Ashurst Beacon from Appley Bridge

Since returning from our break in Appleby we’ve had fairly typical Autumn weather – regular grey and rainy days – not very inviting for getting out for a decent walk. I’d been getting a little stir crazy, so when there was the chance of a let up in the rain and a little sunshine, I’ve been booting up and getting out for local walks from the house. A week ago I decided to go a little further afield, but only just! I took the Southport train and got off at Appley Bridge, only two stops down the line from Wallgate station, for a walk up to Ashurst Beacon, returning to the station via the canal towpath.

It had rained on and off all morning but the forecast was promising for the afternoon. The sun was shining when I left home and during the train journey but as I alighted from the train there were a few raindrops which soon turned into a heavy downpour. By the time I’d opened my rucksack and put on my Torrentshell it had stopped! And I didn’t see another drop for the rest of the afternoon!

After a short walk along the road I took the path in between the rows of houses and through a muddy field

I was soon on a drier track starting to head uphill – not very steep though

Looking back across the fields over Wigan towards Winter Hill

Winding my way along the paths through fields and woodland and quiet lanes, I eventually arrived at Ashurst’s Beacon, on top of the 570 foot high Ashurst’s Hill.

The tower tower was built in 1798 by Sir William Ashurst, as a watch tower to warn of a French invasion in the lead up to the Napoleonic War. It’s a Grade II listed building.

The tower and it’s surroundings was left to Wigan Corporation in 1962 “for the enjoyment of the people of Wigan“. although it’s now in West Lancashire District (although one of the people of Wigan was there to enjoy it!). The plaque commemorating this seems to have disappeared from the side of the tower – probably robbed and melted down for scrap.

There’s an orientation plate pointing out the landmarks and when I was last up here there were expansive views right over to Morecambe Bay and the Lakeland Fells, the West Pennine Moors and, Southport, Liverpool and North Wales.

Not this time though. Since my last visit, which I now realise must have been getting on for 20 years ago, trees have sprouted up completely obscuring the views. It’s perhaps good for the environment but that didn’t make me any less disappointed. 😞

Nevertheless, as I started to descend, leaving the woods behind, views opened up towards the moors

I carried on down the hill taking a different route than my ascent.

Until I reached the Leeds Liverpool canal

I then followed the tow path back to Appley Bridge

The trees on the opposite bank were wearing their autumn coats!

There was a narrow boat moored up

Looking back along the canal from the Bridge

It’s a decent little walk – a few hour’s saunter on an Autumn afternoon – not far from home. I hadn’t seen many people, just a few dog walkers and local residents working in their gardens. I was disappointed about the loss of the views from the Beacon, but overall, that didn’t spoil the walk too much!

High Cup Gill

Our holiday in Appleby wasn’t a walking break but I did manage to tick off a route I’d been wanting to walk for some time. J was quite happy for me to disappear for a day so she could have a little time on her own.

The Monday was pretty awful – wind and rain, but I woke on Tuesday to a fine day, if a little cold when I was loading up the car with my walking gear. It was a short drive of about 5 miles to Dufton, where I parked up in the village car park.

It’s a pleasant former mining village, close to the Pennine Hills with several options for walks. I had planned to walk up to High Cup Nick, the top of High Cup Gill, an almost perfect glacial valley in the north Pennines.

Wikipedia tells us

The Ordnance Survey name the valley as High Cup Gill but it is often referred to by the name High Cup Nick, a name which properly refers in a more limited sense to the point at its northeastern limit where the headwaters of Highcup Gill Beck pass from the relatively flat terrain of High Cup Plain over the lip of High Cup Scar into the valley. ‘Gill’ is a word of Norse origin meaning narrow valley or ravine………….as seen in the classic view southwest over the valley into the Vale of Eden from its head at High Cup Nick, it is considered one of the finest natural features in northern England.

After parking up, I had a quick mooch around the village. Looking at that blue sky and it was hard to believe how awful the weather had been the previous day – but that’s the north of England for you! From the village green I could see that Cross fell and Great Dunn fell were capped with cloud – which isn’t so unusual, but the lower Dufton Pike was cloud free.

But that wasn’t were I was going. I was heading along the Pennine Way in the other direction and had my fingers crossed that the day would stay fine and that I’d get some good views.

It was a bit of a trudge at first up a fairly long stretch of tarmac, although as I climbed steadily views began to open up and the weather looked promising. It was misleadingly warm in the sunshine and I rapidly started peeling off layers – other walkers I met during the morning had also prepared for colder weather and had rucksacks full of fleeces and jackets that weren’t needed!

Looking across to Dufton Pike

The road came to an end after a mile or so, turning into a rough track. I later met a couple of walkers who’d parked up at the end of the tarmac road, which cut out the walk on the tarmac.

Looking back there was a great view over to the Lakeland fells spread out on the horizon. Visibility was good and I could see for miles

I wasn’t going down that track but it looked quite tempting. That could be a way back up to a car parked at the end of the road after a circular route round High Cup Gill.

I then passed through a gate onto the fell proper.

I passed an old lime kiln

It was a gradual climb up the side of the hillside, but, initially, the valley wasn’t visible being obstructed by the undulating landscape. But then, suddenly, it’s there before you.

Looking back down the valley.

