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 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 send a comment, suggestion, correction or update - all are very welcome - please
send me an email.
Current Saunterings blog
20.   On the Sunny Side of Pendle
19.   Viewpoints and Viewing Stations around Keswick (part 2)
18.   Viewpoints and Viewing Stations 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
20.  On the Sunny Side of Pendle
Pendle looks a sombre, brooding, featureless hump of a hill. But then I have usually looked at it from a distance and from the north – from Bowland or the Yorkshire Dales – to see only its shady side. Then it resembles a huge grey tent pitched in the green fields of Lancashire.
My image of Pendle is no doubt coloured by the story of the so-called Pendle witches, who lived near
the hill and were tried at Lancaster in 1612, and also by the historical novel, Mist over Pendle
Robert Neill, that is based upon it. Is Pendle the only one of our north-western hills to feature in the
title of a significant novel? Although our region is rich in poets and guide-writers, we seem to lack
novelists that capture the spirit of the area, as Hardy did for Dorset. We have the Brontës focussed narrowly on the Haworth region but otherwise I’d be hard put to nominate a quintessentially North-West England novelist. There’s always Beatrix Potter, I suppose.
Perhaps Neill is a candidate, as most of his books are based in Lancashire. He certainly
conveys the overbearing malevolence of Pendle to create an atmosphere reeking of devilry and witchcraft.
He wrote: “She began to see, from each rise of the road, a great broad-backed hill which ran across the
sky before them, a sweep of green set against the blue. She looked at it idly, then with interest, and
at last searchingly; she began to feel under a compulsion to look at it – almost its compulsion. There
was something odd about this hill … If a hill could have an indwelling Spirit, then surely this one had –
and it might not be the most friendly of Spirits.” However, Neill was not the first to tie the witches to
the nature of Pendle. William Harrison Ainsworth, in The Lancashire Witches
(1845), wrote of Pendle: “Dreary was
the prospect on all sides, black moor, bleak fell, straggling forest, intersected with sullen streams as
black as ink, with here and there a small tarn, or moss-pool, with water the same hue … The whole district
was barren and thinly populated.”
But a hill is a hill. Pendle is not intrinsically evil. It has a sunny side too, and I resolved to see it. I approached from the east, from the village of Roughlee. From the track to Barley Green a vista of the sun-bathed eastern slopes opened out. I was relieved to see walkers on the right branch of the V that scars the slope because I had feared that Pendle would be closed, after the recent fires on Winter Hill and Saddleworth Moor. The access areas of Bowland were in fact closed because of “extreme fire risk” but the landowners there no doubt welcome an excuse to close the grouse moors before the shooting season starts.
Pendle from above Barley Green
Beyond Lower Ogden Reservoir I climbed north to the top of Pendle. The path was being reinforced, which is no doubt a good thing, as the hill is in danger of being eroded away, and a sign that many people enjoy the walk up Pendle. Nonetheless, it is sad to have to walk on an unnatural surface like those of a local park. Still, judging by the hordes of people at the top (I think a local college were on an end-of-term outing), the work is necessary. It is, of course, a fine view of a quiet, green part of Lancashire, although less green today than it usually is, and of the Bowland and Dales hills to the north and east.
The view from Pendle towards Black Moss Reservoirs
The top of Pendle, with worn path being reinforced
I had forgotten all about the witches but as I wandered towards the Black Moss Reservoirs I remembered
that it was near here in 2011 that a ‘witch’s cottage’ was unearthed, a find considered in a
to be “in terms of significance, it’s like discovering Tutankhamen’s tomb” and to be “like discovering
your own little Pompeii”. I looked out for signs to Tutankhamen and Pompeii but I didn’t see any.
Perhaps Pendle’s reputation overcame the project manager, for he conceded that “Pendle Hill has a real
aura about it, and it’s hard not to be affected by the place.” The find has since been dismissed as nonsense.
I returned to Roughlee, where, roughly speaking, three-quarters of the houses are static caravans.
One of the caravan parks, I noticed, is ‘child free’. Is that even legal nowadays? It seems a clear
discrimination because of age. I’d welcome children myself – but ban childless 16-35-year-olds instead.
The one-quarter of Roughlee houses alongside Pendle Water are rather attractive old cottages
and terraces ... but then I came upon a
of Alice Nutter, one of the Pendle witches. The Pendle
witch story is so full of half-truths and non-truths that it would take me far too long to work out why
Alice Nutter has been honoured with a statue. I am not interested anyway: a sketchy legend is good
enough for me. Why the locals wallow in diabolical deeds, of little historical significance, of over
400 years ago and relish being part of ‘Pendle witch country’ when they bask on the sunny side of the proud,
friendly hill of Pendle I cannot imagine. I refuse to allow my new sunny image of Pendle to be darkened.
