A calf, a sheepfold and a waterfall

….. and the site of an iron age settlement.

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Last Saturday I decided to make the most of a fine day and get out for a walk. As usual, the hard decision was where to go. This time I decided I’d drive up to Sedburgh and head out for a walk in the Howgill Fells. I had a route in mind – another longish walk with plenty of interest. Although part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and close to the Lake District, the Howgills (a group of high, grassy hills cut through with deep valleys ) are usually relatively quiet.

I parked up in the market square, got into my walking gear and set out. My route was going to start off fairly easily by following the river bank steady climb up towards Cautley and its waterfall. A steep (very steep, in fact) climb up beside the waterfall would take me up onto the fells and then I’d follow the ridge back to Sedbergh, taking in a few summits.

Leaving the car park I cut through the town centre (not that there’s much of it!), passing the Information centre and some interesting shops and old buildings as I made my way down to the river.

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I joined the path along the river bank at the New Bridge – well it was new in the 18th Century!

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The path followed close the river bank for a few miles

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With views of the Howgill Fells over the fields to the left.

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After a while, the path left the river bank and climbed up to a paved track by Buckback Farm. I had some trouble here. The right of way goes through the farm yard but I couldn’t get through the complicated set of gates so had to find an alternative way through the yard. I’m not sure whether the farmer was deliberately blocking the right of way or it was just my ineptitude and inability to work out how to get the series of gates open. Anyway, I finally got onto the narrow metalled road and followed it as it started to climb. The route ran more or less parrallel to the river but higher up and closer to the fells.

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The metalled road terminated at Thursgill farm and turned into a rougher track. The old stone farmhouse had an interesting neo-Gothic style entrance, added in 1885

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The path carried on along the valley, steadily gaining height. Some stretches were quite muddy and boggy but the views over the valley to the Yorkshire Dales were fantastic on a sunny morning.

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One of the local residents was wondering what I was up to.

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After a couple of hours, a little longer than I’d expected (the route was a little harder going than I’d thought), the path dipped back down to the river as I reached Cautley where I would turn off to climb up on to the fells.

This was the site of an iron age settlement. There was an information board with some details about the site, but to an untrained eye it would have been impossible to know anything had been here. Some scattered rocks on the raised ground were the only remains. The settlement had been built at the foot of Cautley Spout, a waterfall with the highest drop in England, at least for a cascading waterfall above ground. It doesn’t look much in the picture below but the water plunges over the top of the fells falling a total of 650 feet (198 m)  down a series of steps to the valley floor below.

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So now I started to climb up the VERY steep path up beside the falls. It had been raining of late so there was plenty of water tumbling down making it a dramatic sight as the path gets quite close to the water at some points.

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Looking back down to the valley floor – taking a photo was a good excuse for a short break during the steep climb!

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I finally reached the top – it had taken me about half an hour, and then followed the path along the beck (the same one which would tumble down to form the falls) heading towards my next destination, the highest point in the fells, the hill known as the Calf.

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After a short while I spotted this sheepfold – one of a series in Cumbria created by the renowned artist, Andy Goldsworthy.  Red Gill Washfold is a large restored washfold with a built-in cairn to celebrate sheep farming renewal.

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After spending a short while looking at the washfold I continued on along the path which followed the beck as far as the spring that fed the stream.

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Eventually emerging on the ridge that runs across the top of the fells. Visibility on the day was excellent and I was greeted by a fantastic view over to the high fells of the Lake District. There were the Coniston fells, the Scafells, Great Gable, Bow Fell and many of the other high mountains.

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A short climb and I was on the top of the Calf, the highest of the Howgill Fells. It’s a flat plateau which doesn’t have definite peak, but htere were great views in every direction.

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On a fine day like today the main fells in th eLake District would have been bustling with walkers, but there were only a few people up here on the Howgills. There were a couple of guys taking a break and after I’d asked one to take the obligatory photo of me at the trig point (I’m useless at taking selfies) we had a brief chat. They were wild camping over the weekend and were taking it slow, enjoying the walk, the scenery and the weather.

After a short while I continuing my walk, following the path that crosses the fells on the way back to Sedbergh. It’s relatively easy going but with some ups and downs. Other than a fence that crosses the range on Calders there are virtually no man made boundaries on the top of the fells which gives a real sense of freedom. It’s an open access area too, so you’re free to roam and although there are plenty of clear paths many of them aren’t marked on the OS maps.

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Looking over to the Yorkshire Dales. At one point I could see all three of the Three Peaks.

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Looking over towards Morecambe Bay.

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I’d been up here before when we walked up to the Calf from Sedbergh and then returned by the same route. Like then, I took in the summits of Bram Rigg top, Calders and Arant How. This time I decided to continue further along the ridge to take in the summit of Winder.

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Then I started the descent down the steep path back down to the valley. It was hard on my old knees. I find it much tougher going down than climbing up steep slopes these days.

On the way down I passed a small group of the wild ponies that live up on the fells. They didn’t seem to be bothered as I passed close by.

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I was fascinated by their long manes that cover their eyes and faces

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There’s Sedbergh down in the valley.

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I left the fell on the west side of the village, through Lockbank Farm and then made my way back to the centre wandering past a variety of old buildings through the narrow streets. As I expected none of the shops were open. For some bizarre reason they shut at 4 o’clock. Obviously they’re not interested in making money from walkers come back down from the hill. I was surprised to find a cafe that was still open, only shutting at 6, so I took advantage of this to stop for a well earned brew!

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I wandered back along the main street to the car park, passing some independent shops

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and the book shelter

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changed out of my boots and then set off on the journey home. It’s not too far and as the motorway was relatively quiet, it only took me an hour and a quarter.

Another long walk on a warm sunny day. I wonder how many more opportunities I’ll have before the end of the year?

15 thoughts on “A calf, a sheepfold and a waterfall

  1. That looks spectacular. I’ve driven past the Howgills more times than I can remember, but I’m yet to walk of them. Cautley Spout and the Goldsworthy washfold have further wetted my appetite. Have you seen the Goldsworthy washfold at Tilberthwaite? It’s stunning.

    • Like yourself, and many others, I have driven past so many times. The first time I went up was a couple of years ago so this my second time straying on these grassy hills. The terrain rather reminds of the Dods in the Lakes. This time I was keen to see both the Spout and the sheepfold. I have indeed seen the brilliant sheepfold at Tilberthwaite and also seen another one near Orton. We also did a walk up Clougha Pike near Lancaster based on seeing anotherof his works (not a sheepfold) up there.

  2. Pingback: A calf, a sheepfold and a waterfall — Down by the Dougie – PerchSpective

    • It’s a lovely area especially when sunny. A bit different to the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales, both of which are only a few miles away.
      Oh, and I bet you can manage more than 5 km (3 miles) really Susanne! 😉

    • I’ve rapidly learned the benefits of using walking poles ! Still hurts a bit on steeper descents, mind 😬
      Thanks for that link. Looks like some good information there. I wasn’t aware of that series of documents. There’ll be others worth looking at, I’m sure. I was up on a walk in the Peak District today and I bet there’s one of these documents relating to that area too. Thanks Hanna 😉👍

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