Tarn Crag from Swindale

2nd March 2013

Twelve hours ago this walk for Tim & I never existed – for we had set ourselves up for a full days walking taking in all the summits of the Wythop & Lord’s Seat Fells (Whinlatter) I text Tim ‘Alarm Set kit ready’ at 20:55pm, by 21:05pm just ten minutes later the walk was in tatters.

During that brief ten minutes I had been commenting to a Facebook friend online about my days previous walk on Wansfell & a route that I had mentioned; that of the the whole High Street Roman Road.

Paul Arts is a keen fell runner & was keen to take on the Roman Road, maybe even on the following day, In the conversation I mentioned to Paul that I was going to be on the Whinlatter Fells with a friend also on the next day…

Paul’s reply came back as follows Whinlatter Forest CLOSED to the public Saturday 2nd March due to the Malcolm Wilson Rally 2013.

Now on any given day I would have made the trip up to see the Rally Cars as they tear up the Whinlatter Forest, I’m from the motor industry & its right up my street, just not today! Oh bugger (or words to that effect)

Tim, yes Paul, we have a problem…Okay what’s the problem? Whinlatter is closed tomorrow we need a plan B.

I’ll ring you back…

Ten minutes later & this walk was the result of a five minute phone call. Sure enough Tim wasn’t going to get his seven new Wainwrights, but as it turned out, this walk turned out to be one of the best walks of the year so far.

Wainwright Guidebook
The Far Eastern Fells

- Selside Pike:

One of the lesser-known fells is Selside Pike on the eastern fringe of the district, commanding the head of the shy and beautiful little valley of Swindale. Its neglect is scarcely merited, for although the summit is a dull grass mound with little reward in the views the fell has am extremely rugged eastern face that closes the valley in dramatic fashion: here are dark crags, rarely visited waterfalls, a curious dry tarn-bed set amongst moraines and, above it, a perfect hanging valley, the two being connected by a formidable gulley.

Swindale is almost the only remaining Lakeland valley that does not cater for the motorist. Please, Manchester, leave it nearly as you found it!


Ascent: 2,000 Feet 609 Metres
Wainwrights: 4, Selside Pike – Branstree – Tarn Crag (Longsleddale) – Grey Crag
Weather: Dry & Bright am, Turning Cloudier Throughout The Day, Highs Of 8°C Lows Of 1°C
Parking: Truss Gap, Swindale (F.O.C)
Area: Far Eastern
Miles: 10.5
Walking With: Tim Oxburgh
Ordnance Survey: OL5
Time Taken: 5 Hours 10 Minutes
Route: Truss Gap – Old Corpse Road – Selside End – Selside Pike – Artle Crag – Branstree – Selside Brow – Tarn Crag (Longsleddale) – Greycrag Tarn – Grey Crag – Harrop Pike – Mosedale Beck – Nabs Moor – Swindale Head – Truss Gap

Map and Photo Gallery



Swindale Head 07:22 am 1°C

Swindale has limited access for cars with its narrow & winding lanes, this meant we had to park at Truss Gap, which left us to take in the leafy lanes & stretch the legs a little before we hit the Old Corpse road.

We kit up under a fresh mornings frost with a perfect stillness about the place, that could be the fact the we are especially early, or put it plain & simple, we are in Swindale, one of Lakelands best kept secrets.


That’s our path.

It wasn’t long before we had reached the start of the walk, here clearly sign posted ‘Mardale via Old Corpse Road’


The Swindale/Mardale Old Corpse Road.

The path here passes through the gate ahead then it’s up to the walker if he/she chooses to take the path to the right or left of the single stone wall, we took the left path before passing over a sty & crossing a narrow beck.

It is here the path gets a little steeper via steps cut into the grassy fell side, the steepness isn’t to last as the path veers left sharply & takes on a more gentle approach.


Looking south over Langhowe Pike at some very dramatic skyline which last almost throughout the whole morning.


The Swindale Valley

We left the Corpse Road a little earlier than anticipated & followed a faint grassy path that navigates around Swindale Head, be careful not to follow it too far as the path follows the width of the valley head & not onto the summit, leave it half way as we did.


High Street, Riggindale & Kidsty Pike from Selside End.

Here’s the High Street fells; my favourite of them all from a different perspective, notice the curvature of the ridge that drops from Kidsty Pike (R) to Short Still (L) which forms a classic bowl affect, something you wouldn’t notice except from this angle.


A little closer with Riggindale from Selside End.


A snow capped Harter Fell (Mardale) together with Mardale lll Bell with a glimpse of Small Water centre right.


One last look at Swindale before we take on the gentle grassy incline towards Selside Pike.


Tim creeping into his mid hundred & fifty tally with Selside Pike summit.

Yes you are not seeing things, Tim is wearing shorts & sadly for me, has vowed to do so until next winter. Tim puts this down to his mother making him wear short trousers up until the age of 11 years.

Personally I think hes mad, but I have to hand it to the bloke as on more than one occasion I witnessed him break through deep snow pack upto his knackers!

Should you see a walker in shorts scurrying through snow it’s more than likely Tim, pay him attention, he’s a real nice bloke with an unmatched fondness for Lakeland.


One last look at the High Street fells, this time with High Raise & Low Raise in the picture.


Survey Pillar left by Manchester Corporation.

Passing one of many Survey Pillars once used by Manchester Corporation during the construction of the Haweswater Dam & pipeline project during the late 1920’s. We will encounter more Survey Pillars at close quarters even, but that’s a little further on in the walk.

It was here the chill got noticeably colder crossing the ridge in between Selside Pike & Branstree, ahead lies Artle Crag, it is here we stop to add more layers & to tie ones bootlace.


