Hartley fell and the Nine Standards


The forecast promised good weather on the Tuesday, so that was the day I decided on the long walk I was hoping to include in our holiday. From our accommodation we could just about make out the Nine Standards on the top of Hartley Fell silhouetted against the skyline.

The Nine Standards are a collection of massive cairns, several metres high (the largest is 3.5 metres tall) – nine in total, as the name indicates – standing a little to the north of the summit of the fell, making them visible from miles around. I first heard of them when visiting and then researching the Raisbeck Pinfold, part of   Andy Goldsworthy’s Cumbrian sheepfolds project. Inside the Raisbeck sheepfold Goldworthy included a conical stone structure and there are several other of these cone pinfolds at other sites around the Eden Valley. On the project website he explains how the shape of these structures was inspired by the Nine Standards.

The origins and purpose of the Standards is unknown and subject to a raft of theories. However one theory, that seems sensible to me given their location, is that they mark the boundary between Westmorland and Swaledale. Dick Capel devotes a chapter of his book to the Standards and he was responsible for a project to restore them (against some opposition) back in 2005.

Steve Allan, Cumbria’s premier dry stone wall builder, with two assistants and meticulous reference to the photographs, worked for eight days rebuilding the five cairns, which had been in a ruinous state and refurbished the other four. Their work won the North Pennines AONB Conservation Award 2005.


So a visit to see the structures close up for myself had to be made!

Hartley Fell and the nearby hills are relatively featureless moorland but I expected, and found, excellent views during the climb and from the top, and I’m very much at home on bleak moorland. Although I would gain about 1600 feet to the summit, it was a relatively gradual climb most of the way with the hardest pull up the road from Hartley. The first couple of miles were on tarmac, which wasn’t great (although the views looking back compensated) before I reached the open moorland. The going on the moors was good at first but the final section up hill to the standards was very boggy and not good walking. The Standards are on Wainwright’s Coast to Coast route which, despite seasonal variations, won’t have helped with the erosion. It’s difficult also to devise a good circular route so I had to return the same way I’d gone up. But visiting the Standards more than made up for any disadvantages and on the way up the best views are behind – they’re right in front on the way down.

It was bright and sunny as I set out mid morning, leaving J to spend a peaceful day on her own. I passed the statue of a youthful Lady Anne on the main street – she appeared to be striding of in the same direction.

I walked down to the Eden and crossed over Frank’s Bridge

and took the path along the river

and then turned off up the slope heading towards the small village of Hartley

View across the fields and over to Wild Boar Fell from the path to Hartley

There was a steep climb out of the village up the road but at he top of the slope, I turned round to be greeted by views of the Northern Pennines, where even Cross Fell was free of cloud

over the Eden Valley to the Lakeland Fells

and, in the other direction, over to the moors where I was heading.

I was still on tarmac

as I passed the massive quarry, which is still being worked. I tried to avoid looking at it, keeping my eyes on the moorland and pretending it wasn’t there.

I soon put it behind me, but still had a good distance to walk on the tarmac

before I finally passed through a gate and turned off the tarmac onto a dirt track – much better for the feet! I notice a car parked up by the gate – there was room for two or three. Later I passed a couple of women – a mother and daughter I think – who were on the way down as I climbed – it was their car. (They were the last people I saw until I got back down to the tarmac on the road down when I spotted one other person – a “twitcher”. I bet it gets a lot busier during the Coast to Coast season) .They’d cut out a good stretch of walking on tarmac and shortened the walk by 2 miles each way. But I still preferred to walk.

I think they’re the Howgills in the distance. I’m not used to seeing them from this direction!

Looking up across the moor I could just make out the Nine Stands on top of the hill.

Looking back to the Lakeland Fells

and to the North Pennines

On the way up, just off the path I spotted this circular structure which looked like it had been constructed fairly recently.

Carrying on those Standards don’t seem to be getting any closer!

I reached a fork in the road and took the path climbing up Faraday Gill

It wasn’t too bad at first

but then it got very wet and boggy underfoot

I was glad that I’d brought my gaiters with me and donned them at the end of the tarmac, but it was difficult finding a way to avoid becoming submerged in wet peat, mud and water as I continued on my way.

Eventually (!) I was getting closer to the Standards.

And then I was there.

The photographs don’t do them justice at all, you need someone standing by them to give a proper sense of scale and there was only me up there. This one is the largest – 3.5 metres tall and 3.7 metres in diameter at its base, tapering to the top with two intermediate ledges around its circumference.

They’re all different in size and shape

A cold wind had picked up and the air temperature was probably below freezing, but I was well wrapped up so didn’t feel too cold as I took in the views

Looking west
The Howgills
Over the Eden Valley towards the Lakeland Fells. I could see snow on Skiddaw (But none on Blencathra)

The Standards are not on the summit of the fell, that was a short distance away to the south and there’s a topograph part of the way there across the top of the fell. I reckoned that as I’d come this far I might as well go the whole hog to the summit, which was marked by a trig point.

The peat was very badly eroded and it would normally be a quagmire bog hopping over to the summit. However, the ground was frozen so I didn’t end up with my boots swallowed in the mire – but be warned if you go up there in warmer, wet weather.

Here’s a few shots looking back tot he Nine Standards and the topograph on the way back from the top

It was time to eat now before I set off back down. The cold wind seemed to be strengthening but I sheltered by sitting on the leeward side of the largest of the Standards, it’s shelf making a handy seat.

