Saunterings is a set of reflections based upon walks around the counties of Cumbria, Lancashire and
North Yorkshire in North-West England
(more details of my ‘North-West England’ are given in the Preamble).
If you'd like to give a comment, correction or update (all are very welcome) or to
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79.   “One Form of Exercise a Day – For Example, a Walk”
(a)  Sand Martins by the Lune
(b)  The Caton Moor Hares
(c)  The Lost Meander of the Lune (coming next)
78.   Around Roeburndale
77.   Bridging the Lower Little Ribble
76.   The Belted Beauties of Sunderland
Diversion 2:  These Boots ...
75.   To Ward's Stone: A Classic Walk?
74.   Blackpool Promenading
73.   The Raygill Foraminifers
72.   Turner and the Lune Aqueduct
71.   Low in Low Barbondale
79.  “One Form of Exercise a Day – For Example, a Walk”
Clearly, it is impossible at the moment to continue these Saunterings in the same vein as before.
Instead here’s a sort of occasional diary about short walks from home.
(a)  April 3, 2020:  Sand Martins by the Lune
If I were stopped by an official whilst out walking then I would say that I am out for my permitted one form of exercise a day. However, if I were really walking for exercise then I would be more energetic about it. I’d give the limbs, lungs and heart a good work-out. In fact, I am sauntering less energetically than before, pausing frequently to reflect. So why am I walking?
Having to isolate ourselves at home, essential as it is, convinces us that there is a pervasive, invisible
malignancy outside. However, that is not all there is outside. I seem to feel a need to be reassured that,
despite our predicament, the world outside is developing as it does every spring and as it will continue to do,
one hopes, in future years. We are in lockdown but nature isn’t.
I am lucky to have a garden that provides some evidence that not all is not well. Bees, butterflies and bats are about. Chiffchaffs have returned, the first of our migrants to do so. Primroses and cowslips are out on the bank. The cherry is blossoming. However, it is the sand martin that I have adopted as my harbinger of spring and summer, and to see them I need to walk to the River Lune.
Every year I keep an eye out for the first sand martins. In 2011 their arrival in April coincided with a flood that put all their river-bank nests under water. In 2013, after a long, cold winter, I didn’t see any sand martins until April 20. In 2014 they arrived in March, blown here on a Saharan wind that also deposited sand everywhere. Generally, I see them in the first week of April. I don’t search assiduously by going to the river every day from, say, mid-March, searching high and low. I just like to see a few so that I can say “the sand martins are back”.
As you might expect, sand martins are tending to arrive earlier because of climate change. Swallows are arriving earlier as well but not, it seems, by as much as sand martins. They used to arrive more or less together but now swallows are about two weeks later than sand martins. Swifts are later still (late-April, early-May) but are not getting earlier, for some reason. Of course, we don’t have to walk to the river to see swallows and swifts – in a few weeks we will seem them from our windows.
We walked to the Lune and followed the long meander below Lawson's Wood to the Waterworks Bridge. We saw
one sand martin and then another two at once (one of which may, of course, have been the earlier one). That's all,
but enough, I think, to say “the sand martins are back”.
(b)  April 5, 2020:  The Caton Moor Hares
The allowed duration of our daily walk was not specified in the instructions of March 23 or the
subsequent legislation. No medical expert has given a view (as far as I am aware) but Michael Gove
has (March 30): “Obviously it depends on each individual’s fitness but I would have thought that for
most people a walk of up to an hour, a run of thirty minutes … is appropriate”. If a celebrity such as
Sophie Raworth (BBC news presenter and marathon runner) can blatantly describe
a one-hour run in London then perhaps a nonentity (used to five-hour walks) can surreptitiously describe
up-to-two-hour walks about Brookhouse. If a one-hour walk on the streets of London is risky then a two-hour walk is doubly so. However, it is different walking about Brookhouse. After ten minutes walking I can be in open countryside and moorland, away from any habitation. I would see very few people, if any, and if I do there is plenty of space to keep away from them. I could walk for miles without touching anything. I may be safer on the moor than I am in my own house. So I hope that a two-hour walk is ok – but is that wishful thinking?
It was a little hazy as we set off but it was a natural haze with none of the contrails that criss-crossed our skies in days that now seem long ago. We headed up Quarry Road to the windmills in order to look out for hares. We had seen one yesterday as we walked up the track from Moorgarth that sadly no longer continues as a permissive path up to the moor, where in the past I have more often seen hares. I once watched four hares running in great loops about the moor, like excited children in a school playground, pausing when their paths crossed for high-fives or fisticuffs.
The number of brown hares in Britain is thought to have dropped by over 80% in the last century. They must
have been numerous when, as mentioned in
1,215 hares were killed by a group of eleven shooters in one day. It is hard to imagine seeing 1,215 hares, let alone shooting them. It is still legal to shoot hare (in fact, hare is the only British game species without a close season), although I don’t know why anybody would want to. They can’t be much of a pest to farmers, their meat doesn’t appear on menus much nowadays, and I don’t know what ‘fun’ there is to be had in shooting them. It is mainly changes in farming practice, rather than shooting, that has reduced the number of hares. We now have large fields with a monoculture of grass, not the diversity that hares need, with fewer hedgerows and uncultivated areas for the hares’ young to lie low. The rough, long, scrubby grass of Caton Moor may be ideal for them, although they are generally considered to be lowland animals.
We completed the circuit around the upper windmills, accompanied by the usual curlews, lapwings, osytercatchers and skylarks, plus, oh no, a single jet sneaking and streaking high across the sky. We had an invigorating walk in a pleasant, stiff breeze, with good but not perfect views (the Lake District hills were just a faint, grey outline), but on this occasion we saw no hares. Wildlife cannot be seen to order. Hare yesterday, gone today.
[April 2020; SD5464; all from/to Brookhouse: (a) N, E, N, W – Waterworks Bridge – S; (b) SE, E on Quarry Road – picnic site – around windmills – and back]
78.  Around Roeburndale
To walk or not to walk? That is a difficult question in these worrying times. When we were advised (March 15) to avoid all unnecessary travel an expert on a BBC question-and-answer session on coronavirus interpreted this to mean that we should not go for walks because we would be bound to come close to other people. Perhaps she was thinking of the streets of London. It is not difficult to stay clear of other people on the hills and moors of North-West England.
The following morning (March 16) a government minister said on the Radio 4 Today programme that “those who will soon be asked to stay at home for an extended period would still be able to go for a walk outside – it’s about being sensible but not mixing in crowds”. However, it’s hard to know what’s ‘sensible’ in these unprecedented circumstances. This morning (March 20) the Ramblers (née the Ramblers Association) website says that “Official Government advice states that, apart from people who are in households with symptoms or who have pre-existing health conditions that put them at increased risk of contracting COVID-19, going for a walk independently can continue and is an excellent way to maintain health and wellbeing – provided independent walkers stay more than two metres from others”.
So, with some misgivings, we (the two of us) headed for the neighbouring valley of Roeburndale. We cocooned ourselves in the car, parked alone, and set off, although I admit that it didn’t seem ‘sensible’ to walk two metres apart in the open countryside when we haven’t been advised to keep two metres apart in the house.
