It’s been a long haul from Christmas this year with Easter being so late – I wish they’d fix the date! So I was glad to be able to take a week off work last week to go away for a few days. We found ourselves a cottage for 4 nights just outside Cartmel at the foot of Hampsfell.
Cartmel is a small, attractive village to the north of the treacherous sands of Morecambe Bay, which is something of a “honeypot” with an old Priory church, old houses and other buildings, a number of touristy shops, a Michelin 2 star restaurant, four pubs and the smallest racecourse in the UK. The village is just to the south of the Lake District National Park, although our cottage, one of a small group of properties, was just inside the National Park boundary. Historically the Cartmel peninsula, together with nearby Furness, the other side of the Leven estuary, were part of Lancashire. Cut off from the rest of the county the area was often known as “Lancashire over the sands”. Following local government reorganisation in 1974 it was absorbed by the newly created county of Cumbria.
This old map shows the pre-1974 county boundaries and includes “Lancahire over the sands”
Although seemingly cut off from the rest of the county the area was accessed via routes over the sands of Morecambe Bay. The tide recedes from the bay leaving behind a vast area of sand and mudflats criss-crossed by a number of river channels and notorious for it’s quicksands. Until the Furness railway was opened in 1857, crossing the sands was a major route of communication. It was a dangerous crossing, though, and many people were trapped by quicksands and a rapidly rising tide, losing their lives. According to Wikipedia Cartmel apparently means “sandbank by rocky ground“, from the Old Norse kartr (rocky ground) and melr, reflecting it’s location a few miles north of the bay.
We were lucky to have some decent weather – cool, but sunny – so managed to have a good break taking in some walks, a visit to a stately home and even some art! So, lots to write up, but for a starter here’s a few photos we took in and around the village and our cottage.
I had a week in Ireland this week cancelled and as I hadn’t anything particularly urgent that needed doing, I thought that, weather permitting, we might get out for a walk one day. Checking the forecast, Monday looked the best bet as it was expected to be a decent day, so that clinched it. Where to go? Given the limited hours of light in December we decided not to go to far and stick to a low level route, limiting the mileage. We’d not been to Kirkby Lonsdale before, even though it’s not so far away (just over an hour’s drive, M6 willing!), so after a little research decided on a route starting from there.
Kirkby Lonsdale is a picturesque market town in Cumbria, close to the boundaries of both Lancashire and North Yorkshire and just inside the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It’s noted for it’s olde worlde town centre, a viewpoint beloved of Ruskin and Turner and an old bridge.
There’s plenty of free parking on the edge of town, either side of the “Devil’s Bridge” but when we arrived on a Monday morning in December, I was surprised to see how many cars were parked up. However, there were a few spaces left so we parked up and donned our boots ready for a walk. I was expecting it to be muddy so we’d brought our gaiters and a couple of walking poles – it turned out that this was a good move!
Before setting off we had a look at the Devil’s Bridge which was built in the 12th or 13th century, and is now a scheduled ancient monument. At one time it was the only bridge over the Lune for miles around.
There are quite a few Devil’s Bridges around the country, all built around the same period and all have a story associated with them explaining the name. At Kirkby Lonsdale the tale goes that one night a cow belonging to an old woman strayed across the river and as there was no crossing point on the wide, fast flowing river, she couldn’t get it back. The devil then appeared and offered to build a bridge overnight t if he could have the soul of the first one across. However, the old woman fooled him by sending her dog across first. The devil was so angry he disappeared in a cloud of smoke never to return.
The bridge is a popular spot over the River Lune for “tombstoning”, which involves leaping from height into water. Over the years a number people have been killed here and there’s a local bye-law forbidding the practice, but, apparently, this doesn’t stop some foolish thrill seekers. So perhaps the Devil has had the last laugh.
We set off , crossing the main road and then heading off south through the fields. There was a good view over to the Kentmere horseshoe.
Passing a small group of cottages we followed the track which led towards Sellet Mill. The narrow footpath passed between two stonewalls and was clearly an old right of way which looked like it had been cobbled at one time. About a third of the way down a stream came in from the left and the path continued alongside it. “I wonder if it ever gets flooded?” We soon found out. Not much further on the path was covered with a fast running stream. Should we turn back or chance it and continue? We took the latter option. We almost regretted this decision as the water was quite deep in places and it wasn’t easy to avoid getting our boots submerged or slipping and falling over. The walking poles now came in very handy and we managed to stay upright and not get too wet thanks to the gaiters. After what seemed a long way the path re-emerged on the right hand bank and we were able to continue on dry land until we reached Sellet Mill.
