CARLIN GILL, BLACK FORCE & ULDALE HEAD, HOWGILL FELLS
from near LOW BORROW BRIDGE

 


Summary

Date - 17th December 2008 Distance - 8 miles
Map - OL19 Start point - Parking area near Low Borrow Bridge (NY 607014)

 

Summits Achieved

Name Height (ft) Height (m) Grid Ref
Uldale Head 1740 530 NY 6403 0000

 

The Walk

Grizzly had heard Dad speaking to Uncle Eric on Monday to arrange to walk today – when he told us we all cheered! Up early we packed our picnic, then leaped into the car ready for the drive to Kendal, where Uncle Eric lives. There we transferred to Uncle Eric’s car to continue our journey to the start of the Borrowdale Valley just a few miles from the village of Tebay. We can hear some of you saying that Borrowdale is far away near to Keswick, but there are two valleys with the same name. Confusing we know, and it was much simpler before the county boundaries were changed. Then the one near Keswick was in Cumberland, and where we were starting today was in Westmorland. Now they are both just in Cumbria.

We were not going up the valley. Instead we went in the opposite direction into the Howgill Fells, which promised to be quite a day for two reasons. We had never been in this part of the Howgills so it was a complete voyage of discovery. Uncle Eric had been along the valley before, but had not then climbed Uldale Head. Doing this today would be the completion of his goal to reach all the summits in the Howgills.

We set off crossing the road to take the narrow lane signed Carlingill. This involved passing under two bridges the first carrying the M6 motorway and the other the main West Coast railway line. Interesting for the old and new designs. Tucked away too beyond the left arch of the railway bridge, is Low Borrow Bridge giving access to the farm of the same name. It was eerie hearing the noise from the traffic crossing the M6 bridge.

We had to walk a mile and a half along this narrow but quiet road passing near to the site of the Roman fort of Low Borrowbridge. We did not visit this as it is on private land and Uncle Eric said that there was nothing to see. Our objective on this road was to reach Carlingill Bridge, where we started up the valley.

Yes, although it does not look like it, there was a narrow path on the right side of the stream. In the distance the hill to the right is Uldale Head our objective for later in the day. Carlin Gill is a very lonely valley, and indeed we did not see another human being on the whole of the walk. The narrow path intermittent at times made its way up the valley, which curves round to the right. At times we were down beside the stream, but mostly it undulated clinging to the steep sloping side. Both Uncle Eric and Dad had to take care walking along. We crossed a number of side streams running off the hillside including Small Gill with a pretty waterfall.

Shortly after this we had to cross the stream. Uncle Eric commented that it was much fuller and running faster than when he was last here. Careful examination of the rocks protruding from the water finally enabled us to find a safe place to cross. We entered a narrow gorge and Uncle Eric can be seen ahead.

We should here have actually climbed up above this. The result of not doing so meant a scramble up an extremely steep slope to regain the path – clinging on to the tree roots aided the ascent. Uncle Eric who climbed first was concerned for Dad as he dislodged stones that tumbled down. Fortunately Dad dodged them. Once on the path again we could look ahead towards Black Force.

The rocky side of the waterfall can be seen in the centre and it was up this steep slope we were destined to go. However first there was the small matter of negotiating the path along the shoulder before dropping down to the stream and crossing it safely once again. As we descended towards the stream Dad stopped to take this shot of the ravine containing Black Force – it is terrain more akin to the Lake District than the gentler Howgills.

The start of the path up the side can be seen on the left, and yes, we had to climb to the conical top and then on up the slope top left. First though we all paused to admire the dramatic scenery. The slope was steep but Dad managed it quite easily, which pleased us all as it meant his lost stamina was returning. Here we stopped to look at the interesting rock formations on the opposite side of the ravine. See how they are slightly curved.

To gain a further steep slope up towards the ridge it was necessary to take the path over this narrow rib.

Yes, we know it is nothing like Striding Edge on the way up Helvellyn or Sharp Edge on Blencathra, but an unwary step and a fall off the left side into the ravine, as we looked back, would have meant certain death. Before we walked on we paused to look back down Carlin Gill and all the way to the motorway. We had certainly come a long way.

A short steep climb soon brought us to a narrow path that contoured round the hillside, and then dropped gradually down to an area called Blakethwaite Bottom. Quite amazing, being in a bowl completely encircled by hills with no apparent way out. We looked round in wonder once again at the dramatic landscape.

To our left the slopes of Uldale Head reared up. The stream had to be crossed again but here nearer to its source it was very narrow and Dad just strode across. A steady and rather steep climb followed to reach easier ground, where we contoured right to reach a cairn that we thought was the summit. However the position did not match the GPS coordinates and looking ahead we could clearly see that the next rise was higher. We soon reached this and nestling just to the right of the path was a small cairn marking the summit. In the book of walks in the Howgills by Wainwright there are a total of 55 summits, and this was Uncle Eric’s last one. Dad congratulated him and shook his hand and we said well done too. We waited while Dad took Uncle Eric’s photograph,

and then hopped out for ours.

Down in the valley there had been little wind, but up here it was blowing hard and we had to hang on in while the photograph was taken. Now followed the long descent over rough grassy terrain, to eventually find the remains of an old drove road that provided easier walking on the lower slopes, down to Weasel Gill – another rather wide rushing stream which was safely crossed – so dry feet were the order of the day! Above right on the hillside was quite a number of the wild horses that inhabit the Howgills. However even with the large zoom on Dad’s camera he was unable to take a decent shot. So, we are going to cheat and include one from a previous walk in December 2007, as an illustration. They could quite honestly be some of those we saw today.

The route was supposed to be along the opposite side of the gill to return to the bridge, but part of the bank has been washed away. Instead we had to detour across a large field, to then descend to the road, for the walk back to the car. Wow what a wonderful walk we had had! Uncle Eric then drove us to Junction 38 Services that are just off the M6 at Tebay. While we picnicked in the car they went and had a meal. Dad had a large helping of tasty sausage casserole with chips and vegetables. Well it had been his first food since breakfast. He phoned Uncle Brian to tell him that we were all down safely and told him what he had had to eat. As Uncle Brian was just having boiled eggs for tea, he called Dad a piglet! Uncle Eric hoped that Uncle Brian did not get indigestion!

Well that was the end of our day and all that remained was to return to Uncle Eric’s, and then Dad drove us home.

Finally we should mention that when we go with Uncle Eric, four of our other friends come along specifically to see him.

They are Barnaby, Lee, Ginger & Grizedale. Dad worked with Uncle Eric, which is how they met. Barnaby used to go with Dad to work and became friends with Uncle Eric; this is why he comes along. Lee wearing the blue jumper is Barnaby’s best friend, and they are always together. Grizedale sitting on Barnaby’s knee was adopted after a walk with Uncle Eric in Grizedale Forest in the Lake District. Ginger sitting on Lee’s knee is Grizedale’s best friend.

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