Western Howgills

Home   Preamble   Links   References   Index   Areas   Map   About me   Drakkar Press


Saunterings is a set of reflections based upon walks around the counties of Cumbria, Lancashire and North Yorkshire in North-West England (more details of my ‘North-West England’ are given in the Preamble).

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

     66.   In Search of the Paythorne Salmon   
     65.   Grisedale and Another Tarn   
     64.   Beyond the Leagram Pale   
             Diversion 1:  Save Our Sausage   
     63.   These Are a Few of My Favourite 'Superficial Things': in Crummackdale   
     62.   On and Off the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail   
     61.   Knott Alone   
     Previous Saunterings   

66.  In Search of the Paythorne Salmon

The region south of Hellifield is neither Dales nor Bowland. The map shows a number of hamlets – Swinden, Nappa, Newsholme, Paythorne and Halton West – but I can’t say that I had heard of any of them. The map also indicates many flattish fields, fine for sheep but dull for walkers. I read what little I could find about the region – and came across Paythorne’s Salmon Sunday (the third Sunday of November), when villagers gathered at the bridge to celebrate the salmon spawning in the Ribble. The custom has, of course, lapsed. Whether the villagers or the salmon lapsed first, I don’t know. Anyway, I set out, with little optimism, to look for salmon in the Ribble. Hellifield Peel

I walked first to Hellifield Peel (shown right), built as a tower house in the 15th century. Twenty years ago English Heritage produced a list of graded buildings that were at risk, that is, of being or becoming derelict. Hellifield Peel was on the list but it is one of the few that has since been revived, its restoration featuring on Channel 4’s Grand Designs.

After walking past some eerily empty farm buildings at Swinden, I continued to the Ribble for my first study of it. I waited for a while – but saw no salmon. Two footpaths meet here at the river but the OS map seems to indicate that the paths do not cross the Ribble. They clearly don’t in practice. The path at Nappa Ford, which I proceeded to next, is marked by the OS as crossing the river. If I were foolishly to trust the OS and attempt to cross would my widow be able to sue the OS for providing false information?

As I walked towards Nappa Ford I passed two women chatting at a gate. They looked at me quizzically. They knew – and I suspected – that there was no way across the river. At the so-called ford I paused again but saw no salmon. As I returned past the women I commented that it must be many years since anyone had used that ford. I was told that it may be possible to paddle over in a dry summer. But this was a wet autumn. The older woman then said “there used to be islands in the river”. “What happened to them?” I asked. “Oh, they removed them, to stop flooding, or something.” “Really?” I asked, “When did they do that?” “In the fifties” she said, as if it were yesterday. (I have since found a website giving some information about this ford, including the claim that it was used by the Romans.)

From Nappa I walked south on what seemed to be an old track called Needless Hall Lane. Needless to say, there is no such hall on the map today. I disturbed a roe deer and two hares. It was reassuring to see that there is still some wildlife about. I then had to tackle a second stretch of the A682. I should emphasise here that I am reporting on this walk for the edification of any readers, not to encourage anyone to follow in my footsteps. The A682 is sometimes said to be Britain’s most dangerous road. I expect that they mean for drivers. It is even more dangerous for walkers. Paythorne Bridge

I reached Paythorne Bridge (the view from which is shown left) and settled with my sandwiches to look out for salmon. I saw none. I am not an expert salmon-spotter but I am sure that there are fewer salmon today than there were in the days of Salmon Sunday. The Environment Agency (EA) produces voluminous data on the numbers of salmon in British rivers. For example, its 2017 Ribble report shows (on pages 7 and 10) the numbers of salmon caught by nets and by rods for the years 1951 to 2015. It averages about 1,500 fish a year, although in the last three years, 2013 to 2015, it was less than half that number.

However, we need to look further back. The 1993 Ribble report says that “In 1867, the combined catch from the nets and rods was 15,100 salmon, yet by the end of the century the fishery had declined to such a degree that no salmon were caught in 1899 or 1900 by either the nets or rods”. From 1930 to the 1950s the Ribble was restocked with Scottish fry. The numbers of salmon have obviously increased from zero but they are still only a tenth of what they were in 1867. Who knows, there may have been even more salmon before then. Halton Bridge

As I walked up to the small village of Paythorne I noticed a large number of cars parked and then saw a woman waiting to close the chapel door for the 2pm service. She hoped that I was a last-minute worshipper but I shook my head. I was devoted to my muddy fields. I contrived to lose the path but it didn’t matter. One field was much like another, and I could see a row of houses that had to be Halton West ahead. I eventually reached the wide, low-lying Halton Bridge (shown right), where I paused again. No salmon.

