Uldale Force, Rawthey Gill, Baugh Fell

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Cautley Crag on Great Dummacks, partly obscured by cloud.

I haven’t ventured out on the hills on my own all that much this year. Of course, we were supposed to stay ‘local’, what ever that meant, for quite some time, then those restrictions were relaxed, but I don’t seem to have got back into the habit somehow. This walk, on the sprawling moors of Baugh Fell being the notable exception. It began inauspiciously, in the parking area just off the Sedbergh to Kirkby Stephen road, south of Rawthey Bridge, with low cloud obscuring the Howgill Fells and a light drizzle falling. I was heading for the path which cuts across the slopes of Bluecaster heading into the upper reaches of the River Rawthey.

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Wild Boar Fell and Swarth Fell

Along the path I leap-frogged a group of three who had set-off from the same parking spot just before me. They were the last people I would see for quite some time.

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The Rawthey near Needle House and Uldale House.
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The Rawthey
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Whin Stone Gill

The waters of all of the streams which feed into the Rawthey ultimately end up in the Lune, and so fall under the remit of my Lune Catchment project. On the map, Needlehouse Gill and Uldale Gill look like an interesting alternative way up onto Wild Boar Fell. Whin Stone Gill, on the other hand, skirts Holmes Moss Hill, one of the boggiest places I have ever walked, so I might be leaving that one for a while!

Anyway, sticking with the Rawthey, as I continued upstream I passed a series of small cascades, including this one…

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Behind which, through the trees, you can just about make out Uldale Force, contained within it’s own little amphitheatre.

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It’s not Yorkshire Dales tallest, widest, or most spectacular waterfall, but it’s a smashing spot. At the back of my mind, when I’d planned this walk, I’d been thinking that I might manage a brief dip in the pool at the bottom of the fall, but it was still a bit damp, and quite cool, so I reluctantly abandoned that idea.

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I took solace instead in the abundance of Primroses growing on the far bank – this photo just shows one small section of an absolute mass of flowers.

From Uldale Force, it’s necessary to climb up above the river and it’s steep banks for a while, but I soon rejoined the watercourse further up.

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The Rawthey passes through a rocky little ravine for a while, where progress was quite slow, as I crossed and recrossed the stream. (Somewhere, the River Rawthey becomes plain old Rawthey Gill.)

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At some point the sun had come out. I came across a rather tempting little pool and hatched a new plan: make a brew, swim whilst the tea cooled a bit, get out and drink the brew to warm up. Perfect. Or it would have been had I remembered to pack a gas canister. So I abandoned that plan in a fit of pique.

At Rawthey Gill Foot, (perhaps where the name change occurs?) the landscape opens up and the feeling of space is immense. This would prove to be a feature of the day.

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As I climbed and the slopes on either side of the Rawthey began to rise again and enclose the gill, I came across a series of delightful little pools, just about large enough for a dip.

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I’m pretty sure this…

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…is the one I swam in, not that there was room for more than a couple of strokes. What was it like? It was the first of May, so it was pretty bracing, but the sun was shining, the views were great and there was absolutely nobody about, so I enjoyed it immensely.

Would have liked a cup of tea afterwards though.

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A substantial side stream – I think this might be Swere Gill..

All of the streams hereabouts look like they would repay exploration. It would be good, in dry weather, to camp in the vicinity of Rawthey Gill Foot and have a proper explore. Some of the streams drain the other way, down into Grizedale, and into the Clough River, but that’s another tributary of the Lune, so it’s a win win from my point of view.

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Plodding up the stream I was really in my element – following a watercourse into the hills has always been a favourite occupation of mine. Progress can be slow, but there always seemed to be another little fall just around the corner to keep me entertained.

