To be precise, these are North-West England Saunterings. That is NWES to me. NWES contains descriptions of various saunters, ambles, strolls, meanders, rambles and dawdles around the counties of Cumbria, Lancashire and North Yorkshire (more details of my ‘North-West England’ are given in the Preamble). I hesitate to call my saunters ‘walks’. A walk nowadays has become a serious business. It might suggest a 10-hour trek to bag 15 mountain tops. It might be part of some epic expedition around, say, the whole coastline of Britain. It might demand precise details of the route (“walk 210 yards north-north-east to a gate by the third tree”) so that you may follow my footsteps. No, my saunterings are more leisurely and aimless than that. And they are mental as well as physical. I saunter, at whim.If you'd like to send a comment, suggestion, correction or update - all are very welcome - please send me an email. If the comment would be of interest to other readers then it will be added to the most recent item (or if it refers to a different specific item then to that item).
6.   The Count of Flasby Fell
5.   About Stocks Reservoir
4.   In a Flap at Bolton-le-Sands
3.   Zipping around Thirlmere
2.   The Dentdale Diamonds
1.   The Taming of Caton Moor
[March 2018; SD9852; Skipton by-pass – N – Brackenley Lane – W, NW – Sharp Haw –
NE – Rough Haw – W – Flasby, around triangle – E, SE – past New Laithe – S – Crag Wood – SE –
unnamed summit – SE, retracing outward route – Skipton by-pass; 8 miles; 68 km squares]
Sharp Haw and Rough Haw in the distance
When the Yorkshire Dales National Park was created in 1954 its boundaries were carefully defined so that the
Park was unsullied by undesirable urbanness. Skipton, Settle, Ingleton, Richmond, Leyburn and Pateley Bridge
were all kept just outside the Park. As a result a number of places claim to be ‘the gateway to the Dales’.
The most insistent of these is Skipton, being as it is on the route from the cities of Leeds and Bradford.
Nowadays it is not necessary to go through the Skipton gateway at all because of the bypass opened in 1982. For this walk, in fact, I started from a lay-by on the bypass. It is a variant of a walk for those in Skipton wishing to get a foothold in the Yorkshire Dales, to hear the skylarks and the lapwings singing (if the sound the latter makes counts as singing), and to gain, for relatively little effort, a fine view of some Dales scenery. It is also possible to ‘bag’ the various tops of Flasby Fell although this is no great achievement since the highest, Sharp Haw, is only 357m high, which is just 200m up from the lay-by. Still, it has a distinctive conical top, which it is satisfying to conquer. My glow of success was somewhat dimmed by finding a shiny garden bench awaiting me at the top, with the message “sit thee down and rest awhile, the view will surely make thee smile.” How sweet!
However, I must not be sniffy about Flasby Fell. Sharp Haw is a Marilyn and as such is an object of desire for certain walkers. They have a mission to get on top of all the Marilyns in England, all 176 of them. A Marilyn is a hill that, regardless of absolute height, has a relative height of 150m. This means that if you walk in any direction at all from the top of a Marilyn you must drop at least 150m before you can walk up a higher hill. For example, the isolated Pendle (557m) is clearly a Marilyn because you have to drop nearly 400m before you can begin to walk up Whernside or any other higher hill. Not all Marilyns are big mountains – for example, Arnside Knott (159m) is a Marilyn because you have to drop to near sea-level in every direction. Not all big mountains are Marilyns – for example, Bowfell (902m) is not a Marilyn because you only have to drop 120m or so before walking up Scafell Pike. If you are into peak-bagging then the Marilyns can help by coalescing the peaks into smaller sets. For example, the Howgills has about forty named tops over 400m but only two of them are Marilyns. If you want to work out for yourself which two they are then look away now … while I add a bit of irrelevant padding here in case your eyes have wandered ahead … before I say that obviously one of them must be the highest point of the Howgills, The Calf, and the other happens to be Yarlside.
The only other named summit on Flasby Fell is Rough Haw (339m). Some lists of hill-tops to be bagged do not use a precise prominence rule like the Marilyns. For example, the original peak-bagging list, the Munros of Scotland (Marilyn Munro – ah) listed all separate mountains over 3,000 feet, but ‘separate’ was rather vaguely defined and as a result the list seems subject to perpetual revision. There are other lists of peaks to bag. Or you could make up your own. You could decide to include all OS named tops – so Rough Haw would be in. You could decide to include all tops with an immediate drop of, say, 10m in all directions – that would include three further unnamed rises (326m, 289m and 283m) on Flasby Fell. You could include all peaks with a shiny bench on top.
One? Two? Five? Who cares? I am more interested nowadays in appreciating the fells than in counting them. I investigated the stones on the slopes of Rough Haw that are believed to be the remains of Neolithic or Bronze Age ramparts. I couldn’t see it myself as I scrambled up past impressively large boulders but I was prepared to bow to the antiquarians. Then, as I dropped down the northern side, I came across a disorderly row of boulders that could have once been a wall or even ramparts, if they insist.
I changed my mind about visiting the two northerly unnamed summits. They did not promise a better view than the ones I’d already had. Reaching Flasby Beck, it seemed impolite, having come this far, to not have a look at the village of Flasby. It only took a few minutes to walk around the triangle of houses but there was nothing particularly noteworthy, not even a view of Flasby Hall.
