Western Howgills

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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).

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     74.   Blackpool Promenading   
     73.   The Raygill Foraminifers   
     72.   Turner and the Lune Aqueduct   
     71.   Low in Low Barbondale   
     v  2019  v    ^  2020  ^
     70.   Up the Conder   
     69.   Lakeside, Finsthwaite Heights, Rusland Heights and Tourists   
     68.   Landscape and the Howgills   
     Previous Saunterings   2018   2019

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.
Blackpool Tower
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.
The Big One
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 dunes

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!
Lytham golf
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 flying about.
Lytham Hall
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 report 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.
Raygill fishery
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 Craven Herald 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.
Lune Aqueduct

Lune Aqueduct

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 John Rennie, 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 Aqueduct sketch 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 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 Barbon Manor. 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 here?

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. The SportAccord 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.
Barbon Beck

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 sheepfold. 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 participatory art – 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

The Conder is an unassuming river, most of the time. It arises on Black Fell, below Clougha Pike, and runs inconspicuously, never more than a few feet wide, for about eight miles through what nobody has ever called Conderdale. This is a surprisingly broad valley, there being over two miles between Clougha Pike and the Langthwaite hills on the opposite side. After its initial spurt off Black Fell, the Conder declines gently towards the coast, with no waterfalls or other excitements along the way. It ends not by boldly entering Morecambe Bay of its own accord but by sidling into the River Lune at Conder Green, just before the Lune enters the bay.

An iffy forecast for later in the day led me to begin my walk before sunrise, setting off from Glasson marina and aiming to walk up beside the Conder to its source (and then home). The path along the old railway line to Conder Green was icy and required attention that might otherwise have been directed towards identifying the birds stirring in the dark estuary. A bright white little egret was all that I could discern. The tide was out and the Conder ran low below its muddy banks towards the Lune. As I made my way to the Glasson spur of the Lancaster Canal the sky evolved through oranges and purples. In its own good time the sun arose over the Bowland hills but, alas, within ten minutes it disappeared behind a bank of cloud, where it hid for the rest of the day – which wasn’t what had been forecast.
Glasson marina

Glasson marina

Conder Green

River Conder at Conder Green

Glasson canal

Glasson canal and sunrise

The canal here is banked up above the level of the Conder, which meanders unseen in the fields to the left. I continued north on the canal mainly to see the River Conder flowing under it. It’s an odd juxtaposition – a flowing river crossing a still canal. I followed the path of the Conder through the village of Galgate, for the residents of which I added that ‘most of the time’ to my first sentence. The Conder floods the village with depressing regularity. Here the river passes through a fairly narrow channel within high walls and, of course, most of the time it flows harmlessly enough. However, the Conder has a large catchment area for such a normally docile river and if there’s a cloudburst on the Bowland fells then, as there is little to detain it, the water must rapidly fill this channel.

North of Galgate, at the hamlet of Ellel, I took a footpath east. The Conder protects its privacy by having no public footpaths anywhere on its banks except here – and this short footpath passes under the M6, so it hasn’t much appeal to walkers. Disappointingly, the cloud was now dampening what little colour there was on a December morning and, with the Conder inaccessible and hidden away down to the north, I settled in for a spell of road-walking.

At the corner of Long Lane the OS map marks an ‘Old School House’ but the plaque says it’s the old schoolmaster’s house, which seems more plausible given its isolation. Did the schoolmaster teach his pupils to split the word th
e over two lines, as on the plaque? Long Lane was not as quiet as might be expected, with various workmen wandering about. Our utility services think that this valley deserves to be cluttered with enormous pylons, large reservoirs (on the Langthwaite hills) and fenced-off constructions. A view of Clougha Pike was somewhat obscured, as the photo shows.
Clougha pylons
Halfway along Long Lane I cut down to Conder Side Farm. I felt a duty to see anything that had ‘Conder’ in its name. Sure enough, the farm was beside the Conder, which I crossed by a nondescript bridge. I continued east and then dropped down from the other side to Conder Mill, which with a mill pond and a scheduled bridge is a pretty setting (when in sunshine). Just above Conder Mill the Conder is joined by its largest (but still not large) tributary, Rowton Brook.