Then it was time to start making my return journey retracing my steps.

As I mentioned I only saw one more person until I reached Hartley, but both on the way up and down I could hear the distinctive call of one of my favourite birds, the curlew. Just before I reached the tarmac I stopped for a rest on a handy seat and three curlews flew by overhead. That was a treat.

It was still sunny when I got back to Kirkby Stephen. It was mid afternoon and I was ready for a brew.

It had been a cracking day, cold in the wind but warm in the sunshine, and wrapped up well was perfect walking weather. We were expecting another decent day but a change was in the air!

Kirkby Stephen Poetry Path, Stenkrith Park and the Viaducts

Frank’s Bridge

Sunday was the first full day of our break in Kirkby Stephen and in the morning we took it easy. But by midday I was feeling restless and the weather looked reasonably promising so it was time to get our boots on a set off for a walk.

A couple of years ago I read a book about the Eden Valley – The Stream Invites us to Follow: Exploring the Eden from Source to Sea – by Dick Capel, who was Countryside Manager for the East Cumbria Countryside Project from 1992 to 2008. In the book he follows the course of the Eden and it was reading it that inspired me to visit and explore an area I’d largely neglected, resulting in our out of season breaks in Kirkby Stephen and, last October, in Appleby. (I was also influenced by reading the descriptions of Sharon’s “adventures” in Eden on her blog).

Dick Capel had been involved in three arts projects as part of his role – The Eden Benchmarks, Andy Goldsworthy’s Cumbria sheep fold project and also the Poetry Path in Kirkby Stephen. For the latter, twelve blocks of stone were installed at intervals along a route on both sides of the river Eden a mile or so to the south of where we were staying. On each of these stones lettering artist Pip Hall has carved a poem by Meg Peacocke together with a small decorative motifs which illustrate activities associated with the months of the hill farmer’s year. There are stones at 12 locations; one for each month of the year. Although the brief was to represent the farming year, this has been interpreted loosely with some of the poems describing nature and landscape.

As we’re both avid readers and interested in both poetry and sculpture I devised a route that would take us down to the Poetry Path, which we then followed, before returning to Kirkby Stephen via the small village of Hartley, along the disused track bed of the Stainmore Railway which crosses two restored viaducts.

We cut down the ginnel opposite our accommodation, and then through the town centre and down to the river, where we crossed over Frank’s Bridge. We then took the path that followed the right bank of the Eden

on through fields, passing this old barn

After a mile or so we reached the Poetry Path which starts with the January stone at ‘Swingy Bridge’. However due to the route we’d taken the first stone we came across was the one for March. So we carried on from there. We’d bought a small booklet from the Tourist Information Centre in Kirkby Stephen when we arrived. It only cost £2.00 and was a great help in locating the stones – some of them are installed in walls and others are easy to miss. It also provided background information and photographs of some of the stones from when they were installed back in 2004. Since then they have weathered and some overgrown with lichen, moss and other vegetation making them difficult to read. Luckily there’s a blog where you can see the text of all the poems in full and I’ve used this as a source for the poems reproduced in this post. Most of the motifs were impossible to make out.

The March stone was installed in a stream and had a good covering of vegetation making it impossible to read the full text.

“From field and fell run cols run small. I am the rain tear in the eye blood in the vein I am the sea.”

Jim Capel, in his book has an account of the fun had when installing the stone here!

The contractor used a low loader with a telescopic arm……. As we hesitated, mesmerised by the dangling stone, one of the straps snapped, and it plunged with a mighty splash into the beck. There it wedged itself in an upright position against the sandstone outcrop at the back of the pool.

Jim Capel, The Stream invites us to follow

The next stone was incorporated into a dry stone wall and easy to walk past

April – Lambing time
“Coltsfoot, celandine, earliest daisies. Twin lambs race to the mother, baby cries, Mam! Mam! Jolt out of them and now they jostle the ragged ewe, boosting each split hoof high off the bitten turf. Pinching jaws and hard curled coats are braced against these April suns and sleets.”

The May stone was also embedded in a wall, just before the bridge over the former railway line.

“Penned in a huddle, the great tups are clints of panting stone. The shepherd lifts a sideways glance from the labour of dagging tails. His hands are seamed with muck and sweat runs into his eyes. Above us, a silent plane has needled the clear blue. Paling behind it a crimped double strand of wool unravels.”

The countryside here was very pleasant and, surprisingly, it wasn’t too muddy underfoot

There were good views, too, over some of the fells – including the distinctive Wild Boar Fell

When we arrived at the June stone a family with two young boys and a baby were resting near and on the stones, with the mother using one of the stones as a support while feeding the baby. So we carried on past on to the former railway track and the next stone. We returned later for a proper look as we had to retrace part of the route to join the track on the return leg of our walk.

In this case there were two stones, gritstone blocks that had previously used in an indusrtial process according to the booklet. Both carved with text

“Light drops like honey from branch to branch. Elders balance their dishes of cream, while fledgelings try small quivery leaps, testing the buoyancy of the air.”

The July stone was a short distance along the railway path

“Silage. Tractor incises the first green furrow. Skillful geometrician, the driver judges an arc of weather.”

The August stone, a naturally curved rock, was a little further along. The text was carved on both sides

“Crabapples tart on the tongue, Hazelnuts milky, Rosehips cool in the hand, Thistledown silky.”

