A walk from Kirkby Lonsdale

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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. 

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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!

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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and we passed some interesting old buildings.

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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. 

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There was some rather nice stained glass.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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’.

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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

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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.

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A walk on the Far Eastern Fells

After a good meal in the Brotherswater Inn on Sunday evening I settled down with a good book before bed. I woke to a beautiful, sunny, if frosty, morning. Down to a hearty breakfast with a great view over the fells.

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After checking out I drove the short distance to the car park at the end of Hartsop village. There were already a few vehicles parked up but the overnight stay meant I was able to get a decent start (and a car parking space) without setting off from home at an early hour and enduring the traffic on the M61 and M6 where the rush hour starts around 6 o’clock! The plan was to head up Hayeswater Gill and climb up towards High Street and take in the Knott, Rampsgill Head, Kidsty Pike and High Raise.

It was a glorious morning as I set off on the steady climb up Hayeswater Gill. There were great views back towards Fairfield, Helvelyn and the neighbouring fells.
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But I could see thick cloud gathering over in the west.

On the way up the gill I passed this curious shepherd’s building with a moss covered roof.

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I reached the bridge that crosses the beck just before Hayeswater and stopped to take a photograph back down the valley

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I crossed the bridge and took the path up the side of the hill. It was rather boggy in places.

Looking down to Hayeswater as I climbed

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and another shot of the fells to the west

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The path climbed until it reached the track from Angle Tarn which is part of the Coast to Coast route. Consequently it had been “engineered” and much drier underfoot. Turning along this path I continued to climb heading up towards the Knott. I bypassed the summit (but would climb it on the way down), carrying on to the ridge known as the Straights of Riggendale.

Reaching the top of the ridge I forked off left heading towards my first summit of the day Kidsey Pike.

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The end of Haweswater, the most easterly of the Lakes, also came into view.
The lake is actually a reservoir, constructed by the Manchester Corporation back in the 1920’s and 30’s. This was highly controversial at the time as the remote Mardale was considered one of England’s most beautiful valleys. Originally there were two smaller lakes – High and Low Water – which were engulfed along with the village of Mardale Green by the rising waters after the dam was constructed at the end of the valley. This summer the long dry spell led to the waters falling and remains of buildings in the drowned village including the Dun Bull Inn, the Public School, Riggindale Farm became visible, attracting curious visitors.

This was the view to the east from the summit

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and over towards High Street

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To the south west I could see Raise, my next objective

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The cloud I’d seen earlier during my walk over to the west had finally blown over and the sky was now overcast and grey.

It was a relatively easy walk over good ground to the summit of Raise,

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where I stopped for a while to grab a bite to eat, taking in the views over towards Martindale and Ullswater.

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I set off to head along the ridge towards Rampsgill Head and on to High Street. Doing so I would be treading in the footsteps of the Romans who’d built a road, High Street, over the fells between their forts at Penrith and Ambleside, which is how the fell known as High Street got it’s name.

The summit of Raise is covered with loose rocks and as I was starting off towards Rampsgill Head I lost my footing. I couldn’t regain my balance and fell over, somehow cracking my mouth on a rock. As I regained my feet I realised that as well as a few minor cuts and scrapes on my hands and shin, a cut just below my mouth was bleeding quite heavily. I managed to staunch the bleeding with a tissue but decided my little accident wasn’t serious enough to warrant abandoning my trek (it was a long way back to Hartsop in any case) so I carried on, continuing to soak up the blood from the cut below my mouth with a series of tissues until it eventually eased. Anyone who saw me must have thought I’d been in a scrap! I guess I was lucky as a fall up on the fells can be much more serious.

Despite my little incident, I was still able to enjoy the views down Martindale from Rampsgill Head

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Traversing the ridge towards High Street and looking down Riggendale towards Haweswater

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and view over Rough Crag towards Harter Fell and Branstree

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Looking back down to Hayeswater from the route of the Roman road.