After walking through the village of Quernmore and past the isolated St Peter’s church I crossed the Conder again, now quite diminutive, by a bridge that nobody passing on the road would notice as a bridge. Here I needed to swing east because the Conder flows from what looks like a side valley, with the main valley north having no significant watercourse. An explanation for the width of the valley, and the fact that the Conder seems much too small for it, may now be appreciated – the River Lune once flowed through here before it was diverted towards Lancaster by glacial deposits.
Conder source
Passing the peacocks at Cragg Cottage and crossing the Conder again, I entered the Bowland Access Area near Cragg Wood. This wood, known in particular for its old sessile oaks, is one of only four Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) in Lancashire. It is, however, private land. After too much road-walking my boots welcomed the rather rocky and muddy track through heather above the Conder and also enjoyed their first walk of the winter in snow, albeit only the soggy remnants of the snowfall of a few days ago.

Now, at last, I reached the source of the Conder – or as close to it as you can reasonably expect after the long trek from Glasson. The true source, of course, lies higher up the slopes of Clougha but I was content to see it gushing down through a small ravine and then swerving off west whence I had come. I crossed it for the ninth and last time, taking only a single step to do so. A few yards further on I walked by Sweet Beck, which flows north to join the Lune. It is strange to think that apart from those few yards the land between the Conder and the Lune is entirely surrounded by water – it is almost a sort of island. But something similar can be said about any watershed.

Unfortunately for my legs I still had a couple of miles to go to get home but as far as the River Conder was concerned, that was it. I said at the beginning that it is an unassuming river and I am tempted to add, paraphrasing Churchill, that it has much to be unassuming about – but that would be unfair. The river and the valley are not at their best on a cold, grey day. Me neither.

[December 2019; SD4456; (linear) Glasson – E – Conder Green – E, S, SE – canal – SE, E, N – Ellel Hall Bridge – E – Galgate – N – Ellel – E – Lower Kit Brow – NE on Kit Brow Lane, Long Lane, W – Conder Side Farm, road – NE, SE – Conder Mill – E – Quernmore – N, NW, E on Littledale Road – S (past peacocks), SE, E – Sweet Beck – NE – Belhill Farm – N, NW - Brookhouse; 14 miles; 151/400; 9.05%]

69.  Lakeside, Finsthwaite Heights, Rusland Heights and Tourists

1,634,654 people took a Windermere Lake Cruise in 2018, according to a Cumbria Tourism report. However, on this bright December morning there were hardly any potential customers at Lakeside, at the southern end of Windermere. There might have been more if the car parks weren’t closed because a large crane was manoeuvring some red structures into place. A worker told me that “someone with a load of money wants a big boat put in the water”.

I left them to it. I hadn’t intended to take a cruise anyway. I planned to walk on Finsthwaite Heights and Rusland Heights, the gentle hills to the west that reach no higher than about 250m. I walked first to Stott Park Bobbin Mill, which was, as expected, closed. It is a (summer) visitor attraction but from 1835 to 1971 the mill made bobbins for Lancashire’s spinning and weaving industries. I need to come back when it’s open because I don’t really know what a bobbin is, or why the industries needed millions of them every year, or why the Furness trees were so suitable for making them. I know the trees were coppiced, rather than cut down, but even so a huge quantity of wood was being removed from these hills.

I continued up to High Dam, which was built to provide power for the mill. The lake is in a sylvan setting of pine and larch, with a wide, gentle path around it, strollable by all. It reminded me of the tourist hotspot of Tarn Hows – so much so that halfway round I felt the need to escape for a scramble. I climbed a fence and made my way through dead bracken to the top of Great Green Hows, which despite the name is only 229m high. It was worth the little effort because beyond the deep blue Green Hows Upper Tarn there was a wonderfully wide panorama from the Howgills to Black Combe, with the Coniston hills particularly well displayed. There was, however, no view of Windermere or Coniston Water.
Great Green Hows

North from Great Green Hows, to Green Hows Upper Tarn and, on the horizon, the Langdale Pikes, Helvellyn and Fairfield (in cloud), Red Screes and High Street

I headed south over Rusland Heights. The scrubby, hummocky, heathery land was criss-crossed by a maze of what-might-be-paths. The bearing was clear but the path less so, until I realised that white topped posts marked the way. There was a post every few yards, which was very kind of whoever put them there. Two jets flew past, ruining the silence. Their sound reverberated around the hills for some time as they made their way along various dales.

