Yorkshire Dales Walks
Horse Head & Birks Fell
Date: 16th October 2004
Distance: 9.7 miles
Ascent: 1461 feet
Time: Too long ago to remember!
Start Grid Ref: SD907741
An excellent, if sometimes rough walk, above Littondale from Horse Head to Firth Fell via Birks Fell.
Route Summary: Litton - Nether Heselden - Halton Gill - Horse Head - Sugar Loaf - Birks Fell - Birks Tarn - Firth Fell - Litton
1. The River Skirfare in Littondale
2. The odd looking sheep that followed us through a field
3. The sun breaks through over Littondale
4. Plover Hill and Pen-y-Ghent from Horse Head
5. By the trig point on Horse Head
6. Birks Tarn with Buckden Pike in the distance
7. Matt by the trig point on Firth Fell
8. Fountains Fell and Pen-y-Ghent from Firth Fell
Walk Detail: Apart from a few brief glimpses from Plover Hill and Darnbrook Fell we had not seen much of Littondale so this was a good opportunity to explore the valley properly.
Litton is quite an attractive little village that we initially struggled to get out of due to crossing a field in the wrong direction. The walk along the valley floor was most pleasant crossing over a number of streams, through some neat field systems and for some of the way in the company of the attractive River Skirfare.
One particular incident sticks out was a field containing a strange breed of sheep. We had come across this type briefly on the climb up to Wether Fell and also at the start of this walk in Litton itself. They had little fear of us and it was quite disconcerting to suddenly find yourself being followed by these odd creatures. In fact we were quite glad to get through the gate at the end of the field. The photo I took of them made them look even more scary due to their glowing eyes!!
At Halton Gill we took the steep, occasionally rocky, path up Horse Head Moor. This is quite a pleasant climb and as you get higher the views gradually become ever more impressive. At Horse Head Gate there was a short detour north to the Horse Head trig point.
It may just miss out on being labelled a mountain but Horse Head, and indeed the whole ridge, offers some pretty impressive views westward to Fountain’s Fell, Pen-Y-Ghent, Plover Hill and further away Ingleborough. To the west we also got a good luck at Yockenthwaite Moor.
After soaking up the views from Horse Head we headed southwards along the ridge. Along the way we took a GPS measurement in the area of Sugar Loaf that read 610m which is quite interesting considering that surveyors have since proved that Birks Fell, further along the ridge, reaches the magical 610m (2000ft) mark.
Quite a large proportion of the stretch between Horse Head and Birks Fell was rather unpleasant wet black peaty bog that regularly slowed us down. We had our lunch at the pretty Birks Tarn from which we also got our best view so far of Buckden Pike.
While we were having lunch we could see increasingly low cloud blowing in from over Buckden Pike and Great Whernside so we hurried on to the Firth Fell trig point before heading down the towards Litton. This stretch of path was quite muddy and suffered from some quite bad path erosion.
The rain finally caught us in a heavy downpour about a mile from the end but this could not dampen our spirits after what had been a quite excellent walk.