Many reasons have been given for the decrease of salmon: pollution, weirs and other obstructions, salmon disease, climate change affecting predators and prey at sea, salmon farms spreading parasitic sea lice, over-fishing, and so on. Over-fishing certainly but what about fishing? The EA reports read as if the EA is part of the angling industry rather than an independent body. It analyses the angler-supplied figures, when there could be many factors affecting catch numbers that have nothing to do with the salmon themselves, whereas it skims over the more objective, neutral, scientific data about the fish passing through the counter near Clitheroe. This is about 1,250 (according to page 16 of the 2017 Ribble report), which is of the same order as the number of salmon caught. Of course, the same silly salmon may be caught over and over but I think we can conclude that a high proportion of the salmon are caught. I think this is what the EA means by the ‘exploitation rate’ – a term that confirms a mind-set that the salmon are only there to be exploited, that is, caught, by us. It is estimated at 20% by the EA. Does catching the salmon do them any harm? Studies show that salmon have memories, form mental maps, and avoid ‘stressful’ situations. I’d imagine that being hoisted out of a river by a hook in the lip is stressful.

Many solutions to the salmon problem are offered too. In 2014 angling associations wrote to the government “to demand urgent implementation of a five-point action plan”. In brief, we should: remove or bypass barriers; maintain adequate flows in all rivers; ensure that farmers follow best practice; increase funding for river restoration; and limit stock taken on north-east coast net fisheries. That leaves anglers to carry on as usual. I suppose the salmon problem is, like climate change, one where everybody has to contribute. Everybody else, that is.

[November 2019; SD8557; Hellifield railway station – S, SE, S, E – Hellifield Peel – S – Swinden – W, S – Nappa – to river and back – S on Needless Hall Lane – W, SW – Newsholme – W – Paythorne Bridge – N – Paythorne – N on Ing Lane, NE – Halton West, Halton Bridge – N, E, N, NE, N – Hellifield; 10 miles; 147/400]

P.S. I accidentally deleted my photos for this walk. I’ve pinched the ones above from the web – hope nobody minds.

65.  Grisedale and Another Tarn

Grisedale Tarn is one of the highest, largest and deepest tarns in the Lake District. It sits below Fairfield at 538m, has an area of 0.11 sq km and is 33m deep. It provides a fine objective for a walk, especially if the mountain tops are likely to be windy, cold or in cloud. All three appeared to be the case as I set forth from Grasmere. A chilly wind sent the autumn leaves scuttling about and ahead of me I could see that Fairfield and Seat Sandal, between which I aimed to walk, were in cloud.
from Grasmere

Seat Sandal and Fairfield in cloud, from Grasmere

As I headed from Mill Bridge along the ancient track that leads to Patterdale, I passed a house that had a plaque saying “St Bees Head 40 Robin Hood’s Bay 150” embedded in its wall. It kindly tells coast-to-coast walkers that they have far, or very far, still to go. I had less far but it seemed far enough with a real struggle against the wind. It was an excellent path but it had the disadvantage that the best view – of Grasmere, Helm Crag and surrounding hills – was behind, causing many pauses, welcome though they were. The hills were covered in bracken, which was a dead brown except occasionally – very occasionally – when it would become alive as if a spotlight scanned over the hillsides when a fleeting, small gap appeared in the cloud. Eventually I reached Grisedale Hause, the col between Fairfield and Seat Sandal at about 590m, through which the ferocious gale made progress intermittent.
to Grasmere

Towards Grasmere, from the path to Grisedale Hause

At last, I looked down upon Grisedale Tarn. It was dark, with clear edges as if drawn on a map. Occasionally, the tops of waves would be whisked off and sent swirling over the tarn. I can see why some people consider the tarns to be the pearls of the Lake District. Almost everybody focusses upon the large lakes and the mountains but in reality they have no more grandeur than those of the Scottish Highlands and elsewhere. It’s just that in the Lake District they are huddled together for our convenience. The tarns, however, are more distinctively Cumbrian. Well, Scotland has its tarns but it doesn’t call them Tarns. Yorkshire has about fifty named Tarns but most aren’t really tarns, in my eyes: they are just upland pools of water. For me, a tarn (for example, Red Tarn) sits, still and dark, nestled between two mountain ridges (Striding Edge and Swirral Edge) below a mountain top (Helvellyn).

Most Lake District walking books describe ways to get to the tops of mountains. They are usually written by men who rock-climb or scramble and who have condescended to explain how ordinary walkers can walk up the mountains to see real men like themselves in action. However, there are books of lowland Lake District walks and also books describing walks to tarns, for example, Drews (1995) and Naldrett (2017). The acclaimed artist William Heaton Cooper produced a volume of paintings of Lake District tarns (Heaton Cooper, 1960). So there are admirers of the tarns. And just as there are people who go peak-bagging, inevitably there are those who go tarn-bagging.