The geology of the valley is particularly interesting, although much of the rock is limestone,

its rim (is) topped by enormous columns of volcanic rock. This rock, known as dolerite, was created during the Carboniferous period when the movement of tectonic plates forced magma to be squeezed sideways between beds of existing rock. As it then slowly cooled, the magma crystallised and shrank, forming the hexagonal columns that can be seen at High Cup today. (This same layer of dolerite, known as the Great Whin Sill, also forms the ridge along which the Romans built much of Hadrian’s Wall.)

cumbria.com

I soon reached the head of the valley – the High Cup Nick. This was the view – the picture doesn’t do the view justice. I’d been concerned that it wouldn’t live up to it’s reputation and be something of a let down, but it definitely was not, particularly on a fine autumn day with views right across the Eden valley to the Lake District fells.

Looking in the other direction was a more or less featureless moor, wet and boggy.

I stopped for a while enjoying the view and to have a bite to eat and a coffee from my flask. There were a few other people who’d made their way up. I’d walked the last stretch up to the nick with a couple from Darlington, a young couple appeared who’d come over the bogs from Cow Green reservoir over in the East, another solo walker had come up from Murton via Murton Pike, and another person appeared climbing up from the bottom of the valley. I expect it gets very busy up here in the summer and at weekends, but on a fine autumn day mid week before the autumn half term it was fairly quiet and peaceful.

Time to start heading back! I’d decided on a circular route so started to make my way along the south ridge. There were a few options – I could have climbed a bit higher and followed the route over to Murton Pike, but that would have been a longer walk than I’d intended.

The path along the ridge gave good views down into the Gill.

Looking back to the Nick

Crossing the Middle Tongue it got a bit boggy !

but, hey, who cares with views like this

Starting to descend from the Middle Tongue I was back on drier ground amongst the limestone.

Murton Pike was over to my left. It was tempting!

Nearing the bottom of the descent I diverted and turned back following the lower level path that led into the bottom of the Gill. I wanted to get a shot up the valley. The light was good and with the sunlight filtering through cloud in the sky created patterns of light and shade.

I turned back and continued my descent towards the farm at Harbour Flat.

Looking back towards the hills and the Gill

I reached the quiet lane that runs between Dufton and Murton. Some more walking on tarmac for a while

before I turned off along a path through the fields and then joined the route of A Pennine Journey heading towards Dufton

Nearing the village I took the path through the very pleasant woodland that lines Dufton Gill

Then a final climb out of the gill into the village. I had a mooch around the village green taking in the views of the high Pennine hills

The village, “the farmstead where the doves were kept”, goes back to at least the 12th Century and grew during the 17th and 18th centuries when lead mines were opened up on Dufton Fell. Most of the houses around the green are from this period

there are extensive mining remains on Dufton Fell. The early mining leases were granted by the Lords of the Manor of Dufton throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. From about 1820 the mines were taken over by the London Lead Company (the “Quaker Company”). Lead mining ceased on Dufton Fell in 1897; however barytes have been extracted from the spoil heaps on two occasions in the 20th century.

 in the 19th century there were many, including grocer’s, butcher’s (with abbatoir), bakery, general dealer’s and draper’s. The present cafe was the village post office and shop into the 21st century.

Dufton Village Website

It seems like the Quakers were decent employers, building cottages for their workers as well as a school, and a library. They also provided a water supply installing five fountains in the village including this one on the village green, built in 1858.

The former Methodist chapel

It was very quiet. There were a few other walkers returning to their cars but other than that not a sole to be seen. There was a cafe in the old Post office, but it was closed – it doesn’t reopen until Easter – and the village pub, the Stag, didn’t look as if it was open. So no chance of a brew!

I returned to my car and changed out of my boots. After chatting with an older couple who’d been walking with their young adult granddaughter, I set off back to Appleby. It was only a 20 minute drive back tot he cottage where a welcome brew was waiting for me.

A great day out!

Slaidburn and the lonely valley

The day after my walk from Staveley to Bowness I was out again. This time I decided to avoid the trains and a long drive on the motorway and headed off to the Forest of Bowland. I travelled via Clitheroe and a fine drive over Waddington Fell on to Slaidburn where I parked up in the car park at the end of the village near the bridge over the Hodder. I’d planned a walk up on to the Salter Road. Also known as the Hornby Road, it’s an ancient route that links the Lune Valley with the old West Riding of Yorkshire, running between Slaidburn and Hornby. It’s an old packhorse trail and about 3 miles of it travel over part of a Roman Road that linked Ribchester and Carlisle. At one time is was probably a busy route but during my walk I didn’t see another walker – although a couple of small groups of motorcyclists riding trail bikes passed me coming from the opposite direction. Alfred Wainwright as one of the finest moorland walks in the country.  I’d love to walk the full route but that would need some organising as it’s too far for a there and back walk. So my walk would be just a taster.

I had an idea on where I’d go but left my options open to see exactly which route I’d follow. It was a fine day, with a stiff breeze and an autumnal nip in the air.

Slaidburn is on the Lancashire Witches Walk and next to the car park is one of the ten tercet waymarkers, this one commemorating Alice Nutter. (A tercet is form of poem comprising a three-line stanza). My plan was to visit another waymarker up on the moors.

At daylight’s gate, the things we fear
darken and form. That tree, that rock,
a slattern’s shape with the devil’s dog.

The Daylight Gate is the title of a novel by Jeanette Winterson published during the 300 anniversary year of the Pendle Witches trial. It’s very characteristic of Winterson’s “Magic Realism” style centering on “Alice Nutter”, although she’s not much like the real historical character.

I set off through the village

passing the war memorial

and then turning down the road by the village shop

As well as the humbler former workers’ cottages, there’s a number of larger houses in the village.

A short distance along the road I turned off onto a path along the river, initially through woodland.

I was following the route of the Lancashire Witches Walk.

I was soon out of the woods and walking through fields, the grass wet with dew, with a view of the fells ahead.

