All about Wild Boar Fell
The upper reaches of the Eden Valley is overlooked by the most distinctive geographical feature in the dale: Wild Boar Fell. On maps of yore it was referred to as ‘Wilbert’s Fell’ so the name is probably a derivation of that and nothing to do with boar at all. That was quite reassuring given that I was planning to camp on it.
In its shadow lies Mallerstang, on the border of Yorkshire and Cumbria. ‘Mallerstang’ – that’s a good old English name. I’ve looked into the etymology of ‘Mallerstang’ and found a few different tales. One from The History and Traditions of Mallerstang Forest and Pendragon Castle mentions ‘Mallard Stank’ which translates as ‘pool of the Mallard’. Even though the pool has long since disappeared the name stuck.
The fell’s profile can be seen many miles down the Eden Valley to the north, its millstone grit crags giving it a distinctive profile. On the other side, Wild Boar Fell’s western flanks are nowhere near as impressive as they gently slope down to meet Sally Beck, a tributary of the River Rawthay. I’ve never been to the summit from this side as on a map it looks like a dull plod. However the climb out of the Eden Valley is anything but. Its not too difficult a climb either as its summit only 2323ft (708m) above sea level.
And a final point in Wild Boar Fell’s favour is that in 2016 it was included in the extension to the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Its still not in Yorkshire proper though but its a start. These things take time.
Circular walk from Cotegill Bridge via Wild Boar Fell and Swarth Fell
My favourite route up Wild Boar Fell starts from Cotegill Bridge which spans the Settle-Carlisle railway line. From there the route is an anti-clockwise loop taking in both Wild Boar Fell and its neighbour Swarth Fell. In total its about 7.5 miles long.
There are a few spots in which to park a car on the south side of Cotegill Bridge. On the May day I chose to do the walk I arrived late on in the afternoon and there were plenty of cars parked there. I still managed to find a space though. I suspect the vantage point from the bridge attracts plenty of trainspotters.
Plus the view of Wild Boar Fell from here worth pausing for.
Wild Boar Fell from Cotegill Bridge
In all honesty this photo was taken the morning after my night out. When I arrived it was late in the day and the sun was to the west, behind Wild Boar Fell. Plus there were plenty of cars so setting up my tripod on the road wouldn’t have been very clever! I made a mental note to get the shot when I came down the morning after and this was the result.
My chosen route was to go up the right hand side of the fell in the photo, camp on the plateau on top and then come down the left hand side via Swarth Fell.
From Cotegill Bridge to the Stone Men of Wild Boar Fell
With no time to spare and a climb to do I strode northwards along the road towards nearby Aisgill Farm. On passing the farm I left the road and followed the dry stone wall which contours the fell crossing Mallerstang Common.
The path across Mallerstang Common
Some handy sinkholes on the left ensured that I didn’t stray too far from the wall and path.
Sinkholes alongside the path across the common with Swarth Fell on the skyline
When the dry stone wall turned right I kept the same line across the open moorland, through a small area of limestone pavement. Ahead of me I spotted a grassy track cutting up onto the summit ridge of Wild Boar Fell. This short climb lead me to High Dolpinsty (not a clue why its called that – no dolphins to be seen here!). From this point on route-finding is a doddle: turn left and follow the ridge to the top.
Wild Boar Fell from High Dolphinsty
As soon as I reached the ridge where it was more exposed, the wind picked up. A lot. I made a mental note to reassess my cunning plan of pitching a tent on the plateau when I got there. In the meantime I just did my best to stay on my feet!
Following the track parallel to the escarpment the top is soon reached and the Stone Men can be seen. I say ‘the top’ but in fact the real top is off to the west (or right) and is marked by a trig point. For now I headed for the distinctive cairns for which Wild Boar Fell is famous.
Sunset from the summit plateau of Wild Boar Fell
The last time I’d been up here was on a daytime walk in 2012 so I was familiar with the landscape. I know I could have just taken the same photos as before but wanted to try a few different angles too. Even so I saw something different straight away. Back in March 2012 I took the following photo of the Stone Men.
The Stone Men in 2012
And six years on in summer of 2017 the same view looked like this:
The Stone Men in 2018
Spot the difference! My immediate thought was that it was vandalism but, right on cue, a passing local fell runner stopped for a chat. His theory was that winter storms would have done the damage as winds up here can exceed 100mph. I much prefer that explanation.
Having waved the fell runner goodbye I set about trying to recreate the missing cairn. However on realising I had no dry stone walling skills whatsoever I changed tack and carried on taking photos. My favourite of the batch I took was this one:
With the light fading it was time to pitch my tent. I’d already spotted a decent patch of grass not that far away, away from the edge of the fell: I didn’t want to roll over in my sleep and end up in the valley below!
Thankfully the wind died down for a short time allowing me to manage it without too much trouble. And that left me with some time to chill out and watch the sun set. There are a number of small tarns on the summit plateau so I made myself comfy beside one and took in the expansive views.
And then everything changed very quickly. The wind picked up again, thick cloud rolled in and I retreated to my tent. Luckily it was pitched nearby so I had no problems finding it.
My tent near the tarn
Early start for dawn on Wild Boar Fell
I’d like to say I woke up refreshed after a good night’s sleep but I didn’t. A howling wind through the night ensured that the tent kept on whacking me in the face and waking me up. That and the noise kept sleep to a minimum. Even so before dawn I managed to motivate myself and unzip the tent. Thankfully I wasn’t faced with a view of cloud and nothing else! It actually looked quite promising.
In high summer it never gets really dark at night but, even so, I’m always surprised at how much light there is at this time of day, the time being about 4:30am. Definitely no torch required.
I took the short walk over to The Stone Men, set up my camera and sat down to eat breakfast. It wasn’t too long before the sun joined me.
The clouds rolling off the far side of the Eden Valley were pretty impressive.
Sadly one effect of the mist on the hills was the Yorkshire Three Peaks were hidden from view.
Looking towards the Three Peaks from the Stone Men
Ah well, can’t have everything. I knew I’d been pretty lucky to see what I had anyway.
Over Swarth Fell and back to Cotegill Bridge
Having finished by breakfast it was past 5:30am and high time I got a move on. The sun had risen high enough to start burning off the cloud on the hills and the show was over.
I quickly packed away my kit and set out on the return leg. Following the ridge southwards from Wild Boar Fell the path leads over the neighbouring summit of Swarth Fell.
Having taken the above photo I realised I’d made a schoolboy error and only bought one camera battery with me. That battery was almost flat so I was going to have to save it for one last photo. Oops! At least it didn’t run out of juice the evening before.
From Swarth Fell the small ravine of Flue Scarth Nick leads off the fell top ridge and back down to Cotegill Bridge, following Near Cote Gill all the way.
And so I returned to where I started: Cotegill Bridge. There were no problems finding my car as it was the only one there. That was hardly surprising as it was still very early. The road was still traffic free so I could take my time setting up my tripod and took this photo, the one at the top of this blog.
Wild Boar Fell from Cotegill Bridge
Ok, so it might not have been the most comfortable night’s camping but it was another location ticked off my bucket list. Super! As it turned out it was very productive photography-wise too and there have been a few new additions to my Eden Valley photo gallery.