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!

Bog Hopping on the Bleasdale Fells

That’s an exageration, but only a slight one! Last Friday I went for a walk on the Bleasdale Fells and a good proportion of the walk was across the blanket bog. But then there’s no point on going up on the fells in Bowland if you want to avoid bogs – that’s just about impossible!

I’d parked up at Fell Foot and set off to climb Parlick. It’s not the first time I’d been up the steep climb to the top of this hill. At one time I used to go up there fairly regularly but I hadn’t been here for, perhaps, 20 years. The first time I remember well – it was 49 years and one (or possibly two) weeks before. I can be fairly exact with the date as it was during a camping trip with my bother and a friend and on the way up my tum didn’t feel right. By the evening I was in quite a bit of pain and my bother said he thought I had appendicitis – he knew the symptoms well enough having been in hospital almost exactly a year before. We rang home but my parents had gone out for the day. Luckily our friend’s dad came to the rescue and picked me up and took me home. My parents had a shock when they got home themselves to find me sitting there and rang the doctor – this was in the days when they used to make home visits. The Doctor looked me over and decided it was something I’d eaten. Luckily he had second thoughts and came back 2 days later. The next thing I was being rushed to hospital in an ambulance for an emergency operation!! A very lucky escape.

The road to Parlick!
Fell Foot Cottage – suprisingly it’s at the foot of the fell!

Anyway back to my latest jaunt. I took the direct way up which is steep to say the least. It was windy so although a reasonably fine day a windproof jackets was needed. It’s a popular walk (relatively for Bowland) and is a regular haunt of hang gliders, so the path is quite eroded. Some restoration work is being done. I don’t think many people who go to teh top carry on much further to be honest.

Heading up Parlick

It didn’t take too long to reach the summit, despite a number of stops to look back to take in the view (my excuse for regular stops to catch my breath)

Parlick summit
The view from the summit, looking across to Pendle Hill and Longridge Fell with the West pennine Moors in the far distance

I didn’t stop very long, carrying on along the ridge to Fair Snape Fell

Looking across to Hazelhurst fell behind the flank of Fair Snape Fell

After a while I reached “Paddy’s Pole” and the shelter. This isn’t the true summit of the hill but I think this is the objective for most people coming up here. There was no let up in the wind on the exposed ridge so I settled down in the shelter for a break and a sandwich.

Paddy’s Pole

The views from up here on a clear day are pretty spectacular

Looking across to Parlick
Morecambe Bay (with the Heysham Nuclear Power Plant) and the Lakeland Fells in the distance
More Lakeland Fells
In the east I could see the distinctive profile of Ingleborough

Next, I took a path heading south and then cut across, crossing the boggy ground until I reached Brown Berry Plain.

The tops of these fells are a big blanket bog, but over the years, due to human activity (and there’s evidence that people lived in Bowland as early as Neolithic times) it’s become degraded with areas of peat exposed to the elements leading to the loss of plant life and the formation of “peat hags”

a form of erosion that occurs at the sides of gullies that cut into the peat or, sometimes, in isolation.[69] Hags may result when flowing water cuts downwards into the peat and when fire or overgrazing exposes the peat surface. Once the peat is exposed in these ways, it is prone to further erosion by wind, water, and livestock. The result is overhanging vegetation and peat. Hags are too steep and unstable for vegetation to establish itself, so they continue to erode unless restorative action is taken.

Peat hags

Well, restorative action is now being taken up here and there was plenty of evidence of this as I bog hopped my way across towards Holme House Fell

Interventions to restore the blanket bog
Looking across the bog with the Yorkshire Three Peaks visible in the distance.

I’d seen a few people as I’d made my way up Parlick and on to Fair Snape Fell – not many mind, it’s usually pretty quiet up here – unless the hang glider enthusiasts are around. Since I’d left Paddy’s Pole I’d only come across one other person and we joked about getting sucked downinto themurky depths of the morass of peat! And this was summer – I definitely wouldn’t venture across here in the winter.