Two questions immediately arise. First, how do you bag a tarn? For example, I stood above Grisedale Tarn – what should I do next to consider it bagged? It is clear how you bag a peak: you stand at the highest point of it. Do you stand by the tarn to bag it? Do you have to walk round the tarn? Do you have to paddle in it? Do you have to swim in it? Or across it? Two men, whose silliness I will not glorify by naming them, swam in all (all, to their satisfaction anyway) 463 tarns, according to a 1959 Guardian Miscellany item by Harry Griffin. I wasn’t bothered about bagging Grisedale Tarn. I turned right to cross the outlet from the tarn that forms Grisedale Beck, which runs to Patterdale, and then returned on the north side of the tarn to reach the col between Seat Sandal and Dollywaggon Pike, so completing three-quarters of a circuit.
Grisedale Tarn

Grisedale Tarn, with Fairfield behind and Grisedale Hause to the right

That ‘463’ above prompts the second question: What exactly is a tarn? My dictionary defines a tarn as “a small mountain lake or pool” but Wikipedia adds the clause “formed in a cirque excavated by a glacier”. How big does a body of water have to be to count as a tarn? Can it be too big? Is Burnmoor Tarn really a tarn? It is bigger than Elter Water, which is counted as one of the sixteen lakes. Does it have to be a ‘permanent’ body of water or do large puddles after heavy rain count? Must a tarn be entirely natural? What about Seathwaite Tarn, which was a natural tarn before being turned into a reservoir by Barrow Corporation in 1907? Does it have to be on or by a mountain? Does it have to have been formed by glacial action? My prototypical tarn, Red Tarn, is clearly formed by glaciers having carved out a hollow and deposited debris to close it off, but then all the hills of northern England were covered by ice and could be said to be, to some degree, formed by glacial action.

Does a tarn need to have a name? Does it need to have a name including Tarn? That would simplify matters! But if so that would exclude many pools that most would consider to be tarns, such as Blea Water below High Street. Does Innominate Tarn count as a name? What about the large pool above Steel Fell that was inexplicably missing from OS maps until it was added in the late 1980s, but still without a name? This tarn (if it is one) is possibly the largest unnamed pool in the Lake District. Those who attempt to answer all these questions come up with a list ranging from about 250 to 2,500 Lake District tarns.

When I set off from Grasmere I had in mind the option of, after visiting Grisedale Tarn, heading west to Dunmail Raise, climbing Steel Fell, continuing to see another tarn (the anonymous one), going on to Calf Crag, and returning to Grasmere. As I left the col (at 574m) I could see the flank of Steel Fell, seemingly far below, with Ullscarf, High Raise and the Langdale Pikes rising beyond. However, as I continued scrambling down on the path by Raise Beck I saw that the traffic on Dunmail Raise was miniscule and realised that I had some considerable way to drop down. By the time that I had reached the road Steel Fell had risen to vertiginous heights above me. I could see no obvious path of ascent. After my slow struggle up to Grisedale Hause, I really didn’t fancy another battle uphill into the wind, so Another Tarn will have to wait for another day.

[November 2019; NY3307; Grasmere – W, N, E – Mill Bridge – NE by Little Tongue Gill – Grisedale Hause, stepping stones over Grisedale Beck – W by Raise Beck – Dunmail Raise – S – Town Head, Low Mill Bridge, Grasmere; 7 miles; 144/400]

64.  Beyond the Leagram Pale

We set out hoping to see evidence of something that hasn’t existed since 1556. At that date the Leagram Deer Park was disparked. However, the gods were perhaps telling us something when we were confronted by two ‘road closed’ signs on the way there, necessitating long detours through the meandering lanes of southern Bowland.

Eventually we were able to set off south from Chipping towards Pale Farm. This is on the edge of the old deer park, with the ‘pale’ referring to the fence that enclosed it. Details of the Leagram Deer Park are given in this document, including a map of the park on page 30. The park, which was established in the 1340s, was one of more than thirty within or near Bowland. It required a licence from the monarch to create a deer park and it was more a status symbol than a source of income. Fallow deer formed the main quarry, although there was also hunting of other deer, boar, hare and game birds. In order to keep the nimble fallow deer within the park it was surrounded by a ditch (8 feet wide, 4 feet deep for Leagram Deer Park) with a fence or pale on a raised ridge outside it.

The perimeter of Leagram Deer Park measured nearly seven miles and we continued along the line of it, now a hedge, and through the grounds of a hotel to Gibbon Bridge. Here we continued on the south side of the River Loud, where the park boundary no doubt took advantage of this natural barrier. The banks had Himalayan balsam and the river was far from crystal clear, sadly, considering that the water had only flowed a few miles from the slopes of Parlick. Maybe the recent rain had muddied it. The footpath is shown crossing to the north bank but, as we found out, only by means of stepping stones and they were under water, if indeed they were all there. So we retreated to the road to reach Loud Mytham Bridge.

We continued north along the line of the park boundary past Leagram Mill Barn where the footpath leaves the boundary to head for Knot Hill. This was a pity as there are intriguing outdentations in the wall along the boundary around Buckbanks Wood (itself a suggestive name) that are thought to be where there were deer leaps, enabling deer to enter the park but not to leave. The path to Knot Hill, with an avenue of trees leading nowhere in particular, was the most English-park-like that we saw even though it was not within the deer park. Knot Hill itself is half of a small limestone outcrop, the other half having been quarried away. Knot Hill, only 156m high, provided a good prospect of the sunny southern Bowland Fells, Longridge Fell (which was in shade) and a distant Pendle, all of which we saw from time to time throughout the walk.
Bowland fells

The Bowland hills from Saddle Fell to Totridge, from Knot Hill

On the path to Lickhurst Farm we came upon a dead raptor (a kestrel, I believe). Anyone finding a dead raptor and thinking that a crime has occurred is supposed to contact the Wildlife Crime Unit. There was nothing suspicious about this bird other than the fact that it had died in Bowland, where there is a reluctance to allow raptors to die of natural causes. Recently, the case against a gamekeeper from the nearby Bleasdale Estate, who was charged with a string of wildlife offences including the killing of two peregrines, collapsed after the video evidence was deemed inadmissible.

