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" Swindale and the Waterfalls "
Date & start time: Thursday 26th July 2012, 2.10 pm start.
Location of Start : The cattle grid, Swindale Foot near Shap, Cumbria, Uk ( NY 521 142 )
Places visited : Swindale Lane, Truss Gap Farm, Swindale Head Farm, the Swindale Falls.
Walk details : 6.1 mls, 1000 ft of ascent, 4 hours 20 mins.
Highest point : Top of the falls at 1325 ft - 408 m.
Walked with : Jo, Ann and the dogs, Amber, Harry and Bethan.
Weather : Overcast with some glimpses of sunshine.
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Out with Jo again on a low level walk to see some high level waterfalls.
Swindale is almost "a valley time forgot" and we walk back in time to see the falls at the head of the valley.
Swindale is the valley next to Haweswater which has the large reservoir feeding the Midlands with drinking water.
The building we passed on the way into the valley was a water board filter house, so there must be some collection of water from this valley too.
After all, the main pipeline from Haweswater doesn't travel this way . . . it tunnels under Tarn Crags and south down Longsleddale.
Parking for the valley is now non-existent and so we are requested to park on the roadside about quarter of a mile before Swindale Foot Farm.
No problem . . . plenty of spaces. Our walk will have more road walking than normal but we knew that before we started.
Above the weir is the farm of Truss Gap.
The footbridge carries the bridleway across the river. The track then climbs up and over the fells to Wetsleddale, the next valley south.
There could be parking here for cars but the farmer is using it for his farm machinery.
No great problem about that as it makes the valley a car-free environment (apart from the few locals who live here).
For a flat valley walk we climbed steadily up the fellside and over a slight crest, to descend to the second farm at Swindale Head.
This was effectively the end of the tarmac road in the valley.
Swindale Head also marks the southern end of the Old Corpse Road over from Mardale.
However, today we are carrying straight on up the valley, taking the bridleway heading for another of Lakeland's Mosedale valleys.
The other feature of Swindale Head Farm today was that the farmer was using the enclosed lane as a sheep pen !
It took a quiet, measured approach to allow the sheep to pass us and the dogs, without getting either of them spooked.
From here we really felt we were in a valley that time forgot. The tarmac had gone and the farm buildings and barns
looked as if they hadn't been modified since the time they were built all those years ago. There's no electricity up here for the last of the homes
which I understand is lived in by a local potter, though there was nothing to suggest his hobby or trade as we passed his house.
Still, he had a nice looking vegetable garden with what looked like a good supply of potatoes on the go.
Old walls and a delightfully meandering track took us onwards.
Harry still supporting one red foot, a home-made gortex bootie to protect his foot pad from pieces of small gravel.
His pad is growing back really well and we don't want him to set his injury back at this stage.
All round are a circle of high crags, as we walk along a bank of glacial moraine that has stood here since the last ice age.
A rather damp valley floor as the delightfully named Hobgrumble Gill descends steeply and crosses the valley from the slopes of Sellside.
To use a topical analogy, the head of the valley is like an olympic amphitheatre without the olympics !
It is beautifully round and our elevated path is like walking around the top level of a small grandstand and looking down on the track below.
The likelihood is that it was a lake just after the ice age (presumably when Hob was grumbling about the lack of snow for skiing due to global warming).
Now the moraine around his lake has been breached and the water has drained away to leave a rather damp looking valley floor.
On our left hand side the main river curves round to carry us on towards the main falls at the head of the valley.
There must be very few places in the Lakes where such an extensive and elevated path such as this can be walked.
Looking back down the valley, across the river, the moraine and the higher outcrop of The Knott.
The crescent shaped nature of our walk today can be seen, though the light is poor, a bit "flat" as some people would describe it.
Still, there is a bit of sunshine about as we leave the farmer's track and find our way across the rather damp ground.
Ahead are the waterfalls we have seen several times on previous occasions from Sellside and Branstree,
but never in close-up as we would be doing today.
With a later start and a long walk in, this flat area at the lower falls
would make a great place for a slightly later lunch.
Evidence of the old wooden footbridge mentioned in the pictorial guide.
The wood looked very rotten and no doubt the flood levels have been high enough to cause its demise.
Feeling suitably refreshed we started our climb up along the waterfalls starting with the second pool.
Each of these cataracts and falls would make an impressive sight on its own
but here numerous cascades tumble down the fellside from Mosedale above, the river dropping over four hundred feet in the process.
Harry and Bethan are eager to continue on up as I stop for a photo.
Time enough for two photos of the falls.
Hold your cursor over the picture to make time stand still.
The river was an absolute delight to explore as it pounded its way down between the boulders.
Deep in a wooded ravine another forty foot cascade fills a round plunge pool.
Walking up through the damp grass I nearly stepped on this rather nice lizard.
My guess, but I'm no expert, is that it was a female common lizard due to its tail and greener colour.
He (she) was placed on a rock and stayed long enough for a second photo.
I called Jo down for a view of the largest of the upper waterfalls.
Another deep pool alongside a forty foot cliff, the cascade extending much further above.
It is surprising what catches the eye when you stop a while and just look.
Nearing level ground now with one last display.
From here on, Swindale changes its name to Mosedale
and the river stretches back to its source on Branstree and the sides of the Sleddale Fells.
Time to turn and re-trace our steps back down to the valley below.
Once more down past that impressive wall on the opposite bank.
below us, the now familiar shapes of the drumlins and moraines in Swindale Valley
and the spot where we enjoyed our lunch earlier.
Couldn't resist it . . . a swim in the bottom pool before we left for home.
The water was cool but not as cool as expected, the mild summer and slow moving water in the upper valley obviously helping
to counteract the cooling effects of such a sudden and dramatic entry into the lower valley.
Jo managed to cool her feet but perhaps a desire for a higher temperatures prevented her indulging herself further.
Well the sun did make another appearance, just in time for our leaving.
Sheep grazing the high ground as we make our way back past Hobgrumble Falls.
There just remained the walk back down the valley past the old barns.
Back to where we had negotiated our way past the sheep earlier.
A mile and a half (or thereabouts) of road walk would bring us back to the cars after an interesting walk up this ancient valley.
- - -o o o - - -
Ann looks a little surprised as I rise to record our excellent diner in The Mardale Inn @ St Patrick's Well
If you are visiting either Swindale of Haweswater than make sure you leave time to call in at this fine pub and sample their home cooked menu.
Ann and Jo had Emergency Cod and Chips (made with Emergency Beer batter that is) and mine was a superb en-croute vegetarian dish
of mushroom, cauli and broccoli flavoured with the local Withnail blue cheese.
- - - o o o - - -
Heading back to home now and the high cloud seems to be much lighter north of the A66
and the evening sun is starting to colour the sky.
Skiddaw from the Knoble Knott layby on Whinlatter Pass.
The Ospreys will have a clear evening if they fancy doing a bit of late fishing for their youngster.
Home now and the sky is ablaze with the low sun catching the clearing skies.
This is the wide panorama from our cottage on the roadside with Carling Knott in silhouette
round to the raised ground of Low Fell off to the right.
A final burst of colour before the sun set over the Solway Coast away behind the trees.
- - - o o o - - -
Technical note: Pictures taken with either Ann's Canon Sureshot SX220, my Canon G10 or 1100D SLR digital cameras.
Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.
This site best viewed with . . .the sound of roaring water.
Previous walk - 22nd July 2012 Caravans and Little Mell Fell
A previous time in the area - 3rd July 2010 Selside, Branstree and Harter Fell
Next walk - 2nd August 2012 The Garden and a Binsey Ascent