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An amble and a ramble with the big hat crew.

An amble and a ramble with the big hat crew.

Postby trailmasher » Wed Jun 16, 2021 7:53 pm

Wainwrights included on this walk: Grey Crag, Tarn Crag (Far Eastern Fells)

Hewitts included on this walk: Grey Crag, Tarn Crag

Date walked: 17/05/2021

Time taken: 3.42

Distance: 11.89 km

Ascent: 565m

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Grey Crag-Harrop Pike-Tarn Crag route.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

With only eight of the Far Eastern Fells for Ann and Martin to complete this area I thought that it was time to reduce the number by two and pick off Grey Crag, Tarn Crag and a couple of Birkett’s as an added extra ‘cause one was in the way and the other just a mere cock stride away to one side so we set off on a warm and mostly cloudy start to the day with just a hint of sunshine and a promise of rain later in the day. Following the A6 until we reached the sharp turn off to the right for Garnett Bridge and the mouth of Longsleddale we drove steadily along the narrow and meandering metalled lane stopping only once at Saint Mary’s Church for a comfort break at the free but donations welcome toilets whilst parking on the substantial car park that offered a day’s parking for less than a fiver. I’ve driven along Longsleddale on quite a few occasions but today it felt special somehow, and maybe that was because it was glowing with its spring mantle of fresh green leaves on the trees, the pure white of the May flower blossoming in the hedges and the new growth of wild flowers in the fields and along the hedgerows, bluebells, the white flowers of wild garlic, Jack in the Hedge to mention a few, even the buttercups and dandelions added to the riot of colours as we drove slowly along the lane taking it all in with the joyous antics of spring lambs adding to this beautiful spring rural scene. So a relaxing and picturesque drive along this 9.65 kilometre - 6 miles long – valley was a great start to a day of walking around this area.

Alfred Wainwright described the valley in glowing terms:- “Throughout the whole length of the A6, from London to Carlisle, no fairer scene is presented to travellers on this highway than that briefly glimpsed from the road near Watchgate when journeying north. Down on the left and extending far into the hills beyond a middle distance of scattered farmsteads and woodlands is a perfect picture of quiet rural charm - the valley of Longsleddale, a green strath inured amongst shaggy fells. This is a view of classic beauty and is always so no matter how often one sees it." AW also knew beauty when he saw it.

Towards the head of Longsleddale the scenery grows progressively more narrow, rocky and rugged. The small remote village of Sadgill stands at the head of the dale, at the terminus of the road. The farm at Sadgill Bridge serves as a mountain rescue post. 'Sad' derives from the Old Norse saetr, which means upland pasture, and gill- from the Old Norse geil- ravine. Some sources state that the valley derives its name from the local Sledall family although 'sled' is known to derive from the Old English Slaed meaning valley.

We arrived at Sadgill Bridge at around 9:15am finding only one other car parked up that was good for us but maybe not for anyone arriving not long after we had due to the popularity and small confines of the parking space offered and having to allow for the local farmer’s traffic at all times.

There’s only a couple or three dwellings at Sadgill that make up this small farming community all of those being on the west side of the River Sprint that starts its journey from the slopes of Harter Fell and Branstree and is accessed by crossing the aforementioned Sadgill Bridge.

ImageSpring time at Sadgill Bridge

Booted, bagged and ‘hatted’ up by 9:30am we passed onto the fellside by using the gate that is right by the car park and followed the path through the lower pastures as it wended its way on a steady climb in a roughly north easterly direction to cross over an unnamed gill to then pass through a second gate and onto the upper fell that lay directly below the crags of Great Howe.

Through the first gate it isn’t possible to miss the path in its lower reaches as the way is marked clearly enough...

ImageThe west facing crags of Great Howe

but as we ascended it did get a bit confusing as the route that we should have followed disappeared and instead of running in more or less a straight line it did a swerve to the east and continued faintly on the east side of the gill instead of the west side. Nonetheless the climb is easy enough and stopping to look back Longsleddale was opening up below us in both directions and looking very delectable indeed.

ImageSadgill Bridge over the River Sprint

We made good progress up to the intake wall where we crossed over the gill just above its small waterfall.

ImageLiving dangerously

Once we had passed through the intake wall we now followed the clear path that would take us up a rock strewn grassy rake where there is an obvious break in the crags below Great Howe and from where the views got even better.

ImageLongsleddale from 370 metres

This rake is an excellent way through the crags and was easily climbed despite the warmth of the day now that the sun was fully out.

ImageTaking a moment along the rake

Note the hats mentioned earlier, they look like three Indiana Jones wannabe’s and although they are good at keeping the complexion fair and smooth from the burning of the sun I know from observing them on a breezy day - never mind a windy one - the trouble that they have keeping them mounted, and less than useless on a wet day and good for only taking up more space in the bag, but, they’re happy with them so that’s all that matters. They have even been asked if they are members of a ‘Big Hat Walking Group’.

