The Raisbeck Pinfold

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Before we went up to Orton for our walk around the limestone pavements I’d spotted that there was one of Andy Goldsworthy’s sheepfolds not so far away near the small hamlet of Raisbeck.

SHEEPFOLDS is Cumbria County Council’s major county-wide sculpture, landscape and environment project by the internationally renowned artist ANDY GOLDSWORTHY. The project started in January 1996 for the ‘U.K. Year of Visual Arts’ in what was then the Northern Arts Board region. Beginning as part of this programme Andy Goldsworthy has created a body of environmentally responsive sculptural works across Cumbria using existing sheepfolds, washfolds and pinfolds.

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Although each fold is an individual piece, the project should be seen as a single work of art .

The one at Raisbeck is one of the artist’s cone pinfold’s. Pinfold appears to be a northern term for a pound, where stray animals were kept until claimed by their owners who would have to pay a release fee. If unclaimed, the animals would be sold.

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In each of his cone pinfolds, Goldsworthy has built a conical stone structure – hence their name. On the project website he explains how the shape of these structures was inspired by the Nine Standards, stone cairns on Hartley Fell near Kirkby Stephen, and describes how they were constructed. He tells us that

The form is full and ripe – an optimistic expression of the power of growth and that even out of stone comes life. They are strong yet the form appears precarious – not unlike the nature of growth itself.’

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Their are nine cone pinfold cones around Kirkby Stephen, reflecting the Nine Standards

The Raisbeck cone features in a book about the sheepfold project. In it we learn that it was an existing, ruined structure that Goldsworthy rebuilt over a period of two weeks in May 1996 using stone from a redundant wall from a nearby farm. The cone took three days to construct, using limestone and sandstone from local sources.

In the 20 years since it was built a number of trees have started to grow around the structure. So, although it is located very close to the narrow road, we managed to drive right past. But we realised pretty quickly so stopped, parked up on the verge and walked back to take a look

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A short distance down the road, next to a disused quarry, there’s another interesting stone structure – an old lime kiln – a fairly intact relic of a bygone age.

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This leaflet about the limestone landscape on the Orton fells tells us that

There are 23 small quarries and 20 lime kilns recorded in the local area. Most of these were used over the course of the last 500 years for processing lime for agricultural and domestic use.

The limestone, calcium carbonate, was “burnt” in the kilns to form “quick lime” (calcium oxide) which was then used in mortar, to render stonework and decorate walls (“whitewash”), to improve the fertility of acidic soils and to improve land drainage.

Looking at the project website, there’s a number of other Goldsworthy sheepfolds in the area around Tebay and Kirkby Stephen. Another reason to revisit the area.

A walk in Limestone Country

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The day after the long Easter weekend I took an extra day off work and we headed up the M6 to Tebay where we turned off the motorway and after a short drive arrived at the small village of Orton. It’s in Cumbria but last year the attractive village and the surrounding area to the north of the Howgill Fells was included in the Yorkshire Dales National Park when the boundaries were extended. It’s not a well known area and so not crowded with tourists, but the countryside is very beautiful and extremely peaceful. Hard to believe it’s only a few miles from the busy M6.

I’d read a few blogs with reports of walks in the area so we decided on a route based on some of these which would take us past and through some extensive limestone pavements around Great Asby Scar.

We parked up in the small car park in Orton (managed to get the last space!) and set out

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We soon reached open countryside. Only relatively gentle hills today,

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with distinctive limestone rock formations, drystone walls and plenty of sheep.

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As we started to climb, there was a good view of the Howgill Fells to the south.

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After a couple of miles we reached a crossroads. Our route would take us straight on but one arm of the sign posts pointed towards the monument up on Beacon Hill above Orton Scar. We decided to go and have a look.

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The monument on top of the modest hill was erected to mark Queen Victoria Golden Jubilee

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It was worth taking the short diversion as the views in every direction were outstanding.

The Howgills to the south

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the Lakeland fells to the west with the distinctive profile of  Blencathra (Saddleback) clearly visible in the distance

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and the northern Pennines to the north and east

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We headed back down the hill to rejoin our planned route.

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Great Asby Scar has one of the most extensive areas of limestone pavement in England and a section of it has been designated as a National Nature Reserve.

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There was a heavily fortified Romano-British site – the Castle Folds Settlement – on top of one of the limestone scars. It’s possible to walk over the open access land on the Reserve to look at the site, but we decided to stick to the route we’d planned. But I think it would be worth another visit to the area to walk over the limestone pavement to take a look at the site.

We carried on along the bridlepath.

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Some curious locals

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A view over to the Pennines

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A short distance before Great Asby village we too a path south west across some fiels and then picked up the path heading south west which would take us back towards Orton across some more limestone pavement.

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As we stared to descend the Howgills came back into view

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We descended into pastoral countryside, the fields fresh and green.

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We reached the road at Sunbiggin and walked along the tarmac a short distance before joining a path that took us back over the fields.

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A mile or so before Orton we passed the Gamelands stone circle in an adjacent field.

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It’s one of the largest circles in Cumbria. Unfortunately the stones have all been knocked over and some have been removed.