We returned to the deer park boundary at Park Style (which was derelict) and Park Gate (which wasn’t), at the northernmost part of the park. The boundary continued a little to the west but we were beginning to tire of searching for stiles to enable us to walk through yet more muddy fields, so we dropped south past Chipping Lawn (from ‘laund’, which was a clearing where deer grazed) to pick up the boundary again near Leagram Hall, which was the base for the deer park. We had no view of the hall.
Pendle and Longridge

Looking over the old deer park towards Longridge Fell and Pendle

It seems almost needless to say that we saw no deer, boar or hares and that the only game birds seen were non-native pheasants. We had followed a succession of hedges, walls, fences, tracks and roads that are on the line of the boundary of the old deer park. However, none of those hedges, walls, fences, tracks and roads seemed different to others, as far as we could see. There was nothing we could point to and say “aha, that’s obviously to do with the deer park”. But then it has had 463 years to disappear.

[October 2019; SD6243; Chipping – SE, S – Pale Farm – E, NE – Gibbon Bridge, Bailey Hippings – S, NE – Loud Mytham – NW, N – Knot Hill, Lickhurst Farm – SW – Park Style, Park Gate – S, W – Birchen Lee – S – Chipping; 8 miles; 143/400]

Diversion 1:  Save our Sausage

(This is one of the 'Rainy Day Rambles in the Lake District', which are of unknown date and were apparently written for the Cumberland Courier but never printed there. I can't think why.)

From an Office in Brussels

      M. Grévitrêne (EC Bureaucratiat):   Please come in, Mr Davis, and take a seat. How may I help you?
      Mr. Davis (MEP for NW England):   Well, I sent you a note about Cumberland sausages ...
      M. Grévitrêne:   Ah, yes. I have it here somewhere. One moment ... right, now, I see, you want to protect the Cumberland sausage. Protect it from what exactly?
      Mr. Davis:   From impersonation. From rogue sausage-makers making sausages and passing them off as Cumberland sausages and so besmirching the excellent reputation of the bona-fide Cumberland sausage.
      M. Grévitrêne:   I see. Tell me, what is special about the Cumberland sausage?
      Mr. Davis:   Well, for a start, it must be made in Cumberland!
      M. Grévitrêne:   Ah. Perhaps you could help me there. I studied the map of England last night and couldn’t find Cumberland anywhere. Could you show me on this map where Cumberland is.
      Mr. Davis:   I’m sorry but Cumberland isn’t on the map. It was abolished in 1974.
      M. Grévitrêne:   I see. Is there anything else special about the Cumberland sausage? Its contents perhaps? Cumberland sausage
      Mr. Davis:   Perhaps.
      M. Grévitrêne:   Perhaps?
      Mr. Davis:   Well, I don’t know what is in a Cumberland sausage because its makers keep the contents a trade secret. They tell me that it doesn’t have preservatives, it doesn’t have seasonings and it doesn’t have colouring but they won’t tell me what it does have.
      M. Grévitrêne:   I see. Anything else? What does it look like? How long is it?
      Mr. Davis:   It doesn’t have a length. It is round. Or rather a spiral.
      M. Grévitrêne:   Excuse me a moment. (Walks to the shelf; takes down a large volume; spends twenty minutes reading to himself, murmuring gently “braunschweiger ... falukorv ... mortadella ... blagenwurst ... kielbasa ... boerewors ...”; returns to the desk.) Well, I’m sorry, Mr. Davis, but according to EU Directive S316.2 a sausage is cylindrical.
      Mr. Davis:   Oh.
      M. Grévitrêne:   So, let me summarise. You want the European Commission to protect a so-called sausage of illegal shape and of unknown content, to be made only in a nonexistent place.
      Mr. Davis:   Yes. That about sums it up.
      M. Grévitrêne:   Très bon. This is exactly what the Bureaucratiat likes to get its teeth into. This will keep us busy for a few years. Leave it with me. And if you’ve brought any Cumberland sausages, please leave them with me too.

Photo: Harrod's "authentic Cumberland sausage".

63.  These Are a Few of My Favourite 'Superficial Things': in Crummackdale

I am still perplexed by the proposition that arose in the previous Sauntering, namely, that nature-lovers absorb and are attuned to the moods and spirit of a place rather than observe ‘superficial things’. It would seem to follow that it is better not to know anything about those superficial things so that you are less likely to be distracted by them. Ignorance is bliss, perhaps – or if you know too many trees then you can’t see the wood. However, I fear that I have been led astray by my scientific training. I can’t help wanting to observe things and to know more about them.