[July 2018; SD840; Roughlee Crow Trees – W – Heys Lane Plantation, Barley Green, Buttock – N – Pendle Big End – N, E – Pike Law, Ing Moor Head – SE – Windy Harbour Farm – E – Foot Gate House – S, E – White Hough – E – Roughlee – SW – Crow Trees; 8 miles; 219 km squares]
19.  Viewpoints and Viewing Stations around Keswick (part 2)
After our previous saunter
around some of the viewpoints and viewing stations of Keswick,
we aimed to tackle a third OSVP (Ordnance Survey viewpoint), Skiddaw. We could have passed Keswick’s fourth, Latrigg,
on the way but preferred to avoid the standard route up Skiddaw and visit instead the empty northern slopes.
However, Skiddaw was in cloud, and so we set off in hope rather than expectation.
We began from the village of Bassenthwaite, which for some reason gives its name to the lake, or vice versa.
The village immediately appealed for having goalposts on its triangular green. In most villages the green seems sacrosanct.
Skiddaw in cloud from near the village of Bassenthwaite
We followed the bridleway to pick up the Cumbria Way but left it as we entered open access land in order to zigzag up Cockup (505m). Here we paused to review the situation. Angry clouds hovered not far above Binsey (447m) to the north and the Uldale Fells to the east. Clouds billowed over Skiddaw to fill Southerndale, intermittently obscuring the dramatic slopes of Ullock Pike. An assault on Skiddaw seemed pointless, so we contoured below Broad End to explore Barkbethdale and Southerndale.
At White Horse we came upon a clear path that led upward. We decided to follow it up: if the clouds came lower, we could safely follow the path back down; if the clouds magically lifted then we could continue to the top of Skiddaw. They didn’t. We climbed high enough (to about 830m) to see the fence from Bakestall but we could see nothing in the direction of the top of Skiddaw. Since it would obviously be impossible to appreciate the OSVP of Skiddaw, we aborted and ambled back to Bassenthwaite.
Cloud from Skiddaw billowing over Ullock Pike, with the foot of Bassenthwaite Lake below
However, having visited Skiddaw before, I feel qualified to say that Skiddaw is not a perfect viewpoint even on a cloudless day. Naturally, being higher than all but three other Lakeland peaks, it offers a 360 degree panorama. On a clear day, the Isle of Man, the Galloway hills, and the northern Pennines are all in view. But the one-mile long flattish top of Skiddaw blocks some of the view from the trig point. In particular, the magnificent bird’s-eye view of Derwent Water and Borrowdale is not seen from the top but only from the ‘south top’ of the ridge.
We tend nowadays to mock West’s viewing stations and the idea that visitors need to be told precisely where to stand for the best view, especially when they were encouraged to view the scene backwards, using a Claude glass mirror. However, the OSVPs are little better. The 35 OSVPs [*] are a strange set. They range in height from Skiddaw (931m) to Tithebarn Hill, Glasson Dock (20m). Skiddaw is the only one of the Lake District’s peaks over 400m to be an OSVP. Ingleborough and Great Shunner Fell are the only Dales peaks to qualify. Many OSVPs (such as Jubilee Tower, Quernmore) mark places for motorists to pause to admire the view. Often a little effort would yield a better view, for example, by walking up Clougha Pike from Jubilee Tower. Some OSVPs have a special tower from which to view. I have no idea what criteria the OS uses when deciding whether to slap a viewpoint symbol on the map. All their other symbols are objective statements of fact. The OS should not give us opinions.
However, it is my purpose in life to give them, so I will assert that Skiddaw affords the best phewpoint in the Lake District. The exclamation ‘phew’ expresses a mixture of tiredness, surprise and awe. So phewpoints involve toiling up a long, possibly dreary, slope to reach a place where a surprising awe-inspiring view is suddenly revealed. A viewpoint is a place; a phewpoint is a moment in time. For example, Orrest Head is a much-acclaimed viewpoint, with its quality as a viewpoint independent of how you reach it, but for a phewpoint we need to specify the approach (say, along the leafy lane from the A591), the position (that is, Orrest Head itself) and the view (say, west towards the Langdale Pikes over the head of Windermere). That would be a good phewpoint but not the best because the approach is too short to cause tiredness or to build up a large element of surprise.
Most of the central Lakeland peaks provide good viewpoints but not necessarily good phewpoints, because the views on the way up are not so different to the new view from the top. On the standard route up Skiddaw from Keswick the best view (towards Derwent Water) can always be seen and the new view revealed at the top is of the relatively dull hills north of Skiddaw. On the other hand, the view from Skiddaw having arrived from the north is a surprise (at least, to virgin Lake District walkers!) because of the contrast between the rounded hills of the Caldbeck Fells, with no lakes, and the shapely peaks of volcanic rock encircling Derwent Water south. So, I nominate the walk up Broad End – a long toil over grass, heather and bilberry and then over the stony plateau – to the south top of Skiddaw to reveal the view over Derwent Water as providing the best phewpoint in the Lake District.
