Western Howgills

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To be precise, these are North-West England Saunterings. That is NWES to me. NWES contains descriptions of various saunters, ambles, strolls, meanders, rambles and dawdles around the counties of Cumbria, Lancashire and North Yorkshire (more details of my ‘North-West England’ are given in the Preamble). I hesitate to call my saunters ‘walks’. A walk nowadays has become a serious business. It might suggest a 10-hour trek to bag 15 mountain tops. It might be part of some epic expedition around, say, the whole coastline of Britain. It might demand precise details of the route (“walk 210 metres north-north-east to a gate by the third tree”) so that you may follow my footsteps. No, my saunterings are more leisurely and aimless than that. And they are mental as well as physical. I saunter, at whim.

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     31.   Pink Stones on the Orton Fells   
     30.   Dunsop Bridge, Whitewell and Duchy-land   
     29.   The Quiet End of the Ribble Way   
     28.   Broughton Moor, or What's Left of It   
     27.   The Footpaths of Anglezarke Moor   
     26.   A Booze by Any Other Name   
     Previous Saunterings   

31.  Pink Stones on the Orton Fells

The stone circle one mile east of Orton is magical but not because of its location or its structure. Compared to the Castlerigg stone circle near Keswick, with its large monoliths in a dramatic setting with a panoramic view, the Orton circle is uninspiring, being set in the corner of an ordinary field, with little view, and being composed of relatively small, prone stones. Not prune stones, prone stones. These stones have obviously fallen from the white limestone cliffs of the Orton Fells to the north and in the process of rolling down to form this circle have been metamorphosed into pink granite. That sounds magical to me.

Geologists have another theory. They say that a different trick has been played upon us. When we weren’t looking, during the last Ice Age, the pink stones were slipped here by glaciers from where the Shap Pink Quarry now is, five miles to the west. They call the stones ‘erratics’. Neolithic men and women must have gathered up 32 of them, plus one limestone boulder by mistake, to make this circle. Now, if the geologists’ theory were correct then the erratics wouldn’t just be in this one field – they would be scattered all around the region. So I would look out for them on this walk around the Orton Fells. I wouldn’t pause or divert from my route but I’d just see how many pink granite boulders I’d come across along the way.

I headed east on what is part of the Coast-to-Coast walk and by the time I reached the road at Acres I’d already spotted eleven ‘pinks’, including two in the wall of a barn (so, 43 in total). I saw another seven (50) around the hamlet of Sunbiggin, where I noticed that they have recently set up a Coast-2-Coast Café. I wonder how well it does, in this spot out-of-the-way except for those walkers. I pressed on to Sunbiggin Moor, where although this heathery land has probably never been cultivated I didn’t see any pinks. Perhaps I was distracted by the views of autumn mist lifting from the Howgill valleys and from Wild Boar Fell.
Orton Fells

Sunbiggin and the Orton Fells from Sunbiggin Moor

Turning north, I came upon a pink so big that it has a name, Mitchell’s Stone (51). It is embedded in the wall that forms the parish boundary. Next I walked up and over the limestone terraces of Great Kinmond, with fine views opening out of the North Pennines ahead and of the Lake District hills to the west, with the distinctive profile of Blencathra prominent. I saw another pink when I reached the bridleway and a further seven close by the path further north (59). Here the soil had turned a dark red, which I assume is the influence of Penrith Red Sandstone.

I continued to the ancient settlement near Maisongill which the Historic England website considers to be “a good example of a Romano-British enclosed hut circle settlement”. To me, it seemed to be a set of strange humps in a field, with a few stones sort-of-aligned. There were two pinks (61) among the stones. This region appeared to be prime farming land, with lush green fields well stocked with contented cattle and sheep. I passed six more pinks (67) in the fields and by the fine track over Asby Winderwath Common up to the Great Asby Scar gate.
Great Asby Scar

Great Asby Scar

Here Natural England has fenced off an area as part of a Great Asby Scar National Nature Reserve. The absence of grazers naturally leads to a change in the vegetation. The limestone terraces heretofore had been rather bare, with just the occasional shrub surviving the attentions of the sheep. Here, heather and small shrubs-cum-trees are recolonising. It is a rather captivating, secluded area among limestone outcrops that I imagine at other times of the year has a more impressive display of flowers. I had forgotten about the pinks until I stepped on one embedded in the path (68).