After crossing fields I joined the Salter road eventually reaching the gate beyond which the route isn’t passable by motorised vehicles (although, no doubt, you’ll get off roaders driving over here and disturbing the peace and quiet)

But there was nothing to stop a walker carrying on.

A short distance along from the gate I came to “intersection” where the path to Dunsop head leaves the Salter road. The memorial stone commemorates the crew of four aircraft who were killed when their planes crashed on the nearby moors during WWII

A close up of the memorial

I carried on along the road that started to snake across the quiet moor land

I spotted a shepherds hut and sheepfold down in the bottom of the valley

I eventually reached the second Lancashire Witches waymarker of the day, by the side of the road near to Croasdale quarry

This one commemorated Elizabeth Device, who was, apparently, known locally as Squinting Lizzie due to a facial deformity. She was the daughter of Old Demdike, the 80 odd year old matriarch of one of the two “clans” that formed the core of the women who were executed. Her Nine-year-old Jennet Device was one of the main witnesses for the prosecution in the trial at Lancaster. (Ironically, twenty years after the trial Jennet was accused of witchcraft herself. However, she escaped the fate of her mother, brother James and sister Alison)

Something upholds us in its palm-
landscape, history, place and time-
and, above, the same old witness moon

Having reached the waymarker I now had to decide how to proceed. I could see in the distance a building just off the road which raised my curiosity. I was tempted to head up White Hill, the second highest point in Bowland, over to the east, but decided against the climb up over a pathless moor. There was a shooter’s track heading up teh fell to the west and I wondered whether I might find a way over the moor to Dunsop Head.

I decided to take this track. At first the going was good but as I climber higher up the moor it deteriorated and by the time I reached the shooting butts I was starting to wade through the wet peat. It was clear that a walk across the moor to Dunsop head would be a pathless rough traverse over the grass and heather and peat bogs. An option for a dry spell in the summer, but not one to savour that day.

So I retraced my steps back down towards the road, initially losing the path having to make my way through the grass and heather before regaining the track confirmed that I was wise not to try and tackle the long bog trot over to Dunsop Head. On the way down I spotted Pen-y-ghent peeking over the top of the hill to the east.

And this was the view south / south-east with Pendle Hill clearly visible.

Reaching the road I decided to carry on to take a look at the building I could see. It was a shooter’s hut. It was locked and boarded up to keep out riff raff like me, but I stopped for a while for a hot coffee and a bite to eat.

I then retraced my steps along the road – this section being part of the former Roman road.

I passed the waymarker again.

Carrying on heading south

Reaching an intersection I decided to take the path down Croasdale. and then head back across the fields to Slaidburn.

Looking back over the lonely moors after I’d passed through a gate

The going was good at first. I was on a track that leading to the ruin of the House of Croasdale, probably a former shepherd’s hut or shieling rather than a farm house.

The path then veered of f through long grass with stretches of bog down the side of the valley towards the river, yellow topped wooden posts showing the way – just!

It wasn’t easy going but I managed to keep my feet out of the worst of the gluey wet peat – there were wooden walkways laid over the worst of the bog.

I had to cross over the river, just about keeping my feet dry by balancing precariously on rocks in the rushing water. The path was difficult to follow in a few places but I eventally found the track that took me down towards Croasdale House

Looking back to the farm house after I’d passed by .

I carried on down the concrete track. I missed the turnoff onto a path across the field hat would have been a short cut and easier underfoot.

At he end of the track I turned right towards Shay House (another farm) and bjust before the farmhouse climber over a stile and began a walk over a series of fields that took me back towards Slaidburn.

From the lower lying land there were good views over to the high fells.

Reaching Slaidburn I called into the Bowland Chocolate Company shop and made a few purchases to earn a few brownie points when I got back home,

and then stopped at the cafe next to the car park where I stopped for a while to enjoy a brew and a slice of blueberry cake (needed to boost my blood sugar!).

The cafe is a favourite of motorcyclists and there were a few groups on nearby tables. Earwigging I could overhear anecdotes being swapped by a group of older “bikers” on the next table. One was relating a story of a friend who when stopped by a police officer was asked why he was riding at 92 mph – his answer, apparently was “because the bike won’t do 100 mph”.

Sitting outside the cafe I’d noticed a number of Morgan’s driving past – there must have been a rally on and they were taking a scenic drive through Bowland. Two cars had pulled into the car park so their occupants could refresh themselves in the cafe. I snapped them as they were driving out of the car park.

Due to difficulties generating the full route using the OS maps app I had to do it in two parts – out and back again (the app doesn’t like it if you retrace your steps). So, this is my outward route

and this is the route back

On the Autumn Equinox

A couple of weeks ago, Friday was the Autumn Equinox, the second day of equal daytime and night-time and the start of Autumn. The sun was shining and I decided to make the most of it. After my experience the previous Saturday when I was held up for 6 hours when they shut the southbound M6 around Lancaster I decided I’d let the train take the strain and caught the direct service from North Western station to Windermere. I disembarked at Staveley ready to repeat a walk I did earlier in the year, more or less on the last leg of the Dales way, but diverting off the route to take in three smaller fells.

There was a real autumnal feel to the day but the sun was bright and it was pleasant and warm. A good day for a walk, especially as the air was clear and, not being too hot, visibility was excellent.

Turning right on leaving the station there was a stretch of walking along a minor road before turning off onto paths across the fields.

The route then followed another minor road with views starting to open up of the fells

over to my right

Then back on a track through the fields

I caught up with a retired couple who’d been walking the Dales Way from Ilkley. We started to chat and then walked together for a while before I strayed off the Dales Way to climb the first small fell – Grandsire.