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High Street is a long, broad ridge without a clear summit, but OI made my way to the trig point at the highest point of the fell

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Heading back, I decided to more or less retrace my route down to Hartsop, but followed the wall along the top of of High Street rather than taking the route of the Roman road. Walking along the ridge over the Straits of Riggendale I diverted slightly for the modest climb to the summit of the Knott. This was the view back over to High Street.

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It was downhill all the way now back down to Hayeswater Gill and the car park in Hartsop

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A walk around Brothers Water

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A couple of weeks ago I managed to take a very short break up in the Lakes – just a Sunday afternoon and a Monday, stopping overnight on Sunday in the Brothers Water Inn on the Kirkstone Pass, a few miles south of Patterdale and Ullswater.

I set off around midday. It was raining but as I drove north up the M6 the rain eased off and it was a pleasant, clear afternoon by the time I arrived and checked into the small hotel around 3 p.m. It was the weekend before the end of British Summertime so the sunset was just after 6 p.m. so, after checking in and unloading the car I had time for a short walk. The obvious route was to circumnavigate Brothers Water – which can be considered to be either one of the Lake District’s smallest lakes or one of its largest tarns. The lake was once known as Broad Water but was renamed in the 19th century, apparently after two brothers drowned there.

Leaving the hotel a walk through the campsite and fields and past Hartsop Hall, an old farmhouse dating back to the 16th century, took me to the path on the west side of the lake. I followed it through pleasant woodland to the end of the lake, then took a diversion into Hartsop and part way up Hayeswater Gill. After retracing my steps back to the village I cut back towards the lake and following the path along the east shore back to the Inn.

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A walk up Rivington and Winter Hill

The other Thursday was a beautiful sunny day. Late morning I received a message asking me to postpone a meting (a telecon, actually, as that’s the way things are done these days!)that was scheduled for the afternoon. No problem, I could reschedule. So that gave me an opportunity to take the afternoon and get out for a walk in the sunshine. It didn’t take long for me to decide that’s what I was going to do!

As dusk was around 6 o’clock, I couldn’t go too far afield so decide to drive over to Rivington and go for a walk up to the Pike and the nearby moors.

I parked up near the Saxon Barn and set out up towards the Pike

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through the woods, with the leaves starting to show their autumnal colours

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I walked up through the terraced gardens

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The summit of the Pike, with it’s tower, came into view

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A short steep climb later and I was on the summit with great views across the Lancashire Plain to the coast

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over the moors

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and Winter Hill with it’s cluster of TV and telecommunications masts.

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There’s been a major fire on Winter Hill earlier this year during the hot, dry summer. Although there was evidence that this had taken place but it was good to see that the grass was recovering.

After a short break I decided to carry on onto Winter Hill, taking the route via Two Lads rather than the more direct, but very boggy, route straight across the moor.

Looking back to the Pike

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Looking towards the summit of Two Lads

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It didn’t take too long to reach the top where I stopped for a break

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Where to next? I decided to carry on to the top of Winter Hill

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I carried on past the TV mast and looked over the moors towards Belmont

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and, in the distance, Pendle Hill

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On a good day it’s possible to see as far as the Lake Distict, Yorkshire Dales and Snowdonia from up on the moors. Alas, although a fine sunny day, long range visibility wasn’t so great. The best time for these views is on a clear sunny day in the winter.

I considered my options. I didn’t fancy squelching through a boggy quagmire, so decided to retrace my steps back towards the Pike.

Looking over the moor I could see evidence of the summer’s fire. Although the grass was recovering well there were scars across the land, which looked like wide paths, where firebreaks had been created

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I bypassed the summit of the Pike and made my way down through the Terraced Gardens

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Rather go straight back to the car I carried on through the woods to Rivington Reservoir and followed the shore to the end of the artificial lake

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I cut up through Rivington Village

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and through the woods up to Rivington Hall Barn

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A short walk, passing Rivington Hall

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and I was back at the car. I changed out of my boots and after a 20 minute drive was back home ready for a brew!

