The Quaker Trail and Winder

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Just a few days after my walk to Dent I was back in sedbergh early on Saturday morning. The weather forecast was good and I had planned to take a walk following the Quaker Trail, a route I’d heard about on John Bainbridge’s blog (Walking the Old Ways). There isn’t any information about the route on the web, but after reading John’s blog post I got hold of the leaflet* showing and describing the route from the information office during a previous visit to Sedbergh last year.

Sedbergh along with other places in the North West of England was effectively the birthplace of the Quaker movement. In 1652 the movement’s founder, George Fox climbed Pendle Hill in Lancashire, where he said that had a vision of a “great people to be gathered” waiting for him. the next day he was up on Firbank Fell, near Sedbergh, preaching to a large crowd, many of them Westmorland Seekers, and this is said to have been the birth of the Society of Friends, better known as the Quakers. I’d be visiting “Fox’s Pulpit”, the site of this event, during my walk.

Now I’m not religious but I have a lot of respect for the Quakers with their stance on Peace and equality, and this walk would give me a perspective on their early history and porvide a focus for a walk that would take me to parts of the countryside around Sedburgh that I wouldn’t otherwise visit. I also had in mind a variation to the route to take me up Winder, the hill overlooking Sedbergh, rather than to just skirt the bottom of the fell, depending on how I felt.

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An early start meant that I arrived in Sedbergh at 9 o’clock so any idea of grabbing a coffee before I set off was a no no as the shops and cafes don’t open until 10. So I set out, walking down the high street, past all the shops (nearly all closed!)

towards St Andrew’s church.

The route started here and took me round the church. I should have then cut across the public rights of way across the sedburgh School playing fields but they were barred due to Covid restrictions, which necessitated a diversion on the road.

passing the school neo-Gothic style chapel.

My old secondary school didn’t have anything like this nor the grand extensive sports fields and facilties. But then I’m only a pleb. Just looking at the facilites is enough to see why those who attend Public Schoold have a head start in life. the buildings all looked very nice, mind.

I was soon walking down a quiet country lane heading for the small hamlet of Birks

Looking back there was a grand view of the Howgill fells towering over Sedbergh.

After passing through Birks I took the path through pleasant fields

and under the disused railway line

and arrived at the first Quaker related site, the samll hamlet of Brigflatts with it’s Quaker burial ground

and Friends Meeting house

This simple whitwashed stone building was built in 1675. It’s normally open to visitors but was closed due to you know what. It would have been good to take a look inside as it retains many of the original oak furnishings. Not surprisingly, it’s a listed building.

I sat for a while in the peaceful garden

The Modernist poet, Basil Bunting wrote a long biographical poem entitled From Briggflatts (notice his spelling of the settlement has an extra g). He was actually from Northumbria but he

visited Brigflatts as a schoolboy when the family of one of his schoolfriends lived there, and it was at this time that he developed a strong attachment to his friend’s sister, Peggy Greenbank, to whom the poem is dedicated.

Wikipedia

There’s an extract and critique of the poem on the Guardian website.

He wrote another, much shorter poem about the Meeting House itself

At Briggflatts Meetinghouse

Boasts time mocks cumber Rome. Wren
set up his own monument.
Others watch fells dwindle, think
the sun’s fires sink.

Stones indeed sift to sand, oak
blends with saint’s bones.
Yet for a little longer here
stone and oak shelter

silence while we ask nothing
but silence. Look how clouds dance
under the wind’s wing, and leaves
delight in transience.

(source Durham University ⇨ Basil Bunting Poetry Centre )

So a literary, as well as a historical and religious significance for such a small group of buildings.

Moving on I had to walk down the pathless A683 for a hundred yards or so – but it was very quiet and only one vehicle and a couple of cyclists passed by. I then joined a track that led to Ingmire Hall, a 16th Century house, modified during the Victorian period, that was built around the remains of a pele tower

The route passed by the grounds of the grand house which wasn’t visible from the path.

It now took a long “dog leg” through the fields that eventually led to teh banks of the Lune and the old Lincoln’s Inn bridge

I’d driven over this narrow bridge on the way to Sedbergh from the M6

I crossed the bridge carefully and after a short stretch of road, I climbed over a stile and was back on a footpath through the fields just after Lincoln Inn farm. There was a most excellent view of the Howgills as I crossed the field

After crossing another minor road I crossed a field of sheep and then there was a steep climb through woodland

and then through another field and a farm track to reach another minor road.

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About half a mile up the road and I’d reached Fox’s Pulpit

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It was here that George Fox addressed a gathering of Westmorland Seekers. There used to be a chapel on the adjacent site but

Fox wouldn’t go into the chapel to preach but instead waited until the people emerged from the chapel at lunchtime and then climbed on to the nearby crag ….. and for three hours adressed the gathered crowd.

