Walk Date – 2nd March 2017
Distance – 6.6 miles
Weather – a few sunny spells, a few showers and a lot of strong wind
The forecasters seemed to be hedging their bets on today’s weather, with plenty of ifs, buts and maybes. The tone for the day was set on the drive over here, bright and sunny when I set off, ten minutes later the heavens opened and the wipers were going like the clappers, and by the time I arrived here at the parking area, overlooking Swindale, the sun was out again. Looking around I could see it was likely to be one of those days when the weather changed its mind every ten minutes. One element it never changed its mind about was the very strong wind which never eased during the entire walk.
Swindale – Rosgill Moor – Scalebarrow Knott – Harper Hills – Powley’s Hill – Hare Shaw – Wood Howe Moss – Reservoir and pumping station – above Mirkside – Scalebarrow Tarn – Rosgill Moor – Swindale
The view into Swindale from the parking area.
Looking back along the waterlogged and very muddy path as I stand with my back to the wind and take a minute to get my breath back. The strong wind was blowing directly at me, not only pushing me back but also knocking the stuffing out of me in the process. The combination of wind and the state of the path made progress along here very trying, and that’s putting it politely. Anyway, there was no-one around to be upset by my cursing, the only other vehicle parked up when I arrived was a United Utilities van and the driver must have been carrying out the morning’s tasks somewhere else.
On I go towards Scalebarrow Knott, over on the right skyline, still battling against the wind, but the path is beginning to rise so there shouldn’t be too many more deep puddles to have to deal with.
I could have carried on following the track but I left it at this point simply to cut the corner and take a slightly more direct route up to the cairn. Some farmer’s quad bike journeys along here have left the tracks in a very churned up condition.
The view east to the distant snow topped Pennines from the cairn on Scalebarrow Knott. It was good to reach drier ground at last and be able to stand without your boots beginning to slither you away down the muddy grass. Its a lovely morning so far, now if only that damned wind would let up a bit.
Turning into the wind again for this view to the south of me where the fells around Mardale still have some snow cover. From here I’m heading across to Harper Hills, the brownish area to the left with the trees on its right hand slopes.
A bit further on and a closer look at Harper HIlls and, to the right of the trees up there, High Street.
Approaching the top of Harper Hills with the summit cairn now in view. Also in view are some very heavy dark clouds which are coming my way and the occasional raindrop is landing on my glasses
The view southwestwards from the summit cairn on Harper Hills. The dark clouds have passed over and held on to most of their contents, we have some sunshine again but the wind is still doing its best to knock me over. Even with my glasses providing a little bit of protection my eyes were constantly watering and I’ll gloss over the runny nose problems.
The same view, just a slight change of angle, showing the dramatic cloud activity above High Street and Kidsty Pike.
Making my way over to my next port of call with a good view of Mardale Ill Bell, High Street, Kidsty Pike and High Raise from left to right on the skyline. You’ve probably noticed by now that there is a very, very long wall along here which is a useful navigational aid should the need arise.
A look back to Harper Hills as I continue on over to my next stopping point which is Powley’s Hill. I’m using the quad bike tracks for the time being because its a whole lot easier than wobbling your way over the tussocky grass, but I will have to veer away from them before much longer.
A close up of the previous view to get a better look at the snow covered Pennines, although it is a bit tricky deciding which is cloud and which is snow.
Another muddy and waterlogged section of path was waiting for me as I passed through the gate. I hadn’t intended to be on this section of the path at this point because I needed to be climbing up to Powley’s Hill which is out of shot some distance away over on the right. The low rise on the right skyline is where I’ve come from, having failed to find an opening in the deer fence to the right of it as you look at it. Nothing for it then but to pick my way through the quagmire and set off to the right of the shot for the climb up to Powley’s Hill.
Powley’s Hill summit which I reached after a very patience testing and pathless walk in the strong wind through deep and tussocky grass. Where possible I used sheep trods, useful sometimes because they’re well stamped down and you have more of a firm footing. Unfortunately the sheep seemed to have little interest in reaching the top of Powley’s Hill so their trods would wander away from where I wanted to go and then it was back to the grind of dragging grudging and aching calf muscles through the tussocky terrain. There’s no spectacular cairn or trig point up here and the best it can offer are a couple of grassy outcrops from which to enjoy the sun lighting up the snow on the Pennines across there …..
….. or, looking the other way, the clouds making the Mardale fells look very chilly and uninviting.