I cut across to see the Thunder Stone, another large pink embedded in a wall, spotting another pink on the way there, and on over Beacon Hill to the road, seeing three more pinks on the way (73). The path down to Broadfell passes fields that have a number of large stones within. With my new expertise at identifying pinks, I’d confidently say, from a distance, that these are also pinks. I counted twelve (85), and, since I’d otherwise have to trespass with a tape measure, I declare two of them joint winners of the largest pink prize. They looked about two metres round. The glaciers did well to shift those.
Thunder Stone

The Thunder Stone with North Pennines beyond

The beck flowing past Broadfell seemed somewhat jaunty and not fully settled into its bed. At a wee bridge at least eight pinks (93) had been used to protect the bank. I saw three pinks in the beck, two beside it (98) and I suspect many protecting it, overgrown with moss. At this point, two buzzards circled noisily above – which made me realise that the Orton Fells had been devoid of bird sound, unless you count a helicopter.

Entering the village of Orton, I noticed three large pinks embedded in garden walls, two used as garden ornaments, and about twenty positioned along grass verges – all before I’d reached the ice-cream shop. I stopped counting. Clearly, the residents of Orton are fond of their pinks. Yes, the pink granite boulders are well scattered around the Orton Fells. The geologists might be on to something.

[October 2018; NY6208; Orton – E – Street, stone circle, Acres, Sunbiggin Moor – N – Mitchell’s Stone – N, NW, N on Dales High Way – settlement – NW, SW on Sayle Lane, SW – Great Asby Scar, Thunder Stone – SW – Beacon Hill, quarry – S – Broadfell, Orton; 11 miles; 73/400]

30.  Dunsop Bridge, Whitewell and Duchy-land

Driving south through the Trough of Bowland recently I noticed, just past the Smelt Mill Cottages, a black ‘Duchy of Lancaster’ sign. Continuing through Dunsop Bridge and Slaidburn and back over Bowland to Bentham, I did not notice a sign to say that I was leaving Duchy of Lancaster land. So, a question arises: where exactly does Duchy-land begin and end in Bowland?

I looked for an answer on-line. There are maps of almost everywhere – but not, it seems, of Duchy-land. I did, however, discover a few other things about the Duchy. Before, I had been aware of some odd facts that add to the gaiety of life – that the Queen is the Duke of Lancaster and that a so-called Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is a member of the British Cabinet, for no obvious purpose. We tend to assume (well, I do, I suppose) that anything that’s been around for a long time is part of the natural order of things. The Duchy of Lancaster has been around since the 14th century. But why? I live near Lancaster and feel I ought to know. As far as I’m aware, there are only two Duchies in England: Lancaster and Cornwall. Why is that? Why don’t all the other Dukes (and we have plenty of those) have Duchies? Or if they do why do they keep so quiet about them? Who’s heard of a Duchy of York?

I found that the Duchy of Lancaster owns Lancaster Castle and five rural estates in Lancashire, the largest of which (2,447 hectares or 9.4 square miles) is the Whitewell Estate, the one that I had driven into. The Duchy assets have a value of £534m and bring an income of over £20m a year, mainly from those rural estates. How is that possible? The Whitewell region is mainly farmland and farmers always give me the impression that they struggle to make ends meet. How exactly can regions like the Whitewell Estate contribute millions of pounds to the Duchy? The EU Common Agricultural Policy grants over £300,000 a year to the Duchy of Lancaster. Large though that amount is, it is still only a fraction of the total income. The EU grant is, of course, from tax-payers’ money. Perhaps we also contribute somehow to the rest of the Duchy’s £20m a year.

I wrote to the Duchy asking if they could kindly send me a map of the Whitewell Estate, to aid me in my researches. Alas, it was “not the Duchy’s policy to provide members of the public with estate plans”. There’s a surprise. But why not? It’s not as if the Duke is ever resident there. Is it so unreasonable to want to know if I was walking on land owned by my local Duke? The Duchy’s letter referred me to the Land Registry. I grappled with its website but gave up. It’s one of those websites that has to exist but is designed to be unusable. People who own a lot of land don’t want people who don’t knowing how much they do.

Totridge from near Hareden Bridge

So I set out in the hope of determining the boundaries of the Whitewell Estate myself. I parked just beyond the Duchy sign, by the bridge to Hareden Farm, and even from the car I was struck by the morning clarity of the autumn colours. I headed to Dunsop Bridge where I found black Duchy signs on the Post Office, Mill House, Bridge Cottage, and so on. I deduce that the Duchy owns Dunsop Bridge. I saw nobody I could ask about Duchy-land, so I walked south alongside the River Hodder enjoying an absurdly warm day for October. I battled up Kitcham Hill, which seems to have no use for man or beast. If the Duke earns any income from this land then she’s a better man than me. The hill is not very high (283m) but it has an intriguing nobble on top and a stand of Scots pine that makes me wonder if they have been planted here (and if so why) or if they are remnants of woodland that used to be more widespread.

