Tal y Fan

Last Sunday I was up early and set off for a quiet journey through the M6 roadworks and along the M56 and A55 to Conwy. Then up the narrow Sychnant Pass where I parked up at the foot of Allt Wen. I wasn’t going up that modest, but steep and rugged hill, though – I’d planned a route to take me up Tal y Fan, which, at a tad over 2,000 feet, is the most northerly mountain in Eyri – the Snowdonia National Park – and, indeed, Wales, seperated from the main Carneddau plateau by the Bwlch-y-Ddeufaen.

After booting up, I crossed the road and went through the gate, joining the Cambrian Way, the long distance path that traverses the ridge of Tal y Fan.

The path weedled around and up and down for a while, passing the remains of prehistoric culture from a time when what today is a quiet corner was occupied first by Neolithic farmers, who cleared the forests from the slopes and valleys, and then by Bronze Age people who errected stone circles and megaliths.

Looking back with views over the sea to Puffin Island and Anglesey
There’s Tal y Fan in the distance
Through the gate the path descended, losing height, before climbing back up the fell side
A lonely cottage on the fell side
The remains of a stone circle with Tal y Fan in the distance
A complex of sheep folds. This is where sheep gathered from the fells are sorted to be reclaimed by their owners

Just after the sheepfolds I passed a couple of walkers taking a break on a convenient rock. I stopped for a few moments while we swapped greetings before I carried on. We were to met again later in the day.

A herd of Carneddau ponies in the distance
A prehistoric standing stone. Shortly after the path took a left turn and started the climb up to the summit of Tal y Fan
Looking back as I climbed
The remains of a quarry were bypassed before resuming the climb

It was a fine Autumn day but as I’d climbed the wind had picked up. Reaching the top of the ridge there was a little scrambling up and down. There’s false summit, and I had to descend a few metres then scramble back up before reaching the highest point of the mountain.

The trig point was on the opposite side of a drystone wall that runs along the ridge. I climbed over the stile to take in the views over the Conwy valley

and across to the high mountains of the Cardennau including Foel Fras and Drum that I’d climbed during my break at the end of June

It was particularly windy on this side of the wall – the wind was blowing from the south – so I climbed back over and perched on a rock for a brew and a bite to eat. A couple of walkers arrived and we chatted for a while and another pair arrived, coming up from the opposite direction I’d taken, as I started my descent, following the wall in the direction from which they’d arrived. Again, as on my way up, there was a bit of scrambling up and down before the final steep descent down off the summit into the bwlch.

Looking back up towards the summit ridge.

As I reached the bwlch I saw the couple I’d met near the sheepfolds coming up having first climbed a stile over the drystone wall that had run up, along and down the ridge. I asked them about their route and they told me they’d circumnavigated the south side of the mountain and were going to go over the top and then return via the route I’d taken up. I had planned to return to the Sychnant Pass over the plateau to the north of the mountain but thought the alternative sounded more interesting – and that’s the way it worked out!

I climbed over the stile and took the path through the fields heading downhill towards the old Roman Road. There were good views down into the valley and across to the mountains as I descended

Reaching the Roman Road I walked along a short stretch of tarmac and onto a rough track before taking a path back across the fields near the farm at Cae Coch

I followed the path which ran parallel to the Tal y Fan ridge

The view down to Rowen and the Conwy Valley

I was head towards Caer Bach (‘Small Fort’), the site of a Prehistoric hill fort where I’d turn north. As I approached I spotted a herd of ponies

I made a short diversion, climbing to the top of the mound where there were visible remains of the fortifications

I carried on along the path passing to the east of Tal y Fan, taking in the views of the Carneddau to the west

Leaving the ponies behind as I climbed a modest slope the sea cam back into view

I passed some former mine workings as I approached the standing stone I’d passed earlier in the day

Rather than take the same path I’d followed during the morning I climbed up Cefn Maen Amor, a modest hill, and joined a narrow path along the ridge. A little further along I passed through another herd of ponies

They didn’t pay much attention to me and just carried on munching

I reached the summit of the modest hill which was crowned by a rock formation

and where there were good views back down to the coast and the Great Orme

and the Conwy Valley

I joined the route of the north wales Coast path which would take me back to the Sychnant Pass

Conwy Mountain
Back at the pass

It had been a good walk of about 12 miles on what had been a fine Autumn day when I’d seen more ponies than people! Time to drive back down the pass to Penmaenmawr and then on to home.

