Western Howgills

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

If you'd like to give a comment, correction or update (all are very welcome) or to be notified of new items as they appear - please send an email to johnselfdrakkar@gmail.com.

     50.   Walking Home (1) - 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   
     Previous Saunterings   

50.  Walking Home (1) - from Kirkby Lonsdale

A circle has no point. A long circular walk, as most of my saunters have been, involves a considerable expenditure of effort and time but leaves me exactly where I started. A linear walk from A to B at least achieves something, that is, the transfer of myself, by my own legs, to somewhere different. And if B is somewhere I’d like to be – say, home – all the better.

The saunters that I have regaled you with in this blog are but the tip of an iceberg. They generally involve an expedition to somewhere in North-West England but they are supported by numerous local walks to keep the legs in walking order. Some of them are what I call ‘tip-outs’, where I am taken, either by public transport or by Ruth on her way to somewhere, and deposited by the road-side to walk home. It would become repetitive if I were to describe all these walks here – but I thought I might add a ‘walking home’ from time to time, such as this one involving a walk back from Kirkby Lonsdale alongside the River Lune.

Devil's Bridge From the Kirkby Lonsdale bus stop I headed straight through the Market Square and along Jingling Lane to the Devil's Bridge. Knowing that I had quite a few miles ahead of me, I ignored the many charms of Kirkby Lonsdale, apart from the bridge, which is always worth another look, especially if there is no motorbike convention on at the time. The bridge is believed to be of the 14th century and has three ribbed arches high above the River Lune carrying a narrow crossing, once on the Skipton to Kendal route but no longer used as a road, of course.

There are a great many Devil's Bridges, including at least another seven in the United Kingdom. The name tends to be used for old bridges that seem to demand a surprising degree of technical skill, a skill which, it seems, local legends can only attribute to the devil. However, in order to ensure that the devil doesn't come well out of the legend, there is usually some ruse involved whereby he receives his comeuppance. So common and similar are these legends that they form a special category (number 1191, in fact) in the Aarne-Thompson-Uther classification system for folktales.

low Lune The river was very low. Stones that were normally underwater were now beached and bleached. Green sludge was forming in stagnant parts. Rarely can the river have been so low in April.

After half a mile I reached a bridge, but not one for walkers. The bridge is an aqueduct for water from Haweswater on its way under the Bowland hills to Manchester. It was built in the 1950s and appears somewhat functional compared to the rather ornamental 1890s aqueduct (Waterworks Bridge, for Thirlmere water) to be met later - much later.

How much later I could judge by my first distant view of the Caton windmills, some ten miles away. The windmills are on the hill above my home village, Brookhouse - and since I know how huge they are and how tiny they looked now, I could tell that I had far to walk.

Ingleborough from Lune The path continued close to the west bank of the Lune, passing the village of Whittington, with a view of Whittington Hall. Any other walkers from Kirkby Lonsdale - I passed three - will probably turn off to Whittington and so the next couple of miles will be in solitude. Leck Beck entered the Lune from the east but could easily be missed because it too had little water. Here the valley opened out, providing wide panoramas of the Dales hills of Leck Fell, Whernside and Ingleborough - and, still far ahead, the Caton windmills.

I was preceded along the Lune by a group of three little egrets. I didn't have my binoculars with me and so couldn't tell if they were male or female (to tell the truth, I couldn't even with binoculars - but as long as little egrets can tell the difference that's all that matters). Anyway, whatever they were, three seems an odd number to form a group. The last time that I walked here I saw heron (at least one) but not this time. Are little egret, as welcome as they are, at least to me, displacing heron?

sand martins Opposite a large stony beach that had accumulated huge tree trunks washed down in floods I sat for a while with sand martins. Sand martins had accompanied me all the way from Kirkby Lonsdale but here they swirled about over the river in some numbers, disappearing into and emerging from their nests in the bank just along from where I was sitting.

