Wet Sleddale, High Wether Howe and Seat Robert

Walk date – 19th April 2020

Distance – 7.4 miles

Weather – sunny with a brisk and cold east wind


Having walked on the western side of Swindale on our last walk we decided our daily exercise would be on the eastern side of it today.  Another sunny day arrived so after a leisurely morning doing various chores, and an early lunch, we went over to Wet Sleddale reservoir, which anyone leaving the M6 at Shap will probably have noticed over to their left as they drove down to join the A6. The landscape and terrain is just the same as that on the western side of Swindale, rough tussocky ground, few established paths, rolling hills, gentle gradients and a wild and desolate landscape. There is nothing to attract visitors who are in search of lofty crags and peaks, shops, cafes or visitor attractions so it remains largely unfrequented. Ideal walking territory then for a quiet walk on a busy Bank Holiday or just getting away from it all at any time. Ideal also in the present dry conditions since the lack of rain and strong winds have dried out the ground very well, walking any of the hills around the Shap area during normal weather conditions can be a very soggy experience and becomes downright miserable after prolonged periods of rain.  Just the ticket for today though.


Cooper’s Green – Thorneybank – Sleddale Grange – Sleddale Hall – High Wether Howe – Seat Robert – Sleddale Grange – Thorneybank – Cooper’s Green

We set off from Cooper’s Green and walked over to this attractive little bridge spanning the infant River Lowther which started life as Sleddale Beck way up in the remote Shap fells. Sleddale Beck feeds the Wet Sladdale reservoir with the outflow from the reservoir becoming named as the River Lowther. The name may have some connection with the nearby Lowther Castle at Askham but I don’t know for sure.

The view upstream from the bridge. Once across the bridge there’s a very short grassy bank to cross and which leads over to …..

….. this access road for the handful of farms and dwellings situated along the Wet Sleddale valley which gives us a long stretch of easy walking with firm ground under our feet.

A Victorian era post box set into the wall at the entrance to the farm at Thorneybank, still doing the job for which it was intended. There was one of these in the little Yorkshire village I lived in too, as the saying goes ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. I wonder if the postie still uses the original key to open the box and what the original collection times were. Times have certainly changed in all other respects.

Everything ahead is dazzlingly bright but the cold easterly wind is keeping the temperature pegged back as we carry on along the lane towards Green Farm. Over on the left of the shot is the reservoir’s dam wall and its spillway although its not overflowing today. The lane splits just ahead, the left hand branch turns into the farm while the right hand one continues up the valley.

A very wind ruffled surface on a very blue Wet Sleddale reservoir. The wind, although cold, wasn’t of the knock you to the ground variety but it definitely gave rise to much eye watering and nose blowing, even though it was for the most part blowing at our backs. Lambs in abundance in these fields and everywhere else in the locality, some already a month old, some only born a week or so ago, but all of them run to their mothers the minute anyone comes into view.

Beyond Sleddale Grange the tarmac ends and turns into this cart track but its well used by the farmer so we still have good firm ground beneath our boots. The fields on this side of the valley are greening up nicely now unlike the rougher pastures on the other side which have barely begun to shed their drab winter coverings.

A look back at Wet Sleddale reservoir from further along the cart track.

Still following the cart track and we get our first glimpse of Sleddale Hall, or ‘Crow Crag’, Uncle Monty’s country cottage in ‘Withnail and I’. Its presently owned by Tim Ellis, a conservation architect living in Kent, who plans to turn it into a private house and who has already carried out a number of restorations whilst seeking to retain the original character of the property. As all was locked and deserted there was no-one to ask if it the work was finished or not.

The cart track runs below the house  so while we were walking along I took a look across the sheepfolds back to the reservoir, still as wind ruffled as ever. So are we, because we are quite high and more exposed at this point so even more eye watering and hair re-styling occurred.

The cart track carries on beyond the house and then rises in a series of  hair pin bends to join another track higher up the hillside. These two trees caught my eye especially the one on the left, its completely dead after years of storm damage. Another handful of winter storms will probably see it stripped of its remaining branches leaving only a decaying trunk behind.

Round the second hair pin and a better view of Sleddale Hall. The red banner on the gate gives the name, telephone number and occupation of the current owner. The house has a superb view of the reservoir.

The cart track eventually gives way to a much stonier path as we join the higher one just beyond Sleddale Hall. The land is now much rougher and covered in tough spiky grasses, very thin pickings for any animals to graze on but we have seen deer around here on previous walks so there must be something tasty enough around here for them to eat.

Following the gentle gradient towards these two splendid trees which seems to have suffered no storm damage at all, and just beyond them …..

….. a bank full of wild violets, which were so small I would have missed them completely had it not been for the splash of purple catching my eye. They were so tiny I had to kneel down very close to them and then zoom in to get a halfway decent shot of them. A really lovely little display of wild flowers in spring, especially as it was so unexpected.

A closer look at Tongue Rigg, in the centre, with Great Saddle Crags on the skyline to its left. If you want to know what its like on the other side of the Sleddale valley just take a look at the walk we did on 29th May 2016.

The path becomes grassy again and begins to level out so a convenient point for a retrospective view of Wet Sleddale reservoir. We didn’t linger as we were now getting the full force of the wind and I’m down to my last dry tissue.

Tongue Rigg across the valley on the left, and Todcrags just beginning to peep up above the path in the distance.

