Last weeks walk and blog (#50) prompted the idea to have more of the same, but to go one better, so plans were hatched to revisit the eastern side of the Lake District. The Far Eastern Fells bear little resemblance to the popular ‘chocolate box’ images of Lakeland, but they don’t have a Pennine or Dales feel either. These hills are like the misfit cousins who turn up at the family wedding, looking strange and wild in their outlandish clothing.
One advantage of this is that you rarely see other walkers, and those you do see are wandering with a purpose just like you – you won’t meet trippers wearing sandals and carrying their lunch in a Tesco carrier bag, that’s for sure, though sandals could have been a good choice for us, as they let water out as quickly as they let it in. The wet path led us into wetter and boggier ground as we approached the attractive stone bridge below Sleddale Hall.
Beyond the bridge, an old track gave drier walking up to Sleddale Hall, and the steeper slope above the hall continued dry. Beyond the intake wall we had intended to follow the line of the ‘Right of Way’ path to Swindale, but like many RoW’s this one existed as a line on a map, but not on the ground. A diversion towards Seat Robert was taken to avoid what was turning into a fine example of ‘blanket bog.
A bit of contouring, plus a great deal of meandering, kept us out of the worst of the wet without gaining too much unnecessary height. After the height gain came the descent and drier ground, as the bog resolved itself into a fine beck. A small line of crags produced an attractive cascade, keeping John busy with his camera, but the beck soon tired of being photographed, and plunged down to the valley below – we took a more sedate line down into Swindale.
Down in the valley the light was producing some moody images. We followed the lane from Truss Gap to Swindale Head, where the track became narrow and stony. Most lanes in the Lake District would have looked like this before tourism became a major earner, but you can’t get a 50 seat coach along this way, probably why Swindale remains quiet and mainly undiscovered. The dale doesn’t have a road, but it does have a well known Grade 2 scramble (Mosedale Force) and a grade IV ice climb (Hobgrumble Gill), that is if we ever get a cold enough winter again!
Beyond the start points of these two classic routes, the valley suddenly closes in, apparently coming to a dead end, but a narrow and ancient route leads upwards, not onto a ridge as might be expected, but into another dale – Swindale and Mosedale could be considered to be one and the same, but the headwall of Swindale effectively separates it from Mosedale, both dales being very different in character – Swindale is rocky with steep sides, a typical lake District valley, whilst Mosedale is broad with shallow slopes, looking Scottish in character.
To complete the Scottish comparison, there is a bothy just over 1 kilometre upstream of the bridge crossing Mosedale Beck. Mosedale Cottage is maintained by the Mountain Bothies Association, and is one of only ten bothies in England, with the vast majority being in the Scottish Highlands. We weren’t looking for an overnight stop, however, but we realised we would have to get a ‘shift on’ if we wanted to come down in daylight. From the bridge in Mosedale we yomped it back into Wet Sleddale to the waiting car. Three valleys, no peaks climbed, and disappointingly no pub!
Text and images © Paul Shorrock – Images tagged (JB) © John Bamber