A walk around the Wigan Flashes

Since returning from our short break in Thessaloniki, I’ve managed to find the time to get in a few walks while the weather has been reasonably fine, before the onslaught of winter.  For the first of these wanders I didn’t stray too far from home, but headed down the Leeds Liverpool canal from the town centre to have a wander round the Wigan Flashes.

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The Flashes is an area of wetlands on the edge of town based around 8 shallow lakes formed due to subsidence caused by abandoned mine workings. Today the area has been turned into a Nature Reserve. Something of a peaceful haven only a short distance away from the hustle and bustle of the town centre. (This is going to be ruined to some extent by a road at the north end of the area, linking the M6 and M61 – construction has already started.

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It was a pleasant autumn afternoon as I set out. A little overcast at first but the sun soon started to break through the cloud.

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Skirting the town centre, following the route of the River Douglas, I soon reached the Leeds Liverpool canal and set off down the towpath, turning off down the Leigh branch towards the Flashes.

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Reaching the start of the Nature Reserve, I crossed the canal and followed the path along Pearson’s Flash. This is something of a haven for waterfowl and I could see large numbers of coots and tufted duck as well as mallard and swans. Too far away to catch with my camera, unfortunately.

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but I did manage to snap this fellow

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Then I cut back towards the canal, crossing back over tot he main towpath

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I continued along the canal for a while before cutting back through the woods along the side of Bryn Flash

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and then turning back north, on towards Ochre Flash

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An extensive area of reed bed has been created in an area that was once an industrial wasteland. With an area of 70 hectacres, it’s the second biggest in the Northwest region.

The reeds were starting to die back, so not at their best. But they’re an important habitat for wetland birds including reed warblers, water rails and even bitterns.

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Back towards the canal towpath now and heading north it skirts the eastern edge of the largest of the Flashes – Scotsman’s Flash. The name of this stretch of water is something of a puzzle. One theory I’ve heard is that a couple of Scots drowned in it, but who knows? Today it’s used by the canoe club and sailing club, but no kayaks or yachts were out on the water on an autumn afternoon.

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A pity that the peace along here will soon be shattered by construction of the link road and then the roar of traffic dashing between the motorways.

A couple of narrow boats passed by heading in the opposite directions as I walked towards the town centre

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I carried along the canal and retraced my steps back home. By meandering around the Nature Reserve I’d walked about 8 miles, mainly through pleasant, peaceful wetlands where, if you didn’t know better, you’d never realise you were within shouting distance of housing estates, industrial areas and the town centre.

A grand walk on Howth Head

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I’m back in Ireland this week – working not on holiday, but I caught an early ferry over on Sunday morning, arriving in Dublin just after midday as I often do so that I can spend a little time exploring what has become my “second home”! The weather was looking reasonably promising so I’d decided to get out for a walk. I’d thought about driving into the Wicklow mountains but on second thoughts felt it would be nice to have a walk along the sea shore so decided to go for a walk on Howth Head, the headland to the north of the city centre that my ferry passes sailing into Dublin Port. It’s only a few miles from the port and it took me about half an hour to drive over there.

I’d done my research beforehand and knew that there were a number of way marked routes I could follow. I’d decided on the longer “Bog of Frogs” route, about 12 km long, that starts at the Howth DART station near the harbour and follows the coast round before cutting across country back to the start.

I’d planned to park up near the harbour as I knew there were plenty of car parks, but when I arrived they were jam full and it was clearly going to be a struggle to find a space. So I drove out of the town centre up inland and managed to find a spot on the Summit car park on top of the cliffs near the Baily lighthouse, part way round the route. There was no reason why I couldn’t start here as the route would bring me back, so that’s what I did.

I followed the path down the hill and after a short distance was on the route. All the routes are waymarked with different coloured arrows. I was following the purple route with a few minor diversions.

Straight away I was greeted with a view over the Baily lighthouse that stands at the end of a peninsula on the south side of the headland. I see it every time I sail into Dublin. It’s still a working lighthouse so it isn’t possible to walk right up to it.

The skies were dark and cloudy over Dublin to the west and as the lighthouse was in that direction it didn’t make for a good photo. But it was clear and bright over to the east, so this photo was taken after I’d walked along the path past the peninsula

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Carrying on the narrow path was high up on the cliffs and there were good views down to the sea. It could be hairy on a windy day.

