East of Ullswater

It’s wild and windy outside as I write this, not very summery. But a couple of weeks ago we had a mini heatwave for a few days, so I decided to abandon sitting staring at a computer screen for a day and get out for a walk.

Where to go? The Lake District was starting to open up – I’d seen plenty of posts on social media from people getting up on the fells – but I’d also seen reports of some popular spots getting crowded with day trippers, leaving litter and, potentially spreading something worse. So I thought I’d go somewhere I expected to be a little quieter and where I hadn’t been before, the fells on the north eastern side of Ullswater. I drove up to Penrith on the M6 and then along the country roads to Pooley Bridge – the bridge after which the village is named being reconstructed and so traffic can’t get across from the west side of the lake.

It was fairly quiet as I walked through the village with a few walkers and locals about, but it was only early morning. It was already warm and sunny, but with some cloud about. It would get busier later on but for now it was easy to avoid close contact. I took the minor road up towards Askham fell which soon turned into a track leading up on to the fells.

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I could see my first destination for the day, Arthur’s Pike, over the fields

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There’s Arthur’s Pike again over to the right

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Climbing higher, I reached a signpost that wasn’t that helpful.

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Had I travelled through a time portal? Not really. There used to be a Roman road, High Street, that ran over these fells than ran from the Roman fort at Brougham (Brocavum) near Penrith to the fort at Ambleside (Galava) and this signpost, and a stone bench, the Roman Seat, has been erected on the former route by the Friends of the Ullswater Way.

I carried on and then turned south towards the Cockpit, a Bronze Age stone circle

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carrying on, I diverted off the route of the Roman road taking the path towards Arthur’s Pike. It was a relatively easy, gradual climb up to the summit – just as well as I’d not dome much hill walking of late. After the heavy downpours we’d had in the preceding weeks it was boggy underfoot in places

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Arthur’s Pike

Reaching the summit I stopped for a while to refuel and took in the views

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My next objective was the neighbouring hill of Bonscale Pike. As the crow flies it’s only a short distance between the summits, but there isn’t a direct route so I had to take a “dog leg” to reach it,

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dipping down a valley, passing this sheep fold,

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crossing a stream and then climbing back up the fell side.

Reaching the summit, the views over Ullswater and the high mountains on the other side of the lake were pretty stunning

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Looking over Hallin and Place Fells with the Helvelyn range over the lake
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I could see Skiddaw in the distance
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Looking north over the flatter terrain towards Pooley bridge

Bonscale Pike, which overlooks the small settlement of Howtown, is well known for it’s two “towers” – tall stone structures

It’s a steep climb up from Howtown – my route was definitely easier.

Time to retrace my steps now and make my way over to the old Roman road route. the terrain was’t so interesting and it was boggy underfoot. But I carried on making my way to the next objective, Loadpot Hill.

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On the way up to the summit, on the hillside a hundred metres or so away, I spotted a red deer. it looked at me for a while and then skipped off. Nearby Martindale has the oldest herd of wild red deer in England. It’s the only pure red deer herd in the country, as, unlike other herds there’s been no cross-breeding with the imported Sika deer. I’d heard the deer during rutting season on a walk a couple of years ago, but this was the first time I’d seen one of them.

Loadpot Hill isn’t one of the most interesting Fells. The views from the summit aren’t that great compared to Bonscale Pike. No lake and only distant views of the mountains over the moorland.

I had a decision to make now – how to get back to Pooley bridge. I could have retraced my steps but instead I decided to extend my walk a little and descend down Fusedale to Howown and then make my way back on the flatter option of the Ullswater Way.

So I carried on, picking up the route of the Roman road again. There was a path shown on the map descending down Fusedale between Loadpot Hill and Wether Hill. Well, I’m not really a collector of Wainwrights, but as the path was not far from the summit, I though I might as well “tick it off”. I was taking a short break when another walker arrived, a young woman. We chatted for a while. She’d been following the same route as myself and was also going to descend down to Howtown. Neither of us had spotted the path that was shown on the map but we agreed it looked like it wouldn’t be too difficult a descent. I left before her, knowning she’d soon overtake me. I couldn’t trace the path so descended over the grassy slope – it wasn’t too difficult and it wasn’t that wet underfoot. My OS map app indicated I was on the line of the path. Then, a short distance over to my right I spotted the young woman walker who shouted over to me that’s she’s found a path, so I made my way over and then carried on descending down the hillside.

