A walk in Limestone Country

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The day after the long Easter weekend I took an extra day off work and we headed up the M6 to Tebay where we turned off the motorway and after a short drive arrived at the small village of Orton. It’s in Cumbria but last year the attractive village and the surrounding area to the north of the Howgill Fells was included in the Yorkshire Dales National Park when the boundaries were extended. It’s not a well known area and so not crowded with tourists, but the countryside is very beautiful and extremely peaceful. Hard to believe it’s only a few miles from the busy M6.

I’d read a few blogs with reports of walks in the area so we decided on a route based on some of these which would take us past and through some extensive limestone pavements around Great Asby Scar.

We parked up in the small car park in Orton (managed to get the last space!) and set out

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We soon reached open countryside. Only relatively gentle hills today,

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with distinctive limestone rock formations, drystone walls and plenty of sheep.

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As we started to climb, there was a good view of the Howgill Fells to the south.

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After a couple of miles we reached a crossroads. Our route would take us straight on but one arm of the sign posts pointed towards the monument up on Beacon Hill above Orton Scar. We decided to go and have a look.

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The monument on top of the modest hill was erected to mark Queen Victoria Golden Jubilee

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It was worth taking the short diversion as the views in every direction were outstanding.

The Howgills to the south

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the Lakeland fells to the west with the distinctive profile of  Blencathra (Saddleback) clearly visible in the distance

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and the northern Pennines to the north and east

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We headed back down the hill to rejoin our planned route.

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Great Asby Scar has one of the most extensive areas of limestone pavement in England and a section of it has been designated as a National Nature Reserve.

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There was a heavily fortified Romano-British site – the Castle Folds Settlement – on top of one of the limestone scars. It’s possible to walk over the open access land on the Reserve to look at the site, but we decided to stick to the route we’d planned. But I think it would be worth another visit to the area to walk over the limestone pavement to take a look at the site.

We carried on along the bridlepath.

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Some curious locals

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A view over to the Pennines

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A short distance before Great Asby village we too a path south west across some fiels and then picked up the path heading south west which would take us back towards Orton across some more limestone pavement.

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As we stared to descend the Howgills came back into view

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We descended into pastoral countryside, the fields fresh and green.

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We reached the road at Sunbiggin and walked along the tarmac a short distance before joining a path that took us back over the fields.

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A mile or so before Orton we passed the Gamelands stone circle in an adjacent field.

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It’s one of the largest circles in Cumbria. Unfortunately the stones have all been knocked over and some have been removed.

A short while later we reached Orton

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Time for some refreshment in the Chocolate Factory. It’s always good to have a refreshing view (and some cake!) after a good walk

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We’d timed our walk to perfection – they stopped serving a little while after we arrived. Now that would have been disappointing.

Ingleborough

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Sunday morning the sun was shining. We got up early, loaded our boots and rucksacks in the car and drove over to Ingleton in the Yorkshire Dales, which is less than an hour and a half away  (traffic willing), to climb Ingleborough. The mountain is one of the one of the “Yorkshire Three Peaks” and as we’d climbed Pen-y-ghent a couple of years ago we’d be able to tick off our second of the three.

It was a beautiful, warm sunny morning when we arrived in Ingleton. We parked up near the Community Centre and set off walking through the small town centre past the church

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After about half a mile we reached the start of the path up to Ingleborough

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It’s a good track and as it hadn’t rained for a while the path was dry underfoot (which meant I didn’t need to get my new boots muddy!!)

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There were good views over to Whernside, the third of the “Three Peaks” but visibility wasn’t as good as the previous week when we’d walked up Clougha Pike, over the border in Lancashire.

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The route involved a gradual ascent over a couple of miles along a well defined path followed by a short steep climb of the cliffs up to the gritstone cap at the end to reach the summit.

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About half way along the route we passed this isolated farmhouse – “the Little house on the Prairie”? It looked nice in the sunshine but it would be a very bleak setting for much of the year.

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As we were walking along the valley, looking back we could see cloud coming in from the north west and there was a strong breeze behind us. The wind became fiercer as we climbed the final steep section up the millstone grit cap that gives the mountain it’s distinctive shape. Luckily we’re reasonably sensible and had come prepared with jumpers, gloves and coats in our day sacks. It was time to put them on. Yet we passed quite a few people ill-equipped wearing t-shirts, flimsy tops and dresses and completely inadequate footwear. As a popular mountain in a National Park it attracts a lot of day trippers who setting out on a bright, warm, sunny day don’t realise just how quickly conditions can change.

