Like most people – but unlike a certain Gollum like Government advisor – as best as I can I’ve been sticking to both the letter and the spirit of the Government’s requirements and advice to try to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. That means I’ve been working for home and sticking to local walks in the Plantations, respecting best I can “social distancing”. However, since last week we’ve been “allowed” to travel further for exercise and as Wednesday was a hot and sunny day, I decided to bunk off work during the afternoon, drive 7 miles over to Rivington and get out for a walk up on the Moors.
The car parks around Rivington were jammed, to say the least, but I avoided the crowds around the “honeypots” and rather than head up the Pike, which would have been heaving with people, set off down a quiet path heading towards Anglezarke.
I took the path to the east of Yarrow reservoir, passing only a handful of people
and quite a few sheep
including a number of a black breed (not sure what they were).
At Allance Bridge, rather than take the track up Lead Mine Clough I cut up the track up across the rough fields
with great views over the moors
and towards Winter Hill.
Over the stile onto the open access land.
Passing more sheep.
I cut across the peat, covered with cotton grass, heading towards the modest summit of Hurst Hill. With all the dry weather we’ve had while we’ve all been locked down the ground was dry (it’s usually a quagmire) but as there wasn’t a definite path the going across the rough ground was hard work.
Reaching the summit I stopped for a chat with a couple of other walkers (keeping 2 metres apart), one who lived very close to the house where I lived during my teenage years.
Long range visibility was poor
but there were good views over the moors
My next objective, along a more definite path, was Round Loaf, a prehistoric (Late Neolithic or Bronze Age) bowl barrow burial mound, which is a Scheduled Monument.
There’s a number of prehistoric relics in the area, including Pikestones, a collection of stones that used to be a Neolithic burial mound, which is only a short distance away.
Climbing to the top of the tumulus there were good views over the moors to Rivington Pike and Winter Hill
and, in the opposite direction, towards Great Hill.
I had a number of options of routes to follow but I decided to make my way back over the rough peat towards Lead Mine Clough,
where I crossed over the river and then cut across on the path heading east.
I walked a short distance along the track used by the local farmers towards the ruined farm known as “Sims”
and the took the path towards Rivington
I crossed the young River Yarrow
Looking back again.
The path took me across rough ground and then through a field of horses before I reached the road.
It was only a short distance to the start of the path I’d walked along earlier on the east side of the Yarrow Reservoir. I retraced my steps back towards Rivington, passing the dam where there were a few small well separated groups sun bathing.
I took the path back to Rivington village, past the Chapel and then across the fields back to my car completing a 9 mile circuit.
After being restricted to walking through woodland for the past couple of months it had been good to get up on some rougher, open country. I’ll definitely be back up on the moors again a few times over the next few weeks.
So, we’ve been “locked down”, of a sort, for over a month now. I’ve been able to work at home, only very occasionally straying out to pick something up from the shops and one trip into the office to pick up a proper office chair, to try to avoid back problems, and a few odds and ends. Being stuck indoors is not something I’ve ever been fond of to put it mildly – even when I was very young my mother always used to say I was like a caged lion when I had to stay in the house. But we are allowed out for exercise, so long as we maintain “social distancing”, so, with the weather being so fine for most of the lock down so far, I’ve been out most days for a walk. We’re lucky in that, although we live close to the town centre, just a short walk down to the bottom of our street and I’m down by the river in the valley that forms a “green corridor” bisecting the north end of town and leading to the Plantations and Haigh Woodland Park.
Within 10 minutes I’m in very pleasant woodland of beech trees with a proportion of oak, horse chestnut, sycamore, ash and lime and Scots pine, which stretches a couple of miles up to Haigh Hall. Until the mid 19th Century the area was something of an industrial wasteland, damaged by mining. But in the 1860’s the Plantations were created as a means of providing work for cotton workers who had become unemployed due to the Cotton Famine caused by the American Civil War.
Most days I’ve managed to get out for an hour or so wandering through the woods. I’ve walked around the Plantations for many, many years but to add some variety, and also to keep away from the main driveway and maintain “social distancing” rules I’ve been exploring and have discovered several paths I didn’t know where there!