I called in at The Inn at Whitewell. This has a black Duchy sign on its outside wall and photos of the Queen and Prince Charles on its inside walls, so I would surely get my answers here. However, I was discombobulated by the glances I received. The place was almost full, and it was midweek and hardly time for lunch yet. Or luncheon, as the menu says. The menu, incidentally, gave me an inkling of where much of the £20m comes from. Everybody except me was dressed to the eights (I am giving you a precise measure on the sartorial scale and avoiding exaggeration). The average age of the diners was 103. I was astonished that they were all inside, some huddled by a fire, when it was a glorious day outside. Perhaps there was a touch of autumn dew on the outside seats.

I sidled back out but on the way slipped into the wine shop (an inn with a wine shop!). Knowing nothing about wine, I could not inveigle myself into the two lady assistants’ attention, so I came right out and asked them about the Duchy. They knew less about Duchy-land than me. The only precise information offered was that Browsholme Hall (which is a little south of where I had walked) is part of the Duchy estate. I have since checked and believe that I was misinformed.

I escaped over the stepping stones, which was fun, and continued a fine walk among the farmland and woodland below Fair Oak Fell and Whitmore Fell. The sun still shone and there was now almost a summer haze diluting the autumn colours. The path provided wide-ranging views, including from the partially felled Whitemore plantation, across the green Hodder valley but Pendle beyond was only dimly discernible. On the farmland between Dunsop Bridge, Whitewell and Hareden I did not see a single Duchy sign, although the farms must surely be within Duchy-land.
Hodder valley

The Hodder valley from west of Whitewell, Dunsop Bridge to the left and Kitcham Hill to the right

On the way back, I couldn’t help mulling over that £20m. The Duchy’s financial report says that the Duke “voluntarily pays tax on the income which she receives from the Duchy of Lancaster”. Voluntarily! As though we should be grateful for that. I should hope that tax is paid on £20m income that is hardly earned. What about other estates? Say, the Duke of Westminster’s Abbeystead Estate, which I also drove through and which is a larger chunk of Bowland than Duchy-land. Does this Duke somehow ‘earn’ millions from his Bowland estate? How much tax does he pay on it, voluntarily or not? We really have little idea how the other half-a-percent live, do we?

[October 2018; SD6450; Hareden Bridge – E, SE – Dunsop Bridge – E, S by Hodder – Burholme – SE – Kitcham Hill – SE, by Crimpton Brook – W – Whitewell – W, NW – New Laund – W, NW, N – Whitemore – N – Hareden Farm – NE – Hareden Bridge; 9 miles; 69/400]

29.  The Quiet End of the Ribble Way

Some walkers advocate urban walking. This is not just because they don’t have fields, hills and valleys nearby. They have convinced themselves that urban walking has its own benefits. The 90% of us who live in urban regions have a duty, they say, to investigate whatever is within our walking range. Shops, churches, streets, slums, palaces … all can be visited without the danger of becoming stuck in a bog or falling off a cliff. Urban walkers may indulge a fascination with local history and architecture, with areas of dereliction seemingly of particular appeal. Although many cities have developed without the notion that people might choose to walk about them, recent renovations of canals, old railway lines and riversides have provided avenues of relative peace for walkers. They have also provided havens for wildlife and indeed the concentration of it within urban patches of greenery may surpass that now remaining in the uniform, sterilised fields of our countryside.

I began this saunter with some urban walking of my own. From Preston bus station, an iconic building in its own right, I headed through the traffic and Saturday shoppers, past some fine municipal buildings and down Fishergate. Beyond the railway station stood the sturdy, red County Hall, which I had not noticed on previous visits to Preston. Housing the Lancashire County Council offices, it confirms that Preston is the administrative centre of Lancashire, with Lancaster retaining the honorific title of ‘county town’.

At the end of Fishergate a melange of roundabouts, bridges and flyovers ensured a cacophony from which I expected to escape by joining the Ribble Way and following it towards the estuary. The Ribble Way is a 70-mile path between the source of the River Ribble above Ribblehead and not quite the estuary but Longton, where the Ribble meets the River Douglas. Although it seems more natural to me to walk down with a river, the Ribble Way is usually described as starting at Longton. I suspect that this is so that walkers don’t skip the Preston-Longton section, thereby depriving Longton of the walkers’ custom.