I again took the bus to the Yorkshire Dales to walk around the Craven Faults and to mull over this absorb-observe conundrum. I set off from Austwick, over Flascoe Bridge, one of the finest clapper bridges in the Dales, and on to the hamlet of Wharfe. I left the enclosed track to walk across the fields below Studrigg Scar. Views of the green valley of Crummackdale opened out, enclosed within a spectacular rim of limestone scars, with the heights of Ingleborough and Simon Fell beyond. The last time we were in Crummackdale, some ten years ago, two merlins argued noisily whilst nesting on the scar. This time there were again two noisy, but less argumentative, birds, which I couldn’t see. Could they be the same merlins? Or their descendants?

Austwick and Robin Proctor's Scar

The first few times that I visited Crummackdale I did not notice a particular feature of Studrigg Scar. This omission did not, I feel, lessen my appreciation of Crummackdale at the time. By the way, there is a difference between appreciating and loving nature. I appreciate the friendliness of my postman but I don’t love him. We tend to appreciate specific features and to love the whole. In fact, we may love despite specific features! Anyway, my point is that although I missed the Studrigg Scar feature there were plenty of other Crummackdale features for me to appreciate and, if you pushed me to be emotional about it, to cause me to love the whole.

The feature that I missed can be seen by looking to the right from the footpath. The cliff is in two parts. The top part has clear horizontal layers. The bottom part has layers tilted to about 60 degrees. You don’t need to be a geologist to be intrigued by this. Most of us would say that we don’t know anything about rocks, but of course we do. We know that rocks aren’t all the same. We can name a few (granite, limestone, millstone grit, quartz, say) and have a stab at identifying them. We know that rocks are heavy, and that they are old. We know therefore that the rocks of Studrigg Scar didn’t just get blown into their present positions yesterday. In fact, we probably suspect that since these rocks have layers then they were formed from ocean sediments of long ago. If so, what explanation can there be for the two parts of the cliff?
Studrigg Scar

Studrigg Scar

A four-stage process seems likely: the bottom part was laid down; it was then tilted in some enormous upheaval; it was then eroded so that its surface was horizontal; and then the top part was deposited upon it. All this must have happened over millions of years. Well, I don’t know about you but that makes me see the whole of Crummackdale in a different light. No longer is it just a visually perfect dale but I have a partial understanding, and hence an enhanced appreciation, of how it came to be how it is. If I had not read about Studrigg Scar then I suspect that I would have continued to walk right past it. And then, not being distracted by this ‘superficial thing’, I could focus on absorbing the spirit of the place.

That’s about as far as we can think by looking at Studrigg Scar from a distance but if we walk up closer we can see that the rocks of the two parts are different. Geologists can name them for us – Carboniferous limestone (top part) and Silurian slate (bottom part). If we look those up in a geology book we will find that there’s a 60 million year gap between them. What happened to the Devonian rocks that should be in between? Again, we don’t have to be a geologist to think about it. There seem to be only two possibilities: either the Devonian rocks were never formed here or they were formed but were then eroded away before the limestone was deposited. Geologists tell us that the former is the case – that between the Carboniferous and Silurian periods this area was not under the sea.

I walked up past Studrigg Scar, through a convenient (for me, not the farmer) gap in the high wall where it had fallen or been knocked down (not by me, honest), and on to the top of Moughton (427m), with grand views across to Pen-y-ghent. Back across the dale could be seen the famous Norber erratics. I won’t belabour their history now but similar naïve thoughts could be followed to help us to understand why these huge rocks are scattered there and hence possibly enhance our appreciation of their contribution to the landscape.

Pen-y-ghent from Moughton

From the trig point I walked north past old grouse butts and stunted juniper towards the footpath that runs between Crummackdale and Horton-in-Ribblesdale. Now, one doesn’t want to pause too often on a walk asking oneself questions – but grouse butts? I’d bet that anyone walking on Moughton will see no grouse. There is little heather for grouse. The butts only make sense if there were grouse here once. Why have they disappeared? Because sheep have eaten almost all the heather. In fact, a century ago the slopes of Ingleborough were heather-clad, with grouse and butts.

There is no limit to what may be thought interesting (by some) in Crummackdale or anywhere else. There may be rare plants in the limestone grykes, special insects on the juniper, and exotic spiders in the grass. Walkers cannot worry about them all or they would never walk very far.

I continued along the edge of Moughton Scars, a walk that would be even more exhilarating than it is if you didn’t have to take care with every step on the fragile limestone pavement. Crummackdale was spread out below and in direct line beyond there was a distant view of Pendle. From Beggar’s Stile and Thieves Moss (more questions), I followed the broad, grassy track past Long Scar and then the ancient Long Lane to Clapham. Clapham is a village with many attractive features, including a waterfall from the lake and a couple of neat bridges over Clapham Beck. I particularly appreciate the prim and precise footpath sign near the war memorial telling me that it is 102m to Broken Bridge (although I’m not sure that the sign is precise in its spelling: it’s usually written Brokken Bridge). Sometimes it is the superficial things that capture the spirit of a place best.
Moughton Scars

Ingleborough and Simon Fell from Moughton Scars

Overall, then, my conclusion is that, since knowledge is not all-or-nothing, it is up to everyone to determine the position on the scale that provides the degree of appreciation of the environment and nature that satisfies them. I will continue to try to enlighten myself – to the benefit of these Saunterings, I hope.