The views were really opening up now

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Steel Knotts

Descending down Fusedale

Looking back up the valley

Approaching Howtown

The small lakeside settlement is one of the stops for the Ullswater Steamer. They weren’t running due to the Covid 19 restrictions still in place, but there were plently of people on the lake side and enjoying the cool water. I kept my distance but could resist cooling myself off with some of the water from the lake

I now started to follow the Ullswater Way. It’s a popular route in more normal times and is well signposted. It was quiet today, though. I’d decided on the low level option – the main, higher level route would have taken me back onto the fells near the Cockpit stone circle, but there were quite a few miles back to Pooley Bridge and I didn’t wan’t to overdo it on a hot day.

getting closer to Pooley Bridge

There were quite a few groups of people enjoying the sunshine by the lakeside, but it wasn’t difficult to keep my distance.

I was pretty tired when I reached my car as I’d walked much further than I’d originally intended. But I felt pleased and de-stressed after a great walk over a variety of terrains with some superb views. I treated myself to an ice-cream from a local shop before getting back in the car an setting off on my journey back home. Only an hour and a half away.

Limestone Pavement and a Romano-British Fortress

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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

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There were the high Pennine fells – including Cross Fell and High Cup Nick – in the distance

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reaching a dry stone wall

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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

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I had a peek over the wall at some of the locals munching on their breakfast

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As I carried on down the lane, there was more evidence of the limestone in the landscape

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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.

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The path carried on along the edge of the fields, running parallel to the wall

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Eventually the landscape became dominated by the slabs of limestone

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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
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The vegetation is very different than on the acid peat on the Pennine moors nearer to home

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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.

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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)

By Simon Ledingham, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13152478

After a break, I carried on hopping over more limestone

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I clambered over a drystone wall to the summit of the hill to take in the views towards the Howgills

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and the Shap Fells to the west

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My next objective was Beacon Hill, across the valley

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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

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The monument at the summit had been erected to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria

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I stopped for a break and took in the 360 degree views

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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

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Anglezarke

The last Sunday in May was another hot and sunny day so I decided I should make the most of it and get back up the moors before the rains arrived and turned the currently dry blanket bogs back into a quagmire!

I decided I’d park up n the outskirts of Rivington and then walk round the Upper Rivington and Anglezarke reservoirs before heading up on to the moors. I set out early but when I arrived at my intended destination the car parks were all pretty full even at 9 o’clock in the morning. I parked up on the dam separating the two Rivington reservoirs and set up along the path on the west shore. It was very busy with cyclists, runners and dog walkers, none of whom seemed to think it was necessary to move over to keep 2 metres apart. I was glad when I reached Anglezarke reservoir. It was considerably quieter walking along the shore.

Looking over towards Black Coppice and Great Hill

At the top end of the reservoir by Healey Nab I walked along the minor road across the top end of the reservoir and then took the path along the eastern shore.

About a third of the way along the lake I took the path up the hill towards the moors. Past the old farmhouse

A short walk along Moor Road and then I climbed over the stile onto the moor.

As I climbed higher I could see cloud in the sky over in the east beyond Great Hill. That wasn’t forecast.

As I got closer I realised that it was, in fact, a cloud of smoke. The barbecue brigade had been out and set fire to the peat over on Darwen Moor.

The moorland up here is a classic “Blanket Bog” of peat covered by sphagnum moss, heather, bilberry and cottongrass. With the recent long sunny dry spell the peat has dried out and it doesn’t take much to set it alight leading to the sort of highly damaging fires we witnessed a couple of years ago up on Winter Hill.

