North Pennine Summits
Backstone Edge is one of the more interesting, though less heralded, fells of the North Pennines.
Backstone Edge Gallery: Click on the photos below to enlarge.
Backstone Edge Walks:
28th Oct 2007 - Distance: 10.1 miles: Dufton - Threlkeld Side - Backstone Edge - Great Rundale Tarn - Knock Fell - Knock Hush - Pennine Way - Dufton.
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More about Backstone Edge: Backstone Edge is one of the less heralded fells of the North Pennines. It appears on the Nuttall list of English 2000ft mountains but just fails to qualify as a Hewitt. Its relative lack of fame is all the more surprising considering that it shares with Murton Fell the valley of High Cup, one of the outstanding natural features of the Pennines.
Backstone Edge sits on the main Pennine watershed, to the south it is separated from Murton Fell by the aforementioned High Cup, to the west the fell falls with varying degrees of steepness to the Eden Valley. To the north is the valley of Great Rundale and the much higher height of Knock Fell while to the east gentler slopes lead to the remote moors upland valley of Maize Beck.
The valley of High Cup has been described as the finest example of a glaciated valley in England. From High Cup Nick, at the head of the valley, it is a breathtaking sight. While the Pennine Way leaves High Cup Nick to descend the lower slopes of Backstone Edge it is unlikely that many Pennine wayfarers make the detour to the summit.
While High Cup is justly celebrated another fine valley, Great Rundale, divides Backstone Edge from Knock Fell to the north. Great Rundale is another steep sided valley but, partly due to the intensive mining in the area, has a much more rugged feel to it than High Cup. At the head of the valley are the mines of Threlkeld Side. Threlkeld Side was originally a lead mine but from the end of the nineteenth century until 1924 it was mainly used for the extraction of barytes. While the levels, limekilns and spoil heaps are the typical remains of a Pennine lead mine I found the climb up Great Rundale much more reminiscent of the Lake District.
Another interesting feature of Backstone Edge is the number of tarns on its summit plateau. Upland tarns in the North Pennines are much less common than in the Central Pennine of the Yorkshire Dales but on Backstone Edge there are three sizeable tarns, Great Rundale Tarn, Little Rundale Tarn, Seamore Tarn as well as numerous lesser sheets of water. Interestingly Great Rundale Tarn does not drain into Great Rundale Beck to the west but rather into Maize Beck and ultimately the River Tees to the east. Indeed most of the water that flows off Backstone Edge heads east into the Tees. The main exception is Little Rundale Beck which flows out of its namesake tarn and whose waters divide the western flank of the fell in two.
The summit of the fell is marked by a large cairn with a stake in it. The ground in the immediate vicinity is rather flat and the views are mainly of the upper slopes of the surrounding North Pennine heights of Knock Fell, Meldon Hill, Mickle Fell and Murton Fell. A much better viewpoint is from the stone built trig point to the south west which is much closer to the edge of the plateau.
On my one, and so far only, visit to the summit of Backstone Edge I was blessed with some fantastic weather and the best I've had so far for appreciating the Lakeland skyline from the North Pennines. I found it a fascinating place, an opinion enhanced a few weeks later when I climbed up the valley of High Cup before heading south over Murton Fell. It is perhaps one of the most underrated fells I know and I certainly aim to go back and explore it in more detail with particular emphasis on visiting the many tarns on the summit.