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The bridleway around the eastern side of Wandale Hill with Harter Fell ahead and to the right
The bridleway around the eastern side of Wandale Hill with Harter Fell ahead and to the right

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Route No. 617 - Wednesday 6 April 2016
Cross Keys Inn, Narthwaite farm,
Adamthwaite farm, circuit of Wandale Hill,
8km - Howgill Fells . . .

Route map from Ordnance Survey Open Space service.

Map: OS Explorer OL19 Howgill Fells & Upper Eden Valley


Lay-by on the A683 at the Cross Keys Temperance Hotel, the start of our walk
Lay-by on the A683 at the Cross Keys Temperance Hotel, the start of our walk

My friend, Jim, and I are staying at a pub in Ravenstonedale to do a couple of short walks in the northern foothills of the Howgill Fells. That's all that my wonky knees will allow these days but we still manage to get a taste of the wild open feeling of the Howgills. This morning we drove from Ravenstonedale along the A683 towards Sedbergh and parked in the informal lay-by at the Cross Keys Temperance Inn at map ref. NY 698 969. It had been raining all the way from Ravenstonedale and we sat in the car waiting for one of the bright spells in between the showers that had been forecast. After about 15 minutes the rain stopped and there were a few blue patches in the cloudy sky.

Steps down to the footbridge over the River Rawthey
Steps down to the footbridge over the River Rawthey

Pennine Journey route around Ben End
Pennine Journey route around Ben End

Ben End is at the bottom of a ridge that leads up to the top of Yarlside (639m) with the River Rawthey running along the southern edge of the hill and Backside Beck running down the eastern side of the hill. We followed the path around the base of Ben End where it became a stony track that led us down to a ford across Backside Beck at map ref. SD 699 975.

From the lay-by we walked down the steps to the footbridge over the River Rawthey. We crossed the bridge and on the other side we followed the gravel path up from the river bank for about 100m. Then we turned sharp right leaving the gravel path and following a wet muddy grass path doubling back around the hillside called Ben End, about 10 or 12 metres above the river. This path is part of a long distance route called 'A Pennine Journey'.

Turning right to join the Pennine Journey route
Turning right to join the Pennine Journey route


Track heading down to the ford across Backside Beck

Crossing the ford over Backside Beck on the Pennine Journey route
Crossing the ford over Backside Beck on the Pennine Journey route

Path from the ford up to Narthwaite farm
Path from the ford up to Narthwaite farm

Our route northwards out of Narthwaite farm
Our route northwards out of Narthwaite farm

Looking back down the track from Narthwaite farm
Looking back down the track from Narthwaite farm

Once clear of the farm buildings the bridleway turned right and became a sunken track following a wall up the steep hillside. The track had a rough rocky base that was awkward to walk on and the grassy parts were wet, muddy and slippery. After about 200m up this steep track the bridleway forks. Our plan was to return along the left hand fork and our route ahead lay along the right hand fork.

After all the rain the beck was around 200mm deep, more in places and quite wide, around 7m. We had to cross or turn back so we crossed and followed the Pennine Journey route up the hillside to Narthwaite farm. We followed the path into the farm yard where we turned left leaving the Pennine Journey route and following a bridleway out of the farm yard.

Narthwaite farm on the Pennine Journey route
Narthwaite farm on the Pennine Journey route

Bridleway climbing up the slippery track from Narthaite farm
Bridleway climbing up the slippery track from Narthaite farm

Taking the right hand fork in the bridleway
Taking the right hand fork in the bridleway

Looking west from the track above Narthwaite farm to Ben End and Yarlside with Cautley Crag beyond
Looking west from the track above Narthwaite farm to Ben End and Yarlside with Cautley Crag beyond

The bridleway heading northwestwards around Wandale Hill
The bridleway heading northwestwards around Wandale Hill

Recent errosion next to the path
Recent erosion next to the path

Heading around Wandale hill with Harter Fell ahead on the right
Heading around Wandale hill with Harter Fell ahead on the right

By now the weather was closing in again and we took shelter amongst the ruins as a squall blew up with driving rain and hail that turned to snow. We sheltered there for about 15 minutes before the squall blew itself out and a few small patches of blue sky appeared once more.

The track now contoured around Wandale Hill with the River Rawthey and the A683 far below. The track had become a stream bed and about 750m from the fork in the bridleway we came to a ruined farmstead.

The bridleway heading northwestwards around Wandale Hill
The bridleway heading northwestwards around Wandale Hill

The bridleway along a sunken track , now a stream bed
The bridleway along a sunken track , now a stream bed


A clear view down to the A683 by the River Rawthey . . .