As we climbed, the cloud had come in, engulfing the summit at almost the same time as we reached the top and the wind was blowing strongly enough to knock the unwary off their feet.

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Despite being a “peak” the summit is a flat plateau which, on a good day, has extensive views over the Dales and to Pen-y-ghent and Whernside.

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We managed to find a seat inside the wind shelter to take a rest, a drink and a bite to eat. And we chatted with some other walkers, some of whom were attempting the Three Peaks Challenge. Not for us though, one peak was enough for today!

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Unfortunately, the low cloud was obscuring the views

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We set back down retracing our route. A circular walk is possible but it would have meant either finishing with a long stretch on tarmac, which didn’t appeal, or navigating along unfamiliar territory without clear paths and we didn’t want to risk that in misty conditions.

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The countryside is a mixture of moorland and limestone outcrops

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Looking back the mountain had disappeared!

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Approaching Ingleton village

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A brew awaited in one of the many Cafés in the village. (I wonder what the Bristol ‘grammar vigilante’ would make of the sign!)

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A proper mug of tea! (and only a quid!)IMG_0039

So our second of the “Three Peaks” conquered. Whernside next!

Clougha Pike

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Last Sunday promised to be a fine day so we decided to get outdoors. We decided against heading up to the Lakes and, instead, tackle Clougha Pike which is a hill on the edge of the Forest of Bowland Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty which overlooks Lancaster. Having climbed it’s neighbour, Ward Stone, in the past, I knew that we were likely to have some good views on a fine day and I’d recently discovered that there was a sculpture by Andy Goldsworthy up on the moor, having read about in a post on Beating the Bounds. All in all it seemed a good bet for combining a walk with some art and less than an hour’s drive up the M6.

We parked up in the car park on Rigg Lane near Quernmore and set off on a route that would take round the back of Clougha Pike and past the Goldsworthy sculpture, then over Grit Fell across to the summit of our main objective. The hill and surrounding moors are part of the Abbeystead Estate owned by the Duke of Westminster and it’s been “cultivated” for grouse shooting. Access to the heather clad moorland was jealously guarded until the recent past, but with changes in legislation it’s open access land outside of the shooting season.

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There is plenty of evidence of the grouse shooting with grouse butts and parking spaces dotted across the moors and there are bulldozed tracks to allow the shooters easy access. Our route followed one of these roads (only suitable for 4 x 4 s) for almost half the distance, and although they could be considered to spoil the look of the moor to some extent, they do make for easy walking over what would otherwise be very wet and boggy peat, and we had to endure that for much of the second half of the walk.

We set off and followed the track along to the quarry near to Cragg Wood.

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It wasn’t long before we encountered the first grouse of the day!

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The Red Grouse is only found in the British Isles, and, in England, mainly in the North West.

A flock of sheep were keeping an eye on us.

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Reaching the quarry we joined one of the shooters’ tracks and started the climb up the moor.

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Visibility was good and great views over to the Lake District mountains and the Yorkshire Dales soon opened up.

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I shot panoramas of the Lakeland Fells

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and the Three Peaks (Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent)

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Looking to the west over Lancaster and Morecambe Bay to the Furness peninsula

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We passed weathered formations of Millstone Grit

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Eventually we arrived at the former quarry where Andy Goldsworthy had constructed three structures where we stopped to take a look and to have our dinner.

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A local resident was keeping an eye on us!

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Carrying on along the track we passed Ward’s Stone, the highest hill in Lancashire (since the boundary changes of 1974 robbed us of Coniston Old Man!) on our left

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before turning off the track on to a path crossing the moorland towards Grit Fell

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It was wet and muddy and swampy (so no chance of keeping our boots clean)  and hard going in places.

Eventually the summit of Clougha Pike beckoned

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We stopped for a while for a bite to eat and to take in the views. Then we set back down following the path along Clougha Scar

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We missed the path which cuts back to the Rigg Lane car park and ended up part way up the shooters’ track we’d come up on.