A young female fellow walker was sitting on the summit – eyes closed. I didn’t disturb her but found my own rock to sit in a drank the views of the fells while drinking a coffee from my flask

The Howgills in the distance
The Far Eastern Fells. Some cloud over there.

The distinctive Whaleback of Red Screes clearly noticeable

Part of Windermere with a backdrop of the Coniston Langdale Fells
Zooming in

Time to carry on. I took the path along the top of the hill, gradually descending down to the tarn at the foot of School Knott

and then climbed my second small fell of the day

I descended, retracing my steps down to the tarn and then took the path which re-joined the Dales Way which I followed until, getting close to Bowness, I diverted up the final hill of the day – Brant Fell

There were a few other people on the summit, but it wasn’t very busy. More brews to soak up with a coffee and a bite to eat. From here I could see almost the full length of Windermere

I spent about half an hour soaking up the views before making my way back down the hill and on towards Bowness.

I had about 20 minutes to wait for the bus back to Windermere. The bus stop was by the church so I popped into the churchyard to take a look at the war memorial which was designed by W G Collingwood

It was only a short ride up to the interchange by the train station. I had time for a brew in Booths supermarket cafe and then feeling good after a grand walk made my way to the platform to catch the 4 o’clock train direct to Windermere. No hassle like the week before when. Well, not quite. The signs on the platform said the train was cancelled. A few minutes after I arrived one of the staff told us the train was going to be arriving on time but was only going as far as Oxenholme. There had been a fatality on the West Coast main line between Oxenholme and Lancaster which was affecting all the services travelling up and down that section. As promised the train pulled in on time and everyone boarded, but we all had to disembark at Oxenholme. The station was hectic and there was an Avanti train standing on the south bound line. I boarded and somehow managed to find a seat on the packed train. I found that it had been stuck there for two hours. After another hour it finally set off and I sat back and relaxed knowing that it would get me back to Wigan in about an hour. Well, it would have done except as it approached Preston it was announced that they were terminating the service there. A packed train of passengers, many going down to London had to disembark. It was chaos on Preston station with very little information available. Eventually I managed to board another packed train – standing room only but it was only a 20 minute journey back to Wigan so I coped!

Well, after my last two visits, the lesson here is that you’re ever travelling south from the Lake District, by any form of transport, you’d be advised to make sure I wasn’t on my home using the same means of transport. I’m clearly jinxed.

On a more serious note, it had been a nuisance being delayed but there was no point being annoyed. It wasn’t the fault of the train operators and it has to be said the effect on travellers was a minor inconvenience compared that on the family of the person who was killed and the driver who had to face the though that his train had killed someone.

End of summer on the moors

The Saturday after my trip to Coniston, summer was coming to an end and while the weather looked promising I decided to get out for a walk. After my experience on the M6 the previous week I wasn’t in the mood for a long drive, so decided to head off to Rivington and get up on the moors. It looked like it would be a fine day – a little chilly and, as I found out, fairly windy high up, but conditions were otherwise good.

When I arrived at Rivington around 10 am I was surprised how busy it was. All the parking spaces along the drive up to the Hall were taken. I subsequently discovered that there were a couple of outdoor events taking place – a run and also a schools or youth event. However, there were spaces on the car park near the Hall Barn so I parked up, booted up and set off for my walk. I’d decided to start by climbing the Pike and then see how it went.

I took the less frequented route through the woods along the bottom of the Pike, climbing up to the top of the Ornamental gardens via “the Ravine”.

The path through the woods

Looking up from the bottom of the Ravine
Reaching the “top road”
Up to the top of the Pike – it was windy and rather chilly – I was glad I’d packed a flask of coffee win my rucksac
The view to the north. Visibility in that direction was superb and I could see the Lake District fells n the horizon
Looking over to the masts on Winter Hill
I decided to take the path over the moor to Noon Hill. Very few people tread along here. It can be very boggy but after a long dry summer the peat wasn’t bad at all – just a few wet and muddy patches that were easy to avoid
Approaching the top of Noon Hill. This is an outlier on the ridge from Winter Hill. It’s topped by a prehistoric burial mound. I stopped for a bite to eat and another brew while I took in the view – hood up to minimise the chill from the cold wind.
Great visibility looking over the moors towards Bowland and the Lakeland Fells in the distance
and across to Winter Hill
I decided against going on up to the summit of Winter Hill but descended down to the old Belmont road, which I followed until I reached the new road close to Horden Stoops
I crossed over and joined the path taking me towards Spitler’s Edge
Looking over to the Yorkshire Three Peaks in the distance. What a great day for extensive views!
I carried on over Spitler’s and Redmond Edges but rather than carry on to Great Hill cut off down the path descending onto the moor to the west
Then I took the track as far as the ruins at Lower Hempshaws
before turning west, crossing over the infant River Yarrow and headed towards Old Rachel’s.
The ruins here have become a favourite spot of mine of late. I stopped for a break and a brew taking in the views over the moors to Great Hill and the Edges.
Carrying on the path westwards there were some curious onlookers
I turned south , taking the path towards the Belmont Road and then took the less well trod path through the fields heading towards Wilcox’s farm. The sheep in the field all gathered and started to follow me!
Reaching the farm I climbed over the dodgy ladder stile, crossed over the road and took the path that runs alongside dean Wood
and then made my way back towards Rivington village, passing the little Non-conformist chapel, and then returning to my car in the car park by the Hall Barn.

