Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Mallerstang Fix

Mallerstang Fix

I have always been drawn to the gritty, remote beauty of Mallerstang with the fledgling River Eden in its centre and flanked by the High Seat range on the east and Wild Boar Fell on the west. Once described by David Bellamy as ’the last wild place of England’ it is not hard to see why. It does not possess the tourist trappings of some of its neighbouring and more favoured Yorkshire Dales, though it does have the magnificent Settle to Carlisle railway running through its heart and glorious views. So on a beautiful Autumn afternoon, I set off to get another Mallerstang fix. How good to be able to walk to do this without needing a car!

Crossing the Eden at Stenkrith Bridge, it was obvious that the river had lost its swollen identity from earlier in the month when it was an angry torrent. Now much more benign, it barely covered the rocks it passed over on its way to the Solway Firth. The bridleway to Nateby was still very wet though but pleasant in the warm sun. On reaching Nateby, I remembered the last time we had walked here when the children, on summer holiday, were engaged in a grand scale water fight during one of the warmer summer days! It was silent today as I made my way towards the footpath to cross the Swaledale road.

Having reached Mire Cross Bridge, crossing over the Eden again, it was time to swing left across green fields which, surprisingly, housed no sheep. Lammerside Castle came into view and the ruins looked stunning against the sunlit Mallerstang Edge.

Lammerside Castle with Mallerstang Edge behind
The bridleway continued up to and under the railway line and after another wet area I reached the Tommy Road. Looking back, the dry stone walls and barns which characterise the area were very prominent in the sun against the backdrop of the Northern Pennines.

Drystone walls
Several cars were parked on the edge of the road with people taking in the views but I was surprised by the appearance of about ten wild fell ponies grazing close to and across the road. They appeared from nowhere so it seemed. I decided to get a better view of Mallerstang than the car owners or the ponies by climbing up Birkett Common and I was not disappointed! The whole of the valley was in sunlight, Pendragon Castle at its entrance and the Water Cut on Lady Anne’s Highway in the distance. The Nab of Wild Boar Fell was clearly visible as was a drift of smoke from a bonfire somewhere near Outhgill. Sheep were being rounded up on the High Seat side, the voices of the farmers carrying in the windless air. An excellent spot to see the extent, and beauty, of Mallerstang without expending too much energy on elevation!

I continued down Birkett Common to join the bridleway back to Lammerside discovering that this was where all the sheep were hiding. 

Birkett Common & the River Eden
Perhaps they were the next to be rounded up? I continued back to Mire Cross Bridge but carried straight on, passing the huge Wharton Hall Farm with its ruined gatehouse and on to Halfpenny House.
Wharton Hall gatehouse
Glancing back, I took my final look at this desolate but beautiful dale. Finally it was all downhill to home where the lure of a cup of tea was spurring me on. 

I had had my Mallerstang fix and had not been disappointed!  

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