I was pleased to see them all because every year from April 1st I look out for sand martins and I had only seen a few at my local patch of the Lune and none at all by the Waterworks Bridge where they normally nest. I was beginning to worry that some harm had befallen them. But here there were hundreds of them. I am unreasonably fond of sand martins. Their twittering is so characteristic of the summer Lune and they are one of the first of our migrants to return to tell us that summer is on its way. I have no idea why they have abandoned their Waterworks Bridge nests, if that is the case. I had understood that sand martins returned to their nests of previous years, which is only sensible since it must be a lot of work for these little birds to excavate their tunnels.

Lune at Arkholme As I neared Arkholme I saw, out on the riverside stones, a man scanning the skies with his binoculars and making notes on his clipboard. I would have liked to chat to him but he was so determined to pretend that he had not noticed me that I thought I'd better not. I wonder if he had spotted the jay that I saw in a wood at Arkholme. Probably jays are common to him but I don't see them in the region as often as I should, judging by the bird books.

Where the River Greta joins the Lune I was reminded that everywhere that I had walked was within a floodplain and is underwater from time to time. The River Lune itself has changed course here relatively recently. An 1847 map shows the Lune flowing about 1/4 mile east of where it now is. Its present course is marked as 'Old Lune' on the 1847 map, indicating that it has returned to an old route. Today's map marks two other 'Old Lune's. At the moment, the river is channelled through an arch of the Carnforth-Wennington railway line. The footpath also passes through an arch, swerves round the motte of the old motte and bailey castle, cuts across the toe of Arkholme, passes the Ferryman's Cottage, and re-emerges by the Lune.

swans on Lune It continued to be peaceful alongside the river until I came upon a group of twenty-one swans and hundreds of gulls. The gulls all flew up, screeching as one, annoyed that I had disturbed them. The swans just flapped a wing or two in the water and carried on as they were.

Hereabouts I appreciated that I had chosen wisely in taking this walk in April, when there's fresh green on the trees and little undergrowth underfoot. The last time I came this way, in an August/September, it was a distressing scramble trying to locate the path through dense Himalayan balsam and brambles. This time I could enjoy the bluebells in the shady dells.

As I emerged from one such dell I saw two young deer by the river. They did not see me for some time. When they did, they became flustered for a while as they realised that they were between the river and my path. After some to-ing and fro-ing, they eventually glided up the hillside.

Loyn Bridge I next came to Loyn Bridge, the only road bridge that I would pass south of Kirkby Lonsdale. This fine 17th century bridge sits rather squat across the river, unlike the Devil's Bridge which is perched high above. As a result, flood-waters often bypass the Loyn Bridge to the west. For example, the record-breaking deluge of December 2015 (Storm Desmond), which reached the beginning of the arches at the Devil's Bridge, demolished the hedges of the fields near the Loyn Bridge, as can still be seen. The Loyn Bridge itself was so damaged that it was closed for almost five months.

Below Priory Farm, on the opposite bank, I saw two anglers, the only anglers that I saw on this walk. I realised then that I had seen no sign of fish at all, not a splash nor a ripple. Perhaps when the river is so low and slow fish rest in whatever deeps they can find: not ideal conditions to fish, I would guess. The anglers gave me an un-angler-like cheery wave, which made me suspect that they shouldn't have been fishing at all. Anyway, I doubt that many salmon and trout have been able to make their way up-river this year yet.

Wenning Behind the River Wenning's entrance to the Lune could be seen Hornby Castle with Ingleborough far beyond. Hornby Castle has a long history but what is seen today is a 19th century re-building of it.

A large flock of oystercatchers (with one or two lapwing intermingled) waited until I became very close before taking to the air with loud, shrill calls. I was very much in their territory, alone on the floodplain, away from any habitation. This is a renowned bird-watching area, especially for over-wintering species, including large flocks of curlew and lapwing down from the hills.

I cut across to The Snab, as the large promontory south is reserved for cattle and wildlife. There were a number of geese in the large pond, plus a few cows wetting their feet. The cows were so stationary that I wondered if they had become stuck there.

