The Quaker Trail and Winder

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Just a few days after my walk to Dent I was back in sedbergh early on Saturday morning. The weather forecast was good and I had planned to take a walk following the Quaker Trail, a route I’d heard about on John Bainbridge’s blog (Walking the Old Ways). There isn’t any information about the route on the web, but after reading John’s blog post I got hold of the leaflet* showing and describing the route from the information office during a previous visit to Sedbergh last year.

Sedbergh along with other places in the North West of England was effectively the birthplace of the Quaker movement. In 1652 the movement’s founder, George Fox climbed Pendle Hill in Lancashire, where he said that had a vision of a “great people to be gathered” waiting for him. the next day he was up on Firbank Fell, near Sedbergh, preaching to a large crowd, many of them Westmorland Seekers, and this is said to have been the birth of the Society of Friends, better known as the Quakers. I’d be visiting “Fox’s Pulpit”, the site of this event, during my walk.

Now I’m not religious but I have a lot of respect for the Quakers with their stance on Peace and equality, and this walk would give me a perspective on their early history and porvide a focus for a walk that would take me to parts of the countryside around Sedburgh that I wouldn’t otherwise visit. I also had in mind a variation to the route to take me up Winder, the hill overlooking Sedbergh, rather than to just skirt the bottom of the fell, depending on how I felt.

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An early start meant that I arrived in Sedbergh at 9 o’clock so any idea of grabbing a coffee before I set off was a no no as the shops and cafes don’t open until 10. So I set out, walking down the high street, past all the shops (nearly all closed!)

towards St Andrew’s church.

The route started here and took me round the church. I should have then cut across the public rights of way across the sedburgh School playing fields but they were barred due to Covid restrictions, which necessitated a diversion on the road.

passing the school neo-Gothic style chapel.

My old secondary school didn’t have anything like this nor the grand extensive sports fields and facilties. But then I’m only a pleb. Just looking at the facilites is enough to see why those who attend Public Schoold have a head start in life. the buildings all looked very nice, mind.

I was soon walking down a quiet country lane heading for the small hamlet of Birks

Looking back there was a grand view of the Howgill fells towering over Sedbergh.

After passing through Birks I took the path through pleasant fields

and under the disused railway line

and arrived at the first Quaker related site, the samll hamlet of Brigflatts with it’s Quaker burial ground

and Friends Meeting house

This simple whitwashed stone building was built in 1675. It’s normally open to visitors but was closed due to you know what. It would have been good to take a look inside as it retains many of the original oak furnishings. Not surprisingly, it’s a listed building.

I sat for a while in the peaceful garden

The Modernist poet, Basil Bunting wrote a long biographical poem entitled From Briggflatts (notice his spelling of the settlement has an extra g). He was actually from Northumbria but he

visited Brigflatts as a schoolboy when the family of one of his schoolfriends lived there, and it was at this time that he developed a strong attachment to his friend’s sister, Peggy Greenbank, to whom the poem is dedicated.

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There’s an extract and critique of the poem on the Guardian website.

He wrote another, much shorter poem about the Meeting House itself

At Briggflatts Meetinghouse

Boasts time mocks cumber Rome. Wren
set up his own monument.
Others watch fells dwindle, think
the sun’s fires sink.

Stones indeed sift to sand, oak
blends with saint’s bones.
Yet for a little longer here
stone and oak shelter

silence while we ask nothing
but silence. Look how clouds dance
under the wind’s wing, and leaves
delight in transience.

(source Durham University ⇨ Basil Bunting Poetry Centre )

So a literary, as well as a historical and religious significance for such a small group of buildings.

Moving on I had to walk down the pathless A683 for a hundred yards or so – but it was very quiet and only one vehicle and a couple of cyclists passed by. I then joined a track that led to Ingmire Hall, a 16th Century house, modified during the Victorian period, that was built around the remains of a pele tower

The route passed by the grounds of the grand house which wasn’t visible from the path.