Artle Crag twin summit cairns.

I tuck in & tie in along the summit top, here Tim takes out a sandwich at the far cairn as a cold chill envelopes the sweat on my back.

Fed & watered we take in the short crest to Branstree’s summit, not before a couple more pictures of those dramatic skies overhead.


Here looking across the craggy outcrops towards the Howgills, as shafts of light cuts horizontally across the skyline.


Less dramatic is the short walk to Branstree summit.


Selside Brow from Branstree summit.

We take in our next descent via the virtually buried stone wall keeping to the right, here we make no issue to avoid the snow as we glaze over its hard crust with trusted footprints all the way to the bottom, a much favoured part of the walk.

The views were pretty incredible.


The theme continues here looking towards our next summit of Tarn Crag, but there’s a bit of descent & ascent needed before we get there.

Best press on.


Tarn Crag (Longsleddale) with its Survey Pillar summit.

We sit in awe at the scenery before us, the skies this morning were truly doing wonders for the soul, this only adding to just how well this walk was going.


Ingleborough from Tarn Crag summit.

Here, looking all the way to one of Yorkshire’s finest, Ingleborough almost 30 miles away (as the crow flies)


Greycrag Tarn (Dry Bed)

We left Tarn Crag in search of Grey Crag & the infamous Greycrag Tarn which links both summit tops, here the ground is usually made up of bog, peat & marsh lovingly mixed all into one, today, however the ground was almost completely frozen, making for a great crossing towards Grey Crag.

It was here we pass a young lad, Wainwright guide in hand possessed by a Preston North End bob hat, fresh faced with cheeks red as he picks his way over the frozen bog, morning he says with a bloody big smile etched across his face, on a closer account we see the young lad is also wearing a pair of tracksuit bottoms.

Do you know what? I haven’t see the ‘want’ to be there – together with the enthusiasm as I did on that young lad’s face for a long time. I could forgive the fact this young lad, a mere six years or so if that, older than my own son was out there, on his own in the far east of the Lake District.

Bloody good on yer lad.


Almost at Grey Crag summit now.


Grey Crag summit posing.

We um & eye on when do we eat our early lunches, we decide on our next summit of Harrop Pike that this is where we will eat, that isn’t to say we didn’t tuck in behind the summit & admire the views a little.

Here we are joined by a gent, map & compass in hand, we note on how great the frozen ground is & the conversation continues, I’m parked at Mardale he says, I think I’ll drop down into those two fells there he laughs, & says, but I cant remember the name of them! (pointing at Kentmere Pike & Shipman Knotts)

I help him pick out his summits as he plots his way off Grey Crag & then onto the Longsleddale Pass, the gent tells us he’s just retired & is re-doing all his Wainwrights, we bid him farewell & make our way to our lunch spot & the fantastic Harrop Pike.


Bannisdale from as we make our way across to Harrop Pike.


Harrop Pike looms.


Harrop Pike summit cairn.

It was difficult to find shelter out of a now biting wind, this was possibly the coldest part of the walk but manageable, as Tim eats lunch in his shorts I couldn’t help but feel for the bloke, I say nowt.

We are in Shap Fell’s territory as I proceed to pick out Saddle Crags & the spectacular Great Yarlside summit tops to Tim, I really must return here during the summer months.

During the briefest of briefest planning procedures, last evening, the only possible problem I thought we may encounter was leaving Harrop Pike’s summit & making our way back to Mosedale Beck.


We leave Harrop Pike behind & head east for no less than two hundred yards.


As I spot Swindale Head way yonder in the distance.

What we could do here was make the walk a circular & take in the Shap Fell’s of High Wether Howe & Seat Robert (The far ridge centre right) We decided against this as it wasn’t in the days itinerary & proceeded to take in the direct route (Or the ‘Paul Route’ as Tim likes to call it)

We make with the obvious & take the copse of pines our next fix point flanking them right.


Not before zooming in on this wild herd of Deer along the way, common to the Shap & far eastern fells.

They soon bolt in spectacular fashion.


Mosedale Cottage.

As we rounded the base of Brunt Tounge I use full zoom again to take this picture of one of Lakelands most secluded cottages, now residing as a bothy, it sure did look cold over that way.

# Footnote

The path you see leading away from the back of Mosedale Cottage is the same path that will lead you back to Brownhowe Bottom, the Gatescarth Pass & Mardale, we crossed it earlier in between Branstree & Tarn Crag.

The path you see is possibly the best you’ll get out of this part of Mosedale & as I noted to Tim, one of the reasons I have a special fondness for the far eastern fells.


The Moraine field & Swindale Beck over running through Swindale Head.

It was a drudge to get back to Swindale, this mostly done trying to avoid soggy wet ground underfoot as we now enter valley level.

Swindale, with its characteristic glacial valley profile with flat floor and steep cliff-girt sides. It is as if the glaciers gave Mosedale/Swindale just a ‘light touch’ allowing it to retain much of its pre-glacial form.

Peter Wilson; Lake District mountain landforms.


Simon Stone.

A huge boulder left behind within the Moraine Field during glacial activity, in what we now know as the Swindale valley.


Hobgrumble Gill from Dodd Bottom (Dry Tarn)


As we make our way towards Swindale Head farm we pass this old farm building & an even older Sycamore Tree, I figure this tree will, & has outlived many a king.


Swindale & Selside Pike (Far Right) from Truss Gap.

It is here the walk comes to an end as I quote Tim, "I almost have to shake my head to believe just how good this walk was"

We sit perched on the banks of Swindale Beck & finish of our lunches, we even have a wade into the beck if not only to swill the boots off.

It’s not very often I can say so early into a new year that this walk is going to take some beating.


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