Setting off, in Roeburndale with Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent ahead
From the cattle-grid on the road on the western slopes of Roeburndale, we dropped down past Backsbottom Farm, crossed the River Roeburn and walked up through the wood to reach the path that runs south for a couple of miles, across pastures and moorland, to Harterbeck. It was a bit late in the year to notice my first skylarks but all the more welcome they were. Nobody can fail to be uplifted by the song of the skylark. Lapwing were gaily whirling about, with their characteristic calls, and curlew, too, were making their bubbling sounds, cherished by all moor-walkers. Curlews have become a red-listed bird recently but they seem to be flourishing on these quiet, small moors.
From Harterbeck we cut across to High Salter, where it must be a harsh life farming at 260m on the fringes of Bowland
moors. Here, the so-called Hornby Road stops being a road and becomes a track that continues over to Slaidburn.
The Hornby Road is also known as the Old Salt Road. It is assumed that the farm was called High Salter because
people used to transport salt and other commodities over this track – or it is assumed that salt was transported
over this track because the farm was called High Salter. Perhaps it was neither. A ‘salter’ is a deer leap.
Plenty of names hereabouts could relate to deer-hunting: Roeburn, Hindburn, Harterbeck, Park House, Cold Park Wood,
Bowskill Wood, Hunt’s Gill, Buckbank Wood. Perhaps High Salter does.
We dropped down past Middle Salter and Lower Salter, past the tiny Methodist chapel, across Barkin Bridge and followed
the permissive path into
These woods are one of only nine nationally recognised woods in
Lancashire (one Special Area of Conservation and eight Sites of Special Scientific Interest): Artle Dale; Burton Wood;
Calf Hill and Cragg Woods; Cringlebarrow and Deepdale; Eaves Wood; Gale Clough and Shooterslee Wood; Red Scar and
Tun Brook Woods; Roeburndale Woods; and Thrang Wood (Lamb, 2018). If we include adjacent woodland, Roeburndale Woods is
the largest of these, at 92ha.
I expect that it is also the most dramatic (I’m only familiar with five of these woodlands). The woods clothe the
steep and sinuous slopes of Roeburndale, within which the River Roeburn flows with, on occasion, a ferocious temper,
causing much erosion and damage, such as in the
of 1967. Along the length of the woods the underlying rocks give rise to a range of soils that support a variety of tree species, including oak, birch, ash, wych elm, hazel, small-leaved lime and alder. It is pleasant indeed to wind one’s way
along the permissive path, in silence apart from the Roeburn below and the birds above.
In the middle of the wood we noticed that a high wire fence was being installed. Its purpose was a
puzzle. The bottom few inches of the fence were curled up, presumably to allow small animals to get in and
out. Within the fence were some red water dispensers, presumably for whatever large animal is to be fenced
within. Surely they are not intending to fence deer in? Or deer out and something else in?
Whatever it’s for, I assume that it’s for a good
reason, as such a structure must need approval within a SSSI. Nevertheless, it was sad to see an interference with the apparent naturalness of the wood.
Shortly after, we spotted a roe deer before it sensed us. We watched it for a while, wondering if the freedom
that deer have had to roam these woods in the centuries since we stopped hunting them is about to be limited. Of course,
the fact that people like ourselves are encouraged to walk in these woods limits their freedom too. It is hard for us to get the balance between support and interference right. I hope that the deer can continue here, which would be more than the red squirrels mentioned in the SSSI citation have managed. I don’t think anyone has seen a red squirrel here for many years.
So, overall, it was a soothing walk, on which we could enjoy the exercise, the fresh spring air, and the
extensive views, although the thought of coronavirus was never far away. Whatever happens in the coming months, it
is to be hoped that such walks remain possible.[*]  However, I am not sure that it will be possible or appropriate to
sustain the light-hearted tone of these missives. We’ll see how it goes. And of course I wish any readers the
best of health.
[March 2020; SD6065; by cattle grid – E past Backsbottom Farm, over the river – near the road – S past
Outhwaite – Harterbeck – SW – High Salter – NW – Barkin Bridge – NW, N through Roeburndale Woods – bridge over
Roeburn – W – cattle grid; 8 miles; 161/400; 9.99%]
[*] On March 23 the Government said that we should only leave home for specified limited purposes, one of which
was "to take one form of exercise a day".
Therefore any walking must now be from home.
77.  Bridging the Lower Little Ribble
The Ribble is a modest river (the ‘little Ribble’) until it is joined by the Hodder and Calder tributaries below Great Mitton (to become the ‘big Ribble’). Above the confluence the Ribble is small enough to be relatively easily bridged and in the five miles to West Bradford it is crossed by four old road bridges, one footbridge and one aqueduct. The villagers of Great Mitton, Bashall Eaves, Waddington and West Bradford (on the west bank) and of Little Mitton, Whalley, Barrow and Clitheroe (on the east bank) must have been keen to mingle even though they were in the counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire, respectively. I went to wander along this pleasant stretch of the Ribble and to see one of the finest sequences of bridges in North-West England.
I set off south from Clitheroe on the Ribble Way and it was immediately apparent that the recent heavy rain
had overflowed the banks, promising me plenty of mud, with the Ribble itself still being the colour of it. Passing
the oddly-named Fishes and Peggy Hill Farm (is it one name or two?), I reached the first structure across the Ribble,
a rather functional aqueduct, part of the Haweswater-Manchester system. Beyond that, a steep river bank had become steeper
because of recent erosion. I then crossed the three-arched Mitton Bridge
that was probably built in the early 19th
century, replacing an old ferry crossing.
Pendle from Mitton Bridge
The village of Great Mitton is not that great, being only a handful of houses, but it boasts a hall with the
sign ‘Great Mitton Hall 1380’. I never know what to make of such dates. What can be seen of the present hall
is not of 1380 – unless its architect and builder were very far ahead of their time. Presumably, there is
evidence that the hall is on the site of a previous building of 1380 vintage, as a
Mitton family history
discusses, but then many present buildings must be on the site of older ones. The substantial adjacent
All Hallows Church
is more genuinely ancient and is now a Grade 1 listed building.
The two-mile walk north from Mitton Bridge was a disappointing plod across sodden fields and along a busy road. It offered no view of my main focus for the walk, the River Ribble, although as some compensation there was a distant panorama of the south Bowland hills. I was led to contemplate the mud. Nowadays, our fields are waterlogged for several months. How did our ancestors cope, before the pastures were drained and without our waterproof boots? They must have lived a life of wet, muddy feet.
I crossed a footbridge and walked through new houses and allotments and past a weir to
Brungerley Bridge. This impressive bridge was probably built in 1814 to replace one washed away in a flood.
According to legend, it was here in 1465 that Henry VI was captured, after staying at
whilst on the run after his Lancastrian forces had lost to the Yorkists at the Battle of Hexham.
The walk north from Brungerley provided a magnificent view of the western slopes of Pendle above the buildings and chimneys of the Clitheroe cement works. A majestic white plume of smoke ascended vertically from the tallest chimney before spreading out to produce a cloud indistinguishable from real ones. And the noise of the cement works rather overcame the tranquillity of the banks of the Ribble.
It seems that the four-arched, late 19th century
is too narrow for modern traffic, resulting in frequent damage to its parapets. On this occasion there was more damage apparent to the road-side wall to the north, which had been demolished by recent floods.