I was now a dedicated follower of the white posts, although I left them briefly to have a peek at the secluded Boretree Tarn. I could see that it was surrounded by much squelchiness, so a peek was enough. Thinking of all those cruisers, I wondered how many people visited Boretree Tarn in 2018. I doubt that it was as many as a thousand, or three a day on average. That 1,634,654 for the Windermere Lake Cruises is a very precise figure. The Cumbria Tourism report gives us other precise figures. It says that there were 47.03m ‘tourism visits’ to Cumbria in 2018, with 40.41m of them being day visits and 6.62m being staying visits, a stay being for 3.4 nights on average. This means, it calculates, that there were 62.76m ‘visitor days and nights’ in 2018 – this figure being 40.41 + (6.62 x 3.4). Well, I have news for Cumbria Tourism – when we stay one night in the Lake District we have two full days there. So, I’d say that the total of ‘visitor days and nights’ is 40.41 + (6.62 x 4.4), that is, 69.50m. I have hereby instantly increased the total by over 10%, which will please Cumbria Tourism no end.
Coniston hills

The Coniston hills from Rusland Heights

The white posts led me down through Yewbarrow Wood heading, it seemed, for the Rusland valley, where many fields were flooded. The trouble with following posts – or indeed people – is that they may not be leading you where you expect them to. But my lapse of faith proved unfounded because I emerged at the road at the exact point necessary to take the path east to Town End. Walks through woods are always pleasant but I never find that I have much to say about them. Stark trees, at this time of year; sprinkles of sunlight on dead leaves; luxuriant mosses covering the rocks; a few birds twittering in the tree tops.

I am sure that Cumbria Tourism will eagerly welcome that extra 10% I found for them because the tourism industry is, like all industries, one that depends on growth. It is vital to attract more people, who bring more money to the local economy and create more local jobs. Cumbria Tourism’s 10-year plan of 2008 was to increase the number of trips to Cumbria by 12%, from 15.2m to 17m. The difference between 17m and the 47m above is a mystery (perhaps a 'visit' is different to a 'trip'?) but need not detain us. The important factor is the 12% increase. That may seem ambitious but the world population increased by 13% from 2008 to 2018. The Lake District thinks of itself as a world-class tourist destination, so it was really aiming to attract a lower proportion of its target. Cumbria Tourism must try harder.

Given the importance of the figures quoted in Cumbria Tourism’s reports – and the fact that there are many vested interests that they should increase – it is natural to wonder where they come from. The tourism industry cannot just guesstimate figures – it has to have sophisticated mathematical models that can provide reliable, convincing data. To this end, Cumbria Tourism uses STEAM (Scarborough Tourism Economic Activity Monitor). Many tourism bodies say that they use STEAM but none of them tell us how it works. It takes more than a neat acronym and the .03 in 47.03 to convince me. All I’d ask is: did I contribute to the 47.03m ‘tourism visits’? On most of my visits to Cumbria I am not aware of doing anything that would enable me to be counted.

Reaching the road, I felt obliged to have a look at the village of Finsthwaite, having tramped over its Heights. Near the grand Finsthwaite House I passed a woman who was admiring the view whilst sat upon two shooting sticks, one per buttock. I noticed also that something called Lakelovers offered me a ‘handpicked holiday home’ but if I needed one then I’d prefer to handpick it myself. Finsthwaite was, like most villages, quiet. The church, at least, looked different. The Lancaster firm of Paley & Austin seems to have had a monopoly hereabouts of church building and re-building in the 1870-1880 period. They naturally developed a house style, or rather, a church style, but they let themselves go with the Finsthwaite church, putting a pyramidal top on the tower.

