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Wild Boar fell and the Upper Eden valley from our parking spot next to the Settle Carlisle Railway
Wild Boar fell and the Upper Eden valley from our parking spot next to the Settle Carlisle Railway

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Route No 249 - Wednesday 4 June 2008
Wild Boar Fell, Ais Gill circuit,
(Wainwright's Route) - 10km
Upper Eden Valley . . .

Ordnance Survey route map on the Landranger series map base
View the route in Google Earth

Map: OS Explorer OL19 Howgill Fells and Upper Eden Valley


Old quarry which Wainwright notes as a good parking spot
Old quarry which Wainwright notes as a good parking spot

Over the last two years it has not been possible due to a series of health problems. At last thanks to the diligence and perseverance of several NHS doctors, I'm feeling capable of tackling the walk. This morning my friend Jim and I set off just after 8.40 to drive over the A66 to Brough and Kirkby Stephen and up the Eden valley (B6259) to map ref. SD774969.

I have a book called "Wainwright in the Limestone Dales" in which he describes a route over Wild Boar fell, returning by following the beck called Ais Gill down from the col between Wild Boar Fell and Swarth Fell, back to the starting point on the road next to the Settle to Carlisle railway. I have wanted to try this route for a long time.

Heading down the road to our turning onto the fell side
Heading down the road to our turning onto the fell side

Our path goes under the right hand arch of the viaduct
Our path goes under the right hand arch of the viaduct

Just beyond Aisgill Farm on our right, (map ref. SD773976) we turned left off the road onto a track up the edge of a rough field with half a dozen Swaledale tups grazing. The gate into the field has an open access sign on it which gave us reassuring confirmation that this route onto the fell is a legitimate access point.

Here there is a bridge over the Settle to Carlisle railway and a little gravel area where there is room to park a few cars off the road. Opposite is a little disused quarry where Wainwright reports that there is room to park but the area is now barricaded off with large boulders. At about 10.20 we set off back down the road for about 300m.

Our turning off the road onto open access land
Our turning off the road onto open access land

Military training aircraft flying below the hill tops in the Eden Valley
Military training aircraft flying below the hill tops in the Eden Valley
Military training aircraft flying below the hill tops in the Eden Valley
Military training aircraft flying below the hill tops in the Eden Valley

Cuckoo Flower or Lady's Smockon the damp hillside
Cuckoo Flower or Lady's Smock on the damp hillside

We stayed next to the wall for about 1km of fairly rough walking across a series of stream gulleys until we reached a corner in the wall (map ref. SD772988) where the wall turned east.

The track led us up under the railway viaduct. Once through the viaduct we continued following the drystone wall up the hillside and round to our right.

A half eaten frog - no sign of the preditor
A half eaten frog - no sign of the predator

The Nab on Wild Boar fell as we started our climb
The Nab on Wild Boar fell as we started our climb

Crossing the limestone pavement on the flank of Wild Boar Fell
Crossing the limestone pavement on the flank of Wild Boar Fell

We were crossing an area of limestone pavement outcrops. We continued along this bearing for 450m until we joined the bridleway at map ref. SD768997.

At this point we headed off along a bearing of 334 degrees (magnetic) a little to the right of a line of fenced off pot holes.

Mountain Pansy
Mountain Pansy

Wild  Thyme
Wild Thyme
Approaching The Nab on Wild Boar Fell
Approaching The Nab on Wild Boar Fell

Resting at The Nab on Wild Boar Fell
Resting at The Nab on Wild Boar Fell

They were having a short break in this area and it turned out that they had used this web site for route ideas. By the time I joined Jim they had continued on the climb up Wild Boar Fell. After a drink and a short rest Jim and I began the climb up to The Nab. At the top Jim sat by the cairn to admire the view until I puffed my way up to join him.

We followed the bridleway up a steep grassy track onto the Col between Wild Boar Fell and Little Fell. My friend Jim was well ahead of me. I was taking things very steadily so as not to jeopardise the improvement in my health. Whilst he was waiting for me Jim met a couple from Derbyshire.

