East of Ullswater

It’s wild and windy outside as I write this, not very summery. But a couple of weeks ago we had a mini heatwave for a few days, so I decided to abandon sitting staring at a computer screen for a day and get out for a walk.

Where to go? The Lake District was starting to open up – I’d seen plenty of posts on social media from people getting up on the fells – but I’d also seen reports of some popular spots getting crowded with day trippers, leaving litter and, potentially spreading something worse. So I thought I’d go somewhere I expected to be a little quieter and where I hadn’t been before, the fells on the north eastern side of Ullswater. I drove up to Penrith on the M6 and then along the country roads to Pooley Bridge – the bridge after which the village is named being reconstructed and so traffic can’t get across from the west side of the lake.

It was fairly quiet as I walked through the village with a few walkers and locals about, but it was only early morning. It was already warm and sunny, but with some cloud about. It would get busier later on but for now it was easy to avoid close contact. I took the minor road up towards Askham fell which soon turned into a track leading up on to the fells.

DSC08161

I could see my first destination for the day, Arthur’s Pike, over the fields

DSC08160
DSC08164
DSC08165

There’s Arthur’s Pike again over to the right

DSC08166

Climbing higher, I reached a signpost that wasn’t that helpful.

DSC08167

Had I travelled through a time portal? Not really. There used to be a Roman road, High Street, that ran over these fells than ran from the Roman fort at Brougham (Brocavum) near Penrith to the fort at Ambleside (Galava) and this signpost, and a stone bench, the Roman Seat, has been erected on the former route by the Friends of the Ullswater Way.

I carried on and then turned south towards the Cockpit, a Bronze Age stone circle

DSC08171
DSC08172

carrying on, I diverted off the route of the Roman road taking the path towards Arthur’s Pike. It was a relatively easy, gradual climb up to the summit – just as well as I’d not dome much hill walking of late. After the heavy downpours we’d had in the preceding weeks it was boggy underfoot in places

DSC08174
DSC08178
Arthur’s Pike

Reaching the summit I stopped for a while to refuel and took in the views

DSC08181

My next objective was the neighbouring hill of Bonscale Pike. As the crow flies it’s only a short distance between the summits, but there isn’t a direct route so I had to take a “dog leg” to reach it,

DSC08184

dipping down a valley, passing this sheep fold,

DSC08185

crossing a stream and then climbing back up the fell side.

Reaching the summit, the views over Ullswater and the high mountains on the other side of the lake were pretty stunning

DSC08187
Looking over Hallin and Place Fells with the Helvelyn range over the lake
DSC08192
I could see Skiddaw in the distance
DSC08190
Looking north over the flatter terrain towards Pooley bridge

Bonscale Pike, which overlooks the small settlement of Howtown, is well known for it’s two “towers” – tall stone structures

It’s a steep climb up from Howtown – my route was definitely easier.

Time to retrace my steps now and make my way over to the old Roman road route. the terrain was’t so interesting and it was boggy underfoot. But I carried on making my way to the next objective, Loadpot Hill.

DSC08193

On the way up to the summit, on the hillside a hundred metres or so away, I spotted a red deer. it looked at me for a while and then skipped off. Nearby Martindale has the oldest herd of wild red deer in England. It’s the only pure red deer herd in the country, as, unlike other herds there’s been no cross-breeding with the imported Sika deer. I’d heard the deer during rutting season on a walk a couple of years ago, but this was the first time I’d seen one of them.

Loadpot Hill isn’t one of the most interesting Fells. The views from the summit aren’t that great compared to Bonscale Pike. No lake and only distant views of the mountains over the moorland.

I had a decision to make now – how to get back to Pooley bridge. I could have retraced my steps but instead I decided to extend my walk a little and descend down Fusedale to Howown and then make my way back on the flatter option of the Ullswater Way.

So I carried on, picking up the route of the Roman road again. There was a path shown on the map descending down Fusedale between Loadpot Hill and Wether Hill. Well, I’m not really a collector of Wainwrights, but as the path was not far from the summit, I though I might as well “tick it off”. I was taking a short break when another walker arrived, a young woman. We chatted for a while. She’d been following the same route as myself and was also going to descend down to Howtown. Neither of us had spotted the path that was shown on the map but we agreed it looked like it wouldn’t be too difficult a descent. I left before her, knowning she’d soon overtake me. I couldn’t trace the path so descended over the grassy slope – it wasn’t too difficult and it wasn’t that wet underfoot. My OS map app indicated I was on the line of the path. Then, a short distance over to my right I spotted the young woman walker who shouted over to me that’s she’s found a path, so I made my way over and then carried on descending down the hillside.

