Walk date – 21st March 2020
Distance – 3.2 miles
Weather – dull, overcast, windy
The forecast for a sunny but cold day was only half right. It was cold but, after a good showing from six o’clock until seven, the sun decided to go back in for the rest of the day. Conditions continued to be very overcast with poor light so the walk we had planned for today was put back in the pending tray. Photos from that walk just wouldn’t have been good enough in today’s flat and uninspiring light. Having planned for a longish walk and being ready for the off by half past seven we had a cuppa and a re-think about where we could go should the conditions improve during the morning. They didn’t improve all that much but by lunchtime we’d convinced ourselves that it was a little less gloomy so our packed lunches were eaten at home and then we drove over to Ravenstonedale where we had a leisurely ramble for a couple of hours. At the foot of the western side of Wild Boar Fell is a prominent limestone outcrop known as The Clouds, the precise origin of the name is unclear but given their white and knobbly appearance its an appropriate description. I was born and raised in a Dales village and the surrounding countryside, indeed the whole of the Yorkshire Dales, had limestone pavements and outcrops in abundance so its a bit of a trip down memory lane as well. During the current situation we are restricting our walks to places which we think will be largely unfrequented or which are likely to have very few people around so, for the time being, we may not be walking in some of the more well known areas of the Lakes.
Fell End Quarry – bridleway to Dale Slack – Stennerskeugh Clouds – Fell End Clouds – Fell End Quarry
We parked at the entrance to a former quarry opposite Harter Fell, the one belonging to the Howgill group of fells that is, not one of the Lake District ones sharing the same name, and walked towards the right of the shot back towards …..
….. the cattle grid where the bridleway begins. A zoom in will reveal the bridleway rising up the hill on the right of the shot. At the cattle grid the A683 road between Kirky Stephen and Sedbergh carries on behind the walls over to the left but we crossed the cattle grid to join this lane, known as The Street and thus indicating its Roman origins, which eventually rejoins the A683 at Rawthey Bridge, a short distance away to the south.
As we started to follow the bridleway I took a look back at the junction of the two roads and the location of the former quarry where the car is parked. As can be seen the lane is long and open and cars can be parked roadside in many places along it. The A683 had frequent traffic but only our car and one other, some distance further along, were parked along here.
The bridleway is on Common Land, part of Ravenstonedale Common and, as is the case with Common Land all over the country, is an area where people have certain traditional rights – the right to collect wood, cut turf for fuel, to fish or to allow animals to graze and so on. The white buildings of Street Farm can be seen in the middle distance so the occupants of the farm will probably have such commoner’s rights.
Looking over towards Stennerskeugh Clouds as we carry on up the bridleway where large numbers of horses hoof prints have been in evidence right from the start so maybe some fell ponies will appear before long. The recent windy conditions are drying out the ground very nicely and although there’s still a bit of ‘give’ underfoot no ominous squelching has been experienced so far.
The bridleway is quite easy to follow, the hoof prints are a reliable guide, but there’s nothing to stop you following whatever route takes your fancy. As the fell ponies seem to have taken the line of least resistance we do likewise, no sense in risking a sprained ankle when there’s a good grassy path to follow.
As we go higher there’s a corresponding increase in the amount of limestone rocks and boulders scattered everywhere but the bridleway still manages to find a relatively smooth passage through them.
Looking back for a view of Harter Fell I noticed the owners of some of the dozens and dozens of hoof prints quietly grazing the fellside some distance below us.
Still following the hoof prints as we wind our way through the lower levels of limestone beneath Stennerskeugh Clouds. Every rise we crest reveals yet another limestone level and you almost begin to believe they will just keep on appearing ad infinitum.
A look back at Harter Fell and some of the other Howgills fells as we walk through the little valley of Dale Slack. Ahead of us we can see what we think might well be the last level to reach and where we can take a left turn over to the top of Stennerskeugh Clouds.
We were right in our thinking and eventually we stepped out onto this grassy level. We emerged from Dale Slack just a little further back at a point between Fell End, the top of which can be seen just behind the tarn, and where we are standing at the moment. We then about turn and carry on to the crest of Stennerskeugh Clouds.
A small cairn stands along the crest of the ridge although whether it marks the topmost point or not I’m not sure. What it does do though is draw one’s attention to the considerable drop immediately below it. The level below is an extensive mass of limestone pavement stretching right to the end of the level, probably even below it too as the hillside drops down to the valley. We didn’t walk all the way along as the very chilly wind picked up speed even at this relatively low level of 1535′. My woolly hat gets turned into its secondary function of balaclava, our hoods go on and get pulled in tightly in an attempt to minimise the ear bashing.
From the crest of the ridge a look behind us at the profile of Wild Boar Fell. The Stennerskeugh and Fell End Clouds form part of Wild Boar’s lower western slopes. Beyond Wild boar lies the Mallerstang valley and Mallerstang Edge and after that you are in the Yorkshire Dales National Park and yet more limestone country. Only the artificial construct of a county boundary separates the two areas but geologically they are very similar.
Looking southwards along the Stennerskeugh ridge towards Fell End and the Howgills. We were experiencing what, euphemistically, could be called a sunny spell although it was nothing more than a very faint glimmer through a slightly thinner veil of cloud.
Looking towards the Fell End Clouds as we walk along the crest, a view which may illustrate what was going on when I mentioned climbing through the different levels. Fell End seems to have a lot more of these levels than the Stennerskeugh end did but the overall result is the same, a series of limestone ledges looking like a pile of plates of various sizes stacked one on top of the other.