I walked back to Crag Wood but found it semi-demolished, and what wasn’t demolished was mainly rhododendron. And then, lo and behold, another shiny bench. How convenient! Just the place to sit for a sandwich. The morning mist that had rendered Ingleborough a small island in a grey sea had now evaporated, and Pendle, snowier than the Dales tops, was prominent. Eshton Hall looked rather grand, if a little distant. Sandwich over, I aborted the rest of Crag Wood and returned to the fell. I walked up the unnamed summit (326m) and, flushed with my success with the ramparts, searched for the ancient enclosure marked on the map. I could find nothing among the bracken and boulders that looked like an enclosure to me. On balance, I think I am more convinced of antiquity by something tangible, something that I can lay my hands on, such as the Flasby Sword, an Iron Age sword and scabbard discovered here in 1848. It is now in the Craven Museum in Skipton.
Back at the car, I thought about nipping in to the museum and laying my hands on the sword, but I knew that they wouldn’t let me. They wouldn’t even let me see it, because it is apparently in such poor condition that the sword cannot be removed from its scabbard. I suppose that I would be prepared to accept that it is in there, but even so it’d be a tad unconvincing. Anyway, it is clear that Flasby Fell is a landscape of vintage Yorkshireness, and I am not referring to the cantankerous fast-bowler Fred Trueman, who lived in Flasby.
Sharp Haw from the unnamed summit to its south
“All of this leads to a certain emphasis on quantity over quality for many peak-baggers.
Virtually every common peak-bagging list has at least a few major, famous, or dominant summits, but the bottom
rungs of many lists are often filled with many uninspiring peaks that would never enter the consciousness of a
‘real’ climber.” Greg Slayden (2004),
[February 2018; SD7356; School Lane car park, by Stocks Reservoir – NW – New House – SW –
Copped Hill Clough – SE – Eak Hill – SW – Hollins House – S – dam – NE, NW – School Lane car park; 8 miles; 57 km squares]
Stocks Reservoir and Gisburn Forest
Stocks Reservoir is multi-purpose and it was kind enough to present its various purposes to me, one-by-one, during a
walk around the reservoir. First, as I left the School Lane car park heading north I saw two hides, for observing
water-birds on the reservoir. The part of the reservoir north of the larger island is essentially reserved for birds
and bird-watchers. Stocks Reservoir is an important wintering site for cormorants, mallard, pintail, teal and wigeon.
Many other species, such as whooper swan, Canada goose, pink-footed goose and red-breasted merganser, have also been
recorded here. There are also many species of waders that visit or breed around the reservoir and various raptors
also call in. However, it was so bitterly cold, with wisps of snow in the air, that I suspect the birds were
snuggled together somewhere for warmth.
There were no bird-watchers in the hides for me to snuggle together with, so I wandered on, to appreciate the second purpose of the reservoir, that is, to provide timber from the adjacent forest. Gisburn Forest, the largest forest in Lancashire, is not an old woodland. It was planted when the reservoir was created in order perhaps to prevent possible pollution from the many farms that would otherwise have remained on the land above the reservoir. Today, its conifers are being replaced by native, broad-leaved trees, although there are plenty of conifers still to go. There is a Gisburn Forest Hub at the centre of a network of forest walks and cycle trails but my focus on this outing was on the reservoir itself.
I proceeded north past the derelict farmhouse of New House, across the young River Hodder, and eventually back towards the reservoir. As I swung west, I came upon the third purpose of the reservoir, that is, to provide a fishery. Stocks Reservoir is said to be the largest fly-fishery in North-West England. It is, I read, well-stocked with brown, rainbow and blue trout. I never knew there were blue trout. The genetic diversity of trout is complex – too complex for me – but as I understand it only the first of these three is native to England, which seems a shame for Stocks Reservoir, although I am somewhat reassured to read that the Stocks fish are triploid, meaning that they are sterile. Anyway, the anglers are clearly content, not least because they are not restricted to fishing from the bank. There is a fleet of ‘Coulam boats’ specifically designed for fly-fishing. The boats must, of course, stay in their part of the reservoir, south of the island. I wonder how the anglers get on with those cormorants, when they are keen to cull them elsewhere.
I saw five fishermen, which was five more than I expected on such a cold day – two of them up to their thighs in the icy water. I walked on and came across several signs warning me of frogs. The frogs certainly looked ferocious on the signs, but I managed to evade them. I then reached the dam, which is the most obvious sign of the reservoir’s fourth purpose – its original one – to hold back water for the people of Fylde and Blackpool. The reservoir was created in the 1930s, and in the process drowned the village of Stocks-in-Bowland. Its chapel and the 165 bodies in its graveyard were moved to a new site on the eastern shore. I wonder if they were equally considerate in moving the living to a new site.
