Date - 10th February 2009 Distance - 8 miles
Map - OL5 Start point - Parking at end of unenclosed road (NY521142)


Summits Achieved

Name Height (ft) Height (m) Grid Ref
Nabs Moor 1613 491 NY 5033 1110
Howes 1903 580 NY 4982 1038


The Walk

Dad has lived here in Morecambe for nearly 30 years and can probably count on the fingers of two hands the number of days that there has been snow. This year had been no exception and despite large areas of the country having heavy falls, here we had woken up to snow on only one morning and that had melted away by the afternoon. However as you can imagine the fells of the Lake District had been deeply covered with snow, so for the first and probably last time this winter we were to get the opportunity to walk in the snows.

We were walking with Uncle Eric, and he kindly drove us all to the lonely, little known and unfrequented valley of Swindale a few miles from the village of Shap. We had actually done this walk before but Uncle Eric had not, nor had Little Eric in our club. Then it had been a summer’s day, but today was to be a completely different experience.

We were following the route described by Alfred Wainwright in his Outlying Fells book. Since the book was written however parking is not now allowed in the valley at Swindale Head Farm, so we had an extra walk of nearly a mile and a half along the road. The snow and ice on it in places meant Uncle Eric and Dad had to walk carefully. There are only about three dwellings in the valley, one being the farm called Truss Gap. Just before reaching this there was an excellent opportunity for Dad to photograph the head of the valley.

At Swindale Head Farm the road ends, becoming a track and then a footpath, that began to climb steeply out of the valley on the left of this photograph. The snow now was deeper and the lack of footprints showed that no one had been along the path recently. It was soft too, so making for rather hard going. Here Uncle Eric climbs steadily up with the valley spread out behind. Swindale Head Farm is in the centre. It was at this point that we met the only other walker we saw all day. He was descending into the valley.

Nabs Crags towered to the right.

We now left the path and climbed steeply up the slope in the foreground. The snow was soft, and even when Dad kicked his boots into it, it gave way at times, causing him to slip back, so that he had to put his hands out to stop falling flat on his face. Eventually the gradient levelled off and it became easier to make progress to reach the top of the first hill Nabs Moor. Guess what, we jumped out to have our photo taken. Now there’s a surprise. The bare rock too was handy, as we did not get wet bottoms.

There were superb views all round, both down into the valley and also to the hills including Selside Pike. We like the cloud effects against the bright blue sky.

The route was now across level ground to the fence that runs all the way from the top of Selside Pike down into the valley. We climbed this and then continued towards an outcrop with a cairn, before swinging left to make the ascent to the summit of Howes. The snow was generally firmer here so making for easier going. We reached the summit first and Dad took this shot of Uncle Eric following his footprints making the final climb.

Photo time again for us too!

We were now above the valley of Mosedale, to which we had to descend and then walk through. The snow was soft and the deep footprints made us think of the abominable snowman, but looking ahead we saw that it was just Uncle Eric. Dad measured the depth against his stick. Nearly 2ft!

Below as we made our way down was Mosedale Cottage the only building in the valley.

This is a bothy, the word meaning a hut or cottage. It was once used by shepherds, but is now used by walkers, campers, etc. Down in the valley we followed the cart track left through as Wainwright describes "desolation profound". It is certainly very lonely and little visited and as we stood the silence was quite deafening. Soon after fording a tiny stream the main path dropped right towards a bridge in the distance, but here we kept forward inclining left to avoid wet ground and coming alongside a broken wall. Here there was an extensive view back along Mosedale.

The path was now hard to follow and we just had to plough along blazing a trail by the remains of the wall. The fence we had climbed earlier had to be crossed again, but this time there was a gate. Now we climbed up out of this valley before dropping down again to arrive at the point where we had ascended the steep slope to Nabs Moor. In the sunshine the snow had clearly begun to melt, as we could no longer see the footprints we had made this morning in the snow on the slope. Below Uncle Eric makes his way down into Swindale.

To the right in the ravine are The Forces waterfalls. There was not enough time to visit these today, but here is the photograph Dad took when we did this walk before in the summer of 2006.

As we reached Swindale Head Farm again it was late afternoon. The sun had dropped behind the hills at the head of the valley so all was in shadow.

Now just the mile and half along the road to the car. Easier going than this morning as the snow and ice had mostly melted.

As Uncle Eric drove us to his house we reflected on what had been an exciting adventure. A walk we will remember for a long time.


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