Way across the valley we could see the long straight back of Green Quarter Fell that itself offers some fine walking and bears the lovely little tarn of Skeggles Water that back in the day provided water for industry in the valley of Kentmere. Over to the east there is the great rounded fell that goes by the name of Ancrow Brow that is the most northern Birkett of the Bannisdale Round of the Shap Fells.

From roughly the 400 metre mark we had a superb view to the south of the green pastures of the valley below...

ImageLongsleddale in spring

and to the north the more rugged aspect of the valley was to be seen with Goat Scar being the most obvious crag around.

ImageNorth along Longsleddale

Reaching the top of the rake the path takes a sudden turn to the southeast with a wooden post marking the spot. A few years ago there used to be a board with a red arrow painted on it nailed to a post at this point. A wall is followed for a few metres before we turned back to our original north easterly line and was soon approaching the summit of Great Howe with its many humps and bumps that has a profusion of patches of rock showing through the grass. The true summit of Great Howe is adorned by a small pile of stones.

ImageThe lumpy top of Great Howe

This is where we decided to have a break after the short climb to here. It’s worth the climb just to get the view south along Longsleddale with the large dome of Ancrow Brow sloping easily down into the valley...

ImageSouth along Longsleddale overlooked by Ancrow Brow

whilst to the north we could just see High Street peeping over the top of Harter Fell and Kentmere Pike beyond Goat Scar. The contrast between the drab colours of the high fells and lush pastures of the valley bottom is remarkable with the green creeping up the sloping fell side’s gradually changing colour to its darker shades of brown as height is gained.

Whilst the others rested up after a refuel I went to have a look at the old Haweswater Aqueduct Survey column that sits on the east side of Great Howe. It isn’t as large as the ones on Tarn Crag and the Birkett of High Howes over by Artlecrag Pike but the top metal plate is still in place and from this spot there is also a good view of Grey and Tarn Crags with wiggly line of Stockdale Beck draining water from the low area of the now drying out Greycrag Tarn that lies between the two crags.

ImageAn old Haweswater survey pillar with Grey and Tarn Crags behind

We were getting too settled on the top of Great Howe so it was with an effort that we packed up and moved on once again taking the well used path north before turning to the northeast again as we reached Stockdale Beck.

ImageA view back towards Great Howe

ImageCrossing Stockdale Beck

A few metres past the crossing we climbed the fence via the stile. The walking is good and easy across these undulating fells and we made good progress noting that the clouds were now beginning to build up with a lot less blue than there was an hour ago. From the 575 metre point we had a good view across the valley towards the Kentmere Fells.

ImageSome Kentmere Fells behind Longsleddale

Arriving at the summit of Grey Crag we found it to be too busy to linger with many walkers loitering about taking in the views – rightly so - who had most likely arrived from the direction of Mosedale seeing as they hadn’t passed us so we continued on towards the Birkett of Harrop Pike.

ImageHarrop Pike in the distance

Between Grey Crag and Harrop Pike there are a couple of well trodden paths, both of them very wet in places and requires some off piste walking, sometimes for quite a way, to get around them. Unofficial dumping is not confined to our urban streets as this pile of rusting old fencing shows.

ImageRusty remains of the old fence on Sleddale Fell

At 637 metres Harrop Pike is a mere 1 metre lower than Grey Crag and is adorned with a stone shelter, a small dry stone wall, a small tarn and various bits and pieces of rock thrusting up through the predominately rough grassy top but the main feature – apart from the views - is the tall cairn that sits on a large outcrop of rock and looks almost exactly like AW’s sketch in his Far Eastern Fells book. Despite the haze and clouds rolling in we got a fair view of the Pennine skyline way over to the east.

ImageA hazy Pennine skyline from Harrop Pike

ImageGrey Crag from Harrop Pike

We decided to have a break at this great viewpoint despite the thunderous looking clouds that were rolling in fairly fast by now and knew that we couldn’t stay too long before the weather broke on us.

ImageA moody sky over the Far Eastern Fells

ImageBranstree and Selside Pike behind Harrop Pike

We retraced our way back to the corner of the fence where we would now walk northwest towards Tarn Crag but first having to descend some 50 metres into the wet realms of Greycrag Tarn that looks nothing like a tarn nowadays but must have been one back in the day. The last time that I came this way a couple or so years ago the area was more or less dry but today it was a bit of a nightmare to negotiate with large areas of very wet ground that all but came over the top of the boots. I’m a fairly light person but Martin did sink in and ended up with wet feet changing his socks only when we arrived at Tarn Crag and drier ground.