It now took a long “dog leg” through the fields that eventually led to teh banks of the Lune and the old Lincoln’s Inn bridge

I’d driven over this narrow bridge on the way to Sedbergh from the M6

I crossed the bridge carefully and after a short stretch of road, I climbed over a stile and was back on a footpath through the fields just after Lincoln Inn farm. There was a most excellent view of the Howgills as I crossed the field

After crossing another minor road I crossed a field of sheep and then there was a steep climb through woodland

and then through another field and a farm track to reach another minor road.

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About half a mile up the road and I’d reached Fox’s Pulpit

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It was here that George Fox addressed a gathering of Westmorland Seekers. There used to be a chapel on the adjacent site but

Fox wouldn’t go into the chapel to preach but instead waited until the people emerged from the chapel at lunchtime and then climbed on to the nearby crag ….. and for three hours adressed the gathered crowd.

The Sedbergh Quaker Trail leaflet

He had his desired effect, convincing a significant number of his listeners and the even is seen as the founding of the Quaker movement. An annual event takes place close to the anniversary of the 1652 Meeting. Afterwards attendess go over to Brigflatts for refreshments.

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The text on the commemorative plaque reads

Let your lives speakHere or near this rock George Fox preached to about one thousand seekers for three hours on Sunday, June 13, 1652. Great power inspired his message and the meeting proved of first importance in gathering the Society of Friends known as Quakers. Many men and women convinced of the truth on this fell and in other parts of the northern counties went forth through the land and over the seas with the living word of the Lord enduring great hardships and winning multitudes to Christ.

The site is in the middle of nowhere, up on Firbank Fell, exposed to the elements – the old chapel was badly damaged by a storm in the 19th century and was demolished.

The “pulpit” stands at the foot of a group of knobbly hills known as the Knotts.

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I clambered up to the highest point and was treated to a magnificant panorama over the Howgill Fells.

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Looking in the other direction, I could just make out the distinctive profile of Ill Bell but long range visibility in that direction was too poor to get a good view over the Kentmere Fells. But, hety, the view over the Howgills more than made up for that.

While I was standing taking in the view I noticed that a number of locals were looking at me

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The Rough Fell sheep found up here are one of the three breeds of sheep native to Cumbria. They always seem much less timid than most breeds and often wander over to have a look at strangers.

I made my way down to the path skirting the bottom of the Knotts, passed through a couple of fields and then there was a short walk along the quiet road to Goodies farm

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where I turned down a track which took me downhill,

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over the course of the disused railway line

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and then down to the River Lune, crossing over the wooden footbridge

Looking down at the river

Leaving the river behind a path took me up to join the route of the Dales Way, which I now followed for a few miles in the direction of Sedburgh, initially passing through a farmyard

and then through fields of sheep with their lambs

Looking over to teh Knotts

Reaching the farm at Bramaskew, I turned off the Dales Way and took a path through more fields of sheep, crossing over another minor road and then over a stile on the path that took me up to and through Crosedale Wood

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and then on towards the fell gate

which took me onto the bottom of the fells.

Looking over to Arant Haw

The published route now followed the fell wall back towards Sedbergh, but this is where I decided that I would go up Winder, one of the smaller Howgill Fells, which overlooks Sedbergh.

I have to admit that I didn’t find the climb easy going. I am definitely not “fell fit”, but it wasn’t a long haul and I made it to the top

I stopped for a break and a bite to eat and took in the views.

Looking towards Arant Haw

and over to the Dales

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I was a little tempted by Arran haw, but decided I’d done enough, especuially as climbing Winder had felt like hard work – I really need to get more in shape – so started to make my way back off the fells to Sedbergh.

I arrived back in the small town at 3:30 so had time to go over to the Four Hares to buy myself a fortifying coffee and to treat myself to a rather tasty raspberry frangipane. Yummy.

It was just as well that the shops shut at 4 o’clock. Sedbergh is a “Book Town” and most shops have a stock of second hand books. I did find time to browse for a short time in the Information centre where they have a large selection, but I managed to avoid temptation. Sedbergh might be Book Town but I live in Book House and I have rather a large “to be read” pile at the moment, not counting all the unread e-books on my Kindle!