A short while later we reached Orton

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Time for some refreshment in the Chocolate Factory. It’s always good to have a refreshing view (and some cake!) after a good walk

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We’d timed our walk to perfection – they stopped serving a little while after we arrived. Now that would have been disappointing.

Hawkshead Brewery

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Before driving over to Kentmere we called into the Hawkshead Brewery at Staveley. It’s a real brewery where they brew there own ales, but they also have a beer hall where they serve their beer as well as food. It’s open lunch times and also during the evening on Friday and Saturday (food only served until 3 pm, though).

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Visitors can look over the brewery from a viewing gallery at the back of the building

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and they have 2 large storage tanks next to the beer hall.

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They also run brewery tours at 2 pm on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

It might seem odd that they’re called Hawkshead Brewery when they’re a few miles and across the other side of Windermere from the village of that name. However, that is where they started. But they outgrew their original premises after four years and moved to the present site, in the Mill Yard, beside the River Kent, in Staveley. Their range of craft beers are rather excellent (you can buy bottles to take away so no need to try them all at once!).

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Next door there’s a rather excellent craft bakery that sells scrumptious bread and cakes, and they have a café too.

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So two yeast based production facilities next door to each other.

There’s a number of other manufacturing, commercial and retail businesses based in the mill yard, including a shop that makes and sells chutney’s sauces and relishes and the UK’s largest cycle store.

It’s worth pulling off the fast road between Kendal and Windermere for a visit.

Kentmere Tarn circular

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The weather forecast for the last day of our break in the Lake District wasn’t promising and when I got up it was raining heavily. So time to chill out, relax and do some reading. However, by midday the rain had eased off so, despite the grey skies and low cloud up the valley, I decided to go out for a short walk. It ended up being a little longer than intended!

From the front windows of our cottage we could see the small tarn  a little way down the valley, so I decided to walk over and have a closer look.

The original Kentmere Tarn was a larger body of water that was drained in the 1830’s to provide reclaimed farm land, but it was of poor quality. However, deposits of diatomite, also known as diatomaceous earth, were found in the former lake bed – the only source of the material in the UK –  and were mined for use in the production of insulation products. The mine was originally owned by Kentmere Diatomite, an independent company which was taken over by Cape Insulation. The process involved drying off the earth in a kiln which burnt off the vegetable matter. The resultant powder was then mixed with several minerals including asbestos. Production finished in the 1970’s but the old insulation factory is still there, and is now used by a company manufacturing packaging. (There’s some good information about the diatomite mining in this document). The present Kentmere Tarn was formed due to the flooding of the workings.

I set out after midday. Visibility was poor down the valley due to the cloud and mist.

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I headed past Kentmere Hall and then set off down a muddy path toward the Tarn.

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15 minutes later I reached the Tarn. Access to the banks is restricted to fishermen and the path was a little way above the water line.

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After passing the Tarn the path goes through the factory yard – watch out for fork lift trucks!

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A little further along down a quiet lane, near confluence of the River Kent and Park Beck, there’s the old mill where Kentmere Pottery is now based

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The confluence of the two rivers

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Cutting inland along the path which heads up towards the moors

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I passed this old abandoned building. A shepherd’s hut?

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Heading further up towards the moor. Looked like there was some rain ahead.

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Good views, though, if a little misty.

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The path turned back down towards the valley

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Some sections of the route were very  “slutchy” (a Lancashire term for wet mud)

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Further along I got a good view down towards the Tarn

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and Kentmere village came into view

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The path back down to Kentmere Hall

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Heading back to the church, a nice, warm, dry cottage and a brew!

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Kentmere Hall

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This is Kentmere Hall. It’s a 14th century tunnel-vaulted pele tower which had an extension built on the side during the 15th or 16th century. Today it’s used as a farmhouse.

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Pele towers were defensive structure to protect the local population from marauding Scots and Border Reivers.

They were small stone buildings with walls from 3 to 10 feet thick, square or oblong in shape. Most were on the outskirts of the Lake District, but a few were within its boundaries. Designed to withstand short sieges, they usually consisted of three storeys – a tunnel-vaulted ground floor which had no windows which was used as a storage area, and which could accommodate animals. (source)

Today some, like the one at Arnside, are in ruins, others, like at Sizergh and Muncaster, were extended and incoprorated into grand houses while the one at Kentmere was extended to become part of the residence of the local big wigs, the Gilpins.

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There’s a good paper about the Hall published by the Staveley and District History Society.

Today the Hall is part of a working farm. Returning along the road back towards the church and Capplerigg, we passed a large barn full of sheep – obviously a lambing shed with the ewes brought down from the fells ready to give birth. Hearing a loud high pitched bleating we peeped inside to see a new born lamb.

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(Unfortunately not a perfect picture but I hope you like it Barbara Winking smile )

A walk up Yoke and Ill Bell

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The second full day of our stay in Kentmere and we’d planned a walk up to the top of Ill Bell via the Garburn Pass and Yoke. We’d had a good view of the two mountains from across the alley during our walk up Nan Gield pass the previous day.There was low cloud on the fells, so there was risk we’d finish in fog and miss the views from on the fells, but we set out anyway as we knew we’d still enjoy the walk.