The return walk on the opposite banks of the Ribble took me through the Cross Hill Nature Reserve, with Sculpture Trail, although I did not divert from the path to investigate either, and then past Waddow Hall. This hall had looked an imposing shiny-white building from the opposite bank but the walk beside it did not provide a closer view – which was perhaps as well as some pile-driver was in action, creating a racket. The hall is owned by the Girl Guides Association. According to Wikipedia, “even when most Scout organisations became mixed sex, Guiding remained separate in most countries to provide a female-centred programme”. I dare not comment – except to wonder whether our charities should accumulate funds sufficient to run such mansions.
I passed Shireburne Park, a residential and holiday park. I’m sure the illustrious
would be honoured that their name is so remembered. The Shireburns held the Stoneyhurst estate five miles to the west and have effigy graves in the Shireburn Chapel at the All Hallows Church of Great Mitton passed earlier.
Next I noticed a place that said it was the home of Atomstone Bulldogs. I always like to learn something new on my outings – and I have learned that Atomstone Bulldogs are the ugliest of dogs and that’s saying something. I concede that ugliness is in the eye of the beholder.
I had skirted by
Edisford (or Eadsford) Bridge
twice before on this walk but I’d left its appraisal until the end as it is the best of the four road bridges. It was built in the 14th century and has been widened for modern traffic. It has nine arches, the middle one over the river being much larger than the rest and possibly formed by reconstructing two smaller arches. Some of the arches are now partially buried by land, suggesting that the Ribble was once much wider than it is now. It was wider a few days ago.
[March 2020; SD7241; Edisford Bridge, Clitheroe – S on Ribble Way – Mitton Bridge – NW – Great Mitton – N – Edisford Hall – E, N, E over footbridge, NE on Ribble Way – Brungerley Bridge – NW, N, NE – Bradford Bridge – S on Ribble Way – Brungerley Bridge – NW, SW past Waddow Hall, S – Edisford Bridge; 9 miles; 160/400; 9.90%]
76.  The Belted Beauties of Sunderland
As I needed to be in Heysham, I took the opportunity to walk along the coast to Sunderland Point, which is the southern tip of the peninsula that lies between the Irish Sea and the River Lune. Two hundred years ago these five miles of coast were ignored by mankind. There were no buildings at all overlooking the sea – not surprisingly perhaps since it was a bleak prospect of mud stretching far into the bay. The coast was lashed by westerly storms, which eroded the small cliffs and occasionally inundated the low-lying fields inland. It was a dismal, primeval landscape of little appeal, use or interest. Since then we have spoiled it.
Most prominently, we have built Heysham Port and Power Station on an artificial promontory from the
rocky coast that used to run directly south from Near Maze on Half Moon Bay to Red Nab. Economically and
visually the Power Station dominates the region. We are accustomed to it now but what a structure it is to find on
Morecambe Bay! I headed towards it and then turned south to Ocean Edge Holiday Park along a long lane with no footpath. Holidaymakers at the Park are not expected to walk, as there is nothing to walk to. Instead, the lane is used to practise throwing rubbish out of car windows.
I can’t imagine what Ocean Edge puts in its brochure. It is tucked right by the Power Station. I suppose it is at the edge of an ocean but it seems that holidaymakers are not expected to clamber down to the beach. Why would they want to? My use of the word ‘beach’ may have provoked images of golden sands, deckchairs, ice-creams, and sparkling waves. There is none of that here.
Heysham Power Station, holiday camps and Red Nab
I did clamber down and made my way (alone, of course) across tide-rippled mud, over slippery stones, and around shell-lined pools. Between the pebbles on the seaward side and the rocks on the landward side there’s a small strip of sand (being generous) but nobody could make a sandcastle with it. My ‘pebbles’ and ‘rocks’ are misleading too. They are mainly detritus (plastic, bottles, wood, netting, and so on) washed up in high tides or old concrete and brickwork that has fallen from the eroded cliffs. All along there are signs of manmade constructions collapsing – a half-gone old building, steps down the cliff with the bottom half missing, a concrete weir that has long since collapsed.
On most of the old bricks I could read the remains of “Claughton Manor Brick Co Caton”. So, these bricks came from my local moor, Caton Moor. We have gouged a large quarry into the moor, made bricks with the slate, transported them to here, built something-or-other with them, and then seen the buildings fall into the bay. An exercise in futility.
To avert my eyes from the dereliction, I gazed out over the unchanging, natural mudflats to see a panorama
from Blackpool Tower to the nuclear submarine shipyards of Barrow, with about 200 wind turbines on the horizon
between. Inland, a climb up the grassy slope is rewarded with a sight of a high security fence and
warnings of CCTV surveillance. This is protecting the Middleton Sands retirement village, which has been built on the site of the
Middleton Tower Holiday Camp
that from 1939 to 1994 housed up to 3,000 holidaymakers at a time. All they required for a fun-filled holiday was provided within the camp, for obvious reasons.
Vegetation on the windswept shore is scanty – sea holly, sea sandwort, lyme grass and a few scraggly yellow
horned poppies (that’s their name – they aren’t yellow in March). Beyond Potts Corner more grass and saltmarsh rush has
grown on the salt-marshes and it is here that the
belted beauty moth
is to be found. Yes, I did find it (two, to be precise) when, a few years ago, I infiltrated a group of lepidopterists who were visiting for their annual census. Normally, they find 200 - 1,500 of the moths.
It is believed that the Potts Corner colony is now the only one in England and, unlike colonies elsewhere that prefer sandy grassland, it is on salt-marshes that are under water several times a year. The female moth doesn’t fly at all and the male moth doesn’t fly far if it has any sense. Therefore the moths are found by wandering about the marsh, peering intensely into the grass hoping to spot a small greyish object.
Where belted beauties are to be found, at Potts Corner. (Good luck! - but
perhaps they are best left to experts)
The belted beauty moth is clearly only just hanging on here. Would it matter if it died out? It is virtuous to think that all species matter equally and that they all deserve to survive, that every species is an integral part of the natural world and the loss of any one of them may have unforeseen ramifications for the others, that the extinction of any species makes our lives all the poorer, and that we have a duty to protect all species for future generations.
Is it really so? Who would miss these belted beauties? Hardly anybody knows that they are here and even fewer
have seen one. I doubt that any other species depends upon the belted beauty moths. Birds eat them but none depend upon
them. There are 160,000 species of moth – would it really matter if there were only 159,999? We might regret
the loss of, say, the black rhino but hardly the belted beauty – or am I guilty of speciesism? We only have
limited resources to save threatened species – how do we decide on priorities? Who are we to decide anyway?
Do we know how to save the belted beauty? It is part of evolution for species to die out, and many did before we could be held responsible. But we are not talking about the total extinction of the species – there are plenty of belted beauty moths elsewhere.
I made only a cursory search for belted beauties on this occasion as, although the moths must be here all year (as moth
or larva), it was a bit early for the census, which is usually at the end of April. I had to get round Sunderland Point, a mile south. I pressed on, alone again once past a couple of dog-walkers at Potts Corner. In the silence,
I enjoyed the shrill peeps of oystercatchers and the warbles of curlews as they prepared for their migration to their nesting grounds inland – and the sight of two whooper swans flying over, heading in the wrong direction if their aim was to get back to Iceland.
I reached Sunderland Point to walk past the huge boulders placed here to protect the bank. The last time I came here the bank, a two-metre high soil cliff, was exposed to the elements, which was just asking for erosion. The boulders are not elegant but may do the job, for a while. I am a little surprised that the money was found for this work as the government had intimated that it was impossible, with rising sea levels and stormier storms, to protect everywhere and that Sunderland Point was a low priority – which is understandable if economic payoff is the main factor. The small village of Sunderland, tucked on the leeward side of the Point, is vulnerable, both to government policy and to flooding. I noticed that a number of the cottages now have flood barriers over their doors and windows.