I sat on a bench in the small garden by the Information Centre enjoying my coffee and cake in the sunshine, but I hadn’t done quite yet. It was far too nice a day to drive home just yet, so I decided to dump my rucksac in the boot and take a stroll through the town and along the river side. But this post has gone on long enough! 😉

p.s. Nobody tried to convert me during this walk!

*A booklet on the Sedbergh Quaker Trail with a route description, including maps, can be purchased from the Information Centre for the modest price of £1:50

A walk in the Howgills

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Yesterday I drove up to Sedbergh to set out for a walk on the Howgill Fells. I had a route in mind that world tackle the Calf from the west side of the range of high hills, then walking along the ridge back into Sedbergh. I’d had it in mind to go for a wander on these quiet fells, just over an hour’s drive from home, for a while but I’d read a post on John’s blog, Walking the Old Ways just a few days ago which reinforced my decision.

Sedbergh used to be in Yorkshire, but since Local Government re-organisation in 1974 it’s been part of Cumbria. It’s quite a sleepy place, a little frozen in time, with some attractive little houses that I passed as I walked through the quiet streets, early on Sunday morning, heading towards Howgill Lane.

The first three miles of my walk entailed walking 3 miles down a lonely, leafy country lane, a good part of which follows the route of a Roman road.

There wasn’t much traffic to worry about other then the occasional car,a number of tractors pulling bales of silage and a couple of quad bikes.

Soon, good views over to the hills opened up over teh fields

After a couple of miles I passed Howgill church, built in 1838 to replace a small chapel on built around1685.

Howgill is a strange place. It’s not a village proper, being a series of scattered dwellings and collections of buldings. It’s rather odd that the fells are named after it rather than the larger settlements to the north and south of the range (not that they’re that big!) Apparently the Howgill Fells were so named by Ordnance Survey surveyors as the range of hills didn’t have a collective name.

About a mile further on I took a path across the fields heading to Castley Farm and then onto the fells

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I had to cross the fast flowing Long Rigg beck, which was a little tricky, but I managed to stay upright and make it to the other side

Then it was time to start the long, and in places steep, ascent up White Fell

As I climbed views opened up behind me of Morecambe Bay and the Lakeland Fells, silhouetted on the horizon.

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Since I left Sedbergh I hadn’t seen any other walkers, and during my slow climb up the fell the only other people I saw was a fell runner high up on the ridge across the valley, and a couple of walkers who passed me as they descended down the fell.

I carried on with my slow progress up the steep hill side until I reached the top of White fell and then made my way along the ridge towards the Calf, the highest point in the Howgills.

Looking north east from the top of the fell

The view west from the top of the Calf

There were a few walkers and fell runners on the summit, but it wasn’t exactly crowded. many of them seemed to have come up either from the north of the range or via Cautley Spout to the east

I set off south along the path to Calders

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Where I stopped for a bite to eat while I took in the view

Then it was time to set off again heading south, back towards Sedbergh.

As I walked I could see the Lakeland fells to the west

and the Yorkshire Three Peaks in the distance to the south

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– there’s Ingleborough

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I carried on, by-passing the summit of Arant Haw, but rather than head straight down to Sedbergh, I decided to walk on to the top of Winder

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Looking back from teh summit across to Arant Haw

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and down towards Sedbergh

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I retraced my steps a short way and then started the descent down towards the village. On the way crossing the only boggy stretch I’d encountered during the walk.

The final stretch was a little tough on the old knees, but I made it back down to the car where I loaded my backpack in the car boot before having a wander round the village. It was a brief wander as it’s only a small place and most of the shops were shut. But I did pop intot he Information centre where I bought a leaflet about the Quaker Trail, mentioned by John in his blog post – one for the future!

A calf, a sheepfold and a waterfall

….. and the site of an iron age settlement.

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Last Saturday I decided to make the most of a fine day and get out for a walk. As usual, the hard decision was where to go. This time I decided I’d drive up to Sedburgh and head out for a walk in the Howgill Fells. I had a route in mind – another longish walk with plenty of interest. Although part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and close to the Lake District, the Howgills (a group of high, grassy hills cut through with deep valleys ) are usually relatively quiet.