Ashurst Beacon from Appley Bridge

Since returning from our break in Appleby we’ve had fairly typical Autumn weather – regular grey and rainy days – not very inviting for getting out for a decent walk. I’d been getting a little stir crazy, so when there was the chance of a let up in the rain and a little sunshine, I’ve been booting up and getting out for local walks from the house. A week ago I decided to go a little further afield, but only just! I took the Southport train and got off at Appley Bridge, only two stops down the line from Wallgate station, for a walk up to Ashurst Beacon, returning to the station via the canal towpath.

It had rained on and off all morning but the forecast was promising for the afternoon. The sun was shining when I left home and during the train journey but as I alighted from the train there were a few raindrops which soon turned into a heavy downpour. By the time I’d opened my rucksack and put on my Torrentshell it had stopped! And I didn’t see another drop for the rest of the afternoon!

After a short walk along the road I took the path in between the rows of houses and through a muddy field

I was soon on a drier track starting to head uphill – not very steep though

Looking back across the fields over Wigan towards Winter Hill

Winding my way along the paths through fields and woodland and quiet lanes, I eventually arrived at Ashurst’s Beacon, on top of the 570 foot high Ashurst’s Hill.

The tower tower was built in 1798 by Sir William Ashurst, as a watch tower to warn of a French invasion in the lead up to the Napoleonic War. It’s a Grade II listed building.

The tower and it’s surroundings was left to Wigan Corporation in 1962 “for the enjoyment of the people of Wigan“. although it’s now in West Lancashire District (although one of the people of Wigan was there to enjoy it!). The plaque commemorating this seems to have disappeared from the side of the tower – probably robbed and melted down for scrap.

There’s an orientation plate pointing out the landmarks and when I was last up here there were expansive views right over to Morecambe Bay and the Lakeland Fells, the West Pennine Moors and, Southport, Liverpool and North Wales.

Not this time though. Since my last visit, which I now realise must have been getting on for 20 years ago, trees have sprouted up completely obscuring the views. It’s perhaps good for the environment but that didn’t make me any less disappointed. 😞

Nevertheless, as I started to descend, leaving the woods behind, views opened up towards the moors

I carried on down the hill taking a different route than my ascent.

Until I reached the Leeds Liverpool canal

I then followed the tow path back to Appley Bridge

The trees on the opposite bank were wearing their autumn coats!

There was a narrow boat moored up

Looking back along the canal from the Bridge

It’s a decent little walk – a few hour’s saunter on an Autumn afternoon – not far from home. I hadn’t seen many people, just a few dog walkers and local residents working in their gardens. I was disappointed about the loss of the views from the Beacon, but overall, that didn’t spoil the walk too much!

High Cup Gill

Our holiday in Appleby wasn’t a walking break but I did manage to tick off a route I’d been wanting to walk for some time. J was quite happy for me to disappear for a day so she could have a little time on her own.

The Monday was pretty awful – wind and rain, but I woke on Tuesday to a fine day, if a little cold when I was loading up the car with my walking gear. It was a short drive of about 5 miles to Dufton, where I parked up in the village car park.

It’s a pleasant former mining village, close to the Pennine Hills with several options for walks. I had planned to walk up to High Cup Nick, the top of High Cup Gill, an almost perfect glacial valley in the north Pennines.