Windermere from Lakeside, Gummer's How on the right

After walking through Great Knott Wood, I reached Lakeside to find that they were preparing to move the afore-mentioned big boat, which I now noticed was parked or berthed in the second car park. How they got this boat over Newby Bridge, along the narrow roads, and into the car park I don’t know. It looked more like a ferry-boat than a privately-owned boat. Perhaps they are upgrading the boats used for the cruises, to cater for even more trippers. (**)

The number of people taking a cruise on Windermere is three times what it was thirty years ago. Excellent! I am all in favour of transporting as many visitors as possible to the middle of Windermere in order to keep them away from the fells. I hope that they are also lured away by the other attractions so carefully listed by Cumbria Tourism in its enthralling annual top twenties. Below are the lists for the years 2018, 2017, 2007 and 1988. There are so many caveats that should be made but I won’t bother. Make of them what you will.

                                             2018           2017           2007           1988
Windermere Lake Cruises                    1. 1,634,654   1. 1,611,491   1. 1,274,976   1.  520,060
Ullswater Steamers                         2.   448,820   3.   414,777   7.   187,469
The Rheged Centre                          3.   440,178   2.   423,908   2.   465,452
Grasmere Gingerbread                       4.   250,000   7.   200,000
Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway          5.   220,014   8.   198,377                  6.   85,000
The World of Beatrix Potter, Bowness       6.   205,258   9.   191,590
Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery        7.   204,912   6.   204,854   3.   279,889   14.  55,000
Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway             8.   204,500                                 2.  250,000
Whinlatter Forest Park & Visitor Centre    9.   196,294   5.   237,499   8.   187,269   11.  74,500
Carlisle Castle                            10.  174,171                  18.   53,407   13.  57,495
Grizedale Forest Park and Visitor Centre   11.  169,395   10.  183,900   5.   231,500
Carlisle Cathedral                         12.  149,637   11.  157,742   9.   152,138
Lowther Castle and Gardens                 13.  119,085   13.  110,000                  7.   84,000
Theatre By The Lake, Keswick               14.  112,397   14.  107,790   10.  108,598
Hill Top, Beatrix Potter’s House           15.  110,206   12.  119,044                  5.   90,000
Wray Castle                                16.  103,900   15.   95,829
Lakeland Motor Museum, Backbarrow          17.   76,068   16.   78,850                  17.  43,209
Muncaster Castle                           18.   60,570   18.   64,772                  20.  39,553
The Puzzling Place, Keswick                19.   49,077   19.   47,716
Beatrix Potter Gallery, Hawkshead          20.   41,212  
Lake District Visitor Centre, Brockhole                   4.   293,437   11.  108,530   4.   98,000
Tree Top Trek, Brockhole                                  17.   72,637
Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Museum                    20.   46,029   15.   61,870   8.   80,400
South Lakes Wild Animal Park                                             4.   252,631
Aquarium of the Lakes, Lakeside                                          6.   229,342
Cumberland Pencil Museum, Keswick                                        12.   85,000   10.  75,000
The Dock Museum, Barrow                                                  13.   70,563
Wetheriggs Country Pottery, Penrith                                      14.   65,000   15.  50,000
Northern Lights Gallery, Keswick                                         16.   60,000
The Teapottery, Keswick                                                  17.   56,350
The Homes of Football, Ambleside                                         19.   53,000
Lake District Coast Aquarium, Maryport                                   20.   46,972
Sellafield                                                                              3.  148,000
Holker Hall                                                                             9.   80,100
Border Regiment Museum, Carlisle                                                        12.  58,621
Levens Hall                                                                             16.  47,701
Windermere Steamboat Museum                                                             18.  40,236
Sizergh Castle                                                                          19.  40,000

[December 2019; SD3787; Lakeside – NW – Low Stott Park – W, NW – High Dam, Great Green Hows – S – Rusland Heights, Great Ellerside, road – E, NE – Town End, Finsthwaite – E, SE – Lakeside; 7 miles; 150/400; 8.84%]

** Since writing the above I have found that the vessel is indeed a new addition to the Windermere Lake Cruises’ fleet. This website gives details of its construction and, at the time of writing, of its ‘soft launch’ on December 11.

