Yorkshire Dales Walks
Wether Fell via Bardale
Date: 14th Mar 2015
Distance: 11.2 miles
Ascent: 1831 feet
Time: 5 hours 45 mins
With: On my own
Start Grid Ref: SD922875
An interesting and eventful walk starting from Semerwater, climbing on to Wether Fell via the small valleys of Raydale and Bardale.
Route Summary: Semerwater - Low Blean - Stalling Busk - Busk Lane - Marsett - Bardale - Oughtershaw Road - Cam High Road - Wether Fell (Drumaldrace) - Cam High Road - Carlows - Marsett - Marsett Lane - Semerwater
Photos: Click on the photos below to enlarge.
Walk Detail: It is almost nine years since I last climbed up to Drumaldrace, the summit of Wether Fell. On both my previous visits I'd started from Hawes and also included Dodd Fell Hill in the route. Looking for an alternative approach I plumped for this walk as it gave me the chance to visit the quiet side valley of Bardale. More importantly it also gave me the opportunity to rectify a major ommission in my knowledge of the Dales by visiting Semerwater.
I started from the lakeside parking area at the eastern end of Semerwater. It is not a car park as such as you are effectively parking on a beach with the waters of the lake just a few metres away. It is private land so to park there means you have to walk 100m up the road to the farm at Low Blean and pay a fee and walk back with the ticket. Not a particularly convenient arrangement but still, what a scenic place to park the car!
My route took me south-west on the path from Low Blean to the small village of Stalling Busk. Once past the lake the most interesting feature of this section was the ruins of Stalling Busk's old church. This had fallen into disuse in the early part of the 20th century when the current St Matthew's Church was built in a much convenient location in the village itself. The setting of the church with its graveyard and views down Raydale towards Semerwater was superb.
Climbing up to Stalling Busk I then joined a stony old track called Busk Lane which dropped back down to cross Cragdale Water at a ford and then, a bit further along, Raydale Beck at a bridge. After crossing the latter I then followed a path along Marsett Beck to reach the tiny village of Marsett, a seemingly remote outpost in this part of the Dales.
Crossing over Marsett Bridge I immediately joined a path heading upstream alongside Bardale Beck. The following section alongside Bardale Beck was quite lovely. In one spot the stream squeezed through a section of exposed limestone in a scene that was almost Strid-like. Further along, in a more open area, there was also a fine waterfall over a modest limestone edge. Shortly afterwards the path climbed up above the beck to begin a steady march across empty pastures aiming for the head of Bardale. After passing a small clump of trees at the valley head I arrived at an area where there was still a surprising amount of snow and it took me a little while to locate the track which finally led me on to the Oughtershaw road.
Turning right along the road I then joined the Cam High Road and the views really began to open out. It was a very cloudy day but a number of the higher fells were visible even if the conditions seemed to give the views a 1970's soft focus vibe. Leaving the metalled road before its descent to Hawes I continued along the Cam High Road before taking a thin path for the short climb to the summit cairn of Wether Fell which is named on the map as Drumaldrace.
It is interesting to see how even in such a relatively short space of time that the size and construction of a cairn can change. As with the summit cairn on Buckden Pike that I visited fairly recently, Drumaldrace was much larger and in much better shape than when I'd first visited it back in 2004. The view from the cairn was extensive and many of the high fells in the Dales could be seen despite the gloomy weather. It was also however quite cold and windy and as I'd contrived to lose my hat somewhere in Bardale I didn't linger long before dropping back down to the Cam High Road.
Continuing for another mile or so along the old Roman road I then took a bridleway on the right which I was planning on following all the way to Crag Side Road above Countersett. It was here though that my plans changed in a most unexpected manner. I was happily striding along the bridleway in my own little world when I heard a small 'baa'. Looking around I noticed a tiny lamb huddled in the grass. My first reaction was to get my camera out and as I moved closer it stood up and took a few halting steps towards me baaing even louder. It was then that I realised I hadn't seen any other sheep for a few miles.
I didn't know what to do. It still had its umbilical chord attached and couldn't have been more than a few hours old. I looked around and couldn't see any sign of its mother. As I moved away from it to scan the surrounding area it curled back up in the grass (which was offering no shelter from the cold wind) and started shivering. Several times I set off to continue walking but I couldn't help feeling that if I left it there exposed it wouldn't survive. In all my time out walking in the hills I have never seen such a young lamb that high up. So it was that after 20 minutes of prevaricating I picked the lamb up and resolved to try and find a farmer, even if it meant carrying it all the way down into the valley.
A few minutes later I passed an older couple who were out walking. Asking their advice they thought I was doing the right thing as its mother could have died or even abandoned it. Recommending that I head straight down to Marsett I changed course and picking up a footpath I made a beeline descent for the village. All the while I carried it the lamb snuggled into me for warmth. Arriving in Marsett I couldn't find anybody about, it seemed like it was deserted. Just as I began to wonder what on earth I was going to do a man and his daughter pulled up to their house. Explaining what I'd done they took the lamb off me said they would feed it and find out which farmer it belonged to.
Faced with a walk back along the road to the car park I at least felt that I had done a good thing and probably saved the lamb's life. That was until a mile along the road when a lady, who a few minutes before had driven past me and who was now talking to a farmer, called out and asked if I was the one who brought the lamb in. I admitted it was me and pulled my map out to show them where I'd found it. I was then given a stern talking to by the farmer who told me I had 'done more harm than good'. According to the farmer the sheep had probably been brought down for feeding and that the mother would go back and find the lamb later. The lady was much more sympathetic and told me the lamb was now being fed. Meanwhile the grumpy farmer's helper, possibly his son, was shaking his head at the old man's chastisement and muttered under his breath a couple of times that it was alright.
The whole episode left a very sour taste in my mouth. I found it hard to believe that a newborn lamb would be abandoned for feeding time. If I'd come across the lamb in a valley pasture, where newborn lambs are normally to be found, I would have almost certainly left it alone and probably gone to find a farmer. As it was I genuinely thought the lamb would die if I left it up on the fell, on its own, 500m above sea level without food or shelter. Even after the telling off I got I can't say I wouldn't do the same thing again. As it turned out the lamb didn't belong to this particular farmer but he knew who did own it so hopefully the lamb was reunited with its mother.
It was a sad end to what had been an enjoyable walk. I had been looking forward to the walk along the bridleway below the crags to Crag Side Road. Due to my detour I missed out on this so it is something I'll have to go back and do another time. Even under the gloomy skies both Raydale and Bardale were lovely while Semerwater itself was beautiful.