Nidderdale & Washburn Walks
Great Whernside & Little Whernside
Date: 17th September 2015
Distance: 12.5 miles
Ascent: 1975 feet
Time: 6 hours 20 minutes
With: On my own
Start Grid Ref: SE068766
A fine walk starting from Scar House Resevoir around the head of Nidderdale visiting Dead Man's Hill, Little Whernside and Great Whernside returning via Angram Reservoir.
Route Summary: Scar House Reservoir - Carle Fell Quarry - Gladstone - Dead Man's Hill - Little Whernside - Nidd Head - Blackfell Crags - Great Whernside - Lodge Moor - Angram Reservoir - Scar House Reservoir
Photos: Click on the photos below to enlarge.
Walk Detail: Great Whernside is the highest of the fells above Wharfedale and is indeed one of the summits on the recently inaugurated Wharfedale Three Peaks Challenge. Despite its strong associations with Wharfedale, and the fact that it is nearly always climbed from that side, Great Whernside can also be claimed by Nidderdale. After all the source of the Nidd itself emerges on Nidd Head, a shoulder of Great Whernside. This walk therefore set out to climb Great Whernside from the Nidderdale side, on a route that also gave me the opportunity to revisit Little Whernside and Dead Man's Hill.
Starting from the Scar House Reservoir car park I crossed over the dam, briefly following the Nidderdale Way, before taking a slanting track leading up to Carle Fell Quarry. Stone from the quarry was used in the construction of Scar House Reservoir and the track was originally the incline giving the Nidderdale Valley Light Railway access to the quarry. The view from edge of the quarry looking down over Scar House Reservoir and Angram Reservoir to Great Whernside at the head of the valley was really quite superb.
Just above the quarry was a nice reed fringed tarn that I had visited many years ago on my last visit to Scar House Reservoir. From the tarn I set off north climbing gradually up the pathless moor passing the rash of scattered gritstone boulders called the Gladstones. Above the Gladstones I reached the broad, almost dead-flat, summit area of Dead Man's Hill. The 546m spot height is unmarked and so the exact highest point, if there is such a thing on Dead Man's Hill, is almost impossible to identify. Instead I settled for traversing the top of the moor heading in the direction of the boundary fence.
Crossing over the fence, which also marks the boundary between the Nidderdale AONB and the Yorkshire Dales National Park, I then followed it west heading for Little Whernside. Just before reaching the Scar House - Coverdale byway I came across an extraordinary luminescent green bog. Just 2-3 metres wide from east to west it was at least 50m long from south to north. The sight of two badly decomposed sheep in the bog made me extremely wary and it took quite a detour until I found a spot where I knew I could comfortably leap across.
Once across the bog and the nearby byway I continued following the fence, this time on its south side, passing through a swathe of bog asphodel which would have looked quite spectacular had they still been in flower. Just as the ground began to steepen I crossed back over the fence to follow it once again on the north side. The reason for this being that I wanted to largely avoid the large peat hags and groughs on the top of Little Whernside by climbing up above the steep northern flank of the fell.
This proved to be a good choice and I even came across a couple of modest crags from which there was a magnificent full-length view of Coverdale. Also in view across the valley was Brown Haw, surely one of the least climbed hills in the Yorkshire Dales, while further to the left was a fine prospect of the much better known Buckden Pike. From the highest crag it was then a very short walk south to the 'summit' of Little Whernside. As with Dead Man's Hill the exact highest point is not easy to identify, it could have been any one of a half a dozen peat hags though probably not the one that is topped by a small cairn.
Continuing west from Little Whernside I dropped down to Long Hill Sike Head from where I began the climb on to Great Whernside, initially via the steep pull on to the twin bumps of Nidd Head. From there it was then an easy stroll up to Blackfell Crags and then on to the summit of Great Whernside itself. By this time the beautiful sunshine I'd enjoyed during the morning had given way to cloudy skies and the temperature had dropped accordingly. Hunkering down behind one of the large boulders by the summit cairn and trig I ate my lunch before beginning my return route to Scar House.
The first section of the descent along Lodge Moor was pathless but relatively easy underfoot. It was only when I drew level with a wall away to my left that I spotted a quad track. This led me through some very reedy ground to eventually drop down to a footbridge crossing Stone Beck and the permissive path around Angram Reservoir. All that remained was a straightforward walk alongside the two reservoirs back to the car park. The total distance walked from the summit of Great Whernside back to the car park was just under five miles and I managed it in 1 hour 45 minutes.
Although it was a shame that the skies had clouded over so much in the latter half of the walk this was still a thoroughly enjoyable ramble. The early views of upper Nidderdale from Dead Man's Hill were matched by the fine prospect of Coverdale from Little Whernside. Coverdale is a valley I really need to explore some more and perhaps next time I visit Little Whernside or Dead Man's Hill I need to start from Coverdale instead.