Last Sunday (14 June) I decided I needed to get out to clear my head after what had been a stressful week. After the experience at the start and finish of my last walk starting from Rivington on a Sunday I decided I’d stray a little further afield to somewhere where I’d be much less likely to encounter crowds of day trippers. The Westmorland Dales near to Orton looked like a good bet. It’s just over an hour’s drive away, usually very quiet and the countryside, dominated by an extensive limestone pavement, is quite different to the peat moorlands and pleasant woodland closer to home.
The Westmorland Dales became part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park in 2016 (although they’re in Cumbria) but are still relatively unknown. The area has the most extensive area of limestone pavement in the UK outside the Ingleborough area in Yorkshire. They would have been more extensive at one time as the limestone has been exploited in the past. Former limestone kilns, used to create lime for construction and agriculture, are dotted across the landscape – I spotted one in the distance during my walk – and limestone has also been removed for use as garden ornaments. As an important site for a variety of wildlife and plantlife the area is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
I drove up the M6, turning off an Tebay and then up the quiet road through Orton and parked up in a small rough parking area a couple of miles north of the village. There were another three cars parked up there, but nobody in sight.
I set off on a path heading north east across the moor and soon encountered the first traces of the limestone pavement
It was almost silent other than the call of the birds, including a couple of curlews circling overhead. It was good, too, to hear the song of the skylarks.
I carried on along the lonely path, passing a herd of long horned cattle
There were the high Pennine fells – including Cross Fell and High Cup Nick – in the distance
reaching a dry stone wall
I followed its course until I reached a minor road. My route took me along the tarmac for a couple of miles. It was quiet, although I was passed by three cars as I sauntered down the lane
I had a peek over the wall at some of the locals munching on their breakfast
As I carried on down the lane, there was more evidence of the limestone in the landscape
I turned right off the tarmac and took a track through the fields heading towards Sunbiggin
then after about a kilometre I took the path to the right through the fields. The OS indicates that there used to be some sort of settlement here, but I didn’t stop to look. There was a herd of cows with their cattle standing by the path and, although they moved out of my way, they stood close by looking at me rather suspiciously.
The path carried on along the edge of the fields, running parallel to the wall
Eventually the landscape became dominated by the slabs of limestone
I was now on open access land so diverted off the path to explore the limestone pavement which meant hopping over the clints while avoiding getting my foot stuck in one of the grykes.
Clints (sometimes called by their German name, flachkarren) are the blocks of limestone that form the pavement. They are chemically weathered so that their surface is covered by a series of pits and hollows (called karren).
Grykes are fissures separating the clints in a limestone pavement. They may be well over a metre in depth, and formed when the joints in the limestone were widened by chemical weathering.British Geological Survey
The vegetation is very different than on the acid peat on the Pennine moors nearer to home
I made my way, carefully, until I reached my objective – the former Romano-British settlement at Castle Folds, where I stopped for a bite to eat.
It didn’t look much on the ground – limestone blocks surrounding more open ground – but it’s a historic site, the location of a defended position used by members of a Romano-British tribe
The monument is an unusual example in Cumbria of a heavily defended Romano-British stone hut circle settlement. Unlike many Romano-British settlements which were enclosed or ‘defended’ in such a way as to protect both inhabitants and stock from casual marauders, Castle Folds appears, by the very nature of its inaccessible location and strongly defended stone enclosure wall, to have been constructed in response to a threat of much greater proportions.Historic England
In Medieval times it was used as a shieling – a place for shepherds to stay in grazing season. and some of the ruined structures reflect the modifications made during this period..
It’s difficult to make out much from ground level, but the outline can be more clearly seen from the air, as in this photo sourced from Wikipedia (looking south with the Howgill Fells in the background)
After a break, I carried on hopping over more limestone
I clambered over a drystone wall to the summit of the hill to take in the views towards the Howgills
and the Shap Fells to the west
My next objective was Beacon Hill, across the valley
I set off down the hill to join the path down intot eh valley and then up the hill towards the monument at the summit of the hill
The monument at the summit had been erected to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria
I stopped for a break and took in the 360 degree views
then it was to head back across the moor to the car.
The car park was busier than when I arrived, but wasn’t full. There were three people sitting next to their cars in fold up chairs eating a picnic. I’m always amazed by people who do this. Drive to a car park an sit there having a picnic. There was a decent view from their seats, albeit surrounded by cars. It they’d only walked a few metres they’d have had an even better view.
Here’s a shot I took looking north west from the car parks. there’s the distinctive shape of the saddle back of Blencathra in the distance