The fire did, indeed, appear to have been started by a disposable barbecue. It’s incredible to think that people are stupid enough to think that it’s appropriate to use these things up on the dry moorland. Luckily the local fire brigades managed to get the fire under control so it didn’t spread too far. There’s been a fire the day before up on Winter Hill and Rivington Pike. again the Fire Service managed to put it out before it spread too far.

The view towards Winter Hill and Rivington Pike

Anyway, carrying on along the moor I walked over Hurst Hill and on to Round Loaf, believed to be a Neolithic or Bronze Age bowl barrow or burial mound – the first of three prehistoric sites I’d visit during my walk.

On top of Round Loaf

From Round Loaf I headed south over the Moor, crossing over Devil’s Ditch which is thought to be the remains of a Neolithic boundary

Looking back over the moor to Round Loaf

and across to Redmond and Spitlers’ Edges

reaching Lead Mine’s Clough, rather than walk down besides the brook I took the past heading east back up onto the moorland

and made my way towards Pike Stones, the third Prehistoric site up on Anglezarke

The site comprises a collection of stones that used to be a Neolithic burial mound. There are several large slabs of millstone grit which at one time would have stood upright to form a burial chamber. Its a scheduled Ancient Monument

The stones themselves don’t look much, but it doesn’t take too much imagination to picture what they looked like when they were upright. Originally they would have been covered over with earth to form a mound and the stones themselves wouldn’t have been visible. However, the mound must have been a fairly impressive sight when it was standing, especially given the prominent location on a high ridge overlooking the South Lancashire Plain.

From Pikestones I set off towards Jepson’s gate

then cut back east along the track

then took the path south across the fields

towards Yarrow Reservoir

Reaching the road, I crossed over Allance Bridge

and took the path through the fields on the east side of the reservoir

passing a few locals

It had quiet for most of my walk – I’d seen few people – but reaching the track at the end of Yarrow Reservoir it became very busy. There were groups of people, many who didn’t seem to be concerned about maintaining “social distancing”. I was glad to finally get back into my car.

Overall it had been an enjoyable walk, but I’d learned a lesson. keep away from Rivington on a fine day

The Curlew

Two Curlews by Angela Harding

For the past few months, restricted to local walks from the doorstep, I’ve mainly been wandering around the Plantations, very pleasant woodland of deciduous trees – beech oak, horse chestnut, sycamore, ash and lime – which stretches a couple of miles up to Haigh Hall. I’ve enjoyed exploring the numerous paths, finding new routes, observing the change from winter, to Spring and now Summer. I’ve also enjoyed listening to the birdsong, even attempting to learn how to identify the different species, not with much success, unfortunately!

My walks up on the moors, though, have meant I’ve been able to experience a different landscape, and, with it, different bird life. I heard a cuckoo in the woods on my first wander and heard, and glimpsed lapwings and curlews. The latter two are amongst my favourite birds, their cries being very redolent of wandering on the moors for me and a couple of years ago, after a visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park we treated ourselves to a print by the artist Angela Harding of two curlews (see above).

I’ve missed seeing curlews flying across the sky so it was good to spot a pair circling above me during my recent walks and hearing their plaintful, bubbling cry.

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Although I often see or hear them during my wanders on moorland or salt marshes by the sea, they’re an endangered species. An initiative has been launched by the RSPB and a campaigning organisation Curlew Action has been established. The latter’s website tells us

Today, widespread changes to our countryside have seen their numbers dramatically decline, especially over the last 40 years. In Southern Ireland curlews have decreased by over 90%, in Wales by over 80% and on average we have lost 60% throughout England and Scotland since the 1980s.

A few weeks ago one of the podcasts I sometimes listen to Trees a Crowd, devoted an episode to the curlew (click on the picture to listen)

and especially for the podcast, a favourite folk singer, Bella Hardy, who hails from Edale in the Peak District, composed a song (again, click on the picture below to listen)

Great Hill and Anglezarke Moor

This period of good weather continues and trying to make the most of it I decided to take a day off work and head up back on to the moors. I drove over to White Coppice arriving around 10 o’clock. It was already busy, but there was no problem keeping my distance from other people out exercising and enjoying the sunshine.