[October 2019; SD7668; (linear) Austwick – NE, SE over Flascoe Bridge, N – Wharfe – NW, N – near Hunterstye – E – Moughton – N, W, NW – Thieves Moss – SW – Long Scar – SW, S on Long Lane – W - Clapham; 9 miles; 142/400]

62.  On and Off the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail

After all the recent rain I thought I’d look at some waterfalls, and the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail provides the best set of them in North-West England. They cost the most to see, so they must be the best. People have been paying to see the Ingleton waterfalls since 1885. In the early years people swarmed here on the train from places such as Leeds and Bradford to walk up by one subset of waterfalls and down by the second subset. They found that they were charged twice, to their displeasure (Humphries, 1985). There is no such problem today.

I walked, as did the early visitors, from the railway station – now an information centre and bus-stop – down to where the two tributaries merge, near the old railway viaduct, to form the River Greta. The tributaries are called the River Doe and the River Twiss but there is confusion as to which is which. I prefer to use neither name and to continue the names of Chapel Beck (from Chapel-le-Dale) and Kingsdale Beck (from Kingsdale) down to the merger. There can be no confusion about those names. I continued up Oddies Lane between the two becks in order to better appreciate the open views and then dropped down to join the Trail near the footbridge that crosses Chapel Beck below Snow Falls. There was plenty of brown-stained water gushing down but not as much as I had expected. I passed Snow Falls, the view of which is rather distant, and a series of smaller falls and deep pools within the wooded glens up to Beezley Falls but the most impressive feature was the narrow Baxenghyll Gorge, through which the beck flowed dark and deep, far below the viewing bridge.

Ingleborough from Oddies Lane, with Ingleton Quarry in the middle distance. (We should not turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to Ingleton Quarry. Most descriptions of this region paint it as a peaceful idyll but the sight and sound of the quarry does intrude. It is not oppressive but we should not pretend it isn't there.)

Walking against the general flow of walkers on the Trail, I passed Twisleton Hall and continued down to Thornton Force on Kingsdale Beck. This, at 14m, is the largest waterfall on the Trail and the most photogenic. I paused by the waterfall for some time – and I will also pause in my narrative, as Hayden (2016) did midway through his book about a walk from John o’Groats to Land’s End. He suddenly blurted out “It strikes me here … what a poor hand I am at this travel-writing lark. I have no eye, or ear, or heart for detail. My descriptions are always vague”. He had walked by many fields, mountains, rivers and woodlands but lamented that he could not identify trees, birds, rocks, flowers, insects, and so on. He confessed “I am ignorant of these things. And therefore, gentle reader, so must you be.”

Why? I had assumed that if I tried to rectify my own lamentable ignorance of botany, geology, lepidopterology, ecology, and so on then that would be bound to enhance my appreciation of the environment. Surely it helps to know the difference between dolerite and dolomite, between redshank and redstart, between mullion and muntin, between dark green fritillary and snake head’s fritillary.

Hayden, however, draws the opposite conclusion. He wants to consider himself a ‘nature-lover’, which he defines as one who prefers to absorb rather than to observe. He draws inspiration from Wordsworth, who decried attending to ‘superficial things’ rather than being attuned to the moods, affections and spirit of a place. I doubt that Wordsworth could name many flowers beyond the daffodil. Hayden presumes to consider Wordsworth his “fellow nature-lover” but I hope that it takes more than an equality of ignorance to qualify as a nature-lover.

Something of the same attitude can be found with John Ruskin, who moved to the Lake District in his old age and inherited Wordsworth’s mantle as the sage of Lakeland. According to Nicholson (1955), although Ruskin approached his subject scientifically, as he was perhaps obliged to do in the late 19th century, his heart wasn’t really in it: “he turned to geology … not to understand the way the rocks had come into being, but rather how to look at them.” Likewise, when a boy, he collected various minerals but he was attracted by their prettiness rather than by their physical properties. No doubt, they have a point. I once took a year-long course on crystallography. We studied the angle of this and the symmetry of that but we never once held a crystal and said ‘wow’.
Thornton Force

Thornton Force and Ingleborough

As I sat enthralled by Thornton Force I wondered what there is to know about a waterfall. The adjacent information board tells us little. It relies on J.M.W. Turner, who visited in 1816. It lazily implies that if the esteemed Turner thought it worth visiting then so must we. His sketch is described as ‘fine’ by the Turner Trails website although I can make neither head nor tail of it. What do I know about Thornton Force? I know where the water comes from (the slopes of Whernside and Gragareth via Kingsdale) and where it is going (to form the Greta and then to join the Lune). I know that the water is, as it is for all the Ingleton waterfalls, crossing the Craven Faults, which have exposed rocks that erode at different rates, in particular, the Carboniferous limestone and Ordovician slate visible in the wall of Thornton Force.