I parked up in the market square, got into my walking gear and set out. My route was going to start off fairly easily by following the river bank steady climb up towards Cautley and its waterfall. A steep (very steep, in fact) climb up beside the waterfall would take me up onto the fells and then I’d follow the ridge back to Sedbergh, taking in a few summits.

Leaving the car park I cut through the town centre (not that there’s much of it!), passing the Information centre and some interesting shops and old buildings as I made my way down to the river.

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I joined the path along the river bank at the New Bridge – well it was new in the 18th Century!

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The path followed close the river bank for a few miles

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With views of the Howgill Fells over the fields to the left.

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After a while, the path left the river bank and climbed up to a paved track by Buckback Farm. I had some trouble here. The right of way goes through the farm yard but I couldn’t get through the complicated set of gates so had to find an alternative way through the yard. I’m not sure whether the farmer was deliberately blocking the right of way or it was just my ineptitude and inability to work out how to get the series of gates open. Anyway, I finally got onto the narrow metalled road and followed it as it started to climb. The route ran more or less parrallel to the river but higher up and closer to the fells.

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The metalled road terminated at Thursgill farm and turned into a rougher track. The old stone farmhouse had an interesting neo-Gothic style entrance, added in 1885

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The path carried on along the valley, steadily gaining height. Some stretches were quite muddy and boggy but the views over the valley to the Yorkshire Dales were fantastic on a sunny morning.

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One of the local residents was wondering what I was up to.

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After a couple of hours, a little longer than I’d expected (the route was a little harder going than I’d thought), the path dipped back down to the river as I reached Cautley where I would turn off to climb up on to the fells.

This was the site of an iron age settlement. There was an information board with some details about the site, but to an untrained eye it would have been impossible to know anything had been here. Some scattered rocks on the raised ground were the only remains. The settlement had been built at the foot of Cautley Spout, a waterfall with the highest drop in England, at least for a cascading waterfall above ground. It doesn’t look much in the picture below but the water plunges over the top of the fells falling a total of 650 feet (198 m)  down a series of steps to the valley floor below.

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So now I started to climb up the VERY steep path up beside the falls. It had been raining of late so there was plenty of water tumbling down making it a dramatic sight as the path gets quite close to the water at some points.

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Looking back down to the valley floor – taking a photo was a good excuse for a short break during the steep climb!

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I finally reached the top – it had taken me about half an hour, and then followed the path along the beck (the same one which would tumble down to form the falls) heading towards my next destination, the highest point in the fells, the hill known as the Calf.

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After a short while I spotted this sheepfold – one of a series in Cumbria created by the renowned artist, Andy Goldsworthy.  Red Gill Washfold is a large restored washfold with a built-in cairn to celebrate sheep farming renewal.

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After spending a short while looking at the washfold I continued on along the path which followed the beck as far as the spring that fed the stream.

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Eventually emerging on the ridge that runs across the top of the fells. Visibility on the day was excellent and I was greeted by a fantastic view over to the high fells of the Lake District. There were the Coniston fells, the Scafells, Great Gable, Bow Fell and many of the other high mountains.

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A short climb and I was on the top of the Calf, the highest of the Howgill Fells. It’s a flat plateau which doesn’t have definite peak, but htere were great views in every direction.

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On a fine day like today the main fells in th eLake District would have been bustling with walkers, but there were only a few people up here on the Howgills. There were a couple of guys taking a break and after I’d asked one to take the obligatory photo of me at the trig point (I’m useless at taking selfies) we had a brief chat. They were wild camping over the weekend and were taking it slow, enjoying the walk, the scenery and the weather.

After a short while I continuing my walk, following the path that crosses the fells on the way back to Sedbergh. It’s relatively easy going but with some ups and downs. Other than a fence that crosses the range on Calders there are virtually no man made boundaries on the top of the fells which gives a real sense of freedom. It’s an open access area too, so you’re free to roam and although there are plenty of clear paths many of them aren’t marked on the OS maps.

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Looking over to the Yorkshire Dales. At one point I could see all three of the Three Peaks.

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Looking over towards Morecambe Bay.

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I’d been up here before when we walked up to the Calf from Sedbergh and then returned by the same route. Like then, I took in the summits of Bram Rigg top, Calders and Arant How. This time I decided to continue further along the ridge to take in the summit of Winder.