I had crossed a reasonable-sized River Hodder flowing into the reservoir but at the dam there was no water in the large outflow channel. From what I read, there normally is – but in that case what prevents the alien fish from escaping downstream? When the Hodder below the dam would otherwise be too dry, up to 15 million litres per day are released from the bottom of the dam (Greenhalgh, 2009). Just ahead of me, over the dam, I could see a party of sixteen walkers, confirming the last purpose of the reservoir, the one that I was making use of, that is, to provide a pleasant outing for saunterers like myself. In fact, I was delighted to find that this is no ordinary walk – it was voted the 67th best walk in a recent ITV programme on Britain's Favourite Walks. Wow! Just for the record, North-West England (as defined by me in the Preamble) has 16 walks in the top 100, including 6 of the top 10:
1. Helvellyn (via Glenridding Common) 3. Malham and Gordale Scar 4. Catbells 5. Scafell Pike (from Wasdale Head) 7. Buttermere (around the lake) 8. Coniston Old Man, including Dow Crag 25. Ingleborough (from Clapham) 27. Ambleside to Grasmere, via the Coffin Route 30. High Cup Nick 36. Ingleton Falls 54. Richmond to Reeth (part of the Coast-to-Coast) 61. Grassington to Kilnsey 67. Forest of Bowland (around Stocks Reservoir) 69. Brontë Waterfalls 81. Saltaire to Skipton (by the Leeds-Liverpool Canal ) 86. The Witches Trail (below Pendle)I was delighted not so much because the Stocks Reservoir circuit is a fine walk but because it is, in fact, a rather unadventurous one by North-West England standards. We have many other walks that could have appeared on the list, but I won’t quibble, seeing as the vote proved that North-West England is the best region for walking in Britain.
River Hodder (above the reservoir)
[February 2018; SD4768; Red Bank Farm, Bolton-le-Sands – E – canal – N – Carnforth –
NW – Hagg Farm, Keer estuary – S (on Lancashire Coastal Way) – Red Bank; 7 miles; 46 km squares]
The River Keer estuary
The coast of Morecambe Bay is low-lying and somewhat fluid. Over the centuries we have tried to claim
salt-marshes for farmland and occasionally the sea has tried to claim it back. To prevent seawater inundation,
we build barriers, like the Pilling Embankment to protect Fylde. Unfortunately, barriers also prevent water
from rivers, streams and becks from reaching the sea, and so, in trying to prevent seawater flooding we may
cause freshwater flooding.
The answer, of course, is a tidal flap in the barrier. The force of the river opens the flap but the force of the sea closes it. Most of the Morecambe Bay outlets have tidal flaps. However, if the flap is closed to seawater then it is also closed to migratory fish such as salmon, trout and eel. Those who installed the flaps presumably considered that the prevention of flooding justified the loss of fish in our rivers. In our more enlightened times considerable thought is being given to the design of flaps that achieve the apparently impossible of allowing fish, but not seawater, to pass. One possible solution is being trialled at Red Bank in Bolton-le-Sands.
Before going to look at it (it would only take five minutes to walk straight to it), I walked on a detour through the village of Bolton-le-Sands (shouldn’t that be les-Sands?), along the canal to Carnforth, and back along the Lancashire Coastal Way. This 66-mile Recreational Route runs between Freckleton and Silverdale, although Lancashire County Council believes that it is 137 miles long, between Merseyside and Cumbria.
The sky was disappointingly milky over Morecambe Bay. I could only just see Grange-over-Sands. The Lake District hills had disappeared. I was also frustrated, as I walked inland, to be held up for several minutes at the level crossing, but once at the canal I strode along, pausing only twice, once to watch a luxuriantly turquoise kingfisher and the other to read a sign by the Friends of Carnforth Coke Ovens. I am glad that the coke ovens have friends but I haven’t been able to find out why they deserve them.
I was soon at Carnforth, where I paused to browse in the excellent Carnforth Bookshop, which always has a good range of books about North-West England. With my backpack now heavier, I proceeded past Hagg Farm, with a date of 1638, to the Coastal Way. The signpost to it was accompanied by a “Danger Quicksand” warning, which must be a novelty for a Recreational Route. I treaded warily around the bleak estuary of the River Keer, accompanied by a little egret. Sightings of the once-rare little egret are now so common that I perhaps shouldn’t bother to mention it. I did not see many other birds as my eyes were fixed upon all the winding creeks trying to trap the unwary. I did, however, hear skylarks, for the first time this year.
At Black Dyke I noticed an eel pass that had been funded by The Rivers Trust, the Sustainable Eel Group, Marine Management Organisation and the EU’s European Fishery Fund, which is pretty impressive for a structure that was about one-foot square. Which reminds me … the ‘solution’ to our migratory fish problem. The key point is that the crucial time for the fish is the transition phase when the river and sea forces are about equal. The river is concentrated towards the flap and is therefore normally running fast – and perhaps too fast for fish, especially eels, to swim against, even assuming that they could reach the flap. When the tidal sea water balances the river flow there is a lull – for a few minutes twice a day – when the fish can, in principle, pass through.
The solution being trialled around the Morecambe Bay coast is to install a second, much smaller, flap within the tidal flap. It looks rather like a cat-flap. This small flap has some device, such as a float, that adds inertia to the flap, to hold it open during the transition phase. The fish are, apparently, quite adept at utilising the small flap at this time. The first such flap was installed on the River Gilpin, which flows into the River Kent, in 2009, and a number have since been installed around the bay. Most are larger than the one at Red Bank, which was installed in 2014. The Red Bank flap-within-a-flap seemed to be still in working order, and not clogged up with debris as flaps are liable to become. I hope that the eels appreciate it.
