Little Asby Scar and Potts Valley

Walk date – 7th April 2020

Distance – 6.1 miles

Weather – dry and sunny, windy

Its been two weeks since our last walk but we haven’t been sitting on our rear ends wondering what to do to pass the time as there’s been plenty to get stuck into. The garden was in dire need of attention after the ravages of the winter storms so we set about that during the first week. It looks much better now and there is more to do but for that we need timber, the local timber supplier is closed for the duration! I sowed the vegetable seeds in pots and every last one of ’em germinated, a rare but satisfactory event, and now they are all ready for potting on. I discovered I didn’t have enough of the right sized pots required for the job and tried to place a ‘click and collect’ order via the usual DIY outlets, no luck there at all but not surprising since its that time of year and everybody needs the same stuff. I’ll just have to find a way around that little problem, a few of each in the larger pots, of which I have plenty, will have to do for the time being. Indoors, all those jobs which kept getting put off have been fettled so we reached a point where we could actually think about going for a walk, the fact that this coincided with a spell of prolonged fine weather at long last was purely serendipitous. We are fortunate to have some less frequented hills close to home, not as high as the Lake District fells but certainly no less interesting, and we chose one such place today. Its an area where we’ve walked several times before as its close to home and is useful as a back burner excursion if the weather only plays ball for a morning or an afternoon but not for the whole day. There were things to do during the morning so we only managed an afternoon outing.  I hope this walk report will go some way in helping to keep collective spirits up, especially those of you who are not able to visit Cumbria at present.


Sunbiggin Tarn – Little Asby Scar – Potts Valley – Rayseat PIke – Long Cairn – Sunbiggin Tarn

Starting out along the moorland road, the car is parked off road just behind us, out of shot on the right is Sunbiggin Tarn and following the wall to the left will lead you over to Great Kinmond. If you were going up Great Kinmond it woudn’t matter which side of the wall you chose to walk on, take a look at our walk up to Great Asby Scar on 23rd April 2017 for details. Little Asby Scar is just out of shot over to the right of the picture. Its a lovely day although the wind is constant and a bit nippy, imagine a hair dryer on a cool setting at medium speed blowing on the back of your neck and you’ll know what I mean. Cool enough for me to pull up the hood of my jacket until I warmed up a bit.

Over to our right, beyond the green field, are the lower slopes of Little Asby Scar and, on the extreme right, between it and Crosby Garrett Fell is Potts Valley.

Still walking the road and on our left some of Great Kinmond’s limestone pavements begin to show.

A little further on and again to the left of the road is this fenced off area, indicated on our route map by a blue circle opposite the Howes Well marker. It may have been a blue pool a good few years back but the tarn has long since been taken over by reeds and grasses. On OS maps it is named as Spear Pots and isn’t shown in blue although the fence is marked in. The rough grasses in the foreground are the tall and rounded hummocky variety, now flattened by the winter weather and still dormant. At least that allows us to see the gaps between each hummock and gives us a sporting chance of finding a spot of flatter ground to step on. These moorlands are mostly covered with this kind of vegetation so it can be rough on the feet and ankles.

We left the road just beyond the dried out tarn and began the gentle climb up to Little Asby Scar. Behind us Great Asby Scar and Great Kinmond have come into view.

We follow sheep trods as much we can and J is following one of them as he leads the way over to the structure on the right of the shot, which looks like a piece of wall from this angle.

A piece of wall is exactly what it is and built specifically to serve as a shelter for sheep, or walkers for that matter, to huddle behind when the weather is bad. There is very little by way of shelter from the wind around these parts as is clear from the photo.

Another sheep shelter in the distance, this time in the form of a plus sign, more generally referred to as a cross shelter. If you’d never been here before you might think this sweep of rough moorland is completely in the middle of nowhere, but the roads in the distance indicate otherwise. The junction ahead is a crossing point which links many places in this area, the road coming in from the right started its journey on the A685 near Newbiggin-on-Lune, climbing over the moorland to the junction. The road coming in from the left began just south of Shap passing through Orton and Raisbeck and, beyond the junction, carrying on towards Little Asby, Great Asby and eventually the A66 at Appleby. These moorland roads connect the inhabitants of the many small villages and hamlets they pass through with larger towns in the area and heavy winter snows can lead to them being cut off for a few days until the snow ploughs can get to work. Local farmers will also put their tractors and tractor buckets to work when this happens.

The green pastures below are the fields around Mazon Wath, one of the hamlets the road from Newbiggin-on-Lune passes through, though whether an area consisting of just a house and a farmhouse opposite it constitutes a hamlet I’m not sure.

Another view of the cross shelter as we continue to climb the slopes …..

….. with a look back towards Sunbiggin Tarn and the moorland road beside it. With a zoom in you might be able to spot our car parked off road opposite the tarn.

