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Day 8

 

Sedburgh to Ravenstonedale (12 miles)

It had been a comfortable night in the bunkhouse, if a little strange, rattling around such a large place by myself.  As usual I was up relatively early and spent a bit of time pottering around and making breakfast in the fantastic kitchen.

The forecast for the day had been superb – sun all the way apparently.  On looking outside it was obvious that something wasn’t quite right.  There was low cloud clinging doggedly to the slopes just above the bunkhouse, thick and uncompromising.  I had a decision to make – take the lower poor weather route, or cross the Howgills on the official route hoping that the cloud would burn off.

The view over Sedbergh

The view over Sedbergh

The forecast was good – I took a chance and decided on the Howgills.

It was a steep, steep climb immediately from the bunkhouse which was almost right on the path and there were some good views over Sedbergh just before I passed through a gate onto the open hillside.  The path I was following ran alongside Settlebeck Gill and I followed this steeply up the hill and into the mist.  I have to admit to extreme laziness in terms of navigation, although I had map and compass with me the GPS made things nice and easy (I say that – I still managed to wander off route!) following what otherwise would have been an awkward route up the hill.

Horses in the mist

Horses in the mist

It was a long old slog, and after what seemed like an age, I finally reached the clear bridleway which was the main path across the hills.  At this point a few shapes loomed out of the mist, a few of the horses that live on the hills.

Visibility was dreadful – it was like walking through a TV set that had been disconnected from its aerial.  I’m sure the views were great.  I’m sure that I would have stood a while and admired the sublime views from the ridge up to the Calf.  I’m sure that the ridge walk over West Fell would have been airy and spectacular – had the weather forecast been anything close to correct.

The trig on the Calf

The trig on the Calf

There’s not much else to say about the walk over the tops other than I eventually made the trig point on the Calf with no sign of the cloud lifting.  Rather than take the ridge route over West Fell (there was no point) I continued along the bridleway which dropped into Bowderdale.  This was nothing short of purgatory, a nasty stoney path that meant I could never really place my feet flat on the ground.  I was cold, wet and thoroughly hacked off with the Met Office and the fact that I had blatantly chosen the wrong option for the day.  All in all it was rather dispiriting.

It seemed like the Bowderdale path went on for ever, but eventually it started rising again to meet up with the ridge coming down from West Fell.  It was a relief to be out on open ground again, and I took a good long break where the paths met.

The low route through Bowderdale

The low route through Bowderdale

The cloud seemed to be a lot higher on this side of the hills and as I looked back at them after passing through the hamlet of Wath the forecast sun began to appear.  It was suddenly muggy and warm, forcing me to take off the waterproof jacket and fleece that I had needed to put on well before the summit of the Calf.

As I walked along the road to Newbiggin-on-Lune the sun came out with a vengeance and the cloud all but lifted from the Howgills, leaving them swathed in sunshine.

The cloud lifting from the Howgills (now I'm on the other side!)

The cloud lifting from the Howgills (now I’m on the other side!)

My accommodation for the night was the lovely campsite on the outskirts of Ravenstondale where I pitch up, then take a wander down to the local pub

Day Rating 4/10

Ok so it’s a low rating, all down to the mist on the Howgills.  It turned into a damp, cold and miserable tramp, even if the sun did come out towards the end of the day.  In terms of anticipation, this was probably one of the most anti-climactical days I have ever had.  The rating is purely down to my experience on the day.

The sun came out near the end of the day

The sun came out near the end of the day

I am however going to give it a provisional 10/10 for the overall trail rating (it’s my blog and I can do what I like) as I’m sure that in any other weather conditions it would have been one of the best days on the Dales Highway.  In fact, I had been assured by other walkers that the Howgills were not to be missed!

However, the day was just a slog and the low level route off was not a pleasant hike.  That could quite easily be down to the weather conditions as well though.  The sun did eventually make an appearance at the end of the day, and it was galling to walk along the road to Newbiggin-on-Lune and see the hills with completely clear tops.  The campsite was lovely though, with a fantastic aspect and very quiet  with only a couple of other tents on the other side of the field.

