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Another cold day in the Howgills.

Another cold day in the Howgills.

Postby trailmasher » Sat Feb 24, 2018 8:54 pm

Hewitts included on this walk: Randygill Top

Date walked: 12/02/2018

Time taken: 3.28

Distance: 12.16 km

Ascent: 617m

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Randygill Top and Green Bell.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

This walk would be the first since I last went out with Chris on the 22nd Dec 2017 when we had a walk over Caudale Moor, the reason being due to getting a bad dose of the flu and then as a by product an itchy and painful rash appeared all over my upper body that resulted in great discomfiture with the weight of a bag on my back. This walk then is a precursor to a couple more that we have planned for the week ahead. So endeth my tale of woe.

It was minus 1°c when I met Chris at Kirkby Stephen before setting off to park up at Weasdale as a start to our latest trip into the Howgills. There was a cold wind, plenty of cloud interspersed with large areas of blue sky and a scattering of snow on the ground as we parked up on a small piece of ground that would accommodate 2, maybe 3 cars at a push. To get to here we had travelled west along the A685 and just past Newbiggin - on - Lune took the narrow metalled lane signposted for Weasdale, drove for 1.5 kilometres wriggling through Sandwath on the way to soon arrive at the parking area that is at NY697041 just at the Y junction below Round Hill where the right hand lane goes downhill to The Lane and the left hand lane that would take us onto Cow Bank and the open fells leading onto Hooksey. This spot is the only reliable place to park.

ImageParking area at the foot of Round Hill

Booted and bagged as we set off on the 1 kilometre walk along the metalled lane towards Cow Bank we could see the ridge leading up to Hooksey and the brown, dome shaped hill of the 402 metre High Knott both of which will receive our company sometime later on today. We passed a derelict farmhouse to our left and wondered why someone hadn't bought it with a view to an extensive renovation as it's in the most wonderful position surrounded by the backdrop of the Howgills and the open views to the north.

ImageUnnamed derelict farmhouse

As we reached the old farm with the temperature now minus something else other than one it began to snow…

ImageBlue sky and snowing with High Knott far distance

nothing more than a flurry that ceased as we arrived at the farmhouse and bridge that crossed over Weasdale Beck.

ImageApproaching Cow Bank

From the bridge the lane now rises up to the top of Cow Bank and a renovated farmhouse that doesn't have the appearance of a working farm.

ImageRenovated farmhouse at Cow Bank

There used to be an information board set up here but alas it has now disappeared but this is where we now head off roughly south following a rough track that runs at a gentle gradient through the rough lower pasture that gave us a good view along Weasdale to our left with the snow covered Green Bell perched at its head in the far distance.

ImageLooking along Weasdale towards a far distant Green Bell

As the track turns towards the wall the surrounding land is a mass of rushes indicating just how wet the ground is around here, although today we don't have a problem with sinking into the softness of the ground as it is frozen solid.

ImageThe lower slopes of Hooksey

After a few minutes of walking we arrived at the gate in the intake fence, the only gate that we would see for the remainder of the walk.

ImageNo other gates after this one

Once through the gate there is nothing else to do but continue along the steepening track as it makes its way through the beds of rushes where in a couple of places it disappeared and we found ourselves climbing the rough pathless slope until we could once again see the path to our left. At the head of Simonsgill Sike the ground eased off somewhat and the views began to open up behind us to the north with the line of the Lake District mountains and the Pennines just discernible below the cloud cover. Wild Boar Fell can be seen as can Roman Fell on the Warcop Ranges.

ImageA view north towards the Lake District

As we progressed the snow was getting slightly thicker on the ground with ice lying beneath it so careful placing of feet was the order of the day. It was a cold day with the wind helping to reduce the temperature quite considerably but with the constant uphill walking we were warm enough. The surrounding fells were beginning to open up around us and to our left we could see High Knott, West Grain, Green Bell, and Spengill Head…

ImageTurn End-West Grain-Spengill Head and Green Bell

whilst on the other side there is West Fell, Hazlegill Knott, and Simon's Seat their white coated backs blending into each other and with the cloud sitting over the higher and further fells making them difficult to make out and identify properly.

Just above Simonsgill Sike we crossed a second track that runs across at slightly lower and easier contours than the one that we was following but does eventually join up with the central one running along Hooksey's spine. Note that this alternative track is not shown on the OS maps but it is there as can be seen on the left of the following photo.