We reach the road coming up from Mazon Wath. We had been watching a cyclist struggling up the steep hill as we were approaching but no ‘social distancing’ was required since he/she had passed by when we reached it. ‘Wath’ is a Viking word for a ford across a stream but I’ll have to take that on trust seeing as I’m not fluent in Viking. Potts Beck begins it journey down through Potts Valley just below Mazon Wath but, not wanting to have a steep climb back up again, we passed on going down the hill to check out the ford.

We crossed the road and carried on climbing seeing Mallerstang Edge gradually inch its way into our view over on our right.

A look back over Mazon Wath to The Howgills. The farmhouse is in view but the other house is hidden by the dip in the road and the tree.

Swinging the camera a little further to my right brings Wild Boar Fell into view.

Eventually we reach the tall and well constructed cairn on the top of Little Asby Fell with Mallerstang Edge in the distance. The cairn is very similar in style to the one on Dale Head.

Another shot of it, this time with Wild Boar Fell in the distance.

We set off from the cairn, due east more or less, making our way across the limestone pavements until we reached the point at which the fell comes to an abrupt end above Potts Valley. We wondered about the structure which is prominent on the right of the shot so we went over to investigate.

We had a good look but couldn’t decide what on earth it was, or had been used for. The remaining walls had been well constructed with limestone blocks, by someone who obviously knew what they were doing, were formed into a rough square shape, and were about chest height, there or thereabouts. Our best guess was some form of shelter for shepherds in times long ago. It definitely hadn’t been put together by walkers needing to create themselves some shelter from the elements, too much skill was on display for that to be the case.

Limestone pavements  were on display everywhere we looked and beyond them the Northern Pennines, and the V shape of High Cup Nick, were showing up reasonably well through the haze.

Its best to stand still when you want to look around, because walking across this terrain has its own particular hazards which need keeping an eye on. The limestone clints above ground are easy enough to see although awkward to walk on as they have very uneven surfaces, but its the ones hidden just beneath the surface of the grass which can catch you out. Holes in the ground, where rain has created grikes between the limestone clints have to be watched out for too. You definitely need to watch where you’re putting your feet on terrain like this.

We get nearer the end of the fell and now we can see where the land begins to fall away into the valley below. On the other side of the valley is Crosby Garrett Fell the summit of which is a trig column on the aptly named Nettle Hill. We walked over there on 20th August 2017 so take a look at that walk for more info and some interesting information about Crosby Garrett.

Across the valley, on the western flanks of Crosby Garrett Fell, is Hazzler Brow Scar, another exposed limestone escarpment rising steeply from the valley floor. The enclosure to the right looks to have been walled off to keep sheep out and prevent them falling into what look like collapsed shake holes.

Zooming in for a closer look at Hazzler Brow Scar …..

….. followed by a turn to my right for a view along Potts Valley. Now we about turn and walk along the rim heading northwards …..

….. to here where we begin to descend towards the point where the wall crosses Potts Beck. Its a very steep descent and tough on the feet, even so its much better than climbing up it.

Looking down to Potts Beck and the sheepfold beside it. The beck, which sprang into life just below Mazon Wath, carries on to join Helm Beck which in turn flows into the River Eden.

There was no bridge at the point where we crossed and the beck was running a little too high to simply splash across so we made use of the sheep stopper. That’s our name for a barrier slung across a beck between walls and fences to stop sheep wandering where they shouldn’t. It had a stout wooden pole from which rigid steel netting was suspended and held taut by another wooden pole at the bottom. We just used the netting to hold on to as we stepped from the top of one stone to another across the stream bed. We walked along beside the beck until we came to a stile and from the top of it I took this look back along the way we came. The afternoon was warm and now we were out of the wind we decided this was the ideal place for a Mars Bar and drinks stop, so that’s what we did. Not a soul to be seen anywhere and even under normal circumstances this area probably doesn’t get anywhere near the amount of walkers that the Lake District does. It was very relaxing just to sit and listen to the water rippling downstream and listen to the calls of lapwings, or plovers, peewits, tewets, call them what you will, but the sound is unmistakeable. We saw some here and there on the ground, strutting to and fro and looking very smart in their black and white plumage.

Drinks stop over and we carried on through the valley walking upstream towards Armaside Woods.

Looking back downstream as we passed by the ruin of a washfold beside the beck.

The view above us as we pass below Hazzler Brow Scar …..

….. and a look across the valley towards a derelict barn on the opposite side of the beck.

Across the beck the lowest slopes of Little Asby Scar begin rising from the valley bottom.

You’ve got to hand it to those long gone chaps who built these stone walls, no hill, steep slope, rocky outcrop or deep gully seems to have stopped them getting their walls built. This is the enclosure around the collapsed shake holes which we saw from the edge of Little Asby Scar.

