Yockenthwaite Moor

Yockenthwaite Moor

Located at the northern end of Wharfedale, Yockenthwaite Moor is notorious as one of the wettest and boggiest fells in the Yorkshire Dales.

Height (m): 643
Height (ft): 2110
Prominence (m): 86
Classification: Nuttall, Hewitt
Hill No: 2791
Grid Ref: SD909810
OS Map OL30
No. of Visits 2

In their walking guide, ‘The Mountains of England and Wales’, John and Anne Nuttall have this to say of Yockenthwaite Fell, “Staunchly defended on all sides by unappetising, black, squelchy peat bogs, Yockenthwaite Moor is rarely visited, and then usually only once.” In 2015 I bucked this trend by visiting Yockenthwaite Moor for the second time.

Stuart depth testing the peat on Yockenthwaite Moor
Stuart depth testing the peat on Yockenthwaite Moor

There are four main categories of people who are most likely to visit the summit Yockenthwaite Moor. The first three are peak baggers, trig point baggers and those who gain a perverse enjoyment in navigating rough pathless moors. A fourth category are walkers and fell runners who take part in the annual 61 mile high level traverse of the Yorkshire Dales called The Fellsman. First walked in 1962, the route crosses Yockentwhaite Moor before descending to Cray. I think it is fair to say I fall into the first three categories.

Trying to stay close to the fence is not always the best option on Yockenthwaite Moor
Trying to stay close to the fence is not always the best option on Yockenthwaite Moor

The shortest and easiest approach to the top of Yockenthwaite Fell is from the south starting from either Hubberholme or Yockenthwaite. I took the former option on my first visit back in 2005, the walk alongside Strans Gill proving to be fairly easy until the final third of a mile where the peat takes over. Given the reputation of the fell I approached this walk with a certain amount of trepidation. Thanks to sub-zero temperatures the night before the peat was largely frozen and so we didn’t have too much difficulty.

Yockenthwaite Moor from Deepdale Haw
Yockenthwaite Moor from Deepdale Haw

On my second visit I planned a much more ambitious route following the Ure / Wharfe watershed from Fleet Moss to the north-west all the way over Yockenthwaite Moor to reach Gilbert Lane to the east. I did this route with a couple of other guys knowing that conditions on the hills were fairly dry. It was a tough walk and one that not everyone would appreciate, it was however one that I thoroughly enjoyed and was, in its own unique way, quite rewarding. Even in dry conditions care needed to be taken, the peat was easily a couple of feet deep in places and still quite soft. I think I can safely say that it is not a route to attempt alone after a period of wet weather.

The sea of peat hags to the east of the summit
The sea of peat hags to the east of the summit

The summit is marked by an Ordnance Survey trig point standing on a relatively dry area of grass. The view is extensive but with little depth due to the broad nature of the summit. Eyes will most likely be drawn to the Three Peaks to the west or to Buckden Pike which is well seen to the south. For me though the most impressive view on Yockenthwaite Fell is the sea of peat hags either side of the fence heading east. Depending on how you feel about peat this scene is likely to be met with a mixture of awe and horror.

The trig point on the summit of Yockenthwaite Moor
The trig point on the summit of Yockenthwaite Moor

Two-thirds of a mile to the north is a subsidary top with a height of 634m. Probably because they were based on the old one inch series of Ordnance Survey maps, where contour lines were every fifty feet, some older hill lists include this as a separate summit. Perhaps this explains the presence of a small cairn on the spot height. By the wall, just to the north of the subsidary top, is a great view of Semer Water and Raydale.

The small cairn on the 634m spot height
The small cairn on the 634m spot height

Between the summit and the subsidary top there are two tarns marked on the map, Middle Tongue Tarn and an unnamed tarn further north. On my first visit in 2005 Middle Tongue Tarn was about half the size shown on the map, on my second visit in 2015 both Middle Tongue Tarn and the tarn to the north were both dry. For someone who loves a moorland tarn this was quite disappointing.

A frozen and half-sized Middle Tongue Tarn in January 2005
A frozen and half-sized Middle Tongue Tarn in January 2005

There are three other tarns on Yockenthwaite Moor; Cray Tarn, Hunters Hole and and South Grain Tarn. Hunters Hole is a strange exclamation mark shaped tarn while Cray Tarn looks like it is going the same way as Middle Tongue Tarn. Thankfully South Grain Tarn was still full of water and made up for the disappointment of some of the other tarns.

The curiously shaped tarn called Hunters Hole
The curiously shaped tarn called Hunters Hole

There are still some areas of Yockenthwaite Moor I’d like to investigate further. While the fell is infamous for its peat and bogs the lower slopes above Wharfedale and Langstrothdale are largely grass covered limestone. A particularly interesting looking approach could be via Deepdale Gill, certainly if I get to visit Yockenthwaite Moor again that is the route I am going to take.

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