Boxing Day promised to be a fine day – perfect for a winter walk. I was up earlyish – unlike the rest of the family I’m not one for lying in. After breakfast I made up some butties, packed my rucksac and leaving the house, walked the short distance to the start of the Cinder track – the former railway line to Scarborough which has now been converted into a footpath/ cycle track. It was a bright and sunny with a blue sky, which meant it was cold and frosty with some ice underfoot, but I was well wrapped up and as I walked I soon warmed up.
Scarborough was a bit far for my walk! but I’d planned a route walking on the track as far as the village of Hawkser where I’d cut across to the coastal path, along which I’d return to Whitby.
At the bottom of the steps I made my way through the busy streets of the old town, crossed over the bridge and made my way back to our holiday home for a well earned brew!
Christmas at home didn’t seem so appealing – with four adults stuck in the house where we live and work for the rest of the year. Last year we spent a few days in York; this time we decided to have a week away by the sea in Whitby.
We travelled over the Wednesday before, the shortest day of the year. The weather was fine and, being a few days before the big day, the traffic wasn’t bad so we made it across the Pennines, the Vale of York and the North Yorkshire Moors in good time.
We’d hired a large Victorian house across from Pannett Park and only 5 minutes walk down to the harbour.
Being the shortest day of the year, by the time we’d picked up the keys, unloaded the car and picked up some supplies, it had gone dark, so we picked up some fish and chips for tea (compulsory the first evening by the seaside!) lit the wood burner and settled in for an evening in front of the festive tv.
During our stay, the weather was a mix of grey and very sunny days, and we managed to pack a lot in (as usual), mainly mooching around the old town and walking around the harbour and on the beach. I also managed a good walk on Boxing Day.
Here’s a few shots of popular sites around the town
The first day we did a bit of shopping
We climbed the “99 steps” up to the Parish Church
and went inside to look at the many Christmas trees decorated by local organisations and individuals
Looking across the churchyard to the Abbey
Christmas Eve was a crisp and sunny day and I went out for a wander on the beach
Later we had out traditional Christmas Eve buffet
We cheated a little for Christmas dinner. We’re not fond of turkey anyway and had bought in a salmon Wellington we were able to cook in the oven along with a selection of pre-prepared vegetables
After dinner we went out for a walk on the beach.
and on the west pier
Boxing day was another sunny days and I left the rest of the family having a lie in and went for a good walk taking in the Cinder Track and the coastal path – a report to follow
The Tuesday Bank Holiday, our last day in Whitby, was a grey day which we spent mooching around the town and in the evening had a fish meal in the Fisherman’s Wife on the sea front.
I had scallops (perfectly cooked)
followed by fish and chips, with mushy peas, of course
finishing with a coffee and a fruit tart
Afterwards we climbed the steps to the top of the West cliff to take in the view over the harbour for the last time during our holiday
After a wander through the quiet streets, we settled down for or last might in our accommodation, before turning in for our last night of our Christmas break.
On the last full day of our holiday the weather was pretty grim. It rained all day so, other than going down for an evening meal in one of the pubs, it was a time for, reading, relaxing and doing a bit of tidying.
It was a little brighter the next day as we were loading up the car and we spent half an hour or so doing a little shopping, taking some meat from the local butchers and local cheese home with us.
Driving up to Appleby the previous Friday we could see that there were roadworks on the M6 between Lancaster and Preston and knowing that they were still be there as we drove home we decided that as we weren’t in a hurry to get home that rather than spend an hour sitting in a traffic jam we’d turn off and saunter across country a little. So reaching the turn off for Kirkby Lonsdale, that’s exactly what we did.
We pulled in an parked up on the edge of the small town near the Devil’s Bridge and wandered into town centre with old buildings, stone cottages, cobbled courtyards and narrow alleyways. We had a little mooch around the shops and then made our way towards St Mary’s church.
There’s been a church here since Saxon times but the current building is Norman in origin, although it has been substantially altered over the years, resulting in architectural features from a number of periods.