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Then I started the descent down the steep path back down to the valley. It was hard on my old knees. I find it much tougher going down than climbing up steep slopes these days.

On the way down I passed a small group of the wild ponies that live up on the fells. They didn’t seem to be bothered as I passed close by.

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I was fascinated by their long manes that cover their eyes and faces

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There’s Sedbergh down in the valley.

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I left the fell on the west side of the village, through Lockbank Farm and then made my way back to the centre wandering past a variety of old buildings through the narrow streets. As I expected none of the shops were open. For some bizarre reason they shut at 4 o’clock. Obviously they’re not interested in making money from walkers come back down from the hill. I was surprised to find a cafe that was still open, only shutting at 6, so I took advantage of this to stop for a well earned brew!

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I wandered back along the main street to the car park, passing some independent shops

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and the book shelter

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changed out of my boots and then set off on the journey home. It’s not too far and as the motorway was relatively quiet, it only took me an hour and a quarter.

Another long walk on a warm sunny day. I wonder how many more opportunities I’ll have before the end of the year?

Sedbergh

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We arrived back in Sedbergh after our walk up to the Calf just before 4 o’clock ready for a refreshing brew (and, possibly a cake!). While we were loading our rucksacks into the boot of the car a couple of coaches drove into the car park.. We’d better be quick, I thought, or we’ll not get in the cafés if we have to compete with 80 so day trippers.

We found a small café in the main street. The Three Hares  turned out to be a good choice. It was very pleasant, a little quirky and the tea and cakes were very good – and good value – I queried the bill as I thought they’d undercharged us, but they hadn’t. Their lunch menu looked interesting and they serve evening meals on Friday and Saturdays with a changeable, imaginative menu. Worth a try if we’re down that way over the weekend I think.

It was a good job we got there quickly as there weren’t many tables and those that were free after we had placed our order soon filled up. After that there was a procession of people trying to find a seat or looking in the window and walking past. We found out later that it was the only café open in the town. There were others, but they were all shut. At least one of them only being open 3 days a week.

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(Two cafés – both closed)

After finishing our brew we went for a wander around the small town. There were a number of interesting looking shops but they were all shutting up. They all seemed to only open at 10 and shut at 4:30. Even the tourist office shut at 4. There were a lot of disappointed looking day trippers wandering around the streets and sitting on benches waiting for time to leave! It was a good job it wasn’t raining.

Although today Sedbergh, which is only a few miles from Kendal, is in Cumbria, until 1974 it was in the West Riding of Yorkshire. That explains why it is within the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Historically, other than agriculture, the main industry was the production of woollen garments. Knitted clothing, including hats and socks was produced in workers’ own homes from yarn produced in nearby woollen mills, and then were sold on by local merchants . That industry is long gone. Today, the main employer is the public school which dominates the south end of the village.

It’s a small town which very much feels that it’s been left behind by the 21st Century.  We were able to walk around almost all of it in about 20 minutes.

The parish church dedicated to St Andrew dates from the 12th century, although, like many old churches it has been restored over the years. We didn’t have chance to have a look inside.

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The buildings were predominantly stone cottages, many of them clearly quite old.

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Like Kendal many of the older dwellings are clustered in “yards” – narrow lanes off the main street, running more or less perpendicular to it.

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The buildings here were both places to live and to work. This is a very typical example of an old worker’s cottage in, appropriately enough, Weaver’s Yard

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Never buildings at the north end of town which we passed on our way to and from the fells were also built in stone

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or with vernacular features, like the porch on this more modern house

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Sedbergh calls itself England’s official Book Town inspired by Hay on Wyre. There are a small number of dedicated book shops, but most other types of shops also had a selection of second hand books on sale.

All in all a very pleasant, attractive little town and it would be worth spending some more time there. It would be a good base for exploring the area and the fells and hills in the vicinity. And it would be interesting to have a mooch around the shops – providing we visited after 10 and before 4 or 4:30 on a day when they’re open!