I was worried that I might find it boring wandering around the same territory, but I’ve managed to vary my route and although woodland might seem very “samey” there’s quite a lot of variation and I’ve enjoyed watching the changes taking place as we move through the Springtime. At the start of the lock down the ground was wet and muddy after all the rain we’d had in February, the trees were bare and there was little vegetation, but over time the ground has dried up, the birds are singing and over the past week I’ve seen the bluebells bloom and the leaves open on the trees. A couple of days ago buttercups appeared and other plants are now starting to bloom.
The weather looks like it’s starting to change today and I reckon we’ll see some rain later in the week. I’ll still try to get out, though. I’m stuck at a desk most of the day in my home “office” and getting out for a walk in the early evening is helping to take my mind off all the worries and keep me sane.
I don’t know how long this is going to last – there’s no end in sight at the moment. I’m enjoying getting out and walking through the Plantations, but I’m missing being out on the open moors in the Pennines, the Lakeland fells and the Welsh hills and mountains. I’d planned to take a break in the Lake District in May and a trip to Snowdonia in July. We also had a trip to Ireland planned for late in May too. Currently, though, we have to make the most of whatever’s nearby and with the Plantations on my doorstep I’m luckier than many people stuck in city centres. But when this all ends I’m sure I won’t be the only one dashing off to the Lakes.
The final day of my week off in March and, although we didn’t know it at the time, just over a week until the “lockdown”. The Government’s policy at the time was to develop “herd immunity” and and in an interview in the Sunday Times – behind a paywall! – the Health Secretary was talking about locking up the elderly and other vilnerable people for 3 months. Government policy seemed confused and uncler, but there didn’t seem to be any reason not to go up to the Lakes for a walk, where I’d be in contact with fewer people than I would have been back in Wigan.
I set off early and driving up the M6 traffic was noticeably quieter than normal, but it was far from deserted. Arriving in Keswick I found a place to park on the old road to Pontiscale – now a dead end for traffic but a popular free place to park. After donning my boots and rucksac I set off, crossing the footbridge over the river and walked through Portiscale village, passing the appartment where we stayed a couple of summers ago.
It was a relatively easy start to the walk but after about a mile and a half, during a short climb , I realised I’d left my walking poles in the car. They take some of the strain off my dodgy old knees when descending, but I’d gone too far to turn back to retrieve them so I soldiered on.
About 40 minutes after setting out I reached the foot of Cat Bells. It’s a smaller fell and in easy reach of Keswick, so it’s a popular climb and I expected to see a few other walkers on the way up. The sign told us it was an hour to the top. The last time I went up here it took me about 40 minutes, but as I hadn’t done a lot of fell walking of late I wasn’t sure I’d manage to equal that this time.
As expected there were other walkers making their way to the top, probably not as many as usual, although it was still relatively early. I wan’t the slowest by any means, although I stopped several times to take in the view (not just and excuse to pause for breath – honest!).
I arrived at the summit after 45 minutes, so not quite as quick as last time. It was a grey day so the fells didn’t look their best, but he views were still magnificent even with cloud covering some of the higher fells – it made them look atmospheric.
After a short break to take some photos I resumed my walk, heading south, downhill towards Newlands hawse. I could have carried on along the ridge up to Maiden Moor and High Spy or down to the shores of Derwent Water, but my plan was to descend down to Newlands Valley.
Newlands is something of a “secret valley” much less trod than the east side of the ridge and I passed very few people – just a handful of walkers and a mountain biker (older than me!)
There was some rain around and I spotted a rainbow
Reaching the bottom of the path up to Cat Bells, rather than retrace my steps back to the car, as it was stoll early in the afternoon, I decided to walk round to Derwent Water and take a gentle stroll part way along the lake shore.
I was half tempted to continue on all round the lake, but that was a bit ambitious! Time was getting on so I turned round and retraced my steps, along the shore, back towards Portinscale and then over the bridge to my car.
Arriving back at my car I decided to drive into Keswick and visit a favourite bookshop – just enough time to browse and make a purchase before closing time.
Well, 2020 has been a real “annus horriblus” so far. First the storms in February which more or less kept us indoors, no walks no gallery visits, no theatre, no cinema. And now, to top it all, the Corona virus. At the moment I’m stuck inside on a nice day, work in limbo, wondering how our small training and consultancy company is going to survive, and pondering whether I should go out for a walk while maintaining “social distancing”. Oh well, an opportunity to catch up with all sorts of things I’m behind on, reading, watching some films and TV, DIY (ugh!) and, of course, writing up some blog posts.