The Sedbergh Quaker Trail leaflet

He had his desired effect, convincing a significant number of his listeners and the even is seen as the founding of the Quaker movement. An annual event takes place close to the anniversary of the 1652 Meeting. Afterwards attendess go over to Brigflatts for refreshments.

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The text on the commemorative plaque reads

Let your lives speakHere or near this rock George Fox preached to about one thousand seekers for three hours on Sunday, June 13, 1652. Great power inspired his message and the meeting proved of first importance in gathering the Society of Friends known as Quakers. Many men and women convinced of the truth on this fell and in other parts of the northern counties went forth through the land and over the seas with the living word of the Lord enduring great hardships and winning multitudes to Christ.

The site is in the middle of nowhere, up on Firbank Fell, exposed to the elements – the old chapel was badly damaged by a storm in the 19th century and was demolished.

The “pulpit” stands at the foot of a group of knobbly hills known as the Knotts.

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I clambered up to the highest point and was treated to a magnificant panorama over the Howgill Fells.

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Looking in the other direction, I could just make out the distinctive profile of Ill Bell but long range visibility in that direction was too poor to get a good view over the Kentmere Fells. But, hety, the view over the Howgills more than made up for that.

While I was standing taking in the view I noticed that a number of locals were looking at me

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The Rough Fell sheep found up here are one of the three breeds of sheep native to Cumbria. They always seem much less timid than most breeds and often wander over to have a look at strangers.

I made my way down to the path skirting the bottom of the Knotts, passed through a couple of fields and then there was a short walk along the quiet road to Goodies farm

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where I turned down a track which took me downhill,

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over the course of the disused railway line

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and then down to the River Lune, crossing over the wooden footbridge

Looking down at the river

Leaving the river behind a path took me up to join the route of the Dales Way, which I now followed for a few miles in the direction of Sedburgh, initially passing through a farmyard

and then through fields of sheep with their lambs

Looking over to teh Knotts

Reaching the farm at Bramaskew, I turned off the Dales Way and took a path through more fields of sheep, crossing over another minor road and then over a stile on the path that took me up to and through Crosedale Wood

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and then on towards the fell gate

which took me onto the bottom of the fells.

Looking over to Arant Haw

The published route now followed the fell wall back towards Sedbergh, but this is where I decided that I would go up Winder, one of the smaller Howgill Fells, which overlooks Sedbergh.

I have to admit that I didn’t find the climb easy going. I am definitely not “fell fit”, but it wasn’t a long haul and I made it to the top

I stopped for a break and a bite to eat and took in the views.

Looking towards Arant Haw

and over to the Dales

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I was a little tempted by Arran haw, but decided I’d done enough, especuially as climbing Winder had felt like hard work – I really need to get more in shape – so started to make my way back off the fells to Sedbergh.

I arrived back in the small town at 3:30 so had time to go over to the Four Hares to buy myself a fortifying coffee and to treat myself to a rather tasty raspberry frangipane. Yummy.

It was just as well that the shops shut at 4 o’clock. Sedbergh is a “Book Town” and most shops have a stock of second hand books. I did find time to browse for a short time in the Information centre where they have a large selection, but I managed to avoid temptation. Sedbergh might be Book Town but I live in Book House and I have rather a large “to be read” pile at the moment, not counting all the unread e-books on my Kindle!

I sat on a bench in the small garden by the Information Centre enjoying my coffee and cake in the sunshine, but I hadn’t done quite yet. It was far too nice a day to drive home just yet, so I decided to dump my rucksac in the boot and take a stroll through the town and along the river side. But this post has gone on long enough! 😉

p.s. Nobody tried to convert me during this walk!

*A booklet on the Sedbergh Quaker Trail with a route description, including maps, can be purchased from the Information Centre for the modest price of £1:50

Bog trotting to Dent

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I managed to take a day off work mid week to make the most of some decent weather and get out for a walk. I didn’t fancy driving too far so decided on Sedbergh. After my walk up Seat Sandal I realised I wasn’t “fell fit” so opted for a less strenuous walk exploring the hills to the south of the small town rather than attempting the Howgills and also explore an area I’d never been to before – Dentdale. I’d spotted a route on the Sedbergh town website and based my plans on that, extending the walk to start from Sedbergh town centre and taking in Dent village before looping back. It crossed the low fell of Frostwick but wouldn’t involve too much strenuous climbing. I should, however have taken more notice of a comment in the walk description

“The path, can be very boggy in places”

and taken a closer look at the Harvey map which is very good at showing boggy areas.