The views were really opening up now

DSC08196
Steel Knotts

Descending down Fusedale

Looking back up the valley

Approaching Howtown

The small lakeside settlement is one of the stops for the Ullswater Steamer. They weren’t running due to the Covid 19 restrictions still in place, but there were plently of people on the lake side and enjoying the cool water. I kept my distance but could resist cooling myself off with some of the water from the lake

I now started to follow the Ullswater Way. It’s a popular route in more normal times and is well signposted. It was quiet today, though. I’d decided on the low level option – the main, higher level route would have taken me back onto the fells near the Cockpit stone circle, but there were quite a few miles back to Pooley Bridge and I didn’t wan’t to overdo it on a hot day.

getting closer to Pooley Bridge

There were quite a few groups of people enjoying the sunshine by the lakeside, but it wasn’t difficult to keep my distance.

I was pretty tired when I reached my car as I’d walked much further than I’d originally intended. But I felt pleased and de-stressed after a great walk over a variety of terrains with some superb views. I treated myself to an ice-cream from a local shop before getting back in the car an setting off on my journey back home. Only an hour and a half away.

Limestone Pavement and a Romano-British Fortress

DSC08123

Last Sunday (14 June) I decided I needed to get out to clear my head after what had been a stressful week. After the experience at the start and finish of my last walk starting from Rivington on a Sunday I decided I’d stray a little further afield to somewhere where I’d be much less likely to encounter crowds of day trippers. The Westmorland Dales near to Orton looked like a good bet. It’s just over an hour’s drive away, usually very quiet and the countryside, dominated by an extensive limestone pavement, is quite different to the peat moorlands and pleasant woodland closer to home.

The Westmorland Dales became part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park in 2016 (although they’re in Cumbria) but are still relatively unknown. The area has the most extensive area of limestone pavement in the UK outside the Ingleborough area in Yorkshire. They would have been more extensive at one time as the limestone has been exploited in the past. Former limestone kilns, used to create lime for construction and agriculture, are dotted across the landscape – I spotted one in the distance during my walk – and limestone has also been removed for use as garden ornaments. As an important site for a variety of wildlife and plantlife the area is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

I drove up the M6, turning off an Tebay and then up the quiet road through Orton and parked up in a small rough parking area a couple of miles north of the village. There were another three cars parked up there, but nobody in sight.

I set off on a path heading north east across the moor and soon encountered the first traces of the limestone pavement

It was almost silent other than the call of the birds, including a couple of curlews circling overhead. It was good, too, to hear the song of the skylarks.

I carried on along the lonely path, passing a herd of long horned cattle

DSC08096

There were the high Pennine fells – including Cross Fell and High Cup Nick – in the distance

DSC08097

reaching a dry stone wall

DSC08100

I followed its course until I reached a minor road. My route took me along the tarmac for a couple of miles. It was quiet, although I was passed by three cars as I sauntered down the lane

DSC08104

I had a peek over the wall at some of the locals munching on their breakfast

DSC08102

As I carried on down the lane, there was more evidence of the limestone in the landscape

DSC08107
DSC08108

I turned right off the tarmac and took a track through the fields heading towards Sunbiggin

then after about a kilometre I took the path to the right through the fields. The OS indicates that there used to be some sort of settlement here, but I didn’t stop to look. There was a herd of cows with their cattle standing by the path and, although they moved out of my way, they stood close by looking at me rather suspiciously.

DSC08109

The path carried on along the edge of the fields, running parallel to the wall

DSC08113

Eventually the landscape became dominated by the slabs of limestone

DSC08114
DSC08115

I was now on open access land so diverted off the path to explore the limestone pavement which meant hopping over the clints while avoiding getting my foot stuck in one of the grykes.

Clints (sometimes called by their German name, flachkarren) are the blocks of limestone that form the pavement. They are chemically weathered so that their surface is covered by a series of pits and hollows (called karren).

Grykes are fissures separating the clints in a limestone pavement. They may be well over a metre in depth, and formed when the joints in the limestone were widened by chemical weathering.

British Geological Survey
DSC08117
DSC08119
DSC08128

The vegetation is very different than on the acid peat on the Pennine moors nearer to home

DSC08124
DSC08125
DSC08121

I made my way, carefully, until I reached my objective – the former Romano-British settlement at Castle Folds, where I stopped for a bite to eat.

DSC08126

It didn’t look much on the ground – limestone blocks surrounding more open ground – but it’s a historic site, the location of a defended position used by members of a Romano-British tribe

The monument is an unusual example in Cumbria of a heavily defended Romano-British stone hut circle settlement. Unlike many Romano-British settlements which were enclosed or ‘defended’ in such a way as to protect both inhabitants and stock from casual marauders, Castle Folds appears, by the very nature of its inaccessible location and strongly defended stone enclosure wall, to have been constructed in response to a threat of much greater proportions. 

Historic England

In Medieval times it was used as a shieling – a place for shepherds to stay in grazing season. and some of the ruined structures reflect the modifications made during this period.. 