I set off along the path that would take me up to Great Hill

Looking back towards Chorley and Healey Nab from the top of the slope.

and looking ahead to the summit of Great Hill. A familiar sight. I’ve walked up here too many times to count, but never get tired of it.

Millstone grit!

Reaching the ruined farm at Drinkwaters, a couple of walkers had beat me to the bench. I carried on walking,

passing a couple of “locals”.

Looking across to Winter Hill and Rivington Pike across Anglezarke Moor.

the view to the north east from the summit with Pendle Hill just about visible in the distance

I turned south to follow the path along Redmond and Spitler’s Edges

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and, just before reaching Belmont Road I turned south.

As I carried on along the path I heard a familiar bubbling cry and then 2 curlews appeared circling above me in the sky and across the moor. I tried to get a shot of them. This was my best effort – zoom in on the black blob in the sky. (if you can’t see it so well, perhaps a trip to Barnard castle is in order!!!)

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I carried on across the moor towards the ruined farms of Lower and Higher Hempshaws

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From there I decided to try a path I’d never walked down before, towards Sims, another ruined farm. Normally I’d follow a dirt track used by farmers but this route was more direct across the moor.

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It wasn’t a very distinct path, not well trod. That wasn’t surprising really as it waas across peat and if we hadn’t had such a long dry spell this would have been very wet underfoot and a quagmire in winter. Even so, the going wasn’t so easy in places.

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Reaching Sims I cut across the moor to Lead Mine Clough and then back up onto the peat to walk across to Round Loaf, which I’d visited only a week before.

There were two couples having a break on top. Keeping my distance I stopped for a bite to eat, taking in the view. This is a panorama of the ridge from Great Hill I’d traversed.

Leaving Round Loaf I carried on towards Hurst Hill, walking through a sea of bog cotton in bloom on the peat.

On the summit of Hurst Hill looking over the moors to Winter Hill

and over to Great Hill

After a short break I was off again, this time down a path that, despite many years spent up here, I’d never walked down before. It took me across the moorland in the direction of Anglezarke reservoir. The wooded hill in the mid ground is Healey Nab.

The path was faint in places as I made my way through the heather. I took a short diversion to take in the top of Grain Pole Hill – another first.

I carried on towards the minor road where there were a couple of cars parked up in a layby.

Leaving the moor

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I walked down the hill and then took the path to the left of the Goit (a watercourse linking the Roddlesworth and Anglezarke reservoirs

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back towards White Coppice.

Another great day up on the moors. It had been relatively busy, but I’d passed fewer people than I’d encountered when I’d been shopping at the Marks and Spencers food store a couple of days before – and it had been a lot easier to keep my distance from them.

Return to the Moors

Like most people – but unlike a certain Gollum like Government advisor – as best as I can I’ve been sticking to both the letter and the spirit of the Government’s requirements and advice to try to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. That means I’ve been working for home and sticking to local walks in the Plantations, respecting best I can “social distancing”. However, since last week we’ve been “allowed” to travel further for exercise and as Wednesday was a hot and sunny day, I decided to bunk off work during the afternoon, drive 7 miles over to Rivington and get out for a walk up on the Moors.

The car parks around Rivington were jammed, to say the least, but I avoided the crowds around the “honeypots” and rather than head up the Pike, which would have been heaving with people, set off down a quiet path heading towards Anglezarke.

I took the path to the east of Yarrow reservoir, passing only a handful of people

and quite a few sheep

including a number of a black breed (not sure what they were).

At Allance Bridge, rather than take the track up Lead Mine Clough I cut up the track up across the rough fields

with great views over the moors

and towards Winter Hill.

Over the stile onto the open access land.

Passing more sheep.

I cut across the peat, covered with cotton grass, heading towards the modest summit of Hurst Hill. With all the dry weather we’ve had while we’ve all been locked down the ground was dry (it’s usually a quagmire) but as there wasn’t a definite path the going across the rough ground was hard work.

Reaching the summit I stopped for a chat with a couple of other walkers (keeping 2 metres apart), one who lived very close to the house where I lived during my teenage years.