68.  Landscape and the Howgills

Nowadays, ‘landscape’ is how you orient your page if you don’t want ‘portrait’. There is rather more to the concept of landscape than this but I hadn’t appreciated how much more until I read the book Landscape (Wylie, 2007). I was taken on an exhilarating journey through all of geography – landscapes are to geography as plants are to botany, according to some landscapologists – plus parts of philosophy, psychology, politics, history, aesthetics, art, culture, epistemology, phenomenology, imperialism, race, class and feminism. That is too long a journey to embark on in one Sauntering although I can mention one crucial junction along the way. This is the thought that our modern conception of landscape was developed in recent centuries by ‘landscape gardeners’, ‘landscape painters’ and those that paid for their work, who were almost all wealthy white men. It is possible that those of us who are not wealthy white men have a different conception of landscape.

After our fortuitous foray to Arant Haw last week, I have been wondering why I am disproportionately fond of the landscape of the Howgills compared to other regions of the north-west. Mindful that the M6 engineers had in 1971 been given a Civic Trust Award for “an outstanding contribution to the appearance of the Westmorland landscape”, I parked as close to the motorway as possible, in case the M6 has something to do with it. Some landscapologists insist that there is more to landscape than appearance. We hear, smell and feel the landscape too. In this respect, the M6 is not merely outstanding: it is overwhelming. It swamped all other sound – except that of the occasional train that whooshed by. In fact, after a while I came to accept the constant noise of the motorway as a permanent feature of the environment, a bit (but not much) like the sound of waves on a beach. It is the sudden clatter and rattle of the trains that is more disturbing.
Lowgill Viaduct

Lowgill Viaduct and western Howgills

The M6 became less overwhelming as I walked towards the Lowgill Viaduct, with the rolling, smooth, interlacing western slopes of the Howgills forming a backdrop. I think I can agree with landscapologists that there is no such thing as ‘the landscape’, at least not in the sense that there is ‘the Lowgill Viaduct’. The latter is a tangible, physical object that we can touch and, in this case, walk under. The former is more an interpretation that we place upon the array of physical objects on the land – and that interpretation is different for all of us.

I have become more aware of this recently. After decades of running on the hills I had become accustomed to viewing the landscape with respect to its runnableness. It was not a deliberate, conscious reflection: it just happened without me being aware of it. I am aware of it now because I find that I am still assessing runnableness even though I am no longer running. I pull myself up, smile and tell my brain to behave. So I know that I appreciate the landscape in a particular way and I therefore assume that everybody else does too. Everybody has a particular mix of interests and experience – photography, farming, climbing, walking, painting, and so on – that they bring to bear, without their awareness, whenever they appreciate a landscape.

The same is true, if to a lesser extent, with everything we perceive, even the Lowgill Viaduct. Engineers, artists, historians and so on will see the viaduct differently. And, of course, our perception of structures like the viaduct may change over time. No doubt, when it was built in 1859 some people reacted then as I do to the M6 today. Now, especially as it no longer carries trains, we might consider it to make an ‘outstanding contribution’ to the landscape as well.

My unreasonable fondness for the Howgills landscape probably derives from a subconscious perception of its runnableness. Its long, smooth ridges are a delight for a runner to glide over, at least compared to the steep, rocky inclines of the Lake District, the uneven, fragile limestone pavements of the Dales, and the heathery, boggy plateaus of the Pennines. Almost all the slopes of the Howgills can be run up by a reasonably fit person, and I am sure that when I look at the Howgills now I am affected by an instinctive memory of running up and down them all in the past.
Fell Head

River Lune and Fell Head

I walked under the viaduct and over the quaint, narrow Crook of Lune Bridge, which was damaged by Storm Desmond in 2015 but seems in order now, and then north by the River Lune past the old farms of Brunt Sike, Mire Head, Low Wilkinson’s and Howgill Head, only one of which seems to be farming today. The noise of the motorway still dominated. If landscapologists are right to say that landscape is more than something to gaze at and that it involves the other senses too then it follows that we need to get closer so that those other senses come into play. This leads to the conclusion that we too are part of the landscape, which means that we need to consider all the complexity of humanity to understand landscape. The notion that we are part of the landscape is no revelation to walkers. We know that what we see now as a landscape is where we’ll be in two hours time – and in two hours time where we are now will be seen as a landscape. So with the reassuring thought that landscape is neither here nor there I pressed on.
Whin's End

