An easier than expected tramp on the moorland heights above Renwick visiting the summits of Thack Moor and Black Fell.
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My first and only previous visit to Black Fell was part of a gruelling 14 mile hike in wintry conditions back in February. Visibility was so poor that all I can remember seeing of the fell was the fence, the trig point and lots of peat hags. Therefore when I was planning a route to visit Thack Moor and Watch Hill I decided to extend it by a few more miles so I could revisit Black Fell and see what I'd missed the first time round.
This time round I started from Renwick, one of a number of small villages tucked in the shadows of the East Fellside of the North Pennines. The climb up on to Thack Moor, initially on a good track before it deteriorated into a thin, marshy trod, was easily accomplished. Thack Moor, which falls short of the 2000ft mark by a matter of inches, is a fantastic viewpoint by virtue of its position, standing as it does to the west of the main moorland ridge. (Note: Since I did this walk Thack Moor was re-surveyed and has become England's newest mountain).
"I don't think I've ever had to cross such a long stretch of reedy pasture and bog in one go. At times the reeds were up to chest height and when it began to rain things got quite unpleasant."
Despite the cloud overhead I could see numerous Lake District summits including the unmistakeable profile of Blencathra. Across the flat plain of north Cumbria I could see Criffel beyond the Solway Firth. Northwards past Cold Fell I could also make out the silhouette of a range of hills which must have been the Lowther and Moffat Hills.
From Thack Moor I enjoyed an easier than expected walk across the moors on to Black Fell. It certainly proved to be a lot less arduous than the peaty terrain that is encountered on the approach via Tom Smith's Stone. Along the way I passed over Watch Hill which had a cairn and small memorial plaque which is now faded and barely legible. For the whole of this section, and indeed the entire walk, the views west towards the Lakes were superb. Shortly before reaching the top of Black Fell I could also make out the faint, but unmistakeable, outline of The Cheviot over 50 miles away to the north east.
From Black Fell I headed south for the summit of the A686. I hadn't initially planned to visit the Hartside Top Café that sits by the summit of the road but as the wind was so cold I decided to treat myself to a cup of tea and a scone. Popular with motorists, bikers and cyclists the Hartside Top Café is the highest in England and boasts a wonderful view across the Eden Valley to the Northern Fells of the Lake District.
Having warmed myself through with a cup of tea I began the prolonged descent back to Renwick which was achieved through a mixture of bridleways and minor roads all of which are part of the National Cycle Route No.7 and the cycling Coast to Coast route. At the tiny settlement of Haresceugh I went to have a look at the remains of Haresceugh Castle. All I found was a very unimpressive section of broken down wall. Apparently most of the stonework from the castle was used to build the nearby farm.
It had been forecast for sunshine and showers. In reality I had about 30 seconds and sunshine and a two minute shower. For the most part it was very cloudy, windy and cold (at least for August). Despite this, and the being chased by some cows in the penultimate field before reaching Renwick, I had a really good walk. Long distance visibility was excellent and the ground underfoot was surprisingly easy by North Pennine standards. Black Fell is the first North Pennine summit I have been to twice and on this evidence I'm sure there will be a third time.