Cautley Spout, Calders and The Calf

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Although everybody has heard of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales, you are likely to get blank looks if you mention the Howgills, despite the fact that every day thousands of drivers on the M6 Motorway pass by the western side of these attractive, compact hills. One reason is that the Howgills have an identity crisis; the southern section is in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, despite being in Cumbria, and the remaining section between the Lakes and Dales National Parks is not protected from exploitation in any way, despite being an obvious contender.

The reason for some of the confusion is an accident of history; the Yorkshire Dales National Park section of the Howgills was part of the West Riding of Yorkshire until the county boundary changes of 1974. The rest was never given protected status, though this may change soon with both National Parks being extended – not before time! However, by not being included in the ‘honey pot’ areas of the Lakes and Dales, the Howgills have remained quiet and neglected, though well known enough to the connoisseurs of good walking.

They are also full of surprises. One surprise that catches newcomers unawares is the amount of ‘up and down’ in comparatively low hills – a look at the map reveals a confusing system of deep valleys between high ridges, and a traverse of the range can require planning and cunning. Another surprise for the unwary is the confusing lack of landmarks on the tops – the local mountain rescue teams of Kirkby Stephen and Kendal are frequently called out to assist lost walkers.

One surprise you might not expect is a work of art. Between 1996 and 2003 the internationally acclaimed artist, Andy Goldsworthy, completed a major art project in Cumbria consisting of 46 sheepfolds. Goldsworthy works with nature and natural objects, and the sheepfold project is typical of his work. One of these folds is tucked away in one of those lonely Howgill valleys, with the additional attraction of England’s highest waterfall on the walk in.

The walk starts at the Cross Keys Inn, which is yet another surprise, being a temperance pub. From there the route starts off easily, passing through the site of an Iron Age settlement. Beyond there the character of the walk changes, rising steeply alongside the impressive Cautley Spout waterfall. Above the falls the route settles down a bit to visit Goldsworthy’s restored sheepfold at Red Beck – the pyramid shaped cairn at one corner commemorates the foot-and-mouth disaster of 2001, and marks a renewal in local sheep farming.

Returning to the route, the walk follows the edge of Cautley Crag, giving breathtaking views to the valley below, before heading to The Calf, the highest summit in the Howgills at 676 metres altitude. Beyond there, a short, steep section of the descent requires a bit of route finding, but this is without any great difficulty. For a short walk it can feel surprisingly long, but that’s the Howgills for you – full of surprises!

England - North England - Cumbria - Howgills

5/2/2018 - gordon saunderson

Great walk with some fantastic views, easy route to follow and worth a detour up to the sheepfold, not sure its my idea of art but the walk along the beck is worth it. Pretty sure we saw a Peregrine Falcon bombing down below us when we were up at Cautley crag.

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