ImageTrack on Hooksey with Green Bell far left

After crossing the alternative track the ground eases off quite a bit and the walking speed increases slightly. There was no reason to linger as today it's just a case of keeping moving to stay warm but we did stop at a cairn that marks the junction of tracks where the right hand track forms a way up to this point from Potts as it swings to the west of Shawgill Sike. Chris just loves cairns and has to have his picture taken at all that we come across although this minor 'bag' of his will not feature in this report. Another look to the east shows Wild Boar Fell in a better frame of mind now that it is highlighted with a touch of sunshine…

ImageWild Boar Fell on the skyline

whilst looking north again gave us this view.

ImageLake District centre-Pennines to the right behind a sun lit valley

Since we had left the 450 metre contour the gradients are easy with the track clear and wide as it continues on to the south and Hooksey's 586 metre high summit.

ImageIcy track to the summit of Hooksey

The walking was uneventful apart from the icy wind that was trying its best to form our cheeks into frozen slabs of flesh and hard particles of snow blowing off the frozen grass stinging like hell as it found its way onto any bare patch of skin that could be found. Once we had left the cairn behind it wasn't many minutes before we arrived at an unnamed tarn, quite a substantial one that was obviously frozen solid in this weather.

ImageFrozen tarn on Hooksey

Soon after leaving the tarn behind we were arriving at the unmarked summit of Hooksey…

ImageHooksey summit ahead

and now we could see Hazlegill Knott, Simon's Seat, and all the way back to Fell Head and The Calf.

ImageA view southwest across the Howgills

To the left there is a great view of Green Bell and Spengill Head with the great scars of the numerous watercourses that help to increase the flow of Weasdale Beck along with the many others as it runs along the bottom of the valley.

ImageSpengill Head and Green Bell

From the summit of Hooksey the track descends down to Leathgill Bridge that is a wide, low lying saddle of land that separates the valley of Weasdale from Bowderdale that runs north - from here - along either side of Hooksey. This 'bridge' is what separates Hooksey from the Hewitt of Randygill Top with the only obstacle between us and it being the very steep, snow and ice covered path that climbs up its north face.

ImagePassing over Leathgill Bridge to Randygill Top

Standing on the 'bridge' it looked a daunting task as the steep fell towered above us with the path hardly discernible under its coating of snow and ice. I've climbed this before on a few occasions in a lot better weather and it was hard graft then but today was going to be a killer as the going was hard and slow on the frozen ground.

ImageLooking back to Hooksey from the north slope of Randygill Top

Taking it steady and working our way slowly upwards it didn't take us all that long to get up, in fact a lot less time than both of us thought that it would do and once the 570 metre contour was reached it was a lot easier going as the ground eases off quite a lot and soon enough we arrived at the summit cairn of rocks.

ImageRandygill Top with Yarlside behind

We were now surrounded by a wonderful panorama of snow covered high fells to the east and west whilst north - as aforementioned - are the Pennines and Lake District mountains although from here today the low cloud is making it difficult to make out any particular fell. As well as the Howgill Fells mentioned earlier we can now see Yarlside and Kensgriff, Bram Rigg Top, Great Dummack, and Calder to the south, Wandale Hill and Harter Fell is east with Baugh Fell to the southeast. On a clear day the views are quite remarkable.

ImageThe western Howgills from Randygill Top

ImageYarlside and Kensgriff from Randygill Top

At this height the wind was much stronger and subsequently felt a lot colder so we didn't linger long before setting off on the good track towards Green Bell over to the northeast.

ImageThe way to Green Bell and Hunthoof Pike

As we walked along the views remained the same apart from getting a decent view towards Harter Fell and Ravenstondale in the northeast.

ImageThe view northeast to Harter Fell and Ravenstonedale

Despite the low cloud cover they do keep opening up now and again giving us a view of some welcome blue sky and sunshine even though it was in the distance and as we walked the snow marked track lay out before us as it passes over Stockless and then Spengill Head.

ImageWalking northeast to Green Bell

To the west we could see the full length and size of the snow covered Hooksey.