From here we took the path heading west through the fields until we reached the road and then followed a narrow minor road towards Whittington, a pleasant old village. There were good views over the fields across to Ingleborough and other hills in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
and we passed some interesting old buildings.
Reaching the old church, which stands on the site of a Norman motte and bailey castle, we decided to stop and have a bite to eat. We had a quick look inside the church. The oldest part is the tower, which dates from the early 16th century. The rest was largely rebuilt in 1875 in the usual Victorian Gothic revival style.
There was some rather nice stained glass.
Afterwards we found a bench in the graveyard and sat down to eat our pork pies, taking in the view on a pleasant, sunny, afternoon.
Well nourished we resumed our walk, taking the road through the village and then followed a path that cut eastwards across the fields towards the River Lune.
After recent heavy rains, the river was deep and flowing fast and the banks were muddy and slippy. In a few places it was close to the river and we were once again glad I’d put our walking poles in the boot of the car that morning.
We followed the river bank back to Devil’s Bridge and then continued on the riverside path as we wanted to have a look around the small town and also to visit the viewpoint known as “Ruskin’s View”.
After about a mile we reached the “Radical Steps” that would take us up to the viewpoint. The steps were built in 1819 by Francis Pearson, a local Liberal. The locals came to call them the Radical Steps on account of his political leanings. There are allegedly 86 stone steps, although we didn’t count them. They were rather steep and uneven and probably easier to go up than down.
At the top of the steps we reached the edge of the churchyard and were able to take in “Ruskin’s View”. Painted by Turner, in 1875, John Ruskin described the panorama as ‘one of the loveliest views in England, therefore in the world’.
Even though the river valley was now in the shade, it was certainly a lovely view, but I think Ruskin was rather overstating it.
After taking in the view we walked through the church yard and had a quick look around inside St Mary’s church
and then wandered into town where we found a cafe to have a brew before heading back to the car for the drive home. It was only 5 o’clock but the winter sun having already set it felt much later. But we’d had a good day out.
Last Wednesday I managed to take an afternoon off work to get out for a walk, making the most of a fine day. I decided to drive over to Shazza country and head up Pendle Hill. I’d been up there for a walk earlier this year during the heatwave, but this time decided to tackle a circular route from the village of Downham which is only 30 miles and less than an hour away from home.
Downham is a very pretty village and somewhat lost in time. The properties are all owned by the Assheton family who rent or lease them out and they don’t allow residents to install overhead electricity lines, aerials or satellite dishes. This has made the village a popular location for filming period TV programmes and films, including the BBC One series Born and Bred. More notably it was the main location for the 1961 Bryan Forbes film, Whistle Down the Wind, which, although rather sentimental, is one of my favourites as it very much reminds me of my childhood – the local children who used as actors and extras are of my generation and also spoke rather like I do!
I parked up in the free (!) car park and bought myself a few supplies from the small café cum ice cream and snack shop and set out following a path southwards which took me across some fields towards Worsaw Hill and Worsaw End. The farm lying at the foot of this hill was used as the home of the main characters in Whistle Down the Wind.
I then took the path past the farm that headed east towards Pendle Hill. After a short section of tarmac I was back on soft ground passing along a narrow path between hedge boundaries
and then starting my climb up the flank of the hill.
Looking back there were good views of Worsaw Hill
With Ingleborough and Penyghent in the Yorkshire Dales clearly visible in the distance.
It’s a steep ascent, so it doesn’t take too long to reach the top of the ridge (although not quite the summit of the hill)by the large cairn erected to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Scout movement.
I then set out along the ridge heading for the “Big End” which is the highest point of the hill. It was over a mile, mainly walking over soft peat which is inevitably normally muddy and gloopy underfoot, but the long dry spell from May to the beginning of August (although now seeming like a distant memory) meant that despite some recent rain the going wasn’t too bad.
Visibility was reasonably good so there were views in all directions
about half way along the ridge I passed this round shelter, which rather looked like it had been created by Andy Goldsworthy
After crossing a wall and passing this recently constructed seat come wind shelter
The Big End was in view
Quite a lot of work has been done recently on the paths which is necessary on such a popular peat covered hill to control erosion. Some people don’t like this but I’m afraid it’s necessary.
