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Yorkshire Dales Walks

Little Fell via West Gill

Date: 9th October 2015
Distance: 8.8 miles
Ascent: 1670 feet
Time: 4 hours 45 mins
With: On my own
Start Grid Ref: SD830937

Walk Summary:
An intriguing waterfall filled walk on to Little Fell via West Gill, returning via the High Way and Cotter End.

Route Summary: Cotterdale - West Gill - Acroy Gill Force - Seavy Sike Force - Coal Force - Little Fell - Ure Head - Sails - Long Crags - Scars Gill - The High Way - Cotter End - Low Rigg - Cotterdale.

Photos: Click on the photos below to enlarge.

Looking across Cotterdale towards the flanks of Great Shunner Fell
Arriving alongside West Gill
Looking up West Gill with Little Fell in the distance
One of the flimsy footbridges that were regularly required to cross West Gill
A small waterfall on West Gill
A nice little waterfall emerging out of the ravine just above the confluence with Adam Gill
The narrow ravine with the beck squeezing through the rocks about 10ft below
More waterfalls above the ravine
Seavy Sike Force
The waterfall on West Gill opposite Seavy Sike Force
The upper reaches of West Gill
Coal Force
Looking across the top of West Gill towards Great Shunner Fell
Hugh Seat
On the summit of Little Fell
A spring that was the most likely candidate for Ure Head that I could find
Whernside from Sails
The cairn on Sails, just one metre lower than Little Fell
The gritstone boulders of Long Crags
The sea of mossy tussocks between Long Crags and Scars Gill
One of a few patches of red moorland grass I passed
Scars Gill with a waterfall which would be more impressive in western conditions
Looking down at the River Ure from The High Way
Approaching Cotter End
Wensleydale from Cotter End

Walk Detail: This was the first walk of a long weekend in upper Wensleydale and was an opportunity to try out an approach on to Little Fell via the waterfall filled West Gill, one of the two streams that form Cotterdale Beck.

Starting from a parking area on the road corner just before it drops down in to the hamlet of Cotterdale I set off down the road, passing a few houses, before taking a signed footpath on my left leading round the back of a farm and through some fields to join the banks of West Gill.

After a tricky crossing of the gill I then turned right on a track passing first a bridge (which would have been much easier to use) and then several half-tracks parked up on the side of the track. Dropping down to a narrow footbridge, with just a single wire as a handhold, I recrossed the West Gill again to reach a grassy path heading away upstream.

I hadn't gone far when someone drove towards me on a smaller halftrack coming towards me from the opposite direction. He was quite friendly but warned me the pheasant shoot, which I'd seen and heard blasting away on the other side of Cotterdale at the start of the walk, would be coming up behind me shortly and that they would be driving the birds down towards the gill.

Not wanting to get caught up in a shoot I picked up the pace a bit as I crossed and re-crossed the gill by several more bridges and numerous fords, some of which were quite tricky and needed a lot of care. I also passed a series of attractive if fairly modest waterfalls including Acroy Gill Force, Seavy Sike Force and Coal Force.

Perhaps the most impressive was the unnamed waterfalls just above the confluence with Far Adam Gill. Here, above an attractive spout, the gill is forced through a very steepsided narrow ravine, only a couple of feet across and about 20 feet deep.

Once past Coal Force I turned west climbing up alongside the stream leading to Little Fell Well just below the summit of Little Fell itself. By this time the lovely morning sunshine had given way to cloudy skies. Still it was much better than my last visit to Little Fell when I'd tramped over the top in about 5m visibility.

After eating my lunch on the summit of Little Fell I went in search of the spring where the Ure emerges from the fellside. I visited a couple of likely candidates before moving on to a large square shaped cairn on the side of Sails before visiting the much smaller cairn on the summit of Sails, just a metre lower than the top of Little Fell.

My route of return was the High Way but rather than taking the most direct route I headed south-west to visit the rash of gritstone called Long Crag. Interestingly, in addition to a large sheepfold, there were also a couple of shelters built into the side of the crag.

From Long Crag I continued to tramp in a generally south-west direction over some particularly mossy terrain heading for Lambfold Crags. The crags themselves were non-existant, it was merely a steep grassy bank but there was a nice view down to a waterfall in Scars Gill. Once on the High Way it was then an easy walk south-east on a good path all the way to Cotter End and from there back down into Cotterdale.

The walk up West Gill is definitely one of the more adventurous routes in the Dales. Everytime I stepped on one of those narrow footbridges I couldn't be sure it would take my weight. Some of the stream crossings were a bit dodgy and I also had at least one awkward scramble. In other words this was definitely not a route that would be suitable for everyone and it definitely needs care. Having said all that it was definitely worth it.

I hadn't quite had my fill of waterfalls though and on my way to Hawes, where I was staying for the weekend, I took the opportunity to visit Cotter Force and then Hardraw Force to complete what had turned out to be a waterfall filled day.

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