Baugh Fell is a vast and notoriously wet, but ultimately interesting fell in the north-west of the Yorkshire Dales overlooking the valley of Garsdale.
|Classification:||Hewitt, Nuttall, Marilyn|
|No. of Visits||2|
Make no mistake about it, Baugh Fell is a real beast of a fell. While it may not count amongst the highest hills in the Yorkshire Dales, in terms of girth it is certainly one of the largest. The name is pronounced ‘Bow Fell’ and apparently means ‘Rounded Hill’. An alternative and perhaps a more apt pronunciation, used by at least one resident of Sedbergh, is ‘Bog Fell’. It is a notoriously wet place, the writer W.R. Mitchell in ‘High Dale Country’ says Baugh Fell, ‘could almost be classified as a sponge’.
Baugh Fell is part of the large wedge of high moorland that also includes Swarth Fell and Wild Boar Fell. Baugh Fell itself is bounded by Garsdale and the River Clough to the south, the River Rawthey to the west and the north and by Grisedale to the east. Grisedale was the subject of a book and television documentary in the mid-1970’s called ‘The Dale That Died’, charting the population decline in the valley until it was virtually deserted. The Grisedale / Rawthey watershed is Holmes Moss Hill, a particularly boggy place that also connects Baugh Fell to Swarth Fell.
Rawthey Gill cuts deep in to the fell from the north and this seems to be the dividing line between West Baugh Fell and East Baugh Fell. The highest point of the fell at 678m is on Tarn Rigg Hill, a slight rise overlooking the numerous tarns on East Baugh Fell. The summit is unmarked except for a nearby wall and is not a particularly inspiring place.
Just over half a mile to the west a second summit, Knoutberry Haw, stands just two metres lower. Knoutberry Haw has enough prominence to make it on to the Nuttall list of 2,000ft high summits in England. It was on Knoutberry Haw rather than Tarn Rigg Hill that the Ordnance Survey decided to locate a trig point and it is probably for this reason, as well as the superb views of the Howgill Fells, that make Knoutberry Haw a much more satisfying summit.
Any expedition on to Baugh Fell is not to be taken lightly, especially in bad weather and poor visibility. The going is rough underfoot and there is little in the way of proper paths. It is not a place for the casual walker or for those Lakeland lovers who disdain the high Pennine moors. Yet for the open-minded, the adventurous and for seekers of solitude then Baugh Fell can be richly rewarding. One such adventurous spirit was Alfred J Brown who, in his 1938 classic ‘Striding Through Yorkshire’, says the challenge of Baugh Fell is ‘not to be resisted’ and that despite ‘the somewhat gruelling ascent’ the ‘abomination of desolation on the summit is worth the effort’.
It has to be said that was not an opinion I shared after my first encounter with Baugh Fell, with two friends back in 2005. We made the error of tackling the fell in foul weather – low cloud, wind and heavy rain. To make matters worse one of our party, Jo, began to get quite painful twinges in her knee as we neared the top of Rawthey Gill. By the time we’d bagged both summits she was in quite a bit of pain. Whilst Matt helped her make her way slowly down I set off on an extended dash to fetch the car at Garsdale Station and meet them on Grisedale Road. It was a memorable day but not for the right reasons.
While we’d achieved our aim of bagging the two summits I felt for a long that I had unfinished business with Baugh Fell. So it was that in 2011 I suggested to Matt that not only should we revisit the fell but that we should also wild camp up there. Ultimately we ran afoul of bad weather again and ended up camping on Swarth Fell. The next morning fog was sitting heavily over Baugh Fell and I thought the weather would beat us. However, as we dropped down to Rawthey Gill, the cloud began to lift and the sun came out. We then spent a memorable couple of hours exploring the upper reaches of the fell and by the time we finished Baugh Fell stood a lot higher in my esteem.
Yes, Baugh Fell is vast and wet, but how many other fells boast the number of tarns that Baugh Fell has? The largest of these, on West Baugh Fell, is particularly lovely. As well as the two summits there are also numerous cairns dotted about and the remains of Baugh Fell Quarry. The various streams descending north of the fell, especially Rawthey Gill and Swere Gill, are attractive approaches on to the fell from that direction.
All this and there is still more that I’ve not yet visited – the cairns on Grisedale Pike in the east or Garsdale Pike in the west. Another feature of the fell that looks worthy of exploration are the steep waterfall filled Hebblethwaite gills on the lower slopes of West Baugh Fell.