It was a Wednesday and I hadn’t realised it was market day in Sedbergh, but I managed to find a space in the Market Square Car park – the small town wasn’t exactly heaving. I had a quick look over the small number of stalls, mainly selling local produce – meat, cheese and vegetables – and wish now that I’d picked up some of the tempting goodies on offer!

I booted up and then walked through the town and crossed the “New Bridge” over the River Rawthey. I passed a snack van parked in the lay by just after the bridge and, although it was only about 11 o’clock, the aroma of the bacon was just too tempting, so I had to stop and buy myself a bacon buttie. Very good it was too.

I carried on along the A684 for a short distance and then turned up the lane that led up to Frostrow, passing a number of houses and farms.

After the last farm, the tarmaced lane turned into a stoney track and then, after climbing a ladder stile I was on the path that would take me up over the moor.

As i started to climb there was a great view back to Sedbergh and the Howgills

This part of the route was part of the Dales High Way and is was easy to follow on the ground. But there were substantial stretches of boggy land to traverse, despite the weather being reasonably dry of late.

It was impossible to keep my boots dry as I tried to hop from one patch of drier land to another, but for much of the way it was a lost cause. However, I didn’t get sucked in to the peat (well, not too often or too deep, anyway) and although my boots got wet they’re waterproof so my feet stayed dry.

It was quiet and lonely up on the moor. There wasn’t another soul up there. Real “social isolation”.

As I was walking up the moor, cloud had been coming in and patches of the sky looked pretty dark for a while. But the cloud didn’t persist too long and largely cleared during the afternoon.

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Enjoying the walk and deep in thought as I walked across the moor, I missed my turning that would take me down in Dentdale, continuing to climb Aye Gill Pike. I’d gone probably a mile walking through the boggiest section of the moor before I realised my mistake and had to retrace my steps. There was a sign by the path announing the start of the area of Open access land, and this is where I should have turned right and gone through the gate to start descending off the moor. I didn’t miss it again, though, as I came back down from the bog.

I could see Dent village down in the valley as I descended down the path, which was still part of the Dales High Way.

I passed a farm

where the path turned into a lane which then took me down hill as far as the road from Sedbergh to Dent

After walking along a short stretch of road I reached the bridge which took the road over the River Dee (not, of course the one that runs through Chester). However, I continued straight on along a minor road that ran close to the right bank of the river

Looking over towards Aye Gill Pike .

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After about a mile I took a path that cut across a field and then crossed the bridge and walked down the road into Dent. I needed to be careful now and keep my eyes open for one of those Terrible Knitters.

Dent is a small village and is one of those places that are frozen in time, with lots of attractive old cottages and other buildings and with minimal more modern development.

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I passed the old chuch of St Andrews, built in the12th Century but obviously having undergone several modifications since then.

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I spotted a branch of Martins bank. I was definitely in a time warp then, as Martins was taken over by barclays in 1969!

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After wansering around the streets of the village (which didn’t take long) I set off on the return leg of my journey. I’d now be following the Dales way back to Sedbergh which initially took me along the south bank of the river

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After a couple of miles the route left the riverbank and joined a quiet road for about a mile.

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At brackensgill farm I turned off the road on to a path through the fields

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and on to a footbridge where I crossed the river.

The path then took me to the Sedbergh to Dent road which I crossed and then took the track that started to climb the fell. The Dales Way, which I was still following, then veered to the left gradually climbing and contouring along the side of the hill heading towards Sedbergh.

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After a while Sedbergh, backed by the Howgills came into view

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I came down off the fell into the small settlement of Millthrop, a very pleasant former mill village

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I walked down to the road and crossed over Millthrop Bridge. Built in the 17th Century it’s a listed building.

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A short distance after the bridge I took a path that cut across the fields up to towards Winder House, which is part of the Sedbergh Public School

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The path then took me past sport fields down to the centre of the village.

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It was almost 6 o’clock now, so, as everything in Sedbergh shuts no later than 4 o’clock, there was nowhere to stop and treat myself to a brew. So it was off with the boots and back in the car for the drive home.

A walk in the Westmorland dales

A couple of weeks ago I drove up the M6 to the Westmorland Dales near to Orton, which I’d last visited back in June. I fancied a walk somewhere relatively quiet and I knew this area in the north of the Yorkshire Dales National Park (despite being in Cumbria) would fit the bill. It was forecast to be a fine day and I knew that the Lakes and the more popular parts of the Dales were likely to be busy. It’s not far off the motorway and only just over an hour’s drive from home – at least when the traffic isn’t so heavy on the M6.  The terrain is different from most of the lakes too – it’s limestone country. I parked up in a small rough parking area a couple of miles north of Orton village, donned my boots and set off. I had a route in mind, longer than during my last visit, treading over some of the same ground.

