The top of Watch Hill

Thack Moor & Holl Gill

Walk Summary

A walk from Renwick up on to Watch Hill and then Thack Moor before a more roundabout but interesting return via Holl Gill, Clint Lane and Scale Houses.

Distance: 8.5 miles
Total ascent: 1900ft
Walk Rating: ****
Parking: Roadside, Renwick
Route: Download Route [GPX]

Photo Gallery

Walk Report

It was getting towards the end of my week in Armathwaite. I’d done a number of fine walks over the course of the holiday but with the forecast again promising for Friday I wanted to fit another one in. At the same time I also needed to make sure I spent a good portion of the day with my family. I therefore came up with a plan to get up early and go for a walk first thing, return to the cottage for lunch, and then head out with Lisa and Rhiannon in the afternoon to Talkin Tarn.

I meant to get up at 7am and aimed to get to Renwick for an 8am start. Unfortunately I had trouble sleeping and was wide awake at 5.30am. Unable to get back to sleep I got up, had my breakfast and was at Renwick just after 6.30am. Needless to say it was quiet at that time, especially as it was Good Friday. I hadn’t passed any traffic on the 15 minute drive from Armathwaite either. I had however had to avoid plenty of pheasants! Indeed I can’t remember seeing so many loitering on and by the roadside.

“When viewed from the flanks of Blotting Raise the side valley of Holl Gill looks dramatic. It was even more so from a point just off the track at a sudden reveal.”

It is nearly eight years since the last time I walked up on to Thack Moor. At the time both Thack Moor and its near neighbour Watch Hill were both in the Dewey class of fells (hills over 500m). In April 2013 however G&J Surveys found that the height of Thack Moor was 609.65m. That 0.65m made all the difference as it meant that in imperial style Thack Moor was 2,000ft high – in other words it was now an English mountain.

On my previous visit I’d taken a track from Renwick which points almost directly to the summit. This time, for a bit of variety, I wanted to try a different route both on the way up and the way down. Therefore, instead of taking the direct track I carried on along an enclosed track over Green Rigg. The sun had already risen above Black Fell and I was casting a long shadow back along the track. Unfortunately the haze that had obscured the view across to the Lake District all week was once again present and correct.

Coming to a fork at grid reference NY611442 I took the left hand option. This slanted uphill at an easy gradient with good views south towards Fiend’s Fell and Melmerby Fell. Passing an area of newly planted saplings the path began to level out. On the map the path is shown to go only as far as a wall or fence on the other side of Great Stockdale Beck. I decided to leave it a bit earlier, before crossing the stream, via a clear quad track heading uphill. This later faded and so I contoured my way round to the corner of the wall and fence at grid reference NY622485. From there it was an easy walk up to Watch Hill.

Sadly when Thack Moor was promoted to a mountain Watch Hill was demoted from the list of Deweys as it was found to not quite attain 30m of prominence. This is a shame as it is a fine top. The highest point is not at the 602m spot height on the map but at the currick to the west. Embedded in the currick is a faded memorial plaque.

From Watch Hill a good path headed west along the top of the broad ridge heading for Thack Moor. On arrival at another wall corner I decided to follow the left hand (south) side of the wall as that is the side the trig point is to be found. It is worth noting that the exact highest point, which is unmarked, is on the north side of the wall. The two points are barely metres away though and I preferred to get a picture of the trig point.

Having taken the requisite trig point photos I squeezed through a gap in the neighbouring corner of wall and fence. I then began following the wall downhill. After a short distance a slightly collapsed section of wall helped me gain the north side and a grassy track. I followed this all the way down over Peel Dod to a gate at grid reference NY606474. All along this section of descent I had good views of Blotting Raise and the valley of Croglin Water.

Passing through the gate I continued on a firmer track until reaching the scant remains of a wall at grid reference NY599470. Here I followed the remains of the wall before heading for the nearby disused mine. There was not much evidence of a mine though there were a couple of sheds of wood and corrugated iron. From there a good track continued on to emerge suddenly above Holl Gill in the vicinity of Clint Quarries.

When viewed from the flanks of Blotting Raise the side valley of Holl Gill looks dramatic. It was even more so from a point just off the track at a sudden reveal. I loitered here for a while enjoying the morning sunshine before continuing on a track descending towards the top of Clint Lane. Just before reaching the latter I made a detour up to the left to take a look at an old kiln.

The next section was simple descent along the dead straight Clint Lane. After a while I finally left open access land and joined the public right of way. When this left Clint Lane I too followed it across sheep pastures to arrive at the quiet hamlet of Scale Houses.

As I was passing through a gate on to the little road running through the hamlet I was hailed by an older gentleman in the cottage called The Granary immediately above the gate. I expected to say a quick hello and then continue on my way. I was most surprised then when I was invited in for a cup of tea! Although I initially tried to decline he was most insistent. Somewhat bemused I gave in and followed him into his house. Here I was given a cup of tea and a Tunnocks caramel bar.

My host Stuart also introduced me to his neighbour Richard, a dog called Bee and a lady whose name I am sorry to say I can’t remember. Suddenly finding myself in someone’s house talking to strangers is one of the more surreal experiences I’ve had whilst out walking. That said I really enjoyed it and would have stayed longer if I hadn’t had to be back in Armathwaite for 11.30am. So if you read this Stuart – thank you! I’ll pop in again next time I’m walking past.

From Scale Houses it was then an easy walk back in to Renwick. Initially this was via an enclosed path before finally crossing a number of pastures. All in all this was a most enjoyable walk. It was certainly a worthy alternative route to my previous visit to Thack Moor. Once again my only grumble was the haze hanging over the Eden Valley. Considering that I’d spent a whole week in Cumbria and it hadn’t rained I suppose I should really grumble!

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