As I walked west the roar of traffic gradually subsided to a hum. I anticipated rural tranquillity thereafter but I was disabused in two ways. First the horizon became infested with pylons – I counted about fifty of them. When pylons first appeared in the countryside about a hundred years ago there were, of course, objections. However, some people professed to like them. In fact, there was a group of ‘pylon poets’ who expressed admiration for pylons and other technological innovations. Today we see protests only when pylons are proposed within revered landscapes, such as the Lake District. On the whole, we see pylons but no longer notice them. We cannot help but notice them on this section of the Ribble Way: we walk right by them.

The second intrusion came from the north bank of the Ribble. The air gradually became filled with the noise of scores of motorbikes on the Preston Docks Motocross track. It is not a karting track, as marked on the OS map, and it is longer than indicated there, extending for a mile or so to Savick Brook. I have tried to think of a simile (angry wasps, farting tubas) to convey the impression of this noise but none do it justice. You’ll just have to imagine the continuous, intermingled vrooms of many bikes as they raced round bends and over humps, a noise that accompanied me unabated for an hour or more. The noise is particularly annoying because you can’t really see what is causing it. There is an occasional glimpse of a bike flying over a hump but you can’t see enough to engage with the activity or to appreciate whatever skill is necessary. As far as I could tell, the bikers were not organised at all, as they would be for races, say. They just seemed to be speeding about at random.

I am not implying that this activity should not be allowed. Clearly, hundreds of people were enjoying themselves on the north bank, whereas on the south bank there was only me and two women with a dog. Even in silence I don’t think we’d be having much fun. There was little to see. Ahead the horizons were flat, with only a distant indication of Warton and Lytham and no real view of the sea. To the left were ordinary farming fields, none rising to more than 5m or so. To the right, the Ribble flowed slowly seawards within its banks of the usual flood detritus. It was only the levee that I was walking on that provoked any thought. It is surely not natural and yet it seems far wider than it needs to be. It must have been a prodigious effort to build it.
Ribble Way west

From the Ribble Way, near the River Douglas, looking west

Ribble Way east

From the Ribble Way, near the River Douglas, looking east

The motorbike noise did not begin to fade away until the path turned south as it reached the River Douglas. Looking back through the pylons and beyond Preston I could see the Pennine hills and envy the walkers thereon. Longton Marsh is marked as open access land but it lacked allure so I ignored it and pressed on to the end of the Ribble Way. From here I tackled more urban (or suburban) walking to get back to Preston. The roads became progressively noisier but I am not complaining. It’s what you expect of roads heading towards a city. The few lulls in the traffic noise were filled by the distant vrooming.

I passed through Longton and Hutton both, I’m sure, fine places to live, if you need to commute to Preston. Shops, pubs, garages, and so on – but I saw nothing of distinctive interest that would cause me to encourage anyone to visit. I entered Penwortham, separated from Preston only by the Ribble. I noticed a line of shops that all seemed to offer cosmetic services. Is it possible nowadays to make a living by treating lashes and brows? What’s wrong with our natural lashes and brows? Can men have their lashes and brows treated? I would hope so in this day and age. Yes, this urban walking certainly stimulates thoughts that do not occur on a mountain top.

[October 2018; SD5429; Preston bus station – SW – River Ribble – N, W, S, along Ribble Way – Dolphin Inn, Longton – E – Longton – NE – Hutton, Penwortham, Preston bus station; 13 miles; 65/400]

28.  Broughton Moor, or What's Left of It

It is not easy for a walker to avoid the slate mines and quarries of the Lake District. There were over 250 of them. I say ‘were’ because only a few of them are still working. On this saunter I set out not to avoid the slate mines and quarries but on the contrary to seek out Broughton Moor Quarry, four miles south-west of Coniston. According to the Burlington Stone webpage, this is Cumbria’s largest quarry, although different definitions of ‘largest’ allow competing claims. The current status of any quarry is always a matter of doubt, with quarries opening and closing as the demands and costs change. I wandered up to see if Broughton Moor Quarry was still in action.

The quarry itself was surrounded by large overspills of discarded rock. Within the rim I could see half-a-dozen cars and trucks but there was no sight or sound of quarrying activities. I was most disappointed. I had hoped for a few blasts at least. Perhaps they don’t blast every day but even so the quarry seemed dormant. The quarry cliff-faces and the main ground area of the quarry looked as smooth as if they were man-made. This is not because the quarry-workers are particularly tidy but because slate cleaves so precisely and so evenly.

Broughton Moor Quarry

This slate is of the Borrowdale Volcanic group, of the Ordovician period of 400-450 million years ago. My naive image of volcanic rock is something hard and knobbly, like basalt. How come volcanic slate cleaves so well? Well, the answer is partly that it wouldn’t be called ‘slate’ if didn’t cleave well. The question really should be: how come some volcanic rock cleaves so well? And the answer to that is that not all volcanic rock is formed, like basalt, from cooling lava – some is formed from fine-grained ash, and I assume it is this which becomes slate, through some metamorphic process.