ImageA white topped Hooksey

Chris and Sonny was walking ahead whilst I was taking some photos and soon after taking a picture of the Weasdale valley…


I heard the plaintiff cry of "Can we stop for something to eat now?" as Chris pulled up by the side of two frozen hummocks of moss. We were perched on the ridge at Stockless between Randygill Top and Green Bell with a very strong and freezing wind knocking us about, not the ideal place as I had planned on getting a little shelter from the trig column on Green Bell, but on seeing Chris's imploring expression I capitulated and we used the frozen moss hummocks as our resting place sitting with backs to the wind. As soon as we stopped the cold began to creep in, Chris had taken a hot flask of coffee with him that turned out to be cold - sod's law - and as soon as we fuelled up it was time to be off again as fingers were beginning to stiffen making it difficult to close the bag straps. Sonny had begun to shiver so Chris fitted him up with his brand new red and padded winter coat. Now there's no chance of losing him.

ImageLooking back to Randygill Top-Yarlside and Kensgriff

Upon reaching the top of West Grain a look back gave us a good view of the fells to the southwest.

ImageSouthwest towards The Calf

From Randygill Top to Green Bell the track is undulating and well graded but upon leaving West Grain it steepens somewhat, not to any great degree but enough to let one know that you are climbing once again and today was a bit more difficult with some fairly deep snow drifts across the track and large patches of ice that needed avoiding. Nevertheless we reached the Green Bell trig column before not too long

ImageChris and Sonny at Green Bell trig column

The views hadn't changed much and again after Chris had his photo shoot we were off down the good north ridge track…

ImageNorth ridge of Green Bell

with views of the LD and Pennines across the sun spattered low lands that lie between the Howgills and the hills and mountains beyond. Our next place to visit was to be the 524 metre Hunthoof Pike with its small cairn of stones that must have been dug out from its north face if the few protruding rocks are anything to go by.

ImageChris at Hunthoof Pike summit cairn

A quick look back up the hill gave us a view into the head of Great Swindale just to the right of Green Bell.

ImageLooking back to Green Bell and Spengill Head from Hunthoof Pike


Making our way back across the rough grass of Hunthoof Pike we soon picked up the track again as we now made for the cairn less 434 metre mound of Stwarth where the red coated Sonny was posing for all he was worth.

ImageStwarth summit

Another glance back revealed the next view.

ImageGreen Bell centre with Knoutberry to the left

From Stwarth we struck off to the west over pathless ground where the rough grass wasn't too bad for walking over as we made our way to the 402 metre brown grass covered top of High Knott. There are actually two tops with only one being identified on the OS map with the northerly one looking higher than the designated 402 metre high one, so we did them both. Arriving at the 402 metre summit a shot was taken before moving across the depression to top the northerly one with Hooksey towering over Weasdale further to the west.

ImageHigh Knott

From High Knott we made our way down the east slope to pick up a well made farm track that accompanied us all the way back to the metalled lane from where it was but a short walk back along to the car.

Despite the strong and cold wind this has been a great walk and after a six weeks lay off I was satisfied with what I had done especially with the underfoot conditions. My back was irritating when I took my bag off but it was a small price to pay for the chance of getting on a hill again. The length of the climbs up to the summits of the Howgill Fells may seem tedious to some but the walking is easy, all on grass with good views all around, apart from of course when the clouds are hanging low which effects any and all fells when such conditions are about. The lower reaches of Hooksey can be wet but as height is gained all becomes dry again and with good tracks throughout there is not much chance of going astray even in low cloud conditions. If the need arises escape can be made into any of the valleys on either side where a good path is to be found running the length of the valley bottoms from where walking north will find one back to civilisation.
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Re: Another cold day in the Howgills.

Postby Alteknacker » Sat Feb 24, 2018 10:29 pm

Nice to see the area approached from this side - I ponder on how it might look when doing my walk in the area at the end of last year.

Looks like you had similarly chilly weather to me, but rather more snow - visually to the good!
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Re: Another cold day in the Howgills.

Postby trailmasher » Tue Feb 27, 2018 9:34 pm

Alteknacker wrote:Nice to see the area approached from this side - I ponder on how it might look when doing my walk in the area at the end of last year.

Looks like you had similarly chilly weather to me, but rather more snow - visually to the good!

It's a lot easier for us from the north end as it's nearer to home although we do sometimes have to get around and park up by the Cross Keys on the Cautley Spout side. Chilly but a good walk. Thanks for your comments Alte :)
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