Among a Huddle of Elephants

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We’ve been treated to a few days of warm, sunny weather this week – a true taste of summer. So on Tuesday a decision had to be made – stay in the office stuck behind the computer preparing and revising some course notes or take the day off and get out for a walk. No competition, really. The work wasn’t urgent, it could wait. The hardest decision was where to go. The Lake District beckoned but during the peak holiday period it was likely to be busy, so we decided to go for a walk in an area on the north eastern edge of the Yorkshire Dales, close to the Lake District – the Howgill fells.

I’ve passed these attractive grassy hills many a time driving up the M6 between Kendal and Carlisle and on the train to Scotland and always felt that I’d like to get up on the fells, so Tuesday was our opportunity.

The Howgills aren’t dramatic mountains like you find in the Lake district. They’re rounded, grass covered hills cut through with deep valleys. But they have their own beauty.Alfred Wainwright in his book Walks on the Howgill Fells and adjoining fells provides an excellent summary of their attractions

“The Howgill Fells ….. are sleek and smooth, looking, from a distance, like velvet curtains in sunlight, like silken drapes at sunset; they are steep-sided but gently domed, and beautiful in a way that few hilly areas are …… The compactness of the group is emphasised by a remarkable concentration of summits, often likened to a huddle of squatting elephants …..”

We plumbed for what’s probably the most popular route, from Sedbergh at the southern end of the fells up along the ridge leading to The Calf, the highest point in the Howgills. Historically in Yorkshire (along with the southern half of the fells), following local government reorganisation in1974 the small town (a village, really) was transferred to the newly formed county of Cumbria.

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We parked up in the car park in the centre of the village near to the information centre, donned our boots and set off for the fells.

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There was a steep climb up above the west bank of Settleback Gill

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but we were soon up on the grassy fells. Other than a fence that crosses the range on Calders there are virtually no man made boundaries on the top of the fells which gives a real sense of freedom. It’s an open access area too, so you’re free to roam and although there are plenty of clear paths many of them aren’t marked on the OS maps.

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The route to The Calf was effectively along a ridge punctuated with a series of rounded peaks. We had the option of by-passing the first of these, Arant Haw – at 1989 feet just short of being able to call itself a “mountain” – but decided to tackle it anyway.

From the summit there were superb views of the surrounding fells. Unfortunately there was a heat haze which obscured the main Lakeland peaks although looking south we we could make out the hills of the Yorkshire Dales.

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After eating our sandwiches we set off again towards our next objective, Calders. This involved losing some height before climbing a steepish slope up to the summit.

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More great views to either side of the path

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The view from the bottom of the climb up Calders

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We made it to the summit, which at 2211 feet is only a little lower than The Calf itself.

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There was a hazy view over the Yorkshire Dales and I could just make out the summit of Pen-y-Gent in the distance

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After a brief stop to take in the views and some refreshment – it’s important to keep drinking on a hot day – we set off on the path towards the Calf. Most of the serious climbing had been done now. Again there were views over the nearby fells to either side of the path

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It didn’t take too long to reach the summit of the Calf. It was a little bit of an anti-climax as the summit is a flat plateau which doesn’t have definite peak.

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but there is a trig point marking the high point – 2218 feet – and a small tarn.

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After taking the obligatory photos and more refreshments we set off back to Sedbergh. Although it is possible to work out a circular route this would have extended the walk by several miles and we’d decided to head back by retracing our footsteps – well, more or less as we decided to bypass Arant Haw on the return journey.

The route wasn’t a disappointment as different views opened as we worked our way back towards our destination.

This was the view from the top of Calders, our path clearly visible with the hills of the Yorkshire Dales in the background.

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As we approached Settlebeck Gill and the descent from the fells we could see Sedbergh down in the valley.

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We spotted a para-glider circling Winder as we descended.

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Not far to go to Sedbergh now. A brew awaited!

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The bottom of the fell

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On the track back into the village we passed these fellows sheltering from the sun

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Rough Fell sheep one of the three breeds of sheep native to Cumbria.

Soon we were back in the village. We dumped our rucksacks in the boot of the car and set off in search of a café. Another enjoyable walk, somewhere we hadn’t visited before, but a brew was needed!