Warton Crag and Wild Duck Hall from Red Bank
"The edge of the sea is a strange and beautiful place. All through the
long history of Earth it has been an area of unrest where waves have broken heavily against the land,
where the tides have pressed forward over the continents, receded, and then returned … Today a little more
land may belong to the sea, tomorrow a little less.” Rachel Carson (1955), The Edge of the Sea.
[February 2018; NY3114; Dobgill, west side of Thirlmere – N – Armboth, dam – E, S –
Greathow Wood, Dalehead Hall, Highpark Wood, Wythburn – W, N – Dobgill; 10 miles; 35 km squares]
Thirlmere and Blencathra
Thirlmere is perhaps the least highly regarded of the Lake District’s sixteen lakes. For a start, it is
not a natural lake. It is a reservoir, although, to be fair, there were two lakes (Leathes Water and Wythburn
Water) before they completed the dam to create Thirlmere in 1894. At least, that is what is almost always written
but I have found online a map of 1867
that shows one lake (already called Thirlmere) with a narrow ford in the
middle at a now-submerged Wath Bridge, east of Armboth. To the south, the 1867 Thirlmere extended just past the
present Hause Point.
Nowadays most people who see Thirlmere see it from a car as they pass on the A591, the road between Grasmere and Keswick. There is little reason to stop at Thirlmere, as there are no cruisers on the lake, no shops, no museums, no Dove Cottages or Hill Tops (although there is one inn, at Thirlspot). Those who do stop are probably intending to walk away from Thirlmere, to the east up Helvellyn or to the west up to the High Seat ridge.
Perhaps this apparent lack of public affection for Thirlmere encouraged an enlightened proposal to add some sadly missing touristic pizzazz to Thirlmere. The idea was to install zip-wires across the lake near Armboth. You would zip over the lake and A591 on the highest and longest zip-wires in England. This would be “an all-year-round attraction, attracting a large number of visitors … [to] this stunning part of the Lake District … [and the] … environmental impact is minimal”. According to an online poll, people under 45 were over four times more likely to support the proposal than be against it and people over 59 were twice as likely to be against it. It’s only a matter of time, then. Mind you, the company proposing the zip-wires ran the poll. The planning application was duly submitted in December 2017, with the support of Cumbria Tourism, the official Tourist Board for the Lake District, who consider that “the proposal aligns with Cumbria Tourism’s longstanding commitment to promoting the county as the UK’s ‘adventure capital’.”
Some people seem to find the proposal objectionable. For example, the British Mountaineering Council gave eight reasons to oppose the proposal: it would be inconsistent with National Park statutory purposes; it would result in unacceptable levels of traffic on local highways; it would negatively impact upon the landscape character and tranquillity of Thirlmere; it would set a precedent for similar developments elsewhere in the Lake District and other National Parks; it would undermine and threaten the Park’s World Heritage Site status; it would introduce commercial development to an area of tranquillity; it would not accord with the Sandford Principle, that conservation interests should take priority over public enjoyment; it would require permission from the Civil Aviation Authority, so as not to impede flight paths. Well, yes, but apart from that?
My own thinking on the matter was simplistic, as it usually is. Since the fastest zip-wires reach 100 mph (and surely our Thirlmere zip-wires would need to be the zippiest) and since it was decided in 2005, after a prolonged, controversial inquiry, that (in order to ban jet-skiing, power-boating, water-skiing, and the like) nothing would be allowed to travel at more than 10mph over Lake District lakes, why don’t we just interpret ‘over’ a little liberally? Then we can forget the whole thing.
I planned to walk around Thirlmere in order to imagine the zip-wires and to enjoy Thirlmere before they became a reality. However, the evening before my walk the local BBC news reported that the zip-wire proposal “had been scrapped.” I didn’t know the legal definition of ‘scrapped’ but it turned out that the proposal had been withdrawn, before the committee could reject it, because the Ministry of Defence objected that “the wires would pose a threat to low-flying aircraft.” So I went to complete a lap of celebration instead.
I followed the concessionary path that meanders by the western lake-edge, around boulders, over the becks, with occasional inlets providing views of the lake. However, it was slow progress compared to striding out on the quiet road, which I did from time to time. I paused for a while by the lake at Armboth, imagining the zip-wirers above me and a huge ‘zip-wire-station’ across the lake. I didn’t tax my imagination for long, since the proposal is defunct. Instead, I admired the view. The lake was perfectly still, with the snow-streaked mountains reflected within it. It would be an exaggeration to say it was perfectly quiet, as there was a low hum from the A591, but it was certainly peaceful.
United Utilities are making a commendable effort to improve their eco-credentials around Thirlmere, after many years of complaints over their treatment of surrounding forestry: concessionary footpaths, information boards, and well-maintained footbridges (many repaired after Storm Desmond in 2015). At Armboth there are loos “powered by nature”. The notice says that “if it’s dark or icy they might be shut”. It doesn’t logically follow that if it’s not dark and not icy then they will be open, so I must not complain that they weren’t.
A group of four deer hopped nonchalantly over the footpath ahead of me. There were many United Utilities signs warning walkers not to stray from the footpaths because of on-going “deer management”, which I assume is a euphemism for deer culling. I wished the deer luck, and walked on. The peace was abruptly shattered by a jet, followed soon by four more, blasting over the lake. Isn’t it ironic that the zip-wire proposal was scuppered not by concerns about scenery, landscape, tranquillity and all that but by these blasted jets?