The Broughton Moor Quarry is relatively new. The Romans used Lake District slate, as did several medieval monasteries (Cameron, 2016). The first recorded reference to a Lake District slate mine is in 1283, referring to one at Sadgill in Longsleddale. By the 1600s there were slate mines at Borrowdale, Coniston, Kentmere, Langdale and Tilberthwaite. However, the Broughton Moor Quarry started, in a small-scale way, only in the mid 19th century. It subsequently closed and then re-opened and developed, from the 1920s, into the largest slate mine in England. The quarry lies on a north-east to south-west band of light green slate that includes, for example, Bursting Stone Quarry near Coniston. Most of the Coniston quarries, familiar to all walkers on the direct route up The Old Man of Coniston, lie on a band of silver-grey slate and are now closed. However, Broughton Moor Quarry is alive, although inactive when I passed by. Its slate is of too high a quality to be used for ordinary tiles, as most slate used to be. It is mainly used for decorative flooring or wall cladding.

I wonder if there are plans to extend the quarry along the band, to create a huge gash across the Furness fells between Broughton and Coniston. If so I wonder how the UNESCO World Heritage Committee reviewing the Lake District’s recently-acquired status as a World Heritage Site (WHS) would react. The Committee has already placed Liverpool on its list of sites in danger of losing its WHS status because of the plans to develop its waterfront. It would probably be appalled by the thought of more mining in the Lake District, since it specifically mentions mining as a potential threat to WHSs. However, mining is a long-established part of that heritage, longer established even than the sheep-farming tradition that is considered to make a valued contribution. The imperious World Heritage Committee needs something on the agenda for its annual meetings. They’re not junkets, oh no. I picture the committee (with its 21 representatives from Angola … to Zimbabwe) earnestly pontificating on the slate mines of Furness. Anyway, I admit to a certain fondness for quarries, especially ones that are making a lot of noise. They add authenticity and provide ‘proper jobs’. Not everybody in the Lake District can make a living by selling Mrs Tiggy-winkle dolls.

As I climbed White Maiden (608m) I found that I was lacking in energy. With no path, it was a scramble over rocks and bracken, heads down, with little view all the way. However, it all seemed worth the effort at the top (a great phewpoint! [19]) as the vista opened out, with the Scafell peaks ahead. It was a bright clear day, with views of the Isle of Man, across Morecambe Bay to Blackpool, and to Ingleborough and the Pennines in the distance, of Pillar, Sca Fell, and Bow Fell in the middle distance, and of Black Combe, Dow Crag and The Old Man of Coniston nearby.

Dow Crag and The Old Man of Coniston from White Maiden


The Scafells from White Maiden

Here I would like to say thank you to our indefatigable friend, Mr Wainwright – not for his catalogue of 214 peaks (everybody has thanked him for that) but for not including White Maiden in his list (Wainwright, 1955-66). He didn’t even include it in his subsequent list of ‘outlying fells’ (Wainwright, 1974). He considered the Walna Scar track from Coniston to Seathwaite to be the southern limit of his Lake District even though it is six miles north of the National Park boundary. He described the moor south of Walna Scar (the one that I had trekked across) as “featureless and dreary”.

It is comments like this that lead me to feel that Wainwright’s much-vaunted love of Lakeland was too narrow and too obsessive. He sought to provide meticulous details of scrambles up the highest peaks. He devoted thirty pages to The Old Man of Coniston and Dow Crag but to him the nearby Broughton Moor was dreary and White Maiden was of no account. It is only my opinion, of course, but the moor-grass, autumn bracken, scattered rocky scars, squelchy bits, sheep, birds (including snipe), flowers (no doubt more in summer), antiquities, views, and, yes, quarries, old and new, make this region perfectly characteristic of Lakeland. Still, he helped to ensure that I had White Maiden and its views all to myself.

Now invigorated, I walked over to White Pike (598m), where the view is perhaps even better as more of the enchanting Duddon valley is revealed. And then on to Caw (529m), which feels higher to climb than it looks like it should. Here I sat with my sandwiches and a bird’s eye view of the valley. Nowadays, Google Earth has taken away some of the magic of aerial views, but Google Earth is not live. I could watch the gentle activity in the valley – farmers in fields, campers coming and going, cars slowly moving along Dunnerdale and crawling up the Hardknott Pass (although, on reflection, that was probably from White Maiden).