It’s difficult to make out much from ground level, but the outline can be more clearly seen from the air, as in this photo sourced from Wikipedia (looking south with the Howgill Fells in the background)

By Simon Ledingham, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13152478

After a break, I carried on hopping over more limestone

DSC08132

I clambered over a drystone wall to the summit of the hill to take in the views towards the Howgills

DSC08138

and the Shap Fells to the west

DSC08143

My next objective was Beacon Hill, across the valley

DSC08142

I set off down the hill to join the path down intot eh valley and then up the hill towards the monument at the summit of the hill

DSC08146
DSC08145
DSC08148
DSC08149

The monument at the summit had been erected to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria

DSC08150

I stopped for a break and took in the 360 degree views

DSC08151

then it was to head back across the moor to the car.

The car park was busier than when I arrived, but wasn’t full. There were three people sitting next to their cars in fold up chairs eating a picnic. I’m always amazed by people who do this. Drive to a car park an sit there having a picnic. There was a decent view from their seats, albeit surrounded by cars. It they’d only walked a few metres they’d have had an even better view.

Here’s a shot I took looking north west from the car parks. there’s the distinctive shape of the saddle back of Blencathra in the distance

DSC08159

Return to the Moors

Like most people – but unlike a certain Gollum like Government advisor – as best as I can I’ve been sticking to both the letter and the spirit of the Government’s requirements and advice to try to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. That means I’ve been working for home and sticking to local walks in the Plantations, respecting best I can “social distancing”. However, since last week we’ve been “allowed” to travel further for exercise and as Wednesday was a hot and sunny day, I decided to bunk off work during the afternoon, drive 7 miles over to Rivington and get out for a walk up on the Moors.

The car parks around Rivington were jammed, to say the least, but I avoided the crowds around the “honeypots” and rather than head up the Pike, which would have been heaving with people, set off down a quiet path heading towards Anglezarke.

I took the path to the east of Yarrow reservoir, passing only a handful of people

and quite a few sheep

including a number of a black breed (not sure what they were).

At Allance Bridge, rather than take the track up Lead Mine Clough I cut up the track up across the rough fields

with great views over the moors

and towards Winter Hill.

Over the stile onto the open access land.

Passing more sheep.

I cut across the peat, covered with cotton grass, heading towards the modest summit of Hurst Hill. With all the dry weather we’ve had while we’ve all been locked down the ground was dry (it’s usually a quagmire) but as there wasn’t a definite path the going across the rough ground was hard work.

Reaching the summit I stopped for a chat with a couple of other walkers (keeping 2 metres apart), one who lived very close to the house where I lived during my teenage years.

Long range visibility was poor

but there were good views over the moors

My next objective, along a more definite path, was Round Loaf, a prehistoric (Late Neolithic or Bronze Age) bowl barrow burial mound, which is a Scheduled Monument.

There’s a number of prehistoric relics in the area, including Pikestones, a collection of stones that used to be a Neolithic burial mound, which is only a short distance away.

Climbing to the top of the tumulus there were good views over the moors to Rivington Pike and Winter Hill

and, in the opposite direction, towards Great Hill.

I had a number of options of routes to follow but I decided to make my way back over the rough peat towards Lead Mine Clough,

where I crossed over the river and then cut across on the path heading east.

I walked a short distance along the track used by the local farmers towards the ruined farm known as “Sims”

and the took the path towards Rivington

Looking back.

I crossed the young River Yarrow

Looking back again.

The path took me across rough ground and then through a field of horses before I reached the road.

It was only a short distance to the start of the path I’d walked along earlier on the east side of the Yarrow Reservoir. I retraced my steps back towards Rivington, passing the dam where there were a few small well separated groups sun bathing.

I took the path back to Rivington village, past the Chapel and then across the fields back to my car completing a 9 mile circuit.

After being restricted to walking through woodland for the past couple of months it had been good to get up on some rougher, open country. I’ll definitely be back up on the moors again a few times over the next few weeks.

Pining for the Lakes

DSC06904

Like everyone else, my plans for getting out and about this Spring and Summer have been torpedoed by the Covid-19 situation. I had originally intended to spend a few days in the Lake District at the beginning of May again this year, having enjoyed a short solo walking break up there for the past two years. It helps to spend some time getting away from things, relaxing (if you can call fell walking relaxing!) and clearing my head. But, alas, not to be this year, which is made even more frustrating that the weather was so good.

P3054016

Even though our Clown Minister and the host of second raters “running” the country have now declared we can drive off anywhere we like for exercise (in England only, as the Scots and Welsh administrations are taking a more cautious approach), I’m going to respect the wishes of the locals and stay closer to home for a while. So, I’ve had to get my “fix” of the Lake District in other ways. Work has kept me busy (busier than it would have been without the virus – although with less income) but I have managed to spend some time looking at my photos from previous trips, reading books and blogs, watching videos and listening to podcasts about the Lakes, and some other favourite mountainous regions. Not as good as being there, of course, but, you have to take your pleasures the best way you can!