Thirlmere from Highpark Wood
“Life is like a zip line, it’s over before you know it and you don’t remember much because it
all went so fast.” Linda Poindexter.
[February 2018; SD6691; Bridge over the River Rawthey, Millthrop – S, SE, S
(on Dales Way) – Brackensgill – SE (on Dales Way) – Barth Bridge – N – Lunds – N, W – Hunder Moor
Hurrock, Long Rigg – N – Millthrop; 8 miles; 21 km squares]
Middleton Fell from the Dales Way
What’s with all the green diamonds on Ordnance Survey (OS) maps? In preparation for these saunterings I
replaced my beloved but battered OS maps with a sparkling new set. I found that the new maps have been
decorated with green diamonds, which according to the legend denote Recreational Routes (RRs). Some maps
look like green ants have been set loose upon them. The winner is OL21 (South Pennines), which marks 22
such routes, from the Brontë Way to the Worth Way. The only one of these 22 routes that I had heard of
was the Pennine Way. Clearly, I have a lot of Recreational Routing to look forward to.
When I studied the new maps for an outing in lower Dentdale and on Frostrow Fells I was surprised to find that every step of my planned route was on a green diamond. I would be following three RRs. With all respect to lower Dentdale and Frostrow Fells, I don’t think anyone would claim this to be prime walking country. Lower Dentdale, by the River Dee, is pleasant enough but rather enclosed. The Frostrow Fells provide fine views north to the Howgills and south to Middleton Fell but they themselves form a rather small, run-of-the-mill moor, reaching no higher than 300m and with no distinctive peak.
So I set out to investigate these RRs. As I left the bridge by the River Rawthey to walk through Millthrop I was already on the Dales Way. At least I had heard of this one. The Dales Way is a well-established Long Distance Path (LDP), started in 1968, of about 80 miles between Ilkley and Bowness. I have walked much of it already, incidentally. I particularly like the fact that the Dales Way neither starts nor ends in the Yorkshire Dales.
Studying the OS map, I saw that the green diamonds also have “A Pennine Journey” written alongside. I may have heard of this but I had never paid any attention to it. Looking it up, I found that it is another LDP, this time of 247 miles, described in Pitt (2010). It is based upon Alfred Wainwright’s 1938 walk from Settle to Hadrian’s Wall and back. As if we don’t have enough Wainwright walks! This 1938 walk was before he became celebrated for his seven-volume guide to the Lakeland Fells. Walking conditions were different in 1938 to what they are now. There was little traffic and therefore much of Wainwright’s route was on then-quiet country lanes. Also, we now have open access areas that make it clearer where we are supposed to walk and not walk. The outcome is that the new Pennine Journey shares only a few sections with the 1938 route. Nonetheless, walkers are encouraged to follow it, that is, the new route.
After strolling the shared green diamonds alongside the Dee, in silence apart from the burbling of the Dee and the gentle mewing of a buzzard, I turned north at Barth Bridge onto another set of green diamonds, this time for the Dales High Way. The Dales High Way is, I found, also a LDP, of 90 miles between Saltaire and Appleby. It was devised in 2007 as a high-level alternative to the Dales Way by Tony and Chris Crogan, who, naturally, have published books on the route. I don’t, of course, know the Crogans but why should I trustfully adopt a LDP designed by others?
Anyone can design a long-distance path, and a short-distance path for that matter. Who decides if it is a LDP? What exactly is a LDP anyway? The Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA) is duty bound to try to define it but it has no formal right to do so, as far as I can see. The Walking Englishman website lists over 650 LDPs, including, for example, a 68-mile Forest of Bowland Walk, which apparently passes close to my home but which I have never heard of, have never seen any sign of, and is not marked on OS maps. The LDWA lists it too. Who decides if a path is a RR? Are all LDPs RRs? Are all RRs LDPs, or can a RR be of short or medium distance? If not all LDPs and RRs are marked on the map, how does the OS decide which ones to mark? Who decides on the name for a LDP or RR? When a path is designated as a LDP or RR who is responsible for maintaining it (signposting and so on)? If we are to be marched along designated routes then let’s demand some real precision, organisation and regimentation!
I can’t say that my expedition along Dentdale and over Frostrow Fells was enhanced by the knowledge that I was walking on green diamonds. If anything, the opposite. Perhaps most walkers appreciate the green diamonds. They provide a reassurance that someone has reconnoitred a recommendable route and perhaps a hope that the route, being an ‘official’ one marked on OS maps, will be easy to follow. They therefore reduce some of the stress of rambling, for those who find it stressful. Perhaps our maps should be choc-a-bloc with green diamonds.
For me, the green diamonds take away some of the satisfaction of sauntering. Much of the point is to wander wherever interests me, not to tramp where someone has told me to. I saw many Dales Way signs – so many, in fact, that it must be hard to lose the Way. However, I saw only one Pennine Journey sign. It told me to follow the Dales Way for six miles, which, fair enough, is all it needs to say. And I saw one Dales High Way sign, near Barth Bridge. If there were any signs on Frostrow Fells then, to tell the truth, I recklessly ignored them. I don’t know what came over me. I think the names of Hunder Moor Hurrock and Clatter Beck on the map just appealed to me. I also wanted to stay high on the moor as long as possible so that I could continue to admire the Howgills as snow clouds and sunny patches swept over them.