The deer fence I mentioned earlier was there to prevent the deer nibbling away at the foliage of the trees which were planted in a number of small groups up here some time ago. Having looked into about ten of these wire cages and found no sign of a tree, let alone foliage, it would seem that the fence is superfluous. Do those who decide to plant trees on this type of terrain not look around and notice that they do not grow naturally up here? Successful moorland plants are low growing and have to put up with strong winds, extreme cold, boggy terrain and be able to thrive on acidic soils, not quite the best of conditions for successful tree growing. Take a look, there isn’t a tree to be seen for miles over there beyond Swindale. No doubt it was all well intentioned but it seems to be such a waste of time, money and effort. OK, I’ll stop droning on and tell you what you are looking at. So, if you walked beyond the non-existent trees to the end of the blonde grass and the dead bracken you would be looking down into Swindale. On the other side of Swindale are the craggy faces of Gouther Crag and the wonderfully named Outlaw Crag and I start imagining our own versions of Billy the Kid or Jesse James hiding out over there. Time to get a move on now though and head over to Hare Shaw because its a bit too chilly to stand here in the wind indulging in flights of fancy.
A very slight diversion to take a look over to the head of Swindale with Mosedale and the Shap fells beyond it.
Back on the path (what path?) and making my way over to one of the three tops of Hare Shaw.
The first top I arrived at on Hare Shaw, with a tiny cairn of stones set atop a rocky and watery outcrop with an uninterrupted view across to the Pennines.
The second top I visited on Hare Shaw and looking at a heavy hail shower making its way towards me.
From the same cairn on the second top a view towards Selside Pike, over on the left, which looks as though it may escape the hail for the time being, but things are looking decidedly murky around High Street and its neighbours.
The start of the hail is now upon me and I hear the first steady split, splat, splot as the hail lands on my jacket. So far I’m hearing each individual hailstone landing on me but …..
….. before long the individual splats merged into one continuous sound as the downpour came across. Sorry about the blob on the lens, one of the hailstones landed on the lens as I took the shot. The High Street fells have all but disappeared and given the conditions I didn’t bother going across to the third top of Hare Shaw, its only a little higher than the two I’ve already been on so the camera went away and I took a pathless route off Hare Shaw and began the descent back down to the wall. The hailstones were only the size of pin heads but with the strength of the wind driving them into the left side of my face it felt like a swarm of flying beasties trying to bite lumps out of me.
The downpour eased off to a steady pitter patter so the camera was allowed out again and, of course, I forgot to wipe the lens so the watery blob is still there. I’m looking across at Naddle Forest even though there isn’t much of a forest to be seen nowadays, presumably there was once but I really don’t know when. I could have gone across and walked back across the fells along that side of Naddle Beck, which is flowing down below the trees along the middle of the shot, but having looked at the mass of cloud over HIgh Street behind me I decided against and opted for the path alongside the wall instead.
The hail shower eventually moved across to water the Eden Valley and so we had another spell of drier and brighter weather although the sun never actually put in a full appearance. Still, the few glimpses that arrived were very welcome so I found a sheltered spot, yes its still windy, with a convenient rock to perch on and had a five minute break for something to eat and drink. On the centre skyline across the Naddle Valley is the intriguingly named Hugh’s Laithes Pike but I can tell you nothing about Hugh or his laithes or what, if anything, they were doing up there.
Looking ahead to my return route alongside the wall. The earlier blue skies have been replaced by a coat of grey emulsion.
A cheery patch of blue opens up above me, but once again I’m hearing faint and intermittent splats of rain on my jacket and I’m wondering how far I’ll get before it starts to get seriously rainy.
A look back to see how things are doing over High Street, Kidsty Pike and High Raise but nothing has changed very much and those dark, heavy clouds have been boiling up over the fell tops since I started out.
Turning the camera to the left for this view of Powley’s Hill and the gate with the quagmire around it which I passed through earlier. The route I took across there was the pathless tussocky one I’ve already mentioned. Just beyond the gate I followed sheep trods as far as it was possible and made for that whitish structure in the centre just below the skyline. Its not a building, just a fenced off rectangle of land although what the fence is protecting was hard to understand as the area enclosed by it was no different to the land outside it. From the fenced area I carried on over to the left skyline and then took a right turn to the top. It looks straightforward enough but the long tussocky grasses and large boggy patches make for slow progress.
The Harper Hills come back into view and its now raining steadily, its not a downpour by any means but its enough to be annoying. Wiping it off my glasses with already damp tissues isn’t proving to be very successful, I need some wipers fitting.
I’m about to lose this view so a last look back from Harper Hills …..
….. and a peek through the deer fence at the reservoir and pumping station.
I’m almost back at Scalebarrow Knott, the little rise over on the right, and the reedy area just below me is Scalebarrow Tarn, although there’s not much water to be seen in it now that the reeds have virtually taken it over.
I’ve now rounded Scalebarrow Knott and am looking down at the waterlogged path which is my return route back over to my little red car over yonder. The United Utilities van is no longer parked there so the driver has finished whatever job had to be done today. I didn’t catch sight of the driver or any other person today so I’ve had the place to myself. Well, I’d better get going and get the slip-slidey walk along that path over and done with. By the way, its still raining and its still windy so I’m feeling somewhat weatherbeaten. Ne’er mind, its only short drive back home and a hot cup of tea will soon put things to rights won’t it?