Upper Longsleddale

Upper Longsleddale

Date completed: 12th March 2012.

Weather conditions:  Ideal for walking in some ways, but there was low cloud for the second walk in a row. Not quite as pervasive as last time, but still enough to eradicate the views from the summits, and leave other photographs flatly lit, so a bit of a disappointment.

Fells climbed: Tarn Crag (Longsleddale) (2176’, no. 161), Grey Crag (2093’, no. 162). The walk also crosses the territory of Green Quarter Fell which is one of Wainwright’s ‘Outlying Fells‘ – see that page for more details.

Sheep above Longsleddale

A quintet of sheep, pictured as I began the descent to Longsleddale. I like the way they have arranged themselves on this picture, kind of like some 80s indie band on an album cover (and there's an art form that has sadly died away).

Distance:  16.1 miles. The second-longest walk so far.

Total ascent:  3426 feet.

Start and end points: Started and finished at Staveley railway station. No buses needed today.

Pub at end:  It would have been great to have had time to revisit the Eagle & Child in Staveley, which I enjoyed at the end of walk 35, but I made a train home with only 5 minutes to spare, so no time today. Seeing as this was the quickest journey home of any walk yet, however, I was walking in the Railway, my local pub, before 5pm.

Skeggles Water

Skeggles Water

Route card: Click here to download a route card which includes an elevation profile (how hilly the walk is), waypoints with grid references, and a summary map. ROUTE CARD TO FOLLOW.

Route: This is not a particularly difficult walk but it is long, and often boggy, particularly around Tarn Crag. Paths are OK and fairly well signposted.  But do bear in mind that this isn’t a particularly exciting walk, and you won’t see any of the Lake District; on a clear day the Pennines will be well seen, however. Whether this makes it worth 16.1 miles of walking is a matter for your personal conscience.

There isn’t any public transport to Longsleddale, so you have to walk there from Staveley station, from which there are a variety of routes to Sadgill. The way I went gives a good general impression of to the Longsleddale valley, which is the main reason to do this walk.

Take the road from the station up to the village centre, by the fire station, and take the road signposted Kentmere. Pass the church on your left, take the road next right over Barley Bridge, then immediately left, up the road marked with a cul-de-sac sign.

The River Kent at Barley Bridge, Staveley

The River Kent at Barley Bridge, Staveley

Stay on this road all the way up to its terminus at Park House, NY470008 (what’s this?), and then keep going up the unmetalled track ahead. At every junction in the path, bear right. This route will bring you round to the south of Skeggles Water (you will see it on your left) and eventually, drop you down into Longsleddale at the farm of Hollin Root. You want then to head left, down a right of way that goes through the garden of the house: though it then bypasses the next farm (whose owners presumably had better property lawyers).

This path, remaining well-signposted, leads you along the valley floor until reaching a T-junction with a lane, near the farm of Till’s Hole. Turn right across the river, immediately left through the field, and left on the main road, to reach Sadgill Bridge, where the tarmac ends.

At this point, go through the gate on the right, into the field, and begin the one really substantial climb of the day. It’s a stiff one, but it won’t last long: honestly. Head for the stile you can see at the top of the field, slightly to the left: there is no path in the first enclosure, but one does lead you up through the next, up an easy rocky gully and then swings round to the right, leading you over a stile shortly afterwards, at the point at which a fence and wall meet.

Peat bog on Tarn Crag

Peat bog on Tarn Crag

Whether you climb Tarn Crag or Grey Crag first from this point is largely up to you. I did Tarn Crag first if only because it was higher and further away, thus would allow me to feel like I had already begun the journey home once I’d reached it. Or something like that. Anyway, the path to Tarn Crag from the stile doubles back to follow the other side of the wall.

Once the wall ends at a corner, try to keep to the same height of land ahead; the path is indistinct. Be careful of Galeforth Gill, which you cannot cross too far down: track up it until it is safe. Once across the gill, head for the next fence ahead, and once that turns a right-angle, keep following it upwards. There are a couple of craggy bits to negotiate and two peat bogs, one of which is substantial (see the picture), but nothing too bad.

I find it hard to give good routefinding advice here because by this point I was walking in fairly thick mist and could see nothing of Tarn Crag which by now was presumably rising up to my right. Not knowing what awaited me there – and Wainwright does warn that the fell can be dangerous in mist – I took a safer but more roundabout route, sticking close to the fence as it curved round and eventually approaching the summit from the back. Thanks to the fact that the summit has a ten-foot tall brick pillar on it (see the picture on the Tarn Crag page), I doubt it will be hard to find in clear weather, but in the mist I only found it quickly because of the unexpected presence of another solitary walker who pointed me in the right direction.

The path to Grey Crag heads off to the north-east, seemingly in the wrong direction, but there is a substantial bog between the two summits which you need to circumnavigate. Even using this ‘bypass’ it remains a boggy walk, particularly on the final approach to Grey Crag, by the angle of the fence at NY497075, which is as slutchy as anything I’ve had to cope with on these walks (with the exception of the all-time winner, the swamp on walk 40). Follow the fence (pictured here) to the angle, and then the path to Grey Crag summit is clear enough, with the summit only a few minutes away.

The path then continues off the summit and round back to Longsleddale, via Great Howe and its decent view of the valley, and back to the stile at the top of the hill that you climbed over a couple of hours ago. Descend back the same path, down to Sadgill bridge.

