5 Facts about the Howgill Fells

If you’ve never visited the Howgill Fells, or even heard of them for that matter here’s 5 facts about this hidden gem for fellwalkers and wild campers…

Identity Crisis

The Howgill fells are a relatively small group of hills and valleys located in Cumbria in the north of England.

“Cumbria!” you say, “isn’t that just part of the Lake District then?” No, actually. These fells are separated from their better known Lakeland cousins by the River Lune and the M6. They nestle between the towns of Sedbergh, Kirkby Stephen and Tebay. Anyone who’s been up that way will have viewed the Howgills without giving them much thought.  The southern half of the fells also fall within the boundary of the Yorkshire Dales national park

Geography

Upon first sight, the first thing you notice when amongst these amazing lumps is the very different look these hills have in comparison to the Lakes or even the Dales. The fells roll into the distance with large rounded tops and grassy hillsides. This is due to the unique geography of the area which is mainly composed of Silurian and Ordovician slates and gritstones. These are much older than the Limestone that makes up the geography of the Yorkshire Dales.  There’s also very little in the way of fences in these hills I noticed. A subtle difference to other upland areas in the UK but it definitely adds to the character of the place

Niagra Falls It Aint

Cautley Spout is the go-to “tourist attraction” of the Howgils. Cascading 650 feet (198 m) down the side of Cautley Craggs this skinny, dogs hind leg of a spout boasts the Highest Cascade Waterfall above ground.

No Beer Here

The Cross Keys Temperance Inn sits on the A638 just east of Cautley Spout. It is one of very few Temperance establishments which hark back to the late 19th Century popular Methodist movement. I first spotted this pub or so I thought, while descending down the steep path beside the falls after a cold and foggy night camped up on the fells. I was like that scene from the old Castlemaine XXX advert. “Mike!” I shouted to my pal, ” I can see the pub from here!!”

We headed straight for it and thanked our lucky stars it was open. My god we were DYING for a lovey pint of Landlord or Wainwrights. We didn’t take much notice of the signage stating that this was in fact a Temperance Inn and I’d never heard the term before. In we trudged, muddy boots and all, and asked for two pints. The poor girl behind the bar had probably said the same line to many other idiots like us, “Sorry we don’t serve alcohol”.

After we’d wiped away the tears we ordered two pints….of pink lemonade. It was a refreshing change and we sat in the beer garden with our bright pink drinks and enjoyed the sun.

Wild Camping in the Howgill Fells

Bilbo Hill Baggings

For those hill baggers out there you’re in no danger of altitude sickness there are however, a couple bumps that are well worth a bimble over. The Calf (676m) is the “King of the Hill” here with (apparently) amazing panoramas in all directions on a “good” day. Lakeland’s Fells sit to the west and the South and East holds views of the Yorkshire Dales. Looking North across the Eden Valley you can see the Pennines and Cross Fell.

Here’s a little list of the summits in the Howgills:

  • The Calf 676m 2218ft SD667970 Marilyn
  • Calders 674m 2211ft SD670960 Nuttall
  • Bram Rigg Top 672m 2205ft SD668964 Nuttall
  • Great Dummacks 663m 2175ft SD678963 None
  • Fell Head 640m 2100ft SD649981 Nuttall
  • Yarlside 639m 2096ft SD685985 Marilyn

This is why I think of all the remote areas this country has to offer, the Howgills is one of my favourite. Leave the crowds in the lakes and the Dales, queuing to climb a hill and experience the tranquility and peacefulness of the The Howgill Fells. Just don’t tell too many people about it.

 

For more of my outdoor adventures find them here

5 Things To Do With Your Nearly Empty Gas Canisters

I was rooting around in the shed the other day, cant remember what for now to be honest. Whilst in there however, I noticed that I had accumulated a fair few gas canisters from my various hiking/camping trips. I say a fair few I mean bloody LOADS!!

These aren’t totally empty gas canisters but ones with just a little bit left in. Not enough to risk for a camping trip but too much to just empty and recycle. I really hate the idea of taking two on a wild camp; it goes against all my weight saving, lightweight instincts.

So I have come up with 5 ways in which you can use these canisters and recycle them safely.

1. Day Hiking

Take one or maybe a couple of half empty gas canisters out on a day hike. You’ll probably have enough for a couple of coffees or even enough to make a cup soup or pasta. If you run out halfway through, no big deal, make do with your trail mix and enjoy the rest of your walk.

2. Extra picnic stove

Let me tell you I take no better joy than setting up my “array” of camping stoves and having a “cookout” with the family at any given picnic spot. You can see those jealous faces peering at us over their soggy cheese and tomato sandwiches….it’s great.

I have a larger gas stove for a picnic but there’s nothing wrong with taking nearly empty gas canisters and adding another ring to your outdoor kitchen set up. This can be used to boil your kettle while your main stove cooks the good stuff..

3. Indoor Marshmallow Toasting

Obvious risks and general common sense aside. This a great way to use up those dregs. Horrendous weather will stop even the most arduous of adventuring kids, but they don’t have to miss out. Simply set up the stove somewhere safe.(I normally use a wooden chopping board on top of our kitchen table) and we all sit around and blaze through those gas canisters by toasting marshmallows. My kids love it!!