Looking South from The Nab
Looking South from The Nab

The Howgill Fells from the trig point on Wild Boar Fell
The Howgill Fells from the trig point on Wild Boar Fell

Approaching the trig point on Wild Boar fell
Approaching the trig point on Wild Boar fell

From the summit we followed a path across to the craggy edge at map ref. SD761983 where there are a series of slim cairns along the edge. We sat there with a superb view down the Eden Valley for our lunch. Far below us we saw another military trainer aircraft flying up the valley and over into Wensleydale. They had been flying up the valley at intervals ever since we started walking this morning.

The weather was perfect, warm and sunny with a cool breeze. From The Nab we followed the path to the trig point on the flat summit of Wild Boar Fell (708m) at map ref. SD758988. From there, there was a good view of the Howgill Fells and the couple from Derbyshire we sitting just below the trig point having their lunch.

"Small White" butterfly on  Cuckoo Flower in a damp part of the hillside
"Small White" butterfly on Cuckoo Flower in a damp part of the hillside

Cairns and a windbreak  at High White Scar on Wild Boar Fell
Cairns and a windbreak at High White Scar on Wild Boar Fell
Looking North to The Nab from the windbreak on High White Scar, Wild Boar Fell
Looking North to The Nab from the windbreak on High White Scar, Wild Boar Fell

After our lunch we followed the path around the edge of Wild Boar Fell's flat summit and dropped down on to the col between Wild Boar fell and Swarth Fell. In the middle of the col is a small tarn and we used this as our land mark to turn off the col and head straight down the steep slope until we intercepted Ais Gill. We found a convenient place to cross the beck and keeping well above the beck for easier walking we followed the beck downstream for just over 1km until we were several hundred metres from the railway.

Looking across to Swarth Fell with the small tarn where we planned to turn down to Ais Gill,  just visible
Looking across to Swarth Fell with the small tarn where we planned to turn down to Ais Gill, just visible

Looking back to Wild Boar fell as we began to descend to Ais Gill from the tarn below Swarth Fell
Looking back to Wild Boar fell as we began to descend to Ais Gill from the tarn below Swarth Fell

Here the beck was flowing through an ever steepening valley which became a rocky gorge with inaccessible waterfalls.

After a dry year so far the little water in Ais Gill has gone underground leaving this waterfall dry
After a dry year so far the little water in Ais Gill has gone underground leaving this waterfall dry

After a dry year so far the little water in Ais Gill has gone underground leaving this waterfall dry
After a dry year so far the little water in Ais Gill has gone underground leaving this waterfall dry
A trickle of water emerging into Ais Gill from underground
A trickle of water emerging into Ais Gill from underground
Dry bed of Ais Gill below the rocks where the waterfall should be
Dry bed of Ais Gill where Low White Kirk waterfall should be

We continued down to the railway viaduct and followed a path along the beck towards Low White Kirk waterfall, but we found this to be completely dry, which was a disappointment.

Inaccessible waterfall site on Ais Gill
Inaccessible waterfall site on Ais Gill

Mole-catcher's trophy wall - several meters of the wall were adorned in this way
Mole-catcher's trophy wall

It had taken us five hours to walk including our stops and failed attempts to see the waterfalls. We drove into Kirkby Stephen and had our usual coffee and toasted teacake to round off the day before the long drive home.

We returned to the road on the track we had used this morning and made our way back to the car. The whole route had been 10km with a climb of around 400m and some rough terrain underfoot.

Wood Cranesbill on the roadside
Wood Cranesbill on the roadside

Pendragon Castle on the way back to Kirkby Stephen
Pendragon Castle on the way back to Kirkby Stephen

It is the Appleby Horse Fair starting tomorrow 5 June until 11 June and there are lots of horsedrawn vehicles about and many horses tethered on the grass verges all over the area. It's a really interesting spectacle. I've seen news clips about it on the TV in the past but never appreciated the sheer scale of the event before.

Travellers and their horses ready for the Appleby Hosre Fair which starts tomorrow 5 June until Monday 11 June
Travellers and their horses ready for the Appleby Horse Fair which starts tomorrow Thursday 5 June until Monday 11 June