The route we’re taking back to the car leads us away from the valley and from the top of a slight rise below Crosby Garrett Fell I took a look back at this remote and lovely little valley and the beck gently making its way along it.

A more rugged face of Little Asby Scar presents itself as we climb out of the valley. This is the lower escarpment above Mazon Wath which is marked with a cairn on our route map. Beneath it several springs pop up from the ground with each one making its way over to flow into Potts Beck as it meanders along.

Potts Beck continues to wind along the valley with a sheep stopper, similar to the one we used, slung across it between the two walls on the left.

On the crest of the rise we passed a large enclosure containing this old barn, not quite derelict but fast approaching that state.

Looking back at the enclosure as we make our way over to …..

….. the moorland road which we crossed earlier. The ground is drying out well thanks to drier spell and the strong winds we’ve been having lately. The tractor tyre tracks indicate just how much of a quagmire this area must have been during all the wet weather we had. After we crossed the road we made our way over to the right heading for Rayseat Pike.

Another view of The Howgills as we made our way over to Rayseat. This patch of heather was a bit of a nightmare, its long tough roots sticking up above the ground frequently wrapped themselves around our boots, pulled at  bootlaces and snagged on trouser bottoms. Plenty of impolite and uncouth phrases issued forth, happily no-one was around to hear them.

The patch of heather contained a boundary stone although we could see no markings on it.

The Howgills from the boundary stone, and the much cursed heather patch. We made our way over to Rayseat Pike, although it hardly merits the title as there’s nothing by way of a pike as we understand it, just a few bits of limestone poking up out of the ground so Scafell Pike needn’t worry about any competition. There being nothing much of great interest on Rayseat we made our way over to the long barrow a short distance away to the south east …..

….. which is marked on the route map as Long Cairn. Its an ancient structure and was poorly excavated in 1875 by an amateur archaeologist, one Canon William Greenwell. He was a Canon at Durham Cathedral from 1854 until he died in 1918 and had been interested in archaeology from childhood, full of enthusiasm apparently but lacking the necessary skills or training to do the job correctly it seems. It looks as though some later ad hoc construction has taken place as there’s a structure resembling a shelter at the far end of it.

The sun wasn’t in the best place to allow for good photos of it but the shelter structure shows up well enough here. Apparently this long cairn has been examined in more recent times and records note that it was about 179′ long and that burnt bones were found in a cremation trench. Who knows what else might have been discovered had the over-enthusiastic Canon not set about it with his shovel. Just below the cairn is a fence running alongside Rayseat Sike, a small beck which drains into Sunbiggin Tarn. The ground around the Sike is a soggy hollow so we keep to the higher ground below the cairn, keep the fence line in view and when the fence line turns and heads south east, we turn north west and head back towards Sunbiggin Tarn …..

….. where a swan and a duck were carrying out their own bit of ‘social distancing’. Naturally the swan decided to dunk its head just as I took the shot. It kept on doing it so I called it a day …..

….. and headed over to join J by the bird watching hide which was locked and bolted to stop anyone using it. You could always sit on the grass though if you were a keen bird watcher although it appears that even sitting on grass is now prohibited in some places. The petty officiousness of the likes of Captain Mainwaring and Mr Hodges spring to mind.

There’s never a boatman around when you could do with one. We could be back at the car in no time if there was someone to operate the little rowing boat moored at the end of the jetty over there. No, hold on a minute, we wouldn’t be able to be two metres apart then would we?  Forget it, we’ll walk round the tarn.

We head away from the tarn with this view of Little Asby Scar on the skyline ahead of us plus the silhouette of the sheep shelter wall over to the left of it. We eventually leave this path at the wall, bear off to the left around the head of the tarn and back to the road.

From this point, just below the road, I took a final look across to The Howgills and the wind ruffled surface of Sunbiggin Tarn. Despite the wind its been a gorgeous afternoon for this lovely little walk and we’ve so enjoyed being out again in these wide open spaces. Other than a couple of cyclists and a few vans crossing the moorland roads we’ve neither seen or met another person. When we walk the local lanes around our village there are so many folk around doing exactly the same thing that keeping the required distance becomes a little difficult, not helped by large tractors, other farm vehicles, delivery vans and lorries constantly passing by thus forcing everyone to stop and move into the roadside ditches since there are no pavements alongside country lanes. Well, we’d best get off home and get something ready to eat, after which I’ll spend the evening sorting out the photos from today’s walk and getting this walk report prepared. Neither of us will be watching any TV news channels because we’re utterly jaded with hearing the same old nonsense, mis-information and often completely erroneous information day after day after day. I haven’t watched any of it since the end of January, watching reporters indulging in a feeding frenzy over every scrap of gloomy news they could dig up just became too tedious. The same goes for all the repeat programmes which have now become every channel’s standard offering, there are better things to do.