A Howgills Wander

Posted: 18th September 2008 by admin in Travel

Last weekend me and the family took a long weekend at a cottage in Millthrop, just south of Sedbergh. The cottage (Under Rigg, via Cambrian Cottages), was a fantastic base for the weekend, a large fully equiped kitchen, 2 large living rooms, including an upstairs lounge with great views of the Howgills, and decent size gardens to relax in to both the front and rear.

The town of Sedbergh, which I had fleetingly visited last year when walking the Howgill Fells for the first time, also turned out to be a good base for a long weekend, plenty of good pubs, nice food if you wanted to eat out and, if you are into your books, lots of shops to look in. This being the Book Town of England.

It has a strange dynamic given half the area of the town seems to be given over the the Boarding School, very much of the typical establishment private school, everything the students do revolves around the school and its associated clubs and teams. It seemed to be the rule that when off site, the school badge had to be on show at all times. So when you see the students morning, noon and night around town, all you see in the end is the badge, and they just become extentions of the school itself.

Anyway, lets get onto the walk itself.

It was an early start on Sunday, my aim was to bag the hills of Winder (470m), Arant How (605), Calder (674) and the Calf (676). I had bagged the last two of these on my last visit as well as Brant Haw, which I used for my descent to the west of the range. The secondary goal was to see Cautley Spout on the eastern side of the range. So the plan was to ascend the hills, head off to the east, down the steep pass beside the spout, and traverse back round the base of the hills to Sedburgh. This was about 13.5 to 14 miles door to door from the cottage.

The walk started with the road from Millthorpe to Sedbergh, about ½m, a walk I had done many times over the last 3 days. Just before the roundabout on the edge of town, I took the footpath before the church on the left and followed this for ¼ mile through the grounds of the school until I reached the road and the cattle market, going 20 yards to the left, I took the footpath marked “to the fells”, and followed this through fields and a housing estate until I reached the next road coming out opposite Lockbank Farm.

Winder from Millthrop

Arant Haw (in distance from Millthrop


This way to the fells

After the short walk through the farm, I took a 180 degree turn and started to head up Winder. At the end of the dry stone wall on your left, I kept going straight on towards the first of many “false ridges”. After about 1/3m of this, the path heads directly up the hill for a hundred yards and then heads north east for a 1m up steep ground, before you reach the twin markers at the top of Winder, the first being the OS Trig Point and the second being a guide to the hills and mountains in the distance erected by locals. This section of the walk is quite hard going, gaining 340m in approx 1 ¾m. Winder possibly has the best views of all the peaks in this walk, even though it is 200m shy of the highest point, this is due to the fact that as it is on the edge of the range, it has unrestricted views from the 3 Peaks area, over Dentdale and round to a fantastic panorama of the entire Lake District.

From this point you head north east to the next obvious peak of Arant Haw, just under a mile away, and needing a gain of 170m height after you lose some of that already climbed coming off Winder. After coming up Winder, this section seems a walk in the park, with a steady climb up to the peak after taking the left fork when the path splits. When you are in the pass between the two hills, you get a great view to both sides of the valley, and this day in particular, you could see the cloud shrounding the hill top like a blanket, and some minor cloud inversions.

As you gain height while climbing Arant Haw, looking back you see the beautiful sight of the cloud slowly rolling up the eastern flank of the pass and roll back down into the western valley, in several distinct streams. Soon you are at the top, this time marked by a very small pile of rocks about a foot high, and you can now see your next target the top of Calder. From far off it seems a steep climb, and it is, you drop to 560m and then have to gain 200m back in just over a mile, however this is the last major climb of the walk, with only a minor valley between Calder and the Calf.

If you don’t want to ascend the 60m or so to the top of Arant Haw, you can split off to the right when then path forks and this allows you to traverse around the hill, however in my opinion its just as hard work, and you miss out on some nice views to the east.

The foothills of the range from the Howgill road.

And again from the farm at the base of the walk

Clouds over Dentdale

The twin markers of Winder, Arant How in distance

As you leave the peak, keeping the north east bearing, drop down to the pass up to Calder, you again see more cloud rolling from valley to valley. When you start ascending Calder, the path turns to just off north, and you start the steady steep ascent up the hill, until you see the dry stone wall corner and follow the path to the right, and after 100 yards, you reach the top of Calder, where you find a slightly taller cairn than Arant Haw.
Ahead of you now is a small dip in the hill of about ½ mile in distance, with the path heading north through the dip, the short ¼ mile journey past this dip will lead to the highest point of the walk at the Calf trig point. This vantage point gives you great views over the Howgills Range and the Lakes.

Views of the Howgills

Views of the Howgills

Clouds passing valley to valley

Fell runner atop Calder

The large plateau has several paths leading off it in all directions, but I headed off at bearing of approx 45-50 degrees. This path leads over gently descending moor, which can be quite boggy after rain (which it was on this particular day). After 2/3 mile, you bear to the left and start to make the gradual descent into valley for another 2/3 of a mile. At this point you can take this path to base of the valley where it meets the path on the other side of the valley, which is about another ¼ mile or you can scramble down the moor to the other side of the valley, saving 10 minutes and about 1/3 mile. I chose the second option, and headed across and south to exit of the valley. This section is generally quite featureless, and can be quite hard walking over inconsistent quality ground in wetter conditions

The Calf, looking towards Lake District

The back of Cautley Crag

You are now approaching Cautley Spout, the track undulates along the side of Yarlside, as you pass 2 small gorges in the side of the hill, and get better views of Cautley Crag as you get closer to the head of this high level valley and its small plateau, before the path dives steeply down to the main valley below the crag and spout. From the plateau, you can see the top sections of the falls. As you drop down the track, which is between 20% and 45% in gradient for just under 1/3 mile, the fall exposes more of itself, and the middle section soon becomes visible. When you are most of the way down you can cut across and access the banks of the lower sections of the falls, which have forged a small canyon at their base.

Cautley Spout – Top and Middle

Cautley Spout – Top section

Cautley Spout – Lower Gorge

Cautley Spout – Bottom section

Cautley Spout – Bottom section

After a well deserved break / photo op, head down towards the road over the gently descending moors, and you will reach a foot bridge a few hundred yards before the road, and you will find the traversing right of way back to Sedburgh (I dare not call it footpath in wet conditions, its very wet and boggy in many places, I’m sure it will be quite good in dry or frozen conditions). This path generally skirts through ferns and grasses hill side on one of many walls. With occasional forays into fields, its fairly routine scenery until you reach Fawcett Bank woods a couple of miles on.

After that its more of the same for ½ mile until you reach the farm and tarmaced road at Thursgill. Normally I am not a fan of tarmac, but after some of the turgid ground from Cautley to here, it was a godsend. This road is followed until it reaches the A683 to Kirby Stephen, and all that is needed now is to do the last 2/3 mile into Sedbergh if you started there, or in my case, the last mile and a quarter back to the cottage, where I welcome pint of beer is waiting for me!.

Just under 14 miles, 5 and a half hours, only 1 peak in the Calf area left unclaimed now. Great Dummacks is being saved for the traverse over the Howgills from Sedburgh to Raventhorpe, a walk of about 11 miles, for another day. It was nice to revisit the area, but not sure that Cautley Spout is worth the 4.5 to 5 mile trudge back along the side of the hill, which was very tedious at some points. It probably worth parking up at the base of the Cautley valley and doing the return walk to Calf from here, so you get all the sights without the trudge.