The September stone was the third and final one on the old railway track and referenced the former use of the location

“Revetted banks, a concrete post. Rabbits tunnel the cinder waste. Angle iron, link of a broken chain. Listen, and catch the hiss of steam again.”

A little further on we crossed over the river on the Millennium footbridge below the road bridge. We looked down on the river where we had a good view of “The Devil’s Grinding Mill” also known as “The Devil’s Mustard Mill” and the “Coopkarnel” (from a Danish word mean “cup shaped cavern”).

The river here passes through a narrow gorge and  the dramatic potholes have been carved in the Brockram rock (formed of fragments of Carboniferous limestone set in red siltstone and sandstone) by the force of the water and the abrasive action of small stones and rocks carried by the current.

“The Devil’s Mustard Mill” – upstream of the bridge
Looking downstream from the bridge

We now descended into Stenkrith Park, following the path along the river. Almost immediately we came across the next Poetry stone. In fact there were a pair of stones – one of limestone and one of sandstone – the two components of the Brockram.

“Sandstone. A desert wind, grain by grain, laid down these rocks. How did we trace a path through ancient dunes?
Limestone. A million million blanched and compacted shells. How did we swim through the drift and not perish?
Looking back towards the bridges
Water swirling through wierdly eroded rocks on the riverbed

Carrying on along the path we reached the next pair of stones.

“Through hazels and alders, softly or in spate, Eden moves in the valley it has hallowed from Mallerstang to the shifting Solway sands.”

It was noticeable that these had been cleaned up, making it easier to read the text, and, for the first time, the motif was legible.

The other stones along this stretch of the trail seemed to have been cleaned up too – probably because this is the most frequented section of the trail being in the Stenkrith Park, which is a popular tourist attraction.

On the hillside, a short distance before the “Swingy Bridge” we found the December Stone. The poem here is a Haiku, carved across the three rocks

“There sails the heron drawing behind him a long wake of solitude”

There’s the Swingy Bridge ahead. The river here was very placid and calm compared to the turbulent waters upstream.

The “Swingy Bridge”. An unusual name that suggests there was once a swing bridge here

The January stone was located at the bottom of the lane, just before the bridge. The lane was designated a bridleway and the bridge was far too narrow to be crossed by horses but it looked like there was a ford below the bridge.

The sky’s harsh crystal, wind a blade, trees stripped, grass dull with cold. Life is a kernel hidden in the stone of winter.”

Again it looked like the stone had been cleaned up fairly recently.

For most people following the trail this would probably be the start of their walk following the Poetry path, but we still had another stone to see so we crossed the bridge and carried on along the path until me reached the large February Stone comprised of four rectanular blocks piled on top of each other across from a derelict barn.

“Snowlight peers at the byre door. Neither day nor night. Four months ago we fetched the cattle in, safe from reiving wind and rain, months of standing and shifting, burdened with patience. When will winter end?
Thin strakes of run on the byre door. Fork a load of silage out, straighten your back to watch them shove their muzzles in, and wonder if they crave the hazy nights when they can roam among tall summer grasses, sleek and sound and warm.”

The motif showing a farmer feeding his cattle with hay during the winter was just about legible.

Carving on the February stone depicting Cattle brought indoors for the winter being fed

We carried on along the track – it had once been the main route from Kirkby Stephen to Mallerstang apparently – passing the March, April and May stones and then the June stone which we were now able to look at properly. We then rejoined the railway track, turning right this time to head towards Hartley. It was easy walking now on the disused track of the Stainmore Railway, a single line between Barnard Castle and Tebay, opened in 1861, built to transport Durham coke to furnaces in Cumberland and iron ore back to Cleveland. It was also used to transport limestone from the quarry at Hartley.

Two of the platelayers huts on the line have been restored and contain information panels about the history of the line.

Like most tracks on former railways lines, sections passed through cuttings but there were a number of places where there were good views over to the north Pennines. 

The path passes over two viaducts. The first we crossed was the Podgill Viaduct,

The views from the viaduct were impressive.

The viaduct is a listed Grade II structure built of local limestone with 11 arches, each of 30 feet span, and a maximum height of 84 feet above the valley floor (information from here). We descended down some steps to a viewing point to get a proper look. It was a good time of year to do this as the view wasn’t obscured by the leaves on the plentiful trees.

Carrying on we crossed over the Merrygill viaduct which spans the narrow Hartley Beck valley

The viaducts are owned and maintained by the Northern Viaduct Trust, a small charity, established in 1989. The trust also look after the Smardale Gill Viaducts and Drygill Bridge on a branch line passing through the disused Kirkby Stephen East statio.n as well as the Millennium Bridge we crossed earlier during our walk, and the track bed between Stenkrith and Merrygill Viaduct.

The path ended just after the Merrygill viaduct and we descended down the steep road to the small village of Hartley where we took the path leading back down to Frank’s Bridge

The village cricket field is near to the bridge and on the other side of the field is a small hill – Kirkby Hill. We decided to climb it and take in the views of the fells

The Northern Pennines
Over towards Hartley Fell
Wild Boar Fell in the distance
Kirkby Stephen

Walking back to our accommodation we noticed that the La’l Nook was opened, so we popped in for a drink – a good way to end the walk.