Lune erosion At Great Close Wood I paused to look at what I think of as 'the island'. It was no longer an island. There was no water at all flowing on the east side, where the present OS map indicates most of the river should be. It was all flowing close by the wood. The 1847 map that I referred to shows no island at all, with the river all to the east of what is usually an island nowadays. So it seems that the river is in the process of migrating westwards. Certainly, there are signs of recent erosion all along this west bank. At one point, past Aughton Barns, there's a stile on the footpath (shown right) that a distracted walker could step over and find themselves in the river a few feet below.

I heard rumbles that I assumed to be from the quarries of Claughton Brickworks, high on the moor. I don't think that I've ever heard this noise here before: it must have been brought to me by the strong wind. I was now more-or-less opposite the Caton windmills, so long my target. However, I still had some way to go unless I took advantage of the lowness of the Lune and paddled across it.

Lawson's Wood bluebells I took a short-cut across the neck of the huge meander of the Lune (as I always do, and nobody has told me off yet) to enter Lawson's Wood, part of the Aughton Woods Nature Reserve. This path has only recently been re-opened, after repairs necessitated by landslip damage during Storm Desmond.

No doubt Aughton Woods have many delights for naturalists but I am content with just four of its species. There are often deer to be seen here, but not on this occasion. Badgers are not often seen, of course, unless you make a special expedition in the gloaming, as we have done. I won't say exactly where they are because there are people who enjoy badgering (or worse) badgers, encouraged by government policy, without scientific justification, to cull badgers to prevent the spread of bovine TB.

The woods are noted for their small-leaved lime, here at the northern limits of their range. However, unless my memory is mistaken, the trees that I had previously identified as small-leaved lime had not yet unfurled their leaves to help me be sure. For most walkers the most appealing flora is the bluebell display in spring, and of course I had skilfully timed my walk home to coincide with it.

Waterworks Bridge I emerged from the wood to see the Waterworks Bridge and to feel on home territory. Again there were no sand martins to be seen. The bridge bears the date of 1892 on its upriver side. After you cross the bridge you may see carved neatly into the stonework the 1890 and 1891 flood levels. Maybe the workmen at the time were impressed by these floods. I wonder how they would react to the flood level for Storm Desmond recently marked towards the top of the stonework. It is astonishingly higher than their 1890/1891 levels. In fact, the River Lune height at Caton was measured at 7.95m, way above the previous record of 5.83m.

I walked across the field and up the lane to home. One advantage of a 'walk home' like this is that it is obvious - to me and to anyone who asks - what is involved. A walk in Langdale (like the previous saunter) could mean anything from a stroll between the car-park and the pub to an assault on Scafell Pike. Anyone local has a good idea what a walk home from Kirkby Lonsdale entails. Anyway, there's no better way to end a walk than tea and cake on the lawn.

[April 2019; SD6078; (linear) Kirkby Lonsdale - E - Devil's Bridge - S, SW on west bank of the River Lune - Waterworks Bridge - S - Brookhouse; 12 miles; 115/400]

49.  Lingmoor Fell - For the Best Medium-High View in Lakeland?

I have another question (after the one in 43), this time one that any self-respecting follower of Wainwright should be able to answer: Which of his medium-high tops (to be precise, let’s say lower than 500m) enables you to see more of the other 213 tops than any other medium-high top? Imagine that you have a friend who is not a fell-walker and doesn’t want to walk too high but wants to conquer one Wainwright top and to see, from that top, as many of the rest as possible. Where would you advise her to walk?

I haven’t given away the answer in the title because Lingmoor Fell is in fact second on the list of ‘medium-high fells with the most tops in view’. While you’re pondering over what is first on the list we’ll saunter up Lingmoor Fell. The fell is a rather sprawling area of ground that reaches 469m at its highest point of Brown How. It lies between Little Langdale and Great Langdale. We, however, did not tackle Lingmoor Fell from the central parts of either dale but from the village of Elterwater that lies at the foot of Great Langdale.

