Dovedale to Deepdale - Photo Gallery
It was a fairly mild morning when I left home and it was sunny when I parked near the phone box at Bridge End at the entrance to Deepdale Hall; the frosty looking high tops suggested that it might not be a mild day up there. I started walking back towards Brotherswater, on the grass verge by the side of the road, until I reached the start of the Permissive path. The path gets you off the busy, narrow road, but you have to climb a fence without a stile and then cross muddy, swampy ground to get on to it; it is worth the effort to get out of the way of the traffic.
The rough, muddy path takes you through trees for about a mile until you reach the car park at Cow Bridge; you go through the gate on the other side of the car park to get on the good track that takes you past Brotherswater and Hartsop Hall, on the way to Dovedale. Once you get past the Hall the path quickly deteriorates into a muddy mess; the farmyard you pass through is frequently populated by cattle. As the rough track shrinks to a single track path, it brings you to a sudden, inspiring view of Dove Crag, and just as interesting is the view of Stangs' crinkly ridge.
There is a small wooden footbridge to cross Dovedale Beck; there is a muddy path on the other side of the stream, the mud becomes soft and sticky in a couple of places. The path disappears as it moves away from the beck; I usually climb up the wet grassy slope and after I reach drier ground I see a better path avoiding the wetness. There is then a steeper path as you pass by the waterfalls and above them is level ground. There is a visible path on either side of stream; for a change I kept on the left bank until on the other side I could the path veering up the hill above another waterfall.
I crossed the attractive, rugged stream using exposed rocks as stepping stones and climbed up the steep grassy bank to get to the higher path. Shortly after joining the path it crossed another stream flowing across rocks before plunging downwards to make the waterfall I had seen from the other side of the beck. I walked further up the attractive valley on an increasingly steep path until I reached the start of a constructed footpath. The steep stone-built path takes you up through steep, shattered rocks by the side of the stunningly rugged Hunsett Cove. The rocky path makes a strenuous climb but I find it much easier than a grassy slope of equivalent gradient.
It was starting to feel noticeably colder well before I reached the top of the reconstructed path; I suddenly found myself on level ground. Ahead is a reasonably easy ascent to the col between Dove Crag and Hart Crag; on the left is the impressive Dove Crag whose name is now applied to the whole fell. I was going to find Priest's Hole, a cave up in the crag; I had been put off by the relentless ruggedness in the past but I was determined to find it this time. There is a faint path on grass rising slightly up to the left; there is some rough scree to cross, then you come to an unlikely looking rock wall. The short climb is not as impossible as it looks; there is some exposure, but if you avoid eye-contact with the drop you can comfortably make the short scramble to reach the obvious path above it.
From there you have a rugged path to climb but it zigzags at an easy gradient up to the surprisingly large cave. The views downwards and past the crag wall are stunningly steep and you wouldn't want to get too close to the edge. When I reached the cave there were other walkers sitting inside having their coffee break; it isn't high enough to stand up in but is big enough for several people to sit in and apparently to spend the night. It was very bothy-like with gas canisters and other “essentials” left for future residents, including the bathroom facilities comprising a small spade at the entrance.
I descended the rough path down from cave, but, instead of continuing to descend to the main path, I turned left diagonally uphill on steep grass once I got past the scree. The steep ground was covered in moss as well as grass with the odd slippery rock hidden below the vegetation; there was no real difficulty climbing the slope, apart from the steepness of course and the occasional concealed boulder. As I reached the base of more crags I found a path at an easier gradient; after turning right to follow it uphill, it seemed to end suddenly but it just takes a sharp turn to the left. To the left, going uphill again, there is no obvious path up the grassy rake in the shadow of a steep rock face; it is a strenuous and exhilarating but safe climb.
As I got to the top of the rake I reached a subsidiary summit of Dove Crag and walked over to a small cairn at its summit; I made a beeline for the obvious summit of Dove Crag, obvious but surprisingly distant. It was much colder at the summit of Dove Crag, fortunately I was in full warm clothing, including neck gaiter, fleece hat and best winter gloves. From the summit I followed the obvious tourist path by the side of the wall, making an easy walk to the start of a rugged climb to Hart Crag. It was getting windy as well as being extremely cold, I still made the effort to leave the path and visit the summit cairn of Hart Crag.
I descended back to the path and visited the viewpoint cairn overlooking Fairfield; something about the light gave a strange cast to the colours of Fairfield's crags. I descended to the col, the steep path doesn't get any less eroded as time goes by, the sun felt warm while I was sheltered from the wind. Another easy, rugged climb takes you to Fairfield's summit plateau, even for a cold, windy place it was cold and windy; the first hail showers of the day were being driven by a strong cold wind. At the summit of Fairfield I put on my waterproof trousers, it was likely to get very showery but in any event the extra warmth wouldn't do me any harm.
I descended directly on a familiar ridge; it was steep and loose, requiring the use of my fifth point of contact. It is a very exposed and exhilarating descent before an interesting scramble up rocks to Cofa Pike's subsidiary outcrop, and a walk along the small ridge to its summit. I then made the steep but safe scramble down to Deepdale Hause; I had intended to descend to Deepdale from there but I thought I might have too short a walk if I did, so I decided to carry on to St Sunday Crag.
It is a long steady climb with several false summits but I was feeling fit and glad I decided to carry on. The hail showers were beginning to become more frequent, some of them passing over me and some of them passing close by; the visibility in the showers was very poor. After the consistently graded climb to the summit the descent is much steeper and rougher but after reaching the col, a small path bears right, making a grassy undulating walk to the summit of Birks.
I carried on along the broad grassy ridge to a small cairn; I turned 120 degrees to the right on plain grass and soon found a small trodden path; almost as soon as I started to descend I could see the dilapidated wall. I walked straight downhill, steeply by the side of the wall until it turned left; it was too steep to keep following it downwards, instead a small path goes off to the right descending easily to Trough Head.
I carried on past Trough Head in the direction of Deepdale, following a faint path or animal track; the gradient became steeper until I reached a grooved path or disused water leat. I turned left to follow the groove along the contours to a crossing place at the junction of two mountain becks; I followed a path on other side of the becks that started taking me downhill. I got to a wall and followed it downhill, the boggy sections by the side of the wall suggested that it wasn't a regularly used route. At the wall corner it became very swampy again, but it was a short easy walk down to the valley track leading back to the bridge where I had left the car.
© Andy Wallace 5th Apr 2008