Buckden Pike

Buckden Pike

One of the highest fells in the Yorkshire Dales, Buckden Pike is most closely associated with Wharfedale and is also famous for being the site of an air crash in 1942.

Height (m): 702
Height (ft): 2303
Prominence (m): 207
Classification: Nuttall, Hewitt, Marilyn
Hill No: 2782
Grid Ref: SD960787
OS Map OL30
No. of Visits 6

Buckden Pike is the seventh highest fell in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, eight metres higher than the famous Pen-y-ghent and just two metres lower than its Wharfedale neighbour, Great Whernside. Much of the fell is owned by the National Trust.

Much of Buckden Pike is owned by the National Trust
Much of Buckden Pike is owned by the National Trust

Buckden Pike is most closely associated with Wharfedale and is the central peak in the Wharfedale Three Peaks Challenge walk, a 22-mile walk first inaugurated by the Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association in 2014. The summit is well named as it is situated just under a mile and a half as the crow flies from the village of Buckden in Wharfedale.

Looking across the head of Coverdale towards Buckden Pike
Looking across the head of Coverdale towards Buckden Pike

The fell does not however belong solely to Wharfedale. Its two long north-eastern ridges, which include the summits of Naughtberry Hill and Brown Haw, enclose the valley of Walden (sometimes also called Waldendale). Buckden Pike also stands at the head of Bishopdale and Coverdale, its many streams and springs feeding both Bishopdale Beck and the River Cover.

Buckden Pike at the head of Waldendale
Buckden Pike at the head of Waldendale

It is Buckden Pike’s situation above Wharfedale and at the head of three other dales that perhaps explains the numerous routes, including some of great antiquity, that cross the fell. To the north there is the Kidstones Pass, a road that links upper Wharfedale with Bishopdale and to the south another road crosses from Kettlewell to Coverdale at Hunters Sleets.

Buckden Rake with the Kidstones Pass in the distance
Buckden Rake with the Kidstones Pass in the distance

In between there is Buckden Rake, thought to once have been part of an old Roman road from Bainbridge to Ilkley and Walden Road, an old packhorse route from the Walden valley to Starbotton. Other named tracks include Top Mere Road and Starbotton Cam Road. Finally there is also an old miners track that climbs up Buckden Gill to the Buckden Lead Mine.

Climbing up the Walden Road from Starbotton
Climbing up the Walden Road from Starbotton

Most people climbing Buckden Pike start from Buckden itself and climb the fell via Buckden Rake and Cow Close. There are a variety of routes to the top however including options from Starbotton and Kettlewell. The most direct route is the aforementioned path up Buckden Gill. Including a bit of mild scrambling this route is an absolute delight thanks to the numerous waterfalls that are found in the gill.

Looking back down Buckden Gill
Looking back down Buckden Gill

Whichever route is used to reach the top the chances are that one will encounter black peaty bogs. Indeed so bad were the bogs on my first visit in 2004 that for long afterwards my friend and I always referred to it as ‘Boggy Buckden’. To be fair, on more recent visits the ground has been a bit drier. Be warned though that in wet conditions bogs will be encountered, especially in the area to the north of Tor Mere Top.

My friend Matt 'enjoying' the bogs on our first visit to Buckden Pike in 2004
My friend Matt ‘enjoying’ the bogs on our first visit to Buckden Pike in 2004

The summit is marked by an Ordnance Survey trig point, a large cairn and a large wooden stake. The latter wasn’t there on my first couple of visits in 2004 and 2005 but had appeared by the time of my third in 2009. What its purpose is and why it was put there I don’t know. A few stone slabs leading to the cairn help to negotiate some of the peat.

The trig point, cairn and wooden stake on the summit
The trig point, cairn and wooden stake on the summit

The view, if you are lucky enough to have one, is superb and includes nearly all of the higher fells of the Yorkshire Dales. The Yorkshire Three Peaks are all well seen and, by walking a short distance in the right direction there also great views of Langstrothdale and, on the other side of the wall to the cairn, a full length view of Waldendale.

A boundary stone at the head of the Walden Road
A boundary stone at the head of the Walden Road

Just over half a mile to the south of the summit, and at only a slightly lower elevation, is a cross erected in memory of five Polish airmen who died when their Wellington Bomber crashed in a snow storm in 1942. The lone survivor managed to make his way to nearby Cray by following a fox’s footprints in the snow. A bronze fox head sits on the base of the cross.

The Polish Air Memorial
The Polish Air Memorial

To date I have visited the summit six times and was beaten back by foul weather on a seventh occasion on a long walk in via Walden Head. My friend Paul says that Buckden Pike is, ‘sacred to the weather gods’ and it does seem to suffer from its share of bad weather. If you are lucky enough to visit in the right conditions though it is a superb place with fantastic views and a plethora of routes to choose from.

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