The reason for adopting this direction of approach is simple: this way, the best views would be gradually revealed ahead of us. On the walk up we saw Little Langdale Tarn, Wetherlam and Swirl How, and then the Pike of Blisco – and finally the sweeping amphitheatre of Crinkle Crags, Bow Fell and the Langdale Pikes. It was a little hazy on the day of our walk, so we could not see everything to perfection. We could not, for example, see Blencathra at all. However, we could make out a snow-dappled Scafell Pike to the left of Bow Fell (which itself had a few dabs of snow), plus Loughrigg Fell, Red Screes, Fairfield and Helvellyn.
Brown How

Towards Brown How on Lingmoor Fell, with Bow Fell and the Langdale Pikes beyond

Brown How2

The view from Brown How, Lingmoor Fell

I had anticipated that Langdale walkers would be attracted to the celebrated peaks, leaving the relatively unsung Lingmoor Fell to us. However, there were a fair number of people on its slopes, including several children and at least four grandparents. No doubt, families staying in Langdale find Lingmoor Fell a not-too-taxing challenge, as did we, although our walk back along the Cumbria Way through Langdale, on a warm day, proved a bit longer than necessary – but then every extra minute spent in this scenery is a bonus.

The other surprise on Lingmoor Fell was the view of the paths on surrounding hills. We couldn’t see any. My memory is that the path up, for example, The Band to Bow Fell formed a wide, prominent, ugly scar but from Lingmoor Fell we could see no sign of it. The Fix the Fells path-repairers are clearly doing sterling work, ensuring that, from a distance at least, the fells look as they should, as if no human had ever set foot on them.

I am about to reveal – suspenseful pause, roll of the drums – the answer to my question, after this photo.

Crinkle Crags, Bow Fell and Mickleden from the slopes of Lingmoor Fell

According to the description of the fells’ views by Wainwright – and who better to rely upon? – the lower-than-500m fell that provides a view of the most other tops (55) is Great Crag. Even our dedicated Wainwright followers may have difficulty in pinpointing where this unimaginatively-named top is. It is, in fact, in Borrowdale. For your delectation, here is the top ten:
	 1.	Great Crag (440m)	  55
	 2.	Lingmoor Fell (469m)	  52
	 3.	Latrigg (368m)		  48
	 4.	Barrow (455m)		  47
	 5.	Binsey (447m)		  46
	 6.	Walla Crag (379m)	  45
	 7.	Catbells (451m)		  44
	 8.	Grange Fell (392m)	  43
	 9.	Loughrigg Fell (335m)	  43
	10.	Armboth Fell (479m)	  42
However, quantity isn’t all that matters: we must consider quality too. It might be argued – and I would – that Lingmoor Fell provides the best medium-high view because it provides the finest platform from which to admire the Langdale Pikes, the Pikes, of course, providing an iconic image of Lakeland second only perhaps to the classic view of Great Gable and Scafell Pike from Wasdale.

[April 2019; NY3204; Elterwater – SW, W – Bield Crag – NW – Brown How on Lingmoor Fell, Side Pike – N, E on Cumbria Way - Elterwater; 7 miles; 112/400]

48.  With The Grane

The River Ogden runs for 4.4 miles from the moors east of Darwen and Blackburn to join the River Irwell, according to Wikipedia. However, the Ordnance Survey does not name the watercourse on its West Pennine Moors map, perhaps in protest at the treatment of the river. There may no longer be a River Ogden and there probably never was an Ogdendale. The valley seems to be referred to as Haslingden Grane, or The Grane Valley or The Grane to locals. Haslingden Grane used to be a settlement of 1,300 people but on today’s map the name is placed to mark nothing in particular towards the head of the valley.

I noticed that the map shows a Visitor’s Centre at Clough Head, so somebody believes that there will be visitors. And indeed there were, at least by the time that I returned to the Centre after my walk. The place was buzzing for an April Monday. I suspect that most were relative locals walking their dogs, rather than visitors from afar, like me, but anyway the centre-cum-café seems a recommendable spot.