Around Sunderland Point
Somehow, perhaps because of the desolation that I had passed, Sunderland did not have the romantic appeal that I have
felt on previous visits. It is a charming, old-world spot, with its view inland over the Lune estuary to the Bowland
hills, but it is understandably weather-beaten and somewhat forlorn out of the summer season. It is said that
Sunderland is the only village in England that is cut off by the tides but that is said by those who rely on vehicles.
It is always possible to walk north from Sunderland.
However, of my return walk – across flat, wet fields, along rubbish-strewn lanes, under pylons, by industrial estates, and along the busy A589 – the less said, the better. So please forget that sentence.
[March 2020; SD4262; Woodlands Drive, Heysham – S, W, S by A589 – roundabout – W, S – coast – S, SE – Sunderland Point – N – Middleton – NW – roundabout – and back; 11 miles; 159/400; 9.77%]
Diversion 2:  These Boots ...
(This is one of the 'Rainy Day Rambles in the Lake District', which are of unknown date and were apparently written for
the Cumberland Courier but never printed there. I can't think why.)
I resolved to be decisive. Yesterday I had wandered the streets of Ambleside, daunted by the shop window displays,
never once daring to go in. Today would be different.
I strode to the first boots shop, took a deep breath, and marched in. It was the chemists.
So I walked out again and on to a shop called ‘These Boots ...’, which I assume to be
an allusion to that jaunty song by Nancy Sinatra that reached No 1 in 1966. “These boots are made for walkin’ and
that’s just what they’ll do”, I mumbled. I tried to pull myself together, muttering “Focus, focus”. Another deep
breath and in I went.
I was still holding my breath when I heard a voice.
“Can I help you, sir?”
“Have you any walking boots?” I gasped, a question so inane that it received
the answer it deserved - none at all.
“May I measure you, sir?”
I felt nauseous. I looked all around for help. What did he mean?
“Your feet, sir”.
Ah, yes, this shop means business. They wouldn’t just take my word for it if
I said “size 8”. I put my right foot forward.
“Take your shoes and socks off, please, sir”.
Of course. I sat down. Now was my chance to gather my thoughts.
I took my time untieing my shoelaces. Eventually I offered him my right foot.
He put it in a sort of box, drew in the sides, like a gentle vice, and
wrote some numbers down.
“And now the left foot, please”.
He did the same with the left foot, and then casually said “Your left foot is 1.6
millimetres longer than your right foot”.
I was astounded. How could that be? I had had these feet for 45 years and
no-one had ever suggested that they were deformed. I was lop-sided. A freak.
“Most people’s feet are different” he said, sensing my concern. “Now stand
here, please”. And he measured them again. “Feet change shape when you stand on them” he explained, as if to a
child. “They get longer and wider, and, in your case, the arch here collapses”.
What was he suggesting now? That my feet were weak as well as deformed?
This was getting serious.
“Do you have trouble walking?” he asked.
Cripes! I tried to lighten the mood. “Only after a few drinks” I replied.
He ignored me.
“Do you pronate?” Pronate? Prenate? Prenatal? Prenatal exercises? Surely not.
“Don’t lose it now, focus, focus” I told myself.
“Does your heel bend at an angle?”
“Do you wear out the soles of your shoes unevenly?”
I had no idea. I picked them up and had a look. Sure enough, the outsides of the heels had worn away and the insides were intact. I was walking on two slopes. I must be bow-ankled.
“Never mind” he said. “We can fix that with insoles”.
“That’s a relief” I said, and, feeling a little bolder, I added “I would like
my boots to be British-made, sustainably-produced, ecologically-sound, carbon-neutral, energy-efficient,
odour-free, organic, biodegradable and dishwasher-proof”.
“So would I” he replied “but in the meantime I think we’ll find something
suitable over here”, and he waved towards several shelves of boots.
I was reassured by the ‘we’, and I noticed the ‘sir’ had gone. We were in this
I padded over and picked up a boot at random. I scrutinised it thoroughly from all angles.
“That, sir, is a lady’s boot” he said.
The ‘sir’ was back. I was on my own again. I nearly asked if ladies’ feet were
different to men’s feet, but I thought better of it.
“Try these, sir. They are our best-selling make this summer”.
I did. I walked about in them, stamping in them, flexing my knees, not quite
sure how to test them out.
“How do they feel, sir?”
“Snug” I said. There was no other word for it. They were snug.
“Try them on the slope” he said.
I hadn’t noticed but there in the corner was a little ramp, complete with rocky
“Not exactly Striding Edge, is it?” I said.
“No, sir, but it’s the best we can manage in this room”.
My, he was an earnest young fellow. To humour him I stepped up and down it a few times.
“How do the toes feel, sir?”
“Well, now you mention it, a bit scrunched up”.
“I thought they might be. That make of boot tends to have a small size 8, we find”.
I was non-plussed. Surely, a size 8 is a size 8. Why measure feet to one decimal
place if the manufacturers can make a size 8 bigger or smaller, as they wish? It should be illegal.
I faced the appalling prospect of having to try on all these boots to see if any corresponded to my particular size 8.
The assistant realised this too and said “Excuse me a second. I’ll just deal with
these customers”, for quite a crowd had formed, enthralled by my travails. “Try any of these on and wander around
and up and down as you wish. I’ll be back in a moment”.
He was back two hours later.
“How are you getting on, sir?”
“Just fine” I said. I bought five pairs of boots,
adequate, I thought, to cover all the walking conditions I was likely to meet (road, track, grass, hill, rocks,
mud, rain, ice, snow, anything), plus various insoles, some spare laces, several pairs of socks, and a few
boot beauty kits. Actually, to be precise, I bought ten pairs: five pairs of size 8, for the right boots, and
five pairs of size 8½, for the left boots.
As I stepped out into the rain with my many bags, I glimpsed the assistants whooping
and high-fiving by the counter. But I didn’t mind: I had been decisive.
“And one of these days these boots are gonna wock all over you, duh, duh, duh, duh, ...”.
Photos: Nancy trying out her new boots; Some of my boots having a rest in the Wastwater Hotel.
75.  To Ward's Stone: A Classic Walk?
A book of ‘Classic Walks’ (Wilson and Gilbert, 1982) describes 32 walks in England, including 10 in North-West England. They are:
•   Buckden to Conistone via Buckden Pike and Great Whernside (15 miles (linear); 6-7 hours)
•   The Buttermere circuit, including Red Pike, Grey Knotts and Robinson (13 miles; 7 hours)
•   The Coniston Fells, including the Old Man, Swirl How and Wetherlam (14 miles; 7 hours)
•   Great Gable from Seathwaite (6 miles; 4-5 hours)
•   Helvellyn by Striding Edge and Swirral Edge (8 miles; 5-6 hours)
•   High Street from Patterdale to Troutbeck (12 miles (linear); 6 hours)
•   Malham Cove, Malham Tarn and Gordale Scar (7 miles; 5 hours)
•   Saddleback (or Blencathra) from Mungrisdale by Sharp Edge (8 miles; 6 hours)
•   Ward’s Stone, from Tarnbrook via Jubilee Tower (10 miles; 4 hours)
•   Wharfedale from Ilkley to Kettlewell (24 miles (linear); 8-9 hours)
Nobody would quibble much about any of those being in the top ten classic walks of North-West England – with one possible
exception, that exception happening to be the only one of the ten that I can reach by walking from home. I thought that I should walk to Ward’s Stone again (but from home for the first time) to see if my familiarity with it has lessened my appreciation of its classicality.
