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Lake District Walks

Bannisdale Horseshoe

Date: 10th March 2014
Distance: 10.7 miles
Ascent: 2337 feet
Time: 6 hours 50 mins
With: On my own
Start Grid Ref: SD530999

Walk Summary:
A walk following Wainwright's horseshoe walk above the shy valley of Bannisdale including a visit to Swinklebank Crag and White Howe.

Route Summary: Plough Farm Road - Whiteside Pike - Todd Fell - Capplebarrow - Swinklebank Crag - Ancrow Brow - Long Crag - White Howe - The Forest - Lamb Pasture - Bannisdale High Bridge - Plough Farm - Plough Farm Road

Photos: Click on the photos below to enlarge.

The stony lane leading from Mosergh to the open fellside
Approaching Whiteside Pike
Looking across Longsleddale towards Brunt Knott
On the top of Whiteside Pike
Todd Fell
A zoom shot of Longsleddale from Todd Fell
A first glimpse into Bannisdale on the way up to Capplebarrow
White Howe
Kentmere Pike from Capplebarrow
The small tarn below the top of Swinklebank Crag
On the top of Swinklebank Crag
Grey Crag
Cairn marking the summit of the nameless 541m top
Sallows backed by the Coniston Fells
Looking across Borrowdale Moss towards Great Yarlside and Lord's Seat
One of the cairns on Long Crag with the moon visible in the sky above
White Howe from Long Crag
By the trig point on White Howe
The Scafells from the top of White Howe
The Howgill Fells from White Howe
The small cairn on the top of The Forest
Looking down on Lamb Pasture
Looking back at The Forest
The path descending from Lamb Pasture
Bannisdale Beck from Bannisdale High Bridge


Walk Detail: The route for this walk was taken almost exactly from Wainwright's 'The Outlying Fells of Lakeland'. The walk had the dual purpose of allowing me to bag three of the remaining seven Deweys (hills over 500m) that I still hadn't climbed in the Lake District whilst also allowing me to add no less than nine outlying fells to my fairly meagre total of just 18.

My first concern was to nab the parking space on the minor road, unsignposted from the A6, leading to Plough Farm and it was with some relief when I arrived to find it was vacant. After being let down by the weather forecast in the Peak District just a couple of days before I was also very pleased to see that this time the forecast for fine weather was, on this occasion, quite accurate.

A fairly short walk and climb brought me to the first and best defined summit of the day - Whiteside Pike. Upon reaching Whiteside Pike most of the rest of the walk also came into view for the first tine. The top was marked by a well made cairn atop a rocky knoll. Built into the cairn was a plaque reading, "The Parishes of Fawcett Forest, Whitwell and Selside met here 28.08.2000".

Next up was Todd Fell, a hill that looked fairly unexciting on approach but which in fact provided some excellent views of Long Sleddale from the summit, which was also marked by a cairn made up of a grand total of just two stones.

Although accurately described as the Bannisdale Horseshoe views of the valley of Bannisdale itself remained fairly elusive for much of the walk and indeed the first real view of the valley came just off the path part way up to the next top Capplebarrow. The views from the top of Capplebarrow itself, like Todd Fell, favoured the Long Sleddale side.

A similar thing could also be said of the next top, which at 555m was the highest point of the walk. Described by Wainwright as a nameless summit, and called 'Ancrow Brow' by Birkett the top is listed as 'Swinklebank Crag' on the Database of British Hills. The top was marked by a neat cairn on the west side of the fence. The views were extensive and included, in the Lake District, Black Combe, the Coniston Fells, the Scafells, the Ill Bell Ridge and, just across Long Sleddale, Kentmere Pike and Harter Fell.

From Swinklebank Crag I next walked over another unnamed top at the head of Bannisdale before swinging round to head towards Long Crag. For most of the rest of the walk the view was dominated by the nearby Shap Fells and the Howgill Fells beyond. With the hills of the Yorkshire Dales and North Pennines set even further back it looked like the hills went on forever. The only sounds to be heard were the gentle breeze and the skylarks singing in the grass. All in all it was utterly entrancing.

My reverie was broken somewhat as I needed to take care to negotiate some of the bogs approaching Long Crag. These were proper bogs mind and not just areas of slightly moist ground that people who only walk in the Lake District often mistake for bog. The skylarks song was then temporarily halted by what looked to be some kind of WWII-era fighter plane flying overhead.

From the unremarkable Long Crag I continued on to bag my second and third Deweys of the day, White Howe and The Forest. White Howe is marginally the higher of the two and also had the advantage of having a trig point (which had been visible for much of the walk) marking the summit. Once again the long distance views were outstanding.

The final top of the day, Lamb Pasture, was probably the least inspiring mainly because it was covered in rough tussocky moorland grass which was tiring to walk across. The view was also rather dull compared to what I'd enjoyed during the course of the walk. Dropping down from the summit I crossed a gate by a small shed to access a lovely slanting grassy path that led me down to a bridleway and thence to the access road to Bannisdale High Bridge and a rare sighting of Bannisdale Beck. From there it was a simple walk back to the car across some sheep pastures and along the route of an old, long abandoned road.

While this could not be described as a classic walk in Lake District terms it was still an enjoyable expedition and had one advantage that sadly so many areas of the Lake District seem to lack, solitude.

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