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Looking over to Poolbeg and the south wall with the olfd power station chimneys dominating the view

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There’s some nice houses up on the top of the cliffs looking over the sea

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Turning a corner I could see a Martello Tower along the coast.

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The marked route turned inland before the tower but I wanted a closer look so carried on along the coastal path for a while.

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It’s been converted into a luxury holiday home.

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I carried on the coastal path a little further before turning inland and, passing lots of expensive houses, looped back along the road to rejoin the purple route which now cut inland heading towards the north side of the headland.

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The path crossed the golf course (watch out for golf balls!!) and as I climbed I could see the sea on to the north with views across as far as the Mountains of Mourne over the border in Northern Ireland.

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At the other side of the golf curse I entered the wooded area known as the “Bog of Frogs”

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Fortunately after a dry summer it wasn’t so boggy (although there were boardwalks to keep walkers’ feet dry) and I didn’t see any frogs!

The route now climbed up into heathland before descending down into Howth

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but I took a slight diversion climbing a hill to take in the views over the sea and the harbour and toward the small island known as “Ireland’s Eye”

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The route continued down the hill, across some fields and passing another golf course and a Gaelic sports field, through a housing estate and then down a path arriving at Howth DART station, the “official” start of the walk.

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However, I’d started part way round and so had only completed about two thirds of the route so I had a few more miles to go back to my car. Howth is quite an attractive town and harbour. I’d visited it some years ago during the winter when it was cold and quiet, but this day was quite different – sunny and warm and heaving with people walking around and enjoying a pint and sea food in the many bars and cafes that line the harbour.

I decided to take a break from the walk and explore the harbour. There’s actually two – one a fishing harbour where, being a Sunday, there were plenty of boats moored along the quays

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then there’s the “pleasure boat” harbour. Didn’t look like there were many people out sailing!

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I walked out on the harbour wall to get a better look at Ireland’s Eye

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heading back

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The beach to the east of the harbour wall

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I spent about an hour looking round the harbour before resuming my walk along the purple route. It took me up past another Martello tower which overlooks the harbour and which today houses a radio communication museum.

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The route now followed the narrow road on the side of the cliff as far as the Kilrock carpark and then back on to the cliff top footpath.

Looking back to Howth

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and along the cliff path

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After almost an hour after setting out from Howth harbour, the Baily lighthouse came into view – and there was the Irish Ferries boat Ulysees sailing past towards Dublin Port.

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I’d also seen the Stena Line’s Adventurer sailing past in the distance about half an hour before.

It didn’t take long now to climb back up to the top of the cliff and the Summit car park.

This had been a grand walk. It had been busy in Howth and also along the cliff from the Harbour to the lighthouse – there were several large groups of young tourists who slowed me down a little as it was difficult to pass on the narrow path. But it was good to see them enjoying their walk too.

Back at the car I changed out of my boots and set off driving back through Dublin and on to Naas where I’m staying and working this week.

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Pendle Hill from Downham”

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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

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and then starting my climb up the flank of the hill.

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Looking back there were good views of Worsaw Hill

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With Ingleborough and Penyghent in the Yorkshire Dales clearly visible in the distance.

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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.

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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.

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Visibility was reasonably good so there were views in all directions
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about half way along the ridge I passed this round shelter, which rather looked like it had been created by Andy Goldsworthy

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After crossing a wall and passing this recently constructed seat come wind shelter

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The Big End was in view

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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

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Time to stop for a little while, grab a bite to eat and soak up the views, looking down to Barley

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After my short break I retrace my steps along the engineered path back to the wall

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and then took the path which descended diagonally down the hill back towards Downham

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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

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and looking ahead

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An easy stroll of about a mile or so over the fields alongside the small river took me back towards Downham

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Looking back to Pendle Hill

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Passing through this gate took me back into the village

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The cloud had cleared during the course of my walk and it was now a bright sunny late afternoon.

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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.