We could see the top of the Haweswater Survey Column over to our left and rain showers had now started to share themselves with us and instead of taking the regular path that climbs back out of the moss alongside the fence with quite a few peat hags and sticky ground to contend with we took to the unmarked on the map path that swings over to the west and then back to the northwest to reach the summit of Tarn Crag.

ImageThe moss with Tarn Crag to the left

As soon as we left the moss behind the path is good and easy just fading away at one point just as we turned from west the NW but is easily picked up again if you keep moving to the NW.

ImageLeaving the moss behind

I stopped for a look back and between rain showers took a couple of shots of where we had just been.

ImageHarrop Pike and Grey Crag

This path is a far better option than the one by the fence, drier and with more interest and the ever present survey column spurring one on towards the summit.

ImageTarn Crag survey column peeps above the skyline

Half an hour after leaving the high ground between Harrop Pike and Grey Crag we were at the survey column with cameras at the ready.

ImageTarn Crag survey column

Whilst there we met one other couple who were ticking of the Wainwright’s to whom we had a good chat with before making for the cairn at the highest point of the fell before setting of roughly north heading for Mosedale. There are a couple path leading down into Mosedale the one breaking off to the west being more user friendly than the one by the fence although they do join up further down the fellside. This is also where we met a fair parade of walkers making their way up to the summit. With the rain and dark clouds it was looking decidedly bleak with the brown and tan colour of the fells of Branstree and Selside Pike adding nothing to brighten the scene up at all.

ImageBranstree and Selside Pike

Progressing down the fellside a fair chunk of the Far Eastern Fell were within our sights Harter Fell, High Street, Kentmere Pike, etc.

ImageSome Far Eastern Fells

ImageDropping down to Mosedale

What with the rain and knowing what the ground conditions are like in Mosedale on a good day I wasn’t looking forward to the wet trudge through the large area of boggy ground before we finally reached Gatescarth Pass. Peat hags and the like have also to be negotiated.

ImageSelside Brow on Branstree

We met a couple who had just dropped down from Branstree, a lady who was dressed casual pants and a kagool and her partner who was in shorts and tea shirt and both carrying no bags so what he had on was all that he had to wear. And no, they weren’t fell runners as we had a word with them before they continued on the climb to the summit. He was drenched with rain, splattered with mud and red skinned from the cold. And they wonder why they get in trouble on the fells.

ImageThe south face of Branstree

As we arrived at Gatescarth Pass the weather got much better with the rain easing off and the sun making an appearance again so we decided to have a break sat against the wall opposite Wrengill Quarry before making the long walk back along Longsleddale. Apart from enjoying the views of the crags and the waterfalls on the River Sprint it was an uneventful but enjoyable walk back down the valley.

ImageWaterfalls on the River Sprint

ImageGoat Scar


ImageLongsleddale and the River Sprint

ImageNorth along Longsleddale

The final shot was of Galeforth Gill with its white waters falling through the crags as it drained water from Greycrag Tarn, the force of the waterfall indicating just how much water there was in that ancient and ‘dried’ up tarn when we were crossing it.

ImageGaleforth Gill waterfall

Despite there being more cloud than sun as we walked back along the valley it was very warm work even on this gently descending ground but we made good time and as we passed Galeforth Gill and somewhere between there and Great Howe we saw the couple with no bags and spare cloths making their way down the pathless fellside so must have been in a hurry with taking that rough and ready short cut down from Grey Crag.

Despite the iffy weather later in the day this has been another good day walking in these fells and another two ticked off for Ann and Martin. Longsleddale is a beautiful valley and there is no disputing that at all and if using the car park at the church many good walks can be done over on to Green Quarter Fell, Potter Fell, etc.
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Re: An amble and a ramble with the big hat crew.

Postby johnkaysleftleg » Thu Jun 24, 2021 6:28 pm

Beautifully written report TM and some excellent images to illustrate the walk and conditions. I’ve only been to Longsleddale the once and that was a fairly grim winters day whose highlight was descending Kentmere Pike by sliding down snowdrifts on our bottoms :lol:
The low point was the intransigent woman we met on the drive out of the valley who refused to reverse about 20 yards meaning I had to reverse several hundred yards and over the brow of a hill. Needless to say she did not get a cheery wave when she drove past me.
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Re: An amble and a ramble with the big hat crew.

Postby trailmasher » Sat Jun 26, 2021 10:09 am

Thanks for your kind comments re 'beautifully written' report and 'excellent images' :D and have not had that accolade before, but I'll take it :lol: :lol: . As I mentioned Longsleddale is a lovely valley and the only problem is the narrow road in and out especially in your case where you met a driver who doesn't know how to - or can't - reverse a car. Or maybe it's just bad manners on their part :roll:
Thanks again for your comments :D
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