Piglet has been keeping an eye on the BBC weather app all week, but most of the news has been gloomy. Cloud, rain, hail, sleet and general horribleness seemed likely to occupy the entire Bank Holiday weekend, and as the weekend approached it seemed increasingly likely that the whole thing was going to be a complete wash out.
Around about Thursday, though, it began to look as though yesterday (Saturday) might simply be cloudy, with intermittent showers, and so late on Friday I began to have a think about where we might go for a good weekend walk.
We wanted a change from the Dales, but didn’t want to contend with the weekend traffic heading up the m/way to the Lakes, and so–in a moment of rare genius–it occurred to me to take a look at the Howgills.
By dint of some quick Googling I discovered that my old pal, Mike Knipe, has a year’s worth of Howgills route descriptions over on another old pal Phil Lambert’s excellent Doodlecat site. Since this is April (well, it was when I looked on Friday) I decided to go with Mike’s April walk, which starts, conveniently, in Sedbergh. Whoohoo! Piglet was ecstatic, and she did a little dance
(Regular readers may notice that this isn’t Piglet, but since she so rarely agrees to smile for the camera I’ve borrowed a picture. This is just what she looked like when I told her where we were going. Really.)
Yesterday morning the weather at home was pretty crappy, and after taking care of essential business–feeding, watering and mucking out a dog, three cats, three chucks and a horse–I was undecided about whether or not to risk the rain.
The main reason for my hesitation was that my main walking waterproof jacket, a Paramo Viento, has had a broken main zip for a couple of months now, and is unusable. I’ve had the jacket for about 12 years, and have already had to have the main zip replaced once. One of the great things about Paramo (I’ve always thought) has been their lifetime guarantee, and when the zip first broke about 5 years into my ownership they happily took the jacket back and replaced it for me free of charge. When I contacted them a couple of months ago, though, they told me that the life of the main zip had now come to an end, and that I’d have to pay for a second replacement. At £47.50 plus postage that felt like a lot of money, and I’ve not had it done yet. I don’t really think the main zip in a £200 jacket should fail and need to be replaced twice in 12 years.
They also suggested that after 12 years it was probably time for me to think about buying a new jacket. This from Paramo, one of whose main selling points has always been longevity. TBH, I was extremely unimpressed.
Anyway… my other jacket (a Cioch Glamaig) is great but it’s shorter than the Viento, and lighter, and I don’t think of it as a first choice for very wet weather. Hence my ambivalence in the face of the freezing rain occurring outside my front door.
It’s always difficult to deal with Piglet’s tears, though, and so in the end I loaded up the rucksack, and then the car, and we set off for Sedbergh with claws and fingers crossed.
It turned out to be a truly fantastic day! I could see some snow on the tops as we drove over, but I hadn’t anticipated that at some points it might be calf deep. That was brilliant, as Piglet loves a bit of snow and so do I. The weather was a little overcast as we set off up the hill…
The hill at the start
…but as we gained a bit of height it began to pick up, and after about an hour it was sunshine virtually all the way.
Looking down to Sedbergh
From our raised position I could see little rain showers happening all around us, but we were incredibly lucky and none of them came our way
Like Mike, we didn’t go up Winder but instead followed a path closer to Settlebeck Gill.
We crossed the gill and followed a path up to the right. Unlike Mike, we didn’t take the detour to the top of Crook, but we took a piccy looking down at it from a higher point slightly later in the walk.
On the approach to Arant Haw
Looking back down to Winder
Crook, with the little knobble on top
When we reached the top of Arant Haw we entered a different, and fabulous, world. Ahead of us lay an exciting snowy landscape, and Piglet stared ahead, enthralled.
The way ahead — towards Brant Fell
At that point it occurred to me to try out the Panorama feature on my new camera. Result!
From Arant Haw towards Calders, and The Calf (somewhere behind)
The climb up to Calders looked steep as we set off towards it…
Climb to Calders
…but it was fine, if a little windy, and we stopped half way to admire some interlocking spurs that I vaguely remembered learning about when we were doing glaciation in geography at school, about 1,000 years ago.
We took another panoramic thingy a little higher up…
…and again we were lucky to avoid the rain showers that we could clearly see around and about.
Rain to the left
And rain to the right
Without what felt like too great an effort we arrived at the top of Calders.
On top of Calders
Had my iPhone not been running ViewRanger I might have thought Calders was The Calf, but it turned out not to be. We therefore pressed on again, and passed a few people out enjoying the amazing weather, and here was one of them crossing the lovely plateau towards us.
As we embarked upon the final ascent towards The Calf we passed a brolly. Weird! We left it there, in the hope that the owner might nip back and pick it up.