Wikipedia tells us

The Ordnance Survey name the valley as High Cup Gill but it is often referred to by the name High Cup Nick, a name which properly refers in a more limited sense to the point at its northeastern limit where the headwaters of Highcup Gill Beck pass from the relatively flat terrain of High Cup Plain over the lip of High Cup Scar into the valley. ‘Gill’ is a word of Norse origin meaning narrow valley or ravine………….as seen in the classic view southwest over the valley into the Vale of Eden from its head at High Cup Nick, it is considered one of the finest natural features in northern England.

After parking up, I had a quick mooch around the village. Looking at that blue sky and it was hard to believe how awful the weather had been the previous day – but that’s the north of England for you! From the village green I could see that Cross fell and Great Dunn fell were capped with cloud – which isn’t so unusual, but the lower Dufton Pike was cloud free.

But that wasn’t were I was going. I was heading along the Pennine Way in the other direction and had my fingers crossed that the day would stay fine and that I’d get some good views.

It was a bit of a trudge at first up a fairly long stretch of tarmac, although as I climbed steadily views began to open up and the weather looked promising. It was misleadingly warm in the sunshine and I rapidly started peeling off layers – other walkers I met during the morning had also prepared for colder weather and had rucksacks full of fleeces and jackets that weren’t needed!

Looking across to Dufton Pike

The road came to an end after a mile or so, turning into a rough track. I later met a couple of walkers who’d parked up at the end of the tarmac road, which cut out the walk on the tarmac.

Looking back there was a great view over to the Lakeland fells spread out on the horizon. Visibility was good and I could see for miles

I wasn’t going down that track but it looked quite tempting. That could be a way back up to a car parked at the end of the road after a circular route round High Cup Gill.

I then passed through a gate onto the fell proper.

I passed an old lime kiln

It was a gradual climb up the side of the hillside, but, initially, the valley wasn’t visible being obstructed by the undulating landscape. But then, suddenly, it’s there before you.

Looking back down the valley.

The geology of the valley is particularly interesting, although much of the rock is limestone,

its rim (is) topped by enormous columns of volcanic rock. This rock, known as dolerite, was created during the Carboniferous period when the movement of tectonic plates forced magma to be squeezed sideways between beds of existing rock. As it then slowly cooled, the magma crystallised and shrank, forming the hexagonal columns that can be seen at High Cup today. (This same layer of dolerite, known as the Great Whin Sill, also forms the ridge along which the Romans built much of Hadrian’s Wall.)

cumbria.com

I soon reached the head of the valley – the High Cup Nick. This was the view – the picture doesn’t do the view justice. I’d been concerned that it wouldn’t live up to it’s reputation and be something of a let down, but it definitely was not, particularly on a fine autumn day with views right across the Eden valley to the Lake District fells.

Looking in the other direction was a more or less featureless moor, wet and boggy.

I stopped for a while enjoying the view and to have a bite to eat and a coffee from my flask. There were a few other people who’d made their way up. I’d walked the last stretch up to the nick with a couple from Darlington, a young couple appeared who’d come over the bogs from Cow Green reservoir over in the East, another solo walker had come up from Murton via Murton Pike, and another person appeared climbing up from the bottom of the valley. I expect it gets very busy up here in the summer and at weekends, but on a fine autumn day mid week before the autumn half term it was fairly quiet and peaceful.

Time to start heading back! I’d decided on a circular route so started to make my way along the south ridge. There were a few options – I could have climbed a bit higher and followed the route over to Murton Pike, but that would have been a longer walk than I’d intended.

The path along the ridge gave good views down into the Gill.

Looking back to the Nick

Crossing the Middle Tongue it got a bit boggy !

but, hey, who cares with views like this

Starting to descend from the Middle Tongue I was back on drier ground amongst the limestone.

Murton Pike was over to my left. It was tempting!

Nearing the bottom of the descent I diverted and turned back following the lower level path that led into the bottom of the Gill. I wanted to get a shot up the valley. The light was good and with the sunlight filtering through cloud in the sky created patterns of light and shade.