Walking during February was mainly restricted to local walks around the Plantations during any “weather windows” that occurred. Just 2 weeks ago I took a week off work, as our son was using up some holidays, intending to get out for some family days out. The weather was awful on the first couple of days but the Wednesday afternoon was looking reasonably promising in South West Lancashire so I decided to get out for a walk by the coast near Southport. The family declined to join me preferring to stay indoors.
I travelled over by train (on reflection that might not have been such a bright idea) over to Freshfields, which is at the northern end of Formby. Leaving the station, I followed the path that runs along the east side of the railway line. I was soon walking through some woodland.
I crossed over the railway line
and was soon crossing the golf course (watch out for flying golf balls!) towards the extensive pine forest on the sand dunes.
There’s a network of paths in the woods and although I had a rough idea of where I wanted to end up I decided to wander randomly, taking twists and turns as I fancied. There were a few other people walking through the woods and several cyclists riding solo or in groups.
Eventually I came out of the woods and started following the path through the dunes in the direction of Ainsdale.
That was a bit of a mistake. Expecting relatively easy going I’d come out in my walking shoes rather than my boots and I started to encounter lengthy sections of the path which were flooded, too deep to consider wading through.
and most of the sections didn’t have conveniently placed (if rather wobbly!) stepping stones to cross on. I persevered, finding ways around the worst of the flooding and boggy areas and I eventually crossed over the dunes on to the beach at Ainsdale.
The sun was shining and the sky was blue but there was a strong southerly wind whipping across the beach so although I’d originally intended to walk back along the beach to Freshfields I decided I’d carry on in the direction of Southport. A little longer but, I thought, it would be easier going with the wind behind me.
The going wasn’t as easy as I thought
and eventually I reached an impasse where a wide channel of fast running water blocked my way. I had to retreated turning back along the beach walking into a strong head wind.
After about 20 minutes, when I was half way back to Ainsdale, there was a path into the dunes which headed in the direction of Southport. I set off through the dunes, thinking I’d either divert off to catch the train at Birkdale or, if I felt up to it, carry on to Southport.
Walking was reasonably easy on a good path sheltered from the wind, but I could see dark clouds looming out at sea which seemed to be rapidly approaching, driven by the strong wind. No worries – I had a waterproof coat in my rucksack.
I carried on, deciding to continue past Birkdale and on to Southport. It’s somewhere with a lot of memories for me as we had regular days out there when I was a child. My fathers parents both came from the Victorian sea-side town and we had family there, including great grandparents, who we used to visit. I think another reason for visiting Southport, through, was that it had fewer costly attractions than the brasher Blackpool further up the coast!
As I got closer to the town I was amazed just how much of what had been a sandy beach had silted up and had turned into salt marsh.
Reaching the outskirts of town I passed Pleasureland, looking rather sad and forlorn being closed for the winter
but then reached the Marine Lake.
Southport was always famous for the sea being a long way out, so the Marine Lake was created to compensate for this and give visitors a chance to promenade alongside the water, so that’s what I decided to do!
I walked along the lake as far as the pier, and took the steps up on to the deck. The wind was still blowing so I decided against walking down to the end (the tide was way out, anyway) and set off towards the Prom, but I took a shot down the pier
Reaching the prom I took some shots of a couple of the sculptures held up high on top of long poles.
(Southport used to be famous for it’s shrimps. I used to pester my parents to buy a cone of them during our days out there when I was young!)
Facing the end of the pier is Nevill Street, where my great grandparents used to live in a flat with a view towards the pier, upstairs in this building
I remember looking out past the statue of Queen Victoria which used to be in the very centre of the road – they’ve moved her over to one side now
At the end of Nevill Street is Lord Street, a long boulevard which some people believe inspired Napoleon III to create the boulevards of Paris (he was exiled there for a while living in lodgings just off Lord Street). I stopped to take a look at the War Memorial. My Great Grandfather’s name is inscribed on it, along with many others. (My great grandmother remarried after the war so the Nevill street great grandfather was my grandad’s step father)
It was starting to go dark now and finally beginning to rain, but it was only a short walk around the block to the train station.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been busy at work and not had much opportunity to get out and about. The last two weekends have been awful with Storm Ciara and then Storm Dennis sweeping in bringing high winds and torrential rain. So plans have had to be postponed. However, a couple of weeks ago, before the storms, I did manage to get out for a walk up on the moors. I drove over to White Coppice, on the outskirts of Chorley, and set off towards the moors to climb up Great Hill.