I’ve accumulated a decent little library of books about the Lake District, Snowdonia and other favourite areas for walking, but am always adding to it (I can’t help myself!) and just a few days ago this arrived through the letter box.

I’d pre-ordered this book a short while ago and had been looking forward to it being published and arriving. The blurb from the publisher (a small Lakeland company) tells us that

In Life on the Mountains Terry presents more than 100 exclusive photos from a decade on the fells, and speaks candidly about his troubled early life, a disowned father, depression and his love of real ale before revealing the tricks and techniques of his craft and detailing the landscapes he’s grown to love.

Terry has produced marvellous documentaries about two iconic mountains, Scafell Pike and Blencathra, and is about to release a third about Helvellyn, although the premiere, which was due to be held at the Rheghed Centre near Penrith, has had to be postponed. I’ve enjoyed both of his films, edited versions which have been shown on BBC 4. The book contains some marvellous photographs of the Lakeland fells – I wish mine looked half as good – and it was interesting to read about his early life and insights about the making of the films.

There are clips from Terry’s work on Youtube, but I also discovered that he’s been streaming on Facebook too, where he talks about his work and shows clips from his films, including the upcoming one about Helvellyn. I’ve particularly enjoyed watching his Facebook streams – he’s quite a character!

Included with the book was a leaflet advertising a podcast, Countrystride, which is produced by Dave Felton, who runs Inspired by Lakeland, the company that’s published Terry Abraham’s book, and presented by Mark Richards, whose written guidebooks about the Lakes, including the eight-volume Lakeland Fellranger series, published by Cicerone. I’ve started listening to the podcasts, including one featuring a walk up Wetherlam from Tilberthwaite with George Kitching, the author of the Lakeland Walking Tales blog, which I follow. George has commented on my little blog a few times, so it was good to hear him talking on the podcast. The Countrystride blog is also worth visiting, for as well as the links to the podcasts it features some excellent line drawings, one for each episode, in a style similar to Alfred Wainwright, by Mark Richards.

I’ve found a few programmes to listen to on the BBC Sounds App too. Recent programmes include a walk along the Miner’s Way in the Wicklow Mountains by the Irish poet Jane Clarke, an old episode of Clare Balding’s Ramblings from Radio 4 in Glendalough in the Wicklow Mountains, and a series of essays about mountainous areas in Wales which had been aired on Radio 3.

I’ve also been watching a few videos by Abbie Barnes, a very enthusiastic young female film maker who has filmed her walks in the Lake District and elsewhere. She has a her own production company, Songthrush Productions. I’ve enjoyed “accompanying” her on her walks – not as good as actually being there, but not a bad substitute in these strange times.

Recommendations of other videos, podcasts and the like, gratefully received!

Cat Bells, the Newlands Valley and a short stroll along Derwent Water

The final day of my week off in March and, although we didn’t know it at the time, just over a week until the “lockdown”. The Government’s policy at the time was to develop “herd immunity” and and in an interview in the Sunday Times – behind a paywall! – the Health Secretary was talking about locking up the elderly and other vilnerable people for 3 months. Government policy seemed confused and uncler, but there didn’t seem to be any reason not to go up to the Lakes for a walk, where I’d be in contact with fewer people than I would have been back in Wigan.

I set off early and driving up the M6 traffic was noticeably quieter than normal, but it was far from deserted. Arriving in Keswick I found a place to park on the old road to Pontiscale – now a dead end for traffic but a popular free place to park. After donning my boots and rucksac I set off, crossing the footbridge over the river and walked through Portiscale village, passing the appartment where we stayed a couple of summers ago.

It was a relatively easy start to the walk but after about a mile and a half, during a short climb , I realised I’d left my walking poles in the car. They take some of the strain off my dodgy old knees when descending, but I’d gone too far to turn back to retrieve them so I soldiered on.

DSC07908

About 40 minutes after setting out I reached the foot of Cat Bells. It’s a smaller fell and in easy reach of Keswick, so it’s a popular climb and I expected to see a few other walkers on the way up. The sign told us it was an hour to the top. The last time I went up here it took me about 40 minutes, but as I hadn’t done a lot of fell walking of late I wasn’t sure I’d manage to equal that this time.

As expected there were other walkers making their way to the top, probably not as many as usual, although it was still relatively early. I wan’t the slowest by any means, although I stopped several times to take in the view (not just and excuse to pause for breath – honest!).

DSC07912

I arrived at the summit after 45 minutes, so not quite as quick as last time. It was a grey day so the fells didn’t look their best, but he views were still magnificent even with cloud covering some of the higher fells – it made them look atmospheric.

DSC07915
DSC07913
DSC07914

After a short break to take some photos I resumed my walk, heading south, downhill towards Newlands hawse. I could have carried on along the ridge up to Maiden Moor and High Spy or down to the shores of Derwent Water, but my plan was to descend down to Newlands Valley.

