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

 

Preface

Grizzly had heard Dad speaking on the phone to Uncle Eric on Monday evening.

Excitedly, he came dashing in. "I bring news of our next walk. It will be on Wednesday and we are going into the Howgill Fells once again."

"Do you know where exactly?", asked Tetley.

"We are to walk up Carlin Gill, another lonely valley. There we will see the dramatic Black Force. Then the plan is to circle north and climb to Uldale Head."

"Great", cheered Allen. "That will be another step towards ultimately completing this challenge."

"And", said Shaun, "it will be a complete voyage of discovery as we have never been to that part of the Howgills before.

Grizzly added, "it will not be completely new to Uncle Eric. He has been up Carlin Gill before and visited Black Force. However he has not climbed Uldale Head. Doing this will be the completion of his goal to reach all the summits in the Howgills."

"A momentous day for him", replied Tetley.

 

The Walk

Realising it was to be quite a long walk, and being December the days are short, we made sure to up early and get the picnic packed and safely stowed in Allen's rucksack.

Then as Dad called out, "time to go", we dashed out and leapt into the car for the drive to Uncle Eric's in Kendal. There we transferred to Uncle Eric’s car to continue our journey to our start point.

"This is the eastern end of the Borrowdale Valley just a few miles from the village of Tebay", advised Shaun.

Hearing this, Little Eric said, "but I thought Borrowdale is far away near Keswick."

"It is", replied Allen. "However there are two valleys with the same name. Confusing I know, and it was much simpler before the reorganisation of the counties. The the one near Keswick was in Cumberland, and where we were starting today was in Westmorland. Now both are in just one large county called Cumbria."

"I am not convinced that was for the best", said Grizzly. "Large is not always better."

So with their backs to the valley we set off east towards the Howgill Fells, crossing the road to take the narrow lane signed Carlingill. This involved passing under two bridges, the first carrying the M6 motorway, and the second the main West Coast railway line.

"Interesting to see the old and new designs", commented Tetley.

"Is that another bridge I see beyond the left arch of the railway bridge?", pointed Little Eric.

"Yes pal", replied Grizzly. "It is Low Borrow Bridge. It spans Borrow Beck, giving access to the farm of the same name."

Walking under, Allen said, "it's rather eerie hearing the noise from the traffic crossing the M6 bridge."

Almost immediately, Shaun said, "on the right is the site of the Roman fort of Low Borrowbridge."

"Can we go and see?", asked Little Eric.

"I am afraid not", replied Uncle Eric. "It is on private land."

Looking it up later, Grizzly said. "it was in fact a civilian settlement. There are some visible remains, from a partial excavation."

So we strode on along the narrow but quiet road. Shaun, said, "there is about a mile and a half on the road. Our objective is Carlingill Bridge. There we start up the valley."

Here we surveyed the scene.

"Is there a path?", asked Little Eric. "Just looking from here it does not look like it."

"Don't worry", said Uncle Eric. "I can assure you there is a narrow path on the right side of the stream."

Checking the map, Tetley pointed. "the hill to the right is Uldale Head, your last Howgill summit Uncle Eric."

Like many of the Howgill valleys we have walked, Carlin Gill is a very lonely, 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. Care was necessary as Uncle Eric and Dad walked along. We crossed a number of smaller side valleys with streams running into Carlingill. One was Small Gill with a pretty waterfall. "A nice picture for our story", commented Tetley.

Shortly after this we had to cross the stream. Uncle Eric commented, "it is much fuller and running faster than when I was last here."

Careful examination of the rocks protruding from the water finally enabled them to find a safe place to cross. Beyond we entered a narrow gorge and Uncle Eric can be seen ahead.

A little further Uncle Eric said, "I remember now, we should actually have climbed up and walked above this gorge. What we will have to do is scramble up that near vertical slope to regain the path."

Clinging on to the tree roots aided the ascent. Uncle Eric who climbed first was concerned as he dislodged stones that tumbled down. "I'm sorry Gerry", he called out.

