Monday, 19 May 2014


The other day, my friend Alex and I went for a walk in Coverdale. It was the most recent of a series of walks we've made over the hills of the Southern skyline of that dale - a long, broad-backed ridge studded with summits that stretches for miles, dividing Nidderdale to the South from Coverdale and Wensleydale in the North. It's one of my favourite places. The highest of the hills rise up suddenly from bleak, gentler slopes, creating an aura of remoteness that always reminds me of certain areas of Scotland. A few weeks ago, with a group of friends, we'd begun with a walk over "the Whernsides" - Little Whernside, Whernside and Great Whernside (none of which should be confused with another Whernside, the highest hill in Yorkshire). On a subsequent walk, we walked over Carle Fell. The other day found us tackling Great Haw.

We set off from the village of West Scrafton and took a path that follows the bank of Lead Up Gill. Unfortunately, we joined it a short distance upstream of the Great Force waterfall. (It would have been good to see it. Had I paid more attention to the map before we set off, we would have!) We followed the winding course of the steep-sided gill across the peat moor for a mile or so. Sometimes, looking downstream, there were aerial views of Wensleydale and Leyburn or, upstream, of the crags on the edge of Carle Fell. Often, turns in the steep-sided  stream cut off distant views of anywhere and we found ourselves in that rare situation (for England, at any rate) of seeing no obvious sign of human presence.

Finally the stream turned Southwards and the steep sides flattened out into a wide cwm, at the head of which stood Great Haw. We came to a tumbled-down drystone sheepfold, at which point we turned away from the stream and slogged over the rough, damp ground all the way to the top.

We stopped to rest for a few minutes on the heather dome of the summit  before heading off towards Little Haw, a less prominent top. On the way we came across an exquisitely carved boundary stone.  We came across another on the summit of Little Haw itself. Moors are more heavily managed than they often look as you walk over them. What looks wild at ground level can be seen from the air to be a patchwork of heather plots, all burnt back at different times. At this point, though, it's impossible not to be aware of the management of the moor - there are lines of recently built grouse butts and hard-core Land Rover tracks. We found ourselves stomping down one, back towards West Scrafton.

Just outside the village we met a man walking up the path towards us. He was the first person we'd seen all morning. On our previous walk, up Dead Man's Hill and over Carle Fell, we'd seen no-one. Walking over "the Whernsides" a few weeks ago I'm not sure - perhaps we passed a party of two on the way down? I can't remember clearly. These hills are as great to walk on as they are unfashionable - often the best kind.

Carle Fell, Little Whernside and Whernside

Boundary stone close to Great Haw summit

Little Whernside from High Crag (Carle Fell)

Track to High Crag

Great Whernside summit

Alan Rawsthorne features in a series on post-WWII British Composers. 
Click on the link for more information or click on the British Composers label to read them all.


George said...

Sounds and looks like a beautiful walk, Dominic. How lucky you are to have such offerings on your doorstep!

Joanne Noragon said...

A beautiful walk. How sad to learn even grouse are run by monster machines. Very sad.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I had completely forgotten Rawsthorne and how much you used to love his music. Does it go well with Coverdale?

Dominic Rivron said...

Thanks for these comments.

George: Yes we are! It's easy to overlook them and go further afield in search of adventure. I'm reminded of "A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house." One could almost say the same applies to hills!

JN: On the walk before last we were speculating what it would be like to run a moorland estate in a very different way as a "wildlife experience", encouraging wildlife and encouraging people to come and see it.

WG: Syill do. Yes it goes well with Coverdale. For me, some music (Elgar, VW, etc.) evokes certain British landcapes. Rawsthorne -how can I put it?- always seems to me to add an arresting soundtrack to a given landscape.

Adullamite said...

How lovely to be fit!
It's a different world when out on a moor.

GOAT said...

Here's to unfashionable walks!

Loved the photos, especially the boundary stone, and the place names as always. Nice to be back walking "with" you again! You convey atmosphere and landscape really well.