I turned back and continued my descent towards the farm at Harbour Flat.

Looking back towards the hills and the Gill

I reached the quiet lane that runs between Dufton and Murton. Some more walking on tarmac for a while

before I turned off along a path through the fields and then joined the route of A Pennine Journey heading towards Dufton

Nearing the village I took the path through the very pleasant woodland that lines Dufton Gill

Then a final climb out of the gill into the village. I had a mooch around the village green taking in the views of the high Pennine hills

The village, “the farmstead where the doves were kept”, goes back to at least the 12th Century and grew during the 17th and 18th centuries when lead mines were opened up on Dufton Fell. Most of the houses around the green are from this period

there are extensive mining remains on Dufton Fell. The early mining leases were granted by the Lords of the Manor of Dufton throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. From about 1820 the mines were taken over by the London Lead Company (the “Quaker Company”). Lead mining ceased on Dufton Fell in 1897; however barytes have been extracted from the spoil heaps on two occasions in the 20th century.

 in the 19th century there were many, including grocer’s, butcher’s (with abbatoir), bakery, general dealer’s and draper’s. The present cafe was the village post office and shop into the 21st century.

Dufton Village Website

It seems like the Quakers were decent employers, building cottages for their workers as well as a school, and a library. They also provided a water supply installing five fountains in the village including this one on the village green, built in 1858.

The former Methodist chapel

It was very quiet. There were a few other walkers returning to their cars but other than that not a sole to be seen. There was a cafe in the old Post office, but it was closed – it doesn’t reopen until Easter – and the village pub, the Stag, didn’t look as if it was open. So no chance of a brew!

I returned to my car and changed out of my boots. After chatting with an older couple who’d been walking with their young adult granddaughter, I set off back to Appleby. It was only a 20 minute drive back tot he cottage where a welcome brew was waiting for me.

A great day out!

Acorn Bank

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.

The National Trust website tells us that

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

the orchards

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.

Slaidburn and the lonely valley

The day after my walk from Staveley to Bowness I was out again. This time I decided to avoid the trains and a long drive on the motorway and headed off to the Forest of Bowland. I travelled via Clitheroe and a fine drive over Waddington Fell on to Slaidburn where I parked up in the car park at the end of the village near the bridge over the Hodder. I’d planned a walk up on to the Salter Road. Also known as the Hornby Road, it’s an ancient route that links the Lune Valley with the old West Riding of Yorkshire, running between Slaidburn and Hornby. It’s an old packhorse trail and about 3 miles of it travel over part of a Roman Road that linked Ribchester and Carlisle. At one time is was probably a busy route but during my walk I didn’t see another walker – although a couple of small groups of motorcyclists riding trail bikes passed me coming from the opposite direction. Alfred Wainwright as one of the finest moorland walks in the country.  I’d love to walk the full route but that would need some organising as it’s too far for a there and back walk. So my walk would be just a taster.

I had an idea on where I’d go but left my options open to see exactly which route I’d follow. It was a fine day, with a stiff breeze and an autumnal nip in the air.

Slaidburn is on the Lancashire Witches Walk and next to the car park is one of the ten tercet waymarkers, this one commemorating Alice Nutter. (A tercet is form of poem comprising a three-line stanza). My plan was to visit another waymarker up on the moors.

At daylight’s gate, the things we fear
darken and form. That tree, that rock,
a slattern’s shape with the devil’s dog.

The Daylight Gate is the title of a novel by Jeanette Winterson published during the 300 anniversary year of the Pendle Witches trial. It’s very characteristic of Winterson’s “Magic Realism” style centering on “Alice Nutter”, although she’s not much like the real historical character.

I set off through the village

passing the war memorial

and then turning down the road by the village shop

As well as the humbler former workers’ cottages, there’s a number of larger houses in the village.