My fellow walker was faster than me (not unusual!) – there he is disappearing into the distance

After what seemed like an never ending period of bog hopping I reached the path that would take me down off the fells. The worst sections of bog had been paved over making the goindg much easier until I eventually hit less soggy ground

Looking across to Fair Snape Fell and Parlick as I descended
Looking towards Beacon Fell

Reaching the bottom of the hill I had a decision to make. There were too options to return to Fell Foot and my vehicle. I decided to take the longer option which would take me along some quiet tracks and minor roads through the Bleasdale Estate I’d never trod before.

Looking back across the fields towards the fells I’d been up an hour or so before.

As i walked down one of the lanes there were masses of butterflies feeding on thistles which flew out as I passed.

Eventually I reached the tiny settlement of Bleasdale

I decided to divert to take a look at the small Parish Church, the only one dedicated to the obscure Saint Eadmer.

St Eadmer’s Church
View of Parlick from the church graveyard

Less than a mile from here is Bleasdale Circle – the remains of a Bronze Age Settlement. It’s on priavate land and you’re supposed to get permission to visit. But I was starting to feel a little tierd and didn’t want to extend my walk by taking the short diversion as I know there’s not a lot to actually see there and I’d read that the site was in a bit of a mess.

So I carried on across the fields – the first couple on leaving thevillage rather overgrown and it was difficult to make out the path.

My route took me through the farm yards at Blindhurst farm,

The attractive farmhouse at Blindhurst

where a rather nice lady pointed me in the right direction for the path crossing the fields and the bottom of Parlick that took me back to Fell Foot

The last field to cross back to Fell Foot where I’d parked

This had been a grand walk on a fine, if blustery day (it wasn’t so windly down in the valley, mind). I left determined to get back soon to continue rediscovering Bowland, somewhere which was a regular stomping ground of mine years ago.

Driving back I stopped at Chipping as I was in need of a toilet stop. I had a mooch around – it didn’t take long as it’s only a small place, rather isolated from the rest of Lancashire, but it’s been here for a long time, being mentioned in the Domesday Book.

At one time there were several textile mills in the vicinity (some still survived and have beed “repurposed”) and the village was also known for furniture making, notably chairs.

Today, with it’s attractive stome buildings and old church is a conservation area

On the moors – before the heat arrived

Much of July was sunny with little rain so it was a good time to get up onto Anglezarke and take a route over the blanket bog that covers the moor while the peat was dry and springy rather than a boggy morass. So the Saturday after my mid week walk in the Peak District I decided to do just that. We’d been warned of a heat wave coming in with some very high (for the UK!) temperatures which wouldn’t be conducive for walking, so it seemed sensible to get out before it arrived.