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I’d been a bit concerned beforehand that the going might be very boggy, but in the event, it wasn’t (not till later in the day anyway). I’ve subsequently read some fairly disparaging things about Baugh Fell, one of them being that it’s essentially a giant sponge, so I think I picked a good time to visit, after a prolonged dry spell. I did eventually sink to my knees into a patch of hillside which I should have noticed was a slightly brighter green than the surrounding slopes.
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Looking back down the Rawthey toward Wild Boar Fell and Swarth Fell.
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As I approached the top of the gill, I was careful to keep left at every opportunity, thinking that would have me emerging onto the plateau of Baugh Fell near to the East Tarns. I must have left it too late to turn left however, so that I actually came out just below Knoutberry Haw. The ground ahead looked worryingly flat so I cut left where I could see rocks, eventually hitting the ‘ridge’ between Knoutberry Haw and Tarn Rigg Hill.

Now I had a view to the south, of familiar hills from a very unfamiliar direction.

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Whernside and Great Coum over Aye Gill Pike.
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Looking north to Wild Boar Fell and the Mallerstang Edges.
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Knoutberry Haw from Tarn Hill Rigg – Howgill Fells behind.

There was a couple by the trig pillar on Knoutberry Haw. I was so surprised to meet other people that I marched right past without taking a photo of the trig.

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The vast expanse of West Baugh Fell.
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Looking back up towards Knoutberry Haw.

You can see that there is a faint path, but it was surprisingly easy to lose.

Incidentally, although the sun was still shining, by now I had donned all of my clothing, including hat, gloves and cag to keep out the biting wind. The idea that I had been swimming a few hours earlier seemed preposterous.

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Wild Boar Fell and Swarth Fell from West Baugh Fell.

Wild Boar Fell dominated the view all day. It’s far too long since I’ve been up there.

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West Baugh Fell.

West Baugh Fell was very firm and stony, I can’t imagine that this gets boggy. I was revelling in the space and the light and the emptiness.

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The Middleton Fells on the left, Morecambe Bay in the distance.
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The Howgills from West Baugh Fell. Cautley Spout in the centre.
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Wild Boar Fell and Swarth Fell again, from near West Baugh Fell Tarn.
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Wandale Hill and Harter Fell from my descent route.

I elected to descend directly toward the car, down the shoulder named Raven Thorn on the map. Not my best decision. It was hard going – wet and tussocky. After rain I suspect it would be purgatorial. Eventually, I gave it up as a bad lot and dropped back down to the track I had started the day on.

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Wild Boar Fell and Swarth Fell one last time.

Right near the end of my walk I met three trails bikers. I was all ready to be disapprovingly cross, when the lead rider popped up his visor, beamed at me and asked me how I was and where I’d been – it was one of B’s rugby team, who lives nearby. It was then that I realised that I don’t know whether to pronounce Baugh as ‘bore’ or ‘bow’ or quite possibly in some other way.

Thirteen miles and a little over 500m of ascent according to MapMyWalk. I once had the bright idea of attempting this walk in an evening after work. I’m glad I didn’t!

As you can see, lots of blue lines draining away from Baugh Fell, and all of them eventually feed into the Lune, so loads of scope for return visits.

Uldale Force, Rawthey Gill, Baugh Fell

9 thoughts on “Uldale Force, Rawthey Gill, Baugh Fell

  1. Fine walk this one, the yellow grasses remind me of Dartmoor during the winter and early spring months, lots of tussocks and very little colour, unless you find that special light green boggy section and end up regretting it!

  2. I’ve always loved following streams especially when the surrounding terrain is pathless or hard work, or the weather is less than good. Always a more interesting diversion although as I said to one of you over the weekend, something we lack down here in South Wales. Always found Baugh Fell an intriguing prospect with all the blue lines. Read a blog report of someone who camped up there

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      I think Chrissie Dixie camped up there? Anyway, I read a report too. The long walk up Rawthey Gill, especially after Rawthey Gill Foot, definitely reminded me of our long ago ascents of Dark Peak Cloughs. I think you would enjoy this route – well as far as West Baugh Fell Tarn anyway.

  3. As I recall the weather in early May was awful, so looks like you were lucky during the wlak. I like that area – nice and peaceful – but I’m not so sure about walking up a giant sponge!

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Yes – we weren’t so lucky the following weekend. As for Baugh Fell – I think it’s probably wise to time it right, after a dry spell.

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