Yorkshire Dales Walks
Gragareth & Great Coum
Date: 15th November 2010
Distance: 9.9 miles
Ascent: 1729 feet
Time: 5 hours 45 mins
Start Grid Ref: SD671787
An exploratory ramble around the upper slopes of Gragareth, Green Hill and Great Coum.
Route Summary: Leck Fell - Three Men of Gragareth - Gragareth - Blakeamaya - Green Hill - Great Coum - Crag Hill - Long Gill - Deep Gill - Leck Fell
1. The road to Leck Fell House backed by the slopes of Gragareth
2. Looking over Leck Fell House towards Middleton Fell
3. The Five Men of Gragareth
4. Matt approaching the trig point on the top of Gragareth
5. The top of Gragareth looking towards Middleton Fell
6. A sea of cloud covered most of Pendle and Bowland to the south
7. The slopes of Blakeamaya
8. Matt on one of the rocky outcrops of Blakeamaya
9. Approaching Green Hill
10. Great Coum from Green Hill
11. The County Stone backed by the slopes of Crag Hill
12. The large cairn on Gatty Pike
13. Looking back at Green Hill from Gatty Pike
14. Rise Hill and Dentdale from above the Great Combe
15. Matt stood above Great Combe with Whernside in the distance
16. The large cairn above The Crag of Crag Hill
17. Standing by the summit cairn of Great Coum
18. The Howgill Fells from Crag Hill
19. The trig point on Crag Hill
20. Matt contouring round the pathless western slope of Green Hill
Walk Detail: Our initial plan had been to bag a couple of tops in the North Pennines but after our recent reminiscences of 2004 we decided to visit Great Coum and Gragareth for the first time in nearly six years. Back then we had experienced a blizzard on Gragareth and had finished the walk in the dark having underestimated the distance and time involved.
This time round we were much luckier with the weather as it was one of those rare and special days when the valleys are covered in low cloud and the tops are bathed in beautiful sunshine. It is only the second time that I have experienced this phenomena, known as an inversion.
We started the walk near the top of the minor road that leads to Leck Fell House, surely one of the most remote farms in the Pennines. From the road it was a short but steep climb over rocks to the cairns known as the Three Men of Gragareth. It is a fine spot but as it was so early in the walk we pushed on up the grassy slopes to the top of Gragareth.
While there is much of interest on the middle and lower slopes of Gragareth the summit itself is, with the exception of a lonely trig point, rather featureless. At this point we made the decision not to follow the wall along the ridge to Green Hill but to instead cross over and walk above the steep drop into Kingsdale.
While this meant forsaking easier ground underfoot and involved crossing a number of walls it did make this stretch of the walk far more interesting. Of particular interest were the boulder strewn slopes above Turbary Pasture and Blakeamaya Pasture especially the area marked on the map as Millstone Hagg where a narrow rocky trench runs along the hillside. At the time we debated whether it was natural or man made - since the walk I've come across a web site which suggests it is the site of a pre-historic quarry.
Continuing along we crossed over the top of Green Hill, the highest point of modern day Lancashire, now shorn of even the paltry cairn that marked the top on our last visit. The OS spot height of 628m is on the western (Lancashire) side of the wall and a debate ensued as to whether there was in fact higher ground on the eastern (Yorkshire) side. Matt bravely risked crossing the barbed wire to investigate but no definitive conclusion was reached.
The next top, Great Coum, is one the highest in the Dales and has a number of interesting features and viewpoints including the boulder known as the 'County Stone', the large cairn on Gatty Pike, the Great Combe that gives the fell its name, and the small crag known simply as The Crag. It was at the latter that Matt realised he had dropped his map and mapcase. From the photos I had taken we knew he still had it above Great Combe but when we retraced our steps we were unable to find it.
Sad to say I have become quite used to losing various accoutrements while out on the hills, Matt on the other hand is much better at looking after his possessions and this was the first time he'd actually lost anything while out walking.
By this time it was getting on a bit and we had still not eaten our lunch so we headed for the trig point on Crag Hill where we sat by the nearby wall to enjoy our repast.
To avoid retracing our steps we descended south east to meet the feeder streams of Ease Gill before contouring around the pathless and tussocky western slopes of Green Hill and Gragareth to eventually reach a shooters track that led us back to the Leck Fell House just as the light was beginning to fade.