Grisedale Pike

When I woke up on the Sunday morning of my recent short break in Braithwaite, looking out of my bedroom window I could that Skiddaw was cloud free. The forecast was promising too – a high probability of cloudless summits up Coledale (although a grey day on the cards) – so after breakfast I checked out and, leaving my car at the B and B, I set out to climb Grisedale Pike. It’s a shapely fell, described thus by the blessed Wainwright

a graceful peak piercing the western sky ……. conspicuously in view from Keswick, it is one of those fells that compels attention by reason of it’s shapeliness and height.

The North Western Fells

The profile of the mountain means that the ascent from Braithwaite, (the most popular route up), involves a steep initial climb followed by a long gradual ridge, then another steep section, a short easier ridge and a final steep pull involving a little scrambling.

First of all, taking the Whinlatter Pass road out of the village up a steep slope as far as a small car park (already full at 10 o’clock)

then up some steps for the start of the steep climb at the start of ascent

Stopping to look back is always a good excuse for a little rest and in this case it was justified by the view over to Scafell & Co.

an over to the Dodds in the east

The climb eased off and the summit, with a clearly defined path to the top, came into view

No cloud hiding the summits of the other fells of the Coledale valley today

Getting closer to the summit now, the hidden valley of Grisedale, from which the fell takes its name, was revealed. There’s another Grisedale, one with an eponymous tarn, at the foot of St Sunday Crag in the Eastern Fells, of course, plus Grizedale (with a z) forest between Windermere and Coniston Water. They origin of the name for all of them is “the valley where young pigs graze” and so these were all places where there once would have been wild boar.

I had to take a rest and refuel, though, as the steep climb had reduced my blood sugar and the low alarm from my sensor was beeping away. It took a little while to recover before I could continue.

Now for the start of the final pull

A little scrambling required. This stretch reminded me a little of the final section of the Watkin Path on Yr Wyddfa (formerly known as Snowdon)

Finally reaching the summit, the views were excellent in every direction and I could even see as far as Scotland and the profile of the Isle of Man on the Horizon

Time to carry on down an easier slope than on the ascent. Looking back –

As I descended I could see over to Hopegill Head. I had in mind climbing up there too but my blood sugar was dropping and I was running low on carbs so thought it best to leave that for another day. I didn’t want to hypo when there was still a way to go back to Braithwaite down Coledale. I hadn’t managed my carbs too well today – the climb had been tougher than I’d expected and I wasn’t fell fit. I had some sugary snacks in my pack but didn’t feel comfortable that they would see me through. I usually pack more food than I think I’d need for a walk, but this one had been tougher than I’d expected and it’s better to be safe than sorry and have to be carried back down by Mountain Rescue. (I did make it back down to the village before my sugar level had dropped to the point where an intake of carbs was needed, but I’d made the right decision).

So I carried on descending making my way to Coledale Hawse where I was greeted by this view down the valley

I started chatting with a couple of other walkers who were also admiring the view. I recognised the accent of one of them – he was from the town where I grew up.

The path descended steeply towards the bottom of the valley down a rocky path. The old mine soon became visible.

Force Crag Mine was the last working metal mine in the Lake District, finally closing in 1991. Initially mining lead from 1839 until 1865, and then zinc and barytes from 1867. The abandoned mine is now owned by the National Trust who host open days from time to time. The water running out of the mine workings is heavily polluted with toxic metals including zinc, cadmium and lead and the Coal Authority, the Environment Agency, National Trust and Newcastle University and have developed and implemented an innovative pilot scheme to reduce the levels of metal pollution.

Looking back from near the bottom of the valley

I crossed the river and then joined the old mine road. It was a long, relatively easy but not very exciting walk back to Braithwaite

In the morning I’d passed a sign for the Braithwaite Orthodox church. Curious, on returning to the village I went to take a look.

It was originally a Methodist Chapel but really is being used as an Orthodox place of worship.

I then made my way to the village shop where I was able to replenish my carbs and buy a take away coffee. It was a short walk back to the B&B and my car.

I’d had an enjoyable few days in the North Lakes but it was time to set off on the drive back home. I’ll be back up here again before too long. But I’ll make sure I’ve more than enough carbs with me next time!

Barrow and Outerside

My B & B in Braithwaite was very handy for exploring the North West fells with walks starting from the front door. There was a view over the valley to Skiddaw from my bedroom window and looking out before breakfast I could see cloud hanging over and obscuring the top of the fell. I reckoned conditions would probably be similar up Coledale, and a look at the mountain weather forecast websites seemed to confirm this. I was hoping to go up Grisedale Pike but decided to leave that high fell, hoping the weather would be better the next day (it was) and instead tackle a couple of lower fells. This turned out to be a good decision as the top Grisedale Pike was covered with cloud for most of the time I was out and a walker I’d spoken to later in the day who had been up told me it had been windy up top with no views.

My objectives for the day, then were Barrow and Outerside, to lower fells which were below the cloud base and which did offer some views over Newlands Valley, Coledale and the higher fells. I had to endure some rain and wind, but nothing that presented any difficulties.

After breakfast I booted up and set off walking through the village and then took one of the paths up towards the fells.

Looking back over Braithwaite towards Skiddaw and Blencathra
Barrow to the left – Causey Pike ahead the summit peeking through the cloud.

I realised I hadn’t taken the most direct route towards, Barrow, my first objective. But consulting the map I decided that rather than retrace my steps I could take a path a little further up the valley and cut across to the fell.