The start of the walk – the road from the village leading to the Garburn Pass

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We passed Shepherd’s Nook

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and shortly afterwards we began to climb the path up the pass.

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Passing the crags on our right

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Reaching the top of the pass we took the path towards Yoke. There was low cloud on the fells restricting visibility but the top of Yoke looked clear.

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Looking over the Kirkstone Pass we could make out Red Screes but visibility was poor restricting the view of mountains further away. But on a good day the views are stunning.

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Reaching the top of Yoke (2316 feet) , In the distance, the summit of Ill Bell was shrouded in cloud.

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Looking over to the fells on the other side of the valley, the Nan Bield Pass was visible through a gap in the cloud. It was a little like a science fiction film – looking through a portal to another world!

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Carrying on along the ridge there was a good view down to the reservoir

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A short, sharp climb and we reached our final objective, the summit of Ill Bell (2483 feet)

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Looking along the ridge to Frostwick, the next peak, and High Street. We were tempted to carry on but decided to stick to our plan. But, all being well, one day we’ll be back to walk the horseshoe!

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This is the view over the valley to Nan Bield Pass and Harter Fell.

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Looking back towards Yoke

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Visibility was improving, and walking back along Yoke we could make out the whole length of Windermere

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and looking to the north west we had a decent view of Rred Screes on the other side of the Kirkstone Pass and over towards Helvelyn

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We retraced our steps down the Garburn Pass. The sun lighting up the crags

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Looking down on Kentmere village

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It was a sunny afternoon when we got back to our cottage – and there were some new neighbours!

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The Nan Bield Pass

Today Kentmere is a quiet, isolated spot. This wasn’t always the case. There are three passes that lead out of the valley (besides the road from Staveley) one to Mardale in the north, another to Troutbeck to the west and the third to Longsleddale in the east. So at one time, many years ago, the valley would have been a relatively busy crossroads for people and, in many cases, their animals, travelling between the Lakeland valleys. There was also industry in valley with slate mines to the north of the village and although they’ve been closed for many years now there is still evidence of the mining activity on the hillsides.

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On Tuesday, the first full day of our stay in Kentmere, the weather forecast was for intermittent rain and we’d planned a low level circular walk up along the river to the reservoir at the head of the valley and back. But one thing we learned during our break was not to trust the weather forecast. It was raining heavily when I got up but by 10 o’clock the rain had stopped and the cloud was clearing. By 11 we had sun and blue skies. It was windy, though, and I expected that the wind would be much stronger on the exposed ridges of the high fells. So we set out with a plan to start out on the low level walk but if conditions looked promising to cut up the Nan Bield Pass at the north end of the valley and then loop back along Harter Fell and Kentmere Pike. For various reasons this changed plan didn’t work out but we did manage to climb to the top of the pass.

Setting out at about 11:30, we crossed the river and walked through the village, making our way along the road until we reached the well defined footpath which ran along the floor of the valley parallel to the river. There had been a lot of rain during previous weeks so the path was wet and frequently quite muddy.

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We were soon into more open country with the high fells appearing on the horizon

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Eventually we could see most of the high fells comprising the Kentmere Horseshoe

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We had to cross numerous becks (the Cumbrian term for a stream) – only one of them was bridged so our boots got wet – not a bad thing as it washed at least some of the mud off them!

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The path started to climb gradually. We passed Kentmere Pike

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We spotted several old mine workings such as this one, high up on the side of the fell. What must it have been like to work here? P3140705

The workers would have lived in huts near tot he mines, making there way down the valley to spend their wages in the local pub on their day off. The mine workers were so rowdy that the local magistrates withdrew the licence for the pub in Kentmere  and the village has been “dry” ever since . The nearest pub is in Staveley.

Carrying on climbing steadily up the path. To our left the reservoir constructed 1848 to regulate the flow of the river which powered mills further down the valley. Ill Bell and Frostwick can be seen towering over the lake. The steep flank of the former plunging down into the small man-made lake.

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Looking further up the valley towards High Street – it’s hard to believe that there was a Roman Road up on the fells.

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The top of the pass was becoming ever closer, but still some way to go. So far the path had been a relatively easy gradient as height was gained gradually, but we could see that there would be a much steeper climb to come.

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We eventually made it to the top where there were views down into Mardale, the next valley to the north. This had been flooded during the 1930’s creating a large reservoir – Haweswater – to supply Manchester with water. The small settlement of Mardale Green was submerged in the process.

Zooming in

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It was extremely windy at the top as the wind funnels through the gap, making it difficult to stand up. We’d only made a the late morning start and the the sun would start setting at 6 o’clock. It had taken longer than anticipated to reach the top. So discretion being the better part of valour we decided to retrace our steps rather than risk walking in strong winds on an exposed ridge with a chance of not making it back down before it went dark.

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Harter Fell and Kentmere would be there another day! In any case, it had been a good walk through some dramatic countryside, and as the top of the pass is just over 2,000 feet high, it was a decent enough climb!