Waterfall in Back Gill

Kidstones Fell & Back Gill

Walk Summary

An adventurous and largely pathless route from the top of the Kidstones Pass visiting numerous waterfalls in Back Gill before returning via Kidstones Scar.

Distance: 5.5 miles
Total ascent: 1400ft
Walk Rating: ***
Parking: Foot of Gilbert Lane at head of Kidstones Pass
Route: Download Route [GPX]

Photo Gallery

Walk Report

There are a couple of gills in the upper reaches of Bishopdale that I’ve had my eye on for a couple of years now. Both Back Gill and Fosse Gill (the name gives it away) look to be promising locations for waterfalls. Unfortunately neither has anything remotely like easy access. In the case of Fosse Gill it is not even situated on access land.

This walk then visits Back Gill, the most southerly of the two gills and the ‘easiest’ of the two to reach. The starting point for the walk was the top of the Kidstones Pass. Where the track, Gilbert Lane, leaves the road to head over Stake Moss there is room to park several cars off the road.

“It was a constant battle with the bracken. The slopes were very steep at times and just to make matters even more uncomfortable it began to rain.”

Leaving the car I immediately set off up Gilbert Lane. I hadn’t gone far when I made a detour off to the left to visit a couple of waterfalls to the left. Often these waterfalls are dry, the fact that there was a decent volume of waterfall boded well for when I got into Back Gill. Unfortunately, it also became clear that the camera fault I’d had on my previous walk, around Fountains Abbey, was there to stay. Basically my shutter kept getting stuck open which made it very difficult to take photos that weren’t bleached out. A great deal of patience was required at times to get even a single useable photo.

After visiting the two small falls in Cray Gill I returned to Gilbert Lane and continued the climb up on to Stake Moss. There is no real summit to this vast upland area. The track also tends to travel along a slight dip so even distant views are obscured. At about the 561m spot height there was a wooden stake in the ground. From there I headed towards the higher 567m spot height to the east. This slightly higher elevation surprisingly brought distant hills into view, most notably Wild Boar Fell.

From the 567m spot height I wandered in a north-easterly direction to arrive at a wall. Turning left along this I came to a gate at the wall corner at about grid reference SD944827. Resisting the temptation to follow a quad track which wasn’t going in the right direction I turned south-east to begin descending the fellside. All along this section were improving views of Bishopdale, a valley not often seen by walkers.

Eventually I came to a large area covered in newly planted trees. Give it a few more years and this approach into Back Gill will no longer be practical. Descending through the young trees I came to a track, this helpfully wound down towards a wooden bridge passing over Back Gill.

Just below the bridge I could hear a waterfall. The steep banks were covered in thick bracken but as I was here to see waterfalls I eagerly plunged down through the vegetation. This first waterfall was nothing particularly special but the fight with the bracken both down to the waterfall and then back up the bank were just a taster of what was coming over the next couple of hours.

For indeed this was what the next couple of hours consisted of. Where I could I followed the stream but often progress required clambering high above the stream before descending again to the next waterfall. It was a constant battle with the bracken. The slopes were very steep at times and just to make matters even more uncomfortable it began to rain. All in all I would say most people would think me utterly mad had they seen me. But I wanted to see waterfalls and being fairly bloody minded about the whole thing I was rewarded with some views of some lovely falls.

I didn’t quite get to visit all of them. There look to be a couple further downstream lost in the dark depths of a wooded area which I didn’t get to visit. Further upstream, above two wonky footbridges, there was a magnificent double waterfall. Due to sheer slopes and fallen trees I couldn’t get to the foot of this fall. It took me over half an hour just to fight my way to the top half of the falls. Above this one there was an interesting looking area with rocks hiding potentially another waterfall. Though I tried to get to it in the end I had to give up.

Thankfully, as I made my slow progress upstream, the bracken finally began to thin out. As a result the final couple of waterfalls were easily reached. The final one really is quite small but utterly lovely. Not far above this was a pot hole just a matter of metres from the stream. It is worth noting this on the map as it would be quite easy to step into and break a leg. Not far above I came across the spot where the very stream bursts out of an area of rocks.

From the head of the gill I climbed a bit to the left to reach the top of a long thin plantation. I then walked along a modest grassy edge on Kidstones Fell before descending to a gate in a fence. There is no sign at all of the plantation that is here marked on the map.

Turning east I continued across easy grass to reach the wall running above Kidstones Scar. I’d been hoping to walk along the scar itself but as the wall was mounted with wire I thought better of it. Instead I had to make do with walking along the wall, peering over at regular intervals. Towards the northern end of the scar there some more fine views of Bishopdale.

Finally, having reached the southern end of Kidstones Scar, I descended to reach a gate on to the road over Kidstones Pass. Turning right on this it was then an easy walk back to the start.

I can’t say this was an enjoyable walk. I got very wet, the faulty shutter on my camera was a continuing annoyance and the bracken a complete nightmare. However, this was a real adventure. I knew if something happened to me in Back Gill it would be a long time before anyone found me. Although it was a tough battle it was a thrill to see sights that you know hardly anyone else has ever seen. Would I go back again? Yes! But just not at the end of summer when the bracken is so high!

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