I parked up at Rivington and then cut across the meadow to Sheep House Lane, walking a short distance down the tarmac past the Tea Room (it was too soon in the walk to take advantage) before turning on to the path across the fields
and beside the small brook (the path which had been damaged by the Spring storms had been repaired) and then up the track towards Dean Wood
Climbing over the stile I took the path across the fields towards Allance Bridge
Looking down to Yarrow Reservoir I could se that the water level was very low
This was the view down to the water from Allance Bridge. I can’t recall seeing the water level that low .
Looking over the other side of the bridge, this was the state of the inlet where the Yarrow usually enters the reservoir – it’s usually full of water and the River seemed to be reduced to a trickle.
After crossing the bridge I turned up the path across the fields from Parson’s Bullough
Eventually reaching the track from Jepson’s Gate. Rather than turn right here and follow the track towards Lead Mine Clough I turned left towards Jepson’s Gate
Joining the minor road I turned right and after a short distance I wnt through a gate and crossed onto the open access land. There was a hint of a path which soon petered out so I had to make my way across the rough and tufty ground. Luckily after the dry few weeks the ground was firm underfoot, otherwise I would have been doing some bog hopping!
Looking west over to Healey Nab (In my teens I used to live just over the other side of this modest hill) to Chorley
I carried on across the moor eventually joining the path for Hurst Hill. I turned off onto the path towards Grain Pole Hill
Looking north from the summit of Grain Pole Hill
My next objective – Hurst Hill. I retraced my steps and then joined the path towards the summit.
Reaching the summit. Good views all round
Looking towards Great Hill
across to Redmond and Spitler’s Edges
and, to the south, Winter Hill and Rivington Pike
I carried on across the path across the peat towards the prehistoric burial mound, Round Loaf. This can be a quagmire but the peat was largely dry and springy underfoot wit just the occasional muddy patch. With the peat so dry there’s a real risk it could be set on fire by a barbecue or carelessly disposed fag end. But it was quiet with not many people around.
Last time I was up here the moor was covered with “bog cotton” (Cotton Grass) but there were only a few patches left on the wetter sections of the peat.
I stopped for a bite to eat and to soak up the views on the top of Round Loaf
Before setting off along the path across the moor towards Great Hill
Looking north across the moor
Some more bog cotton – a warning to avoid a boggy section!
Reaching the bottom of Great Hill I decided against climbing to the top of the familiar summit but turned right taking the flagged path towards Redmond’s Edge. I’ve no idea who “Redmond” was or what the name means and have drawn a blank searching on the web.
Reaching Redmond’s Edge, rather than carrying on along the path over Spitler’s Edge and on to Horden Stoops, I turned west down the path I’d walked up from the opposite direction a few weeks before. It’s not marked on the OS map but there’s a clear path to follow these days.
Carrying on down the path. I can’t remember the grass on the moor looking so green. Strange, considering the dry conditions of late.
Continuing along the path, which eventually joins the main track across the moor from Belmont Road to Lead Mine Clough
At Hempshaws I took the path toward the ruined farm known as Old Rachel’s
The view over to the Edges from Old Rachel’s where I stopped for a short break
Carrying on along the path I passed the waymarker that had been erected by the Peak and Northern Footpath Society
Looking south towards Winter Hill and Noon Hill

I turned south continuing along the path until I reached the Belmont Road near to Moses Cockers. After a short stretch of tarmac (fortunately not too many vehicles encountered – it can be a bit of a race track this road, especially for motorcyclists) I turned off and followed the paths back to my car.

It was a fine, warm day on the Saturday but the temperature was just right for walking. It certainly wasn’t for the next few days as the promised heat wave arrived. More a time for sitting in the shade in the garden with an iced drink which is exactly what I did!

A walk in the Peak District Dales

The day after we’d been up to Blackwell and Windermere Jetty I was off out again. I’d arranged to meet up with Graham, a friend and former colleague who lives over in Stockport these days, to get out for a walk in the Peak District. He’d suggested a few routes, but when we set off for the one we’d originally chosen, we had to rethink due to a closed road. So instead we decided to drive over towards Peak Forest for a walk through the “Peak District Dales” in the White Peak. This was a gentler walk than the one we’d originally chosen, although it ended up being much longer than we intended!

At peak Forest we turned down a quiet lane and parked up, booted up and set off.

We joined the Limestone Way route which would take us through three limestone dales, starting with the very pleasant Hay Dale.

It was a typical White Peak landscape with steep limestone cliffs on either side of the grassy meadow

Hay Dale
Hay Dale

At the end of Hay Dale we passed a small DoE group with their adult leaders preparing to set off. We crossed a minor road and hopped over a stile into Peter Dale, which was quite similar to Hay Dale. Then there was another road to cross and we were into Monk’s Dale. This was a different kettle of fish. At first it was narrower, heavily wooded and very rough and rocky underfoot with some clambering over or under fallen trees required in places. There was a dried up stream and if water was flowing there was a chance of getting wet feet.

Monk’s Dale – rough underfoot!

Towards the end the Dale widened out and the path became grassy. We climber up the path

towards the end of Monk’s Dale

We climbed the hill emerging on the hillside overlooking the River Wye at Millers Dale. Ready for some refreshment on a hot day we made our way up to the former railway track, now part of the Monsal Trail, at a disused station where there was a car park and a cafe in the station buildings.

After a brew and a cake we made our way back down to the rioverside path, initially walking along the road

before turning off down a minor road that ran alongside the river in Miller’s Dale.