It didn’t take long now to reach the trig point at the summit
Time to stop for a little while, grab a bite to eat and soak up the views, looking down to Barley
After my short break I retrace my steps along the engineered path back to the wall
and then took the path which descended diagonally down the hill back towards Downham
Descending is harder on than knees than climbing, but it didn’t give me too much trouble this time.
Looking back from the foot of the hill
and looking ahead
An easy stroll of about a mile or so over the fields alongside the small river took me back towards Downham
Looking back to Pendle Hill
Passing through this gate took me back into the village
The cloud had cleared during the course of my walk and it was now a bright sunny late afternoon.
I spent half an hour or so mooching around the village and taking a few snaps (I’ll probably include them in another post) before heading back to my car, changing out of my boots and setting off back home.
As .. I .. travelled, …I …came near a very great hill, called Pendle Hill, and I was moved …….. to go up to the top of it; which I did with difficulty, it was so very steep and high. (George Fox, 1624-1691)
Trying to make the most of the long days and good weather (while it lasts), last Tuesday I started and finished work early so that I could get out for a walk. It took me about an hour to drive over to Barley in Pendle where I parked up and set out to climb Pendle Hill. The area has two major claims to fame. It was there that George Fox, the founder of the Quakers, had a revelation which led to the founding of the Society of Friends. But it is probably best known for its association with the Pendle Witches who were executed 400 years ago in 1612.
It’s an interesting curiosity that “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 Cumbricpen and Old Englishhyll, both meaning “hill”. The modern English “hill” was appended later,
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”.
Reaching the trig point there were extensive views down to Barley and beyond to the east
and over to the Bowland fells to the north with glimpse for the Yorkshire Three Peaks through the haze to the north east.
I set off along the plateau, following the Pendle Way, to descend by Boar Clough. (“Clough” is a local term used for a steep valley or ravine.)
Usually this route would be much more difficult underfoot but the recent warm dry spell meant that the ground was firm, rather than wet and boggy, and the stream that has carved the clough in the hill side was just about dry.
I descended down into the larger ravine of Ogden Clough
Following the valley I reached the first of the small reservoirs
I carried on down the track and just before the second reservoir cut across the valley through some woods. I was still following the Pendle Trail but the section also forms part of the Lancashire Witches’ Walk, a 51-mile (82 km) long-distance footpath between Barrowford and Lancaster, opened in 2012 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the trials of the Pendle witches. The poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, was commissioned to write a poem for the trail and Ten cast iron tercet waymarkers, designed by Stephen Raw, each inscribed with a verse of the poem the have been installed at sites along the route. I passed the second of these.
Looking closer at the inscription
The whole of the poem is inscribed on one side of the waymarker, but it’s not so easy to read, but you can see it here.
My route now took me up the hill on the opposite side of the stream
and up through and then besides Fell wood before following a path eastwards through the fields towards the small village of Newchurch in Pendle.
There was a good view across the valley to Pendle Hill
Continuing to follow the Witches’ Walk
On to Newchurch
I paused to take a look at the “new” church (well, it was new in 1740).
I passed the souvenir shop (which was closed as it was now well after 5p.m.)
I love the inscription above the door. It’s in Lancashire dialect. “Gerrit Spent” looks like a Dutch gentleman’s name but it translates as “get it spent”. The rest of the transcription meaning “they don’t put pockets in shrouds”.
The final leg of my route took me across the woods and fields towards Barley
with Pendle Hill in view as I walked along the track back to the village
Another good, varied walk (just over 6 miles) during the late afternoon and early evening on a fine day.
Between mines and mills and factories, there are more steam engines per person in Wigan than in London, Pittsburgh, Essen or anywhere else. It happens to fit nicely that the palm oil we import from Africa lubricates those engines. The world runs on coal, and Wigan leads it. As long as we have coal we will continue to do so.’
As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve just finished reading Rose, a novel by the American thriller writer Martin Cruz Smith set in Wigan in the 1870’s. It tells the story of one Jonathan Blair, an American mining engineer who, on returning from Africa in disgrace is employed, reluctantly, to visit the town to investigate the disappearance of a curate who was engaged to his patron’s daughter.