I had come to Haslingden Grane mainly to see how it was recovering from perhaps the most concentrated exploitation of a valley in North-West England. Within a distance of no more than three miles, there are many instances of our determination to change (or destroy) our environment to meet our needs. I walked first past Jamestone Quarry, which today consists mainly of large abandoned lakes although there were still a few trucks working away, causing the occasional rumble. The map shows many quarries, most now disused, in the region. I don’t know what special property the sandstone/shale hereabouts has that justifies all this quarrying but clearly there was a demand for it (mainly for road building, I understand) because, according to a notice at the quarry, at its peak in the late 19th century up to 3,000 men were employed here in the quarrying industry.
Jamestone Quarry

Jamestone Quarry

Continuing east, I passed another large over-blue quarry lake to walk above a conifer plantation. There are a number of such plantations scattered around Haslingden Grane. Perhaps they were added when the reservoirs were built, to filter the water entering them or for aesthetic purposes. I saw no sign that the forests were being harvested. Not all the valley woodlands are conifer forests – there is, for example, a native (it seems to me) wood at the top of the valley, providing a pleasant walk.

I left the Rossendale Way to drop down past Holden Hall to cross the dam of Holden Wood Reservoir. This is the lowest of the cascade of three reservoirs that have replaced the upper River Ogden. Holden Wood Reservoir was the first of them to be completed (in 1842) and was intended to provide water for local textile mills. It is now used, like the other two (Calf Hey Reservoir, 1860 and Ogden Reservoir, 1912), to provide water for the local population. Of course, the reservoirs now look well settled within the valley but we should not forget that the 1,300 people I mentioned above were displaced by them. Their homes are now under water or stand derelict on the reservoir slopes. Many such remains are passed on a walk around the reservoirs and in most cases it is hard to tell now whether the heaps of stones were once homesteads or barns.
Ogden Res

Calf Hey Reservoir and Ogden Reservoir

As the Rossendale Way curved back I left it to walk up to the windmills that dominate the head of the valley. The twelve turbines are not quite within Haslingden Grane but lie over the watershed on Oswaldtwistle Moor, overlooking Oswaldtwistle and Accrington. I detoured not to see the windmills but to have a look at Warmwithens Reservoir. This too is no longer on the map. Where it was is now marked as “Resr (dis)”. The reservoir was built before 1849 (it is shown on a map of that date) but its dam collapsed in 1970, a few years after it had been ‘improved’. Luckily, the escaping water was held in two lower reservoirs, preventing serious damage below. Today, there is only an otherwise enigmatic embankment, about 100 yards long, with an overflow channel, to indicate that the reservoir was ever there. I like to be reminded that our engineers are not infallible and to see how quickly nature reclaims what should be its.

As for Haslingden Grane, it would be an exaggeration to say that nature has reclaimed much of it. The evidence of our exploitation is plain to see, and my walk around the reservoirs was accompanied by quarry rumbles, the noise of the B5232 traffic, and the swish of windmills. Of the Haslingden Grane of 200 years ago, not much remains. We have submerged much of it, planted trees and windmills on some of it, and quarried a lot of it. And yet arguably the Grane has been improved for walkers like myself. Where once there were similar scattered farmsteads trying to make a living on rough, boggy pasture and moorland, there are now skilfully fashioned walking paths providing a variety of interest through what I originally thought, judging from the map, to be unpromising terrain.