Walking back towards the top of Dale Slack and on our right the many limestone pavement levels of the Stennerskeugh Clouds descend layer by layer back down to the valley. On the hillside on the far left of the shot a walled enclosure and the gable end of an old house is visible. I’ve never got the zoom lens with me when I need it so its irritating not to be able to include a closer view. A fellow named Harry Hope is said to have farmed there until 1820 and within the external boundary wall the layout of the inner fields walls can still be made out. On our route map at the top of the page this area is indicated by a white area criss-crossed with walls beneath the Fell End Clouds.
The same view of Fell End Clouds from a little further on. Over on the right the walled enclosure is a little clearer to see now, but I’ve managed to exclude the farmhouse completely from the view. I’m blaming the cold wind and not my photographic incompetence.
Overlooking the little valley of Dale Slack and another view of Fell End as we reach the end of the Stennerskeugh crest.
We cross over to Fell End and from the spring, which has just popped up from the ground, I took a look back towards the Stennerskeugh Clouds where the faint glimmer momentarily became an encouraging glow before reverting to type after a couple of seconds. Nice while it lasted though.
Across Fell End Clouds now and into the serious stuff of clints and grikes, the former being the limestone rocks and the latter being the fissures between them, as we head towards the marker cairn across the level, more or less, top of Fell End. Over to the right Fell End’s various levels are beginning to appear.
A look back towards the Stennerskeugh escarpment as we move from one pavement level to another.
We picked our way carefully through the clints, there’s lots of potential for sprained or twisted ankles along here, and reached the marker cairn at 457m/1499′ …..
….. with J giving us a cheerful wave as I take a look back towards the Stennerskeugh crest while …..
….. I peer through very watery eyes from the confines of my hood and balaclava, by ‘eck its nippy up ‘ere. At least we’re wearing the right sort of clothing today. Notice the boots, dry and mud free for the first time since Christmas I think. There isn’t a soul about, not even a speck on the horizon, although J did get out the binoculars and briefly spotted a couple of tiny figures up on top of one of the Howgill fells several miles distant. It must have been even windier over there because they had no sooner appeared than they vanished again, probably looking to find somewhere out of the wind.
I decided to pick my way across the clints to the far end and have a look over the edge to see the view below …..
….. with a look over to the Howgills on the way …..
….. while the sound of whinnying in the distance had me looking back to see a group of fell ponies grazing contentedly.
A view back up to the marker cairn as I make my way over from one line of clints to the next …..
….. which, as on Stennerskeugh, just keep on coming like waves on an incoming tide.
The clints are awkward to walk over and its all too easy to lose one’s balance so on finding a wobble free place to stand I took this shot looking towards the downhill end of the pavement where a lone sycamore can just be seen. We’ll make our way over to that after I’ve had a peep over the edge which I have finally reached. Not that its a long way but I kept stopping to take pictures. When I reached the edge I was expecting to have a view down to the road but there was a surprise in store for …..
….. instead of looking down to a road I had this view across a natural amphitheatre, a wonderful and very unexpected sight. It was too big to fit into one shot so this is the left hand side …..
….. this is the middle section …..
….. and this is the view to the right. J was still picking his way over and I signalled for him to come and take a look for himself and we stood there for a few minutes simply gazing at the sight. Its quite a sight and much more enjoyable than peering down at a road. I think perhaps I should get around to doing a panorama now and again to show a more comprehensive view.
While I’m here I take a look along the line of the escarpment with the marker cairn still just in view at the top right of the shot. Limestone everywhere you look and in incredible quantity, truly an amazing natural feature.
Another and even larger cairn towards the end of the pavements and, in total isolation, a sycamore tree just a little further along.
We drop down to the tree taking a look en route at a couple of the pavements we crossed when we were higher up.
Some very deep grikes appeared as we approached the tree but could be easily dealt with lower down where the clints were closer together.
We thought about how many years have passed since a tiny seed landed in one of the grikes, and found itself in an ideal place to germinate, thrive and ultimately grow into this splendid specimen. It may have lost a branch or two here and there in past gales but it still has a good shape to it and it makes a striking addition to the landscape. We couldn’t find it on the OS map and J was of the firm opinion it ought to be shown on it. When we looked more closely once we were back at home we eventually found it to the left of the capital W of the word Workings (disused). Its towards the bottom of our route map at the top of the page but you’ll probably have to zoom in to spot it.
With J still trying to identify the tree’s location on the map I took a look back up towards it from a few paces down the slope. Once the leaves are out the broken branches to the right won’t be quite so noticeable. We’ll have to come back in the summer and see how it looks then.
We begin to make our way back down to the road with Harter Fell in full view ahead of us once again …..
….. with a look back up at the Clouds which are a lot more interesting than the actual ones above us have been today, flat, featureless and frustrating things so they were.
Studfold Farmhouse across the fields, probably no longer a working farm from appearances so maybe a private dwelling or a holiday let now.
Still descending towards the road and the track passes by a couple of lime kilns …..
….. the first lime kiln …..
….. and the second lime kiln, both of them still in a reasonable state of repair.
Back down to the lane where its only a five minute walk back to the car.
A look back up to Fell End Clouds from the lane.
A little way back we passed the place where we’d noticed another car parked up when we arrived, its no longer there so there’s only us around now as we return to the old quarry and the car. This is only a very short walk and could be easily managed in about an hour or so at a normal walking pace, although it could be made into a much longer walk by including Harter Fell just over the road. Alternatively a morning or an afternoon could be spent simply exploring the area. We’ve just sauntered along and only explored a little but there is still plenty more to discover because the Clouds cover such a large area on lots of different levels. Nevertheless, we’ve had a couple of hours worth of fresh air and exercise and a most interesting little excursion. I’m sure we’ll be back before too long, its a fascinating place.