It was a fine, bright morning – a little chilly after a cloud free night in autumn. Looking over to the Pennines in the distance there was cloud over Cross Fell (the highest point in England outside of the Lake District), Great Dun Fell and High Cup Nick.

I walked over the moor and turning south and made my way over the limestone pavement towards the monument on Beacon Hill.

There was a small group of cyclists sitting by the monument. I sat down a few metres away from them and had a coffee from my flask.

Looking back over the limstone pavement towards the Pennines

and over to the North Lakes – there’s Blencathra with its distinctive “saddeback” in the distance

I carried on down towards the extensive limestone pavement of Grat Asby Scar

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There were very few people about.

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Quite a few sheep, mind

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After a while the path turned into a track and then joined a minor road. I continued along the tarmac about half a kilometre then turned south along a path through the fields. I watched a couple of shepherds herding a small flock into the back of their trailer. There were more sheep further on and some cattle too.

Looking over farmland towards the Pennines

At the end of the fourth field my I turned right beside the drystone wall heading south west. Last time I was up here there were cattle in the field close to the path that were eying me up. I’d felt a little nervous. There were cattle here again, with their calves, but further back from the path. One of them was making quite a bit of noise so I made my way briskly to the gate into the next field. I carried on eventually reaching more limestone pavement. Reaching a junction I turned south down the route of the long distance trail, the Dales High Way – a path I hadn’t followed during previous visits.

I carried on down the Dales High Way, through fields

passing stunted trees

heading towards Sunbiggin tarn, a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

with views of the Howgill Fells in the distance

Time to stop for a little while to eat my packed lunch and drink another coffee. It’s quite a lonely place, off the beaten track. There were a couple of horse riders just up the hill and a couple of cars parked up on the road, but their owners must have been off on a walk.

I retraced my steps for about a kilometre and then turned west towards the small settlement of Sunbiggin

I was now on the route of the Coast to Coast path and passed a few walkers heading in the opposite direction, at least some of them following the long distance route.

I walked on a short section of tarmac before turning west across more fields.

I spotted these unusual spotted sheep in a field from the road

I’d never seen sheep like them before and a little research on the Internet revealed them to be Dutch Spotted Sheep. An unusual breed in the UK.

There were good views over to the Howgills

Back onto softer ground which was muddy in places, especially by the gates, following some recent heavy rain.

There were sheep in some of the fields I had to cross, which wasn’t a worry. I could see some cattle in adjacent fields, and was hoping I’d be able to avoid them. However, there were a few young beasties along with sheep in the final field I had to cross. It looked like they might have been bullocks and they weren’t so far off the path. Half way across the field I made the mistake of turning my head to check were they were and met the eye of one of them which immediately started to charge directly toward me! Definitely a bullock then. I stared to shout and wave my arms and, fortunately, it veered off a short distance from me. A close shave as I would certainly have sustained some injuries if it had made contact. I didn’t hang around but made my way as quickly as I could across the field, through the mud and over the stile onto the track on the other side of the wall.

My route required a right hand turn now but I made a short diversion. Turning left, in the field to the left of the track there’s the Gamelands stone circle, one of the largest circles in Cumbria.

The last time I was over here, in April 2017 it wasn’t possible to access the stones and we had to peer at them over the wall. However, since then a gate has been installed and it was possible to get in amongst them for a closer look.

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Unfortunately the stones have all been knocked over and some have been removed but the circle was impressive enough and definitely worth my minor detour.

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Back on the track I headed north, passing an old lime kiln

and then making my way through more fields (no cattle this time, only sheep!)

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The cloud had really come in now, killing the bright light from earlier in the day.

Looking west towards the Shap Fells

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I made my way back over Beacon Hill and then took the path across the limestone untoil I reached a gravel track. Turning left, a short walk and I was back at the car.

After changing out of my boots and dumping them along with my rucksack into the boot of the car I set off down the road to Orton. Rather than head straight down to Tebay and the the Motorway Junction I decided to take the minor road towards Shap and joined the Motorway at the junction there. This allowed me to pay a visit to the Tebay services and stock up with some goodies from the farm shop.

The traffic on the M6 was quite heavy from Lancaster down to the M61 Junction, so it took me a little longer to get home than my morning journey up to the start of my walk. But I was still home in good time for my tea!

The weather wasn’t so good last Sunday so I didn’t get out and since then Greater Manchester has joined Lancashire County by having Tier 3 Covid restrictions placed on us. This half baked lockdown means that it looks like it’s going to be local walks for a while.