[April 2019; SD7523; Clough Head car park – NW on concessionary path, E on Rossendale Way, S, SE – Holden Hall – S, W above reservoirs – Haslingden Grane – NW, N – Warmwithens Reservoir – S, E on Rossendale Way, SE – car park; 8 miles; 110/400]

47.  The 'Wild Desert' of Kingsdale

Rowten Pot There is no definitive list of the dales of the Yorkshire Dales. Some people include tributary-dales, such as Whitsundale; others consider them part of their main dale, Swaledale in this case. Some refer to, say, Malhamdale; others just call it “the Malham region”. The best that I can offer is a list of the top twenty ‘most interesting’ dales, as determined by the number of references to them in the Yorkshire Dales books on my shelf (the number in the right column indicating the relative interestingness):
	 1.	Wharfedale	   100
	 2.	Wensleydale	    87
	 3.	Swaledale	    85
	 4.	Ribblesdale	    62
	 5.	Arkengarthdale	    46
	 6.	Littondale	    29
	 7.	Malhamdale	    29
	 8.	Bishopdale	    24
	 9.	Coverdale	    22
	10.	Garsdale	    20
	11.	Chapel-le-dale	    19
	12.	Dentdale	    19
	13.	Langstrothdale	    17
	14.	Airedale	     9
	15.	Crummackdale	     9
	16.	Cotterdale	     7
	17.	Kingsdale	     7
	18.	Raydale		     6
	19.	Deepdale	     3
	20.	Waldendale	     3
So, a walk around number 17 on the list, Kingsdale, doesn’t promise much of interest. That anticipation would be consistent with the view of Housman (1808, p48) who, in probably the first-ever words written about Kingsdale, described it as having “the appearance of a wild unfrequented desert”. The well-regarded Hartley and Ingilby (1956) book seems to agree, for it devotes less than one of its 300 pages to Kingsdale. Echoing Housman, it asserts that “the whole valley seemed deserted, seldom visited.”

However, for a walker, Kingsdale has an advantage over most of the other dales on the list: it can be walked from end to end and back on a single walk. It is only three miles from its foot at Raven Ray to the farmstead of Kingsdale Head – and five miles to the true head of the dale, at the watershed at High Moss. Therefore, whatever features of interest Kingsdale has may be visited on one walk.

Kingsdale, with Kingsdale Head to the right (photo taken on an earlier occasion)

Moreover, since the dale is virtually straight, it is possible to appreciate the properties of the dale from almost any vantage point. We set off along the track above Raven Ray and could immediately acknowledge the basic geological properties of the dale. Clearly, it is a glaciated valley, with the ice having stripped bare the limestone escarpments on both sides. Interestingly, Housman (1808) seems to be groping towards such an explanation, before the theory of glaciation had been developed, when he writes that “the mountains seem, at some time, to have undergone a sort of anatomical preparation; when the coating of earth or muscular parts have been taken away, and the rocky bones of this huge monster left to the inspection of the naturalist and philosopher”. Raven Ray itself is, it seems obvious, a heap of debris dumped by the glacier. We can easily visualise this barrier causing a lake to form in this wide, flat dale when the ice melted – and then, when the barrier was breached, the lake disappearing over Thornton Force and other waterfalls now on the Ingleton Falls walk.

We left the track to follow the wall that heads north to Whernside. Looking east to Ingleborough, it seemed that the limestone pavements of Twisleton were continuous with the pavements above Raven Scar on the western slopes of Ingleborough, with the intervening valley of Chapel-le-Dale having disappeared. At West Fell we dropped down into Kingsdale to have a look at the Apronfull of Stones. Of course, today the Apronfull just looks like a large pile of stones, with a recent wall to protect it from being washed away by the beck. It is only the knowledge that it is 4,000 to 4,500 years old that gives pause for thought. And we might pause a bit longer to contemplate the fact that an excavation of a pit nearby found charcoal dated to about 8,750 years ago (Johnson, 2008, p104).

Ingleborough across Twisleton (where's Chapel-le-Dale?)

Next we crossed the beck, which was not difficult since it was completely dry, to have a peek in Yordas Cave, a cave that fascinated early visitors to the dale. From there we found the Turbary Road (the concessionary path marked on the map didn’t help). Turbary is (or was) the legal right to collect peat. The Turbary Road is a well-made track – but was it well-used for the purpose of turbary? I couldn’t see any signs of where peat had been collected, although I suppose it is many years since it was.