The book describes a walk from the south side of Ward’s Stone, from Tarnbrook and via Jubilee Tower. It had little choice in the matter because in 1982 access to Ward’s Stone was very much restricted, with only a narrow access strip along the watershed ridge. Today, now that most of Bowland is open access land, Ward’s Stone may be reached from many directions. An approach from the north (such as from my home) is perhaps to be preferred because then the vista across to the Dales and the Lakes is in view all the way up.
Once I had reached the access area south of Skelbow Barn I swung south-east to pick up an old path, not much used, I think, nowadays, that climbs south beside dilapidated grouse butts that are definitely not much used nowadays. I reached fresh snow and very helpful it was. It had settled more upon the path than it had upon surrounding heather and rock and therefore provided me with a white line to follow. New snow shone on the distant Lakes and Dales tops: a marvellous, sweeping, 180-degree prospect.
I eventually reached a shooters’ track. These tracks, much as I'd prefer them not to be scarring the landscape,
do at least enable walkers to stride out much more easily than would otherwise be the case.
A carpet of virgin snow sparkled on the track. It was almost a shame to walk upon it. Only the occasional
grouse, rabbit or hare had disturbed it.
The shooters' track, with Ward's Stone on the horizon
The track headed east and then climbed south and just as I was beginning to think that I might be unable, in the snow, to
locate the path east to Ward’s Stone I noticed a single set of footprints crossing my path, obviously of a walker striding
purposefully from Grit Fell to Ward’s Stone. I followed the footprints. This is a difficult path at the best of times, through heather and around boggy pools, especially after wet weather, as we’ve had. Locating the pools, presumably frozen, under snow would not be easy but by following the footprints I could at least see where he or she had fallen in.
Following footprints to Ward's Stone
I was led unerringly to the top. I never saw the owner of the footprints to thank him or her – or anyone else. The first trig point (560m) is, in fact, not quite the top, being 1m lower than the other trig point (the highest point in the Forest of Bowland) half-a-mile ahead. But both are lower than the huge rock near the first trig point, presumably the Stone of Ward (whoever he or she was), so I wasn’t fussed about the extra metre. Walking in uneven snow is exhausting and with a cold wind and dark clouds gathering over Morecambe Bay (although it was still sunny on the hills of the Dales and Lakes) I decided to drop down north over rough moorland, heading for Deep Clough, which I could see as a tiny farm 4km away, where there is a permissive path allowing entry to or exit from the access area.
Ward's Stone and trig point
It was an enjoyable yomp across a snowy wilderness but perhaps a little reckless. The snow made it impossible to know how far
my foot would sink before reaching rock, heather or bog. I knew that there was nobody within a mile of me and if I were to
slip on a rock and break a leg then there would be nobody within a mile of me for some time. So, I took every single step carefully, pausing every so often to absorb my surroundings. Grouse flew up, telling me to go-back, go-back, but I ignored their advice. Eventually, after slow, steady walking I escaped the snow, crossed Foxdale Beck within the hidden valley of, I suppose, Foxdale, reached the permissive path and then followed the footpath through Littledale.
A distant view of Whernside (17 miles away) and Ingleborough (14 miles away) from the
moor below Ward's Stone
So, is it a classic walk? Well, I’d say that while all walkers will enjoy the other nine on the list, there will be some who find Ward’s Stone not to their taste. It is rough walking, through gaunt, rugged terrain, with not much variety and few noteworthy features. The distant views are, of course, tremendous but close by it is all heather and millstone grit, dull brown and grey everywhere, except when it is under snow, of course.
Wilson and Gilbert (1982) say that “for a walk to be classic
it must be not only of excellent quality, but it must have withstood the test of time”. On that basis, the Ward’s Stone walk should have been disqualified but perhaps it was included precisely to celebrate the fact that such a walk had only recently become possible. In the 1960s the Forest of Bowland was the largest area of moorland in England where walking was forbidden. Despite decades of campaigning, with well-attended rallies and with confrontations between rambling clubs and gamekeepers, landowners were adamant that their land was private, reserved for grouse and grouse-shooters. However, in 1973 agreement was reached that the public would be allowed on three small areas, around Clougha, around Fair Snape Fell, and along the narrow access strip over Ward’s Stone. So, the Ward’s Stone walk had hardly ‘withstood the test of time’ by 1982.
According to Hill (1980), the 1973 agreement was only possible after landowners had been assured that they would receive an annual compensation. Bowland landowners received £2.94 per acre (I picture billionaire landowners haggling over the pence). Are we still paying landowners to be able to walk on these moors?
[February 2020; SD5464; Brookhouse – SE – Udale Bridge, Belhill Farm – S, W, SW, S, SE, S – shooters’ track – E, SE, E – Ward’s Stone – N, NE (permissive path by Ragill Beck), W – Crossgill – NW – Brookhouse; 11 miles; 159/400; 9.64%]
74.  Blackpool Promenading
To visit Blackpool on a February morning is to see an ungarnished Blackpool. There are no sunbathers on the beach; no illuminations; nobody on the roller
coasters; no marauding hen-partyers. It is a time to appreciate the core, the essence, the heart
of Blackpool, undistracted by the garishness for which it is renowned. It is unnecessary to write
with the customary condescension about Blackpool’s remarkable success as a tourist resort, quoting
with disdain and astonishment various statistics, such as that if all the chips eaten in Blackpool
in one year were laid end to end then that would be a waste.
From the station I walked to the North Pier and passed Blackpool Tower, the tallest structure in
Britain when it was built in 1894, and a place called Vegas Diner, which made me wonder what happened to
those proposals that Blackpool become the ‘Vegas of the North’ with a ‘super-casino’. (Checking later,
I see that the government dropped the idea in 2008 but they had opted for Manchester anyway.) I walked
on to the recently-redesigned esplanade with curving terraces overlooking the beach, with
tall, thin, black, spermoid poles, bending in the wind seeking celestial ova.
I do apologise. I had intended to not lower the tone. Since almost everything was closed,
I wasn’t going to mention a museum of curiosities, personalised rock, Gypsy Lavinia (“the answer to all
your problems”), foot-long hot dogs, Dr Fryte’s Freak Show, artisan ice-creams, and weprintanyhood.com.
I would instead admire the sea and the beach. The waves were far distant and the beach looked somewhat wet, dark and bleak, but not so much that it deserved no people at all.
Eventually, the tourist glitz, such as it was, faded away, to be replaced by hotels and guest
houses, from one of which a man emerged, blinking, exclaiming “… summer's day, mate!”, which no
doubt it was compared to the preceding days when Blackpool was storm-battered, judging by the sand and seaweed strewn about the promenade. This evolved into a high sea wall, from which the exits to the beach were closed, for some reason. Near the South Pier, tourism has another flourish, with the Pleasure Beach, which is not a beach. It is an amusement park, attracting over five million customers a year, but very few, if any, on the day I walked by. The Big One – the highest and steepest roller coaster in England – appeared asleep, until I heard a train trundling up to the top and then rattling down. However, there seemed to be nobody on it. Perhaps it was a ghost train.