Tarn Hows, Black Crag and Holme Fell

It’s well known that weather in the Lake District is highly variable. It changes from one day to the next and often during a given day. But it also variable across the National Park. Each valley seems to have its own micoclimate; it can be sunny in one while pouring down in the next one, and I certainly experienced just that during my recent short stay in Coniston. It had generally been wet in the Lakes while I was there but the South East area, including Coniston, seemed to have fared better than most of the region. That had certainly been the case on the Friday (despite a downpour for part of the day while I was coming off Swirl How). The forecast for Saturday for Coniston was also looking promising, so I was looking forward to a walk on my last day before I set off home.

After a long walk on the high fells the previous day I’d decided on a low level route starting at Tarn Hows, heading over to Black Crag and then on to Holme Fell. Climbing only two modest fells, the walk wasn’t difficult but passed through pleasant countryside and I was treated to outstanding views throughout. It’s now definitely on my list of favourite routes.

I parked up at the small National Trust car park near Yew Tree Tarn, booted up and set off up the path that climbs up to Tarn Hows through Tom Heights Plantation

passing waterfalls

and emerging towards the southern end of the Tarn

Tarn Hows – grey skies and flat light

I’m going to let the photos I took along the route speak for themselves.

Looking back over Tarn Hows to a sunlit Old Man of Coniston while Wetherlam is shaded under cloud
A bit brighter
Turning off the path along the Tarn to take the path over towards Black Crag
Heading up towards Black Crag
The Black Crag trig point

Outstanding views from the trig point

Looking back towards Coniston
The Coniston fells
Over towards Langdale
There’s some weather over on the Eastern fells
The Far Eastern fells in the distance
There’s Windermere
Taking the path back down – looking towards Yewdale and Coniston Water
Taking the path towards Arnside (not the one on Morecambe Bay!)
Some weather over the Eastern fells!
The view over to Langdale
Starting the descent down towards the Coniston road
There’s Holme Fell in the distance
On the tarmac of a minor road for a while
More good views from the Oxen fell road
High Oxen Fell farm
Approaching Hodge Close
Hodge Close quarry
After stopping for a bite to eat I took the path heading towards Tilberthwaite through the woods along the foot of Holme Fell
cutting up the path towards the fell
The view of Coniston Water from the summit
Wetherlam seen from the summit
Looking over to Tilberthwaite
Looking to the eastern fells
Looking over to Black Fell
Descending off Holme Fell down towards Yewdale Tarn
Yewdale Farm

I called into Yewdale farm as I wanted to buy some of their most excellent Beltie and Herdie burgers. The Beltie (Belted Galloway beef) burgers are the best we’ve ever tasted. I normally order online but calling in personally I avoided the delivery charge! It was then a short walk back to the car park.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable walk. I’ll definitely repeat it when I’m staying around here in the future. It’s a good walk to finish a holiday before setting back home – not too long or strenuous but with outstanding views.

I set of for home before 3 pm and although I called in at Booths in Windermere to pick up some supplies, I expected to be home before 6pm. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. I hadn’t realised that, in their wisdom, the National Roads Agency had decided to shut the south bound carriageway (all 3 lanes!) just before the Lancaster services for the weekend. They claim they had publicised this but I hadn’t seen anything. The first I knew of it was when approaching Lancaster when I saw a matrix sign informing me of a 2 hour delay due to the south bound M6 being shut. It was too late to turn off and take an alternative route (I could have done this if they’d had a sign up before, or even at, the junction I joined the motorway near Kendal). Oh well, I thought, I can live with a 2 hour delay. I arrived home after 10 pm after 5 hours crawling between the 2 junctions north and south of Lancaster on the M6. It could have been worse, some people joining the queue after me were stuck even longer. Goodness knows why anyone thought shutting one side of the M6 for the weekend was a good idea.

Oh well, I wasn’t going to let that spoil a good short break!

A short break in Coniston

The week after our family holiday in the Midlands I was off again for a few days for a short solo break in Coniston where I’d booked into the Youth Hostel for a couple of nights. The weather forecast was mixed, especially the first day and at one point I contemplated cancelling. But, with summer coming to an end, I decided against it and take my chances.

The weather forecast for the first day proved to be correct when I arrived in a wet Coniston on the Thursday afternoon. There weren’t that many people around in the streets but the main car park was full and all the street parking spaces were taken. I eventually managed to park up but it was raining steadily so I decided to pay a visit to the Ruskin Museum and see how it looked later in the afternoon.

I spent a good hour mooching around.

The museum was founded as a memorial to John Ruskin, who spent the last years of his life at Brantwood on the east shore of Coniston Water and who died on 20 January 1900, by his secretary and friend, W G Collingwood. Many of the original exhibits were from Ruskin’s own collection of geological samples.

The exhibits cover the history of Coniston, it’s geology, industry and well known individuals, including Ruskin and Arthur Ransome. One wing is devoted to Donald Campbell and his attempts at the water speed record on Coniston Water in the 1960’s. He was tragically killed on 4 January 1967 when attempting to break the record Bluebird hit a wave at over 300 mph, flipped over and crashed upside down on the water and sank. I remember vividly watching the film of the crash on the TV news as a boy.

It was still raining as I left the museum so I decided to make my way down to the lake and have a brew in the Bluebird cafe on the lake shore.

I stopped for a while watching the Gondola leaving the jetty

before retreating to the cafe.

The rain had eased off so I decided I’d set off for a walk along the lakeside. I had thought about catching the launch, disembarking down past Torver and walking back, but I was between sailings, so decided to do a “there and back walk” past Coniston Hall and see how far I got.