Long range visibility was poor

but there were good views over the moors

My next objective, along a more definite path, was Round Loaf, a prehistoric (Late Neolithic or Bronze Age) bowl barrow burial mound, which is a Scheduled Monument.

There’s a number of prehistoric relics in the area, including Pikestones, a collection of stones that used to be a Neolithic burial mound, which is only a short distance away.

Climbing to the top of the tumulus there were good views over the moors to Rivington Pike and Winter Hill

and, in the opposite direction, towards Great Hill.

I had a number of options of routes to follow but I decided to make my way back over the rough peat towards Lead Mine Clough,

where I crossed over the river and then cut across on the path heading east.

I walked a short distance along the track used by the local farmers towards the ruined farm known as “Sims”

and the took the path towards Rivington

Looking back.

I crossed the young River Yarrow

Looking back again.

The path took me across rough ground and then through a field of horses before I reached the road.

It was only a short distance to the start of the path I’d walked along earlier on the east side of the Yarrow Reservoir. I retraced my steps back towards Rivington, passing the dam where there were a few small well separated groups sun bathing.

I took the path back to Rivington village, past the Chapel and then across the fields back to my car completing a 9 mile circuit.

After being restricted to walking through woodland for the past couple of months it had been good to get up on some rougher, open country. I’ll definitely be back up on the moors again a few times over the next few weeks.

Pining for the Lakes

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Like everyone else, my plans for getting out and about this Spring and Summer have been torpedoed by the Covid-19 situation. I had originally intended to spend a few days in the Lake District at the beginning of May again this year, having enjoyed a short solo walking break up there for the past two years. It helps to spend some time getting away from things, relaxing (if you can call fell walking relaxing!) and clearing my head. But, alas, not to be this year, which is made even more frustrating that the weather was so good.

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Even though our Clown Minister and the host of second raters “running” the country have now declared we can drive off anywhere we like for exercise (in England only, as the Scots and Welsh administrations are taking a more cautious approach), I’m going to respect the wishes of the locals and stay closer to home for a while. So, I’ve had to get my “fix” of the Lake District in other ways. Work has kept me busy (busier than it would have been without the virus – although with less income) but I have managed to spend some time looking at my photos from previous trips, reading books and blogs, watching videos and listening to podcasts about the Lakes, and some other favourite mountainous regions. Not as good as being there, of course, but, you have to take your pleasures the best way you can!

I’ve accumulated a decent little library of books about the Lake District, Snowdonia and other favourite areas for walking, but am always adding to it (I can’t help myself!) and just a few days ago this arrived through the letter box.

I’d pre-ordered this book a short while ago and had been looking forward to it being published and arriving. The blurb from the publisher (a small Lakeland company) tells us that

In Life on the Mountains Terry presents more than 100 exclusive photos from a decade on the fells, and speaks candidly about his troubled early life, a disowned father, depression and his love of real ale before revealing the tricks and techniques of his craft and detailing the landscapes he’s grown to love.

Terry has produced marvellous documentaries about two iconic mountains, Scafell Pike and Blencathra, and is about to release a third about Helvellyn, although the premiere, which was due to be held at the Rheghed Centre near Penrith, has had to be postponed. I’ve enjoyed both of his films, edited versions which have been shown on BBC 4. The book contains some marvellous photographs of the Lakeland fells – I wish mine looked half as good – and it was interesting to read about his early life and insights about the making of the films.

There are clips from Terry’s work on Youtube, but I also discovered that he’s been streaming on Facebook too, where he talks about his work and shows clips from his films, including the upcoming one about Helvellyn. I’ve particularly enjoyed watching his Facebook streams – he’s quite a character!

Included with the book was a leaflet advertising a podcast, Countrystride, which is produced by Dave Felton, who runs Inspired by Lakeland, the company that’s published Terry Abraham’s book, and presented by Mark Richards, whose written guidebooks about the Lakes, including the eight-volume Lakeland Fellranger series, published by Cicerone. I’ve started listening to the podcasts, including one featuring a walk up Wetherlam from Tilberthwaite with George Kitching, the author of the Lakeland Walking Tales blog, which I follow. George has commented on my little blog a few times, so it was good to hear him talking on the podcast. The Countrystride blog is also worth visiting, for as well as the links to the podcasts it features some excellent line drawings, one for each episode, in a style similar to Alfred Wainwright, by Mark Richards.