The sea wall came to an end at a stretch of sand dunes. I continued south by the A584 (Clifton Drive North) behind the
dunes, or rather between them, as dunes like to blow inland. A sign said that I was entering St Anne’s-on-the-Sea, a name that doesn’t appear on today’s OS map. One might assume that this indicates that an old village of St Anne’s rather resents being tagged onto the end of Lytham St Anne’s, now that it is has merged with Lytham. However, an online map of 1847 shows no St Anne’s but does show a Lytham larger than the then tiny Blackpool. St Anne’s was a planned town, founded in 1875.
To the east, a new housing estate called itself Coastal Dunes, named after what it is has replaced, as is the custom. Further along, a section of the easterly dunes has been left as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, but it cannot be entirely natural, being separated from its mother dunes by the A584. The first house after the SSSI was, I noticed, numbered 553, indicating that I had far to go to reach the centre of Lytham.
I left the A584 to walk on the seaward side of the dunes, where I found two lines of posts about ten metres apart, marking, I assumed, where we are supposed to walk. The path was patrolled by an army of walkers, all with a dog and some with several. The sand/mud glistened towards distant waves that were surprisingly noisy. St Anne’s Pier and nearby attractions – boating lake, putting course, miniature train, crazy golf, trampolines, gardens – were, of course, genteel compared to what I seen earlier.
St Anne's Pier
I noticed that the map shows a large empty area inland so I went to have a look, passing many grand residences, all built of red brick with white/cream embellishments, including one that insisted that it was St Anne’s Library. Lytham was still signposted ahead. I reached the empty area, which turned out to be a rolling park with copses, sand-dunes and grassland. A number of people were wandering about, in ones and twos and threes and fours, with some of the more elderly easing about in buggies. How commendable to provide such a leisure area within the metropolis!
The area was, however, protected by barricades, no-entry signs and high wire fences. I could see a
couple of park-walkers limbering up, an activity intended to make the limbs limber. This involved using
a large stick to swing the limbs in an exaggerated fashion. There is a species of walker (who consider
themselves psychogeographers) who are inclined to toss a coin at street corners to generate a random walk
about a city. Similarly, these park-walkers hit a little white ball in a random direction and then walked
towards it, and so on. They didn’t carry their rucksacks on their backs but pulled them on wheels, which
seems an excellent innovation that I must try on Striding Edge. I also noticed that every so often the
park-walkers would perform a mysterious balletic manoeuvre, raising one leg behind, bending and extending
one arm to the ground. I understand that the Rider Cup has been held on this park. I didn’t notice any
horses myself but I could see that it was excellent terrain for riding. I thought that I’d go for a walk
around the park but I read that it is £200 around, which seemed rather steep, what with all the white balls
I walked through suburbs and snowdrops to Lytham Hall.
The first sentence of the Lytham Hall website states boldly that it “is the finest Georgian house in Lancashire”. Even those who don’t know what other Georgian houses there are in Lancashire will be impressed, as no doubt they should be since it is the only Grade 1 listed building in Fylde. It was built in 1764 in the Palladian style to replace the manor house of 1606. Like other grand houses hereabouts it is red brick and creamy, but grander, being an imposing cuboid of symmetrical design. I sadly admit that I found it rather conventional, with no external features of any inspiration or idiosyncrasy that might lead me to encourage anyone to visit in order to see them.
The manor house and hall were the home of the Clifton dynasty. I invariably find that
I’m more interested in the later than the earlier members of a dynasty. The early ones are always
worthy souls (Sirs, Barons, High Sheriffs, MPs, and the like) of power, prestige and wealth sufficient to build the piles that befit them. The later ones are usually reprobates who have found that they cannot maintain their halls in the manner to which they have become accustomed and therefore, in a final blaze of inglory, splurge whatever wealth remains.
The last Clifton gentleman to live in Lytham Hall was Henry Talbot de Vere Clifton (1907-1979), who called himself Harry, which immediately shows that he lacked the necessary commitment to upper-class toffiness. Wikipedia describes him as a “dilettante film producer” (though nobody knows what films he produced) who “squandered much of the family’s wealth”. Perhaps he inherited the standards set by his father, John Talbot Clifton (1868-1928), described by Wikipedia as “colourful”, which I suppose is one adjective to describe a man who travelled the world to shoot wild animals (especially rare ones that thereby became rarer) and to eat them. Perhaps he took a knife and fork, as well as a gun, on his expeditions so that he could tuck in straightaway, thereby becoming full of colour, red.
[February 2020; SD3036; (linear) Blackpool North railway station – W – North Pier – S – end of the promenade – S on A584, SE on beach – St Anne’s Pier – NE past Lytham & St Anne’s golf club – E – Lytham Hall – SE – Lytham station; 10 miles; 159/400; 9.49%]
73.  The Raygill Foraminifers
I was reading a
by the Craven and Pendle Geological Society – which is not a phrase that I have used often – when I
noticed that it mentioned that among the highlights of the disused Raygill Quarry near Skipton
were the primitive archaediscid foraminifers of the Eoparastaffella Cf4ß Subzone.
My excitement was unbounded. My unceasing quest to learn more about North-West England would
lead me to the site of primitive archaediscid foraminifers of the Eoparastaffella Cf4ß Subzone!!  I am very fond of the technical terms of geology. It cheers me greatly to know that there are people in the world who chat in the pub with their colleagues about primitive archaediscid foraminifers of the Eoparastaffella Cf4ß Subzone. After this walk I would be able to join them.
I walked to the quarry from a lay-by on the road between Earby and Thornton-in-Craven. As I prepared to do so, I realised that I knew as much about Earby and Thornton-in-Craven as I do about the primitive archaediscid foraminifers of the Eoparastaffella Cf4ß Subzone. They lie off the beaten track – at least, off my beaten track. I have been along the A65 hundreds of times but I have never once visited Earby or Thornton-in-Craven, just a few miles south of it. However, the Pennine Way passes nearby, so the villages should be hospitable to walkers like myself.
Earby has a number of factory buildings, all too shy to put up any notices to tell me what they do.
I passed them and headed east up to Bleara Moor (366m). This tiny moor is, somewhat surprisingly, on the National Divide, which here runs just south of Earby, but this fact did not tempt me onto the unappealing, boggy, heathery land. I skirted around it and dropped down to Bent Hall, heading, with mounting excitement, towards the old Raygill Quarry, the site of my primitive archaediscid foraminifers of the Eoparastaffella Cf4ß Subzone.
First I had to tackle an absurdly muddy path that has probably swallowed a few walkers in the past. Eventually, I reached the old quarry, which is now a fishery. For centuries this quarry was a dominant feature of the region. The limestone was quarried and burned in ten or more kilns to produce lime that was transported on packhorses in all directions. The quarry was something of a pioneer in lime production for in 1870 it patented a new kind of kiln that produced more lime per ton of coal burned. The geology that so excites our friends from the Craven and Pendle Geological Society is also responsible for the barytes that was also mined here. Barytes seems to have many uses and, for a while, Raygill Quarry produced more of it than anywhere else in the country.
