#28 Langden Valley, Fair Snape Fell & Totridge

18 04 2011
18th April 2011
solo
11.8 miles
Explorer OL41 (Forest of Bowland & Ribblesdale)
Sunny, warm in the valley, windy on the fells

Langden Valley

Finally, I take on the toughest walk in the book. Having read in the book and online about the bogginess of Saddle Fell I had originally decided to tackle this walk later on in the year, but it has been warm and dry for about 3 weeks now, and there’s no guarantee of similar or better conditions in the summer. I  start off from the roadside parking at Sykes at 9am, and stroll leisurely past the former Preston Water Works and follow a neat gravelled path up the valley alongside Langden Brook. I come across a couple of twitchers looking for Ring Ouzels (they could hear them but hadn’t located them yet), but other than that I saw no one. I pass the deeply unimpressive Langden Castle (more of an outhouse) where Bleadale Water runs into LangdenBrook and continue on past, turning left onto an undulating path – with a number of boarded sections over boggy areas, descending until I come to the brook just after the confluence with Fiendsdale Water. I find an easy place to cross, and then turn south heading up the western side of Fiendsdale Nab; the path climbs steeply at first but then becomes a steady but manageable climb.

Fiendsdale

At one point the path has eroded away and there is a slightly hairy high-wire act to get safely across. Fiendsdale is quite different to the reasonably open Langden Valley, here the valley is incredibly steep and green, there’s an other worldliness to it.

Eventually I reach Fiendsdale Head and continue south encountering the first of many peat groughs, followed by a very boggy approach tot he fenceline I had been aiming for. I follow the fenceline east and then south-east before clambering through more peaty sections before reaching the top of the fell. I think this part may be called Wolf Fell rather than Fair Snape Fell – but anyway – it’s the highest point at 520 metres.

Here the book mentions an unnecessary diversion to a trig pillar to the south-west. At this point I am feeling good, and I estimate it’s a 20 minute round trip so I go for it. I under-estimated it! I elect to follow the path to the south of the fence line which was an error – there are many large groughs and after

A peat grough

circumnavigating them I reached a fence without a still, I threw my pack over the fence but then discovered the fence wasn’t robust enough to allow me to climb over – so I had to walk a few hundred yards south until I found a stile (near the path to Parlick Hill), and then retrace my steps back along the fence until I could recover my pack. From there it was a fairly short walk to the trig point and shelters, I elect to ignore the shelter and eat my lunch sat on a tuffet overlooking the low ground around Bleasdale and Whitechapel.

View north-east from Totridge

Having learned my lesson I return to the fell top along the northern side of the fence, which does only take about 10 minutes, and then walk alongside the fence heading west across Saddle Fell towards Totridge. This is the section that I’d heard was difficult, and it is, not only are there may huge peat groughs to cross or avoid – but the fence itself gets in the way, at times it is possible to clamber over the fence to use more favourable ground on the other side, but on other occasions the fence is too whippy to climb. A couple of times my foot went completely under the mud but fortunately my boots stayed on, leaping into and out of the groughs started to take its toll on my energy as well, the Saddle Fell section which is about the same length as the Langden Valley section took at least twice as long to navigate.

At last I reach the base of Totridge and start the gentle climb, the number and size of the peat bogs diminish – but on one of the last ones I come across I jump out of the bog only immediately to feel the muscle in my calf spasm. I sit quite still for 5 minutes and am relieved to feel the pain subside, and I self-diagnose a touch of cramp rather than any significant muscle damage. I spent those 5 minutes considering how lucky I had been, I shouldn’t have done this walk alone, if I had broken my ankle in one of the deeper groughs I’d have been stuck, I hadn’t seen anyone on Saddle Fell all day, and the mobile phone coverage was not good. I did have a whistle with me, but lying in the bottom of a grough – who would have heard me?

I recommence my journey up Totridge, it’s not long before I reach the trig point at the summit, and now I can see far below me the road at Hareden. It’s barren on top of Totridge and I need to consult my compass before figuring out which path I should take, the path starts off gently but then drops 200 metres, in less than 500 metres horizontally. A lot of this ‘path’ is grassy and would be a nightmare in wet conditions – but as it is it’s very dry and the descent goes without incident, although my knees ached by the time I reached the pastures of Hareden Farm.

The farm had one last test for me though, in crossing the fields I had to cross three small streams, the first was easy, but the second involved me sticking my feet into crevices at the bottom of the dry-stone wall – whilst my right hand held onto the top pf the wall, and my left held a stick planted in the boggy stream to support me, it was the closest I cam to falling in a bog all day. The third stream was a little easier than the second, but I lost the stopper from the bottom of my stick.

Streams successfully navigated I headed downhill through a field of sheep, joined the farm track which passed the rather pretty farm, before turning north onto a concessionary path beside the brook and hauled my very tired feet the last mile back to the car at Sykes. Very, very tired.

Elevation:

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