DSC07919
Old mine workings
DSC07920
DSC07929
Looking back down the valley
DSC07931

Newlands is something of a “secret valley” much less trod than the east side of the ridge and I passed very few people – just a handful of walkers and a mountain biker (older than me!)

DSC07934

There was some rain around and I spotted a rainbow

Reaching the bottom of the path up to Cat Bells, rather than retrace my steps back to the car, as it was stoll early in the afternoon, I decided to walk round to Derwent Water and take a gentle stroll part way along the lake shore.

DSC07940
DSC07942
DSC07945
Sculpture commemorating the 100th anniversary of the National Trust

I was half tempted to continue on all round the lake, but that was a bit ambitious! Time was getting on so I turned round and retraced my steps, along the shore, back towards Portinscale and then over the bridge to my car.

DSC07949
Another monument to the National Trust – a bench this time
DSC07952
There’s the launch – not many passengers today
DSC07956
I wandered lonely as a cloud …… (wrong lake, mind)
DSC07960

Arriving back at my car I decided to drive into Keswick and visit a favourite bookshop – just enough time to browse and make a purchase before closing time.

Freshfield to Southport

Well, 2020 has been a real “annus horriblus” so far. First the storms in February which more or less kept us indoors, no walks no gallery visits, no theatre, no cinema. And now, to top it all, the Corona virus. At the moment I’m stuck inside on a nice day, work in limbo, wondering how our small training and consultancy company is going to survive, and pondering whether I should go out for a walk while maintaining “social distancing”. Oh well, an opportunity to catch up with all sorts of things I’m behind on, reading, watching some films and TV, DIY (ugh!) and, of course, writing up some blog posts.

Walking during February was mainly restricted to local walks around the Plantations during any “weather windows” that occurred. Just 2 weeks ago I took a week off work, as our son was using up some holidays, intending to get out for some family days out. The weather was awful on the first couple of days but the Wednesday afternoon was looking reasonably promising in South West Lancashire so I decided to get out for a walk by the coast near Southport. The family declined to join me preferring to stay indoors.

I travelled over by train (on reflection that might not have been such a bright idea) over to Freshfields, which is at the northern end of Formby. Leaving the station, I followed the path that runs along the east side of the railway line. I was soon walking through some woodland.

I crossed over the railway line

and was soon crossing the golf course (watch out for flying golf balls!) towards the extensive pine forest on the sand dunes.

There’s a network of paths in the woods and although I had a rough idea of where I wanted to end up I decided to wander randomly, taking twists and turns as I fancied. There were a few other people walking through the woods and several cyclists riding solo or in groups.

Eventually I came out of the woods and started following the path through the dunes in the direction of Ainsdale.

That was a bit of a mistake. Expecting relatively easy going I’d come out in my walking shoes rather than my boots and I started to encounter lengthy sections of the path which were flooded, too deep to consider wading through.

and most of the sections didn’t have conveniently placed (if rather wobbly!) stepping stones to cross on. I persevered, finding ways around the worst of the flooding and boggy areas and I eventually crossed over the dunes on to the beach at Ainsdale.

The sun was shining and the sky was blue but there was a strong southerly wind whipping across the beach so although I’d originally intended to walk back along the beach to Freshfields I decided I’d carry on in the direction of Southport. A little longer but, I thought, it would be easier going with the wind behind me.

The going wasn’t as easy as I thought

and eventually I reached an impasse where a wide channel of fast running water blocked my way. I had to retreated turning back along the beach walking into a strong head wind.

After about 20 minutes, when I was half way back to Ainsdale, there was a path into the dunes which headed in the direction of Southport. I set off through the dunes, thinking I’d either divert off to catch the train at Birkdale or, if I felt up to it, carry on to Southport.

Walking was reasonably easy on a good path sheltered from the wind, but I could see dark clouds looming out at sea which seemed to be rapidly approaching, driven by the strong wind. No worries – I had a waterproof coat in my rucksack.

I carried on, deciding to continue past Birkdale and on to Southport. It’s somewhere with a lot of memories for me as we had regular days out there when I was a child. My fathers parents both came from the Victorian sea-side town and we had family there, including great grandparents, who we used to visit. I think another reason for visiting Southport, through, was that it had fewer costly attractions than the brasher Blackpool further up the coast!

As I got closer to the town I was amazed just how much of what had been a sandy beach had silted up and had turned into salt marsh.

Reaching the outskirts of town I passed Pleasureland, looking rather sad and forlorn being closed for the winter

but then reached the Marine Lake.

Southport was always famous for the sea being a long way out, so the Marine Lake was created to compensate for this and give visitors a chance to promenade alongside the water, so that’s what I decided to do!