The author had certainly done his research and weaves details about working class life in Wigan 19th-century into his story. He visited the town and met with local historian and some former pit brow women. Here’s a cutting from the local paper
In an interview in 1996 he reveals that he was a fan of George Orwell and had read The Road to Wigan Pier. and I’m sure that it’s no coincidence that his hero is called Blair, the real name of Orwell was Eric Blair.
Wigan, a working class town built on coal and cotton, wasn’t a pretty place during Victorian times and I’m sure his description of Wallgate is accurate
The thought occurred to Blair that if Hell had a flourishing main street it would look like this.
I found it fascinating to read the names of places I knew in the book. His hero stayed in the Minorca Hotel on the corner of Wallgate and King Street. It’s still there, but has gone through several name changes over the years – it’s now called the Berkeley and at one time was known as Blair’s. Here’s how it looked in about 1900
Various pubs are mentioned, there were a large number in Wigan, including the one nearest to where I live, the Balcares (now renamed the Crawford Arms) on Scholes – the name of both a thoroughfare and a district of the town just west of the town centre. In fact much of the novel is set in Scholes, which at the time was populated by miners and other workers packed in back to backs and houses built off dark, narrow courtyards.
The slums were cleared in the 1960’s and I lived there for a few years in a Council flat. And now I’m only a few minutes walk away from the district. So it was rather odd to be reading about the same streets and Scholes bridge, which I still cross regularly, in a novel by an International renowned author.
His descriptions of working in the mines are excellent, and really bring the experience of going down a mine to life
The cage started slowly, down through the round, brick-lined upper mouth of the shaft, past round garlands of Yorkshire iron, good as steel, into a cross-hatched well of stone and timber and then simply down. Down into an unlit abyss. Down at twenty, thirty, forty miles per hour. Down faster than any men anywhere else on earth could travel. So fast that breath flew from the lungs and pressed against the ears. So fast that nothing could be seen at the open end of the cage except a blur that could whip away an inattentive hand or leg. Down seemingly for ever.
Blair crawled out into a narrow tunnel, the length of which was populated by shadowy figures wearing only trousers and clogs, some only clogs, covered by a film of dust and glitter, swinging short, double-pointed picks. The men had the pinched waists of whippets and the banded, muscular shoulders of horses, but shining in the upcast light of their lamps what they most resembled was machinery, automatons tirelessly hacking at the pillars of coal that supported the black roof above them. Coal split with a sound nearly like chimes. Where the coal seam dipped, men worked on knees wrapped in rags. Other men loaded tubs or pushed them, leaning into them with their backs. A fog of condensation and coal dust rose from them.
Given my line of work, I was particularly interested to read his descriptions of the dangers posed by firedamp and the way that miners could “read” the danger using their Davy Lamps
From the German Dampf. Meaning vapour. Explosive gas.’ ‘Oh,’ said Leveret. ‘Methane. It likes to hide in cracks and along the roof. The point of a safety lamp is that the gauze dissipates enough of the heat so that you won’t set the gas off. Still, the best way to find it is with a flame.’ Battie lifted the lamp by a rough column of rock and studied the light wavering behind the screen of the gauze. ‘See how it’s a little longer, a little bluer? That’s methane that’s burning.’
And there were other “damps” too
When firedamp explodes it turns to afterdamp. Carbon monoxide. The strongest man in the world could be running through here at top speed, but two breaths of that and he’ll drop to the floor. Unless you drag him out, he’ll die. In fact, I’ve seen rescue attempts where one, two, three men will drop trying to pull one man out.
In designing his lamp, Humphry Davy was largely motivated by a desire to save lives (although the search for glory was a factor too, it has to be said) and he refused to take out a patent, even though strongly encouraged to do so. He wanted his lamp to be freely available. Sadly, although the lamp was intended to save lives it has been said that it actually caused the death of more men because the mine owners used the lamp as an excuse to send their workers into more dangerous workings.
The novel was well written, and not just the details about Wigan and life as a miner. It was a gripping story, if a little far fetched. The ending certainly was. But a good read nevertheless.
I’ve just finished reading Rose, a novel by the American thriller writer Martin Cruz Smith. Best known probably for his books set in Russia during the Cold War, one of which Gorky Park was turned into a film starring William Hurt that I watched quite a few years ago. This book, however, is set somewhere equally exotic – Wigan in the 1870’s.
