An enjoyable exploration of the Warcop Range visiting two little know hills, Tinside Rigg and Long Fell, that have recently been promoted to the list of Nuttalls.
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Compared to previous years I hadn’t managed to get out walking anywhere near as much as I would have liked to have done in 2018. A combination of ill health, poor weather and other commitments were the main contributing factors. However, for the first time this year I was able to get out for a third weekend in a row. Ironically therefore I couldn’t decide what to do.
In the end, at quarter to midnight the night before, I decided to check whether the Warcop Range was having an access day. When I saw that it was it finally made my mind up to do this walk. The twin aims of the walk were to revisit Tinside Rigg and Long Fell. I’d originally done them in May 2014. In the meantime they had been re-surveyed and both found to meet the requirements to be included on the Nuttall list of English mountains. This being the case I wanted to go back and get some better photos than my previous visit when conditions were rather grey.
“In addition to the views other highlights were coming across the ruined remains of an armoured car and then, quite high up the path, a tank. “
Perhaps it was because I didn’t make my mind up until quite late in the day but I was uncharacteristically disorganised. Upon arrival at Hilton it was to discover that not only had I left my rucksack at home but my camera as well. Thankfully I’d bought myself some lunch when I’d stopped for petrol on the way. I also had my phone for taking photos and navigating and my Tilley hat for keeping the sun off my balding pate. Most importantly I also had my walking boots which generally live in the car.
So it was that I set off from the small parking area at the road end in Hilton. I must have looked slightly eccentric as I set off for a day out on the hills with a cheap plastic carrier bag with my food and water in it. Leaving Hilton I joined an enclosed lane heading south-east. Looking up to the left I was slightly concerned at the low cloud hanging over Roman Fell but as I continued this began to break up and ultimately I enjoyed a beautiful day.
I tend to find that sheep are usually quite timid. Occasionally a whole flock may follow you in the hope that you are the farmer come to feed them. For the most part though they generally run away or urinate when you get too close. For some reason some of the ewes I passed were extremely interested in the contents of my carrier bag. So enthusiastic was one particular character that she almost knocked me over as I was using a stile, so eager was she to discover the contents of my bag!
While I’ve visited the Warcop range several times before I’ve always kept to the high ground well away from the main activity of the range. On this occasion though my route took me right down through the main area. It was deserted, as to be expected with it being an access day. It was quite a fascinating little journey, over the next few miles I came across bunkers, two moving target ranges, towers and warning signs such as ‘Danger – Laser hazard’!
The only awkward section was connecting the rights of way between Hag Lane and Hayber Lane. Ideally I would have used Pinsent Way, a road in the range but as this was not an actual right of way I had to brave a section of road walking along the A66. As you will know this is a very busy road with lots of trucks. Fortunately there was just enough verge for me to feel safe. Still, I was very relieved when I could finally escape on to Hayber Lane.
The gradual ascent up Hayber Lane was fantastic. With the Warcop fells now ahead of me it was a great line of approach. In addition to the views other highlights were coming across the ruined remains of an armoured car and then, quite high up the path, a tank. This had clearly been up there a long time and even had gorse growing out of the turret.
Beyond the tank the path passed below Middle Fell to climb up into the increasingly interesting surrounds of Warcop Scarth. Beyond a track the bridleway began to fade somewhat. Initially following the odd waymarker I decided to make a beeline for Dogber Tarn, one of the few named tarns in the North Pennines that I hadn’t yet visited. It proved to be a small but attractive sheet of water and it was here that I stopped to eat some of my lunch and reduce the wait of the carrier bag!
From Dogber Tarn I followed the course of the bridleway heading north-west. The path was virtually invisible so once again I decided the easiest course of action was to strike out directly for my next objective – Tinside Rigg. This was achieved easily enough, a small pile of stones marking the summit. A few yards away there was a stone shelter whilst the view was completely dominated by the higher ground of Little Fell to the north.
From Tinside Rigg it was an easy walk to its near neighbour Long Fell. Along the way I passed a number of shell casings and a flare. One exploded shell was particularly noteworthy situated as it was on the 622m spot height on Long Fell. Needless to say that you need to be careful where you are putting your feet and that these shells should not be touched or moved.
The summit of Long Fell was marked by another small pile of stones. Also of interest in the summit area was some modest limestone pavement. From the top of Long Fell my original plan had been to return to the bridleway and descend into Swindale. However, on my climb up to Warcop Scarth I’d noticed some large cairns sat on the edge of Longfell Pike. These looked too good to leave out so I went off in search of them. They were found easily enough and from the cairns there was a superb view over the Stainmore / Warcop area.
Leaving Longfell Pike I decided to next make for Roman Fell. To do this I walked north-west above the rim of crags. It was a superb section of walking which makes it all the more a shame that not only is it not accessible most of the year but that technically I shouldn’t have even done this as it is not on a right of way.
Dropping down to the col with Roman Fell I climbed up the latter on fairly rough heathery ground. Roman Fell is one of the shapeliest fells in the North Pennines and is another ‘forbidden’ summit. Ironically then it became the first North Pennine top that I’d visited three times. The summit is marked by a large cairn and a sprawling stone shelter. The finest views are to be had from Roman Fell Scar to the north, a quite spectacular spot overlooking Scordale.
The descent from Roman Fell was a very steep one. I made my way very carefully down from Slape Stones to High Hause. I had once climbed up this way and I’d forgotten how steep the gradients were. Certainly I think it is probably preferable to climb up, rather than come down, by that route.
Eventually though I reached High Hause from where the going got gradually easier. Descending over Low Hause I soon reached the Hilton to Scordale track. Turning left on this it was then an easy and very pleasant couple of miles back to Hilton.
This had been a superb day out with lots of interest. The contrast between the military relics and the natural scenery was particularly notable. My phone did me proud in terms of taking pictures. Walking around with a carrier bag wasn’t ideal but got easier as the load lightened. The only thing I truly missed was my sun cream as testified by my sunburnt arms!