Unfortunately, the path yielded no sight of the old quarry and when I reached the entrance
to the fishery I found that there were many ‘closed until March 6’, ‘no entry’ and ‘no public
footpath’ signs. Nevertheless, I wandered in as far as the first lake. I still couldn’t see
much of the old quarry. I had so looked forward to studying the anticline in the south-west corner
that, I understand, is the crest of the Lothersdale Anticline that plays a key part in the geology
of the region. And to seeing the fissures in the limestone cliff faces, in which in 1875 were found various animal remains that were identified at the time as of elephant, rhinoceros, hyena, lion, hippopotamus and bear and subsequently as being of an inter-glacial period over 100,000 years ago. And most of all, of course, to appreciating the site of those primitive archaediscid foraminifers of the Eoparastaffella Cf4ß Subzone.
I walked on and up towards Pinhaw (388m), pausing for a snack on a sunny slope near the aptly-named Sunny Side overlooking Lothersdale. I tried hard to picture a large quarry creating noise, smoke and dust in this now quiet, green valley. The quarry closed down in 1980, only forty years ago, but it has disappeared as completely as those elephants and rhinos.
If Raygill Quarry was a disappointment then so was Pinhaw. I had read many comments about
the stupendous views from Pinhaw – for example, the
refers to “spectacular, ‘top of the world’ views” – but I feel that there has been a wee bit of exaggeration, although admittedly my day did not have perfect visibility. Everything of interest is so far away. Pendle looms small to the west and the Pennine hills to the south appear so flat and shapeless that it is impossible (for me) to identify them. I could not see the promised Lake District hills or the Three Peaks at all because there was no wind to disperse the low-lying murk. But if I could see them then I expect that they would be mere pimples on the horizon only provoking the thought that I’d rather be there, on a proper mountain, than here on Pinhaw. It is an undistinguished top, once the site of a beacon and now the site of nothing much, and it is such an easy amble to it that there is little sense of achievement. If, despite my words, you are keen to conquer Pinhaw then you may do so by parking on the road and walking about 500m on the gentle Pennine Way track, climbing all of 50m.
The dramatic top of Pinhaw (believe it or not, Pendle is vaguely visible past the trig-point)
At least it was an unexpectedly sunny day, almost spring-like. From Pinhaw I headed west over a
moor that somebody, for some reason, has recently enclosed in a high fence and dug furrows across.
There is a ring cairn
on this moor but I did not search for it to see if it has survived the work of the furrower.
Further along, near Booth Bridge, many young trees have been planted on the hill-side. Have recent tree-planters received grants from a government committed to planting millions of trees? If not, will they now pause to see if such grants become available? Past the Earby factories
and back at the lay-by, I considered whether I would return when the fishery is open in order to seek
my beloved primitive archaediscid foraminifers of the Eoparastaffella Cf4ß Subzone. That is hard to say.
[February 2020; SD9047; P north of Earby – E, S, SE – Banks Farm – SE – Higher Verjuice Bank – E, S, NE – Bent Hall – S, NE (past Raygill Fisheries) – The Fold – NW, N, E, NE – Sunny Side – NW – Pinhaw – SW, NW, W across Rectory Allotment – Booth Bridge – SW, N, W – P north of Earby; 8 miles; 155/400; 9.32%]
72.  Turner and the Lune Aqueduct
I ignored the 6.30 alarm. Who hasn’t found that the adventure planned yesterday for today is not quite so appealing in the cold dark of morning? Could I rely on British Rail, or whatever it’s called nowadays, to get me to Windermere and back on time? Probably not. Was I fit enough for a long walk in a strong wind? Probably not. So I decided to walk to Lancaster instead, to avoid feeling guilty all day.
I walked to Waterworks Bridge in order to continue on the north bank of the River Lune but this was a
mistake. Yesterday’s heavy rain had left large puddles and glutinous mud. From the Crook o’Lune I gave
up the intention to walk by the river and avoided more mud by walking on the old railway line, now part of the
Lune Valley Ramble
– guilt is one thing but I didn’t need to punish myself for it.
It was a familiar stroll, accompanied by dog-walkers, joggers and cyclists but hardly
anyone ‘just walking’. I reflected upon our changing modes of transport, as demonstrated
along the way. The Lancaster Canal crosses the Lune by a fine aqueduct, completed in 1797,
but canals were rendered obsolete (for transporting goods) by the railways. The
Lancaster-Wennington line, built in 1849, ran along what is now this footpath but it closed
in 1966, as a result of increased traffic on the roads. The path passes under the M6 bridge,
completed in 1970. No doubt, in ways impossible to predict, the M6 too will eventually
become obsolete. Perhaps we will return to the mode of transport I was using, legs.
The Lune Aqueduct is the most impressive structure seen along this part of the Lune. According to Hill (1997), this Aqueduct played an important part in the artistic development of J.M.W. Turner, who toured northern England in 1797 at the age of 22. He produced a number of sketches on the tour, including one of the Lune Aqueduct. This, Hill (1997) says, was “a radical departure” because “here for the first time on the tour was Turner engaged with the modern world”. He was presumably “impressed to have found a modern structure with the nobility and ambition to rival those of the medieval world”.
The Aqueduct was indeed modern, having been opened only a few months earlier in 1797. Designed by
the Aqueduct has five arches, is 200m long and carries the canal 18m above the Lune. It was undoubtedly one of the greatest civil engineering feats of the day, and, as is traditional with great civil engineering feats, its cost far exceeded its budget. I expect that the Aqueduct had more appeal for Turner than the present-day equivalent, the new A683 bridge across the Lune, next to the M6 bridge, has for today’s artists. Unfortunately, despite a major restoration of the Aqueduct in 2011-2012, the canal at the moment is drained of water in order to repair the canal’s waterproof lining.
Turner included in his sketch of the Aqueduct a long-distance view of Lancaster Castle and Priory framed
within one arch. I haven’t been able to determine a point which provides such a view but as Turner became
Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy I am sure that such a point must exist. Or perhaps he was making
a contrast between the old and the new. The on-line version of the
is rather too faint to decipher – it is better reproduced in the Hill (1997) book.
Later, in 1827, Turner painted a
view of Lancaster
from the Aqueduct itself. It shows fields, farm-workers and cattle downriver of the Aqueduct, with the Lune itself sweeping further to the left than it does now. I walked on to Lancaster but saw no fields, farm-workers or cattle. Probably they were gone within twenty years of Turner’s painting, when the railway was built here. In fact, it is a mistake to regard Turner’s painting as a factual depiction of the scene, like a photograph. He was producing a work of art and perhaps introduced the fields, farm-workers and cattle in order to contrast the rural and the urban.
[January 2020; SD5464; (linear) Brookhouse – N – Waterworks Bridge –SW (on north bank of Lune) –
Crook o’Lune – W, SW, S on old railway line - Lancaster; 5 miles; 153/400; 9.18%]
71.  Low in Low Barbondale
Barbondale became part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park in 2016, which is fair enough since it is a
scenic valley. It is also one of the few dales to have two different sides to it – a west side of grey
Silurian slate and an east side of less grey Carboniferous limestone (the photo shows Barbondale on an
earlier, sunnier occasion). I aimed on this walk to
investigate the transition between the two.
I walked first on the path below
This is one of the most well-known and pleasant strolls in the region, through woodland and accompanied
by a burbling Barbon Beck. The path was more open than on my last visit because of all the recent tree-felling
but it was still not open enough to enable a view of Barbon Manor. The manor was built in 1863 as a
shooting lodge for
Sir James Kay-Shuttleworth
who had married into the Shuttleworth family, owners of the Barbon estate since 1588.