From Caw I walked to Stephenson Ground, over the River Lickle, through the forest, across a narrow bridge at derelict Appletree Worth, along a forest track, to emerge on Hummer Lane near the quarry entrance. On the road a cyclist stopped to say “that’s a cracker, isn’t it?” as he admired the view of The Old Man. I reflected that over the quarry I could see White Maiden and White Pike where three hours ago I was admiring even better views of The Old Man and much else besides. The quarry was still quiet.

Broughton Moor Quarry, White Pike, White Maiden, Dow Crag and The Old Man of Coniston

[September 2018; SD2793; layby by Old Rake on A593 – N, up Green Rigg Bank – NW – White Maiden – W – White Pike – SW – Caw – S, SE – Stephenson Ground, Appletree Worth – NE, E, along Hummer Lane - layby; 9 miles; 63/400]

27.  The Footpaths of Anglezarke Moor

There seems to be no end to the Associations, Authorities, Boards, Commissions, Committees, Councils, Groups, Societies, and Trusts that are valiantly trying to safeguard our environment. So how come our environment is in such a pickle? On this outing I came across another Society new to me. I had walked across Anglezarke Moor, passing the Pike Stones (a Neolithic chambered long burial cairn), the Devil's Ditch (an extended Neolithic boundary), and Round Loaf (a late Neolithic or Bronze Age tumulus). Where would be without our dedicated antiquarians? Without them, I am sure that I would pass almost all such structures without noticing anything special.
Round Loaf

Round Loaf, with Winter Hill in the distance

At the top of Great Hill (not really that great: it’s only 381m) I found a sign erected by the Peak & Northern Footpaths Society (PNFS). A fine sign it is too – metallic, green with white letters, rectangular and with a logo top left, a number (527) and a date (2016). Perhaps it’s a bit over the top – or at least too near the top. A sign would be more useful where we might go astray: I doubt that many people reach the top of Great Hill having lost their bearings. But I must not quibble. The PNFS says that it is “promoting the interests of public footpath users in the North Midlands and North West of England”. Well, that includes me and I must therefore be grateful to it. Why haven’t I come across it before?

I left Great Hill setting off south along a path of large flagstones that somebody (PNFS?) has considerately laid here. In a stiff breeze, I sailed along, compared to the plod over the boggy moor. There was little to detain me. The nearby moors were of no particular interest and the distant views were not exceptional, although I could make out the outline, through the moisture in the air, of the Welsh mountains. Straight ahead the view was dominated by the multitude of aerials on Winter Hill. I turned west at Will Narr, and walked past Higher and Lower Hempshaw’s, which are both derelict and have been so for some time, judging by how little is still standing. I was tempted to avoid the damp-looking Sam Pasture by following the track visible to the north but then I would have missed almost treading upon a snipe. At Simms (also long derelict) I found another PNFS sign (number 260, dated 1977).

I have now studied the Peak & Northern Footpaths Society website and I conclude that the reason I had not heard of it is that its notion of the ‘North West of England’ does not coincide with mine. It has erected nearly 500 signposts and the most northerly of them is at Lowgill, between Lancaster and Settle (and that is the only one more northerly than where I live). It has no signs within the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales. The large majority are in the Peak District. This reflects its history. The Society was formed as The Peak District and Northern Counties Footpaths Preservation Society in Manchester in 1894 and is said to have evolved from The Manchester Association for the Preservation of Ancient Public Footpaths of 1826. It claims to be “the oldest surviving regional footpath society in the UK”. So, for nearly 200 years the Society has been worrying about our footpaths.

I assume that PNFS is independent of the national Open Spaces Society, which was founded in 1865 as the Commons Preservation Society, which amalgamated with the National Footpaths Preservation Society in 1899. Although the last-mentioned society disappeared in name, there are still many local ‘footpath preservation’ societies in England. Perhaps we need a footpath preservation society preservation society. Anyway, I am sure that they all do a worthy job in view of the problems that footpaths face – some natural (such as erosion, subsidence and landslips) and others man-made (such as obstructions like barbed wire, electrified fences, crops, buildings and gates).

However, judging only from its website, the PNFS seems somewhat geeky to me, and I should know. Why carefully number the signs, as though they are works of art to be collected? Why list them (40 bridges, 8 fingerposts, 5 plaques, 479 signposts, 2 toposcopes) so lovingly, all with 10-figure grid references and photographs? Why revere the oldest of them, as though they are valued antiquities? Is PNFS more fixated on the footpath ‘furniture’ (the signposts and so on) than on the footpaths themselves? How does a relatively small group of volunteers “monitor, protect, and improve the footpath network” of such a large area? How does it decide where to erect its (relatively expensive) signs? It may seem that 479 signposts is plenty but they spread thinly over all our footpaths. I said above that PNFS was formed in 1894 but the website insists on details – it “was formed officially at a meeting held at 7pm on Thursday 16th August 1894 in the Young Men's Christian Association Hall, Peter Street, Manchester”.

