Country & Coast: National Park expansion adds scenic spots to region

A view across to Ingleborough from the limestone outcrops above Stainforth as the sun goes down.  Picture: Bruce Rollinson.
A view across to Ingleborough from the limestone outcrops above Stainforth as the sun goes down. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.
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Which walks would you take to a Desert Island? I know it’s a silly question, but I’m one of those people who occasionally amuses themselves by choosing their all-time favourite walks as well as discs.

Although I have made several alterations to my list over the years, one walk has always featured - the ascent of spectacular Wild Boar Fell.

It is a place which has probably seen few changes for at least a century. The only one I know about, in fact, was not to the landscape at all but to the map.

The border between the old West Riding of Yorkshire and the County of Westmorland used to run across its shoulder until erased in 1974 when the entire fell was gifted to Cumbria.

Next Monday ushers in another change, though, and this one is long overdue. Wild Boar Fell becomes an exciting addition to the Yorkshire Dales National Park, which is being enlarged by almost one quarter to take in 161 square miles on its northern and western sides.

Henceforth, decisions about Wild Boar Fell’s landscape will no longer be made at Carlisle but once again in Yorkshire at the Park’s Wensleydale headquarters.

The fell’s name is a reminder that until 500 years ago wild boar were common, and a tusk which is said to be from the last beast hunted up there is on display at a local church.

I first climbed it in the late 1970s, starting from Garsdale on the Settle-Carlisle line and traversing the long ridge before catching a homeward train at Kirkby Stephen.

Later I discovered that a far more exhilarating route is the path beneath the jagged escarpment called The Nab and its forbidding ramparts with names like Scriddles and Blackbed Scar.

The guidebook author Alfred Wainwright wrote that this route “savours of real mountaineering”.

Another fan of Wild Boar Fell, the Pennine Way creator Tom Stephenson, went as far as declaring it to be his favourite hill walk of all.

Visually, I would say that the fell is at least as appealing as any of Yorkshire’s Three Peaks and certainly more eye-catching than the highest of them, Whernside.

The 2,323-ft-high summit is 46 feet loftier than Penyghent’s, and from the south it manages to present a table top profile similar to Ingleborough’s.

The long narrow valley of Mallerstang falls away to the east, and on the other side the River Eden rises to the striking outcrops of Mallerstang Edge to create what is arguably the most dramatic of all the Yorkshire Dales and a highlight for passengers on the Settle-Carlisle railway.

If Wild Boar Fell and Mallerstang Edge were the only new additions to the National Park there would be cause for celebration, but many other scenic gems will now be given Yorkshire Dales branding, such as the marvellous limestone pavements on Great Asby Scar, the northern Howgill Fells and - another personal favourite - Casterton Fell near Kirkby Lonsdale.

I promise you that there has never been a better reason to put on walking boots.