It tells the story of one Jonathan Blair, an American mining engineer who, on returning from Africa in disgrace is employed, reluctantly, to visit the town to investigate the disappearance of a curate who was engaged to his patron’s daughter.
Rose, of the title, is a “Pit Brow Lass” – a young woman employed in a local coal mine. The Wigan Pit Brow Lasses were somewhat notorious. They worked on the surface (women being forbidden to work underground by the Mines and Collieries Act 1842) at the coal screens on the pit bank (or brow) picking stones from the coal after it was hauled to the surface or loading wagons.
They wore distinctive attire– in particular, trousers covered with a skirt and apron, old flannel jackets and shawls or headscarves to protect their hair from the coal dust. Although practical, their clothing was not considered to be feminine and this provided some with an excuse to object to women working in the mines. Underlying this, of course, were the real reasons, economic and social and there were attempts made to ban the women working. But they fought back with spirit and there were women still working at the pit brow in Wigan right into the mid 20th century. Not now, of course, there aren’t any pits left.
For whatever reasons (some probably not so savoury) there was a public fascination with the women and the way they dressed and portraits and postcards of them in working clothes were produced commercially. We saw this rather romanticised small statue of a Wigan Pit Brow Lass on display at the Hepworth in Wakefield (another mining area) a few years ago.
A number of photographic studios in Wigan produced postcards showing posed images of local women. Here some examples from the Wigan World website.
Last Wednesday was a beautiful sunny day so to make the most of the weather and long hours of daylight, I finished work a little early and we drove the few miles over to Rivington to take a walk during the early evening. Rivington Pike and Winter Hill loomed large in my youth – along with the Talbot Mill they dominated the view from my bedroom window when I was a teenager.
Rivington is on the western edge of the West Lancashire Moors. A substantial part of the Pike and the nearby estate was purchased by Lord Leverhulme in 1900 who moulded the landscape into tree lined avenues with terraced gardens on the side of the hill. He constructed a number of buildings, including follies like the replica of Liverpool Castle on the shore of Rivington Reservoir, and restored two oak cruck barns. He also built a bungalow that was destroyed in an arson attack, allegedly by a suffragette, Edith Rigby, on 8 July 1913
This large house, with it’s Georgian frontage, a Grade II* listed building which was originally the manor house for the Lords of the Manor of Rivington. Behind the hall is Rivington Hall Barn, the larger of the two oak cruck barns on the estate, which is a popular venue for weddings.
Behind the barn we took the lane up the hill towards the Pike
The view west across the reservoirs towards Chorley, Wigan and the coast was, unfortunately, very hazy
We carried on along the track towards the summit of the Pike
and climbed the steps towards the tower
The summit is 1,191 feet high and was the site of one of a series of early warning beacons spanning England created in the 12th Century.
The tower is a Grade II listed building, which was completed in 1733.
A hazy view to the west
but much clearer air over tot he east with a good view of the summit of Winter Hill and the TV transmission mast
Normally the path over to Winter Hill, which crosses the peaty moor, is something of a quagmire. But after a dry spell of weather the going was good underfoot so we decided to take advantage of this to walk over to the summit.
The route took us over the infant River Douglas (the very same “Dougie” that flows through Wigan) which rises on the flanks of Winter Hill
We were getting closer to the TV transmission mast
Passing an old mine shaft
We finally made the summit – 1,496 feet high and the site of the Winter Hill TV Mast, which came into service in 1956, and a number of other telecommunication masts and towers.
The land owner, Colonel Richard Ainsworth, who planned to use the whole area of open moorland for grouse shooting, issued writs to the leaders and took them to court. Unfortunately, the Colonel won the case and proceeded to take it out on the leaders by bankrupting them for damages and fees. Typical of the landowning class.
We took in the view over to Belmont over to the north east (some of my ancestors lived here)
Winter Hill was a dangerous place. This Scotsman’s stump
a memorial to a young Scots merchant who was murdered here in 1836
and there’s a couple of memorials to a fatal plane crash in 1958
Time was getting on so we set out back over the moor to the Pike
This time skirting the summit
We took a different route down , through the wooded terraced gardens
We soon reached the foot of the hill
Looking back – a glorious evening
We made our way back to the car. If was after 7 o’clock by now but there were still plenty of cars parked up, and even a few more arriving, as people took advantage of the good weather to enjoy the outdoors.