Causey Pike, the minor summit of Stile End and Outerside
The path cutting across towards Barrow

After crossing the beck, rather than take the steep full on path up to the summit, I turned left and along a path running diagonally across the fell, joining the main ridge route to the top. As I climbed the rain started to blow in.

Looking back over the valley towards the Skiddaw group with low cloud obscuring the summits of the fells
The view over towards Derwent Water part way up Barrow
Looking across the Newlands Valley – the rain was coming across
Looking over to Causey Pike, Sail, Crag Hill and Outerside from the summit of Barrow
Looking back towards Skiddaw from the summit of Barrow
Making my way down from Barrow towards Outerside
Making my way down Barrow

Reaching the hause I started to climb a path that I thought would take me towards Outerside. After a short while I found myself on the summit, not of my intended hill, but the subsidiary summit of Stile End. My second error of the day. I stopped to take a short breaking taking in the views over the fells as the rough weather continued to come in along the valley from the direction of Buttermere

Some rough weather blowing in from the west – covering the summit and higher slopes of Grisedale Pike
The weather coming in over Grisdedale Pike
Sunshine on the lower northern slopes of Grisdale Pike
A rainbow over Braithwaite

Time to get moving again. I dropped down from the summit, made my way back to the hause and set off on the path above Stoneycroft Gill before cutting across on to the path that would take me up Outerside. There was a short steep climb requiring a little scrambling – care needed on the wet, slatey rock, but it didn’t take too long to reach the summit.

The view over Stile End and Barrow towards Derwent Water
Sail and Crag Hill in the cloud
Can’t see much of Grisedale Pike

As I made my way down Outerside, the cloud was beginning to clear. Reaching the Stoneycroft Gill path on a better day when I was feeling more “fell fit” I’d have been tempted to climb up to the ridge and tackle Causey Pike and possibly Sail and Crag Hill, but I decided it was time to make my way back down to Braithwaite. I followed the path towards Barrow

then cut across back towards the top of Stile End to take in the views again as the cloud was clearing. It was boggy underfoot. When I reached the summit of the smaller hill the cloud ha completely cleared from Grisedale Pike

Grisedale Pike from Stile End
Looking over towards Coledale Hause
Towards Outerside
Causey Pike

It was a steep and slippery slope to descend down off Stile End

Following the path back down to Braithwaite with the Skiddaw massive dead ahead
Passing a mass of snowdrops as I approached the outskirts of Braithwaite
View over Braithwaite

Reaching the village I popped into the small village store and picked up a few goodies to take home (locally made fudge)

Before making my way back along the road to my B & B and a welcome brew supplied by Helen, one of the owners!

Pendle Hill

There’s a good Lancashire word – slutch. The online Collins dictionary defines it as “a fine-grained soft wet deposit that occurs on the ground after rain” and that’s a decent enough description. Last Sunday, during a walk around Pendle Hill after a few days of rainy weather, I encountered plenty of it!

Sunday promised to be a fine day so I fancied a walk. I didn’t feel like a long drive so decided to head over to Pendle as I hadn’t been there for a while. It was a sunny morning when I got up, but the car was covered in ice. It took a little while to defrost but then I loaded up the boot with my gear and set off on the drive to the small village of Barley, which sits at the foot of Pendle Hill. The roads had been quiet but when I arrived in Barley it was already very busy. There were cars parked all along the narrow roads but I decided to use the village car park. £3 for all day is reasonable enough and contributes to the upkeep. I booted up and set off, passing the Cabin cafe which had just opened. Not many customers, but it was a different story by the time I got back in the afternoon!

I walked through the attractive village

and then took the Pendle Way path along the river, heading towards the hill

And there it is

The summit is 557 metres (1,827 ft) above mean sea level. So it doesn’t qualify as a mountain, but it’s a stiff climb up the steep main path from Barley. The hill doesn’t have a distinct summit. Its a long ridge. There’s a trig point at the highest point which is known as the “Big End”.

“Pendle Hill” actually means “hill hill hill”. The following explanation is from Wikipedia

In the 13th century it was called Pennul or Penhul, apparently from the Cumbric pen and Old English hyll, both meaning “hill”. The modern English “hill” was appended later,

I followed the path, avoiding the muddy stretches as best I could and reaching the foot of the hill started to climb up the steep path. A lot of work had been done since my last visit to minimise erosion caused by the boots of a large number of people who make their way up this way. Stone steps had been laid down. There were quite a few other people making their way up. I have to admit that not being fully “fell fit” a few breathers were need. But it’s not a race!

Eventually I made it to the top of the slope and followed the much gentler path towards the summit – the “Big End”.

I wasn’t the only one there when I reached it.

On a clear day the views all round were pretty good. There’s Ingleborough and Pen-y-gent in the distance

and over to Bowland with the Lake District fells peeking over the top of the hills.

There was a microlight craft in the distance making it’s way, noisily, towards the summit

Reaching it, the pilot swooped down over our heads and then over the hill, starting to show off performing acrobatics.

This was the view back down to Barley.

I could have made my way back down to there but instead took a longer route, setting off across the peat bog towards Ogden Clough. A lot of work has been done to preserve the peat with a flagged path across the bog which meant I was able to keep my boots dry.

The top of the hill is a long, flat plateau but eventually I descended down the path into Ogden Clough crossing the river which wends its way through the valley towards Barley.

There were no paving slabs along this path so I had to navigate plenty of stretches of smud – but this was not the worst of the slutch by any means!