Old Limekiln near Ravenstonedale

Old Limekiln near Ravenstonedale

 

 

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Cort-ma Law

This year I have set myself the modest target of walking (or hiking) 500 miles, which works out at just under 10 miles a week.  In retrospect I am hoping to smash the target – but I have to get there first!

Using my GPS and the fantastic Garmin Connect, I have found a great way to log each walk.

This walk was a late-ish start on Sunday heading onto Cort-ma Law, one of the high points on the Campsie Fells just to the North of Glasgow.  For anyone travelling North past Stirling on the M73 the Campsies rise up invitingly in front of their eyes.    The hills cover quite a substantial area, almost reaching from Stirling to Drymen (this is a very general generalisation) and is encircled  (very loosely, clockwise from Glasgow) by the A81, A811 and M9/M80.  While there are some fine walks (Dumgoyne is a major early landmark on the West Highland Way) the majority of the ground on top is featureless, grassy and bog.  If you like Sphagnum Moss this really is the place to be!

Anyway – I digress.

Cort-ma Law sits at 531m, a relatively modest height, with a trig point atop it.  Access to the hills is from a car park on the locally named “crow road”, which passes right through the fells themselves.  The car park sits at a fine spot, half way up the hill, giving superb views of the Kelvin valley and Glasgow itself.  It is a favourite local beauty spot which is popular whatever the weather, although it tends to suffer from bouts of the local “wildlife” at times, if you get my meaning.  This is where we started the walk.

At the Start

From the car park it is a steep climb up a promising looking ridge (again I use the term very loosely).  You can tell this is an ever popular walk here as the ground is well worn by plenty of boots.  It is a deceptively steep ascent for this area as well, climbing over 200 metres in just under 1km.  Eventually a cairn is reached at the top of the ridge and from here the views truly are superb.  I must point out here that when we walked up we couldn’t see much more than 50m, the mist was so thick. Starved of our reward, we carried on regardless – compass and map in hand.  The wind was on our backs, which at least kept the persistent drizzle off the glasses.  There is a path up here that is relatively easy to follow for most of the way to the trig point on Cort-ma Law.  The ground is undulating, very boggy in places and is reminiscent of moorland rather than mountain.

We got up to Cort-ma Law without incident – even passing a large group who were just returning from it.  The original plan was to do a circular walk (there are several lumps and bumps up here which can be linked to form a rough horseshoe) heading North from the trigpoint towards Lecket Hill and descend from there to the road and back to the car.  We were persuaded otherwise as the ground further round is notoriously boggy, quite possibly requiring the use of snorkels to complete the journey.

We managed to get ourselves lost – not lost really, we just went the wrong way – okay then lost, shortly after leaving the trig point.  The low ground as we walked away was extremely boggy.  As the mist seemed to get thicker we picked our way round it in seemingly the right direction before completely losing the path and becoming disoriented.  Cue a check of the map and GPS which resulted in taking a bearing in the opposite direction in which we thought we should be going.  Trusting to the compass rather than our rather out-of-sync sense of direction, we finally found the path about 50m away.  By now the weather was vile, mainly because we were walking directly into the wind/rain/sleet.

Arriving at the trig on Cort-ma Law

The walk back wasn’t much to write home about, to be honest we could only see a few metres in any direction, and it was with some relief that each of the cairns passed on the way out loomed out the mist.  Eventually we started the descent to the car park, and finally got some sort of view as the cloud had lifted a few metres from when we had started.  There was still time to fall arse over apex before returning to the car, wet, cold and gasping for a pint.

Day Rating 4/10

Wet, cold, horrible and couldn’t see a thing.  The only saving grace was it was a useful exercise in practicing compass work and some extra logged mileage.  One to do again in better weather.

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