An adventurous route on to Horse Head Moor via the steep-sided Bouther Gill before returning via Hagg Gill. One for waterfall enthusiasts rather than casual walkers.
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Since the beginning of the second lockdown in November I have, for the first time this year, been mainly walking in the Yorkshire Dales. Nearly all the walks I’ve done have been repetitions or slight variations on some of my favourite walks.
For a change I wanted to do something a bit different and work out a route which would give me the opportunity to explore something new. The idea for this particular walk came to me when I spotted a number of waterfalls marked on the map in Bouther Gill, a steep-sided gill located in Langstrothdale between Hubberholme and Yockenthwaite.
"The next section along much more open banks was much easier and along with a couple of minor falls I visited another four substantial drops. A few stream and fence crossings were necessary but it was all fairly straightforward."
The walk started from a small layby, big enough for just two cars, on the road just above Yockenthwaite Bridge. In drier conditions it could be possible to save a little bit of road walking by parking on the grass just after the cattle grid at Raisgill but the ground was much to wet and muddy to do that on this occasion.
From where I parked the car I walked ¾ of a mile back down the road towards Hubberholme. After the point where the road crosses over the foot of Bouther Gill I continued on until I reached a gate on my right. The gate was already wide open so I walked through and onto access land. To my left was a stream with some nice looking falls but the neighbouring pasture unfortunately wasn’t in access land so all I could do was enjoy them from a distance.
For a short time I followed the tyre marks of a vehicle before bearing right across an area of reeds and dead bracken. I soon came to a barbed wire fence which annoyingly (but no doubt for the safety of livestock) blocks access to the stream. Turning left I followed the fence for a while thus missing the first couple of waterfalls. However, at the point where the fence turns steeply uphill there was a section without barbed wire. I hopped over this and gained the bank of the stream.
The next section following Bouther Gill upstream was a bit challenging in places. There was no path and the ground was very wet. This made for very slippery conditions but with care and patience I managed to work my way up past a series of delightful waterfalls culminating with one on which must have a drop of about 30ft near where Bouther Gill Cave is marked on the map.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get too close to this fall without walking up the streambed itself. It is one I will need to go back to another time. It was also the furthest I could continue following the stream at this point. I therefore scrambled (rather desperately in places) up the steep slippery grass up towards The Scars. There was no obvious way over these so followed them around to the left to reach the top of the fence I had crossed over earlier. Here I made use of a mossy boulder to help cross. If I was to do this route again I would probably just retrace my steps to the bottom of the fence where the crossing is much easier and climb up beside the fence.
Once I was across I continued in a generally eastern direction until I saw an area of grass allowing me to slant up above the scars. Here I turned sharp right, passed through a broken wall and joined a fence which led me gently back down to the stream above the high waterfall I’d visited earlier. The next section along much more open banks was much easier and along with a couple of minor falls I visited another four substantial drops. A few stream and fence crossings were necessary but it was all fairly straightforward.
After the final waterfall I climbed steeply up through an area of newly planted trees to make my way up on to Horse Head Moor. The forecast had been for a day of good sunny spells but it had not quite worked out like that. For the most part it had been overcast and at the final waterfall it had started raining. This had turned quite persistent and as I climbed higher I found myself walking directly into a strong wind as well. At about the 500m contour I then entered the hill fog that had been clinging to the tops all morning.
Keeping to the right of one of Bouther Gill’s feeder streams I eventually came to a fence which isn’t marked on the map. There was a gate but it was on the other side of a particularly wretched bog so I couldn’t reach it. Turning right I followed the fence until it swung left. Quite conveniently this made a beeline for the fence that runs along the ridge between Birks Fell and Horse Head Moor. Finally on gaining this fence I was able for the first time to follow a path. This led me up on to Horse Head Moor. The summit cairn is located on the other side of the wall and as visibility was so poor I didn’t both climbing over to visit it.
Instead I continued following the wall north to reach Horse Head Gate. Here in a burst of optimism I huddled behind a wall to see if eating my lunch and waiting a bit would see an improvement in the weather. At least by this time it had stopped raining but it was very cold. After I’d eaten my lunch I passed through the gate for a detour to the trig point but sadly the cloud was stubbornly refusing to lift. This is a shame as the view from the Horse Head trig point is one of my favourites.
Returning to Horse Head Gate I turned left to follow the bridleway back down towards Yockenthwaite. It was muddier than I remembered from my last visit and its condition had not been helped by cyclists. After about ten minutes I emerged back out from the cloud. Descending to about 420m I then made a detour through a gate to my right to visit some small falls on Hagg Beck before visiting a more substantial waterfall on a side stream and then close by the top of another fine waterfall on Hagg Beck itself at grid reference SD898780. Back on the bridleway it was then a straightforward walk back down to Yockenthwaite.
The overcast conditions were a shame but they did have the advantage of making long exposure shots of the waterfalls much easier. The ascent via Bouther Gill was certainly interesting, if in places a little bit adrenaline inducing. The series of waterfalls were superb and I would definitely like to revisit these another time. In high summer it would be difficult due to the bracken.