Sedbergh and Winder from above Millthrop
"There is an art to wandering. If I have a destination, a plan - an objective - I've lost the ability to find serendipity. I've become too focused, too single-minded. I am on a quest, not a ramble.” Cathy Johnson (1990), On Becoming Lost: A Naturalist’s Search for Meaning.
[January 2018; SD5464; Brookhouse – SE – Reservoir – E – Traitor’s Gill, Caton Moor wind turbines – N –
picnic spot – E – Caton Moor trig point – W – picnic spot, Quarry Road, Moorside Farm, Brookhouse; 6 miles; 9 km squares]
The path up to the Caton Moor turbines
According to Robert Burns, the best-laid plans often go agley.
What about the worst-laid plans, whether of a life, a blog or a walk? They are agley already.
My life-plans are … well, it is far too early to discuss my life-plans with you: I hardly know you.
My blog-plans are to entertain and enlighten (myself mainly). But as far as
this first saunter is concerned, the plan was simple: to walk up my local hill, Caton Moor. Nothing
could go agley with that.
From the bottom of the track past the old workhouse of Moorgarth I could see ahead the turbine blades caressing the horizon. They didn’t seem far away. I walked up the track, badly eroded after the November deluge when Lancaster University weather station recorded more rain in a day than ever before, passing a few Water Works constructions and then crossing four fields of sheep. As the slope levelled off the blades could be seen to have grown and arisen on sturdy bases. I trudged across the open, boggy moor and at last approached the turbines, to appreciate the immense size of these alien constructions. They have an overall height of about 90 metres (nearly the height of Big Ben). The blade tips move, at their maximum, at about 180 mph, which is best appreciated by standing in their shadow on a windy day. These turbines were put up in 2007 to replace a smaller, less efficient set of 1994, probably the earliest such turbines in North-West England.
I don’t know if the water and wind-power gathered from my local hill directly benefits my village or whether it disappears into the National Grids to be shared with all. Still, it is good to feel that my rather insignificant moor is making a contribution. So I don’t object to these turbines on the moor, as many do. I am, however, sad that the way we live has made them necessary. I used to run about on these empty moors before the turbines were there. People are now urged to visit what is advertised as a tourist attraction.
The moor has changed in other ways too. I was trespassing in the 1980s. Now the moor is all open access land, thanks to the Countryside and Rights of Way Act of 2000, so I can saunter where I will. We now have the permissive path (the track from Moorgarth) to help us up to the moor. It is described as a 'tramper trail', a tramper being an all-terrain mobility scooter. However, I have never seen a tramper there – and perhaps just as well because one of the little bridges over a boggy beck has long collapsed. I doubt that anybody checks that this path is still usable by trampers. It is still usable by me, anyway. There is a second tramper trail around the turbines, which looks a safer bet for trampers.
On the path from the turbines to the picnic site there is a ‘tercet waymarker’, indicating that this path is on the Lancashire Witches Walk, a 51-mile route from Barrowford to Lancaster that opened in 2012. On the waymarker is inscribed a verse (a tercet) of a poem by the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, written to mark the 400th anniversary of the Pendle witch trials. Each of the ten waymarkers along the route commemorates one of the alleged witches, Anne Redferne in this case. However, I am not aware that many people set out to traverse the Witches Walk.
The newish track from the picnic site to near the trig point is a concessionary bridleway. Again, I have never seen a horse on the bridleway. Anyway, the bridleway is more convenient for me than the previous pathless morass. This track is part of the North Lancashire Bridleway that was opened in 2004 and runs for 30 miles through the Forest of Bowland AONB. I suspect that the land-owner, the Oystons of Claughton Hall, obtained some grant to allow this track. Perhaps the track also provides access to the shooting butts that have recently appeared above Moorcock Hall. I have never seen any shooters either! There is very little heather and therefore few, if any, grouse for them to shoot.
Turbines, picnic site, permissive path, tramper trails, bridleway, shooting butts … while not exactly wild before, Caton Moor now seems tamed. Where to walk – even where to picnic – is prescribed. And yet little has changed. There is sometimes a car parked at the picnic site but on this occasion, a January Monday, there wasn’t – and I saw nobody anywhere. If there are people they tend not to wander where they are not encouraged to, leaving most of Caton Moor empty. Some people must walk to the Caton Moor trig point, as there is a rough path to it, but I have never met anyone there. To keep it that way, perhaps I shouldn’t say that its modest 361m top provides a fine 360 degree view, to the Forest of Bowland tops of Clougha, Ward’s Stone and White Hill, to the Three Peaks of Pen-y-ghent, Ingleborough and Whernside, to the Howgills, along the Lune valley, to the Lake District fells, and across Morecambe Bay (to the Isle of Man, if it’s very clear). And to Blackpool Tower.
The Caton Moor trig point, with Middleton Fell, Gragareth, Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent
“The critics … must bear the responsibility, if the general public should happen to
condemn these “Saunterings” as weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable.”
Max Schlesinger (1853), Saunterings in and about London.
