Walk date – 6th January 2021
Weather – dry and sunny, no breeze, plenty of cloud drama
Distance – 5.67 miles
The forecast for today was encouraging, i.e. a windless, dry and sunny day, but the dull, cloudy morning had us wondering if the forecasters had got it wrong again. We decided to wait and give the sun time to rise a little higher and work its warming magic on the cloud. Sure enough, after waiting about an hour, the cloud began breaking up and drifting away. Consequently we were a little later starting out than we had planned but we eventually got underway and after a short journey parked up, off road, at Moorahill Farm where the road comes to an end. On previous occasions we have taken the route over Towtop and Low Kop and then on to Wether Hill and Loadpot Hill from there. We had intended to do the same route in reverse today but turned around at Loadpot for reasons which will become clearer later.
Moorahill Farm (roadside parking) – Carhullan – The Pen – Hart Hill – Loadpot Hill – Hart Hill – Cawdale Edge – Carhullan – Moorahill Farm
A view of the route we usually take where the path is clear to see, across the flat area of Towtop, up to The Hause where the tree plantation is and then on to Low Kop. Its a beautiful morning but very chilly despite the sunshine. Just out of shot to the right is the holiday let, Carhullan, and one of the outbuildings is having either a new roof or some repairs to the existing one so lots of scaffolding around it and all fenced off with high metal railings. There seemed no way through to the path we needed but as we were debating how to get around it all a couple of workmen came into view and called out the directions to us. Good that they appeared for, until you got really close, it was difficult to spot the narrow gap between the fencing and a wall which allowed access to the path.
Having negotiated the fencing and general mayhem around the site we made our way across towards the main path across The Pen. Apart from a few sheep trods this was a mostly pathless route once we had deviated from the Cawdale Edge path. We didn’t know it at the time but that was to be the path we eventually used for the latter part of our return journey. The above view is looking across to the Northern Pennines although they are a little difficult to distinguish in and amongst all the cloud drifting around. A zoom in will be useful in making out the detail.
We’ve reached one of the main tracks across The Pen. The wheels of numerous mountain bikes had compacted the snow and the night-time frosts had added their own touch of firmness so we had solid ground beneath our feet again and were able to make better progress. We followed this particular path all the way up to Loadpot summit which is directly ahead of us and mostly covered by cloud at the moment.
The cloud drifts away as we approach Hart Hill.
Another look back at the north Pennines as we crest one of the rises on Hart Hill. The tips of the moorland grasses look as if they have been dipped in icing sugar. It is relatively warmer up here so jackets get unzipped a little.
Heading up Hart Hill, a gentle gradient for the most part and you are hardly aware of gaining height. Occasionally there are some rises which have you puffing a bit but overall its a very steady climb up.
Having been clear for a while another bank of cloud began streaming down from Loadpot Hill and made its way down The Pen towards Heltondale. Fascinating to watch.
Looking back across The Pen near to the point where a number of paths meet, the one going off to the right is the Cawdale Edge one which we used for our return journey. The one we’ve been using to cross The Pen is over to the left of it. Deeper snow from now on …..
….. and the moorland grasses, heavy with snow and frost, aren’t as upright as they were lower down. My gaiters stop at knee level and the snow was almost reaching their tops as I ploughed into it to take this shot.
At this point we’re almost at the summit of Loadpot. The ground has levelled out and we ought to be seeing the trig point in the distance. However we have also been wrapped in a cloud blanket so it’s hidden from view at the moment.
We were almost next to it by the time it appeared through the milky light.
J very kindly did his modelling bit after which we made ourselves as comfy as we could, given that there’s nothing much to perch on, got out the soup and the sandwiches and had a break. We were so busy munching and talking that we didn’t really notice that the cloud had rolled away leaving us with a stunning panorama …..
….. where enormous banks of cloud were filling everything between us and the Helvellyn group so we could see nothing of what lay below us.
We followed this path from the trig point for a short distance to get a better look at what things were like to the south west. Still only the high fells of the Helvellyn group on the right, and bits of The Nab and Rest Dodd poking through the cloud below us to the left. The scene was much brighter than the shot shows but I chopped the sun out so things look more muted than they really were.
The Helvellyn group again with just the top of Fairfield on the left and the snowy top of Raise to the right. Not a mention of possible inversions on any forecast that we looked at yesterday so we had a very unexpected treat.
Directly below us a little more of The Nab and Rest Dodd come into view.
Here’s a view towards Wether Hill where an enormous amount of cloud activity was taking place. I kept the sun out of the shot again.
