Short Stirling LK488 on Mickle Fell.
(Distance covered =
8.6 mile/Ascent =+542m)
I remember watching the news back in the late 1970's when a report came on about the recovery by the RAF of what was claimed to be the most intact high ground aircraft wreck in the country. This along with an article in Aviation News called 'Wreckology' helped tweak my interest in visiting Aircraft wrecks in the hills.
I always believed that there would be nothing left to see on Mickle Fell and that along with the fact the site was on an Army training range meant I never made any effort to visit it. However after seeing some photos of the site on the internet that showed there was still some wreckage extant I decided it was about time I made the effort to go and have a look.
Setting off in less than ideal weather conditions, I parked the car in a layby next to the B6276 at the boundary of Durham and Cumbria.
The other problem about visiting this crashsite was it lies on Warcop Army Live firing Range but that problem was easily overcome with the help of a nice lady from the MOD who issued me a permit to visit on one of the Ranges non-firing days.
The nice MOD Lady also told me if the weather wasn't conducive to walking on the allocated day I could just drop her an email and she would issue me another permit for the following weekend, which was also a non firing day.
Above and below:-Walking along the boundary between County Durham and Cumbria on the way to Mickle Fell. Durham being on the side of the fence and Cumbria over the wall. The first half a mile or so had a bit of no-man's land in the middle!
As well as there only being a limited number of days to access Mickle Fell there were only two permitted routes you were allowed to use, one from the north and one from the south; I chose the one from the south as it looked like it might be a little bit more interesting.
Crossing the first of quite a few burns on the route; although in this neck of the woods they're called Becks or Sikes.
The couple of days before visiting Mickle Fell it had rained profusely so I was in two minds on whether to acquire a permit for the following weekend but I eventually decided weather wise it could end up being a case of a 'bird in the hand' as the weather could easily be worse the following weekend but then I wouldn't have the option of obtaining another permit.
Above and next two photos:-About to enter the Army Range.
Although there was low cloud and the ground underfoot was very wet and boggy it didn't rain, at least not on the walk out anyways, so the walk in to Mickle Fell was quite enjoyable despite having to negotiate numerous small streams which proved tricky as they were all in spate.
Above and below:-Connypot Beck; this one was wide and deep and may have put paid to my progress had there not have been a handily placed bridge over it.
above and below:-Two flooded sikes, the one above was wider than it looks and necessitated a bit of a diversion into Cumbria to find a place to cross.
As well as visiting the crashsite on Mickle Fell on this walk I had also planned on visiting another crashsite which lay just over 3 mile to the east of the Stirling site on an area called Staple Moss. After Staple Moss I would have been able to follow a Public Bridleway back down to the B6276. Because of the flooded nature of the ground I decided to abandon that plan as I didn't fancy coming up against a stream in spate that undoubtedly would not have a convenient bridge over it, saying as I would be off the beaten track. More so I wasn't keen on the 3.5 mile trudge along the B6276 to get back to the car that visiting Staple Moss would have entailed.
Approaching Hanging Seal.
When I mentioned the ground was wet underfoot it was still easy going on a reasonably well trodden path, that is until I reached an area called Hanging Seal. The terrain around Hanging Seal was one wide and deep spaggy moss filled peat grough after another, and to make matters worse they were all flooded, which made them quite impassable. The solution was to make a slight diversion uphill to where the peat groughs were a lot narrower which allowed me to cross them without too much drama!
This wide and fast flowing beck heralded the start of the Hanging Seal Peat grough challenge!
Another bridge that saved me the necessity of acquiring wet feet.
The Force beck dropping over Hanging Seal, the waterfall being called 'The Force'. If anyone called Luke fancies doing this walk then use this waterfall to refill your waterbottle, you can then say you've used The Force!
Above and below:-Approaching the summit lump of Mickle Fell. Mickle Fell used to be the highest hill in Yorkshire but then they moved the boundries and it's now in Durham.
Most of the distance to reach Mickle Fell was alongside the boundary fence between Durham and Cumbria but at the top of a steep section called 'Kings Pot' it was necessary to leave that fence and head to the north east along a bit of a terrace to an area called 'Boot of Mickle Fell'; where I began to find bits of Short Stirling LK488.
The first bits of wreckage I found. A lot more bits were on the other side of the fence in the background.
Above and below:-Where LK488 first hit the hill on the south side of the fell, most of the Stirling ended up over the other side of the ridge to the right.
More bits and a bare area of rocks on the north side which appeared to be where Stirling LK488 finally ended its last flight.
LK488 collided with Mickle Fell on it's south side near the top of a ridge but the bulk of the airframe ended up over on the north side where it was eventually broken up by a Maintenance Unit. The pieces were dragged a short distance down the hillside and deposited in some large sinkholes where they remained until the late 1970's, early 1980's when the RAF recovered them using a Helicopter.
above and next two photos:-The sinkholes taken on my visit in 2020 and a couple of photos taken in the 1970's of the same sinkholes.
As I had already ditched my plan to head over to Staple Moss once I'd visited the Stirling crashsite all I had to do now was retrace my steps back to the car. Unfortunately going back the way I came meant passing Hanging Seal again, but at least I now knew what the best tactic was to avoid the spaggy filled groughs. As I was making my way towards the bridge over the Force Beck the heavens opened and I was subjected to some big fat heavy rain which made the Hanging Seal experience even more enjoyable!