At a fork in the path, where one branch heads over to the Nick of Pendle, I continued to follow the river, after a while descending steeply down a slippery slope, and crossing over the river. A couple of fell runners overtook me and I watched one of the slip and fall on his backside into the water. I took extra care!

I continued along the path down the valley eventually reaching the first of two small reservoirs built to provide water for the people of Burnley.

I was now walking on a stretch of tarmac towards the Lower reservoir, but soon left the road just before the reaching it, following the Pendle Way and the Lancashire Witches’ Walk,

and passing one of the tercets waymarkers which have been installed along the latter route.

A tercet is form of poem comprising a three-line stanza, and this one , dedicated to Katherine Hewitt reads

Witch: female, cunning, manless, old,
daughter of such, of evil faith;
in the murk of Pendle Hill, a crone.

The path took me up some steep steps through a pine wood

before emerging into the daylight to cross some fields up the hill and then towards the small village of Newchurch in Pendle.

A cracking view across to Pendle Hill

The going looks good but this was the muckiest stretch of the walk with deep mud in places. At one point my boots were completely submerged in the slutch. I was glad that I’d decided to wear my gaiters.

Descending down into Newchurch

and passing the well known gift shop that sells items of witchery and other bits and bobs

I decided to have a look at the church which gives the village its name (it was new in 1740!).

I walked across the graveyard and then too a path through fields (more slutch!) to Jinny Road.

I could have followed some paths through the fields, but I was getting a little fed up of trying, and failing, to avoid the mud! After about a mile I reached my next objective.

Clarion House is the last remaining example of establishments founded in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by the Clarion Movement and other Socialist organisations, to provide refreshments, and often accommodation, for walkers, cyclists and others who wanted to escape the smoke and grime of the industrial towns and cities.

I think this deserves it’s own post so for now I’ll just mention that I enjoyed a pint of tea, costing 70 pence, the opportunity to eat the butties I’d brought with me and chats with the staff and a nice elderly couple who lived locally and were regular visitors.

Refreshed I set of back through the field, initially sticking to the road (to avoid the mud sticking to me)

I saw some unusual sheep. I’m sure someone can tell me what breed this is

and Anabel had sent the coos down to harass me again (I was sure they’d followed me from Ambleside!)

After Roughlee village and a short climb I joined a bridleway that would take me back to Barley.

Reaching the village I visited the river and submerged my booted feet to wash off as much as the mud as I could before returning tot eh car park. The Cabin was busy with all the tables outside taken and a queue of customers purchasing drinks at the hatch.

Time to change out of my boots and gaiters (the latter had kept my trousers remarkably clean!) and set off back home.

Red Screes and Scandale in the Clag

Last weekend I headed up to the Lakes – my first visit for 2023. Other than my walk on 2 January weather, work and personal commitments meant I’d been restricted to local walks around the Plantations, canal and nearby countryside and I was feeling the need to get away and stretch my legs and christen my new boots.

I’d decided to drive up to Ambleside and head up Red Screes going up the long haul from the village and then back down Scandale – the opposite way from when I’d been up here before – the last time 12 months previously. Rain wasn’t forecast but the high fells wee in the cloud. I was hoping that it would clear during my walk but I wasn’t so lucky. Nevertheless, it was good to get back up on the fells even though it soon became clear that I wasn’t “fell fit”.

The first stretch of the walk was on tarmac, the steep road known as “the Struggle” (for good reason!)

After about a mile, I reached the stile that took me on to the footpath that climbs the fell.

It’s a fairly easy route in that it’s a clear path all the way up to the summit (at least, for most of the way) but it’s not particularly exciting terrain and a bit of a trudge. But I was still enjoying the walk even if I was huffing and puffing.

Good views initially down to Ambleside and Windermere as I was under the cloud base

but as I climbed I started to get into, and above the cloud. This was the view looking down into tve valley

and ahead

There’d been snow up here the week before, but there wasn’t much trace of it now, but as I started to approach the summit, and the temperature dropped, there was some ice that still hadn’t thawed.

The tarn at the summit was frozen, and I was in the clag- no views over to the Far Eastern fells this time.

I thought about taking in Middle Dodd, but decided to save that for another, clearer, day, so after a drink of coffee from my flask to warm me up and a bite to eat I set off down the path beside the wall descending to the Scandale pass.

As I came out of the cloud there was a good view down to Brothers’ Water and Patterdale, lit up by the sun peeking through the cloud.

Approaching Scandale, the eastern leg of the Fairfield horseshoe was obscured by the cloud

I carried on down the valley, passing several other walkers making there way up in the opposite direction.

Looking back up the valley

I spotted a few locals

Getting closer to Ambleside, I stopped to take a snap of the picturesque High Sweden Bridge

The rough path turned into a track, and I suddenly found my way almost blocked by a gang of locals making their way up the valley

Those horns look dangerous, but the although the black one came close to take a look at me they were very docile

and carried on their way

I was getting closer to Ambleside now with a good view of Wansfell (where the cloud had cleared) and a glimpse of Windermere

As I neared the village, I passed this curious tower which I’d never noticed on previous walks in the opposite direction

I couldn’t find out anything about it after my walk. Can anyone elucidate me?

Back in Ambleside now

I had a little time left on my car parking ticket so had a little mooch in some of the walking shops, but managed to resist temptation. Fortunately Fred’s bookshop was closed for rewiring as my bank balance would probably have been affected 😂

I returned to my car and got out of my boots just as the weather changed and the rain started. The rain got worse the further south I drove down the M6, so driving wasn’t fun, especially as it started to get dark. I’d had a good day walking but was glad to get home for a brew.