Norman/Romanesque features include the doorway at the foot of the tower
and three round arches with their associated columns, bulkier than the slender Gothic versions, with a couple of them decorated with diamond shaped carvings , like those in Durham Cathedral.
The other arches are later pointed Gothic style.
The Norman column at the western end of the church has a “Green Man” carved on the capital.
Some nice Victorian stained glass in the lancet windows behind the altar
After looking around the church we walked across the churchyard towards the river. “Ruskin’s View” was cordoned off so we descended down the Radical Steps to the river bank. 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.
The River Lune was running high after all the rain the day before., but we able to make our way along the riverside path
Passing this old house (an old mill, perhaps).
After a short while we reached the Devil’s Bridge, which probably dates from the 12th or 13th century, and is now a scheduled ancient monument. The sun directly behind it didn’t make for a good photo, though.
I did, however, get a decent shot of the Lune from on top of the bridge!
Returning to our car we set off and took the road through pleasant countryside towards Settle, where we stopped to pick up some groceries and a brew and a bite to eat. We then headed back through the scenic Ribble Valley re-joining the M6 at the Tickled Trout. Half an hour later we were back home. It had been good to get away for a short break. The weather had been mixed, but that’s what we expect in Northern England during the Autumn. Nevertheless we’d seen some sights and I’d managed to get up to High Cup Nick on a beautiful sunny day and it’s always good to get the chance to relax and catch up with some reading. Roll on the next break!
The second full day of our holiday we decided to visit Acorn Bank, a property owned by the National Trust, near the village of Temple Sowerby, just a few miles up the A66 from Appleby. It’s main attractions are the woodlands, gardens and the restored mill rather than the house itself, where only a few ground floor rooms are open – including one used for a second hand bookshop.
It was a decent day, so after parking, we booted up and set out for a pleasant walk through the woods towards the water mill, which was restored by a group of National Trust volunteers. There’s been a mill on the site since at least 1744, initially used for grinding oats and later for producing wheat flour and as a power source for nearby gypsum mines. At one time there were three individual water wheels running in series on the mill race.
Following the Covid pandemic the Acorn Bank Watermill Trust was set up by the mill volunteers to continue to maintain and run the mill and keep it open for visitors to Acorn Bank. It’s open to visit on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays, so we were able to see it in operation, grinding wheat to produce flour. Bags of flour were available to purchase so we bought one to take home as a present for our daughter who enjoys baking.
The mill wheel is a pitchback wheel, an adaptation of the overshot type – the water falls on to the back of the top of the wheel at a position of about 11 o’clock.
We carried on through the woods, following the path beside the river, and made our up towards the house.
Acorn Bank has a long history that dates back to the 13th century. The first owners were the Knights Templar in 1228, from whom the nearby village of Temple Sowerby got its name.
Parts of the house date from the 16th century, but the main block was rebuilt in the mid-17th century. The whole house was then given a new façade in the 1690s, with Georgian sash windows added in the 1740s.
Only a few rooms on the ground floor are accessible, and one of them is used for the second hand bookshop.
In the former drawing room there was a display of over a hundred varieties of apple from the site’s orchards.
The website tells us
There are 175 varieties of apple here, including rare, local varieties such as the ‘Lady’s Finger of Lancaster’, ‘Keswick Codlin’ and ‘Forty Shilling’.
Outside in the courtyards there were baskets of apples where you could fill a large paper bag for £2. We took advantage of this, of course! We hadn’t heard of most of the types of apple on display, never mind tasted them – supermarkets have such a limited range, these days – but staff were also running an apple tasting of some of the unusual varieties. But there was one of the varieties J had heard off. She is a fan of the author, Tracey Chevalier, and has read her book At the edge of the orchard, which features the Pitmaston Pineapple. She was made up when it was included in the tasting (it really does have a pineapple like taste) and pick some up from the table for our £2 bag!
Before that, though, we’d had a look around the gardens – both ornamental and kitchen
and the extensive herb garden
They even had an apiary
We also went for a walk through the woods where we came across the remains of a former drift mine.