"It's ok I have dodged them", called back Dad.

Once on the path again we could look ahead towards where Black Force is located.

The rocky side of the waterfall can be seen in the centre of the picture rising to the ridge. Uncle Eric said, "up that is our route."

"Oh heck", said Little Eric. "That is really steep."

However first there was the small matter of negotiating the path along the shoulder, before dropping down again to and crossing the stream, which was safely accomplished.

Descending towards the stream Dad stopped to take this shot of the ravine containing Black Force.

"Wow!", exclaimed Allen. "That's spectacular. It is more akin to the Lake District than the generally gentler Howgills."

Now too the ascent was revealed to the conical top, and looking carefully at the picture below, you can just about make out some of the narrow path.

First though we all paused again to admire the dramatic scenery. "Wonderful", breathed Tetley. "Thank you so much for bringing us here, Uncle Eric."

"You are welcome lads. I knew you would enjoy this walk and the challenge."

So across the stream it was best foot forwards up the slope. It was indeed steep, but Dad managed it quite easily, which pleased us all, as it meant his lost stamina was returning. At the top then the route was to continue up to the left.

Grizzly pointed across the ravine, "those rock formations are interesting. They are slightly curved. I suppose that had been caused by the weather."

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

"Oh err", said Allen, looking to the left as we crossed. "I 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, will mean certain death."

Then over, before walking on, we paused to look back down Carlin Gill and all the way to distant M6 motorway. "Wow we have certainly come a long way", said Allen.

A short steep climb soon brought us to a narrow path. "We follow that round the hillside and then as it drops gradually down to Blakethwaite Bottom", advised Shaun.

Here Tetley said, as we looked around in wonder at the dramatic landscape, "it is quite amazing. We are in a bowl completely encircled by hills with no apparent way out."

"That's Uldale Head to the left", pointed Allen.

The Uldale Beck had to be crossed, but so close to its source Dad just strode across. Then a steady, and again as is the case generally in the Howgills, rather steep climb followed to reach easier ground, where we contoured right to reach a cairn.

Shaun checked the GPS. "the coordinates do not match those for the summit."

Looking ahead Uncle Eric said, "that next rise is higher."

Soon this was reached and nestling just to the right of the path was a small cairn marking the summit. In Wainwright's book of 'Walks on the Howgill Fells and adjoining fells', there are a total of 55 summits, and this was Uncle Eric’s last one.

"Well done Eric", said Dad. "Congratulations on completing them all", as he shook his hand.

"Well done Uncle Eric", called out Allen on behalf of us all.

"Thank you lads."

Dad then took his photograph to mark the achievement.

And then, of course, we 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.

"We should head due west", instructed Shaun, looking at the map.

This involved a long descent over then rough grassy terrain, evident in the picture above, to eventually find the remains of an old drove road. This made for easier walking on the lower slopes, and down to Weasel Gill, a rather wide and rushing stream.

"We have to cross", advised Shaun.

This was accomplished safely, Tetley saying, "so dry feet are the order of the day!"

"Look", pointed Allen., "there's some of the wild horses that inhabit the Howgills. Can you take a picture, Dad?"

"I'm sorry lad, but even with the zoom lens I have on the camera, I cannot get a decent shot."

So, we are going to cheat and include one from a previous walk in December 2007, as an illustration. After all they could quite honestly be some of those we saw today.

The route was along the opposite side of the gill to return to the bridge.

Part way, Little Eric pointed, "oh dear the bank has been washed away."

Uncle Eric said, "we'll have to detour across that large field, and then descend to the road."

Here is was just a matter of retracing the outwards route to the car.

"Wow", said Tetley. "what a wonderful walk. It has been a grand day out."

Uncle Eric then drove 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 said, "I hope Brian does not get indigestion!"

Well that was the end of our fantastic day, and all that remained was to return to Uncle Eric’s, where we transferred to Dad's car for the drive 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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