Yorkshire Dales Walks
Fountains Fell & Darnbrook Fell
Date: 16th May 2015
Distance: 9.0 miles
Ascent: 1240 feet
Time: 4 hours 30 mins
With: Tim and Jack
Start Grid Ref: SD842714
A fascinating exploration of limestone features on the western flanks of Fountains Fell before heading east to visit neighbouring Darnbrook Fell and then a lovely return via Dawson Close.
Route Summary: Dale Head - Rainscar Pasture - Gingling Hole - Coronation Pot - Coates' Cavern - Fountains Fell South Top - Fountains Fell Tarn - Fountains Fell - Darnbrook Fell - Dawson Close - Rainscar - Dale Head
Photos: Click on the photos below to enlarge.
Walk Detail: This was my first walk with Tim and Jack from Bowland Walks since we went up to Smearsett Scar in January. Prior to this walk neither of them had visited Fountains Fell before, I had twice but due to bad weather on both occasions it almost felt like this was my first visit too.
Starting from the roadside parking area near Dale Head, high on the Stainforth to Halton Gill road, the obvious route of ascent would have been via the Pennine Way. Instead I preferred the idea of taking the track across Rainscar Pasture to check out what looked to be some interesting features on the western slopes of the fell. The Rainscar track is not a right of way and nor is it in access land. Thankfully, for my conscience anyway, the landowner was out on his quad bike and stopped twenty metres from where I'd parked my car. When I asked him if we could walk along the track he said he was quite happy for us to do so as long as we closed gates and didn't have a dog.
We walked along the track as far as a shooting house and a gate. Passing through the gate we crossed Fornah Gill by a footbridge and then dropped down into a dry stream bed just beyond. We then spent an enjoyable hour or so exploring a wealth of interesting features in the vicinity. First we came across a small cave entrance and then a bit further up we came across what looked at first like a shake hole with an old foot and mouth sign at the bottom. Upon lifting up the sign a very deep dark hole was uncovered, surely this was the Gingling Hole that is marked on the map. The drop down looked precipitous and I very carefully put the sign back over the top of it.
The reason for the dry stream bed was soon answered when we came across Gingling Sink where the beck disappears underground in another area of small caves. The stream itself, which we later followed for some way, is not named on the map but given the name Gingling Sink and the nearby Gingling Hole then Gingling Beck would seem an apt title. From Gingling Beck we climbed south to visit Coronation Pot and then back across the beck to the impressively large swallow hole called Coates' Cavern.
Having earlier visited Gingling Sink where the stream disappears underground we later came across the spot where it bursts out of the ground in an area of limestone. From there it was a pathless, though not particularly steep, climb east to reach a broken wall which we then followed north to a junction of walls and then on to Fountains Fell South Top. This rather prosaically named subsidary summit of Fountains Fell which has just enough prominence to qualify as a Nuttall. A few metres to the east of the wall, on the top of a small peat hag, there were the beginnings of a small cairn marking the highest point.
Next we went looking for the disused weather station that is marked on the map. I don't think we found it, the prominent pile of stones we came across seemed to be the remains of a large shelter cairn. Briefly returning to Fountains Fell South Top we then made our way to Fountains Fell Tarn, a fairly large sheet of water. Last time I was there I could literally only see a few metres from the shoreline so it was nice to see the whole tarn for the first time.
From the tarn we then carried on to reach the cairn marking the summit of Fountains Fell. Continuing east of the summit we passed a couple of fenced off mining shafts to soon reach the Pennine Way. Here we passed the only people we were to see since leaving Dale Head - a stark contrast to the host of tiny figures that could be seen to the north on Pen-y-Ghent.
Although moist in places the crossing from Fountains Fell to Darnbrook Fell was not as boggy as I remembered it from 2004 and it didn't take us long to reach the trig point on Darnbrook Fell perched on its plinth in an area of heavily eroded peat. This was my second visit to Darnbrook Fell this year and I have to say this was a much more pleasant experience to the freezing walk in the snow I did back in January.
From Darnbrook Fell we re-crossed the nearby barbed wire fence and passed through a gate to follow a faint quad track downhill to reach another track, the superb green way climbing out of Littondale which is often called Dawson Close. This we followed west to reach the road for a further mile back to Dale Head. Dominating the views of this final stage of the walk was the dramatic profile of Pen-y-Ghent.
Fountains Fell really is a fine hill and while we discovered some of its lesser known features there is still much more to explore. The combination of broken cloud and brisk winds meant that patches of sunshine and shade moved quickly across the landscape, conditions that I particularly enjoy, not least for taking photos. It may seem strange to say considering how many walks I've done in the Yorkshire Dales but this year I really feel like I'm rediscovering them, perhaps because I'm returning to places I've not been to for over ten years.