The Boazman family, who owned the house in the 19th Century, started to mine gypsum – calcium sulfate dihydrate, a mineral which is the main constituent in many forms of plaster – on the estate during the 1880s. Extraction continued until the late1930’s when it closed as a small scale operation couldn’t compete with larger mines overseas.
At the ends of the woods there were good views on a clear day towards the Pennine Hills, including Cross Fell (the largest English hill outside the Lake District)
and Great Dunn Fell, topped with its distinctive “golf ball”, part of an air traffic control radar station.
We returned to the hall and enjoyed a rather nice coffee in the courtyard before filling our bag of apples and returning to the car.
At the top of Boroughgate, close to the house where we were staying, there’s a group of almshouses built in the 17th Century on behalf of Lady Anne Clifford known as St Anne’s Hospital. Originally it housed twelve “sisters” (widows who weren’t able to support supporting themselves) plus a “Mother” who responsible for general administration and enforcing rules, including mandatory attendance at prayers each morning in the Hospital’s own chapel. A plaque on the wall tells us
“This Almes House was founded and begun to be built in the year 1651, and was finished and endowed for the yearly maintenance of a Mother, a Reader, and twelve sisters for ever in 1653 by Anne Baronesse Clifford, Cumberland and Vesey, Lady of the Hon. of Skipton in Craven, and Countesse Dowager of Pembroke, Dorsett and Montgomery”
The complex is open to visitors to walk around the courtyard and gardens during daytime. Let’s take a look inside.
Through the entrance
Inside, there are 13 self-contained cottages, arranged around a central courtyard. Each of these has a bedroom and bathroom upstairs and a downstairs living room with kitchen area. There’s a communal lawn at the rear of the complex.
In the north east corner one of the doors leads to the chapel. We were able to go inside for a look.
A couple of weeks ago we travelled over to Appleby for an autumn break in a rather nice, cosy cottage. It’s a good time of the year – quiet (it was the week before half term) and although the weather was mixed, with some rainy days, we had an enjoyable stay in a small town in the Eden Valley that we’d never visited before.
Appleby was the former county town of the former county of Westmorland, was absorbed into the newly created county of Cumbria as part of local government re-organistaion in 1974, when it officially renamed as Appleby-in-Westmorland. It’s probably best known for the annual Horse Fair in June, when many hundreds of members of the Gypsy and Traveller community from across the country descend on the small town to trade horses, show off and generally have a good time. For the rest of the year, being a little off the beaten track (although only a short drive from the eastern Lake District – we could just about see Blencathra peeping over the houses from one of the windows of our cottage) it’s much quieter, with a population of only around 2,500, although nowhere near as busy as the Lake District, it does attract some tourists and visitors wanting to take advantage of it’s location in pleasant countryside close to the high Pennine hills and only a short drive to the eastern lakes.
Originally an Anglo Saxon (and later Norse) settlement, the “new town” was built in the loop in the river Eden by the Normans, in conjunction with the castle, later home to Lady Anne Clifford during the 17th century. The castle, with the restored Norman Keep, is now a hotel. The grounds can be visited for a fee but were not open during our stay, which was a pity as I’d have liked to explore them and also get a look at the Keep which wasn’t really visible otherwise from the road.
We were staying at the top of the main street, Boroughgate, just opposite the entrance to the castle grounds. It’s a broad, tree lined, thoroughfare with attractive old houses, many built of the local red sandstone on both sides, with the old parish church at the bottom of the hill near the river.
There were a small number of shops which included two independent butchers selling top quality produce, a bakers and a greengrocers as well as a couple of pubs. Here’s a few pictures of the street
Further upstream, past the castle, there’s a footbridge over the river to Bongate which was the location of the original settlement
On arrival we had a stroll along the river and then bought a few supplies from the butcher, the baker and grocer (not the candlestick maker) and then settled into our cottage for a relaxing evening, making plans for what we might get up to during the week – more posts to follow!
A couple of weeks ago, Friday was the Autumn Equinox, the second day of equal daytime and night-time and the start of Autumn. The sun was shining and I decided to make the most of it. After my experience the previous Saturday when I was held up for 6 hours when they shut the southbound M6 around Lancaster I decided I’d let the train take the strain and caught the direct service from North Western station to Windermere. I disembarked at Staveley ready to repeat a walk I did earlier in the year, more or less on the last leg of the Dales way, but diverting off the route to take in three smaller fells.
