FIRTH FELL & RIVER WHARFE from KETTLEWELL

 


Summary

Date - 12th April 2009 Distance - 12 miles
Map - OL30 Start point - Kettlewell (SD 969723)

 

Summits Achieved

Name Height (ft) Height (m) Grid Ref
Firth Fell 1991 607 SD 9259 7483

 

Preface

It was Friday night. The phone rang and we heard Dad say, "Hi Bob".

Our ears pricked up as a conversation with Uncle Bob usually meant a walk was being discussed.

We heard Dad say, "Another top we haven’t done in Yorkshire. Sounds a great walk for Sunday."

So the conversation went on ending with, "Right Bob, we'll meet you in Kettlewell at 08.30 on Sunday."

Great we thought!

Shaun then asked Dad, "Where and what is the fell called".

Dad replied "Firth Fell, 1991ft above Wharfedale."

We all replied "can’t wait for Sunday".

 

The Walk

Finally the day arrived. Kettlewell is a long way so we had to be up at 05.30 and set off about 06.45. First to Ingleton, then the familiar road via Ribblehead to Hawes and on along Wensleydale. Just beyond Aysgarth we took a right turn to pass the village of West Burton and continue along the delightful Bishopdale. To our left we could see the rising ridge that includes Naughtberry Fell, which had formed part of an arduous walk, which was very wet underfoot too, in January 2008. We were all glad that this was not our destination today. It looks impossible to get out of Bishopdale, but the narrow road climbs steeply up Kidstones Bank before descending to the hamlet of Cray.

Tetley piped up "There’s the White Lion and those stepping stones we crossed on the walk to Yockenthwaite Moor".

"That’s right" replied Allen.

Soon we were into Wharfedale and passing through the village of Buckden. We remembered the car park at Buckden, as this had been the start point for the Yockenthwaite Moor walk and another to Buckden Pike. On then through Starbotton (what a lovely name), and so to Kettlewell.

The streets were very quiet, but we knew that the village would be very busy when we returned after the walk, as Kettlewell is a popular tourist place. If you look carefully you will see the "café open" sign by the wall. As you can guess this would be the final destination for Dad and Uncle Bob!

Dad was soon ready and we jumped into his rucksack, and off we went crossing the river and along the road. Dad saw and snapped these two young lambs.

Just beyond we reached a gate.

Passing through this we strolled along the track beyond. Soon we were gaining height and paused to look down on Kettlewell nestling in the valley. To the right was the typical Dales landscape with the fields divided up by a maze of stone walls. The distant high fell behind is Great Whernside. This we had climbed in February 2007 on the same day as Buckden Pike.

Walking on we made the climb to reach the ridge wall. Turning up we soon reached a trig point at Middlesmoor Pasture. This is only part way up the ridge and not at a summit, which is the usual location for trig points. However we could see that this was a fantastic viewpoint, and so ideal for the Ordnance Survey, when the trig point system was in use. Although not a top, Dad kindly agreed to take our picture. We were destined to follow the wall to, and well beyond, the highest point in the background.

We include this more general picture too.

In the foreground behind the rock you can just make out a round depression. This is the remains of a bell pit. We saw many of these today.

Of the extensive mining in the Yorkshire Dales, the earliest process was the digging of bell pits, which appear today as circular depressions in the ground occurring at intervals along straight lines. Lead ore usually occurs as vertical veins. Miners identified these veins at the surface in flat areas and dug a hole to expose the ore. As they dug deeper they reached a limit when it became difficult to remove the waste by shovel and the walls of the pit became less stable. So, they dug vertically down into the rocks opening a small shaft and ultimately a bell shaped chamber underground, removing waste by use of a hand winch (a jack roller or windlass) with a bucket (known as a kibble). As they reached the limit of ore, or the limits of practical working, they would move along the surface following the vein of lead and start new bell pits. Spent bell pits were often sealed off with wood and then back filled to stop sheep falling in but this process has left a dangerous legacy as the wood has rotted.

Because of this Uncle Bob and Dad were careful to avoid crossing the depressions.

A depiction of a bell pit can been seen from the link below.

http://www.staffspasttrack.org.uk/exhibit/coal/technique/bellpit.htm

Well after viewing all this archaeology, we set about getting to Firth Fell. The ridge itself was not too steep but it was a long 3.5 miles or so and at times we wondered if we would ever get there. A large pond was passed en route and we were amazed to see that it was full of frog spawn.

The trudge up the ridge resumed, and eventually the wall turned at a right angle ahead. Here a ladderstile allowed us to cross and the terrain changed from grass to rough moor with heather and it was boggy in places too. Another wall was spotted over to the left and we made for this. Following it we were soon in sight of the trig point marking the summit of Firth Fell.

"Here at last", cried Grizzly.

Jumping out of the rucksack and on to the trig point, Tetley called out "come on Dad, take our picture"

Meanwhile Uncle Bob was settling down to have his lunch. We then joined him. Shaun, Tetley, Grizzly and Eric want to say how much we appreciate the fact that on each walk Allen carries our sandwiches etc in his rucksack!

This top is quite amazing for the views all round, and Uncle Bob and Dad reeled off the names of all the fells they could see. We were pleased and not a little proud to be able to say that we had climbed them all.

Now there was just the matter of the descent and then the long walk in the valley to Kettlewell. However before starting off it was picture time including this shot.

This is Pen-y-ghent, one of the "Three Peaks", and to the right Plover Fell. We remembered that day we had climbed these. Freezing cold with snow and ice underfoot.

Time to be off, we thought, and the long clear path led all the way down to the valley, reaching a road on the outskirts of the village of Buckden.

This crosses the River Wharfe via this charming bridge.

However we turned aside just before it to join the Dales Way path that was to lead us all the way to Kettlewell. First the path meandered along by the river, but then swung away under the towering ridge above. A number of feeder streams running off the fell were crossed, including Step Gill. We thought this was a pretty scene. Note how thick the moss is on the wall.

We were now walking back under that long ridge we had climbed, so as you can imagine it was quite a walk, but finally we spotted the tower of the church in Kettlewell. The path now rejoined the river, and reaching the road we crossed the bridge over the river into the village. The end of the excitement for the day we thought, but suddenly a paraglider swooped down.

He passed directly over us before disappearing over the buildings and into the field behind. We all, Uncle Bob and Dad included said "Rather him than us."

Coincidentally the building he flew over was The Cottage Tea Room.

As we said at the beginning, this was where Uncle Bob and Dad adjourned to enjoy a nice slice of lemon torte and a refreshing pot of tea. It was Dad’s treat, but then Uncle Bob bought ice creams and they sat by the river enjoying the rest and reflecting on the walk. We were having our own picnic, in the car and talking amongst ourselves about the adventure.

We had had another wonderful day. Thanks Dad!

Again we were the lucky ones, as while we relaxed in the car, Dad had to concentrate to drive us home.

Uncle Bob was going to be very busy with work for the next month, so sadly we would not be able to have his company on our walks. Still we are sure the time will soon pass by.

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