Link to route here

First walk of 2023

I’ve taken my time writing this up. When I retired from my main job at the end of February last year I was looking forward to a life of leisure, but it hasn’t quite worked out that way. I’m really only part retired and I’ve found that I’m working more than I intended and it’s certainly got into the way of keeping up to date with WordPress. Still, better late than never.

So, the second day of the year was a Bank Holiday, with New Year’s Day being on a Sunday. With a promising weather forecast it was time to get the boots on for the first walk of the year. I suspected the roads would be busy so decided on a local walk up on the West Pennine moors. It seems that a good proportion of the local population had a similar idea.

I was a little later than normal setting out and when I arrived at Rivington the ample free parking was ram jam full with some cars parked rather foolishly and dangerously near the two barns. Reading social media posts that evening it was clear that other popular areas like the Lake District were also heaving with reports of bad traffic and difficulties in parking.

I turned round and set off back towards Horwich and parked up on the road between the town and Rivington High School. I don’t usually park along here and, as a consequence, I ended up taking a new route up to the top of the Pike. I wasn’t originally going to take in the top of the hill but given where I’d parked I changed my plan, deciding to take in the top of the hill before heading further north to Anglezarke.

I booted up and set off down the track by the side of the school and began to climb up the side of the Pike on a path I’d never taken before.

Reaching the Terraced Gardens I started to climb up to the summit via the Japanese Gardens

The picture is deceptive – it was quite busy by the lake

It was very busy on the way up to the summit, mainly families out on a fine Bank Holiday Monday

Although it was sunny, the air temperature was low and there was a cold wind blowing from the west. I was glad I was wearing my down jacket.

There was quite a lot of cloud and some rain falling to the south west over towards Cheshire and North wales

But it was finer to the north and east

I could see a couple of walkers on the path over the moors towards Noon Hill. I considered following them but the ground was soft after the recent thaw and I expected it would be somethig of a quagmire so deided against and instead headed back down fromt he summit and on to the Pigeon Tower

I descended down through the Gardens

crossing over the Seven Arch Bridge and then took the track that descended gradually down to the Belmont Road car park (also full) and then made my way down the road, past Moses Cocker’s

and then, having left the crowds behind, onto Anglezardke Moor

making my way to Old Rachel’s and then on to HIgher Hempshaws.

Passing Old Rachel’s. The path was muddy in places, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected.
Lower Hemshaws

I carried on heading north on the farmer’s track. I’d intended to carry on towards Lead Mine Valley and then make my way past Yarrow Reservor and then along Rivington lower Reservoir back to the car. But the light was good and I fancied staying up on the wild moor for a little longer, so ended up turning up the track towards Redmond Edge, braving the bog, and then followed the ridge to Horden Stoops.

As climbed, views opened up to the Lake District mountains, the Bowland Fells, the Yorkshire Dales and Pendle Hill. Long range visibility was very good.

The view towards Winter Hill as I walked along the ridge to Horden Stoops

Reaching the Belmont Road there was a short stretch of tarmac to walk before I turned off down the rough track of the old Belmont Road back towards the Pike

The view back over to the Anglezarke moors

Reaching the Pigeon Tower the light was beginning to fade. The sun would be setting soon

I descended down through the gardens to the bottom of the hill via a circuitous rout. There’s a myriad of routes but I’ve been walking round here since I was a teenager so am unlikely to get lost! So I made my way back to the car. There were quite a few people making their way up the hill. I assumed that they were going up to watch the sunset. I was tempted to follow them, but I’d had a long walk. Tile to head back home for a brew.

A Winter Walk from Whitby

Boxing Day promised to be a fine day – perfect for a winter walk. I was up earlyish – unlike the rest of the family I’m not one for lying in. After breakfast I made up some butties, packed my rucksac and leaving the house, walked the short distance to the start of the Cinder track – the former railway line to Scarborough which has now been converted into a footpath/ cycle track. It was a bright and sunny with a blue sky, which meant it was cold and frosty with some ice underfoot, but I was well wrapped up and as I walked I soon warmed up.

The start of the path was up the steps on to the old railway line embankment

Scarborough was a bit far for my walk! but I’d planned a route walking on the track as far as the village of Hawkser where I’d cut across to the coastal path, along which I’d return to Whitby.

The view over Whitby towards the Abbey from the start of the Cinder Track
Going through a cutting
Before long I reached the viaduct over the Esk
Looking down on the River Esk with the railway line running beside it, heading towards the North Yorkshire Moors. The village of Ruswarp in the distance.
Looking over to the North Yorkshire moors
Railway carriages standing at the old station just before Hawkser. There’s an information centre her with a cafe (closed!) and where you can hire bikes. The carriages are holiday lets!
Reaching Hawkser, I crossed over the main road, rejoined the track for a short distance before leaving it to take a track through farmland heading towards the coast.
Reaching a farm, the path cut across fields towards the coast
I joined the coastal path an set off towards Whitby. The path is part of the Cleveland Way which crosses the moors and then follows the cpast to Scarborough and on to Filey
Looking back
It wasn’t all easy going. There were plenty of ups and downs and it was very muddy underfoot. I had to be careful not to slip and slide over the cliffs! I regreted leaving my walking poles behind (I had actually brought them with us but they were in the boot of the car)
Approachng the Whitby High Lighthouse at Ling Hill
Passing the lighthouse. It’s still operational and there’s two holiday cottages – one either side of the tower. Foghorn lodge a little further along the cliffs, has been converted into a family home (luckily the foghorn was taken out of operation in 1997
Foghorn lodge ahead
Continuing along the cliffs
Approaching Saltwick Bay
I diverted down on to the beach
No fossils to be found on the beach today
Back up on the coastal path
Getting closer to Whitby now
Looking down on the reamins of a shipwreck. There’s a couple of people down there as well. I hope they were keeping an eye on the tide that was starting to come in.
Passing the Abbey
St Mary’s church
Looking down on the harbour piers from the churchyard
Looking down towards Whitby
Heading down the 199 steps
Plenty of people on their way up on a fine day

