Murton Fell is a broad hill situated between two spectacular valleys, High Cup to the north and Scordale to the south.
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It is probably safe to say that High Cup Gill, the spectacular glacial valley that bites deep into the northern flanks of Murton Fell is much better known than Murton Fell itself. Probably only a small percentage of walkers who gaze down at the valley from High Cup Nick bother to visit the summits of Murton Fell to the south or Backstone Edge to the north. This is a shame as Murtonn Fell rewards those who divert from the beaten track to explore it in more depth.
High Cup Gill is not the only valley that cuts into Murton Fell. To the south is Scordale, very different in character to High Cup Gill but in its own right a mightily impressive valley. It was once a major centre of lead mining in the area. The mines employed both locals and from those further afield. According to one of the information panels dotted in and above the valley there were once 200 German miners employed in Scordale.
Whilst many of the miners lived in the nearby villages others lived in temporary accommodation closer to the mines. One example of this is High Shop. The remains of High Shop can be found via a path slanting south-west out of Scordale heading for Mell Fell, the terminus of one of Murton Fell’s broad ridges.
Unfortunately Scordale, and indeed the eastern section of Murton Fell, lie within the boundary of the Warcop Range. Access is only allowed on designated non-firing weekends. These are advertised in advance and can be found on a government website. Were it not for the restrictive access I believe Scordale would be much better known that it currently is.
Two other valleys can also be found on the western side of Murton Fell, between High Cup Gill and Scordale. These are Gasdale and Trundale. Separating the two is Murton Pike, a subsidiary summit of Murton Fell and very different in character.
Murton Fell is situated on the main Pennine watershed. The streams of Scordale, Gasdale, Trundale and High Cup all find their way into the River Eden. To the east the flanks of Murton Fell are much less well defined and drop gradually down to the wilderness of the upper reaches of Maize Beck. The latter stream finds its way down to the River Tees below Cow Green Reservoir and the cataracts of Cauldron Snout.
The highest point of Murton Fell is 675m but there are four separate 670m contour lines running north to south. The highest point is the second from the south, or the third if approaching from the north. The southernmost 670m contour line is actually within the boundary of the Warcop Range. In a shallow col between the summit and this 670m contour line is a tarn. It seems to be unnamed but for the sake of ease I call it Murton Tarn. A further tarn can be found to the north-west of the summit.
The highest point is marked by a small pile of stones in a sea of moorland grass and heather. The view lacks any real depth but is good for appraising the likes of Mickle Fell, Little Fell and Meldon Hill.
The north top has a 673m spot height and a currick which is much more impressive than the summit itself. When I came across it I was delighted to find it shaped like a high backed seat, not unlike that found on the summit Lovely Seat in the Yorkshire Dales. Numerous other cairns, large and small can be found dotted around the upper reaches of Murton Fell.
There are no paths as such that visit the summit. Probably the easiest approach is a beeline from the bridleway climbing up from Murton before skirting the summit plateau on its way to High Cup Nick. An approach from the head of Scordale to the south encounters some very peaty terrain, best avoided after a wet spell.
Murton Fell Walks
3rd October 2015 – Distance: 10.4 miles: Murton – Hilton – Hilton Beck – Scordale – Mell Fell – Murton Fell – Murton Pike – Murton.
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13th November 2007 – Distance 7.7 miles: Murton – Trundale Gill – High Cup Gill – High Cup Nick – Murton Fell – Murton Pike – Murton.
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