The fence along the ridge

The fence along the ridge between Tarn Crag and Grey Crag. Without it, this really would be a very difficult walk in mist.

At this point you could just retrace your steps, but I took a different route back, over the bridge and up the stony lane to the left. At the next signpost, bear left down another obvious path (the lane continues over to Kentmere at Stile End – a practical way back, but a longer one). This leads back over the moorlands of Cocklaw and Green Quarter Fells, always reasonably clear, and should present no problems. Eventually you will come back down past Park House and back into Staveley.

Power walking commentary stuff: I’ve been kind of putting this one off.  The two fells I bagged today can only realistically be ascended from Longsleddale, and there probably haven’t been any buses into Longsleddale in the last fifty years, if ever. The only real option is a long walk over the moor from the railway station at Staveley – climb ‘em – and walk back. It’s a perfectly practical walk – and as you’ll find out, I managed to do it pretty fast – but it’s a lot longer than it really needs to be considering the apparent rewards. Wainwright doesn’t slag off either of these fells, but he hardly raves about them either, and I know that at best, I’m going to get a good view of the Pennines and that’s the reward I can expect for my 16 miles – only walk 35 (which also ended at Staveley) has so far been longer.

But it’s got to be done at some point: like I said last time, I’m running out of walks. The forecast is good. I worked yesterday (Sunday) so I can walk today. I don’t feel trained up for a 16-mile walk but then again I haven’t done so for several months now. What the hell, let’s do it.

On the descent from Grey Crag

On the descent from Grey Crag, with the solitary fellwalker whom I met on both summits.

Last time out I took a risk on a slightly dodgy forecast and it didn’t pay off. This time, it was the forecast that let me down. It promised clear skies & clear summits but as I approach from Staveley it becomes obvious that, first of all, the fells above 1,500 feet are all clamped under cloud once again – and second, that it’s not shifting anywhere. There is not a breath of wind and nothing’s moving.

I can’t do anything about the weather. So I turn the walk into something else. On arrival at Staveley station at 8.40 this morning (a 2 hour, 2 minute trip from HB station: a fact that I will return to later) I checked the times of the trains back, and they were just past 3pm and just past 5pm. And I decide: I am catching that 3pm on. I set myself a schedule, here’s when I have to be in Longsleddale, here’s when on each summit, etc., and determine to stick to it.

Well – I did it – but it took some power-walking at the end, and boy, my legs and knees felt it. Here is my schedule, more-or-less, but bear in mind it’s quite a tough one: aiming for the 17.11 train back out of Staveley (which goes all the way to Manchester) is much more sensible:
8.45 leave Staveley station
9.20 Park House
10.20 Hollin Root (Longsleddale)
10.50 Sadgill bridge
12.05 Tarn Crag summit
12.35 Grey Crag summit
1.20 Sadgill bridge
2.30 Park House
3.00 Staveley station.

Cyclists on Green Quarter Fell

Cyclists on Green Quarter Fell

If you follow in my footsteps, you’ll see no lakes (beyond the tiny and insignificant Skeggles Water); nor much of the Lake District. There is, apparently, a great view of the Pennines from the summits but I didn’t see that either. What did I get out of the walk? Exercise (lots of that) – solitude (though not complete: saw three other walkers today, including the same other solo walker twice, on each of the two summits) – and also, the main reason to do it – a proper introduction to Longsleddale.

That is, in fact, the best reason to do this walk. Having done over 75% of the Lakes summits now, there are few parts of it that still feel unfamiliar to me, but this valley was an exception. It’s surely the most secluded of the major Lakeland valleys, and so pastoral that, apparently, it’s the model for ‘Greendale’ in Postman Pat. It shoots up into the smooth eastern extremities of the Far Eastern Fells, straight as an arrow, with farms regularly spaced along it until the tarmac runs out and it turns into the wilder upper valley.

Shipman Knotts, from Green Quarter Fell

Shipman Knotts (bagged as fell 110, last year), from Green Quarter Fell

It’s worth a visit, definitely, and I impressed myself by getting the walk done in the 6¼ hours I had before that 15:04 train back – which I made with 6 minutes to spare. And here’s another good thing about the day: that 15:04 from Staveley allowed me to meet a 5 minute connection at Oxenholme, and that allowed me to meet a 4 minute connection at Preston, and I was at home (well, in my local pub) less than 2 hours after finishing walking.  A round trip under 4 hours today – would that they were all like that. And punctual Virgin trains too. You see guys – you can do it if you want to….

No more walks for about a month – 14th April probably the next one. Hopefully without cloud!

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One Response to “Walk 53: Longsleddale”

  1. […] Walk 53 was done yesterday and saw me bag the two easternmost Wainwrights, Tarn Crag and Grey Crag. Unfortunately, the weather was once again disappointing, despite a good forecast – low cloud and grey skies. Still, I treated the walk as a physical challenge instead and was quite proud of myself for doing it in the time I did: although I can’t measure it properly either, as Memory-Map is currently out of commission. It was about 15.5 miles and 3000 feet ascent, I think, but until I have accurate figures I won’t update the overall mileage and climbing numbers. Today’s walk does mean, however, I have done 162 of the 214 Wainwrights, thus have 52 to go. […]

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