From Whin's End towards the Lake District, with the M6 in the middle distance

I walked up by Fairmile Beck to Whin’s End (384m). The Lake District hills from Black Combe to Great Gable could be seen, with the motorway now humming away gently in the middle distance. As I dropped over the col to Brown Moor (412m) the sound of the M6 at last disappeared. In fact, it was eerily quiet and empty, with no sheep or fell ponies or walkers to be seen. The western slopes of the Howgills’ highest tops (Fell Head, Bush Howe, the Calf, Bram Rigg Top) were elegantly displayed, with the low sun picking out their gullies. Another reason why the Howgills are appreciated as a landscape is that no one top stands alone. The smooth slopes merge them into one and the eye naturally flows along them.
Brown Moor

From Brown Moor towards White Fell Head and The Calf

I walked over to Castley Knotts (361m), which has, unusually for the Howgills, a few rocky outcrops. Again no sheep or ponies could be seen on the fells although I could see one ‘horse’ – the so-called Horse of Bush Howe, where exposed scree resembles the shape of a horse, although less so every time I see it. I crossed Chapel Beck, with difficulty, and walked over Bram Rigg to cross Bram Rigg Beck, also with difficulty. I then left the foothills of the Howgills to drop down to the River Lune to follow the Dales Way back to the Crook of Lune Bridge. Here at least there was no sound of the motorway, the swirling Lune overcoming it. The last time I walked along this path I came across two women swimming in deep pools of the Lune – au naturel, as I recall although my memory may be embellishing the scene. I always like to see wildlife on my walks but I did not expect to see similar in November, with the sun having dropped below Firbank Fell and with frost still on the grass. And I didn’t, try as I might. My mind has wandered, sorry … I must return to the concept of landscape.
Chapel Beck

Chapel Beck from the slopes of Castley Knotts, with the so-called Horse of Bush Howe in the middle, near the horizon

My camera tells me that I am taking ‘landscape’ photographs. Indeed, I have peppered this blog with what I would think of as landscapes, including one of the Howgills as the banner. Some I have stretched wide and thin to emphasise their panoramic nature. I must have felt, when I began this blog, that such photographs convey the appropriate impression of the region. North-West England is a land of landscapes, especially if you are prepared to walk up a hill to view them. Landscape photography is today an art form, with its own prizes (for example, Landscape Photographer of the Year), that perpetuates the old-fashioned view that landscape is primarily something to be looked at. Photography is not mentioned in the Wylie (2007) book but it does include the comment that “cultural forms (art, literature, fashion, cinema – and landscape) constitute an ideological realm through which powerful economic and political interests exercise control”, suggesting that landscape itself is a ‘cultural form’ on a par with the more obviously human-created forms mentioned.

So, landscape is not a precise, scientific term like, say, momentum, defined as the product of mass and velocity. A scientific term may be used unscientifically, say, as the name of a political group. A non-scientific term may be argued about as if the aim is to give it a precise, scientific meaning. In reality, the arguers are using the vague term to develop a particular thesis. Therefore, the arguments about landscape tell us more about the arguers than they do about landscape.

What does the M6 award tell us about the Civic Trust? Perhaps that the Civic Trust considered itself competent and important enough to give such awards and wanted us to regard the Trust as ‘with it’ and not a fuddy-duddy conservative organisation. The Civic Trust went into administration in 2009 but magically the Civic Trust Awards continue. Where would be without them to tell us what is good? I see that of the 101 finalists for the 2020 Awards 33 are in Greater London and only 1 (the Windermere Jetty Museum) is in North-West England (as defined in my Preamble). This is very pleasing. The awards are for “excellence in the built environment” and we don’t want too much building in our environment, thank you.

[November 2019; SD6096; by railway and motorway – NE, E – Beck Foot, Crook of Lune Bridge – NE, N – Brunt Sike, Howgill Head – E, SE – Whin’s End – E, S – Brown Moor – S – Castley Knotts – E, S – Bram Rigg – E, S, W, S, SW – Birkhaw, Hole House – NW on Dales Way – Crook of Lune Bridge – W, SW – by motorway; 9 miles; 149/400; 8.76%]

Previous Saunterings

     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   
     v  2018  v    ^  2019  ^
     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   
     ^  2018  ^
     (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