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Littondale, Halton Gill, Horse Head Pass, Birks Tarn, Litton, Yorkshire. Thu 05 July 2007


The predominantly wet weather of June was now continuing into July. The forecast wasnít too good with rain due later in the day. I was in Yorkshire in an area Iíd not walked in for years; in fact most of the route was new to me.

Barn and tree

Littondale from Halton Gill.

I had an easy drive to Littondale but had to be careful of oncoming traffic as I continued to Litton along the narrow road. I left my car parked opposite the Post Office. I was surprised to see one in such a rural area and thankful than it manages to exist. I followed the road up the valley in the direction of Halton Gill.

It was a very pleasant walk though the mountain tops were covered in cloud and I wondered what was in store for me when I got up there. The road is narrow but fortunately there werenít many vehicles about. The views were typical Yorkshire Dales, with a flat valley bottom and green hillsides and parallel white limestone walls. Halton Gill was an interesting little place. The church seems to have been converted to a house and many nice houses were about, but no people. The old map of the area shows a Church in 1851 and has it as a school and Baptist church in 1896. Just after the last building is a gate on the right that leads to the Horse Head Pass. Nailed to it was a notice saying a vehicle prohibition order was in force on the pass.

Church house, Halton Gill.


The first section had quite a lot of stone pitching and old tarmac on it. As I got higher it became a nice green track and much easier to walk on. I made the most of the views down the valley as I got higher but up ahead some low cloud was clipping the summit. As I reached the summit gate I was surprised to see four walkers approaching from the other side. They descended towards Halton Gill while I turned right and followed the wall along to sugar loaf. There was bit of a side wind and I was glad of the wall and the shelter it gave. There was a faint path and the ground wasnít as wet as I thought it was going to be. On the approach to sugar loaf I saw a small cairn over the wall with some poles sticking out. There was no obvious way over the wall without climbing it and possibly doing some damage, so I decided not to investigate. It was nice to hear the call of a Curlew which kept soaring overhead.

I reached the end of the stone wall and began to follow a wire fence. Ahead was a shallow saddle and Moss Top in the distance. The surface was generally firm but unfortunately I had to cross some very wet and muddy areas. Sometimes I was able to hang on to the fence and sometimes a wide detour was needed. Some work had been done by fitting new gates in the wall I had to cross.

Distant view of Great Whernside.

The going was wet in places.

At the second crossing the wall had been dismantled and rebuilt very well with a new gate, even though there was no definite path on either side. By now the going underfoot was considerable better though my feet were damp after the previous crossing of about a mile of bog. The map shows a path passing the NE side of Birks Tarn but there was an unmarked path on the inside of the stone wall to the SW. I kept with that as I needed a bit of shelter from the wind and drizzle. Approaching Birks Tarn I came to the shell of a stone ruin built in the wall. It was quite high and had a high window and door hole but the actual window and door were long gone, as was the roof. At the end of the wall I came to the main pass over from Birks Fell.

It had been substantially upgraded by the use of large stone slabs. Two walkers were just coming to the summit and then turned to head for the Ordnance Survey trig point. I followed them and after a brief chat they headed off to the SE and I set off down on the path to the SW. it was quite steep in places and a heavy shower of rain didnít help. I found some shelter behind the wall and stayed put until the worst had passed. At Ackerley Moor I came to a nice green track heading directly back to Litton. It took an easy diagonal route down the hillside and after crossing a wooden footbridge then through a farmyard I returned to the Queens Arms Inn and then my car.

Queen's Arms Inn, Littondale.