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  • timbarber

Dodd Fell, Wether Fell & the old Roman Road

As part of my mission to climb Yorkshire’s 30 Highest Peaks, we had found a route on Jonathan Smith’s great Where2Walk website which ticked off two Peaks on one day. With the forecast showing us only one fine day on the week, we headed off early with blue skies overhead to tackle these two “Marilyns”.

We parked up in the public car park just down the road from Hawes best known location – the Wensleydale Creamery, home to a range of cheeses made from local milk including Wallace and Grommit’s favourite – the iconic Wensleydale cheese.

We walked up the road to the village of Gayle, crossing the bridge over Gayle Beck. To our left over the bridge we could see Gayle Mill. The mill dates to 1784 and is believed to be the oldest structurally unadulterated cotton mill in the country. The mill was water powered by a 7m diameter waterwheel using the water pouring down Gayle Beck to driver the machinery.

It was converted into a saw mill in 1879 with the waterwheel being replaced by a double vortex turbine which as well as driving the machinery also ended up generating electricity for the settlement.

From here we took a path out of Gayle up onto Buttersett High Pasture with great views down Wensleydale and Hawes.

After a steepish climb across rough and quite wet ground we reached an old Roman Road, as expected this was very straight and from here there was a great view down into the next valley and the glacial lake of Semer Water.

The Roman Road was built from the Roman Fort at Bainbridge, known as Virodisium and can be plotted to Ingleton. After here the direction of the road is un-certain. Nowadays the road is known as Cam High Road but during the time of Roman occupation would have been used to supply the Roman Fort and for soldiers to move northwards on towards Hadrian’s wall.

"The so-called Cam High Road, which runs in a south-westerly direction up the fellside for close on four miles in a straight line from the fort, is well known as one of the finest specimens of Roman road in England and needs no description here, apart from the fact that it seems to have been laid out by sighting on the central point of the fort—the gateway of the headquarters building, where the groma was set up".
R,G. Collingwood 1928

The road passes the flank of Weather Fell, so we turned right and followed the road over the exposed limestone for a couple of miles.

The peak of Weather Fell is 614m and is actually known as Drumaldrace (28th Highest Peak in Yorkshire). Whilst there was not an official path to the peak, a well-trod path can be seen off the Roman Road which we followed to a cairn signifying the summit.

The summit had fantastic 360 degree views around and with the clear skies gave huge sweeping vistas all across the Dales.

After our usual summit photo, we headed back down to the Roman road along an obvious track. There was still evidence of deep snow from weeks earlier and whilst we had a sunny day with blue skies, some of the snow hadn’t melted in north facing hollows.

We followed the Cam High Road to the Beggarman’s Road which we had travelled into Hawes on earlier that morning – the road descends into Gayle or turning left rises up over Fleet Moss ending up in Buckden via Yockenthwaite.

We put Bronte my black lab back on her lead and marched up the road for half a mile.

Along the road we passed two small diggers working on the Moorland as part of a peat restoration project, preparing the land for the installation of bails of coconut matting which protects peat erosion and helps the organic matter build up again.

As the road turned left we carried on a right fork picking up the Roman Road again. This stretch was pretty easy walking as it had been tarmacked along stretches.

It rose steadily skirting the valley head and we could see our final peak Dodd Fell and great views back down the valley. We passed sheepfolds and disused mines before meeting the Pennine Way at Kidhow Gate at the nose of Dodd Fell.

At this point there were great views of Penyghent one of Yorkshire’s famous Three Peaks.

Again there is no clear path up to the summit of Dodd Fell - 668m (18th Highest Yorkshire Peak) but after a mile or so of following the Pennine Way there was a stone cairn which we decided was a sign that here was the best way to ascend to the trig point we could see on the map as marking the summit.

A steep climb again over wet boggy ground lead us to the summit, the trig point surrounded by a pool showing how wet it had been over the last month.

From the summit we had quite a difficult descent trying to follow the least steep contours to get back to the Pennine Way. Part way down we found a dip which was sheltered from the cold wind with a rocky section providing perfect seating for our lunch.

After a well-deserved buttie and flask of tea we joined the Pennine Way path. There were great views over to our left into Snaizeholme Forest and Widdale. I’ve not been to Snaizedale but they have started a red squirrel reintroduction program there which now has a popular red squirrel trail.

Rather than follow a track down into Hawes, we turned off right following the Pennine Way signed to Gaudy Lane. The path descends relatively gently, but I still managed to not look properly where I was going and land in a rather ungainly heap on the floor.

We passed a field of Scottish highland cattle who looked back at us dismissively and then carried on grazing.

There were some great views of the matrix of dry stone walls and field barns as we descended back to civilisation.

We eventually ended on the flat and crossing a couple of fields we ended up back in Gayle for a short walk back to the car. Dumping our rucksacks we nipped into Hawes for a quick pint of Black Sheep Ale in the sun before heading home.

The walk was just under 13 miles and took us about 6 hours including our lunch stops. A highly recommended walk with big views, easy parking and a bit of Roman history.


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