Archive Walk: Wet Sleddale

Wet Sleddale

First published: February 2011

The exterior of The Thornhill Arms, located in Yorkshire's Calverley

WET Sleddale is a lonely, remote valley which lies south-west of the village of Shap, theM6, the A6 and theWest Coast main railway line. It bisects the Shap Fells and is reached by a long narrow lane that leads from the A6. The huge dam of the disused reservoir, which once supplied water to houses in the area, hides most of the valley’s charms from the approach lane, but a pleasing track, almost immediately, takes you past it, revealing a glorious sheet of water, surrounded by moderately high fells. The whole area is now a nature reserve, managed by the RSPB, NorthWest Water and the Lowther Estate.

START/FINISH: At the end of the lane, close to the south end of the dam at Wet Sleddale reservoir. (GR 555114). Access this from Shap or Kendal, using the A6.

MAP: OS Explorer OL5, English Lakes north-eastern area.

DISTANCE: 4 1⁄2 miles / 7 1⁄2km.

TIME: 2-3 hours.

HEIGHT GAIN: 363 feet / 110 m.

TERRAIN: Nearly all on good tracks and a narrow traffic–free road.

REFRESHMENTS AND FACILITIES: Café, pub, and fish and chip shop at Shap.

 Route

1. After parking beside the dam at its southern end, stroll on along the level track, with delightful views down to your right of the old reservoir, where wigeon idle. Small enclosures of larch soften the rather bleak slopes and fell ponies graze the moorland pasture. Carry on, ignoring a left turn, to pass through a gate across the way, which descends steadily towards a small cluster of buildings where you are asked to ‘Keep Out’.Walk on to cross the attractive bridge over Poorhag Gill.

2. Go on along the grassy way, gradually bearing slightly right. In a few steps curve round a wall corner and walk right, beside the boundary wall ahead to reach a stile over it. Beyond, follow a narrow path that leads, right, to the side of the fenced Sleddale Beck. Press on, left, along the riverside to cross a fine stone bridge over the beck, where you will want to pause.

3. Once across, climb the waymarked grassy slope through scattered birch and ash to a stile onto a wide track. Turn right and follow the zigzagging way to pass a barn on your right, and a gate. Note this is the gate that gives access to a track which is your return route. But first go on up and turn right to reach Sleddale Hall, built in 1802, which featured in the cult film Withnail and I. The hall was Uncle Monty’s country cottage and has had an enormous attraction for fans of the film. Beside the hall a beck tumbles, under ash, in a series of pretty falls.

4. Return down the track towards the barn and go through the gate beside it. Stroll on with superb views down to the lovely reservoir. The pleasing way brings you to a gate to continue, passing the outbuildings of Sleddale Grange. Carry on the now surfaced road, with sloping pastures on either side and the reservoir beyond and below.

5. After nearly a mile you reach, on the right, the access track to Green farm, which you ignore. Press on the pleasing way for another 300 yards to take a short path, right, leading to a sturdy footbridge over the outflow from the dam. Beyond, walk ahead to join the lane taken earlier. Turn right and walk on and then uphill to the parking area.

Reflections in the reservoir – SleddaleHall is in the central distance on the hillside

Walking can be strenuous, and it is up to you to approach it with caution and if you are inexperienced to do so under appropriate supervision. You should also carry appropriate clothing, equipment and maps, and wear suitable footwear. The details given here were believed to be correct at the time of going to press but neither the author nor Country Publications Ltd can accept responsibility for inaccuracies.

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