As the word suggests, this preamble (or presaunter) is being written
before I have begun to saunter for this blog. Although there is a vagueness to my saunterings, I will define in advance
the scope of my ‘North-West England’. Otherwise I will be forever nagging myself: what about Ilkley Moor,
Hebden Bridge, Southport, Mickle Fell, Carlisle, and so on? Are they within my range? So I will define my
North-West England to be the region enclosed by the following eight sides (five straight lines and three wiggly ones):
1.  From near Caldbeck (the northernmost point of the Lake District National Park) to Cross Fell
2.  To just south of Bowes (the north-east corner of the Yorkshire Dales National Park)
3.  Following the Yorkshire Dales boundary, to near Beamsley (the south-east corner of the Yorkshire Dales)
4.  To Hebden Bridge
5.  To Barrow Bridge, just north of Bolton
6.  To Lytham St Annes
7.  Following the coast, to Ravenglass
8.  Following the Lake District boundary, to Caldbeck
This region includes the Forest of Bowland, Fylde, the Howgills, the Lake District, the Morecambe Bay coast, some of the North, South and West Pennine moors, the Yorkshire Dales, and all that lies between them. In total it encompasses about 3,350 square miles. Needless to say, I won’t rap myself over the knuckles if I stray outside my boundaries.
Altogether, this part of North-West England occupies 9,365 of the 1 km squares of Ordnance Survey maps. I could destroy the aimlessness of my saunterings by setting myself some absurd objective, such as to walk in every one of those 9,365 squares. That would indeed be absurd because the objective is unattainable: some of the squares are in the middle of lakes; some are marked as Ministry of Defence ‘Danger Areas’; some just don’t have publicly-accessible paths. On the other hand, it might help to ensure that I randomly visit all parts of the region and don’t just focus on the ‘best bits’. If I walk along Helvellyn's Striding Edge every day then perhaps even that would pall. So I will keep the absurd objective half in mind in the hope that it will help me provide a balanced impression of the region.
For those who insist on some details of my sauntering routes I will provide some in square brackets at the beginning of each section. These will all be in the format:
[month of saunter; grid-reference of start point; description of route, with bearings on the way; distance sauntered; number of km squares visited so far].
Most of the saunters will be circular, that is, ending where I started. Sometimes they'll be linear, in which case, naturally, help will be needed from a friend or public transport to get to or from one end to the other (I will indicate these by adding ‘(linear)’ to the description). I will refer to ‘I’ and ‘we’, depending on whether I am sauntering alone or in company. In the latter case, the ‘we’ will usually mean ‘Ruth and I’; occasionally the ‘we’ will include others. Now it is time (January 2018) to begin re-visiting, or in a few cases visiting, the hills and dales of North-West England.
Here are some websites that I have found useful:
The Cumbria Wildlife Trust.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
The Environment Agency.
The Forest of Bowland AONB.
Friends of the Dales, to protect and enhance the Yorkshire Dales.
The Friends of the Lake District, to protect Lake District landscapes.
The Happy Hiker, includes descriptions of walks in northwest England.
The Lake District National Park.
The Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue Association.
The Lancashire Wildlife Trust.
The Land of the Lune, a guide to the region within the Lune watershed.
Mark Avery’s blog, about the environment and environmental campaigns.
The National Biodiversity Network, makes wildlife data available on the internet.
National Character Area profiles.
Natural England, the government’s advisor on the natural environment.
The North West Naturalists Union.
The People’s Trust for Endangered Species, concerned with endangered species throughout the world.
Rainy Day Rambles in the Lake District, a set of ‘sketches’ about the Lake District.
The South Cumbria Rivers Trust, concerned with the aquatic environments of South Cumbria.
Val Corbett Photography, photographs of the Lake District.
Where2Walk, describes walks in the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales.
The Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, concerned with international wildlife conservation.
The Wildlife of the Lune Region.
The Woodland Trust.
The Yorkshire Dales National Park.
The Yorkshire Dales Biodiversity Forum, on wildlife conservation in the Yorkshire Dales.
The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.
Bibby, Andrew (2011), Backbone of England: Life and Landscape on the Pennine Watershed, Francis Lincoln Ltd.
Birkett, Bill (1994), Complete Lakeland Fells, Collins Willow.
Gee, Chris (2017), Walking in Pendle Witch Country and the West Pennine Moors, PiXZ Books.
Greenhalgh, Malcolm (2009), Ribble, River and Valley: A Local and Natural History, Carnegie.
Harding, Mike (1988), Walking the Dales, Michael Joseph.
Hayes, Gareth (2004), Odd Corners around the Howgills, Hayloft.
Hindle, Brian Paul (1984), Roads and Trackways of the Lake District, Moorland Publishing.
Johnson, David (2008), Ingleborough: Landscape and History, Carnegie Publishing.
Kelsall, Dennis and Kelsall, Jan (2012), Lune Valley and Howgills: A Walking Guide, Cicerone.
Lancaster Group of the Ramblers’ Association (2005), Walks in the Lune Valley.
Lloyd, Karen (2016), The Gathering Tide: A Journey Around the Edgelands of Morecambe Bay, Saraband Press.
Lord, A.A. (1983), Wandering in Bowland, Westmorland Gazette.
Mitchell, W.R. (2004), Bowland and Pendle Hill, Phillimore & Co. Ltd.