. . . Looking out from our shelter in the ruins to see the valley now completely obscured by the driving snow

Continuing on the bridleway on the east side of Wandale Hill
Continuing on the bridleway on the east side of Wandale Hill

'Rough Fell' ewes common in this area
'Rough Fell' ewes common in this area

One of several ruined farm buildings we passed along the way
One of several ruined farm buildings we passed along the way

The farmer and his young son appeared from one of the buildings and offered us some advice about our return route to the Cross Keys lay-by. The rain had started again though not as violent as the previous squall.

We continued following the bridleway along the track contouring around the side of Wandale Hill for almost another 2km to Adanthwaite farm at map ref. SD 710 999.

Continuing on the bridleway on the east side of Wandale Hill
Continuing on the bridleway on the east side of Wandale Hill

Following the bridleway towards Adamthwaite farm
Following the bridleway towards Adamthwaite farm

Following the bridleway towards Adamthwaite farm
Following the bridleway towards Adamthwaite farm

Following the track to Adamthwaite farm round the bend ahead
Following the track to Adamthwaite farm round the bend ahead

Passing through Adamthwaite farm
Passing through Adamthwaite farm

Following the track to the large farm building ahead
Following the track to the large farm building ahead

On the bend there was a field gate on the left with a large standing stone next to it. The farmer had advised us to keep left here leaving the farm access track. We went through the gate by the standing stone and followed the bridleway across the fields for about 250m to a gate on to the open fell side at map ref. SD 704 997.

We followed the bridleway through the farm and turned left climbing up a track along the valley of a stream called Adamthwaite Sike. About 500m from the farm we came to a large modern farm building and beyond this building the track turned right climbing up the hillside.

The track above Adamthwaite Sike
The track above Adamthwaite Sike

Standing Stone by the gate where we turned off the farm track
Standing Stone by the gate where we turned off the farm track

We followed the bridleway across the fields for about 250m to a gate on to the open fell side
We followed the bridleway across the fields for about 250m to a gate on to the open fell side


Initially the bridleway across the fell here was well defined . . .


. . . and then the bridleway disappeared altogether . . .


. . . and soon joined up with a farm access track

After a few hundred metres the bridleway joined a farm access track (not marked on my map) that came in from our right. The rain was quite persistent now with driving hail stinging our faces and hampering our progress. We continued following the bridleway along the farm track until we reached a track off to the right at map ref. SD 699 987 leading to the ruins of Mountain View farm below us.

The bridleway across the fell here was well defined but soon became less clear and then disappeared altogether. The rough fell here is fairly flat, wet and rather boggy. We headed east across this area for about 200m and then bent round to head southwards above the valley of Backside Beck. We picked up the bridleway again in this area.


. . . but the bridleway soon became less clear . . .


. . . about 250m across the fell we found the bridleway again . . .

We followed the track towards Mountain View farm
We followed the track towards Mountain View farm

The gate on the right of the photo leads to Mountain View farm. We kept straight on
The gate on the right of the photo leads to Mountain View farm. We kept straight on

Bridleway from Mountain View farm towards Narthwaite farm
Bridleway from Mountain View farm towards Narthwaite farm

Heading towards Narthwaite farm
Heading towards Narthwaite farm

From the fork in the bridleway at map ref. SD 701 975 we began to retrace our outward route first down the wet rocky sunken track back to Narthwaite farm. When we approached the fold yard at Narthwaite farm it was full of sheep, Swaledale ewes.

We continued along the bridleway that was now a wet muddy grass track, very slippery in places, with the wind driving the rain sleet and hail into our faces. From the turning to Mountain View farm we continued along the bridleway for about 1.3km to the fork in the bridleway that we had passed on our outward route.

Bridleway from Mountain View farm towards Narthwaite farm
Bridleway from Mountain View farm towards Narthwaite farm

Returning to the fork in the bridleway at map ref. SD 701 975
Returning to the fork in the bridleway at map ref. SD 701 975

The fold yard at Narthwaite farm was full of Swaledale ewes
The fold yard at Narthwaite farm was full of Swaledale ewes

Approaching the fold yard at Narthwaite farm
Approaching the fold yard at Narthwaite farm

Then we walked along the track back to the footbridge over the River Rawthey and up to the Cross Keys lay-by and the end of the walk, still in the rain. The whole route had been about 8km and it had taken us almost 3 hours 30 minutes in these awful conditions. We drove back to the pub in Ravenstonedale for a hot shower and to check that the quality of the real ales on the bar was still as good.

We made our way quietly through the yard full of sheep and had a pleasant chat with the farmer at the yard gate. Apparently the ewes are all due to lamb in a couple of weeks and so he had been giving them a dose of wormer, standard practice at this stage of their pregnancy he told us. From the farm we followed our outward route back to the ford across Backside Beck that was even deeper now.

Backside Beck ford now almost 300mm deep in places
Backside Beck ford now almost 300mm deep in places

The track from the ford across Backside Beck heading towards the River Rawthey footbridge and the Cross Keys lay-by
The track from the ford across Backside Beck heading towards the River Rawthey footbridge and the Cross Keys lay-by

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