Black Force, Howgills

An enjoyable half day scrambling up Black Force in the western Howgills with my 9 year old daughter, Hannah. The Howgills are mostly rounded and grassy hills, but Black Force is a little more interesting.

We parked near to Carlingill Bridge, an early start meaning that we had full choice of parking spaces, and followed a narrow path alongside Carlin Gill into the hills. At first the path traversed grassy slopes, but then the gill becomes narrow and rocky and the route gets interesting. It’s important at this point to follow the path to the north of the gill, well above the stream, as the way along the stream becomes impassable with steep slopes on either side.

We soon arrived at the point where the water from Black Force joins Carlin Gill, so we crossed the main stream and started to head up towards Black Force. At this point the route looks quite intimidating with no obvious way around the main waterfall. In fact the whole scramble showed very little evidence of many people having gone this way, so good route finding skills are essential. There is a bird ban on Black Force from 15th February to 31st May to protect nesting ravens, but we saw no evidence of any ravens either.

Initially it is possible to follow alongside the stream, jumping back and forth where necessary. At the main waterfall we zigzagged up the grassy ledges on the right hand (western) side and crossed the stream again at the very top of the waterfall. At this point I got my rope out to protect Hannah as a slip on the greasy rocks would have meant a tumble down the waterfall. Hannah is generally very sure footed and has been walking and scrambling since she was 3, but there is no point in taking unnecessary risks.

The upper gill is much more enclosed and when the water is low is mostly easy scrambling over boulders with the odd rocky step. Today there was too much water in the stream and the rocks were greasy, so we traversed leftwards and followed a narrow grassy ridge until the gill levelled out and we could rejoin the stream. All that remained was a grassy walk up Blake Ridge to the summit of Fell Head at 623m where we started to meet other walkers. Up to this point we had had the place to ourselves.

I had intended to head east from Fell Head and return via Wind Scarth and Blakethwaite Bottom, but Hannah expressed her dislike of what she calls “boring grassy hills” so we headed north west straight back to the now busy parking spot, stopping only to admire the fell ponies that we passed on the way. I’ll return another day for a longer walk over those boring grassy hills.

For more information about bird bans in the Lakes and surrounding areas look at:

Published by alpinejane

Explorer, hill walker, mountaineer, backpacker, scrambler, Mountain Leader, member of Teesdale and Weardale Search and Mountain Rescue Team and lover of wild places

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