I walked along the lake as far as the pier, and took the steps up on to the deck. The wind was still blowing so I decided against walking down to the end (the tide was way out, anyway) and set off towards the Prom, but I took a shot down the pier

Reaching the prom I took some shots of a couple of the sculptures held up high on top of long poles.

(Southport used to be famous for it’s shrimps. I used to pester my parents to buy a cone of them during our days out there when I was young!)

Facing the end of the pier is Nevill Street, where my great grandparents used to live in a flat with a view towards the pier, upstairs in this building

I remember looking out past the statue of Queen Victoria which used to be in the very centre of the road – they’ve moved her over to one side now

At the end of Nevill Street is Lord Street, a long boulevard which some people believe inspired Napoleon III to create the boulevards of Paris (he was exiled there for a while living in lodgings just off Lord Street). I stopped to take a look at the War Memorial. My Great Grandfather’s name is inscribed on it, along with many others. (My great grandmother remarried after the war so the Nevill street great grandfather was my grandad’s step father)

It was starting to go dark now and finally beginning to rain, but it was only a short walk around the block to the train station.

Great Hill in Winter

Over the past few weeks I’ve been busy at work and not had much opportunity to get out and about. The last two weekends have been awful with Storm Ciara and then Storm Dennis sweeping in bringing high winds and torrential rain. So plans have had to be postponed. However, a couple of weeks ago, before the storms, I did manage to get out for a walk up on the moors. I drove over to White Coppice, on the outskirts of Chorley, and set off towards the moors to climb up Great Hill.

It was a chilly, grey winter’s day and very wet and muddy underfoot. But it didn’t rain and some broke through from time to time. In any case, it’s always good to get out on the moors. They might be bleak, but I like bleak.

I passed the cricket pitch – no matches there for a while yet!

and then took the path along the Goyt towards Brinscall

On and up through Wheelton Plantations

until I emerged onto the moor

There’s a rough track across the moor, so I didn’t have to wade through mud towards the ruined farm at Drinkwater

Looking towards the summit of Great Hill from the ruins

A short climb and I reached the wind shelter on the summit where I stopped for a brew from my flask

I took the path down in the direction of Spittler’s Edge and then cut across the foot of the hill towards another ruined farm

No sheep up on the moor at this time of year. They’re all down in the fields.

I managed to take a few atmospheric shots with my phone.

I’ve never been to Howarth, but I reckon the Brontes’ “wild and windy moors” aren’t much different than up here.

Looking back towards the top of Great Hill as I descended down the very muddy path towards White Coppice, trying to avoid the worst of the slutch.

Looking over towards Anglezarke Moor

Reaching the bottom of the hill, I took a short diversion up the brook to look at the old mine workings

Rather than go straight back to my car I decided to add on a couple of miles or so to my walk by diverting through Black Coppice towards Anglezarke reservoir

There’s Waterman’s Cottage

Looking across the reservoir towards the cottage

I followed the road along the bottom of Healy Nab heading back towards my starting point. Looking back over towards the moors – the cloud was starting to clear.

The sun was out when I reached the village, it’s rays lighting up the stone of the old cottages

Back at the car I changed out of my muddy boots and trousers (fortunatelyI keep a spare pair in the boot of the car) and set off back towards Chorley and then onwards to home.

A good day on the moors.

Win, Lose and the Mother Hill

DSC07872

Last Saturday I managed to get out for a walk, this time in the Peak District. I took the train into Manchester, changing to catch the train to Hope at Piccadilly. The journey time was an hour and a half, comparable to the time it would have taken to drive there and without the bother of having to find a parking space. I was risking the unreliability of Northern Rail, but all worked out on the day.

The Peak District hills are more modest than those in the Lake District, and the landscape isn’t as dramatic, but has its own beauty and attractions. The area is part of the Dark Peak where Millstone Grit covers the underlying limestone. North of Edale lie bleak, largely deserted, moorland covered with peat bogs. But to the south of the Vale of Edale, the landscape is a little more forgiving and is dominated by the “Great Ridge” running from Mam Tor to Lose Hill. For this walk I’d decided to climb up Win Hill, just to the east of Hope. I’d never been up there before, although I’d walked the “Great Ridge” to the west of the village a few times, most recently back in September, with my friend Pam, from Tasmania. I reckoned it would take me about an hour to reach the summit and then I had a couple of options in mind for the rest of the day, making a decision based on the conditions I’d encounter.

Disembarking from the train, there’s a path through the fields directly from the end of the station platform towards the small hamlet of Aston

DSC07843

From Aston I took the lane up towards the hill

DSC07846
DSC07847

and then up the path over the open moor

DSC07852

There’s the summit – Win Hill Pike – up ahead.

