Birks Fell

Birks Fell

Birks Fell is the highest point of the long ridge dividing Littondale from Wharfedale and is one of the more recent additions to the 2,000ft club.

Height (m): 610
Height (ft): 2001
Prominence (m): 158
Classification: Nuttall, Hewitt, Marilyn
Hill No: 2799
Grid Ref: SD918763
OS Map OL30
No. of Visits 3

Around thirteen miles in length the ridge includes, in addition to Birks Fell, two other summits – Horse Head Moor and High Green Field Knott. For years Birks Fell vied with Horse Head Moor to be the highest point. It was not until December 2012 that a survey proved that not only was Birks Fell the higher of the two but, more importantly, that it achieved the requisite amount of height (2,000ft) to be classed as a mountain.

Birks Fell above Littondale
Birks Fell above Littondale

For over three and a half miles of its length Birks Fell stands at over 580m in height, the height gain to the summit being so gradual that the fell looks virtually flat from a distance. It is therefore one of the least shapely fells in the Yorkshire Dales.

Birks Fell from Horse Head Moor
Birks Fell from Horse Head Moor

Together with Buckden Pike and Great Whernside, Birks Fell is one the three summits visited on the Wharfedale Three Peaks Challenge walk, a 22-mile walk first inaugurated by the Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association in 2014. Indeed Birks Fell is the first fell on the route, a steep climb up from Kettlewell.

Birks Fell and Wharfedale in winter
Birks Fell and Wharfedale in winter

I took part in that initial Wharfedale Three Peaks walk and was midly surprised to see that the organisers of the walk classed the Firth Fell trig point as the summit of Birks Fell. Situated a mile to the south-east of the summit the trig point stands at 607m and is most definitely not the highest point.

The Firth Fell trig point - not the highest point of Birks Fell
The Firth Fell trig point – not the highest point of Birks Fell

The actual highest point is marked by a cairn on a very slight rise about 300ft to the east of the wall that runs the length of the Birks Fell ridge. Due to the broad, flat nature of the summit area there is no depth to the view. The most notable fells in view being Buckden Pike and Great Whernside.

The summit of Birks Fell looking towards Great Whernside
The summit of Birks Fell looking towards Great Whernside

Between the summit and the trig point there is the finest feature of the summit – Birks Tarn. One of the larger tarns in the Yorkshire Dales it is also one of the highest. It is a nice stretch of water and is a nice place to while away the time on a nice sunny day.

Birks Tarn
Birks Tarn

There are several well trodden tracks that cross the Birks Fell ridge between Wharfedale and Littondale. The one nearest the summit of Birks Fell is the bridleway connecting Buckden and Litton. This passes close by the Firth Fell trig point, the summit of Birks Fell being about a mile to the north.

The southern end of the Birks Fell ridge which divides Littondale and Wharfedale
The southern end of the Birks Fell ridge which divides Littondale and Wharfedale

To the north there is the Yockenthwaite to Halton Gill bridleway that crosses the ridge at Horse Head Gate, a few miles to the north of Birks Fell. To the south there is the Starbotton to Arncliffe bridleway that crosses Old Cote Moor.

Looking down into Littondale from the Litton to Buckden bridleway that crosses Birks Fell
Looking down into Littondale from the Litton to Buckden bridleway that crosses Birks Fell

Finally, there is the Kettlewell to Arncliffe path that crosses Middlesmoor Pasture, the route that is used on the Wharfedale Three Peaks Challenge. Whichever route is used once the ridge is gained the easiest way to the summit is to follow the ridge wall in the relevant direction.

Walkers following the ridge wall on to Birks Fell
Walkers following the ridge wall on to Birks Fell

These paths and tracks provide a variety of options for a ridge walk starting from either Littondale or Wharfedale. Away from the paths the ground can be boggy in places but despite this Birks Fell does provide a great opportunity for an extended high level walk.

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