Pitt, David, ed. (2010), A Pennine Journey: From Settle to Hadrian’s Wall in Wainwright’s Footsteps, Frances Lincoln.
Raistrick, Arthur, Forder, John and Forder, Eliza (1985), Open Fell Hidden Dale, Frank Peters.
Rebanks, James (2015), The Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District, Allen Lane.
Self, John (2010), The Land of the Lune, Drakkar Press.
Sellers, Gladys (1986), The Yorkshire Dales: a Walker’s Guide to the National Park, Cicerone.
Sharp, Jack (1989), New Walks in the Yorkshire Dales, Robert Hale.
Shaw, Helen and Stachulski, Andrew (2015), The Forest of Bowland, Merlin Unwin.
Stansfield, Andy (2006), The Forest of Bowland and Pendle Hill, Halsgrove.
Wainwright, Alfred (1970), Walks in Limestone Country, Westmorland Gazette.
Wainwright, Alfred (1972), Walks on the Howgill Fells, Westmorland Gazette.
Wainwright, Alfred (1974), The Outlying Fells of Lakeland, Westmorland Gazette.
Wainwright, Martin, ed. (2005), A Lifetime of Mountains: the Best of A. Harry Griffin’s Country Diary, Aurum Press.
Wilson, Stephen (1992), Geology of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, Yorkshire Dales National Park Committee.
People, animals and plants are listed under the last part of their name, e.g. as Wainwright, Alfred or deer, red or ash, mountain. Place names, however, are listed under their first part, e.g. as Caton Moor (not Moor, Caton).
Arnside Knott 6.
Barth Bridge 2. bird-watching 5. Black Dyke 4. Blencathra 3. Bolton-le-Sands 4. Bowfell 6. Bowness 2. Blackpool 5. Blackpool Tower 1. British Mountaineering Council 3. Brontë Waterfalls 5. Brontë Way 2. Brookhouse 1. Burns, Robert 1. Buttermere 5.
Carnforth 4. Carnforth Bookshop 4. Catbells 5. Caton Moor 1. Clapham 5. Clatter Beck 2. Claughton Hall 1. Clougha 1. Coniston Old Man 5. cormorant 5. Countryside and Rights of Way Act 1. Crag Wood 6. Craven Museum 6. Crogan, Tony and Chris 2. Cumbria Tourism 3.
Dales High Way 2. Dales Way 2. deer 3. Dentdale 2. Dow Crag 5. Duffy, Carol Ann 1.
eel 4. eel pass 4. Eshton Hall 6.
Flasby 6. Flasby Beck 6. Flasby Fell 6. Flasby Hall 6. Flasby Sword 6. fly-fishing 5. Forest of Bowland 1, 5. Forest of Bowland Walk 2. Freckleton 4. Friends of Carnforth Coke Ovens 4. Frostrow Fells 2. Fylde 4, 5.
Gisburn Forest 5. Glenridding Common 5. Gordale Scar 5. Gragareth 1. Grange-over-Sands 4. Grasmere 3, 5. Grassington 5.
Hause Point 3. Helvellyn 3, 5. High Cup Nick 5. High Seat 3. Highpark Wood 3. Howgills 1, 2, 6. Hunder Moor Hurrock 2.
Ilkley 2. Ingleborough 1, 5, 6. Ingleton 6. Ingleton Falls 5. Isle of Man 1.
Keswick 3. Kilnsey 5.
Lancashire Coastal Way 4. Lancashire Witches Walk 1. lapwing 6. Leathes Water 3. Leeds-Liverpool Canal 5. Leyburn 6. little egret 4. Long Distance Path 2. Long Distance Walkers Association 2.
Malham 5. Marilyn 6. Middleton Fell 1, 2. Millthrop 2. Ministry of Defence 3. Moorcock Hall 1. Moorgarth 1. Morecambe Bay 1, 4. Munro 6.
New House 5. North Lancashire Bridleway 1.
Pateley Bridge 6. peak-bagging 6. Pendle 6. Pendle witches 1. Pendle Witches Trail 5. Pennine Journey 2. Pennine Way 2. Pen-y-ghent 1. Pilling Embankment 4. Pitt, David 2.
Recreational Route 2. Red Bank 4. Reeth 5. Richmond 5, 6. River Dee 2. River Gilpin 4. River Hodder 5. River Keer 4. River Kent 4. River Rawthey 2. Rough Haw 6.
Saltaire 2, 5. Sandford Principle 3. sauntering 1. Scafell Pike 5, 6. Sedbergh 2. Settle 6. Sharp Haw 6. Silverdale 4. Skipton 5, 6. Stocks Reservoir 5. Stocks-in-Bowland 5. skylark 4, 6.
The Calf 6. Thirlmere 3. Thirlspot 3. tidal flaps 4. trout 5. Trueman, Fred 6.
United Utilities 3.
Wainwright, Alfred 2. Walking Englishman 2. Ward's Stone 1. Warton Crag 4. Wasdale Head 5. Whernside 1, 6. White Hill 1. Wild Duck Hall 4. wind turbines 1. Winder 2. World Heritage Site 3. Worth Way 2. Wythburn Water 3.
Top photo: The western Howgills from Dillicar; Bottom photo: Blencathra from Great Mell Fell