Sour Howes and Sallows

Walk date – 16th March 2020

Distance – 7.9 miles

Weather – sunny start, cloudy later, increasingly windy

At last, a positive forecast for a dry sunny start to the day albeit with the caveat that it would become cloudier with strengthening winds during the afternoon. We decided to drive over to Troutbeck for a walk up Sour Howes, using one of the less frequented routes, see how the weather was behaving itself when we got there and deciding at that point whether to continue over to Sallows. True to the forecast there was a sunny start, which was a very welcome change, but we didn’t have wall to wall cloudless blue skies either, it was one of those days when we were in blinding sunlight one minute and cast into deep shade the next as a succession of huge, and sometimes quite dramatic, clouds passed by. The predicted cloud cover and stronger winds had arrived by lunchtime, with a corresponding lowering of temperature, so we amended our return route rather than taking the slightly longer bridleway route back via High House which we had originally planned to use.


Moorhowe Road – High Borrans – Applethwaite Common – Sour Howes -Moor Head – Sallows – Capple Howe – High Borrans – Moorhowe Road

There is nothing much by way of parking space on the Moorhowe Road but we were able to safely tuck the car in, mostly off the road, a short distance off to the left of the shot. For a very minor back road it was surprisingly busy as we walked down to turn off along the much quieter lane to High Borrans.

The walk along the tarmac lane to High Borrans is probably about a mile, maybe a bit less, but the countryside around is so pleasant and easy on the eye that you don’t really notice the distance at all. Across the fields on our left we had a constant view of Sour Howes as we walked along.

Passing by the driveway up to the Outdoor Education Centre at High Borrans and …..

….. a little further up on the other side of the road is Borrans Reservoir. A very large cloud drifting over it, and us, keeps us in deep shade for a while.

The lane curves past an old building beyond which we leave it, after a fight with a very stubborn and awkward gate, and follow the track beyond. The notice informed us that shooting was in progress, we didn’t hear the sound of guns all the time we were out, as usual.

From the gate to this point was a bit of a quagmire, deeply rutted by wheels and animal feet so it was extremely muddy and slippery. Neither of us fancied falling over into it so we took it carefully and reached the firmer ground without ending up with our backsides covered in the stuff. The tree plantation is a fairly long one so there’s nothing much to see for a while.

Once beyond the plantation the land is much more open, the track was easy to follow and the ground climbs very gently so this first part of the walk was very pleasant, especially as we had some sunshine to go with it.

The track continues to rise gently and we begin to get some distant views when the Coniston fells suddenly appear over on our left. Sheep are wandering all over the pastures, and a few squawking crows are flying around, probably squabbling over nesting material. They won’t be fighting over toilet rolls that’s for sure. Eee, by ‘eck its grand to be out.

The view back to the tree plantation and Borrans Reservoir. A white-out in the sky thanks to the sun’s glare.

The haze makes it difficult to identify very much in the distance, but we can just about make out the Langdale Pikes peeping up above the sunlit hillside to the right of the shot.

 Zooming in for a closer look over towards the cloudy Coniston fells as we pass above Dubbs Reservoir.

Beyond the gate the gradient begins to steepen, its not immediately noticeable but gradually you realise that muscles are having to put just a little more effort in. We are also beginning to feel more of a breeze than we have up to now, fortunately its more or less behind us so its not a hindrance.

A little beck about to be crossed which had a pretty little waterfall up towards the top of the slope. We didn’t like the look of that large dark cloud up ahead and …..

….. as we crested the rise with Sour Howes in view once more we were plunged into gloom again. Golden and sunny changed abruptly into brown and gloomy with an accompanying rise in wind strength. Hoods go up.

All was not completely washed out though and as I took a look back there was this lovely patch of sunlight landing around Dubbs Reservoir making things look cheerful again. Windermere never quite managed to get its fair share strangely enough.

Looking across to Troutbeck and Wansfell as we carry on up the slope …..

….. and, while the sun was still on it, a look ahead to a very bright Sour Howes. As we reach the wall in the distance …..

….. somebody switched the light off again. On the left is Sour Howes with the minor hump of Capple Howe on the right. We’ll follow the wall to where the cross wall meets it and at the junction of the two we’ll cross over for the final climb up to the top of Sour Howes. Shortly after taking the shot we saw the silhouette of a tiny figure on Capple Howe.

We reached the junction of the walls and crossed over so we took a moment or two to decide which route we would take up to the top. In the end we followed what was nothing more than a sheep trod going up the left hand side of the shot, after which we curved over to the right and kept to a straight line up to the top. The wind continued to blow up from the valley and once we had turned sideways on to it we had a bit more of a battle with it.

Bracing each other we stood back to back at the top of the climb, I took this shot looking north towards Caudale Moor and Thornthwaite Crag and J took a wind speed reading – 19 mph. Not strong enough to create a discernible threat to life but enough to be a damned nuisance, rattling hoods and straps, and making it awkward to keep to a straight line. Over to the right of the shot, beyond the wall going up to Sallows, are a half sunlit Yoke, a definitely shaded Ill Bell, and a just about visible Froswick. Peeping up above Thresthwaite Mouth is Gray Crag.

We sat on the leeward side to gain a bit of respite for a few minutes and discussed whether to continue on over to Sallows. It was quite chilly in the wind and shade but a cup of hot coffee works wonders though and we eventually decided we’d carry on, its only one and a quarter miles away so it wouldn’t take us too long to get across there.

We dropped down further out of the wind and along came another bout of sunshine which, together with the caffeine, kept us in good spirits. We reminisced about a walk we took up here in 2015 when we saw a chap listening to his radio as he was repairing the dry stone wall with flask of tea at the ready. We were in shorts and t-shirts on a hot sunny day in July then though, not muffled up in winter clothing on a windy March day. As can be seen there’s an obvious absence of walkers and we haven’t seen anyone since that tiny figure on Capple Howe.

