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Nidderdale & Washburn Walks

Nidd Head & Little Whernside

Nidd Head

Date: 12th February 2005
Distance: 10.7 miles
Ascent: 1630 feet
Time: 4 hours 45 minutes
With: Matt
Start Grid Ref: SE068766

Walk Summary:
A walk in upper Nidderdale to Nidd Head and the peaty summit of Little Whernside on a day of sunshine and snow showers.

Route Summary: Scar House Reservoir - Carle Fell Road - High Pasture - Angram Pasture - Nidd Head - Little Whernside - Shaw Gill Close - Scar House Reservoir


1. Scar House Reservoir from the dam

2. Scar House Reservoir and Angram Dam

3. Scar House Reservoir from the flanks of Little Whernside

4. Nidd Head

5. Little Whernside from Nidd Head

6. The summit cairn of Little Whernside

7. Matt surrounded by the peat hags of Little Whernside

8. Coverdale from Little Whernside

Walk Detail: It was a very windy day and the initial view of the choppy waters of Scar House reservoir backed by the moody Little Whernside skyline was suitably dramatic.

As we got higher up and began to walk round the flanks of Little Whernside the sun came out and for a little while the weather was beautifully clear. Marshy streams coming down from Little Whernside itself regularly interrupted the bridleway up to the saddle between Nidd Head and Little Whernside. Some were relatively easy to cross while others turned the ground into bog.

At one point I confidently put my foot down on what I thought was a stone only to put most of my lower right leg into the foulest smelling muck I’d yet come across. Quite frankly my leg stank for the duration of the walk but fortunately the strong wind carried the worst of the smell away.

We were both moderately surprised and rather pleased to discover that Nidd Head, from this approach at least, was not just a modest extension of Great Whernside. The final ascent was very steep with the wall protecting us from the worst of the wind coming from the northwest. The eastern flank of the hill offers some great views. We could make out industrial stations as far away as Teeside as well as the North York Moors, Menwith Hill, Norwood Forest, the length of Nidderdale, Great Whernside, Buckden Pike, Brown Haw, Pen Hill, Little Whernside itself and away to the north Mallerstang and the distinctive profile of Wild Boar Fell.

As usual when we got to the (unmarked) summit the weather deteriorated and for a while the cloud obscured much of our views. After a brief lunch stop we decided to miss out our planned detour to the summit of Great Whernside and set off back towards Little Whernside.

As we descended Nidd Head we could clearly make out Bolton Castle in Wensleydale in the dip between Brown Haw and Harland Hill to the north east of us. The views across Coverdale both here and later coming down Little Whernside were excellent.

In the centre of the saddle between Nidd Head and Little Whernside the ground is very wet and we were disturbed to come across notices warning of three feet deep bog. Stakes protruding out of the muck confirmed this disturbing revelation. We managed to get across by climbing on to the rungs of the boundary fence and shuffling across.

In some ways Little Whernside is like Yockenthwaite Moor in that it plateaus out at the top into a wilderness of peat hags and groughs some of which were at least twice our height in size. Negotiating these obstacles can be quite an enjoyable test but after a while it can be a bit tedious.

Eventually we located the summit cairn on a random hag towards the eastern side of the plateau. Half of the cairn had collapsed along with the eroded peat hag it was sat on and what was left was held together by a couple of sticks of wood.

The weather had come out nice again at this point and as we descended I suggested we perhaps bagged Dead Man’s Hill as well. No sooner had I said this though then the weather suddenly changed again and we soon found ourselves in a snow shower!! By the time we’d decided to miss out Dead Man’s Hill and returned to the banks of Scar House the sun was back out again.

This had been a walk of real contrasts both in weather conditions and ground underfoot but it was certainly worth the effort.

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