Yorkshire Dales Walks
Nine Standards Rigg & High Greygrits
Date: 18th Apr 2015
Distance: 10.5 miles
Ascent: 1580 feet
Time: 5 hours 40 mins
With: On my own
Start Grid Ref: NY837096
A fine walk from the Belah valley visiting High Greygrits, Brownber Tarn and the superb summit of Nine Standards Rigg.
Route Summary: Heggerscales Lane - Wrenside - Woofergill Scar - Woofer Moor - High Greygrits - Kettlepot Road - Kettlepot Gill - Brownber Tarn - Brownber Head - Winton Force - Nine Standards Rigg - Bastifell - Bleatpow Hill - High Dolphin Seat - Stowgill - Heggerscales Lane
Photos: Click on the photos below to enlarge.
Walk Detail: I think it is fair to say that in the first twelve months I spent exploring the Yorkshire Dales I had rotten luck with the weather. So many of the summits I visited were shrouded in hill fog, including Nine Standards Rigg. The weather was even worse on my second visit in 2008, therefore this walk was a belated attempt to see if I could make it third time lucky.
Whereas I'd previously climbed Nine Standards Rigg from Kirkby Stephen to the west and from high on the B6270 to the south, this time I took a much more roundabout approach from the north and east. This was mainly because I wanted to visit the quiet valley of the River Belah, a tributary of the Eden, and also explore some of the unfrequented moorland to the east of Nine Standards Rigg.
The walk started from a convenient parking area at the end of the long and very narrow Heggerscales Lane. From the parking area I followed the bridleway heading east, past the remote house at Wrenside, to drop down to and ford the River Belah. Following the river upstream I came to the dramatic cleft of Woofergill Scar. Climbing up above the scar there was a good view back down the valley.
Continuing on the bridleway did not seem to follow the route across Woofer Moor as shown on the map. Instead it climbed up to join the road to the left of a prominent limestone scar about 100m north-west of the bridleway signpost on the road side. Heading along the road I made a short detour to the trig point on High Greygrits. This was my second visit to High Greygrits, a nice little top situated above some old quarry workings with good views east towards Rogan's Seat and south-west to Nine Standards Rigg. Even from this distance the Nine Standards could clearly be seen.
Returning to the road via a quarry track I soon left it again to head south on another moorland track, this one called Kettlepot Road. This led to a shooting hut at the head of Kettlepot Gilll where I took a fainter path heading west across Kettlepot Haggs to a line of grouse butts. The next section was pathless and I was pleased that armed only with my map and general sense of direction I was able to make a beeline for Brownber Tarn. Despites its fairly small size Brownber Tarn still managed to play host to two different types of geese, a pair of mallards and several gulls.
The next half a mile, across the peat hags and streamlets of Backgutter Head, was the roughest section of the walk thus far. I should state here that the whole section between Kettlepot Gill and Nine Standards Rigg is not one that I'd recommend in poor weather but on a beautiful spring day it felt wonderfully wild and remote. The going underfoot eased upon reaching Brownber Head, the unmarked summit of which fails by just 29ft to make it into the list of 2,000ft English tops. Walking along the northern side of the brow the views towards the North Pennines were superb.
The next feature on my route plan was Winton Force, a waterfall at the top of Brownberhead Beck. It proved to be something of a disappointment, the 'waterfall' turning out to be nothing but a mere trickle over a rash of stones. Perhaps it is more impressive after rain but I doubt it. Rather than making a beeline for the Nine Standards from Winton Force I walked south-west across Millstone Haggs, some more rough ground, so that I could visit the summit of Nine Standards Rigg first.
Arriving on the crest of the fell at a pile of stones, possibly the ruins of a hut, it was then a short distance north to the highest point, marked by an Ordnance Survey trig point. Here, finally, I could savour one of the most impressive and extensive long distance views to be found in the Pennines. To the north I could see the high moors of the North Pennines including Cross Fell, Mickle Fell and the moors of the Teesdale / Weardale watershed. To the west the line of Lake District fells stretched from Black Combe above the Duddon Estuary all the way north to Carrock Fell and High Pike. South I could see the Howgill and Mallerstang Fells while to the east, beyond Brownber Head and Rogan's Seat, I could see as far as industrial Teeside.
After taking some time drinking in the views I continued north past the topograph. I briefly paused to take a picture of it but didn't stop to look at it properly - I didn't need it to identify all the hills in view as over the last 10 years I've climbed them all! Other than the view the other highlight of Nine Standards Rigg is the Nine Standards themselves. These tall stone cairns are laid out in a line running north to south. Their origin is something of a mystery, one theory is that they are boundary markers. Whatever their origin they are very impressive, the central standard standing over 12ft high. They also seemed to be in much better condition than when I first visited them and it was obvious some repair work has been carried out. Apart from a father and son who had walked up from Kirkby Stephen I had them all to myself, incredible really considering how nice it was and how big the crowds would have been elsewhere in the Dales.
From the northernmost standard I could see a grassy track descending north-west. I surmised that this would lead to the shooting hut on Winton Fell and continue all the way down past Stowgill to where I'd left the car. However, I eschewed this simpler route back for a pathless wander over Bastifell and then on to the cairns on Bleatapow Hill and High Dolphin Seat. It was only from the latter that I then descended east to reach the shooting track. Continuing on down the track I arrived at the house at Stowgill. To avoid trespassing through the grounds of the house I took a gate on my left to cross a pasture above the fence and then rejoin the track which I followed back to the car.
This was an excellent walk, I really did make it third time lucky on Nine Standards Rigg and now that I have experienced it in good weather I doubt I'll leave it so long before visiting again. It was also nice to visit the Belah valley and add Brownber Tarn to the list of remote moorland tarns that I've visited. Definitely not a walk to do in poor visibility I really could not have asked for better weather to do this.