But does any of that affect my appreciation of Thornton Force? Thornton Force appeals more to the senses than to the rational mind. The sight of the plunging water, ever-changing and yet unchanged for millennia, is mesmerising. The sound, when the waterfall is in spate, is overwhelming too. We might imagine that we can feel the force of the water as it lands and we can certainly feel the spray if we stand close enough. Is there a sensual element in our appreciation of any aspect of the environment?

I left the natural art of Thornton Force to walk over Raven Ray to view a piece of man-made art. Andy Goldsworthy’s Arch is housed within a hut by the road just past the prominent radio station. This flummoxes me. The arch is almost impossible to see, let alone appreciate, in this hut. It doesn’t look much of a structure to me. Perhaps we are supposed to regard the hut as part of the artwork. The arch itself had an interesting life, travelling from Dumfries, before coming to rest here. Peering through the hut window is like peeking into a mausoleum.

I walked through Thornton-in-Lonsdale, where a notice in the church porch informs us that Arthur Conan Doyle was married here in 1885. Coincidentally, so was his wife, maiden name Louisa Hawkins. I reached the official entrance to the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail and wandered towards it. I had already seen several signs telling me to pay £7 (but no-one to pay it to). I somewhat resent paying for what nature has freely provided. In any case, only half a mile of my six-mile walk was not on public land. I don’t mind paying (a little) for the upkeep of the paths to ensure our safety, especially if any profit went to the local community. The Trail is managed by Ingleton Scenery Company Ltd, registered in Skipton, and profits have enabled the construction of a café and the Falls Park holiday homes near Beezley Falls. The lady at the turnstile (a turnstile to see waterfalls!) told me that local people pay £1 a year, which seems fair enough.

Back at the information centre, an assistant was positive about the Trail, as he was bound to be. He said that locals are grateful that it brings so many visitors to Ingleton but felt that the council made a mistake fifty years ago in not gaining ownership. (I don’t know if that was ever an option. At the time of Humphries (1985) all the shares of the Ingleton Scenery Company were owned by descendants of Samuel Worthington, a member of the 1885 committee that established the Trail. Probably they still are.) When I queried the price, it was sharply pointed out that the Trail is cheaper than the nearby White Scar Caves. Is there a fundamental difference between charging for waterfalls and charging for caves? It's often said that people don’t appreciate what they don’t pay for. I do.

[October 2019; SD6973; Ingleton bus station – N, over bridge, N on Oddies Lane – Manor House – E – Snow Falls – N – Beezleys – NW, S – Thornton Force – W, S, W past radio station – S – Bank House – E, S – Thornton-in-Lonsdale – E – Ingleton; 6 miles; 141/400]

61.  Knott Alone

I have never joined a walking club. I notice that the local papers give details of the various clubs’ outings. It seems that happy wanderers (“my knapsack on my back, val-deri, val-dera”: what does that mean?) are partitioned into groups A+, A, B, C and so on, depending upon their experience, expertise and energy, to be led about the countryside on suitable walks. I don’t feel inclined to join them.

Misanthrope, I hear you say. How dare you! I don’t always walk alone but there are some good reasons to do so, I thought as I set off from Bowscale to walk to Knott in the open hills north of Skiddaw and Blencathra. I did not expect to see anyone else walking these hills, as anybody wanting to go for a walk can find more interesting and exciting terrain nearby. These Caldbeck Fells are for quiet solitude, a place to stroll with only one’s own thoughts for company. It is natural to walk alone here.

I walked into the verdant valley of Mosedale, beside the River Caldew and with the slopes of Carrock Fell and Bowscale Fell towering above. The wildlife introduced itself one-by-one. A woodpecker attacked a conifer; a wren flitted about the hedges; a grasshopper hopped onto the road; a dragonfly flew by; a red squirrel ran along the wall ahead of me. Sadly, I did not see much wildlife after that. A couple more wrens, a few rooks and crows, some pipits, and one grouse – that was about it for birdlife. I scanned the skies from time to time but they were empty. On the ground I saw even less, apart from sheep, of course. Mosedale seemed picturesque but sterile. Is it really so? Has it always been the same?

What I had read on the map as a track turned out to be a surfaced road that continued as far as the Grainsgill Beck tributary. I could have saved myself four miles of walking – but it was pleasant walking, completely quiet apart from the sound of the Caldew. The impressive crags of Bowscale Fell enclosed Bowscale Tarn, too high for me to see. I could however see the moraine ridge implausibly holding the tarn in place. At the end of the road a magician drove up in his car and produced from it, with a flourish, a large dog, and then another … in total, seven dogs. They leapt about excitedly and about me.

The valley of Mosedale

I left the road, humanity and caninity to walk up by Grainsgill Beck. First, I came to the ruins of Carrock Mine, which was Cumbria’s only tungsten mine. It always puzzles me that a mineral can be found in only one place. What special conditions caused it to form? Or perhaps it does exist elsewhere but not where it was economical to mine. The tungsten was used to make filaments of electric lamps and during the two World Wars for armament production. The mine closed in 1981.