I don’t want to give the impression of being obsessed by the shooting industry but anyone who
visits areas of north-west England more or less at random, like me, is bound to find that much of the
land is being or has been used for game-shooting. So let us reflect upon Sir James and his shooting lodge.
Dr Kay became known for his influential document The Moral and Physical Condition of the Working
Class Employed in the Cotton Manufacture in Manchester
written in 1832. After acquiring his fortune he naturally wondered how best to use it. It appears that he thought it better not to help alleviate the conditions of the working class, with which he was so familiar, but instead to build a grand mansion in the French Renaissance style so that he and his friends could kill birds. Most of the upper-class, then and now, would agree with his judgment.
I cannot relate to this frame of mind. If I had a fortune then I wouldn’t think of killing birds
with it. I will never kill a bird for fun: I don’t see how there can be any fun in it. It is worrying
that our nature and environment are in the hands of those with such a warped attitude towards life. We seem to have inherited a strange respect for hunters and shooters. Even Gilbert White (1720-1793), regarded as England’s first ecologist after his detailed studies of the nature around him in Selborne, wrote as if in awe of hunters, regarding the practice of hunting as an essential rite of passage towards manhood: “Most men are sportsmen by constitution; and there is such an inherent spirit for hunting in human nature, as scarce any inhibitions can restrain ... Unless he was a hunter ... no young person was allowed to be possessed of manhood or gallantry”. Women were not considered.
That hunting/shooting is a sport is one of many myths. I have on my shelf an Encyclopedia of Sport
published in 1959. The 28th of 66 chapters is entitled ‘Game Shooting’. It includes details of ‘record bags’ for various species as though they are on a par with record cricket scores. It says, for example, that 3,937 pheasant were shot at Beaconsfield on December 18th 1913 by H.M. King George V, The Prince of Wales, Lord Charles Fitzmaurice, Lord Ilchester, Lord Dalhousie, Lord Herbert Vane-Tempest and the Hon. H. Stonor. It is easy to skim over a number like 3,937 – but pause. That is 562 pheasants per shooter, which at a rate of one pheasant per minute would be over nine hours of remorseless killing. I see also that 69 capercaillie – now rare in Scotland – were shot at Dunkeld on November 4th 1910 by the Duke of Atholl, the Marquis of Tullibardine, Lord George Murray, Col. Ruggles Brise, Count Clary, Capt. Moray and Capt. Wentworth. I think Agatha Christie borrowed some of those names. Of course, it wasn’t just birds that were shot – the record for rabbits was 6,943 and for hares 1,215. Notice the precision with which these numbers were recorded. It clearly mattered to the shooters how many they shot.
The remarkable thing about this game-shooting chapter – apart from the fact that it appeared in a book about sport – is that even in 1959 the opportunity was being taken to perpetuate other myths that the shooting industry still peddle today:
•   that “the size of the bag was a matter of major importance” and, as implied by
the past tense, no longer is – but gamekeepers consider it
their job to maximise the number of birds available to be shot;
•   that “the accent now is … on conservation” – but only of game birds,
not of anything that gets in the way of game birds;
•   that shooting “is no longer the perquisite of the wealthy” – but I once had the misfortune to attend an auction at which I was astonished to find that the bidding for a day’s grouse shooting rose to over £1000;
•   that, as implied by “the value of their sport is to be measured not by the
amount of game hanging in the larder”, all shot game birds are eaten – but 50 million game birds are
reared and released to be shot every year: who eats them all, or do they end up
Nowadays, although the shooting industry is adept at glossing its image, progress is being made
debunking these myths. I doubt that game-shooting would appear in a modern encyclopedia of sport.
definition of sport
specifically rules out any activity that is in any way harmful to any living creature.
But I may have been unfair on Kay-Shuttleworth, in taking the word of others that he built Barbon Manor as a shooting lodge. On the other hand, the Barbon Manor estate is, I read, a “fabulous partridge and pheasant shoot” today. I walked on, disturbing a few pheasants, one of which was albino. I don’t fancy its chances.
Footbridge over Barbon Beck
I reached the footbridge over Barbon Beck, with a watery sun at last appearing above Barbon Low Moor,
and realised that a continuing cold/cough had left me drained. I aborted the original aim to walk
up to Bullpot, Brownthwaite and then to Barbon and instead walked slowly back on the road.
I passed another Goldsworthy
I am sure that an artist prefers that their artwork provokes a response in a viewer rather than indifference – in which case, I can only say, that in the mood that I was in, the sheepfold provoked only irritation. Barbondale does not need such so-called artwork. I regret that Cumbria County Council paid Goldsworthy to litter our region with such structures. To me, they seem to lack style and subtlety, but what do I know?
Neglected old sheepfolds, which I prefer to come across, eventually disintegrate. It would be a form of
– which I am sure Goldsworthy approves of – if we all hurried along the process of disintegration of these artificial
sheepfolds. Reaching the village of Barbon, I entered the church to pay penance for such a short walk. I understand that stained glass windows were not installed in the east wall because they could not possibly improve upon the view of the fells through plain windows. That’s more the spirit! However, for us to agree, the church will need to employ a window cleaner.
[January 2020; SD6282; Barbon village hall – N, E – church – N, E through wood – footbridge over
Barbon Beck – W on road – Barbon; 3.5 miles; 152/400; 9.09%]
70.   Up the Conder
69.   Lakeside, Finsthwaite Heights, Rusland Heights and Tourists
68.   Landscape and the Howgills
67.   The Consolation of Arant Haw
66.   In Search of the Paythorne Salmon
Diversion 1:  Save Our Sausage
65.   Grisedale and Another Tarn
64.   Beyond the Leagram Pale
63.   These Are a Few of My Favourite 'Superficial Things': in Crummackdale
62.   On and Off the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail
61.   Knott Alone
60.   The Longsleddale Green Lane
59.   The 1 in 5,000 Hen Harriers of Bowland
58.   From Hawes, in the Poet Laureate's Footsteps
57.   A Blowy Lowsy Point
56.   Cross Fell: The Apex of England
55.   Butterflying on Whitbarrow
54.   Follies around Flusco
53.   Why? On the Wyre Way
52.   Morecambe Bay - from Cark to Grange-over-Sands
51.   On Wild Boar Fell
50.   With the Lune from Kirkby Lonsdale
49.   Lingmoor Fell - For the Best Medium-High View in Lakeland?
48.   With The Grane
47.   The 'Wild Desert' of Kingsdale
46.   To the Point of Winterburn Reservoir
45.   Thoughts from the Towpath (Bilsborrow to Preston)
44.   Interlude: We Are Sorry for the Delay ...
43.   The Red Screes - Wansfell Question
42.   Appreciating Meg and Lucy
41.   Safe in Littledale
40.   In the Borderlands of Burton-in-Lonsdale and Bentham
39.   Halls Galore by the Middle Ribble
38.   Reflections from Jeffrey's Mount
37.   Whoopers on Thurnham Moss
36.   The Flow and Ebb and Flow of Morecambe
35.   Dufton Rocks
34.   Thieveley Pike and the Singing Ringing Tree
33.   Is Nappa Hall Napping - or Dying?
32.   Russet Rusland Valley
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
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)
© John Self, Drakkar Press, 2018
Top photo: The western Howgills from Dillicar;
Bottom photo: Blencathra from Great Mell Fell