It was late afternoon when I parked up off a minor lane in a scenic spot opposite the Howgill Fells. I had picked Chrissie and Dixie up from the Western Peak District after she had finished work. Somehow we had avoided the Friday rush whilst escaping Manchester. The weather forecast for the weekend was for hot sun and no rain. A bonus for us humans but not so good for our canine companions. Therefore with Dixie and Reuben in tow the plan was for short days and extended lazy periods whilst camping high on the moors.
Day 1 – 4 kilometres with 420 metres ascent
Our destination for the night was Sand Tarn which nestles below the western summit of Wild Boar Fell. The distance was short but the amount of contours between the car and tarn meant a big climb. The limestone boulder clad Stennerskeugh Clouds provided interest, before a plod across boggy moorland.
There was a welcome wind when we reached the grassy shelf next to the tarn. Tents were quickly pitched, boots kicked off and brews made. It was good to lounge around the tents and enjoy the location.
With lounging duly accomplished I spent a while simply wandering around our campsite, enjoying the surroundings in the early evening light.
When Dixie finally came out of her tent she had powdered her face so that she could do her Alice Cooper impression. She is well-known for this on the northern club scene. Check out dixiedoesalicecooper.com
After dinner I was keen to do some further exploring so set off with Reuben to the trig point on Wild Boar Fell. We managed to spend over an hour to do the short return trip. Every few paces I found myself transfixed by the changing colours under the setting sun. The Howgills slowly turned to the softest velvet. The sun as it descended was a tiny red disk amongst the haze, slowly fizzling out as the cloud overwhelmed it. The wind had finally dropped leaving just the sound of moorland birds and the bleating of sheep. A great moment shared with the dog on the edge of the high plateau.
Sunset still comes late in July, so by the time it was dark I was more than happy to go straight to sleep. In the tent I finally lost the battle with Reuben over which sleeping mat was his. He wanted the one that I was laying on. The inner of a Scarp is a bit of a squeeze when sharing it with 25kg of fur and muscle.
Day 2 – 10 kilometres with 480 metres ascent
The haze did not shift overnight and the Howgill Fells across the valley were hidden under a blanket of cloud. Every now and then the sunshine above us would disappear as banks of mist drifted by. We managed to keep up the relaxed theme by lounging outside the tents until mid morning. It would have been all too easy to have spent the whole day just reading and paddling in the tarn. Finally by late morning we managed to pack up.
I was keen to show Chrissie the Nab on the Northern edge of Wild Boar Fell. It is one of the best viewpoints in the Dales, giving an impression of being high in the mountains rather than on featureless moorland. The escarpment drops steeply down into the Mallerstang valley, a finger of land giving a sense of exposure. The dogs had to be kept under close control as they were keen to get as close to the edge as possible.
The escarpment gave a grand promenade, dry cropped grass keeping the feet happy. We were heading for a group of cairns in the distance, giving the impression that they were people. Reaching them they made a good foreground feature on which to photograph the escarpment in full.
However if there is no cairn I can highly recommend taking a Reuben with you as he is more than happy to pose. For full effect you need a bit of a breeze to make his ears flap around.
It was an easy walk to Swarth Fell on a grassy path, the bulk of Wild Boar Fell showing itself on the climb to the summit.
We sat for a while on the summit rocks to have lunch number one (all good days out have at least two lunches) enjoying a cooling breeze. A large group of walkers following a woman with a fluorescent tabard passed, the last people we would see all day.
Following the wall we took a right angle and headed directly for Holmes Moss. Our destination for the night was to be Baugh Fell and we were aware of the long descent followed by a long ascent. Something neither of our legs were looking forward to.
The top of Holmes Moss was covered in the most amazing display of cotton grass. Parts of it were absolutely plastered in the stuff, this gave us something to look at whilst we sloshed through very boggy ground.
We were all gasping for water by the time Rawthey Gill was reached. We collapsed on its grassy banks to have lunch number two, my feet welcomed the chance for a bit of airing. Dixie decided to be a grumpy old lady and tried to take a chunk out of Reuben, he was quite clear in letting her know that sort behaviour is unacceptable. They pretty much ignored each other after that. The politics of being a dog eh?
Thankfully Chrissie and I did not start brawling as well.
The climb to the summit of Baugh Fell if I am honest was a bit of a grind. An endless plod up pathless slopes, frequent breaks to catch our breath only served to show how little progress we were making.
The plan had been to camp right on the summit itself. However there was a perfect grassy patch right next to one of the East Tarns. There was no hesitation in getting the tents up. Once again there was a strong breeze to cool us down.
Settled into our respective tents I found myself falling into a deep sleep. The heat had taken it out of me and I was absolutely knackered. I had to force myself to get up and cook some food after an hour. It would have been all too easy to sleep right through until morning.
Chrissie was feeling unwell and decided to have an early night. Dixie was already out for the count. I fancied doing the same myself but decided to make the best of being on the tops in such good weather. I had a stroll to the highest point with Reuben, getting a great view of the distant Lake District. There was layer after layer of hills stretching to the horizon under a silvery light. I stood for ages taking it all in before walking a boggy route back to the tents.
I brewed a mint tea and walked to a nearby rocky outcrop to watch the sun set. Reuben was sitting at my side when he suddenly sat bolt upright with his ears back. He rarely makes a noise but he started a low growl, his eyes fixated on something. The growl started to be punctuated with a quiet wuff, his back legs quivering. I could see absolutely nothing in the direction he was looking, not even a sheep. It was a bit unnerving to be honest so once the sun had set I returned to the sanctuary of a flimsy tent which is known to keep the ghosts at bay.
Day 3 – 11 kilometres with 160 metres ascent
By morning the wind had dropped and even at 7.00am it was hot. The lack of a breeze meant that midges made their first appearance of the trip, not huge quantities but enough to be a nuisance. At least they speed the packing process and we were on our way early, keen to get back to the car before it got too hot.
Looking at the map I assumed that Baugh Fell would give difficult walking across its expansive plateau. We stayed below the summit ridge, picking a route across grassy and stoney areas. The going was rather pleasant. This is a hill to come to if you want to get away from it all, we had a feeling that it is very little visited. There is a sense of space and wildness to it.
West Baugh Fell Tarn was our first destination, somewhere to filter water and rest in the building heat. Another spot marked for a future wild camp (it is very exposed up there though!).
It was a long and slow plod down Baugh Fell’s endless slopes, the Howgills across the valley filling the horizon.
It took a while to descend to the upper River Rawthey. With an elderly boxer in tow we decided to give the waterfalls a miss as steep ground is involved to reach them. Instead we took to the bridleway on the south side through the lush green valley.
Sitting for lunch next to a deep pool in the river I was very tempted to go for a dip. However I am not sure of the etiquette of being naked in front of someone elses wife. I therefore saved Chrissie some embarrassment and kept my clothes on.
The final walk along the lane back to the car felt like it lasted an eternity under the heat of the midday sun. The dogs tongues were almost touching the floor by the time we got back, Reuben needing to be dragged along. Aircon has never felt so good.