26th September 2015

Visiting the Lake District Tarns - Walk 68

Tarns from Swindale

Time 8:10am to 4:10pm
Duration 8 hr
Distance 14.4 mile
Ascent 3300 ft
Walking with Paul Sharkey
Swindale - Swindale Head - Mardale Corpse Road - Selside Pike - Captain Whelter Bog - Howes - Branstree Tarn - Branstree - Selside Brow - Tarn Crag - Greycrag Tarn - Grey Crag - Harrop Pike - Brunt Tongue - Mosedale Beck - Swindale
Fells visited
Directory places visited

Starting Point Information Centre -
Roadside parking, Swindale

As with all roadside parking places, you can never be 100% sure you'll actually get a space. This one on the other hand may well be the exception to the rule. Swindale is a wonderfully out of the way valley penetrating into the Shap fells east of Haweswater; somewhere you can look forward to walking in seclusion.


Route Map


I had originally intended to set off from Mardale Head to visit the tarns on today's walk. That was until Paul told me recently that he was wanting to walk from Swindale sometime before winter arrived. "tell you what, why don't I just change the route a bit so we can still do my walk, only from your start / finish point" As it was only in the next valley, the modified route worked really well; probably better than the original if I'm honest.
It seems a little bit too precise but rules are rules so now we just need to make sure we don't walk faster than 9.5 mile an hour.

We head down Swindale Lane in hot and humid conditions.



I hope the fish appreciate all this work; it must be costing a fortune.
Speaking for the two of us, I really hope they leave the place nice and tidy.

Looking through Swindale.

At Swindale Head we leave the valley and begin gaining height by following the Old Corpse Road on our right.

The view from the Old Corpse Road - just to clear up any misunderstandings, I think it's the road that's old not necessarily the corpse.

Somewhere around the highest point on the corpse road we head off to the left and make our ascent of Selside Pike. It's all grassy and wide open around and depending on your point of view, makes for fantastic fell walking. It's nice to have a bit of Lakeland stone under your boots but this is the sort of terrain I enjoy more than anything else.

High cloud and low light made the place seem quite dark today, and although it was a shame for the pictures, it didn't really spoil the enjoyment of actually being here. Over there you can see Mardale Ill Bell, High Street, Kidsty Pike and High Raise.

On the walk up Selside Pike you pass by this brilliant vantage point that offers a view through Swindale and onto the Pennines,

Selside Pike summit shelter.

From Selside Pike we head down to Captain Whelter Bog. I've seen it a lot wetter and muddier than this so no harm done today.

The first tarn(s) on today's walk are down there on Howes and as I've never been down to them before I wasn't sure what to expect. To be honest, I almost left them off the list of tarns I made because I knew for certain I wouldn't find myself standing next to anything like Sprinkling Tarn or Styhead Tarn. But, they went on the list so we now made our way across the high ground and then down to the tarns on the ridge below. Some of them turned out to be quite difficult to find, , , , you'll see why shortly.


Heading off on their winter holidays.

Looking down to Mosedale Cottage.

This is the bigger, most tarn-like tarn in the area.



It was a bit far away for a decent picture but it was still really nice to see this stag.

OK, I said they were hard to find but that's not technically true, , , these ones were easy enough to find, but we did have to look around the immediate area to confirm these really were the ones we were looking for.

"No, there aren't any pools over here, but there is a great view back down to Swindale"


Branstree Tarn. There's no mistaking this one.


Just across from Branstree Tarn we stand next to the survey pillar and look down to Haweswater. Commenting on how the level of the water is quite low and good the route is along the far side of the lake.

Selside Pike and Branstree Tarn seen from Artle Crag.

In a good way, the top of Branstree always feels like a lonely place to me. Somewhere I get a lor of satisfaction from visiting but somewhere I never seem to hang around for very long. It's a very similar feeling to the one I get whenever I stand at the top of Loadpot Hill.


Follow the wall to get to Tarn Crag or follow the fence to get to the top of Gatescarth Pass.

We make quick progress down Selside Brow and despite hunger setting in we decide to wait until we reach Tarn Crag before having something to eat. The question is; why is the side of Branstree called Selside Brow instead of Branstree Brow.

Looking back over the boggy high ground on Mosedale Crossing to Selside Brow.

The second survey pillar we reached is found next to the summit on Tarn Crag. Thankfully the day seemed to be brightening up.

And here's the top of Tarn Crag.

Lunch with a view of Greycrag Tarn. I assume you don't need to ask if I actually got down to the waters edge.


Grey Crag summit.

Zooming in on the Howgills.

Harrop Pike marked the end of the path and the start of almost an hour of off path walking from here to the bridge across Mosedale Beck.

Paul leads the way across open ground to reach Brunt Tongue.

The thick grassy tussocks give way to gentler ground as we near the bottom of Brunt Tongue. This gives a welcome relief to legs that are beginning to feel tired after a day spent taking 'big steps' among the tall grass. Below us is Moasdale which in turn leads us back down to Swindale.

Here we cross Mosedale Beck but not by the bridge. To get to the bridge we'd have to walk through Little Mosedale Beck anyway. So, after a few splashes and a shout of "watch that bit it's slippery" we found ourselves on the correct side of the beck.

After a wet and slippery walk through Mosedale we begin the descent into Swindale.

Swindale Beck looking towards Forces Falls.

Here we're at the beginning of Swindale Lane.



When we'd reached the valley floor the narrow footpath gave way to Swindale Lane where we enjoy about 2 miles of really pleasant, easy walking. Most of which was done in warm sunshine, and most of which was done while not only reflecting on today's excursion but also plotting and scheming future days on the fells. It proves you've had a good day when you can walk more than 14 miles over tough ground and still feel the excitement of walking the following day.

David Hall -
Lake District Walks