It was a chilly, grey winter’s day and very wet and muddy underfoot. But it didn’t rain and some broke through from time to time. In any case, it’s always good to get out on the moors. They might be bleak, but I like bleak.
I passed the cricket pitch – no matches there for a while yet!
and then took the path along the Goyt towards Brinscall
On and up through Wheelton Plantations
until I emerged onto the moor
There’s a rough track across the moor, so I didn’t have to wade through mud towards the ruined farm at Drinkwater
Looking towards the summit of Great Hill from the ruins
A short climb and I reached the wind shelter on the summit where I stopped for a brew from my flask
I took the path down in the direction of Spittler’s Edge and then cut across the foot of the hill towards another ruined farm
No sheep up on the moor at this time of year. They’re all down in the fields.
I managed to take a few atmospheric shots with my phone.
I’ve never been to Howarth, but I reckon the Brontes’ “wild and windy moors” aren’t much different than up here.
Looking back towards the top of Great Hill as I descended down the very muddy path towards White Coppice, trying to avoid the worst of the slutch.
Looking over towards Anglezarke Moor
Reaching the bottom of the hill, I took a short diversion up the brook to look at the old mine workings
Rather than go straight back to my car I decided to add on a couple of miles or so to my walk by diverting through Black Coppice towards Anglezarke reservoir
There’s Waterman’s Cottage
Looking across the reservoir towards the cottage
I followed the road along the bottom of Healy Nab heading back towards my starting point. Looking back over towards the moors – the cloud was starting to clear.
The sun was out when I reached the village, it’s rays lighting up the stone of the old cottages
Back at the car I changed out of my muddy boots and trousers (fortunatelyI keep a spare pair in the boot of the car) and set off back towards Chorley and then onwards to home.
Last Saturday I managed to get out for a walk, this time in the Peak District. I took the train into Manchester, changing to catch the train to Hope at Piccadilly. The journey time was an hour and a half, comparable to the time it would have taken to drive there and without the bother of having to find a parking space. I was risking the unreliability of Northern Rail, but all worked out on the day.
The Peak District hills are more modest than those in the Lake District, and the landscape isn’t as dramatic, but has its own beauty and attractions. The area is part of the Dark Peak where Millstone Grit covers the underlying limestone. North of Edale lie bleak, largely deserted, moorland covered with peat bogs. But to the south of the Vale of Edale, the landscape is a little more forgiving and is dominated by the “Great Ridge” running from Mam Tor to Lose Hill. For this walk I’d decided to climb up Win Hill, just to the east of Hope. I’d never been up there before, although I’d walked the “Great Ridge” to the west of the village a few times, most recently back in September, with my friend Pam, from Tasmania. I reckoned it would take me about an hour to reach the summit and then I had a couple of options in mind for the rest of the day, making a decision based on the conditions I’d encounter.
Disembarking from the train, there’s a path through the fields directly from the end of the station platform towards the small hamlet of Aston
From Aston I took the lane up towards the hill
and then up the path over the open moor
There’s the summit – Win Hill Pike – up ahead.
It was windy up on the summit, but there were good views all around
Looking down to Ladybower reservoir
Lose Hill and the bulk of Kinder Scout over the Vale of Edale
I found a sheltered spot out of the wind where I had a bite to eat and some hot coffee from my flask. Then I had a decision to make. I would have liked to carry on along the ridge and then walk over Kinder and descend to Edale. But given the conditions – a strong wind and muddy underfoot (and I reckoned it would be even worse on the higher hill, well known for its peat bogs) I decided to make my way down to Hope and then climb up Lose Hill and then walk along the “Great Ridge”. So I took the muddy path north along the ridge, heading towards Hope Cross
before descending down to Fulwood Stile Farm and Townhead Bridge. From there I took the path up towards Lose Hill.
