A few miles north of Kendal lie one of those less frequented valleys in the Lake District. Turning off the A6 near Garnett Bridge you are soon in another world of narrow lanes and high hillsides. This is Longsleddale but to get to the upper end involves a somewhat tortuous drive along four miles of very narrow lanes with few passing places so you hope you are not going to meet a tractor. Thankfully on this occasion I had a car following me and its driver seemed in no hurry to get past. As it turned out he was just another walker who parked up at the road head close by me.
I had long planned a hill walk from the head of Longsleddale but owing to poor weather earlier in the week with extensive hill cloud I was thankful that I had re-scheduled the walk until today.
I needed to be early to get parked up at Sadgill as parking I knew was limited and indeed it was as several cars were parked there already. There is limited parking beyond the end of the road but this is along an extremely rocky track which wouldn’t do the car any good.
Setting off back down the lane a short distance, I soon took an enclosed path up to the attractive farm at Stockdale. At this stage I was unsure if there was a way onto the open access land and I was pleased to see new signs making the route straightforward. Also in my favour was the good quad bike route up onto the open fell which made the going much easier through the bracken. I wanted to take a look at the Haweswater Survey pillars which run in a straight line from Longsleddale to Haweswater Reservoir. They were built in 1926 on the line of the aqueduct that supplies water bound for Manchester.
The day had already turned warm and no need for a jacket early on. I ascended quickly and soon found myself far too high to take a look at the first survey pillar. A small diversion downhill took me to the next pillar. Back on track, I now followed a path cum quad bike track which led uphill towards Grey Crag which made the access easy going all the way to the 638 metre summit. On top I paused for my morning break. To the northwest, Tarn Crag was crowned with another survey pillar but to get there I had to cross an area known as Greycrag Tarn, which was not so much a lake but a marshy col marked with several ominous marsh symbols on the Ordnance survey map. All paths on the ground tended to lead towards the line of the fence and so with the dry weather I chose this route. The so called ‘tarn’ had dried out insomuch I could have crossed the area in town shoes. The path continued, following the fence to the top of the ridge before veering left and making for the summit of Tarn Crag (664 metres). The survey pillar was located a little west of the summit and was a much bigger structure than the first survey pillar.
To reach my third summit – Selside Pike, I next descended to the col before ascending steeply up Selside Brow. Part way up I left the path and crossed a wall and fence and made out across rough country to the third survey pillar near to Artle Crag. The going wasn’t exactly easy under foot and I had to ascend higher than hoped to avoid long vegetation.
To reach Selside Pike, I followed a path which led over the un-named summit at 673 metres before later making a short ascent to the 655 metre summit.
It was now time to back track and head to the highest summit of the day at Branstree (713 metres). It was an easy walk with a good path the whole way. I had planned to have lunch on the summit but by now the wind had become too strong to make it comfortable. The summit is unusual as it is marked by a Ordnance Survey concrete ring – the first that I had come across. In the whole country there are just nineteen such markers, most of which are in this area.
I decided to descend and have lunch at Gatescarth Pass. It was an easy descent except for the last little bit across a rather boggy col. The top of the pass was also breezy but I found a northwest facing spot out of the worse of the wind. Thundery weather had been forecast for later in the day but for now there was no sign of it. With time on my side I could make the walk back at a leisurely pace. I joined a track which initially descended steeply to Brownhowe Bottom passing on the way the disused Wrengill Slate Quarry. The quarry is close to the north eastern limit of green slate workings in the Lake District. This type of rock stretches across the southern Lake District to the Duddon Valley.
I pressed on at a leisurely pace beside the upper reaches of the River Sprint and I had to stop the temptation of an afternoon paddle in one of the inviting pools. Below the Buckbarrow Crag the track levelled out but there were numerous twists and turns to get back to the car. Along this section I witnessed a low fly pass by a training jet which briefly shattered the peace and quiet of this hot and sunny summer afternoon.