A short distance along the road I turned off onto a path along the river, initially through woodland.

I was following the route of the Lancashire Witches Walk.

I was soon out of the woods and walking through fields, the grass wet with dew, with a view of the fells ahead.

After crossing fields I joined the Salter road eventually reaching the gate beyond which the route isn’t passable by motorised vehicles (although, no doubt, you’ll get off roaders driving over here and disturbing the peace and quiet)

But there was nothing to stop a walker carrying on.

A short distance along from the gate I came to “intersection” where the path to Dunsop head leaves the Salter road. The memorial stone commemorates the crew of four aircraft who were killed when their planes crashed on the nearby moors during WWII

A close up of the memorial

I carried on along the road that started to snake across the quiet moor land

I spotted a shepherds hut and sheepfold down in the bottom of the valley

I eventually reached the second Lancashire Witches waymarker of the day, by the side of the road near to Croasdale quarry

This one commemorated Elizabeth Device, who was, apparently, known locally as Squinting Lizzie due to a facial deformity. She was the daughter of Old Demdike, the 80 odd year old matriarch of one of the two “clans” that formed the core of the women who were executed. Her Nine-year-old Jennet Device was one of the main witnesses for the prosecution in the trial at Lancaster. (Ironically, twenty years after the trial Jennet was accused of witchcraft herself. However, she escaped the fate of her mother, brother James and sister Alison)

Something upholds us in its palm-
landscape, history, place and time-
and, above, the same old witness moon

Having reached the waymarker I now had to decide how to proceed. I could see in the distance a building just off the road which raised my curiosity. I was tempted to head up White Hill, the second highest point in Bowland, over to the east, but decided against the climb up over a pathless moor. There was a shooter’s track heading up teh fell to the west and I wondered whether I might find a way over the moor to Dunsop Head.

I decided to take this track. At first the going was good but as I climber higher up the moor it deteriorated and by the time I reached the shooting butts I was starting to wade through the wet peat. It was clear that a walk across the moor to Dunsop head would be a pathless rough traverse over the grass and heather and peat bogs. An option for a dry spell in the summer, but not one to savour that day.

So I retraced my steps back down towards the road, initially losing the path having to make my way through the grass and heather before regaining the track confirmed that I was wise not to try and tackle the long bog trot over to Dunsop Head. On the way down I spotted Pen-y-ghent peeking over the top of the hill to the east.

And this was the view south / south-east with Pendle Hill clearly visible.

Reaching the road I decided to carry on to take a look at the building I could see. It was a shooter’s hut. It was locked and boarded up to keep out riff raff like me, but I stopped for a while for a hot coffee and a bite to eat.

I then retraced my steps along the road – this section being part of the former Roman road.

I passed the waymarker again.

Carrying on heading south

Reaching an intersection I decided to take the path down Croasdale. and then head back across the fields to Slaidburn.

Looking back over the lonely moors after I’d passed through a gate

The going was good at first. I was on a track that leading to the ruin of the House of Croasdale, probably a former shepherd’s hut or shieling rather than a farm house.

The path then veered of f through long grass with stretches of bog down the side of the valley towards the river, yellow topped wooden posts showing the way – just!

It wasn’t easy going but I managed to keep my feet out of the worst of the gluey wet peat – there were wooden walkways laid over the worst of the bog.

I had to cross over the river, just about keeping my feet dry by balancing precariously on rocks in the rushing water. The path was difficult to follow in a few places but I eventally found the track that took me down towards Croasdale House

Looking back to the farm house after I’d passed by .

I carried on down the concrete track. I missed the turnoff onto a path across the field hat would have been a short cut and easier underfoot.

At he end of the track I turned right towards Shay House (another farm) and bjust before the farmhouse climber over a stile and began a walk over a series of fields that took me back towards Slaidburn.

From the lower lying land there were good views over to the high fells.