4. Gas Lantern

You can get some awesome LED lanterns on the market nowadays but you can’t beat a traditional gas lantern. Obviously, I strongly DO NOT recommend using gas canisters or lanterns inside your tent. I’ve seen some people online say they do. Just don’t. Keep it for outside use only and you’re good to go.

5. Get Technical

Listen, no-one likes a smart arse but I’m a bit of a geek and I think this is pretty cool. You’ll need some scales and a year 7 level of maths (I struggled haha!).

Part 1.

Take a totally empty gas canister and weigh it. This is the “unladen” weight. Write this unladen weight on each of the gas canisters. If you subtract this weight from the weight of any canister that contains gas you will get your NET weight (the weight of the gas only). This will give you a good idea of how many grams of gas are left in each one.

Part 2.

Each time you go out with your stove, measure the weight of your canister before and after each trip. This will give you a good idea on how may grams you use on an average trip. Environmental temperature will obviously affect these measurements so record summer and winter separately.

However, you will eventually know whether what you have left in your old canister will be enough to take out on a trip.

Or, if you can’t be bothered, just blast the hell out of marshmallows in the house with it as per tip #3.

Then Recycle

Once your canisters are empty you can puncture and crush them safely for the recycle bin using this nifty little tool from Jetboil.

For a quirky way to cook your food on a hiking stove using a metal teapot check out the pictures in my first wild camp to Roseberry Topping.

Get the kids outdoors with “Microcamping”: 4 essential tips

I came up with the term “Microcamping” last year. This slightly watered down version of the “Microadventure” will be sure get your kids to love the outdoors.

You may well have heard the term microadventure used over the last few years when talking about enjoying the outdoors. The phrase (if you haven’t) was coined by British Adventurer and avid wild camper Alastair Humphreys.

Dad and son selfie taking in countryside scene.
Keefusoutdoors and his wingman

It basically involves getting out if the house for one night, finding a hill (not campsite) to sleep on and spending a relaxing night under the stars. This is supposed to be done without the use of a tent and instead covering your sleeping bag with a Bivvy bag (a posh plastic bag) to stop you getting wet if the weather turns south.

I have spent many a night this way and let me tell you its fantastic – I urge anyone to try it. The thing is the British weather can quickly turn a potentially great Microadventure into a miserable night in a wet plastic bag.

Microcamping

I wanted a microcamp to capture the spontaneity and sense of adventure that comes with a microadventure but with the extra comfort and security that comes with “proper” camping. The four essential tips below are the key to getting it right.

1. Take only the bare essentials.

Camping trips with kids can end up with you packing everything but the kitchen sink. FIGHT THIS URGE!!!

Boy stood in sunny countryside scenery drinking from a small soft drink bottle, hand on hip.
Getting scruffy in the great outdoors

Remember that you’re only going to be out for one night. They don’t need six changes of clothes, they don’t need a week’s worth of food and neither do you.  Let them get dirty, let them eat Super Noodle sandwiches for supper with toasted marshamallows. They’ll love you for it.

A tent, a stove, sleeping bags/blankets, food, sweets and drinks and you’re pretty good to go. Take a football or a frisby for some outdoor entertainment.

Check out this post for a list of my own microcamping essentials.

2. Keep your gear Microcamp ready

Procrastination is the biggest microcamp killer, remember spontaneity is key here. Once you have your bare essentials nailed down, don’t use them once and stick them in the back of the garage and forget about them. Keep them somewhere easily accessible so you can just grab everything and sling it all in the car. This enables you to be impulsive but also confident you have everything you need for an awesome night.

3. Keep it local

We’ve all probably spent time at the big lesiure company campsites. You know the ones; static caravan villages, super expensive clubhouse for entertainment and huge shower blocks you have to queue up for.

Take the time and look a bit more locally. You’ll always find an independently run campsite or a small working farm that uses an empty field for campers and walkers. They’ll appreciate the custom and the kids might even get to feed the animals.

Another benefit of staying local is that you can even microcamp on a school night! An early breakfast, a quick trip home to get freshened up and your little ones will be itching to get to school to tell their friends what adventures they’ve been having!

Boy sat in tent looking tired. Tent door is open revealing scenery.
Tired camper

4. Don’t hate on the Technology

This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but one thing we make sure before we go microcamping is that the dreaded tablet is fully charged.

Mobile devices (for all their faults) can be used in many ways to give your child a better understanding of the great outdoors. For example, the Geocaching app is a great download (a bit like global hide and seek). It is certain to keep them engaged for hours whatever their age. Use the on board camera to identify plants and animals for later review or let them make their own outdoors videos to upload to YouTube. Similarly,a list of great outdoorsy apps check can be found here.

Then at the end of the day, once you’ve watched the sun set, snuggling into a sleeping bag with a belly full of toasted marshmallows to watch a downloaded movie is the perfect way to end the day.

Keep it simple, keep it impromptu, keep it fun but more importantly, enjoy YOURSELF.

Happy microcamping.