A walk in the Orton Fells full of highlights including Sunbiggin Tarn, Little Asby Scar, the secretive Potts Valley and superb views from Nettle Hill.
|Parking:||Roadside, Sunbiggin Tarn|
|Route:||Download Route [GPX]|
For my second walk of the August Bank Holiday weekend, where I based myself at the Fat Lamb near Ravenstonedale, I chose this walk in the Orton Fells. Despite being in modern Cumbria and historical Westmorland, this unsung area was incorporated into the Yorkshire Dales National Park when the latter saw a substantial extension in August 2016.
I’ve enjoyed several walks in the area but prior to this walk I’d not yet been on to Little Asby Scar, the only notable summit in the Orton Fells I hadn’t visited. I planned the basic outline of the route only the night before, the main aim to visit not only Little Asby Scar but to also to revisit the lovely Potts valley.
“The sense of stepping back in time was enhanced by a couple of horse riders high above me on the skyline. Sadly modern times intruded a couple of minutes later when a helicopter passed overhead.”
The walk started from Sunbiggin Tarn on the high road between Raisbeck and Great Asby where there is plenty of verge parking below the cattle grid. The forecast had been for sunshine in the morning before clouding over in the afternoon. As it happened the opposite was the case.
Despite the heavy cloud Sunbiggin Tarn still looked beautiful surrounded by swathes of purple heather. From the road I took a path heading north-west through the heather to soon join the Dales High Way. Turning right on this for five minutes or so I reached a crossroad of paths.
Turning right I soon passed through a gate. Here I made a two minute detour to the left to visit Mitchell’s Stone. As I suspected it would be, Mitchell’s Stone proved to be a boulder of Shap granite next to the wall. The top of the stone had a miniature dry stone wall. I wonder if this had been constructed by Mitchell.
Returning to the path I continued on with good views back down to the tarn. I soon reached the road, further north than is depicted on the map. Turning left I walked over to a substantial and fairly new looking stone shelter. Carved into the side of the shelter were the words, ‘Moments gather into wood in this circle of land’s bones’. Alternatively it could be read ‘In this circle of land’s bones moments gather into wood’. Very mysterious!
Crossing over the road I followed a faint grassy path on to Little Asby Scar. Passing some nice limestone pavement I soon came to the grassy summit which was marked by a substantial cairn. It looked like it had been built some time ago and, at over seven feet high and visible from neighbouring fells it is slightly surprising it is not marked on the Ordnance Survey Explorer map.
From the summit I turned north on a good path. While there were numerous offshoots the way was fairly obvious and in no time at all I had joined a track along a wall which led me to the tiny settlement of Little Asby. Consisting of a handful of houses, a church which seems to have been converted into a dwelling, and a modest caravan park, Little Asby has to be one of the more remote settlements in the area.
From Little Asby I followed an enclosed lane before descending a couple of pasture to reach the Potts valley. Don’t be tempted by the gate upon reaching the beck, seek out the stile to the left which provides access to the footbridge. On the other side of the footbridge are the sad ruins of the farmhouse at Potts. Studying the ruins was a very old lady who was out for a walk. She told me that she remembered forty years earlier when the farm was still occupied.
Turning right I left the ruins behind me to head upstream. I had first visited the Potts valley on my birthday eight years ago. At the time I wrote that I would like to return one day and finally I had. It is a beautiful and remote little valley, a place that time forgot. The sense of stepping back in time was enhanced by a couple of horse riders high above me on the skyline. Sadly modern times intruded a couple of minutes later when a helicopter passed overhead.
As I walked down the valley the skies began to clear and substantial patches of blue sky began to appear overhead. Thanks to the improving weather I decided to make something of a detour on to Nettle Hill, the highest point of Crosby Garrett Fell up to my left. To do this I followed the path up to a ruined barn (with great views of Little Asby Scar) before taking another grassy track doubling back up to the left.
When this reached a sheepfold I turned east for a short pathless section to reach a bridleway. Passing through a gate I immediately left it to follow a quad track following an electric fence uphill. I know it was electrified because I couldn’t help but test it to make sure!
Leaving the quad track at the 370m contour I walked over the southerly 382m spot height to continue on to the trig point. Compared to my last visit to this spot the panorama was excellent. The North Pennines, Nine Standards Rigg, High Seat, Wild Boar Fell and the Howgills were all in view.
Returning back down the quad track to the gate I once again ignored the bridleway to make a beeline for Little Ewe Fell and Great Ewe Fell. Both were marked by cairns and had good retrospective views of Nettle Hill. Dropping down from Great Ewe Fell I ignored the option for heading for the bridleway to the south. Instead I crossed the road above the cattle grid to instead follow a thin path above Rayseat Sike.
Walking through some lovely purple heather I passed some very modest limestone outcrops of Rayseat before arriving at Raiset Pike. Marked simply as Long Cairn on the map this cairn has its origins as a Neolithic burial mound. The mound had obviously been excavated in the past and is now a ruin. For more information on this impressive structure visit the Pastscape website.
From Raiset Pike a thin path contoured around the 273m hillock to almost reach Sunbiggin Tarn. At the last moment it seemed to turn away so I crossed a small rise to bring the tarn into view. I was somewhat surprised to find a family having a barbecue at the small hut on the eastern shore of the tarn and two people on a boat on the tarn. Not sure how welcome my presence would be I turned right on a track. To return to the road I had to clamber over a low section of wall built where a gate was formerly sited to gain a thinner path slanting back up to the road.