Reaching Slaidburn I called into the Bowland Chocolate Company shop and made a few purchases to earn a few brownie points when I got back home,

and then stopped at the cafe next to the car park where I stopped for a while to enjoy a brew and a slice of blueberry cake (needed to boost my blood sugar!).

The cafe is a favourite of motorcyclists and there were a few groups on nearby tables. Earwigging I could overhear anecdotes being swapped by a group of older “bikers” on the next table. One was relating a story of a friend who when stopped by a police officer was asked why he was riding at 92 mph – his answer, apparently was “because the bike won’t do 100 mph”.

Sitting outside the cafe I’d noticed a number of Morgan’s driving past – there must have been a rally on and they were taking a scenic drive through Bowland. Two cars had pulled into the car park so their occupants could refresh themselves in the cafe. I snapped them as they were driving out of the car park.

Due to difficulties generating the full route using the OS maps app I had to do it in two parts – out and back again (the app doesn’t like it if you retrace your steps). So, this is my outward route

and this is the route back

On the Autumn Equinox

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 Howgills in the distance
The Far Eastern Fells. Some cloud over there.

The distinctive Whaleback of Red Screes clearly noticeable

Part of Windermere with a backdrop of the Coniston Langdale Fells
Zooming in

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.

End of summer on the moors

The Saturday after my trip to Coniston, summer was coming to an end and while the weather looked promising I decided to get out for a walk. After my experience on the M6 the previous week I wasn’t in the mood for a long drive, so decided to head off to Rivington and get up on the moors. It looked like it would be a fine day – a little chilly and, as I found out, fairly windy high up, but conditions were otherwise good.

When I arrived at Rivington around 10 am I was surprised how busy it was. All the parking spaces along the drive up to the Hall were taken. I subsequently discovered that there were a couple of outdoor events taking place – a run and also a schools or youth event. However, there were spaces on the car park near the Hall Barn so I parked up, booted up and set off for my walk. I’d decided to start by climbing the Pike and then see how it went.

I took the less frequented route through the woods along the bottom of the Pike, climbing up to the top of the Ornamental gardens via “the Ravine”.

The path through the woods

Looking up from the bottom of the Ravine
Reaching the “top road”
Up to the top of the Pike – it was windy and rather chilly – I was glad I’d packed a flask of coffee win my rucksac
The view to the north. Visibility in that direction was superb and I could see the Lake District fells n the horizon
Looking over to the masts on Winter Hill
I decided to take the path over the moor to Noon Hill. Very few people tread along here. It can be very boggy but after a long dry summer the peat wasn’t bad at all – just a few wet and muddy patches that were easy to avoid
Approaching the top of Noon Hill. This is an outlier on the ridge from Winter Hill. It’s topped by a prehistoric burial mound. I stopped for a bite to eat and another brew while I took in the view – hood up to minimise the chill from the cold wind.
Great visibility looking over the moors towards Bowland and the Lakeland Fells in the distance
and across to Winter Hill
I decided against going on up to the summit of Winter Hill but descended down to the old Belmont road, which I followed until I reached the new road close to Horden Stoops
I crossed over and joined the path taking me towards Spitler’s Edge
Looking over to the Yorkshire Three Peaks in the distance. What a great day for extensive views!
I carried on over Spitler’s and Redmond Edges but rather than carry on to Great Hill cut off down the path descending onto the moor to the west
Then I took the track as far as the ruins at Lower Hempshaws
before turning west, crossing over the infant River Yarrow and headed towards Old Rachel’s.
The ruins here have become a favourite spot of mine of late. I stopped for a break and a brew taking in the views over the moors to Great Hill and the Edges.
Carrying on the path westwards there were some curious onlookers
I turned south , taking the path towards the Belmont Road and then took the less well trod path through the fields heading towards Wilcox’s farm. The sheep in the field all gathered and started to follow me!
Reaching the farm I climbed over the dodgy ladder stile, crossed over the road and took the path that runs alongside dean Wood
and then made my way back towards Rivington village, passing the little Non-conformist chapel, and then returning to my car in the car park by the Hall Barn.