Looking west again where only the tops of Raise and its neighbours are visible above the massed clouds. It must have been pretty gloomy in the valleys below.
I looked over to the north west hoping at least to see the tips of something but the only thing to be seen was a mass of bubbling cloud.
A wonderful sight.
Back to the trig point for this ‘top of the page’ shot.
We walked a little distance along the path to Wether Hill for a few more shots. Over to the right more of Rest Dodd has come into view but the cloud activity is as lively as ever and none of it seems to be dissipating.
Looking along the path to Wether Hill.
More cloud drama to the south east …..
….. and which continued to build and grow ever larger and higher.
Rest Dodd, and the tip of The Nab, become clearer but very little else.
What a wonderful treat all this is after so many weeks of grey blanket cloud and those lenticular clouds over on the right are just spectacular. They look like an alien fleet straight out of Star Wars.
Not to be outdone, the north Pennines put on their own cloud extravaganza.
Back at the cairn we had an executive meeting. Even the Helvellyn group has disappeared now …..
….. and still nothing to be seen towards the north west. Loadpot seemed to be the only fell that wasn’t being enveloped so we were extremely fortunate to be able to see all this happening around us. I took lots of shots so I’ve had to whittle them down, here’s a few more …..
At our executive meeting at the cairn we discussed whether to carry on over to Wether Hill or not. As this shot shows the cloud activity hasn’t abated at all and we didn’t want to go over there only to be swathed in cloud when we arrived and not to be able to take any shots. It was hard to decide but we eventually decided not to bother and be content with the wonderful views we’ve already enjoyed rather than spoil things by ending up in cloud and grumping about it.
So with some reluctance we turned out backs on Loadpot and began our descent. By way of compensation the north Pennines were bathed in sunshine while a mini inversion occurred below us. Simply fabulous to look at as we crunched over the frosty snow.
I don’t know what happened to the sun in this shot as I hadn’t changed the camera settings. It looks as if its either being squashed or exploding. I know what is happening over Wether Hill though and its precisely the reason we decided against walking over to it. By now we would have been smack in the middle of that bank of cloud pouring over it and we wouldn’t have been seeing anything.
Here’s a closer look at it and the cloud beyond which is still rising out of the valleys over there. For once it looks as though we made the right decision today.
Sunshine all the way as we make our way back down Hart Hill.
The view across The Pen.
Meanwhile the cloud spreads a little further across Wether Hill.
Another look back where a path coming up from Cawdale joins the one we are on. The cloud looks to be in retreat over Wether Hill now.
Tramping down Hart Hill …..
….. with a view of Low Kop and The Hause for most of the way.
The view back to Wether Hill and Loadpot Hill from the track on Cawdale Edge. The afternoon sun seems to have put paid to all the cloud atmospherics and everything looks very calm back there now. There’s not much further to go now and …..
….. we are soon back at the car. Carhullan is the long white house just behind the telephone pole. The outbuilding having some roofing work done on it is just to the side of it. The smaller white house is Little Carhullan. Behind all of them is The Pen. Cloud activity is now reduced to that single wisp floating about all by itself in a clear blue sky.
Moorahill Farm which I believe offers B&B accommodation in a barn conversion if anyone is interested.
A look back at Carhullan and The Pen before we leave. We had superb weather all the time we were out and the unexpected cloud inversion was a fantastic bonus, what more needs to be said.
Unfortunately, this silver lining of a day had a big black cloud at the end of it. Last night I was preparing this web page and deciding which of the photos I would include news came through that Lockdown 3 had been voted through by MPs after a day of debate and passed into legislation in consequence. The short speech made by Sir Charles Walker during yesterday’s debate is worth taking note of, it is here in written form in Hansard – https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2021-01-06/debates/06F079A7-0E76-4320-997D-61ABB2F5A441/details#contribution-23D12798-DA9A-4F7F-BBEA-36BC44CA5F2A
and his speech, as he delivered it yesterday, can be seen and heard here just a little way down the page –
In similar vein, here is an another link worthy of five minutes of everyone’s time – with the title ‘For the Fallen.’
It will be a rare person indeed who has not experienced at least one of the situations mentioned over the past nine months or will do so in the coming ones, and if you are able to get to the end of this short read without a tear in your eye or a lump in your throat you’re made of sterner stuff than either of us are. As far as we are concerned, anger doesn’t even begin to describe how we feel about what has been done to our country and its citizens by a State which purports to serve them. Freddie Whittaker is correct, We won’t forget. We won’t forgive. There will be a reckoning.