A glorious walk in Swaledale across Whitaside Moor visiting Pickerstone Ridge, numerous tarns and finishing with the lovely Crackpot Falls.
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It is a long time since I’d last visited this particular part of Swaledale. Back in 2005 I’d done a walk from above Grinton over Harker Hill to Pickerstone Ridge before returning via Apedale and Height of Greets. However I’d not yet explored the moor to the west of Pickerstone Ridge, something I was looking forward to since their are a number of tarns on Whitaside Moor.
Joining me again for this walk was Paul who has become a regular walking companion in the northern Dales. We started the walk from Isles Bridge, near Low Row, where there is room to park 2-3 cars on the south side of the bridge.
“While it was not quite the ‘Glorious 12th’ it was turning into the ‘Glorious 13th’ for me and Paul as we made our way across the purple heather moor in increasingly good weather. “
From the bridge we continued south to a t-junction, taking the left hand turn to Low Houses. Just beyond a house with an American-style post box we turned off the road to climb a grassy bridleway that led to the house at Birks End and the Askrigg to Grinton road. Within minutes of leaving Low Houses we were treated to increasingly good views up Swaledale.
Turning right we followed the road a short way before turning left on Apedale Road, a good track climbing up Whitaside Moor to Apedale Head. It had been a cloudy start to the day but as we climbed higher past old mine workings the skies began to break up and patches of sunshine started to appear.
At Apedale Head we left the track to follow the fence west up on to the unmarked and fairly unremarkable summit of Pickerstone Ridge. Lower cloud further west obscured some of the views of Wensleydale but we could still see Pen Hill, Addlebrough and West Burton. We could also see the Greenhaw shooting hut where the grouse shooters were beginning to gather.
While it was not quite the ‘Glorious 12th’ it was turning into the ‘Glorious 13th’ for me and Paul as we made our way across the purple heather moor in increasingly good weather. Our next objective was the tiny Aberdene Tarn which didn’t appear until we were virtually on top of it. Continuing along the fence we spotted another small tarn on Spring Ridge before turning north to reach the much larger Whitaside Tarn.
From Whitaside Tarn we walked to a nearby wall, descending the aptly named Tarn Brow we saw two tarns below us to the east. Before visiting these we first dropped down to the beacon on Scar Brow. On the way we passed one more tiny little tarn which I named Dogleg Tarn due to its distinctive shape.
The stone beacon provided a fine view east down Swaledale, dominating the view though was Blea Barf across the valley of Summer Lodge. We stopped for lunch at the beacon and were treated to a superb rainbow which kept appearing and disappearing on the road just below us. It was one of those places that we could have lingered all day and it was a real wrench to leave.
Heading east back along Scar Brow we passed some deposits of what looked like white quartz either side of a gate in the wall. Just beyond the wall we visited the two tarns we’d visited earlier as well as the site of what looked to have been a third tarn. From the tarns we kept going east to reach a shooting track. A waterfall marked on the map proved to be a trickle. Interestingly the stream disappeared underground at the foot of the falls. A short way further down the dry stream bed came to an abrupt end at two covered pot holes which must swallow the stream when it is in spate.
Following the track back down to the road we turned right where we had a great view of Calver Hill which dominates the Reeth section of Swaledale. Turning left at a signpost for Crackpot we also noted an additional sign warning of a difficult stream crossing. This was the first of three signs warning us of difficulties ahead.
Ironically the stream crossing proved to be the easiest part of the next stage of the walk. Firstly, we had to get down to the stream, something that was not straightforward as a fallen tree and general disuse made locating the path difficult. Once we’d crossed Haverdale Beck we were then faced with a steep muddy slope with still no sign of the path, despite both of our GPS’s showing us we were bang on the route.
Scrambling up the slope the gradient was just beginning to ease when we met our next obstacle, a 20m section of head high nettles! Making use of Paul’s walking poles we managed to beat our way through without getting stung too much. Finally we reached the road at Crackpot after what had been quite a little mini-adventure – one that Paul in particular relished. In all honesty though this part of the route is best avoided and the path from the bottom of Apedale Road to Haverdale Beck would be a wiser alternative.
Descending the road we then went in search of the waterfalls marked on the map. We’d visited a few supposed waterfalls over the course of the walk and all had been dry or a tiny trickle no more than a few feet hight. It was with some surprise therefore at how impressive this series of waterfalls are. I’ve since found out they are called Crackpot Falls and they are definitely ones that I would go back to. After visiting both the upper and lower falls the final section of the walk was an overgrown path alongside Haverdale Beck which led us back to the road below Isles Bridge.
This is a walk Paul and I had originally planned to do back in February. We’d postponed and did a walk up the Marske valley instead as the forecast hadn’t been good. I’m glad we did wait because, thanks to what ultimately turned into a beautiful sunny day, we were able to enjoy not only miles of purple heather but also that memorable rainbow from Scar Brow. A real day to remember!