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We retraced our route back to the car park. The diversion resulting in a slightly longer walk than planned. A good day, nevertheless.

Kentmere Tarn circular

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The weather forecast for the last day of our break in the Lake District wasn’t promising and when I got up it was raining heavily. So time to chill out, relax and do some reading. However, by midday the rain had eased off so, despite the grey skies and low cloud up the valley, I decided to go out for a short walk. It ended up being a little longer than intended!

From the front windows of our cottage we could see the small tarn  a little way down the valley, so I decided to walk over and have a closer look.

The original Kentmere Tarn was a larger body of water that was drained in the 1830’s to provide reclaimed farm land, but it was of poor quality. However, deposits of diatomite, also known as diatomaceous earth, were found in the former lake bed – the only source of the material in the UK –  and were mined for use in the production of insulation products. The mine was originally owned by Kentmere Diatomite, an independent company which was taken over by Cape Insulation. The process involved drying off the earth in a kiln which burnt off the vegetable matter. The resultant powder was then mixed with several minerals including asbestos. Production finished in the 1970’s but the old insulation factory is still there, and is now used by a company manufacturing packaging. (There’s some good information about the diatomite mining in this document). The present Kentmere Tarn was formed due to the flooding of the workings.

I set out after midday. Visibility was poor down the valley due to the cloud and mist.

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I headed past Kentmere Hall and then set off down a muddy path toward the Tarn.

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15 minutes later I reached the Tarn. Access to the banks is restricted to fishermen and the path was a little way above the water line.

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After passing the Tarn the path goes through the factory yard – watch out for fork lift trucks!

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A little further along down a quiet lane, near confluence of the River Kent and Park Beck, there’s the old mill where Kentmere Pottery is now based

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The confluence of the two rivers

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Cutting inland along the path which heads up towards the moors

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I passed this old abandoned building. A shepherd’s hut?

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Heading further up towards the moor. Looked like there was some rain ahead.

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Good views, though, if a little misty.

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The path turned back down towards the valley

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Some sections of the route were very  “slutchy” (a Lancashire term for wet mud)

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Further along I got a good view down towards the Tarn

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and Kentmere village came into view

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The path back down to Kentmere Hall

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Heading back to the church, a nice, warm, dry cottage and a brew!

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A walk up Yoke and Ill Bell

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The second full day of our stay in Kentmere and we’d planned a walk up to the top of Ill Bell via the Garburn Pass and Yoke. We’d had a good view of the two mountains from across the alley during our walk up Nan Gield pass the previous day.There was low cloud on the fells, so there was risk we’d finish in fog and miss the views from on the fells, but we set out anyway as we knew we’d still enjoy the walk.

The start of the walk – the road from the village leading to the Garburn Pass

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We passed Shepherd’s Nook

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and shortly afterwards we began to climb the path up the pass.

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Passing the crags on our right

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Reaching the top of the pass we took the path towards Yoke. There was low cloud on the fells restricting visibility but the top of Yoke looked clear.

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Looking over the Kirkstone Pass we could make out Red Screes but visibility was poor restricting the view of mountains further away. But on a good day the views are stunning.

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Reaching the top of Yoke (2316 feet) , In the distance, the summit of Ill Bell was shrouded in cloud.

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Looking over to the fells on the other side of the valley, the Nan Bield Pass was visible through a gap in the cloud. It was a little like a science fiction film – looking through a portal to another world!

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Carrying on along the ridge there was a good view down to the reservoir

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A short, sharp climb and we reached our final objective, the summit of Ill Bell (2483 feet)

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Looking along the ridge to Frostwick, the next peak, and High Street. We were tempted to carry on but decided to stick to our plan. But, all being well, one day we’ll be back to walk the horseshoe!

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This is the view over the valley to Nan Bield Pass and Harter Fell.

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Looking back towards Yoke

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Visibility was improving, and walking back along Yoke we could make out the whole length of Windermere

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and looking to the north west we had a decent view of Rred Screes on the other side of the Kirkstone Pass and over towards Helvelyn

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We retraced our steps down the Garburn Pass. The sun lighting up the crags

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Looking down on Kentmere village

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It was a sunny afternoon when we got back to our cottage – and there were some new neighbours!