I’ve found a few programmes to listen to on the BBC Sounds App too. Recent programmes include a walk along the Miner’s Way in the Wicklow Mountains by the Irish poet Jane Clarke, an old episode of Clare Balding’s Ramblings from Radio 4 in Glendalough in the Wicklow Mountains, and a series of essays about mountainous areas in Wales which had been aired on Radio 3.

I’ve also been watching a few videos by Abbie Barnes, a very enthusiastic young female film maker who has filmed her walks in the Lake District and elsewhere. She has a her own production company, Songthrush Productions. I’ve enjoyed “accompanying” her on her walks – not as good as actually being there, but not a bad substitute in these strange times.

Recommendations of other videos, podcasts and the like, gratefully received!

Thank Goodness for the Plantations!

So, we’ve been “locked down”, of a sort, for over a month now. I’ve been able to work at home, only very occasionally straying out to pick something up from the shops and one trip into the office to pick up a proper office chair, to try to avoid back problems, and a few odds and ends. Being stuck indoors is not something I’ve ever been fond of to put it mildly – even when I was very young my mother always used to say I was like a caged lion when I had to stay in the house. But we are allowed out for exercise, so long as we maintain “social distancing”, so, with the weather being so fine for most of the lock down so far, I’ve been out most days for a walk. We’re lucky in that, although we live close to the town centre, just a short walk down to the bottom of our street and I’m down by the river in the valley that forms a “green corridor” bisecting the north end of town and leading to the Plantations and Haigh Woodland Park.

Within 10 minutes I’m in very pleasant woodland of beech trees with a proportion of oak, horse chestnut, sycamore, ash and lime and Scots pine, which stretches a couple of miles up to Haigh Hall. Until the mid 19th Century the area was something of an industrial wasteland, damaged by mining. But in the 1860’s the Plantations were created as a means of providing work for cotton workers who had become unemployed due to the Cotton Famine caused by the American Civil War.

Most days I’ve managed to get out for an hour or so wandering through the woods. I’ve walked around the Plantations for many, many years but to add some variety, and also to keep away from the main driveway and maintain “social distancing” rules I’ve been exploring and have discovered several paths I didn’t know where there!

I was worried that I might find it boring wandering around the same territory, but I’ve managed to vary my route and although woodland might seem very “samey” there’s quite a lot of variation and I’ve enjoyed watching the changes taking place as we move through the Springtime. At the start of the lock down the ground was wet and muddy after all the rain we’d had in February, the trees were bare and there was little vegetation, but over time the ground has dried up, the birds are singing and over the past week I’ve seen the bluebells bloom and the leaves open on the trees. A couple of days ago buttercups appeared and other plants are now starting to bloom.

Build me up Buttercup!

The weather looks like it’s starting to change today and I reckon we’ll see some rain later in the week. I’ll still try to get out, though. I’m stuck at a desk most of the day in my home “office” and getting out for a walk in the early evening is helping to take my mind off all the worries and keep me sane.

I don’t know how long this is going to last – there’s no end in sight at the moment. I’m enjoying getting out and walking through the Plantations, but I’m missing being out on the open moors in the Pennines, the Lakeland fells and the Welsh hills and mountains. I’d planned to take a break in the Lake District in May and a trip to Snowdonia in July. We also had a trip to Ireland planned for late in May too. Currently, though, we have to make the most of whatever’s nearby and with the Plantations on my doorstep I’m luckier than many people stuck in city centres. But when this all ends I’m sure I won’t be the only one dashing off to the Lakes.

Cat Bells, the Newlands Valley and a short stroll along Derwent Water

The final day of my week off in March and, although we didn’t know it at the time, just over a week until the “lockdown”. The Government’s policy at the time was to develop “herd immunity” and and in an interview in the Sunday Times – behind a paywall! – the Health Secretary was talking about locking up the elderly and other vilnerable people for 3 months. Government policy seemed confused and uncler, but there didn’t seem to be any reason not to go up to the Lakes for a walk, where I’d be in contact with fewer people than I would have been back in Wigan.