We had intended to turn off the road after about a kilometre and head up Tideswell Dale but we were too busy yapping and missed the turning and after another kilometre found ourselves at Litton Mill

Litton Mill

This former cotton spinning mill, opened in 1782 to take advantage of the River Wye to provide water power to run the machinery. However, in this sparsely populated area it was difficult to recruit enough workers, so the management took advantages of the provision in the Poor Law Act of 1601 for “the putting out of children to be apprentices”. Children as young as 8 from the Workhouses as far away as London were indentured and had to endure, long hours, terrible conditions and corporal punishment for even the most trivial “offences”.

Today the buildings have been converted into flats.

Litton Mill

Helen Mort, a poet from Sheffield has written a poem about the mill


Hold me, you said,
the way a glove is held by water.
Black, fingerless, we’d watched it
clutch a path across the pond,
never sure if it was water or wool
that clung fast. The mills are plush apartments now,
flanked by stiff-backed chimneys
and you ache for living voices,
the clank and jostle of machinery,
for something to move in this glassy pool
where once, you were the waterwheel,
I, the dull silver it must
catch and release
as if it can’t be held.

© 2007, Helen Mort
From: the shape of every box
Publisher: tall-lighthouse, London

Still too busy talking to realise we’d missed our turning, we carried on along Miller’s Dale

Miller’s Dale
Miller’s Dale

Until we reached the impressive looking Georgian building of Cressbrook Mill. Another former cotton mill that’s been converted into gated apartments. Built in 1873, it was originally owned by Richard Arkwright but was sold to a local man, William Newton. Like Litton Mill it relied on indentured apprentices for labour and it is likely that they were treated just as badly as those at Litton Mill, but the employer was a bit more savvy about his reputation and, employing the Georgian equivalent of PR, was able to make out that the apprentices were treated better than at Litton.

Cressbrook Mill

At Cressbrook we finally checked the map and realised that we’d walked a couple of kilometres further than intended. However, rather than retrace our steps back to Tideswell Dale, we ammended our plan and decided to head up Cressbrook Dale and then loop back to the car via Litton Village, Tideswell and Wheston.

Cressbrook Dale

Up a quiet lane, about halfway up the Dale we passed a small isolated group of former former lead miners cottages, Ravensdale Cottages which stand under the limestone Raven’s Crag

We carried on past the cottages taking a path through the woods, running alongside another dried up stream.

Dried up stream in Cressbrook Dale

Emerging into more open countryside higher up the dale

We carried on, turning round a bend we arrived at Peter’s Stone, an impressive limestone outcrop – the photo below doesn’t give a good impression of its size.

Peter’s Stone

It’s also known as Gibbet Rock, as it is allegedly the location of the last gibbeting in Derbyshire, in 1815. A local man, Anthony Lingard of Litton was convicted at Derby Assises of the murder of Hannah Oliver, the tollhouse keeper at nearby Wardlow Mires. He was executed by hanging in Derby but his body was then transported here and displayed by being hung from the gibbet.

We retraced our steps for a short while, before turning up Tansley Dale that would take us to Litton village

Tansley Dale

Litton village was a short walk from the end of the Dale. We were feeling in need of some refreshment and passing a couple of locals out dog walking we asked where we might get a brew. They directed us to the local Community Shop and Post Office which sold drinks and snacks. We made our purchases and consumed sitting on the tables and chairs on the green in front of the shop.

The Community Shop and Post Office in Litton Village

Litton was originally housed workers from the nearby lead mines, but today is a very pleasant “dormitory” village. There was pub just over from the village too but as neither of us drink alcohol the shop was able to satisfy our needs and we were able to support the local community venture.

We carried on down a minor road for about a kilometre, arriving in the larger settlement of Tideswell, which, although still a relatively modest size, is the second largest settlement in the Peak District after Bakewell.

Coming into Tideswell
The Merchant’s Yard in Tideswell

We passed the impressive 14th century Parish Church of St John the Baptist is known as the “Cathedral of the Peak”.

St John, Tideswell – “The Cathedral of the Peak”
Markygate House, Tideswell
Tideswell Market Place

From Tideswell we carried on along a quiet minor road before cutting along lanes through the fields and made our way to the small hamlet of Weston where I nearly got savaged by a dog!

We stopped to have a look at the Medieval cross (14th or 15th Century) on the edge of the village.