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The Nan Bield Pass

Today Kentmere is a quiet, isolated spot. This wasn’t always the case. There are three passes that lead out of the valley (besides the road from Staveley) one to Mardale in the north, another to Troutbeck to the west and the third to Longsleddale in the east. So at one time, many years ago, the valley would have been a relatively busy crossroads for people and, in many cases, their animals, travelling between the Lakeland valleys. There was also industry in valley with slate mines to the north of the village and although they’ve been closed for many years now there is still evidence of the mining activity on the hillsides.

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On Tuesday, the first full day of our stay in Kentmere, the weather forecast was for intermittent rain and we’d planned a low level circular walk up along the river to the reservoir at the head of the valley and back. But one thing we learned during our break was not to trust the weather forecast. It was raining heavily when I got up but by 10 o’clock the rain had stopped and the cloud was clearing. By 11 we had sun and blue skies. It was windy, though, and I expected that the wind would be much stronger on the exposed ridges of the high fells. So we set out with a plan to start out on the low level walk but if conditions looked promising to cut up the Nan Bield Pass at the north end of the valley and then loop back along Harter Fell and Kentmere Pike. For various reasons this changed plan didn’t work out but we did manage to climb to the top of the pass.

Setting out at about 11:30, we crossed the river and walked through the village, making our way along the road until we reached the well defined footpath which ran along the floor of the valley parallel to the river. There had been a lot of rain during previous weeks so the path was wet and frequently quite muddy.

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We were soon into more open country with the high fells appearing on the horizon

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Eventually we could see most of the high fells comprising the Kentmere Horseshoe

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We had to cross numerous becks (the Cumbrian term for a stream) – only one of them was bridged so our boots got wet – not a bad thing as it washed at least some of the mud off them!

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The path started to climb gradually. We passed Kentmere Pike

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We spotted several old mine workings such as this one, high up on the side of the fell. What must it have been like to work here? P3140705

The workers would have lived in huts near tot he mines, making there way down the valley to spend their wages in the local pub on their day off. The mine workers were so rowdy that the local magistrates withdrew the licence for the pub in Kentmere  and the village has been “dry” ever since . The nearest pub is in Staveley.

Carrying on climbing steadily up the path. To our left the reservoir constructed 1848 to regulate the flow of the river which powered mills further down the valley. Ill Bell and Frostwick can be seen towering over the lake. The steep flank of the former plunging down into the small man-made lake.

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Looking further up the valley towards High Street – it’s hard to believe that there was a Roman Road up on the fells.

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The top of the pass was becoming ever closer, but still some way to go. So far the path had been a relatively easy gradient as height was gained gradually, but we could see that there would be a much steeper climb to come.

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We eventually made it to the top where there were views down into Mardale, the next valley to the north. This had been flooded during the 1930’s creating a large reservoir – Haweswater – to supply Manchester with water. The small settlement of Mardale Green was submerged in the process.

Zooming in

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It was extremely windy at the top as the wind funnels through the gap, making it difficult to stand up. We’d only made a the late morning start and the the sun would start setting at 6 o’clock. It had taken longer than anticipated to reach the top. So discretion being the better part of valour we decided to retrace our steps rather than risk walking in strong winds on an exposed ridge with a chance of not making it back down before it went dark.

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Harter Fell and Kentmere would be there another day! In any case, it had been a good walk through some dramatic countryside, and as the top of the pass is just over 2,000 feet high, it was a decent enough climb!

Castlerigg, Great Wood and Derwent Water

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Leaving Castlerigg stone circle we took the narrow metalled road heading south towards Castlerigg farm. Conditions were pretty treacherous underfoot through the fields but we persevered yomping though the gloop until we came to farm where we joined the path alongside Brockle Beck in the direction towards Keswick.

Views started to open up down to Derwent Water and Cat Bells on the western shore

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We took a left turn and set off along the path which would take us through Great Wood and the lake.

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Just after the National Trust Car Park we crossed over the Borrowdale Road and followed the path along the lake shore back to Keswick. – taking care to avoid the dangerous wildlife!

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The rain held off until we reached the jetty near the Theatre by the Lake.  A little window browsing in the shops in Keswick and then we headed back up the hill to our B and B and a nice cup of tea!

A pleasant but not very demanding walk and a good start to the holiday!