Still, the PNFS and like-minded Societies do at least prompt us to reflect upon our footpaths. Who is legally responsible for erecting and maintaining signposts? Or is it up to volunteers? Is it illegal to remove or deface a signpost? Local authorities have a statutory duty to indicate the route of a right of way where it leaves a metalled road but I don’t know what the law says once we are away from the road – probably nothing, judging by the variety and arbitrary nature of the signposts I see. The PNFS website says that “the law requires that local authorities consult us when they consider diverting or closing a right of way”. That ‘us’ is ambiguous. Do they mean ‘us, the public’ or ‘us, the PNFS’? It surely cannot be the latter. My local authority is just within what PNFS defines as ‘our region’ but I doubt that it has even heard of PNFS. Why should it consult a group of volunteers based in Stockport?

The more I read about PNFS and its signposts the less I like them. I see that PNFS has recently placed its first signposts, eight of them, in the Forest of Bowland (three by Brennand Farm, three at Whitendale and two by Langden Brook). Who does PNFS think it is, muscling into the relative wilderness of Bowland with its gaudy intrusive eyesores? I hope we can prevent PNFS invading the Lakes and Dales. Who are PNFS to tell me to “control your dog, leave no litter”? I have no dog – and I regard their signposts as litter. I don’t want PNFS encouraging dog-owning, litter-bearing, signpost-needing Mancunians to Bowland. Bowland is for walking connoisseurs, like me.
Great Hill

Great Hill, with the PNFS signpost/eyesore

I note that only two of the fourteen Officers and Trustees of PNFS are women. That is commendable. PNFS is a group of volunteers and I expect that, like most charities, it is short of them. However, the ladies of the North Midlands and North West England have more sense. The PNFS may fondly number its signposts but surely it is the days of signposts that are numbered. We have sat-navs telling drivers where to go. It is only a matter of time before walkers will be able to plug into their ear a virtual co-walker who will tell them where to go.

[September 2018; SD6117; on Moor Road – SE – Pike Stones – NE – Rushy Brow (where I realised I’d forgotten to turn the car lights off!) – W, back to Moor Road – NE – Hurst Hill, Round Loaf, Great ill – S – Will Narr – W – Simms, Lead Mines Clough – NW – Moor Road; 8 miles; 59/400]

26.  A Booze by Any Other Name

This outing wins the prize for the most attractive set of place-names encountered. In general, the Yorkshire Dales has such a rich heritage entangled within its place-names that it can be hard for experts to decipher them. There may be embedded information about natural features, about people, about local fauna and flora, about local folklore and about practices at the time the name was bestowed. To complicate matters further, the spelling of the place-names may well have evolved over the centuries. And, of course, sometimes there may be no meaning to a name at all.

The first name encountered, Langthwaite, presents little problem. It is composed of two components common in North-West England: ‘lang’ being the Old English (and modern Scottish) for ‘long’ and ‘thwaite’ being Old Norse for ‘clearing’. The name therefore seems to date from the arrival of the Vikings in the 10th century.

I wouldn’t like to be driven to Booze. The narrow, steep lane up peters out into a rough track before it reaches the hamlet of a dozen or so buildings, some even with roofs. I have read several times that ‘Booze’ derives from an Old English word meaning ‘the house on the curve of a hill’. That’s a lot of meaning to pack into one syllable. Was the concept of a house on the curve of a hill so crucial to the old English that they needed a special word for it? If so then I’d expect to see more Boozes about but, as I far as I’m aware, this is the only one. I don’t know who first came up with this suggestion, and what evidence there is for it, but perhaps everybody since has just repeated it. [In the 13th century Beaula, a woman of easy virtue, lived here. The men of the region used to say “I’m just going up to Beau’s”. And the name Booze stuck. I have added that in the hope that some lazy cut-and-paste browser will extract it and it will become a definitive statement of fact.]
View from Booze

The view from Booze towards Calver Hill

Next we walked up Slei Gill, past the dereliction of old lead mines, along a good walking track. ‘Gill’ is another Old Norse word, this time for ‘ravine’, as indeed Slei Gill is. I have been unable to find any suggestion for a meaning of ‘slei’. [The beck above is called Slack Wife Gill, which perhaps refers to Beaula. Clearly, as the beck flows through the ravine it has caused severe erosion and lost several letters.]