Wansfell was looking a bit dour and chilly as we made our way around and there are only occasional patches of snow still lying on the high fells beyond it now. As we’re well into March its probably unlikely that more snow will fall, but you never know in the Lake District.

A good view of Red Screes, left, and Caudale Moor, right, can be had from Moor Head where happily a few patches of sunlight were helping to brighten things up once more. Its also nice to have some of the lower hills in view, often they just blend in with the background and are hard to identify. Not so today, and the little sunny hilltop just behind the white buildings of Troutbeck Park Farm is Troutbeck Tongue, to the Tongue’s left are the lower slopes of Wansfell, and above the Tongue is High Great Knott.

Naturally Red Screes dominates everything so here it is in close up …..

….. and once more framed by the stile we’ve just crossed. Having taken the shot I turned around, stepped forward to continue up the slope and immediately sank, up to the ankles, in what looked to be a solid grassy path. It wasn’t. What it turned out to be was extremely waterlogged ground which simply gave way under my feet. Muddy wet boots all over again.

With the wind having nothing to slow it down as it rushed up from the valley bottom we battled our way up the path and reached this rocky outcrop just a short distance below the top of Sallows where J took another reading – 30 mph up here. A quick dash to the shelter of a hollow below an outcrop on the other side of this one followed ……

….. where we were out of the wind, where the hot soup came out and where we could finally hear ourselves think. We did see a group of three walkers, followed a few minutes later by a pair, coming down off Yoke and heading down the Garburn Road back to Troutbeck, but they were too far in the distance to notice us. It doesn’t look much from this angle but the walk up to Yoke is quite a long haul and a lot steeper than it appears to be.

Another view from our sheltered hideaway, this time a little to my right for a look over the rocky lower slopes of Crag Quarter, below the lower slopes of Yoke, where Harter Fell and Kentmere Pike are just in view above the  Quarter’s assorted knotts, howes and crags. Its hard to believe we were walking over there just ten days ago, it feels much longer ago than that. Not a hint of snow anywhere across there now.

I added a fleecy mid layer before starting out again and after packing everything away, we returned to the path only to find the wind hadn’t eased one jot so we didn’t bother walking the last couple of hundred yards up to Sallows summit. If we hadn’t been up there a few times already it might have been different but we have so, rather than suffering another battering from the wind, we began making our way back to Sour Howes. Using J as a backstop once more I took another shot of Red Screes and Caudale Moor …..

….. followed by a look across Kentmere Park over to Sour Howes before stowing the camera and dropping back down to the stile where, unbelievably, I stepped in the same saturated ground as I did on the way up and sank in up to my ankles all over again. I knew it was there so how come I walked straight into it again? Not paying attention I suppose, or in a hurry to get out of the wind. We’ll stay below the top of Sour Howes to keep out of the wind and walk the path alongside the wall as we aim for the stand of trees over on the left.

One and a half miles later we arrive at the stand of trees, go through the gate and follow the path through …..

….. and drop down to the stile crossing. Once across we keep to the wall until we’re past the soggy bits and then head up onto Capple Howe. Ahead of us the cloud is beginning to close ranks ….

….. but from Capple Howe the skies above Sour Howes are still looking reasonably bright. The little cluster of rocks on the top of an extremely windy Capple Howe meant we could at least sit down to take this shot and another wind speed reading instead of having to stand back to back to brace ourselves. Wind speed was 30 mph with occasional gusts a couple or three miles per hour above that so we still have a few more miles of wobbly walking to do.

The view east from Capple Howe, no craggy fells over here, now we have the grassy and undulating Shap fells to gaze at.

A look back over my shoulder for a view of Sallows before we completely lost a view of it.

On the horizon the North Pennines are slowly merging into a blue smudge. Over here, and on the fells around Longsleddale, there is still some sunshine, although it did turn a little feeble from time to time. We rounded the wall corner to the next gate from where we followed a fence line heading westwards again.

Crossing the rough grasses and following the occasional sheep trod as we head back over towards High Borrans. There’s nothing much to take a shot of directly ahead of us, the sunlight is much too bright at the moment so here’s a look back to some of the fells above Bannisdale, with Staveley Head Fell (I think) below them.

Harter Fell has disappeared from view, but Kentmere Pike, Goat Scar and Shipman Knotts are still with us for the time being. We continue over the rough ground until, at the top of a slight rise …..

….. the tree plantation and Borrans Reservoir are once again in view, the path we used on the outward leg can’t be seen from up here but its between the stand of trees and where we are at the moment.

As we walked across from Capple Howe the sky gradually clouded over, all the colour has gone from it and now the sun was only just managing to cast a faint glimmer as we dropped down to re-join our outward leg path.

The stubborn gate which we passed through at the beginning of the walk is  out of shot to the right. This is the old building I mentioned at the time which seems to be now used only as a storage facility as there was lots of stuff lying around just beyond the end of the building. Maybe the outdoor activity equipment is stored here. We turned right here and walked along the curved lane, had we turned to the left and walked a handful of yards we would have come to …..

….. the High Borrans Outdoor Education Centre. I did a quick nip along the drive for a shot of it, and noticed that all was silent with no-one around, maybe outdoor activities are on hold for the time being.

As can be seen from the shot the skies are almost milky white now but it was an enjoyable enough walk back despite having to tread the tarmac. At the end of the lane we’ll take a right turn and walk back up the hill to the car so today’s walk is almost over. Once again walkers were noticeable by their absence so we had the place to ourselves, more or less. The lack of visitors will be of much greater concern for anyone connected with tourism in the Lake District right now. Normality will return, eventually.