Saturday, 26 March 2011

Kirkby Stephen to Garsdale via Wild Boar Fell 11.3.11

A linear walk - 12 miles, 5 - 6 hours.

This walk I'd been waiting for a while to do. It is a 12 mile trek from the very well kept station at Kirkby Stephen to the equally ornate but more remote feeling Garsdale station. This walk couldn't really be done any earlier in the year due to the distance and terrain combined. Considering the train wouldn't arrive at Kirkby Stephen station untill 10:30 ish it would be well dark by the time I arrived at Garsdale in say January or February time.

The weather was excellent, you could see Pendle Hill very well from the train at Hellifield, so it was pretty clear too. On arriving at Garsdale I wanted to see how long it would take the train to get to Kirkby Stephen, as this is what I was going to hike back and it seemed like quite a long ride!

On arrival at Kirkby Stephen, I was a bit nervous about the walk now, thinking that I had bitten off more than I could chew - sort of mind set. But that soon diminished when I saw the view from the station platform. The weather was beautiful and you could see over the fields towards the Lune Valley and an imposing looking Cross Fell and neighbouring Great Dunn Fell, with its give away 'Golf Ball' radar station on its summit.
 So I opened the latch gate from the platform to walk down the steep slope onto the grass verge at the side of the busy A685. I turned left and followed the road for about 1/2 mile. Then I took the next left along the A683, which seemed more like a farm track rather than an A road, I followed this for about 300 yards or so, until I got to the second left called Wharton Lane. Avoiding a farmer on his quad bike leading a flock of 50 or so sheep down the lane, with a sheep dog at the back of them, I followed the lane down for about 1/2 mile until on my right was a farm gate with a public footpath sign next to it. I went through the gate and came out onto a pretty well trodden pathway leading out into an open pasture with a dry stone wall on your left hand side. Then Wild Boar Fell came into view...
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The pathway does become a bit faint in places, but continue over the pasture avoiding the many sink holes and bogs on the way. From here there's some good views, you can just make out Nine Standards Rig on the tops on the other side of the Settle - Carlisle line, you can't really in my photo as I'd forgotten to take my camera, and so was reduced to taking photos on my phone...
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And looking east towards High Pike Hill and High Seat...
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Eventually after walking over the pasture you come to a Tarmac road which runs from the base of Little Fell and up onto its lower slopes. After walking up the winding and quite steep road for about 400 yards there's a worn grassy track jutting off to the right which makes its way up onto the summit eventually. From the track there are some great views towards the Howgill Fells...
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  And the distant Lake District Fells too...
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Approaching the summit of Little Fell, with Wild Boar Fell looming...
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Summit cairn on Little Fell at 559 metres, with the magnificent High Seat opposite across Mallerstang Common...
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Looking north towards a distant Cross Fell and Great Dunn Fell...
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Cairns on the edge of Little Fell...
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And onwards towards Wild Boar Fell...
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Looking down Mallerstang Common towards the Yorkshire Dales from the edge path of Wild Boar Fell, with the Settle & Carlisle Railway snaking its way through the steep sided valley...
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Wild Boar Fell summit Trig Point at 708 metres, with the Howgill Fells beyond...
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The Trig Point is situated about half a mile west across the boggy summit plateau from the edge cairn. You can just about see it if you look west from the cairn, but it would be difficult to find in low cloud or hill fog.
Make your way back towards the edge cairn and then navigate south along the edge of the fell. You now need to make your way over to a part of Wild Boar Fell known as 'The Nab', which you can see sticking out into the valley in the below picture, with it's many cairns on top (sorry for the poor quality picture)...
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Cairns on The Nab, note also the fence...
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Me with the magnificent line of impressive cairns...
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After you've had a good look around the cairns, make your way back to the fence. The walk continues now following the layout of the land. If you follow the fence west along the plateau of the fell, make your way south before the fence juts south and you should come across a pathway. The pathway heads more or less due south, and heads downhill towards a strip of land between Wild Boar Fell and Swarth Fell known as 'The Saddle'. The Saddle is very marshy and contains a tarn and quite a few peat bogs so might be good time to be wearing those Gaiters! 

The path now continues up onto the edge of Swarth Fell, a steep part of the walk. Here looking back across The Saddle towards Wild Boar Fell from the edge of Swarth Fell...
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 And eventually up onto the rock strewn summit of Swarth Fell which is marked by a cairn at 681 metres...
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A rather well made stone chair is also one of the many interesting features on the summit of Swarth Fell...
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The path now continues South from the summit of Swarth Fell. Keeping a dry stone wall on your right, you need to continue for a good two miles across uneven terrain until you reach - on the map 'Turner Hill' where you need to cut left across some boggy fields, back towards the railway lines. A foot bridge allows you across the lines, it's then a short walk onto the B259 road - then continue along the road for about half a mile. 
 Here looking north back towards Wild Boar Fell from the B259 road at Grisedale...
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Eventually you come to a junction, where the B259 meets the A684. The Moorcock Inn is at this junction which serves meals all day, and a decent selection of local real ales! You need to turn right at the junction and head towards Garsdale, at this point you have a choice to walk along the road or along a re-opened part of the Pennine Bridleway which passes under an impressive viaduct and up onto Garsdale station.
 Garsdale station is a fantastic place, well worth a look round, complete with someone operating the signal box still! If you go into the waiting room, it's warm and well kept. On the walls are hung pictures from the steam days, history and information about the station and how the line was saved from closure, and the truly sad story of Graham Nuttall and his dog Ruswarp who, along with others helped save the line from closure. Towards the end of the station is a statue of Ruswarp which is well worth a look if you have the time...
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Overall about 12 miles, took me about 4 and a half hours to complete. Well worth doing, and is possible to do south to north, if you want to get back north. Here's a link to the sad story of John Nuttall and Ruswarp... http://www.grough.co.uk/magazine/2009/04/17/hero-dog-ruswarp-will-watch-over-dales-station
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