Herdwick Fell 12 April 2018

Posted by Graham Rogers on 2018-04-17

Herdwick Fell 12 April 2018

“Every cloud has a silver lining”. I was spared leading this walk on the day which was cursed with poor conditions. I had developed a painful abscess which needed immediate dental attention. Glenys assumed the leadership role and led a small group consisting of Geoff Wall, Paul, Barry and Yvonne on this 8.5 mile ramble.

However I at least did the recce of the walk a few days earlier in glorious weather and this is very much a location that demands good weather conditions. It starts from Cow Green Reservoir and is a circuit of Herdwick Fell. This is truly wild, remote country and I never met a soul all day. The walk itself commences with a three mile plod on a level track northwards to join the Alston-Middleton road. My guidebook promised me a peregrination through nature’s landcape and my imagination was captured by a promise of soaring eagles and roaming herds of wildebeest. I didn’t see any of that but I was captivated by spectacular, panoramic views of Great Dun Fell, Little Dun Fell and Cross Fell. The sound of curlews is always the welcome invitation to Spring and yet the snow filled gullies were also a reminder that this long winter was reluctant to relax its grip. Indeed access to the road involved a climb up a steep and very deep snowdrift.

After a short road section a track then descends through Spitley Tongue to the green floor of Harwood; and this is where the fun starts. Guide books give a general sense of direction and a feel for the landscape but they very often do not help with the finer detail and, as was the case in this instance, they can be misleading in the sense of giving instructions which may take you in the totally wrong direction. I was armed with the usual OS map but a) one needs to be able to read it properly b) accurate reading often requires either good eyesight and/or a magnifying glass and I have neither c) familiarity with a compass also helps but not in my case; that particular skill has passed me by.

The direction of this walk takes a route passed the haunting remains of the former Harwood Church and school and then it is a matter of crossing the beck by way of an elevated footbridge, climbing up to Stoney Comb and gaining access to the open moor. I wandered seemingly for ever trying to find a gate out onto the moorland. A few curious bullocks endeavoured to lend a hoof by snatching my guidebook on the basis that their eyesight was better than mine. But I made it in the end by simply heading over the moor in the general direction of Mickleton Fell and then dropping down to Cow Green. The moral of this story is the confidence that lies in having a few basic skills. Glenys’s party had to negotiate this part of the route in thick mist and drizzle but the ever intrepid Yvonne casually plotted a compass bearing with, from my perspective, galling accuracy and brought the group home safe and sound. Had that been me Mountain Rescue would still have been out looking. I contemplated my inadequacies with the usual pint in hand outside the Langdon Beck Inn. I felt a lot better after that.


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