Eventually we got to the top, and we stood around chatting with a couple of walkers who’d come up another way. I took a photo for them, and accidentally posted it to their Whatsapp account. Whoops!
On top of The Calf
From The Calf our route was due to take us towards Fell Head, but had it not been for my trusty compass I might have set off for Docker Knott instead as I’d forgotten that we were meant to be making a left-hand turn. Fortunately I checked, though, and we began our descent in the right direction.
Starting the descent from The Calf
Until that point I’d just been wearing a Fuera Smock over my baselayer, but it was actually pretty chilly and therefore I stopped to get out my jacket. Re-clothed in both jacket and Fuera I prepared to continue, but noticed that Piglet was by that point looking a little pinched.
Wee baby is getting cold!
It was probably the standing around that had done it, but I delved back into the pack and got out her lovely Hurtta winter jacket. Much better
Baby much warmer now
The views and landscape just got better and better as we progressed. There was an element of up and down, of course, but at the same time there was much more of a plateau than I had expected to find, and it was really lovely to be able to press on through gorgeous scenery without having to make significant descents and ascents on a regular basis.
Lovely high and level walking
As we pressed on over (what the map tells me is) Bush Howe towards Fell Head, from which we were going to descend, I noticed an oddly-shaped patch standing out in stark relief on the side of the fell ahead. I vaguely remembered reading something that Mike had written about the famous ‘Black Horse of Busha’, and wondered whether this might be it. I took a piccy, just in case. Looking now at the picture Mike took I realise that what I saw was the wrong thing. Not entirely suprising, since it also appears that I was looking in the wrong place. In fact I was probably standing on the horse when I took my piccy. Doh…
The Black Amoeba of Busha
Several factors combined at this point to place Piglet and me in significant danger.
First, Mike had spoken of standing on The Black Horse, and since I thought that my amoeba was the horse I began to think that I should start contouring round to the left when I reached the saddle that now lay ahead of me. Secondly, I misread the map and wrongly thought the saddle was the point at which the path turns left towards Fell Head. Oops…
It’s a good job it was snowy, because I did walk a little way along the ‘path’ to the left but it was immediately obvious even to the most hopeless of navigators that conditions were not right for that kind of precipitous undertaking. I therefore retraced my steps and set off up the steep hill ahead instead, mentally doffing my cap to Mike and Bruno. It was only when I checked ViewRanger when higher up that I realised my mistake.
The climb to Fell Head had looked horribly steep, but in the end it wasn’t too bad. We eventually reached the top…
Finally… At Fell Head preparing to descent to Whins End
…and there we sat down to share a sandwich. We’d both have liked to have stopped earlier, but there had been so little shelter that I’d kept deciding to press on. Since I’d forgotten to take the usual pocket full of mini-biscuits for Piglet, she was highly delighted to tuck into my cheese and coleslaw roll. From that point it was going to be almost all downhill, and I began to wonder how long it would take us to find our way back to Sedbergh.
First we had to get down, though…
The descent towards Whins End
…and as we wound our way down the steep hillside I watched traffic speeding past on the motorway far below us.
We spotted some fell ponies as we went on, and I was hugely relieved to confirm that they weren’t coos.
Not coos, thank goodness!
As we reached the bottom we headed left and crossed a small ravine (for want of a better word) and then climbed towards the intake wall (i.e. the wall that separates the fellside from the cultivated land. I mention this because I wasn’t quite sure, until I looked it up).
I’d hoped to follow the wall back to Sedbergh, but it fairly soon became obvious that that would be difficult–barbed wire and quantities of cows provided a significant hint–and so at or about Castley we struck off down a track and joined a lovely little lane for the last three miles.
Lovely lane back to Sedbergh
The lane is a Roman road
The lane was almost as lovely as the fellside had been before it, and had the advantage of being decorated with a profusion of spring flowers.
Cuckoo Flower/May Flower
Little Mouse Ear? (Let me know if it isn’t)
Garlic Mustard/Jack-by-the-Hedge (said to be edible but you’d need to be starving!)
I also spotted a small, vacated egg shell. I think it was from a thrush.
The three miles on the lane passed quickly, and I realised I was re-joining the thriving metropolis when I spotted some very beautiful flowering blackcurrant.
From that point it was only ten minutes to the car, and we stopped on the way home at Booths to buy a pizza (
and a tart au citron and some creme fraiche and cheese and olives and some other stuff). My sister was coming up, so I though I’d better lay in stores. Now that she’s been unable to come I’ll just have to eat it all myself! C’est la vie!
The weather today is just as crappy as had been forecast, so they don’t always get it wrong. It’s definitely worth taking a chance when it just might be okay, though. And when I finally buy a decent new foul weather jacket I won’t mind if it’s raining.
If anyone would like to see them, all the pics can be found on Flickr, here.