At the bottom of the steps I made my way through the busy streets of the old town, crossed over the bridge and made my way back to our holiday home for a well earned brew!

Cave Dale and the Great Ridge

Since our walk in the Derbyshire Dales back in July, I’ve been trying to get out again with Graham, my friend and former colleague. We finally managed to find a mutually convenient day when neither of us had any pressing work to do so arranged to meet up for another walk in the Peak District.

Daylight hours are limited during December and I didn’t fancy fighting my way through the rush hour traffic on the M61 and M60 so took a chance and caught the train to Stockport. I was lucky – my trains weren’t cancelled (a later one was) and they ran more or less on time. Graham picked me up at the station and then we drove over to his mother in law’s house to pick up Toby – her dog – who we were taking with us. Then we drove over to Castleton where we’d decided to set off for a walk up Cave Dale. We’d then see how things went before deciding on the rest of the route while we were on the hoof.

A few miles from Castleton we were treated to the sight of a temperature inversion in the Hope Valley.

Looking towards Mam Tor
Winnats Pass

We parked up on the road just outside the village. Given the time of year and that it wasn’t the weekend we didn’t have any trouble finding a space. We booted up, got Toby into his harness and set off through the village heading towards Cave Dale.

Passing the village war memorial

Cave Dale is a narrow, dry gorge climbing (quite steeply at one point) between limestone cliffs. It was probably originally created by glacial meltwater, being deepened later due to the collapse of underground caverns.

I’d walked through the Dale before, a couple of times, but previously from the oppostie direction – coming down into Castleton.

Looking back as we climbed, Peveril Castle could be seen looming over and dominating the dale.

Looking up to Peveril castle
Looking back down the Dale towards Peveril castle with Lose Hill in the background

At the top of the Dale we turned off the Limestone Trail taking the path towards Mam Tor. We decided that we’d climb the “Mother Hill” and then carry on along the “Great Ridge” to Lose Hill.

The summit of Mam Tor was now covered in mist as the cloud base had lifted.

On the way up we started chatting with a couple of older men carrying large, heavy packs. They were paragliders and had decided conditions were improving and would be suitable for launching themselves off the summit. We found quite a bit about their hobby during the short walk to the summit.

Mam Tor means “Mother Mountain” and humans have lived around here for thousands of years. It’s the site of a prehistoric hill fort, and remnants of the fortifications – ditches and ramparts – are clearly visible running around the summit. also known as the Shivering Mountain due to it’s unstable nature which has resulted in a number of slow moving landslips caused by its geology – unstable lower layers of shale overlain by sandstone. There’s good view from the top, but not this time!

As the ridge is easily accessible from Manchester and Sheffield, it’s usually busy with walkers and despite it being a cold Friday afternoon in early December there were a number making their way towards Mam Tor, and a few others besides us heading towards Lose Hill . At the summit we stopped for a while chatting with a party of 5 – a family who were on an annual break in Edale celebrating the birthday of the pater familias!

As we descended off Mam Tor we came out of the cloud and had a good view along the rest of the ridge towards Black Tor and Lose Hill.

After a short steep climb we stopped at the top of Black Tor for a bite to eat.

Looking back towards Mam Tor – the summit still in cloud
Looking across the Edale valley towards the Kinder Plateau

After a short rest we set back off on towards the final summit of the day – Lose Hill. The hill is also known as “Ward’s Piece”, named in 1945 after W H B Ward, Socialist and founder of the Sheffield Ramblers in 1926 and, before that, in 1900, the Sheffield Clarion Ramblers.

Climbing up Lose Hill

We made our way back down towards Castleton via the path that ran down diagnolly down the side of the ridge

Looking back to Lose Hill – now in sunshine!

Reaching the bottom, looking up towards Mam Tor I could see a good number of paragliders in the sky. Our two aquatancies had been joined by other enthusiasts taking advantage of thermals that must have developed during the afternoon.

Looking across to mam Tor – I counted at least 10 paragliders

We were back in the village by about 3 o’clock. I’d never seen it so quiet. We made our way back to the car and set off and drove back to Graham’s Mother in Law’s house to drop Toby off for a bath and to cadge a brew! Then it was back tot he station where I had a short wait for the train. It arrived on time but had to stop outside Stockport Station for 25 or 20 minutes as there was another train on the platform waiting for the crew to arrive1 I was worried I might miss my connection at Piccadily but made it with a few minutes to spare – luckily it was sitting at the adjacent platform when we arrived at the station. It was an express train and so I was back at Wigan North Western, the first stop, in 35 minutes.

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!