Wheston Cross

We carried on down the road until we reached Hay Dale. We retraced our steps from the morning along the dale and then down the track back to my car.

My pedometer reckoned we’d covered16 miles (14 miles according to the map) – further than we’d intended! However, walking through these limestone dales was easier than hiking over the high fells in the Lake District or the Moors of the Dark Peak or South Pennines. It was a good walk on a pleasant summer’s day and it was good to meet up with Graham, who I hadn’t seen for a couple of years. We plan to get out again in he not too distant future.

Online route here.

Aber Falls and a coastal walk

Aber Falls is one of the most popular tourist attractions in northern Snowdonia. The dramatic waterfall is very accessible by an easy path making it suitable for a wide range of visitors. The falls, near to Abergwyngaren, are only a few miles from where I was staying and I had them on my list as a destination for a walk. I’d devised a lengthy route where I could walk over to the falls via the Roman road and then return via the coastal path. However, after a long hard walk up into the mountains the day before I decided to cut out a few miles by taking the bus to Abergwyngaren – the bus stop was almost opposite where I was staying.

I walked through the village and then after the falls car park I walked through the woods before joining the path along the valley that led to the falls.

It’s about 1 1/2 miles from the car park to the falls, passing several sites of Pre-historic settlements from teh Bronze and Iron ages.

Excavated Iron Age hut circle

Then, there are the falls just a short distance away.

There are actually two falls – Rhaeadr Fawr and Rhaeadr Bach, the easy route leading to the former.

Rhaeadr Fawr

I stopped for a short while to take in the view of the water cascading 37 metres down from the hanging valley of Cwm yr Afon Goch, before crossing over the wooden bridge spanning the river to take in the view from the other side.

Another visitor enjoying the sunshine

A large proportion of visitors will return by retracing their steps back to the car park but there’s another option. Following the path from the bridge there’s a route that passes Rhaeadr Bach and then goes up over the moors before descending back down to the village.

Turning a corner Rhaeadr Bach was revealed. I thought that these falls which tumbled down the mountainside in a series of cascades were more interesting than the more popular (and more accessible) Rhaeadr Fawr.

I carried on along the path which looped round to the north climbing up the hill side above the valley, passing a couple of DofE exhibition groups (yes, it was that time of the year!).

Looking back there was a great view of both falls and the slopes of the Carneddau.

Height was gained gradually opening up views over the valley

and, eventually, over the sea

Looking back across to the mountains, the weather was quite different tan over the sea

My route now took me down a steep path back to the village. The picture shows how much height was gained on the return leg

Reaching the village I stopped for an ice cream and then took the minor road under the Expressway towards the coast where I joined the coastal path to walk back towards Llanfairfechan

This stretch of the coastal path passes through the Traeth Lafan Nature Reserve which stretches along the intertidal sand and mud-flats along the Menai Straits between Bangor and Llanfairfechan

I reached  Morfa Madryn and then continued, retracing my route from a few days before.

The weather was much brighter this time

Looking inland

Approaching Llanfairfechan

I walked along the prom before climbing up the hill along Station Road, turning right at the crossroads for the last half mile or so back to my accommodation.

Drum and Foel Fras

My reason for choosing to stay in LLanfairfechan was that I wanted to get up on the northern Cardennau. There aren’t many access points to the plateau but the village is one of them. So on the Wednesday, despite the promise of cloud, mist and some rain up on the high fells, it looked like that would clear during the day, so I took my chance, booted up and set off.

The first part of my route was reprise of the previous day’s walk up Garreg Fawr, except that this time I by-passed the summit, carrying along the path towards Drum.. heading into the low cloud that had descended on to the hills.

As I walked along the path I encountered two walkers coming back off the hills – they must have had an early start. They told me it had been clear up top. I didn’t see anyone else for another couple of hours.

There’s a long stretch of power lines that cross the lower slopes of the northern Cardennau which emerged from the mist as I approached them.

Just after I’d passed them I crossed the Roman road from Chester (Deva) and Caernarfon (Segontium) which also traverses the lower slopes

Shortly afterwards I encountered my first herd of ponies of the day

I carried on along the clear track heading towards Drum

The cloud came and went, bringing intermittent drizzle and rain, with Drum appearing from time to time as the cloud passed over.