DSC07854

It was windy up on the summit, but there were good views all around

DSC07860
DSC07867

Looking down to Ladybower reservoir

DSC07862
DSC07863
DSC07856

Lose Hill and the bulk of Kinder Scout over the Vale of Edale

DSC07866

I found a sheltered spot out of the wind where I had a bite to eat and some hot coffee from my flask. Then I had a decision to make. I would have liked to carry on along the ridge and then walk over Kinder and descend to Edale. But given the conditions – a strong wind and muddy underfoot (and I reckoned it would be even worse on the higher hill, well known for its peat bogs) I decided to make my way down to Hope and then climb up Lose Hill and then walk along the “Great Ridge”. So I took the muddy path north along the ridge, heading towards Hope Cross

DSC07871
DSC07873
DSC07874
DSC07875

before descending down to Fulwood Stile Farm and Townhead Bridge. From there I took the path up towards Lose Hill.

DSC07876

I reached the summit of Lose Hill, which was busy with other walkers, many having made their way along the ridge from Mam Tor. I stopped to take in the view but there was a strong, cold wind blowing across from the north, so not a good spot to rest and grab a bite to eat.

I snapped a panorama across to the great mass of Kinder Scout.

and then took the path along the ridge towards Mam Tor.

Looking back over the valley to Win Hill

DSC07882

Looking towards Black Tor and Mam Tor

DSC07887

The view back towards Lose Hill

DSC07883

Looking back as I descended the steep path down Black Tor

DSC07889

I reached the “cross roads” at Hollins Cross. There’s MamTor ahead, silhouetted by the low sun

The wind seemed to get stronger as I climbed up to the top of Mam Tor, but it didn’t take too long to reach the summit. It was busy up there, but I managed to snap a photo which makes it look like I was up there on my own. I wasn’t though!

I decided I’d retraced my steps down to Hollins Cross and then descend from there into Castleton. There were plenty of walkers making their way up and down the path

From Hollins Cross, I set off down the hill towards Castleton

Reaching the valley floor, I looked back towards Mam Tor

DSC07898

and across to Lose Hill

DSC07900

I soon reached Castleton.

It’s something of a “honeypot” so was busy with walkers and day trippers. I stopped for a short while to browse in some of the shops purveying “Blue John” jewellery and to buy a bottle of Coke to slake my thirst. Then I set out to take the path back to Hope to catch the train back to Manchester. I could have walked along the road, but there’s a much pleasanter route through the fields. That seemed like the preferable option.

It’s a low lying path, running parallel to the river. But after all the rain we’d been having the fields were drenched and for most of the way the path was so muddy it felt like I was walking through the trenches on the Somme (I’d been to see the film 1917 a few days before and the conditions brought that to mind!)

I was glad I was wearing my gaiters. They kept the bottom of my trousers clean but my boots needed a deep clean the next day!

The muddy conditions meant that it took longer to get across to Hope than I’d expected and the train station is a good kilometre out of the village. It looked like I’d miss my train and have to wait an hour for the next one. But checking the National Rail app on my phone I could see that the train was running 10 minutes late, so I had enough time to get to the station with a couple of minutes to spare! For once I was grateful for Northern Rail’s poor punctuality. The train was busy but I got a seat. It filled up at Edale, the next stop, and it was standing room only until Manchester.

I had a tight connection at Piccadily and thought I’d miss it and have to wait another half hour for the next train. Arriving at the station I legged it across to Platform 12 to find the express to Windermere via Wigan was standing at the platform so I jumped on. 50 minutes later I was back home.

I’d trudged through mud and had been battered by the wind, but I’d enjoyed the walk. I’ve a few more routes in mind around there so hopefully I’ll get back across to the Dark Peak before too long.

A walk up Sheffield Pike

I was keen to get out to break in my new boots. Fortunately work at the beginning of January is usually fairly quiet and as there was a “weather window” forecast for last Friday I was able to take the day off and drive up to the Lakes. Checking out the walking sites on the web I’d read that there had been some snow which was likely to still be up on the high fells above about 400 metres. But the going wasn’t expected to be too difficult, except, perhaps, on the higher mountains.

As the daylight hours are short at the moment, I decided to drive over to Ullswater and tackle one of the more modest fells close to the lake – Sheffield Pike. I parked up at the Glencoyne National Trust car park, donned my walking gear and set off to head towards the fells via the pretty valley of Glencoyne. I’d walked up the valley back in July when I took the path that passes through the garden of Glencoyne farm, right under the farmhouse window! This time I’d decided to take the track past the row of former miners’ cottages known as “Seldom Seen”. This entailed following the Ullswater way a short distance along the lake before crossing the road and then joining the old cart track up through the woods.

Walking through the fields from the car park I could see up the valley and across to Sheffield Pike. Yes, there was definitely snow up there, but it didn’t look too bad. Hopefully my normal gear would be adequate to cope with conditions. Fingers crossed!