There was a real autumnal feel to the day but the sun was bright and it was pleasant and warm. A good day for a walk, especially as the air was clear and, not being too hot, visibility was excellent.
Turning right on leaving the station there was a stretch of walking along a minor road before turning off onto paths across the fields.
The route then followed another minor road with views starting to open up of the fells
over to my right
Then back on a track through the fields
I caught up with a retired couple who’d been walking the Dales Way from Ilkley. We started to chat and then walked together for a while before I strayed off the Dales Way to climb the first small fell – Grandsire.
A young female fellow walker was sitting on the summit – eyes closed. I didn’t disturb her but found my own rock to sit in a drank the views of the fells while drinking a coffee from my flask
The distinctive Whaleback of Red Screes clearly noticeable
Time to carry on. I took the path along the top of the hill, gradually descending down to the tarn at the foot of School Knott
and then climbed my second small fell of the day
I descended, retracing my steps down to the tarn and then took the path which re-joined the Dales Way which I followed until, getting close to Bowness, I diverted up the final hill of the day – Brant Fell
There were a few other people on the summit, but it wasn’t very busy. More brews to soak up with a coffee and a bite to eat. From here I could see almost the full length of Windermere
I spent about half an hour soaking up the views before making my way back down the hill and on towards Bowness.
I had about 20 minutes to wait for the bus back to Windermere. The bus stop was by the church so I popped into the churchyard to take a look at the war memorial which was designed by W G Collingwood
It was only a short ride up to the interchange by the train station. I had time for a brew in Booths supermarket cafe and then feeling good after a grand walk made my way to the platform to catch the 4 o’clock train direct to Windermere. No hassle like the week before when. Well, not quite. The signs on the platform said the train was cancelled. A few minutes after I arrived one of the staff told us the train was going to be arriving on time but was only going as far as Oxenholme. There had been a fatality on the West Coast main line between Oxenholme and Lancaster which was affecting all the services travelling up and down that section. As promised the train pulled in on time and everyone boarded, but we all had to disembark at Oxenholme. The station was hectic and there was an Avanti train standing on the south bound line. I boarded and somehow managed to find a seat on the packed train. I found that it had been stuck there for two hours. After another hour it finally set off and I sat back and relaxed knowing that it would get me back to Wigan in about an hour. Well, it would have done except as it approached Preston it was announced that they were terminating the service there. A packed train of passengers, many going down to London had to disembark. It was chaos on Preston station with very little information available. Eventually I managed to board another packed train – standing room only but it was only a 20 minute journey back to Wigan so I coped!
Well, after my last two visits, the lesson here is that you’re ever travelling south from the Lake District, by any form of transport, you’d be advised to make sure I wasn’t on my home using the same means of transport. I’m clearly jinxed.
On a more serious note, it had been a nuisance being delayed but there was no point being annoyed. It wasn’t the fault of the train operators and it has to be said the effect on travellers was a minor inconvenience compared that on the family of the person who was killed and the driver who had to face the though that his train had killed someone.
It’s well known that weather in the Lake District is highly variable. It changes from one day to the next and often during a given day. But it also variable across the National Park. Each valley seems to have its own micoclimate; it can be sunny in one while pouring down in the next one, and I certainly experienced just that during my recent short stay in Coniston. It had generally been wet in the Lakes while I was there but the South East area, including Coniston, seemed to have fared better than most of the region. That had certainly been the case on the Friday (despite a downpour for part of the day while I was coming off Swirl How). The forecast for Saturday for Coniston was also looking promising, so I was looking forward to a walk on my last day before I set off home.
After a long walk on the high fells the previous day I’d decided on a low level route starting at Tarn Hows, heading over to Black Crag and then on to Holme Fell. Climbing only two modest fells, the walk wasn’t difficult but passed through pleasant countryside and I was treated to outstanding views throughout. It’s now definitely on my list of favourite routes.