Tarn Hows, Black Crag and Holme Fell

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

passing waterfalls

and emerging towards the southern end of the Tarn

Tarn Hows – grey skies and flat light

I’m going to let the photos I took along the route speak for themselves.

Looking back over Tarn Hows to a sunlit Old Man of Coniston while Wetherlam is shaded under cloud
A bit brighter
Turning off the path along the Tarn to take the path over towards Black Crag
Heading up towards Black Crag
The Black Crag trig point

Outstanding views from the trig point

Looking back towards Coniston
The Coniston fells
Over towards Langdale
There’s some weather over on the Eastern fells
The Far Eastern fells in the distance
There’s Windermere
Taking the path back down – looking towards Yewdale and Coniston Water
Taking the path towards Arnside (not the one on Morecambe Bay!)
Some weather over the Eastern fells!
The view over to Langdale
Starting the descent down towards the Coniston road
There’s Holme Fell in the distance
On the tarmac of a minor road for a while
More good views from the Oxen fell road
High Oxen Fell farm
Approaching Hodge Close
Hodge Close quarry
After stopping for a bite to eat I took the path heading towards Tilberthwaite through the woods along the foot of Holme Fell
cutting up the path towards the fell
The view of Coniston Water from the summit
Wetherlam seen from the summit
Looking over to Tilberthwaite
Looking to the eastern fells
Looking over to Black Fell
Descending off Holme Fell down towards Yewdale Tarn
Yewdale Farm

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!

The Coniston fells and Coppermine Valley

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 Coniston Copper Project, funded by at £450,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, has worked on repairing and conserving ten historic copper-mining structures and they have an excellent website with lots of information on the history of mining in the Coniston area.

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.

Entry to an old mine

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

Made it!

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.

Looking down to Coniston Water and over to Morecambe Bay
Dow Crag
Looking over to the Duddon estuary and the Irish Sea
The summits of the Scafells were veiled in cloud
Low Water and Wetherlam with a glimpse of Lever’s Water. The Eastern Fells in the distance were covered with cloud.

After a short while I set off along the ridge, heading to Brim Fell and then on to Swirl How

Looking back to the Old Man
Lever’s Water and Wetherlam
Seathwaite Tarn at the head of the Duddon Valley
Swirl How ahead – my next objective
Looking down to Lever’s Tarn and Coniston Water from Lever’s Hawse
Wetherlam
Hi herdy! – some fearsome looking weather over the fells to the east
The summit of 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

Looking down Greenburn Valley towards Little Langdale – some serious weather over there by the looks
Great Carrs

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!

Looks like the weather could be heading my way

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.

It had stopped raining by the time I reached the tarn
crossing over the dam. Lever’s Water was dammed and enlarged to create a reservoir for the copper mines which used water power to drain the mine working and for breaking the rock. The water level was low due tot he dry summer we’d had.
The path down the valley back towards Coniston
passing some waterfalls
The view down the valley with the remains of the copper mining activities
A reconstructed water wheel on the site of the old Bonser mine
Looking up Red Dell Beck with the remains of mine workings visible high up on the fell
Bridge at the bottom of Red Dell Beck
The copper clad rock and truck were created as part of a temporary art installation – Copper in our veins – to celebrate the area’s heritage in 2019
Remains of Upper Bonser Mill
The Coppermines Youth Hostel (I wasn’t staying here!) was once the mine manager’s office, stores and kitchen
“Irish Row” – miner’s cottages on the fellside.
Looking back up the valley

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.

A short break in Coniston

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.

Looking over to the Old Man
Looking across the lake to Brantwood, Ruskin’s former home
The Gondola sailing by
Jetty near Torver
Into the woods

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.

Looking towards the Yewdale crags
Spotty sheep!
Evening light over Coniston Water