I reached the summit of Lose Hill, which was busy with other walkers, many having made their way along the ridge from Mam Tor. I stopped to take in the view but there was a strong, cold wind blowing across from the north, so not a good spot to rest and grab a bite to eat.
I snapped a panorama across to the great mass of Kinder Scout.
and then took the path along the ridge towards Mam Tor.
Looking back over the valley to Win Hill
Looking towards Black Tor and Mam Tor
The view back towards Lose Hill
Looking back as I descended the steep path down Black Tor
I reached the “cross roads” at Hollins Cross. There’s MamTor ahead, silhouetted by the low sun
The wind seemed to get stronger as I climbed up to the top of Mam Tor, but it didn’t take too long to reach the summit. It was busy up there, but I managed to snap a photo which makes it look like I was up there on my own. I wasn’t though!
I decided I’d retraced my steps down to Hollins Cross and then descend from there into Castleton. There were plenty of walkers making their way up and down the path
From Hollins Cross, I set off down the hill towards Castleton
Reaching the valley floor, I looked back towards Mam Tor
and across to Lose Hill
I soon reached Castleton.
It’s something of a “honeypot” so was busy with walkers and day trippers. I stopped for a short while to browse in some of the shops purveying “Blue John” jewellery and to buy a bottle of Coke to slake my thirst. Then I set out to take the path back to Hope to catch the train back to Manchester. I could have walked along the road, but there’s a much pleasanter route through the fields. That seemed like the preferable option.
It’s a low lying path, running parallel to the river. But after all the rain we’d been having the fields were drenched and for most of the way the path was so muddy it felt like I was walking through the trenches on the Somme (I’d been to see the film 1917 a few days before and the conditions brought that to mind!)
I was glad I was wearing my gaiters. They kept the bottom of my trousers clean but my boots needed a deep clean the next day!
The muddy conditions meant that it took longer to get across to Hope than I’d expected and the train station is a good kilometre out of the village. It looked like I’d miss my train and have to wait an hour for the next one. But checking the National Rail app on my phone I could see that the train was running 10 minutes late, so I had enough time to get to the station with a couple of minutes to spare! For once I was grateful for Northern Rail’s poor punctuality. The train was busy but I got a seat. It filled up at Edale, the next stop, and it was standing room only until Manchester.
I had a tight connection at Piccadily and thought I’d miss it and have to wait another half hour for the next train. Arriving at the station I legged it across to Platform 12 to find the express to Windermere via Wigan was standing at the platform so I jumped on. 50 minutes later I was back home.
I’d trudged through mud and had been battered by the wind, but I’d enjoyed the walk. I’ve a few more routes in mind around there so hopefully I’ll get back across to the Dark Peak before too long.
I was keen to get out to break in my new boots. Fortunately work at the beginning of January is usually fairly quiet and as there was a “weather window” forecast for last Friday I was able to take the day off and drive up to the Lakes. Checking out the walking sites on the web I’d read that there had been some snow which was likely to still be up on the high fells above about 400 metres. But the going wasn’t expected to be too difficult, except, perhaps, on the higher mountains.
As the daylight hours are short at the moment, I decided to drive over to Ullswater and tackle one of the more modest fells close to the lake – Sheffield Pike. I parked up at the Glencoyne National Trust car park, donned my walking gear and set off to head towards the fells via the pretty valley of Glencoyne. I’d walked up the valley back in July when I took the path that passes through the garden of Glencoyne farm, right under the farmhouse window! This time I’d decided to take the track past the row of former miners’ cottages known as “Seldom Seen”. This entailed following the Ullswater way a short distance along the lake before crossing the road and then joining the old cart track up through the woods.
Walking through the fields from the car park I could see up the valley and across to Sheffield Pike. Yes, there was definitely snow up there, but it didn’t look too bad. Hopefully my normal gear would be adequate to cope with conditions. Fingers crossed!
Looking down Ullswater from the lakeside path
Setting off down the track towards Seldom Seen
Looking down to Glencoyne farm with it’s tradition Cumbrian round chimney stacks
Approaching the row of cottages
The cottages were built in the 19th Century to house lead miners who worked at the Greenside mine, near Glenridding. It would have been a long,walk to work to the mine, 3 km away across the fell. Just one aspect of the tough lives of the miners. Today the houses are holiday cottages (as any search for “Seldom Seen, Ullswater” will confirm).