I parked up at the small National Trust car park near Yew Tree Tarn, booted up and set off up the path that climbs up to Tarn Hows through Tom Heights Plantation
and emerging towards the southern end of the Tarn
I’m going to let the photos I took along the route speak for themselves.
Outstanding views from the trig point
I called into Yewdale farm as I wanted to buy some of their most excellent Beltie and Herdie burgers. The Beltie (Belted Galloway beef) burgers are the best we’ve ever tasted. I normally order online but calling in personally I avoided the delivery charge! It was then a short walk back to the car park.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable walk. I’ll definitely repeat it when I’m staying around here in the future. It’s a good walk to finish a holiday before setting back home – not too long or strenuous but with outstanding views.
I set of for home before 3 pm and although I called in at Booths in Windermere to pick up some supplies, I expected to be home before 6pm. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. I hadn’t realised that, in their wisdom, the National Roads Agency had decided to shut the south bound carriageway (all 3 lanes!) just before the Lancaster services for the weekend. They claim they had publicised this but I hadn’t seen anything. The first I knew of it was when approaching Lancaster when I saw a matrix sign informing me of a 2 hour delay due to the south bound M6 being shut. It was too late to turn off and take an alternative route (I could have done this if they’d had a sign up before, or even at, the junction I joined the motorway near Kendal). Oh well, I thought, I can live with a 2 hour delay. I arrived home after 10 pm after 5 hours crawling between the 2 junctions north and south of Lancaster on the M6. It could have been worse, some people joining the queue after me were stuck even longer. Goodness knows why anyone thought shutting one side of the M6 for the weekend was a good idea.
Oh well, I wasn’t going to let that spoil a good short break!
Friday morning I was up early and after breakfast loaded my rucksack, booted up and set off for a walk up through Coppermines Valley and on to the fells.
Coniston used to be a centre for copper mining and slate quarrying (some quarrying still goes on today) and the industrial heritage is very obvious for a good part of the climb up to the Old Man by this route.
Mining for copper in the valley took place from around 1590, right up until the 1950’s. In the early days German miners had to be brought to Coniston and other parts of the Lake District to develop the mines as there were no English workers with the necessary skills. Al this activity has left it’s marks and scars on the landscape and there is plenty of Industrial archaeology to explore. I’ve always been interested in industrial history and having seen the exhibits on local mining in the Ruskin museum the day before I’d planned my route to take in both the fells and the remains of the old mines.
The Countrystride podcast (always worth a listen) also visited the valley recently with Mark Hatton, an expert on the history of mining in the Lakes.
As I climbed the steep “tourist path” I passed through the remains of former slate workings. Slate has been extracted up here since at least the 13th century.
There’s two types of slate – green and black. The attractive Coniston Green Slate was formed by volcanic activity over 400 million years ago and is found high in the fells. The Black slate originates from the sedimentary rocks lower down the valley.
I stopped to take a few photographs
Life up here was tough. The work was hard and conditions up on the fell were not exactly comfortable! There was little attention to workers’ safety – it was dangerous work – and inhalation of the dust from splitting the slate caused serious lung disease including silicosis and lung cancer.
After making my way past the mine workings I reached Low Water, a small tarn in a glacial bowl with the summits of the Old Man and Brim fell looming over.
I stopped for a rest. I’d hardly seen a soul since I set off but a couple of walkers were coming up the path behind me (they’d parked on the Walla Crag road car park). We exchanged a few words and it turned out they were from St Helens (8 miles from where I live and where I used to work many years ago). Besides walking we had another interest in common – Rugby League. They were Saints fans, of course so a little banter was in order given that they’re our local rivals! Fitter and younger than me they set off up the steep path towards the summit while I took a rest and had a bite to eat. Then it was time for me to follow in their footsteps.
It’s a steep pull and I took my time, but the views looking back down to Low Water and Wetherlam were pretty good!
Eventually the summit came into view
Coniston Old Man is a popular fell and there’s usually a stream of people making their way up the “tourist path” from Coniston or (more often) the Walla Crag Road car park. Today, I’d hardly seen anyone on the way up and had the summit to myself – a new experience! I stopped for a while to take in the extensive views.