Looking over to the Old Man
Looking across the lake to Brantwood, Ruskin’s former home
The Gondola sailing by
Jetty near Torver
Into the woods

I’d walked a couple of miles when the rain started agin so I turned round and retraced my steps back towards the cafe

Time for a warming brew.

Afterwards I made my way back to the car, drove the short distance to the hostel and checked in.

The rain cleared during the evening so I set off for a short walk down to the lake, along tot he jetty and then back through the village and along the path at the bottom of Yewdale.

Looking towards the Yewdale crags
Spotty sheep!
Evening light over Coniston Water

Scout Scar and Cunswick Fell from Sizergh

I’m trying to get the hang of my new “arrangements” – so far with only limited success. However, last Wednesday promised to be a fine day for a walk. I didn’t fancy going too far in peak holiday period so I drove up the M6 towards Kendal, parked up at Sizergh Hall, and set off for a walk along the limestone ridge of Scout Scar. I’d been up there a few times, but previously from the other end.

At first I retraced our return route from a walk during our visit to Sizergh Castle a few weeks ago – across the fields and through woodland

up to the viewpoint near to the “Chapel of Ease” of St John Helsington – and on a sunny morning with decent long range visibility, what a fine view it was.

the view over to the Lakeland fells
the limestone escarpment of Whitbarrow (I must get up there one day soon)
Looking over to Arnside Knott and the Kent estuary

This was as far as we’d got during our previous visit, but this time I carried on heading north

crossing a minor road and then taking a path on to Scout Scar

The views over to Lakeland just got better and better and opened up so that I could see over to the Fairfield horseshoe, Red Screes and the Kentmere fells

I reached the “mushroom”, a popular destination, not far from the car park on the Kendal to Underbarrow road, where I stopped for a bite to eat.

I carried on to the end of the ridge

I’d intended to turn back from here, taking the path along the edge of the scar, but a moment of madness came over me and I decided to carry on for another couple of miles over Cunswick Fell to the other limestone edge of Cunswick Scar.

It was quieter along here – its obviously not as popular as its more dramatic companion. But there were a few people about.

The walking is easy going, and at the summit I was rewarded with excellent views over to the Kentmere horseshoe

and over Kendal towards the lonely hills of Borowdale (the lesser known Westmorland variant, not the more well known one south of Derwent Water) and the Shap Fells

over to the Howgills

and the major fells to the west

Outstanding views and the photos don’t really do them justice.

I turned around and more or less retraced my steps back towards Scout Scar

I crossed over the minor road and climbed back up onto the ridge of Scout Scar

and set off along the edge of the ridge heading south.

There’s the mushroom again

This is the view looking backwards that shows the limestone escarpment. It is quite a steep drop down to the bottom

As I walked along the ridge the Kent estuary began to dominate the view

along with Whitbarrow over to the west

At the end of the ridge I descend down to the Brigsteer road, crossed over and retraced my steps back to Sizergh, with a slight variation at the end, following a different path than the one I’d come. I arrived back in time to buy myself a well earned brew and tasty peach crumble cake.

It had been a good walk and I’ve got in mind to come up here again on a fine day during the autumn or winter when I’d get a different perspective of the landscape. I think I’ll cut out the diversion over Cunswick Fell though.

Coiner Country

For my second walk last week, on Tuesday I caught the train to Hebden Bridge and set off for a wander in the hills to the south of the small former industrial town. The landscape here at one time would not have been dissimilar to that of Bowland where I’d been walking the previous day. Hills and deep valleys that, before the arrival of humans, would have been covered with woodland, but the trees were felled and the flocks of sheep sent up on the hills resulting in a landscape of peat covered millstone grit moorland. The underlying landscape may be similar, but there’s a big difference between how the two areas evolved and, so, how they look today.

Bowland was a forest – and way back ‘forest’ that meant that it was reserved for hunting by nobility. Consequently, human settlements were small and scattered. Landowners weren’t allowed to clear and cultivate the land, restricting development and prohibiting change. In many ways time seems to have passed it by. That isn’t entirely true as during the 18th Century it wasn’t completely untouched by the industrial revolution; there were some mills and facories and mining activity, but on a relatively small scale, with litle trace of it now. And for many years the land was still dominated by hunting of a sort, with large shooting estates restricting develoment and prohibiting access.

The Calder Valley, however, developed differently. Like much of the South Pennine regions of both Lancashire and Yorkshire a textile industry emerged. Initially with spinning and weaving done in the home, providing a second income for subsistence farmers. Raw wool or yarn would be provided by merchants, which was processed by a family of spinsters and a hand loom weaver, the finished cloth then collected by the merchant. This was known as the “putting out” system. The architecture of the traditional farmhouses and cottages reflect this. They were built with workrooms on the upper floor and windows constructed to allow as much daylight in as possible. Commonly there was a row of multiple small panes divided by stone mullions.

Then with the advent of the Industrial Revolution the narrow valleys with their fast running rivers were ideal for water powered mills. This all led to a very different human landscape than in Bowland with a much denser population with larger settlements and with houses and farms scattered across the valleys and on the lower slopes of the hills. This was very evident during my walk when, before I was up on top of the moors, I seemed to be passing old farms and dwellings every few minutes!

I caught the direct train from Wigan alighting at Hebden Bridge station. It was like travelling back in time to the middle of the 20th century – but, then, it is Yorkshire.

I set off turning right from the station and under the tracks to join a steep track up the hill.

and then took a track alongside fields heading in the direction of Mytholmroyd.

I passed several old houses

before turning crossing a stile and setting off up a path up the steep hill side.

Looking back down to Mytholmroyd

At the top of the climb I reached Erringden Moor – the purple heather was out!