Most Greenside miners would have lived in the village of Glenridding and it seemed odd that the houses were built such a long way from the mine when there must have been plenty of land available much closer. According to the following little video, they were built for miners who were Catholic and were housed here to keep them well away from the predominately non-Conformist fellow workers.
I carried on climbing up the path
Looking back there was a great view down to Ullswater
As I climbed I started to see snow on the ground
and deeper as I climbed
There was plenty of snow on the ground at the head of the valley
When I reached Nick Head at the top of the climb, I’d been hoping to get a view of Helvelyn, but the summit was covered with cloud.
I’d not seen another soul since leaving the car park, but now I could see a couple of walkers heading up the path towards Stybarrow Dodd, which I’d followed myself back in July. I hope they were well equipped as the snow would be deeper as they climbed higher. Zoom in on the next photo and you might see them, about two thirds up the hill
I turned in the opposite direction to start the climb to the summit of Sheffield Pike.
Still plenty of snow on the ground, obscuring the path. But there were footprints in the snow, probably from the two walkers I’d spotted who must have come over this way from Glenridding. I used their footprints as a guide. The snow was soft and it was possible to walk through it without the need for crampons (just as well as I don’t have any!) but it obscured the conditions, covering what was boggy ground. I soldiered on, passing another walker coming down the hill, and eventually made it to the summit.
It was cold up here, probably around freezing but with a stiff breeze adding to the wind chill. There was ice clinging to the rocks, but the snow was still OK to stand and walk on and only a couple of inches thick.
Time for a coffee from my flask and a bit to eat while I took in the views.
There was still cloud covering the summit of Helvelyn
and over St Sunday Crag and the fells to the south
It was clearer looking down towards Ullswater
A couple of walkers appeared coming from the opposite direction from myself. They stopped for a while to chat. They were from Newcastle way and were regular walkers in the Lakes. We swapped stories and I asked them which route they’d taken. They’d come up from Glennridding, taking in Glenridding Dodd and then coming up the steep climb to Heron Pike before walking over to the summit of Sheffield Pike. They confirmed that it was OK – with conditions similar to what I’d experienced coming up from Glencoyne.
After saying our goodbyes, I ploughed on through the snow, which once again was largely covering boggy ground, until I reached Heron Pike at the eastern end of the summit plateau.
I stopped to take in the dramatic view down to Ullswater and chatted with another solo walker who was sheltering while he had a bite to eat.
Looking down on Glenridding Dodd with Place Fell over the other side of Ullswater. The High Street Fells were largely obscured by cloud
It’s a sheer drop down over the edge here so a little backtracking was necessary to locate the path that would take me down into the coll between the Pike and the small hill of Glenridding Dodd.
It was a very steep descent and I needed to take care where I placed my feet as if I slipped it was long way down! I came out of the snow about a third of the way down, but I was aware that the rocks would be slippery with ice and, where it had melted, water. No scree though! I passed a couple of groups of walkers coming up the path – keen to get their boots into the white stuff.
Looking back from near the bottom of the descent.
Reaching the coll I decided to take in the modest hill of Glenridding Dodd. This small fell was very popular with Victorian visitors as there’s an excellent view down to Ullswater.
Looking back to Heron Pike from the path up Glenridding Dodd
It didn’t take long to make my way up the path to the summit of the small fell
but I had to carry on a little way across the top of the hill to get the view over Ullswater. (You’ll need to click on the panorama to get a better appreciation of the view)
and looking in the opposite direction back towards Heron Pike
Looking south east there was a lot of cloud over High Street and the nearby fells
There’s Glenridding and the Steamer pier
I made my way down towards Glenridding, which didn’t take too long. Looking back up to the Dodd from the village
I didn’t stop in Glenridding but passed through the village before joining the path along the lake shore, part of the route of Ullswater Way., for the walk of a mile or so back to the Glencoyne car park.
Getting close to car park I looked back over to Glencoyne and Sheffield Pike
Back at the car I changed out of my boots. They’d had a good christening – gravel paths, rock, mud, bogs, snow, ice and a little tarmac!
Driving back along the lake I stopped a mile up the road at the National Trust Aira Force car park. There’s a cafe there which was still open.
Time for a well earned brew with a view of the fell I’d climbed