Zooming in for a closer look at Todcrags with Sleddale Beck below it. The beck courses over the exposed bedrock below Todcrags creating a series of cascades and waterfalls, not a lot of water in them today though.

We’ve just passed through a gate in the wall and take the opportunity of the the pause to have a drink and have a short respite from the wind. Across the path is a little beck which has just appeared out of the ground on the right and is making its way down the hillside to join forces with Sleddale Beck. On the skyline ahead are Scam Matthew, on the left, and High Wether Howe, to the right. We left this main path just beyond the beck and following quad bike prints we headed over towards High Wether Howe.

Heading up to High Wether Howe across dry but very soft and springy ground. Sphagnum moss grows in abundance on these fells and this would be a very wet place in normal weather conditions, even though everything was bone dry it was hard on the legs because it was so bouncy to walk over. Its the same effect that walking over soft sand or snow has on your leg muscles.

The cairn on High Wether Howe with Swindale to the left and, behind the cairn, the ridge we will soon be walking across on the return leg.

The view into the very wet valley of Mosedale from the cairn. A zoom in will just about reveal the Mosedale Bothy located beside a tree roughly halfway along the valley. The darkish fell on the skyline is Kentmere Pike and below that is the col between Branstree, to the right, and Tarn Crag on the left. To the left of Tarn Crag is Grey Crag

Directly across from the cairn is Selside Pike and between it and us, although it can’t be seen from here, is Mosedale Beck which will be flowing gently along before tumbling down, in a succession of lovely cascades and waterfalls, into Swindale Beck.

From the cairn a look along the ridge to Seat Robert, which is where we’re off to next.

Another look back then its time to get out of the wind and head over towards Seat Robert. Constant eye watering and nose blowing will be the order of the day from now on as we’ll be heading straight into the wind.

Making our way back to the quad bike trail with a look over to our right for this view of Scam Matthew, thrown into shadow by a large cloud passing over.

Still following the quad bike’s wheel prints as we make our way over to Seat Robert which is the one behind this outcrop. This sort of rock cluster appears every so often across these fells but obviously they are not as grand or intimidating as those to be found on some of the Lake District fells. They do add a few points of interest though and prevent the landscape becoming too monotonous.

A slight glimpse of Kidsty Pike and High Raise on the skyline beyond the various humps and bumps surrounding an almost dried out Haskew Tarn. Judging by the amount of reedy growth in it it looks to heading for the same fate as Scalebarrow Tarn.

Seat Robert comes more into view as we round the end of the outcrop. There’s a hill to climb but it really isn’t anything at all and before much longer …..

….. we are looking at the summit cairn and shelter on Seat Robert. Just out of shot on the right is …..

….. this circular trig point, very much like the one on nearby Branstree.

We had a short stop here for drinks so here’s another shot across Haskew Tarn for the skyline view over towards Artle Crag and Selside Pike with Kidsty Pike just popping up on the extreme right.

Down from Seat Robert and back to following the quad bike prints over and around the seemingly endless grassy humps and bumps.

The quad bike trail heads off into the distance and would have eventually taken us back down to the farm at Thorneybank, but there’s nothing much by way of a view other than the smoky purple silhouette of the northern Pennines and the lime quarry and lime kilns belonging to TaTa Steel so we veered off to the right over some very rough ground …..

….. until Wet Sleddale reservoir came back into view. At the wall corner we picked up the established path above Sleddale Grange and then down to …..

….. the lane leading back to Thorneybank and Cooper’s Green.

A couple of very hungry lambs testing the patience of Mum who tried to discourage them by walking away two or three times but their pester power paid off in the end.

A small and very low finger post points the way over to the bridge …..

….. from where I took this shot looking downstream back to the car where today’s walk comes to an end. As ever we haven’t seen anyone at all other than a young couple and their dog who got out of their car just as we were leaving and headed across the bridge to take the dog for a walk on the opposite side of the river. Now its time for us to nip back home, empty the seeds and stalks from several acres of vegetation from our socks and put the kettle on I think.

In case you don’t already know, new guidelines regarding the current restrictions have been issued to police forces (only for England though) by the Crown Prosecution Service. These have been published via the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the College of Policing. I detected a bit of face saving in the first paragraph where it states that –

‘CPS have produced a really useful practical guide as to what might and what might not constitute a ‘reasonable excuse’. They have kindly allowed us to reproduce this to help officers, however each case still needs to be considered based on the individual facts as they present themselves.’

Eyewash, bet your boots the CPS is gnashing its legal teeth over all the unlawful behaviour taken by the police these past few weeks, have given them a bit of a rap over the knuckles and have made it crystal clear what police officers legally can and cannot do. Not before time either. I was pleased to see what the CPS deems to be reasonable in terms of exercise because it supports what our strategy has been from the very beginning, we stay in our local area, drive a short distance to walk somewhere we know from experience we will be unlikely to see another person, never mind coming into contact with a crowd, and spend the whole afternoon there enjoying our exercise in splendid isolation.

If you’d like a copy of the CPS guidelines to the police you can download it here

Just in case you are unfortunate enough to meet a police officer who still hasn’t got to grips with what is within the law, I would recommend keeping a copy on your phone or on paper and make sure you have it with you whenever you leave the house, even if you only go into your own garden!

What have things come to when someone feels the need to make a statement like that?