The moor here is a notorious bog and boardwalks have been lain across the worst sections by the local Community Rights Of Way Service (CROWS). Without the work done by CROWS this route would be pretty much impassable for much of the year. Walkers who wander of the path can easily become stuck in the bog up to their knees, and in the past the bog has allegedly swallowed numerous sheep and even a horse. However, thanks to the efforts by CROWS’ volunteers, it’s now become a popular route, particularly due to it’s historical associations,

for I was now in the stomping ground of the Cragg Vale Coiners, a notorious counterfeiting gang who lived in what was then an inaccessible territory in the late 18th century. The gang used to take gold coins and shave or file the edges. The shavings of precious metal were then melted and cast to produce new counterfeit coins which were put into circulation along with the originals. That’s why modern coins have a milled edge as that allows such tampering to be detected.

A large proportion of the local population were involved in this and they were led by “King David” Hartley, who lived in a remote farmhouse on top of the moor, which was on my route. (His brothers were known as the Duke of Edinburgh and the Duke of York). Some consider the coiners to be local heroes, Calderdale “Robin Hoods”. Others consider them as a bunch of vicious rogues. I think there’s an element of truth in both points of view.

The Coiners are the subject of a rather excellent prize winning novel, The Gallows Pole by Ben Myers, who lives in the area. It’s being adapted for TV for the renowned director Shane Meadows. I’m looking forward to watching it.

I followed the path that took me along the top of the steep, wooded narrow valley known as Broadhead Clough, now a nature reserve. Given the impassable nature of the moors, this was the main way up to “King David’s” house. It would have been easy for the gang to control access through the clough.

There was a good view over Mytholmroyd as I carried on along the moor.

I reached Bell House

Bell House – the Home of “King David” Hartley

There was an elderly gent with a younger man (his grandson?) working on a vehicle parked outside the bounds of the property. He was the father of the owner and was staying in the house. He called over and told me I could have a look inside the courtyard if I wanted. I took him up on the offer.

Bell House

I stopped to chat for a while before carrying on, taking a path across the moor

from another old farmhouse (nicely converted and modernised) a couple of hundred metres or so from Bell House.

This took me to a track overlooking the steep valley of Cragg Vale.

I carried on along the track towards Withins Clough Reservoir, which was built to supply water to Morley, near Leeds. Construction, which drowned a number of farms in the valley, started in 1891 .

I took the path alongside the side of the reservoir. Due to the lack of rain over many weeks the water level was very low

Then I turned off to take a path across the moor leading to Stoodley Pike

Looking back towards the reservoir

As I climbed up the hillside, the monument on top of Stoodley Pike came into view

Reaching the top of the hill I stopped to take a rest, grab a bite to eat, and take in the view over the moors towards Todmorden and the hills beyond, where I’d been walking earlier in the year.

Rested, I carried on towards Hebden Bridge. The cloud that had provided some relief from the heat of he sun had dispersed and it was getting hot as the heat wave we’d been promised stared to arrive.

Looking back to Stoodley Pike

As I crossed the fields the hilltop village of Heptonstall came into view

as well as Hebden Village down in the bottom of the valley.

After crossing the fields I took the path down through the woods (some welcome shade provided by the trees) which would lead back down into the valley.

There were glimpses of Hebden Bridge with it’s distinctive architecture through the trees. The tall terraced houses that can be seen in the photograph below are “over and under” houses built due to the limited space in the narrow Calder valley. In most northern industrial cities and towns workers’ houses were often built “back to back” – i.e. two houses sharing a common rear wall. This wasn’t so feasible in Hebden Bridge so they built one house on top of another. One house occupies the upper storeys which face uphill while the second house in the lower two storeys face downhill with their back wall against the hillside.

Arriving back at the station, I wasn’t quite ready to return home, so I decided to wander along the canal and pop into the town centre.

I had in mind to climb up to Heptonstall and take a look at the grave of “King David”. He was buried there following his hanging at York on 28 April 1770. However, the temperature had risen considerably during the day and I was tired after what had been a long walk, so instead bought myself a couple of bottles of cold diet coke from the Co-op and returned to the station. I didn’t have too long to wait for the direct train to Wigan North Western.

The route

Brennand and Whitendale

Trying to make the best of a spell of good weather before another heat wave arrived, I had a couple of days out at the beginning of the week. On Monday I drove back over to the Forest of Bowland as I’d enjoyed my walk there a few days before. It’s a wild, remote area and this, combined with the lack of access to large areas of shooting estates until relatively recently, means that there aren’t a great deal of “ready made routes”. There are now large areas of Access Land that were forbidden territory in the past, which means that it’s possible to strike out on your own way, but in Bowland that would almost inevitably mean traversing over large stretches of soggy peat bog. But I remembered a blog post by Michael of the Rivendale Review just a week ago describing his walk over to the Brennand Valley and that sounded like exactly the sort of walk I fancied. I did extend it a little, though, circumnavigating the Middle Knoll to Whitendale.

I drove along the narrow, twisting roads to Dunsop Bridge and then along the Trough of Bowland as far as the car park on the side of the road by Langdon Brook at the point where it emerges from the fells before running alongside the Trough road. I expect it gets busy on a sunny weekend but there was plenty of room when I arrived. I’m avoiding going out at weekends during the summer, taking advantage of my increased leisure time and reasonably flexible working arrangements to get out and about when there’s a good chance of avoiding the crowds. It worked that day!

The start of the walk required walking along the Trough road for a kilometre or so, but traffic was light. I passed a farm

Sykes farm on the Trough of Bowland Road

and then an old lime kiln

before reaching an old barn where I turned off the road onto a track that would take me up on to the fells.

