miles / 330 feet (15.2km / 100m)

A short backpack around Geltsdale designed as a recovery trip after the epic exertions of the coast-to-coast, with very easy walking until the rough and trackless climb of the most northerly mountain in Cumbria.

Day 1 - The River Gelt & Cold Fell

From the road running SW out of Brampton, a signed footpath leads S towards Capontree Wood and across a road, where just inside the trees is the Capontree memorial, built to commemorate the execution of six Jacobites.

Over the A69, the farm track heads down to Low Gelt Bridge and the start of the path through Gelt Woods along the River Gelt. This is a lovely deciduous woodland managed by the RSPB as a nature reserve with an easy path all the way, although it would have been better to walk it when the river was in spate rather than the feeble flow of this dry July period. The path undulates past sandstone cliffs and dripping rock outcrops adorned with ferns, mosses and liverworts, and crosses a bridge over Hell Beck. At Middle Gelt Bridge is the viaduct spanning the valley, and we took the lane E into Talkin.

Sunlight on the River Gelt
Sunlight on the River Gelt (16 Jul 2005__09:18:35)
The River Gelt
The River Gelt (16 Jul 2005__09:28:24)
Hell Beck bridge
Hell Beck bridge (16 Jul 2005__10:04:03)

Turning R in the village and forking R to Talkin Head Farm, a good track climbs gently into Geltsdale and gives distant views W to the northern Lakes. Through a gate by a sheepfold, we forked R on an excellent track, like a soft green carpet in places, that curves around into the ravine of How Gill. This is a delightful walk, and at the deserted buildings at Gairs, the track crosses the valley and turns S beneath the slopes of Tarnmonath Fell. Approaching Old Water, it zigzags down to a shooters track where we turned E up the valley. A short way along there is a ruined shooters hut and an RSPB information notice that shows a map of the western slopes of Cold Fell. This outlines the special conservation area and gives recommended routes to avoid it, though these are not really restrictive - a direct line through the sensitive area would very probably be purgatory anyway!.

Geltsdale (16 Jul 2005__13:01:51)
Head of How Gill valley
Head of How Gill valley (16 Jul 2005__13:04:28)
Old Water
Old Water (16 Jul 2005__14:32:24)

Dropping R a little to a wide gate, we forded Tarnmonath Beck to pick up the deteriorating continuation track to Coldwell Beck, where we collected good water. At the next gate there is another RSPB map and the track gives up. A fairly easy line took us part way up the slopes, carefully surveying ahead for small patches of easy grass, but the going then became uncompromisingly rough, with heather and tussocks making progress very slow and tiring. We even made use of the peat channels of Graystone Beck for a brief respite, one of which had large loose blocks of peat at the head and we engaged in a new sport of peat scrambling. Eventually we reached the ridge fence and crossed it to the damp tractor track NW across the saddle. Recrossing the fence a short climb gains the summit of Cold Fell, with trig point and large cairn adorned with prayer flags. This bears a commemorative plaque to Joe Fotheringham, a climber who died in the western Caucasus. There were broad though hazy views, including the pale outlines of Cross Fell, the Lake District mountains and North to Hadrian's Wall and beyond.

Cold Fell summit
Cold Fell summit (16 Jul 2005__17:33:42)

Day 2 - Tindale Fells & Talkin Tarn

In the morning the summit was just covered by mist with a hazy blue patch of sky at the zenith. A tractor track gives easy walking NE and at a kink in the fence, it diverges northwards and took us most of the way to the fine currick at 606570, which was in sunshine and showed the mist cap draped over the summit. A fairly easy descent northwards is a pair of smaller curricks with an aerial view of Tindale Tarn, and lower down is a reedy mine track that contours the slopes SW, crossing a tiny stream that yielded very good water, and emerging at Howgill farm.

Early sky on Cold Fell
Early sky on Cold Fell (17 Jul 2005__06:55:41)
Cold Fell currick
Cold Fell currick (17 Jul 2005__07:21:29)
Cold Fell curricks
Cold Fell curricks (17 Jul 2005__08:12:58)

We followed the farm track and lane to Hallbankgate, then the lane SW to Hall Bank, where a footpath descends to Talkin Tarn. Although pleasant enough in itself, this is a mecca for day-trippers, with ice cream, sailboats and families strolling along the path around the lake. We took the footpath N through Tarn Wood to the lane and turned W, crossing the road and on to Wreay Farm, where another footpath leads N back to Brampton.