As I climbed I gained a view of Foel Fras, Llwytmor and Llyn Anafon

Eventually I reached the summit of Drum and stopped in the shelter for a rest and a bite to eat

And as I watched the cloud began to clear

revealing views right down to the lower hills nearer to the coast, the Menai Straits, Puffin Island and Anglesey,

Foel Fras


While I was snapping some photographs I saw my third walker of the day who came up the path I’d followed, but carried on towards Foel Fras. Not long after I resumed walking, dropping down from the summit of Drum before starting the steep climb up Foel Fras. The path was obvious but not as good underfoot. There were sections of boggy ground but stepping stones had been laid over the worst sections helping to keep my boots reasonably dry.

The weather continued to improve

The view over to the coat from the path up Foel Fras

On the way up, what did I see? yes, another small herd of ponies

It was a steep climb at first, but the slope eased gradually and it didn’t take too long to reach the boulder strewn summit of the northernmost of the Welsh 3000 foot peaks at 3097 feet.

Looking over to the southern Carneddau – Carnedd llewelyn was covered with cloud
Zooming in
Looking back down to the coast
Looking over Llwytmor towards the Menai Straits and Anglesey

I stayed for a while taking in the view without another soul in sight. I contemplated whether to carry on over the plateau, but decided that a circular route down towards Abergwyngregyn would have been a little too ambitious, so it was time to return, retracing my steps, down towards Drum.

The weather kept improving as I descended

There’s the great Orme in the distance
Looking back to Foel Fras, Llwytmor and Llyn Anafon – a clear view than this morning

Up until now I’d only seen 3 people up on the fells, but as I descended I saw a small group loaded up with large packs heading up. They told me they were making their way up to wild camp up on the plateau near Foel Grach.

On my way down I passed the herd of ponies I’d seen on my way up

Reaching the Roman Road I decided I’d take a different route back to my accommodation. I followed the track in the direction of Abergwyngregyn

and then, after a while, took a path across the moor heading north towards Rhiwiau

A path through the woods then took me to a farmhouse where I joined a metaled track

and then I weedled my way along some minor roads back to the flat.

That had been a grand walk through mist rain and sunshine. Just over 13 miles, reaching the northernmost of the Welsh 3000 foot peaks and back.

Garreg Fawr

On Tuesday afternoon of my North Wales break, I stayed indoors relaxing and reading while the it rained outdoors. At around 4 o’clock I had itchy feet and, looking out the window, convinced myself it was easing off so I booted up and set out for a walk.

There’s a relatively modest hill that overlooks Llanfairfechan, and which was visible from outside the property where I was staying, so I thought that was a good bet for a short walk.

A short way down the road I cut off down a track which took me to the narrow Gwyllt Road near a group of houses. I turned left, heading east. At a junction next to an attractive cottage I turned on to the Terrace walk and then a short distance further on there was a gate on the right leading to a path that would take me towards my destination.

The path climbed steeply and was concreted over, I guess to make it easier for quad bikes to get up on the fell.

After a short while it levelled off and I was climbing steadily on grass up on to the moor.

Looking back there were good views over the Menai Straiys towards Puffin Island and Anglesey

The rain had eased off but there was a strong wind blowing.

When planning this holiday I’d hoped that I might get the chance to see some Carneddau ponies. These small mountain ponies are allowed to roam on the fells throughout the year, even in window. They’re owned by 7 local families who round them up for health checks once a year, otherwise they’re “hefted” to the mountains. I’d seen a herd in the distance when I was up on Cony Mountain the previous day, but this time I was treated to a much closer view .

It was raining further on into the mountains

But I turned left and climbed up the more modest slopes of Garreg Fawr

It was very windy when I reached the ridge and made my way towards the rocky summit – 1168 feet high.

Reaching it, it was difficult to stay on my feet as I took a few snaps of the views

Looking south towards the main high Carneddau range
Looking over Llanfairfechan towards the Menai Straits, Puffin island and Anglesey

Penmanmawr – the hill. The town of the same name is on the other side.