After a short while I set off along the ridge, heading to Brim Fell and then on to Swirl How
Reaching the summit there were a few other walkers around, but it was still quiet. I decided to head over to the nearby summit of Great Carrs which I hadn’t been up before. It’s an easy walk over from Swirl How
I could see the weather sweeping over the fells across Langdale and had my fingers crossed they’d stay over there. I’m not usually so optimistic!
I didn’t stop long on the top of Grey Carrs,
and taking the path back to Swirl How I diverted to look at the monument to the Wellington bomber that had crashed on the fell in 1944.
And then the weather arrived. The summits suddenly became covered in low cloud and the wind was picking up. Visibility deteriorated and for a while I was a little disorientated.
The walkers I’d met earlier had also been on Great Carrs and I’d passed them on my way to the summit. They told me that they were going to retrace their steps back down the Old Man. I’d intended to descend back into Coppermine Valley via the Prison Band down to Swirl Hawse and on to Lever’s Water. That can be a tricky descent and would be trickier if the rock was wet, but reaching Swirl How summit the rain seemed to have eased off, so, hoping the rain had passed over, I decided to make my way down. It didn’t quite pan out the way I’d hoped.
The cloud and came whipping across from Little Langdale over Swirl Hawse, hitting me side on as I descended down what was now wet and slippery rock and I was getting soaked – I was wearing my waterproof coat but hadn’t bothered to put on my overtrousers. Not a time to take photographs as both hands, and other parts of my anatomy, were needed to make sure I didn’t slip and fall down into the abyss!
I eventually made it to the hawse and took the much gentler path down towards Lever’s Water. The fells were now providing some shelter from the wind and rain., which eased off as I carried on down the path.
I carried on down the valley and eventually reached the village. After a quick call to the Co-op to pick up some supplies I returned to the hostel. It had been a long walk and I was ready for a shower and a rest!
A great day on the fells and some interesting history and industrial archaeology too.
The week after our family holiday in the Midlands I was off again for a few days for a short solo break in Coniston where I’d booked into the Youth Hostel for a couple of nights. The weather forecast was mixed, especially the first day and at one point I contemplated cancelling. But, with summer coming to an end, I decided against it and take my chances.
The weather forecast for the first day proved to be correct when I arrived in a wet Coniston on the Thursday afternoon. There weren’t that many people around in the streets but the main car park was full and all the street parking spaces were taken. I eventually managed to park up but it was raining steadily so I decided to pay a visit to the Ruskin Museum and see how it looked later in the afternoon.
I spent a good hour mooching around.
The museum was founded as a memorial to John Ruskin, who spent the last years of his life at Brantwood on the east shore of Coniston Water and who died on 20 January 1900, by his secretary and friend, W G Collingwood. Many of the original exhibits were from Ruskin’s own collection of geological samples.
The exhibits cover the history of Coniston, it’s geology, industry and well known individuals, including Ruskin and Arthur Ransome. One wing is devoted to Donald Campbell and his attempts at the water speed record on Coniston Water in the 1960’s. He was tragically killed on 4 January 1967 when attempting to break the record Bluebird hit a wave at over 300 mph, flipped over and crashed upside down on the water and sank. I remember vividly watching the film of the crash on the TV news as a boy.
It was still raining as I left the museum so I decided to make my way down to the lake and have a brew in the Bluebird cafe on the lake shore.
I stopped for a while watching the Gondola leaving the jetty
before retreating to the cafe.
The rain had eased off so I decided I’d set off for a walk along the lakeside. I had thought about catching the launch, disembarking down past Torver and walking back, but I was between sailings, so decided to do a “there and back walk” past Coniston Hall and see how far I got.
I’d walked a couple of miles when the rain started agin so I turned round and retraced my steps back towards the cafe
Time for a warming brew.
Afterwards I made my way back to the car, drove the short distance to the hostel and checked in.
The rain cleared during the evening so I set off for a short walk down to the lake, along tot he jetty and then back through the village and along the path at the bottom of Yewdale.