I set off early and driving up the M6 traffic was noticeably quieter than normal, but it was far from deserted. Arriving in Keswick I found a place to park on the old road to Pontiscale – now a dead end for traffic but a popular free place to park. After donning my boots and rucksac I set off, crossing the footbridge over the river and walked through Portiscale village, passing the appartment where we stayed a couple of summers ago.

It was a relatively easy start to the walk but after about a mile and a half, during a short climb , I realised I’d left my walking poles in the car. They take some of the strain off my dodgy old knees when descending, but I’d gone too far to turn back to retrieve them so I soldiered on.

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About 40 minutes after setting out I reached the foot of Cat Bells. It’s a smaller fell and in easy reach of Keswick, so it’s a popular climb and I expected to see a few other walkers on the way up. The sign told us it was an hour to the top. The last time I went up here it took me about 40 minutes, but as I hadn’t done a lot of fell walking of late I wasn’t sure I’d manage to equal that this time.

As expected there were other walkers making their way to the top, probably not as many as usual, although it was still relatively early. I wan’t the slowest by any means, although I stopped several times to take in the view (not just and excuse to pause for breath – honest!).

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I arrived at the summit after 45 minutes, so not quite as quick as last time. It was a grey day so the fells didn’t look their best, but he views were still magnificent even with cloud covering some of the higher fells – it made them look atmospheric.

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After a short break to take some photos I resumed my walk, heading south, downhill towards Newlands hawse. I could have carried on along the ridge up to Maiden Moor and High Spy or down to the shores of Derwent Water, but my plan was to descend down to Newlands Valley.

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Old mine workings
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Looking back down the valley
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Newlands is something of a “secret valley” much less trod than the east side of the ridge and I passed very few people – just a handful of walkers and a mountain biker (older than me!)

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There was some rain around and I spotted a rainbow

Reaching the bottom of the path up to Cat Bells, rather than retrace my steps back to the car, as it was stoll early in the afternoon, I decided to walk round to Derwent Water and take a gentle stroll part way along the lake shore.

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Sculpture commemorating the 100th anniversary of the National Trust

I was half tempted to continue on all round the lake, but that was a bit ambitious! Time was getting on so I turned round and retraced my steps, along the shore, back towards Portinscale and then over the bridge to my car.

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Another monument to the National Trust – a bench this time
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There’s the launch – not many passengers today
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I wandered lonely as a cloud …… (wrong lake, mind)
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Arriving back at my car I decided to drive into Keswick and visit a favourite bookshop – just enough time to browse and make a purchase before closing time.

Walking around Rivington

The Japanese Gardens

It’s been a funny old year. Getting out during February and March was spoiled by the stormy weekends and now the weather has improved with the arrival of Spring, we’re “locked in” and restricted to local walks.

During March I took advantage of any “weather windows” to get out and about for some walks nearer to home and a few times a drove the few miles over to Rivington . There’s quite a few routes and some variety too – woodland, lakeside and wild moor land. Here’s a few shots I took during a couple of walks around there. It’ll probably be a while before I can get up there again – United Utilities, who own the land around here, have closed all of the car parks, and even if I could park up on the road, being 5 miles away I don’t know whether it would count as a “local walk”.

One of several Logia
View over to Winter Hill

Climbing up the Pike you pass through the Terraced Gardens which were created by Thomas Mawson between 1905 and 1925 for the soap magnate Lord Leverhulme. In recent years, a lot of work has been done restoring the gardens and making the structures safe and accessible.

The Pigeon Tower
View over the Italian Lake to the Pigeon Tower
The Italian lake
The Japanese Garden
Seven Arch Bridge
The Unitarian Chapel in Rivington Village
Looking over to Rivington Pike and Winter Hill from the far side of Yarrow Reservoir
The overflow “waterfall” from Yarrow Reservoir to Anglezarke Reservoir
View from the western shore of Lower Rivington Reservoir