Today, the track is mainly used by walkers to provide a safe route past various pot-holes, such as Rowten Pot (shown top right) and Jingling Pot, some within a footstep of the track. It is good that the pot-holes are left as they are, without warnings or fences. However, I wouldn’t take children with me along this track unless I didn’t mind losing one or more of them. Since a high proportion of the few visitors to Kingsdale are intending to go down these pot-holes, it is perhaps not the case, as I implied above, that all the interesting features of Kingsdale can be seen from any vantage point. Whether there is much of interest underground I cannot say. We only peered over the edges to see the depth of the abysses and, sometimes, the waters that could be heard below. It is a strange sort of desert that has water gushing underground.

[March 2019; SD6975; layby by old quarries – N, SE (over Kingsdale Beck), NE (by the wall) – West Fell – W – Apronfull of Stones, Yordas Cave – S, SW on Turbary Road – near Blea Dubs – SE - layby; 7 miles; 108/400]

46.  To the Point of Winterburn Reservoir

If a reservoir wants to be fully appreciated then it should not use ‘Reservoir’ in its name. It should be something friendly, like Gurnal Dubs or Kitmere. A ‘Reservoir’ only reminds us that, however charmingly sited and skilfully engineered it may be, it is not a bona-fide, natural lake. We don’t get emotional about anything unnatural. Unless it’s the Ribblehead Viaduct. Or the Hoad Monument of Ulverston. Or Blackpool Tower. Oh well, perhaps Winterburn Reservoir has a chance after all.

A ‘Reservoir’ in the name might at least lead us to wonder what the reservoir is for. It is an expensive business building a reservoir. Nobody builds a reservoir for fun. On this walk I hoped to see evidence of the purpose of Winterburn Reservoir.

Gargrave was under a grey sky. I suppose it was cloud – but every cloud has a silver lining and there were no linings. Gargrave developed through being on an important east-west route across the Pennines. The Romans walked nearby and more recently Gargrave has been a staging post on the Leeds-Kendal A65, the Leeds-Liverpool Canal (completed in 1816) and the Leeds-Lancaster railway line (completed in 1850). Nowadays it is also on the north-south route of the Pennine Way, and I headed that way myself, first crossing the canal, which I was pleased to see was active (unlike the Lancaster Canal on my previous outing) with some canal-boaters struggling to un-lock themselves.

I continued north across the parkland of Eshton Hall, through Gamsbers Wood, and along a fine path above Eshton Beck, emerging on Winterburn Lane to be confronted with the surprising sight of Friars Head. The front wall of this 17th century building – and it is not a huge building – has (I make it) 584 panes of glass. There are seven sets of twelve narrow windows, each with six lights, plus on the second floor a further four sets of windows with twenty lights. Friars Head is thus an impressive example of the local building style that favoured narrow windows. Where in a modern house we would have one rectangular window, here they preferred a set of tall, narrow windows separated by stonework. It was good to see that Friars Head is still in normal use, judging from the farmyards to the rear and the gardens to the front, and hasn’t been converted or deserted as so many grand old buildings have.
Friars Head

Friars Head

I walked on, to meet a sign saying “Warning: shooting in progress”. I wondered if, more to the point, the shooters met a sign saying “Warning: walking in progress”. I heard no sound of shooting, so I carried on. I reached the reservoir outlet but couldn’t see the reservoir itself without a walk up to the farm of Way Gill, but that did at least get me high enough for views across to Cracoe Fell and, in the distance, a grey Pendle. I was sorry to disturb the many geese and a large flock of oystercatchers, all of whom probably expected to be left in peace on such a dull day.
Winterburn Res

Winterburn Reservoir, with Pendle in the distance

I crossed the bridge at the northern point of the reservoir and strode out south on the good path of the Dales High Way. I was saddened to see a hideous repair of a grey stone wall using huge yellow-orange sandstone blocks quite alien to this region. I now realise that, philistine that I am, I had failed to appreciate what is surely a masterpiece of ‘land art’, a deeply moving conceptual allegory on the problems of integration in modern society.
Dales High Way

