Calf Top

Calf Top (Middleton Fell)

Calf Top is the name given to the summit of Middleton Fell, a hill that was promoted to mountain status in September 2016 when a survey found that, by the smallest of margins, it was over 2,000ft in height.

Height (m): 609.6
Height (ft): 2000
Prominence (m): 313
Classification: Hewitt, Nuttall, Marilyn
Hill No: 2797
Grid Ref: SD664856
OS Map OL2
No. of Visits 3

In addition to its change in hill classification the fell was also fully incorporated into the Yorkshire Dales National Park in August 2016. Prior to that only the eastern side of the fell, on the Barbondale side was in the national park.

Calf Top above Barbondale
Calf Top above Barbondale

The eastern flank of Calf Top falls steeply into the valley of Barbondale an effect caused by the Dent Fault which runs from Kirkby Stephen to Kirkby Lonsdale, a distance of 32km. The Dent Fault is one of the best known examples in the country of a reverse fault and forms a division between the limestone country of the Yorkshire Dales and the Silurian rock and shales that form the basis of both the Howgill Fells as well as Middleton Fell and it’s near neighbour Castle Knott. Seen from the east, on Great Coum for example, Middleton Fell looks like a wall rising out of Barbondale.

The steep flanks of Calf Top above Barbondale
The steep flanks of Calf Top above Barbondale

While the eastern flank is unremittingly steep the layout of the fell to the west is much more complex with numerous streams, such as Luge Gill, Wrestle Gill, Thirnbeck Gill and Millhouse Gill, cutting deeply into the fellside creating numerous broad spurs that drop into the Lune Valley.

Calf Top from Castle Knott
Calf Top from Castle Knott

While all these western streams flow almost directly into the River Lune it is also worth noting that the fell falls entirely within the Lune catchment area. Water flowing off the fell’s northern slopes reaches the Lune via the River Dee whilst to the east it makes its way to the Lune via Barkin Beck and then Barbondale Beck.

Barbondale Beck and the flanks of Calf Top
Barbondale Beck and the flanks of Calf Top

The summit features include a broken wall and fence and an Ordnance Survey trig point. The 2016 survey that saw Calf Top promoted to Hewitt status claimed that the highest spot was just over the other side of the wall and fence from the trig point and is marked by a small cairn. I saw no sign of the cairn when I went up there that same month.

The trig point on the summit of Calf Top
The trig point on the summit of Calf Top

Calf Top’s position on the Western side of the Dales and its relative independence from neighbouring fells of equal or greater height make it a fine viewpoint with the Lake District, Howgill Fells, and western Bowland Fells all visible on a clear day. While there is a steep drop down into Barbondale only a few metres to the east this can only be viewed by clambering over the fence and wall.

Sedbergh and the Howgill Fells from Calf Top
Sedbergh and the Howgill Fells from Calf Top

The traverse of the main Middleton Fell ridge from Brown Knott all the way over to Castle Knott is fantastic with a wide range of views. The problem is that in order to walk the whole ridge you either need to have a car parked at either end or, like the first time I visited the fell, endure a long walk across the farms and pasture of Lune Valley. From experience I can say that that the latter is awkward and unsatisfying to navigate through and every field seems to be full of sheep, horses or cattle.

Standing on the Hanging Stone high above Barbondale
Standing on the Hanging Stone high above Barbondale

An alternative route is to tackle the steep face of the fell direct from Barbondale. On my third visit to Calf Top I did exactly this, following the wall, and then fence, directly up the fellside passing along the way a small crag which includes the so-called Hanging Stone. It was a tough but worthwhile climb with quite stunning views of Barbondale.

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