Black Fell

Black Fell

Black Fell is a hill on the East Fellside of the North Pennines situated to the north of the Hartside Pass, the highest point of the A686 between Penrith and Alston.

Height (m): 664
Height (ft): 2178
Prominence (m): 89
Classification: Hewitt, Nuttall
Hill No: 2744
Grid Ref: NY648444
OS Map OL31
No. of Visits 1, 2, 3

Black Fell is situated right on the Pennine watershed. It stands at the head of Gilderdale Burn to the east and overlooks the Eden valley to the west. Gilderdale Burn is a subsidiary of the River South Tyne which eventually joins the River North Tyne on its way to flowing out into the North Sea. The fell is drained to the west by Loo Gill, Raven Beck and Croglin Water all of which feed into the River Eden. A glance at the map shows that the source of Croglin Water is only a stone throw away from the summit of Black Fell.

Black Fell from the bridleway descending alongside Loo Gill
Black Fell from the bridleway descending alongside Loo Gill

Thanks to the car park at the summit of the Hartside Pass, Black Fell is actually one of the easier North Pennine mountains to visit. From the top of the pass it is a simple case of following the wall and fence north all the way to the summit. I say easy because walking on the high ground in the North Pennines is never really easy underfoot.

Black Fell from the fence near Tom Smith's Stone
Black Fell from the fence near Tom Smith’s Stone

Still it is easier than approaching over the peaty hags and groughs from Tom Smith’s Stone to the north. Thankfully I’ve never had to do it in really wet conditions, nor would I really want to. The first time I did it the ground was frozen, it was so cold my friend and I even came across a grouse that had frozen to death. On another occasion it wasn’t too bad but the fact that Woldgill Tarn is now nothing more than a bright green bog probably tells you all you need to know about the ground underfoot.

An example of the peaty terrain encountered between Black Fell and Tom Smith's Stone
An example of the peaty terrain encountered between Black Fell and Tom Smith’s Stone

Other approaches include a long walk up the valley of Gilderdale. There isn’t much in the way of a path and not all of it is actually in open access land. I came down that way once and it is a most desolate place – more so because it rained most of the time. Other than the direct route from Hartside the other route I’ve found okay is over Thack Moor and Watch Hill. For the most part it is on easy grass and manages to avoid the worst of the peat encountered a bit further to the east.

My friend Matt on our first visit to Black Fell
My friend Matt on our first visit to Black Fell

My first visit to Black Fell was in snow and hill fog and my friend and I could barely see further than a few metres. Later that same year I had a much better experience of Black Fell on a super walk from Renwick. Even on that occasion though it was dark brooding presence and the fell seems well named. On my most recent visit the blue skies I’d enjoyed on my way up to Grey Nag had long since disappeared by the time I reached Black Fell. Indeed, literally the moment I touched the trig point it started raining.

The trig point on Black Fell looking towards Cross Fell
The trig point on Black Fell looking towards Cross Fell

The summit is marked by an Ordnance Survey trig point which was built in 1951. Apart from a fence, and what looks like a random metal post, it is the only feature on the summit. The long distance views are excellent and on a good day extend from the Lakeland fells to the west all the way to The Cheviot over 50 miles away to the north-east.


Black Fell Walks

18th February 2019 – Distance: 10.5 miles: Gilderdale Bridge – Epiacum – Little Heaplaw – Great Heaplaw – Grey Nag – Tom Smith’s Stone Top – Black Fell – Watcher’s Hilll – Gilderdale Burn – Gilderdale Bridge.
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28th August 2011 – Distance: 10.3 miles: Renwick – Thack Moor – Watch Hill – Black Fell – Hartside Height – Hartside Cafe – Selah Bridge – Haresceugh Castle – Raven Bridge – Renwick.
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21st February 2011 – Distance: 14 miles: Alston Youth Hostel – Pennine Way – Whitley Common – Grey Nag – Tom Smith’s Stone Top – Black Fell – Hartside Height – Benty Hill – Horse Edge – Park Fell – The Wardway – Alston Youth Hostel.
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