I didn’t stay too long on the summit for fear of being blown into the sea(!), but stared to make my way down. I didn’t return by the same route but descended down into the top end of the small town.

A row of former workers’ cottages in Llanfairfechan

I walked down through the town turning left just after the Co-op for a short walk back to my holiday accommodation. Although a relatively modest hill at 1168 feet, but I had started from not much above sea level. I hadn’t got too wet and had enjoyed my short walk. It had set me up nicely for the next day.

Conwy Mountain, Allt Wen and Penmaenbach

The Sunday after I returned from Belfast I received a text from a friend who I’d sat next to in the taxi to the airport and on the plane back to Manchester. It was telling me he had Covid. This wasn’t welcome news for two reasons – I was concerned for his health (and his family’s) but it was also bad timing as I was due to go away the next day for a short break in North Wales the next day. Luckily I have a small stock of LFT kits and tests on the Sunday and Monday morning proved negative, so no need for a last minute cancellation. (I tested later in the week too – again negative so a lucky escape, I think).

It’s become something of a tradition that I disappear for a few days on a walking break during the first week of Wimbledon as it’s permanently on the TV and the constant grunting and screaming (from the players!) drives me bonkers. So it provides a good excuse to get away. This year I’d booked a self catering property just outside Llanfairfechan (pronounced something like Clan Vire Vechan) on the North Wales coast, just below the northern Carneddau. Although in the Snowdonia National park these mountains are not well visited. They’re quite different in character to the more familiar mountains further south in that they’re mainly grassy rounded hills – but they constitute the largest largest contiguous area of high ground over 2500 feet south of Scotland, with a number of peaks over 3000 feet high. Access points are limited, but there’s paths and tracks into the northern part of the range from Llanfairfechan and nearby Abergwyngregyn.

I set off on Monday morning, heading down the M6, M56 and A55 and arriving in Conwy a little before noon. The forecast was reasonable and I had a walk planned that would take me on to one of the more modest hills in the area, Conwy Mountain. If you define a mountain by it’s height (2000 feet or more) Conwy Mountain isn’t one. But it does have mountainous characteristics – rugged and rocky.

I parked up in the large car park on the outskirts of the town and set off up through the streets of the small town, past the castle

and down to the harbour.

I followed the coastal path

Zooming in on the Great Orme

Just after Bodlondeb woods, I left the coastal path, turning inland, passing a local secondary school and crossing over the railway line before joining a minor road that started to climb up towards the Mountain. I joined a track and then turned off, climbing over a stile and starting my ascent up a steep path through the woods.

This was the view as I emerged from the woods

I stopped to speak to a couple of local walkers who were taking a break and then walked over to a rocky spur to take in the view over to the sea and the Great Orme at Llandudno.

It had turned into a fine, but blustery, afternoon.

I resumed my ascent

and approaching the summit I could see the remains of the Iron Age hill fort Castle Caer Seion.

It’s reckoned that the site was occupied between 300BC and 78AD, and substantial ruins can still be seen, with views over to the higher Carneddau mountains in the background

I carried on along the path. Fantastic views in every direction

Looking down I got my first view of the Carneddau ponies – a herd were grazing on the hill side.

I carried on and decided to head over to another summit, Allt Wen

It didn’t take long to reach the top

Looking back to the east, there was another summit – Penmaenbach (that means something like the small rocky headland or hill)

So I thought I’d head over that way

I’m quite familiar with the inside of this hill – there’s a tunnel through it that carries the west bound A55 North Wales Expressway which I’ve travelled along countless times, usually heading to Holyhead to catch the ferry.

From the summit I could see Puffin Island and over to Anglesey.

with a good view down to the sandy beach west of Conwy

Over to Llandudno and the Great Orme

and, looking south, over to the Carneddau mountains

It was time to start making my way down. I retraced my steps and then followed the North wales coastal path route which by passed the summit, skirting around to the south.

At the bottom of the hill I cut through the residential streets, had a quick mooch around the small town centre and then back down past the castle to the car park.

This had been an excellent walk. Better than I’d expected. The views on top were amazing and it was possible to ignore the busy A55 down below for most of the walk.