Country Walks: Take in the excellent views on this Dales route

Fountains Fell coke oven
Fountains Fell coke oven

THE summit of Fountains Fell is rarely visited, its neighbour Darnbrook Fell even less so.

This is a shame as they are good mountains, part of the ‘Dales 30’, with excellent views. The terrain on Darnbrook in particular is rough but enjoyable.

A mile north of Malham Tarn, on the road between Malham and Arncliffe, lies Tennant’s Gill Farm and, to the north, the slopes of Fountain’s Fell. There is no official car parking nearby but it is a quiet road and there are opportunities to park considerately on the roadside.

At the entrance to Tennant’s Gill Farm join the Pennine Way passing the farm on its left. The path is followed for two and a half miles towards the summit of Fountain’s Fell, the path climbs steadily through rough farmland and then open access moorland. Being the Pennine Way it is easy to follow.

Where the path reaches its high point near some tall boy cairns a faint track on your left heads on to the summit area of Fountain’s Fell. This is an area of historical interest with numerous mine shafts, cairns and a well preserved bee hive coke oven 2m high.

The area was used to mine coal before it was taken down to the valleys to power the early mills. The mine shafts originate in the 19th century and when they became too large to mine, abandoned and a new one was sunk, hat is why there are so many.

The summit cairn for Fountain’s Fell is to the west end of the summit plateau meaning you have to walk through the old workings...very eerie in misty conditions. In good weather the views of Pen y Ghent are excellent, rarely seen except by those on the Pennine Way.

Return to the tall boys and, in wet weather, or if you are not keen on taking to the rough often trackless moorland to Darnbrook, return back down the Pennine Way. If you wish to include Darbrook (and those climbing the ‘Dales 30’ will insist), head north east alongside a wall, bending more east after 200 metres over rough ground. The crossing to Darnbrook is made easier if you stick close to the wall that bends right and then left to the col before continuing up gradual slopes to Darnbrook Fell.

The trig point at the summit is on the wrong side of the wall and perched on a peat hag. It is interesting to see such a trig in all its glory, the large concrete base (never usually seen) a reflection of the big effort required to build them roughly 100 years ago.

From Darnbrook Fell follow the fence, changing to a wall, east and then south east along the high shoulder. The walking is rough over peat and moor but the views over Littondale and Upper Wharfedale do compensate. The easiest way to descend the shoulder is turn west and descend in to the valley north of Darnbrook Farm, alternatively carry along the shoulder south till it meets the road half a mile east of the farm. The latter sticks to access land all the way to the road.

* Fact Box:

Distance: Roughly 8.5 miles

Height to Climb: 380m (1,260 feet)

Start: SD 884691. On the Malham/Arncliffe road near Tennants Farm.

Difficulty: Hard. A straightforward climb to Fountain’s Fell is followed by rough walking up and down Darnbrook Fell. In mist compass skills are needed.

Eat and Drink: Arncliffe and Malham are three miles distant in opposite directions, each has pubs.

Be Prepared: The route description and sketch map only provide a guide to the walk. You must take out and be able to read a map (O/S Explorer OL2) and in cloudy/misty conditions a compass (essential on this walk). You must also wear the correct clothing and footwear for the outdoors. Whilst every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers head out at their own risk. Please observe the Countryside Code and park sensibly.

* Jonathan Smith runs Where2walk, a walking company based in the Yorkshire Dales.

He has published two books on walks in the Dales, The Yorkshire 3 Peaks and The Dales 30 mountains. Available direct from the Where2walk website.

Book a Navigation Training day (Beginners or Intermediates). All dates and information on the website. Next available date August 13.

Join one of the Guiding Days; either the ‘one a day’ Yorkshire 3 Peaks or Helvellyn and Scafell Pike in the Lake District.

Jonathan’s popular website, also features hundreds of walks across Yorkshire and beyond, from easy strolls to harder climbs.