I continued on what is marked as a bridleway, although it would be an intrepid horse and rider that tackled this path. It was an enjoyable scramble, a bit muddy in parts. I reflected that before the 18th century people did not walk for pleasure but for a purpose, alone or in a group, like Dick Whittington walking to London and the pilgrims to Canterbury. Then the Romantics found spiritual inspiration for their art through energetic walking. The ordinary person did not have much leisure time to walk for fun but some escaped occasionally from cities and factories to the fresh air of the hills. Walking clubs were formed to aid the mental and physical improvement of workers and also because there was safety in numbers when trespassing on the land of the wealthy.

But walking alone you can walk at your own pace and not have to “trot alongside a champion walker, nor mince in time with a girl” as Robert Louis Stevenson so bravely put it in his Walking Tours (Stevenson, 1876). The philosopher Frédéric Gros (referred to in 45) agrees that one should walk alone, for the main reason that the “body follows badly” if it is forced to adjust to the pace of others (Gros, 2014, p53).

Alone, you can adapt the walk to suit your own energy, changes in the weather, observations on the way, and so on, without lengthy negotiations and compromises with co-walkers. For example, on this walk I dallied overlong, for some, by Carrock Mine rummaging amongst the ruins, and then I walked relatively briskly up the slopes of Rigg and Knott when others might have dawdled taking many photographs. On the other hand, it is sometimes best to relax and let someone else make all the decisions, as with walking clubs.

When walking alone you are more likely to encounter wildlife than when accompanied by a group of chatterers. On the other hand, with many eyes and perhaps more expertise the group may be more likely to spot that wildlife. When alone, you aren’t going to be held up by someone else having an accident. On the other hand, it could be you having the accident and needing help. If I had fallen down a disused shaft near Carrock Mine then I would probably have had a long time alone to regret it. If, like me, you are intending to make notes along the way, you don’t want people pestering you to know what you’re scribbling. On the other hand, they may have helpful suggestions. Without them, after spending four or five hours tramping alone, shallow in your own thoughts, the hoped-for profundity might not emerge – as I am demonstrating.

I eventually reached the top of Knott (710m), which is the central and highest point of the Caldbeck Fells north of Skiddaw and Blencathra. The former had white clouds billowing over it and the latter, with the sun behind, was simply a dark outline. Knott wears its eminence lightly. Some nearby hills have ‘Great’ or ‘High’ in their name but not our humble Knott. It is only a few metres higher than some of them and it is just a smooth, grassy hump with nothing of interest. Revelling in my solitude, I settled to have a snack of some nuts when, oh no, I saw a man with seven dogs approaching. I waited for them to arrive. The dogs leapt about, attracted by my nuts. I gathered from the man that this was a regular walk for him and his dogs.

From Knott towards Blencathra (and man plus dogs)

I escaped by walking across Miller Moss to Great Lingy Hill. Here I felt more alone, not just from the man and his dogs but from all those who had previously created the path across Rigg to Knott. I could believe that nobody had ever walked over Miller Moss. There were no paths over this peat, grass and heather. Sitting on a rare large rock in the middle of this wilderness I paused to scan all the hills and horizons. Just as I had convinced myself that there was nobody to be seen anywhere I spied two tiny figures on a far distant ridge. My aloneness was shattered further as I made my way down by Arm o’ Grain when four walkers and a dog appeared on the track from High Pike. In all then I saw eight dogs and seven people, but only one who, through a lapse of sociability, I was able to chat to.

From Knott towards High Pike

I did not therefore fully achieve the anticipated solitude in the Caldbeck Fells. But in any case, according to Gros, despite the desirability of walking alone, “it’s impossible to be alone when walking, with so many things under our gaze … when walking you earn the sympathy of all the living things that surround us: trees and flowers” and that “you are not alone because when you walk you soon become two … there is always this dialogue between the body and the soul”.

There may be deep, original insights there as Gros, being a professional philosopher, is obliged to provide them for us. However, popular culture is way ahead of him. For a start, it is not just people that may be alone. For example, Ray Bradbury’s short story There Will Come Soft Rains has the sentence “The house stood alone in a city of rubble and ashes”. Also, it is not just individuals. Tiffany warbled I Think We’re Alone Now to No 1 in 1987. So we can certainly be alone, thank goodness. As for the notion that aloneness is lost in the company of objects such as trees and flowers – pah, the classic 1959 You're Never Alone with a Strand advertisement knew that. Although, to be fair, the ad was notoriously unsuccessful because even in 1959 few people wanted to think themselves so alone that they needed the company of a cigarette. And as far as walking alone is concerned, 50,000 Liverpudlians tell us every other week that it is impossible: You'll Never Walk Alone.

[September 2019; NY3531; Bowscale – N – Mosedale – W – Swineside, Miller Moss – SW, W – Knott – NE – Great Lingy Hill – SE – Grainsgill Beck – E – Mosedale, Bowscale; 9 miles; 141/400]

Previous Saunterings

     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.   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   
     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)

Home   Preamble   Links   References   Index   Areas   Map   About me   Drakkar Press

    © John Self, Drakkar Press, 2018


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