Land art on the Dales High Way

The skylarks and the curlews were in good voice despite the increasing gloominess. I hurried on, reaching the road at Flasby, and shortly after, at Eshton Bridge, had a view of Eshton Hall. It seemed to be mainly with curtains drawn. The hall was built in 1827 on a rather grandiose scale, it seems to me. In 2005 it was converted into apartments.
Eshton Hall

Eshton Hall

I detoured a little in order to have another look at the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. I had seen no signs on my walk of the purpose of Winterburn Reservoir but I hoped to see some by the canal (but I didn’t) because the reservoir was built to provide water for it. At least, that is what I have read. However, the canal was finished in 1816 and the reservoir in 1893. I picture engineers standing by a dry canal for 77 years, scratching their heads, wondering what they had overlooked. No, of course, the problem was that the increasing traffic on the canal, with the corresponding greater use of locks, was transferring water along the canal. Somehow, in a way that I had not been able to detect, Winterburn Reservoir tops up the canal. But how did those engineers have the foresight to aim the Leeds end of the canal north-west towards a non-existent Winterburn Reservoir, rather than aim more directly south-west to Liverpool?

[March 2019; SD9354; Gargrave – N on Pennine Way, NE on Chew Lane, N on Eshton Road, N – Eshton, Brockabank, Winterburn, Winterburn Reservoir – W, N, around Reservoir, SE on Dales High Way, SW on Cross Lane, SW, SE – Flasby – S – Ray Bridge – W - Gargrave; 10 miles; 107/400]

Previous Saunterings

     45.   Thoughts from the Towpath (Bilsborrow to Preston)   
     44.   Interlude: We Are Sorry for the Delay ...   
     43.   The Red Screes - Wansfell Question   
     42.   Appreciating Meg and Lucy   
     41.   Safe in Littledale   
     40.   In the Borderlands of Burton-in-Lonsdale and Bentham   
     39.   Halls Galore by the Middle Ribble   
     38.   Reflections from Jeffrey's Mount   
     37.   Whoopers on Thurnham Moss   
     36.   The Flow and Ebb and Flow of Morecambe   
     35.   Dufton Rocks   
     34.   Thieveley Pike and the Singing Ringing Tree   
     33.   Is Nappa Hall Napping - or Dying?   
     32.   Russet Rusland Valley   
     31.   Pink Stones on the Orton Fells   
     30.   Dunsop Bridge, Whitewell and Duchy-land   
     29.   The Quiet End of the Ribble Way   
     28.   Broughton Moor, or What's Left of It   
     27.   The Footpaths of Anglezarke Moor   
     26.   A Booze by Any Other Name   
     25.   Mysterious Harkerside Moor   
     24.   Up Ingleborough with the Holiday Crowds   
     23.   The Kentmere Diatomite   
     22.   In the Lancashire Yorkshire Dales   
     21.   The Fortunes of Fleetwood   
     20.   On the Sunny Side of Pendle   
     19.   Viewpoints around Keswick (part 2)   
     18.   Viewpoints around Keswick (part 1)   
     17.   Sheep-Wrecked Matterdale?   
     16.   The Wildflowers of Sulber   
     15.   On the Hobdale Fence   
     14.   Logging Along the Cam High Road   
     13.   The Cairns of Grisedale Pike   
     12.   Uplifted by High Street   
     11.   The Struggle over Boulsworth Hill   
     10.   The 'Hillfort' of Addlebrough   
     9.   "The Prettiest Mere of All" Lakeland   
     8.   What Price Catrigg Force?   
     7.   Castling in Cumbria: From Brougham to Lowther   
     6.   The Count of Flasby Fell   
     5.   Circumperambulating Stocks Reservoir   
     4.   In a Flap at Bolton-le-Sands   
     3.   Zipping around Thirlmere   
     2.   The Dentdale Diamonds   
     1.   The Taming of Caton Moor   
     (and here's some I did earlier)

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    © John Self, Drakkar Press, 2018


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