As I climbed I looked back to the Trough road

I carried on climbing steadily, making gradual progress. The path wasn’t too steep for most of the way and with the recent lack of rainfall the ground was mainly dry underfoot.

There was a final short, steep pull and then I’d reached the top of the fell. Now the peat was much wetter, but nothing too bad!

Large areas of the fell were covered in purple heather

I could have decided to head over to the summit of Whin fell but that would have required some bog hopping over the moor. However, a good walk doesn’t have to involve summit bagging. I was enjoying the solitude and the wild, scenery, which was dramatic enough.

While writing this post a comment popped up Michael of the Rivendale Review mentioning an incident back in 2011 where a well known fell runner was found dead in the peat on Saddle Fell, not far from where I’d been walking on Friday. He’d been up there for about 3 week before he was found. It is so quiet up there. Other than the cyclists, I only saw one other person when I was going across the bogs. And even if a few other people did pass by him he could have been hidden amongst all the peat hags. A real illustration why it’s important to take care up on these lonely fells and make sure someone knows you’re up there. The difficulty is that I often decide my route “on the hoof”, changing my plans as I walk and I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

On a brighter note, from the top of the fell I could see right down into the lonely Brennand Valley. It was a breathtakingly beautiful view – if you like wild and lonely moorland scenery, and I certainly do!

I was on the edge of a large stretch of wild moorland where there are very few signs of human habituation other than scattered farms, like the one in the middle of the above picture. Brennand farm is at the end of a road a couple of miles out of Dunsop Bridge. There’s another farm, Lower Brennand, a short distance away but there’s no other houses until you approach the village.

As I looked down into the valley contemplating this, I was reminded of a novel I’d read by Andrew Michael Hurley. Devil’s Day is a modern “Gothic” novel set on a remote farm up in Bowland. The atmosphere of the book is bleak and claustrophobic, and I can imagine how it would feel living up here on a farm in the winter when it’s pouring down with rain, with a gale blowing, when the days are short and there are sheep to rescue from the fell. But on a sunny day, with enough cloud to provide some shade, it was a pretty glorious place to be.

I started to descend the narrow path of Ouster Rake down into the valley.

Looking back up Ouster Rake

Reaching the farm, I had options. I could head straight down to Dunsop Bridge, a couple of miles away, but it was too good a day to cut short the walk so soon. I could have followed the Shooter’s track along the valley and up the fell, getting right into the deep moor. I was tempted but decided to save that for another day. Instead I stuck to my original plan for the day which was to carry on round the Middle Knoll over to Whitendale, another lonely valley with a farm.

Looking up to the head of the valley – I decided to leave that until another day.
The path I took which skirts the lower slopes of Middle Knoll

Starting to stride along my chosen route I saw a couple on bikes descending from the higher level track coming from the bottom of the valley. We stopped to chat. I could see that they were riding e-bikes so I asked what they thought of them 9I’m still pondering whether to buy one!). They told me that they’d hired them from a shop in Dunsop Bridge (when I checked my emails later in the day I’d received one from another “bloggy friend”, Bowland Climber, who had mentioned this in a comment, posting around the time I was having this chat!) I decided I’d hire one to try in the near future.

I carried on along the track which eventually changed to a fairly indistinct path back in the bogs.

Passing a small tarn

After a while the valley of Whitendale came into view.

These are really the lonely moors of Bowland, miles from “civilisation” and difficult to access. There are few paths to follow. I have some ideas for routes – but It would be a long day walking up there. But that wasn’t where I was going that day. Instead I carried on the path round Middle Knoll and then made my way down into Whitendale and another isolated farm. It was a steep descent, the toughest part of that day’s walk, but nothing too difficult even though my blood sugar had dropped.

I’d been past this farm before – quite a few years ago – when I’d been over Dunsop Fell – another good walk I’ll have to repeat soon.

Passing the farm

From then on I was on tarmac on the road down the valley to Dunsop Bridge.

Looking back to Whitendale farm

and the road ahead

I stopped for a short while at the junction with the road coming in from Brennand – there was a handy memorial bench there.

Looking down the Brennand Valley

I carried on down the road towards Dunsop Bridge, looking back from time to time

Looking back to Middle Knoll

I’d walked up and down this valley several times in the past and my recollection was that I wasn’t so fond of it. I remember the hills were covered in dense pine forest and the valley had something of an industrial feel due to the forestry and structures associated with United Utilities who extract water from the river. However, this time I didn’t feel that way. There had been some clearance of the pines, but perhaps it was the blue skies that were putting me in a mood more receptive to the delights of the fells on either side of the river.

Towards the end of the valley I passed a row of houses

and then it didn’t take long to reach the small village of Dunsop Bridge and, most importantly, Puddleducks Tearooms!

Time for an obligatory brew and cake!

Refreshed it was time to walk the final leg of my journey, along the Trough back to the car.

Dunsop Bridge bridge!
The Working Men’s Institute
The war memorial
An old road sign
and a newer one!
looking over to Mellor Knoll
the village church

The first half of this final leg of my walk was on the tarmac of the Trough of Bowland road, which is hard going after a fairly long walk

but the views were pretty good!

Looking back over the river to Mellor Knoll

At the junction with the road up to Harenden, I was able to leave the road and take a path along the south of the river which led back to Langden brook and the car park

The Bowland Mountain Rescue HQ up of the hillside
Arriving at Langden Brook

Well, that was another cracking walk up in Bowland, and I’d managed to survive the bogs. I’ll be back up this way soon!