We emerged onto a moorland plateau and found a grassy short-cut over to a new shooting lodge on the Moresdale Road track. We were not tempted to walk up the boringly-named Peat Moor Hill. [This name was invented by a minion in the Ordnance Survey office who felt that he couldn’t just leave a blank space on the map.]

We strolled down the track, below Langthwaite Scar, around Shaw Farm, over Low Moor, and towards the tiny village of Whaw. Now there’s a name to conjure with. What could it mean, if anything? We have other ‘haw’s in the Dales, where the ‘haw’ is assumed to be from the Old English word for ‘view’. I doubt that Whaw is derived from this ‘haw’ as Whaw is rather tucked down to provide a view. According to the respected Hartley and Ingilby (1956), Whaw is from the Norse and means ‘the enclosure near the fold where sheep are milked’. That’s even more meaning for one syllable! [‘Whaw’ is in fact an old Yorkshire dialect word, a contraction of ‘where’t heck are we?’.]

The view towards Whaw in Arkengarthdale

Whaw is by Arkle Beck, that is, the Old Norse stream of some old Norse man called Arkle or Arkil or some such. And hence the delightful name of ‘Arkengarthdale’ is a portmanteau of Old Norse for ‘the valley’ of ‘the enclosure’ of Arkle. We have therefore encountered a set of Old English and Old Norse names, with the exception of dull Peat Moor Hill. However, there are no –ham, –ton or –leys of Old English origin. Perhaps these suffixes required villages of some size, and there are none of those in Arkengarthdale, and there never were. Even at the peak of the lead mining industry, the population of Arkengarthdale was only 1,200 or so. According to Hartley and Ingilby (1956), this had dropped to 300 in 1951, although it may have perked up a little since then.

Below Eskeleth Bridge we passed the imposing Scar House, which looked dormant, with large blinds drawn over the windows. The absence of footpath signs around the house excuses a wander around its gardens. I read that Scar House is a shooting lodge owned by the Duke of Norfolk (the Duchess, if there is one, doesn’t get a mention) and that “the gardens of Scar House were initially designed for the ladies of the shooting parties to stroll in whilst the men shot”. That’s a lot of strolling. And a lot of building, for a shooting lodge. I picture the guests enjoying grouse omelette for breakfast, grouse paté for luncheon, and roast grouse for dinner, with lead shot garnishing, all accompanied by Famous Grouse whisky. According to the website referred to, an East Arkengarthdale Common Committee was set up in 1999 to preserve black grouse on the moors. I have not been able to find out if it was successful – but I doubt it. We saw red grouse a-plenty, but no black grouse. But I mustn’t allow the thought of grouse-shooting to tarnish an excellent, varied walk in fine scenery.

Somebody once said that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. I don’t believe it. If Booze were called, say, Boghole (a place near Inverness) then it wouldn’t be half as attractive. Not to me, anyway.

[September 2018; NZ0002; Langthwaite – E – Booze – NE, along Slei Gill – N – bridleway – SW, N, W – road – N, E – Shaw Farm – SW – Green Bank – SE – Eskeleth Bridge, Langthwaite; 9 miles; 57/400]

Footnote: As a bonus, we were treated to a wonderfully vivid rainbow as we left Swaledale:
Kisdon rainbow

Rainbow over Kisdon from near the Butter Tubs

Previous Saunterings

     25.   Mysterious Harkerside Moor   
     24.   Up Ingleborough with the Holiday Crowds   
     23.   The Kentmere Diatomite   
     22.   In the Lancashire Yorkshire Dales   
     21.   The Fortunes of Fleetwood   
     20.   On the Sunny Side of Pendle   
     19.   Viewpoints around Keswick (part 2)   
     18.   Viewpoints around Keswick (part 1)   
     17.   Sheep-Wrecked Matterdale?   
     16.   The Wildflowers of Sulber   
     15.   On the Hobdale Fence   
     14.   Logging Along the Cam High Road   
     13.   The Cairns of Grisedale Pike   
     12.   Uplifted by High Street   
     11.   The Struggle over Boulsworth Hill   
     10.   The 'Hillfort' of Addlebrough   
     9.   "The Prettiest Mere of All" Lakeland   
     8.   What Price Catrigg Force?   
     7.   Castling in Cumbria: From Brougham to Lowther   
     6.   The Count of Flasby Fell   
     5.   Circumperambulating Stocks Reservoir   
     4.   In a Flap at Bolton-le-Sands   
     3.   Zipping around Thirlmere   
     2.   The Dentdale Diamonds   
     1.   The Taming of Caton Moor   
     (and here's some I did earlier)

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    © John Self, Drakkar Press, 2018


Top photo: The western Howgills from Dillicar; Bottom photo: Blencathra from Great Mell Fell