Looking down Ullswater from the lakeside path

Setting off down the track towards Seldom Seen

Looking down to Glencoyne farm with it’s tradition Cumbrian round chimney stacks

DSC07767
DSC07766

Approaching the row of cottages

The cottages were built in the 19th Century to house lead miners who worked at the Greenside mine, near Glenridding. It would have been a long,walk to work to the mine, 3 km away across the fell. Just one aspect of the tough lives of the miners. Today the houses are holiday cottages (as any search for “Seldom Seen, Ullswater” will confirm).

Most Greenside miners would have lived in the village of Glenridding and it seemed odd that the houses were built such a long way from the mine when there must have been plenty of land available much closer. According to the following little video, they were built for miners who were Catholic and were housed here to keep them well away from the predominately non-Conformist fellow workers.

DSC07773

I carried on climbing up the path

DSC07774

Looking back there was a great view down to Ullswater

DSC07778

As I climbed I started to see snow on the ground

getting deeper

and deeper as I climbed

There was plenty of snow on the ground at the head of the valley

When I reached Nick Head at the top of the climb, I’d been hoping to get a view of Helvelyn, but the summit was covered with cloud.

I’d not seen another soul since leaving the car park, but now I could see a couple of walkers heading up the path towards Stybarrow Dodd, which I’d followed myself back in July. I hope they were well equipped as the snow would be deeper as they climbed higher. Zoom in on the next photo and you might see them, about two thirds up the hill

DSC07786

I turned in the opposite direction to start the climb to the summit of Sheffield Pike.

DSC07788

Still plenty of snow on the ground, obscuring the path. But there were footprints in the snow, probably from the two walkers I’d spotted who must have come over this way from Glenridding. I used their footprints as a guide. The snow was soft and it was possible to walk through it without the need for crampons (just as well as I don’t have any!) but it obscured the conditions, covering what was boggy ground. I soldiered on, passing another walker coming down the hill, and eventually made it to the summit.

DSC07789

It was cold up here, probably around freezing but with a stiff breeze adding to the wind chill. There was ice clinging to the rocks, but the snow was still OK to stand and walk on and only a couple of inches thick.

Time for a coffee from my flask and a bit to eat while I took in the views.

There was still cloud covering the summit of Helvelyn

DSC07791

and over St Sunday Crag and the fells to the south

It was clearer looking down towards Ullswater

A couple of walkers appeared coming from the opposite direction from myself. They stopped for a while to chat. They were from Newcastle way and were regular walkers in the Lakes. We swapped stories and I asked them which route they’d taken. They’d come up from Glennridding, taking in Glenridding Dodd and then coming up the steep climb to Heron Pike before walking over to the summit of Sheffield Pike. They confirmed that it was OK – with conditions similar to what I’d experienced coming up from Glencoyne.

After saying our goodbyes, I ploughed on through the snow, which once again was largely covering boggy ground, until I reached Heron Pike at the eastern end of the summit plateau.

I stopped to take in the dramatic view down to Ullswater and chatted with another solo walker who was sheltering while he had a bite to eat.

Looking down on Glenridding Dodd with Place Fell over the other side of Ullswater. The High Street Fells were largely obscured by cloud

DSC07796

It’s a sheer drop down over the edge here so a little backtracking was necessary to locate the path that would take me down into the coll between the Pike and the small hill of Glenridding Dodd.

It was a very steep descent and I needed to take care where I placed my feet as if I slipped it was long way down! I came out of the snow about a third of the way down, but I was aware that the rocks would be slippery with ice and, where it had melted, water. No scree though! I passed a couple of groups of walkers coming up the path – keen to get their boots into the white stuff.

Looking back from near the bottom of the descent.

Reaching the coll I decided to take in the modest hill of Glenridding Dodd. This small fell was very popular with Victorian visitors as there’s an excellent view down to Ullswater.

Looking back to Heron Pike from the path up Glenridding Dodd

DSC07807

It didn’t take long to make my way up the path to the summit of the small fell

DSC07821

but I had to carry on a little way across the top of the hill to get the view over Ullswater. (You’ll need to click on the panorama to get a better appreciation of the view)

and looking in the opposite direction back towards Heron Pike

Looking south east there was a lot of cloud over High Street and the nearby fells

DSC07813

There’s Glenridding and the Steamer pier

DSC07814

I made my way down towards Glenridding, which didn’t take too long. Looking back up to the Dodd from the village

DSC07823

I didn’t stop in Glenridding but passed through the village before joining the path along the lake shore, part of the route of Ullswater Way., for the walk of a mile or so back to the Glencoyne car park.

DSC07828
DSC07835
DSC07825
DSC07829
DSC07830
DSC07833

Getting close to car park I looked back over to Glencoyne and Sheffield Pike

DSC07838

Back at the car I changed out of my boots. They’d had a good christening – gravel paths, rock, mud, bogs, snow, ice and a little tarmac!

Driving back along the lake I stopped a mile up the road at the National Trust Aira Force car park. There’s a cafe there which was still open.

Time for a well earned brew with a view of the fell I’d climbed