A magical night by Sand Tarn on Wild Boar Fell

Sand Tarn, Wild Boar Fell at night
Sand Tarn, Wild Boar Fell.

If there’s one thing I like about travelling by train it’s watching the world go by out the window. And better still if that journey rolls along the Settle to Carlisle railway.

On Wednesday, I was admiring the views of Pen Y Ghent, Inglebourgh and Whernside from the comforts of a Northern Rail carriage, heading for a one night camp up the little visited Wild Boar Fell on the edge of Cumbria and North Yorkshire.

The sun was shining and there was hardly a cloud in the sky as I set foot on the platform at Kirkby Stephen and moments later I was taking in the delightful scenery of the Eden Valley – a quite apt name if there ever was one.

However, it was only about an hour or so into my walk that I realised my short hike wasn’t going to be the ‘walk in the park’ I expected. Bar the wetter than usual ground underfoot, my rucksack’s weight was ripping into my shoulders and painfully slowing me down. All in, I was puffing and panting with over 25kgs on my back.

The reason it was so heavy was because I was taking out a 3/4 man tent with me to capture video and pictures of up Wild Boar Fell. Add in all my usual gear for work, it made for a testing hike up the steep flanks that rise out above Mallerstrang.

A walk I’ve done many times that usually takes me a little over 2 hours at a steady pace, today took me nearly 4 hours. No matter. I arrived at my planned location no later than 3pm and was ready to set up camp and get to work.

What makes me chuckle every time I visit this part of England is how not too many miles away you’ll find most outdoorsy types all making their way for the scenic delights of the Lake District or Yorkshire Dales. Yet, here on the edges of Cumbria is a landscape that’s really quite similar to both those national parks (being somewhat of a geological boundary) and is a pure visual delight where one can enjoy for the most part a peaceful, solitary walk.

The Howgills for example, covers an area of roughly 40 square miles and packs in many hills varying in altitude which all afford wonderful views of the surrounding landscape.

And though Wild Boar Fell lies just outside this area and is a little higher, you’ll often find the best scenes from up here in my opinion – and it’s not too far a walk from two railway stations (so there’s no excuse to not leave the car at home!).

Wild Boar Fell, has quite a large boggy plateau but along it’s edges you’ll enjoy views down into Mallerstrang and beyond. And my favourite can be found on it’s western side by Sand Tarn – where you can cast your eyes out to Morecambe Bay, all of the Howgill Fells, much of the Lake District (which looks so small from here) and out to Cross Fell and the northern Pennines.

And so it was by Sand Tarn with it’s small sandy beach I chose to use as a location for my shoot. It may have been sunny for much of the time I was there but it really was quite windy too. But once the sun had settled behind a distant Scafell Pike, everything became calm and clear.

I enjoyed a couple of warming meals, while taking in the serene views and enjoyed a beer or two before having a kip for a couple of hours. I was a content man, to say the least. All alone in peace and quiet with wonderful scenery all around me.

Later I grudgingly stirred from my slumber and pottered about with my camera capturing scenes that were now under a clear starry sky accompanied with the soft white glow of the moon slowly rising from the north east. At first I was disappointed the moon was out and so bright as it tends to drown out the stars above, but in the end I was pleased it was.

It’s surprising how much light the moon gives off. Give it time, and you find you don’t need a headtorch to see in the dark. And of course, the moonlight helps light up areas in my pictures I could otherwise not see.

I have to admit it really was quite magical wandering around Sand Tarn at 12am under the light of the moon above. There was hardly a breeze blowing, and the tarn was so still it acted as a mirror to the sky above. Wonderful stuff!

Come the following morning, I woke to pea soup and stiff winds. It seemed I timed my trip out at just the right time! And on that note, I basically headed back down to catch my train back home.

So, the pain of carrying all that weight proved to be a bit of a nightmare (well, I suppose it keeps you fit!) but it was all worth it in the end….

Howgill Fells, Cumbria
The Howgill Fells and distant skyline of the Lake District mountains.

Eden Valley from Wild Boar Fell, Cumbria.
The Eden Valley and North Pennines from Wild Boar Fell.

Wild camping, Sand Tarn, Wild Boar Fell
Sand Tarn on Wild Boar Fell. You can just make out the tent on the other side.

Wild camp. Sand Tarn, Cumbria
Another view of camp from the flanks of Sand Tarn.

Wild camping
Looking up at the night sky while lying in bed.

Howgill Fells, Cumbria - at night.
Looking over to the Howgill Fells under a starry night sky.

Sand Tarn, Wild Boar Fell. Wild camping.
Looking over to camp again. This time at 12am.

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