A tough but rewarding circuit of the valley of Swin Hope climbing over Blackhill Edge, Dora's Seat, Fendrith Hill and Chapelfell Top.
|Parking:||Haswicks Car Park, Westgate|
|Route:||Download Route [GPX]|
In March 2007 my friend and I did a walk from Swinhopehead House over Chapelfell Top and Westernhope Moor. On the way back from Westernhope Moor we briefly discussed a detour to the trig point on Blackhill Edge. This would have added at least another two miles of rough walking to the route so I decided against it. The main purpose of this walk then was to finally, over 13 years later, bag the Black Hill trig point.
The starting point for the walk was the car park at Haswicks just across the river from Westgate. The car park is actually signposted from Westgate but the turn off into car park itself is not obvious. From the car park I walked south-east along the road passing the houses at East Haswicks. After a road junction I took a bridleway heading south to the houses at Swinhopeburn. Half-hidden in the trees near a bridge was an attractive waterfall.
"Although standing at the head of Swin Hope the views from Fendrith Hill very much favour Teesdale. In view there was a whole range of summits from Mickle Fell to Meldon Hill and Cross Fell."
Crossing over the bridge I continued climbing up the bridleway. After emerging from the enclosing trees I was soon treated to fine views up and down the dale. After taking a right hand turn the track continued in an almost dead straight climb to pass the farm at New Close. Not long after I came to a gate and on to open access land. Bearing left to a wall corner I then continued in a similar direction bearing left to reach a wall. Turning right I then followed this up on to Blackhill Edge. Over to the right there were some really grand views of Fendrith Hill and Chapelfell Top on the other side of Swin Hope.
Reaching a wall junction I found the trig point to be situated on the other side. There was no stile but I was able to find a sturdy section of wall with no barbed wire to climb over safely. From the trig point there was another great view across the top of Weardale Works towards Collier Law.
I'd initially planned on a shorter walk and either returning via the public footpath to Brotherlee at grid reference NY923365 or descend into Wester Hope and return along the track through Weardale Works. It was such a lovely day it seemed a shame to take the former option as it would make it quite a short walk. A glimpse down into Wester Hope showed a lot of parked cars near the head of the track which suggested there could be some shooting taking place.
Therefore I decided on a third, longer, alternative. This was to continue over Black Hill to reach the top of the Swinhope road and then walk over the top of Fendrith Hill and Chapelfell Top before descending on the other side of Swin Hope. In truth the idea had already come into my mind as I was climbing up Black Hill. The weather was so good that even Chapelfell Top looked inviting!
From the trig point I followed the wall south, keeping it on my right. A brief check to see if there was anything at the 564m spot height revealed only a small reedy pool. The ground underfoot, which had so far been good, began to deteriorate into tussocky ground interspersed with moister areas. One such area was around the small tarn to the left of the fence at NY908346. It was a short detour away from the fence but I'm a sucker for a moorland tarn so had to go and take a look.
Reaching the junction of wall and fence at NY905340 I kept contouring around bearing slightly to the right in an attempt to reach the road without losing too much height. This narrow road connects Newbiggin in Teesdale with Westgate in Weardale and reaches an altitude of almost 2000ft above sea level. Turning left I walked to the top of the road. After crossing over the cattlegrid I turned right to follow a thin path climbing gradually on to the minor bump of Dora's Seat. Negotiating the the increasing number of peat hags I noted the top of the ski tows on the right as I pressed on to reach the summit of Fendrith Hill.
Although standing at the head of Swin Hope the views from Fendrith Hill very much favour Teesdale. In view there was a whole range of summits from Mickle Fell to Meldon Hill and Cross Fell. The next stage of the walk was the trickiest. Climbing over the nearby fence I followed it northwards. Shadowing the fence is a wide shallow ditch. At times the going was easier walking in the ditch and at other times it was definitely easier not to! Eventually the nearby fence turned left but I continued following the ditch a short while further. I then navigated to the unmarked 703m spot height. Looking further north across the eroded peat I could see a pile of stones. Carefully making my way to them I also saw another small pile of stones near a wooden stake.
All of these points are of near similar height so I chose the cairn for my 'summit' photo. Returning to the 'ditch' I followed it round to the north-east. After a short section where it faded it reappeared in a much more pleasant grassy form. Over to the right there were good views back to Blackhill Edge. At about NY881351 I left the ditch to descend the open moor aiming for a rusty gate at NY886357. Passing over this I then followed a broken wall to reach a gate providing access to a wide reedy track.
Descending past a small reservoir the track improved underfoot and provided more lovely views of Weardale. After the track had taken a left hand turn I turned right on another track. This led me to the road between Daddryshield and Haswicks. Turning right I walked to a crossroads where I turned left. Dropping down to the river I crossed at a footbridge for a walk through Westgate, finally crossing back over the river via the road bridge to return to the car park.
This had been a tough but hugely enjoyable walk. The views from Blackhill Edge and finally bagging the trig point on Black Hill were an obvious highlight. Although the rest of the walk was rough underfoot it was good to take advantage of the good weather for some proper high level walking. In fact Chapelfell Top, at 703m above sea level, is the highest point I've reached this year.