[*] These are the 35 OSVPs, from north to south: Skiddaw; Latrigg; Knott Head, Whinlatter; Castlehead Wood, Keswick; Surprise View, Lodore Wood; Bowness Knott, Ennerdale; Orrest Head; Miller Ground, Windermere; Great Shunner Fell; Side Bank Wood, Downholme, Swaledale; Latterbarrow, Hawkshead; Carron Crag, Grizedale Forest; Tom Croft Hill, Garsdale; Scout Scar, Kendal; Gummers How; Long Stile Gate, Oughtershaw; Ruskin’s View, Kirkby Lonsdale; Hampsfell; Hoad Hill, Ulverston; Arnside Knott; Askam, Duddon Estuary; Ingleborough; Jubilee Tower, below Clougha; Tithebarn Hill, Glasson Dock; Lund’s Tower, Sutton-in-Craven; Lane Ends, Pilling; Beacon Fell; Jeffrey Hill, Longridge; Crowshaw House, Stonyhurst; The Atom, Wycoller; Singing Ringing Tree, near Burnley; Billinge Hill, Blackburn; Peel Park, Accrington (n); Peel Park, Accrington (w); Darwen Hill. I may have missed one or two.
[July 2018; NY2332; Bassenthwaite – E – Peter House Farm – SE, Cumbria Way – access land – S – Cockup – SW –
White Horse – SE – near north top of Skiddaw – NW – White Horse, High Side House, Bassenthwaite; 9 miles; 208 km squares]
18.  Viewpoints and Viewing Stations around Keswick (part 1)
Keswick is the best place in North-West England for viewpoints, according to the Ordnance Survey. It uses its special viewpoint symbol 35 times on its maps of the region and four of those are within walking distance of Keswick. If you ran you could visit all four in a day. We settled for a walk along the eastern side of Derwent Water that would enable us to visit two of the OSVPs, as I will call them in order to distinguish them from run-of-the-mill viewpoints. They deserve an acronym after being honoured by the Ordnance Survey.
We first walked from Castlerigg Farm, past Rakefoot, to Walla Crag (379m). This airy perch provides a fine view of Derwent Water but not one that qualifies it as an OSVP. I don’t know what more the OS expects. There’s a view of Derwent Water directly below, with the islands arrayed and various water-craft idling about. We can look in any direction and see classic Lakeland peaks: to the north, Skiddaw and Blencathra; to the east, the Dodds and Helvellyn Lower Man; to the south, Scafell Pike and Great Gable; to the west, Robinson and Grisedale Pike. The various knobbly prominences of Borrowdale are also well seen, receding into the distance.
Derwent Water, Keswick and Skiddaw from Walla Crag
We continued south, with evolving viewpoints over Derwent Water, over the much-photographed Ashness Bridge, and on to the OSVP in Lodore Wood. This we found is called Surprise View. It’s like being told you’re to be given a surprise birthday party. It somewhat reduces the surprise. The view is as expected, steeply down to the higher reaches of Derwent Water, north to Bassenthwaite Lake and the Scottish hills in the distance, and south up Borrowdale. However, as the OS concedes, it is only half a viewpoint, to the west.
We returned to Ashness Bridge and walked below Falcon Crag, through Great Wood and dropped down to
Calfclose Bay. Before proceeding to our second OSVP, we visited some of the 18th century equivalents
of OSVPs. In 1778 Thomas West had in his guide to the Lake District described a set of ‘viewing stations’ (West, 1778).
These stations were intended to tell tourists and artists the best places from which to view the
picturesque beauty of the Lake District. A
examined 26 of these viewing stations. As it happens, the list of viewing stations also indicates that Keswick provides the best base for visiting viewpoints. We could incorporate three viewing stations into our walk alongside Derwent Water.
Our first station was at Stable Hills. However, the view is dominated by the nearby Lord’s Island.
Perhaps in 1778 there was more of interest to see on the island than the trees of today. We continued
through The Ings, trying not to step upon any of the many little brown frogs, past Friar’s Crag, which
is itself a renowned viewpoint but neither an OSVP nor a viewing station, and up the gentle slope of
Crow Park. This station provides, from its modest height of 90m, a grand view along the length of Derwent
Water. We then walked through Cockshot Wood, the third of our viewing stations but now there is no view
because of the trees that have grown since 1778.
Derwent Water from Crow Park
We continued to our second OSVP, in Castlehead Wood. Unlike Surprise View, this is not an OSVP for motorists,
that is, one where drivers may park, snap the view, and be on their way. Here there’s a short scramble to its
top at 162m, sufficient to ensure that we had this top to ourselves, apart from a colony of flying ants. It is
indeed an excellent view south, although sadly not north to Skiddaw, and we felt grateful to the OS for telling
us it would be, because it is not obvious from below that a view is afforded from the top. Continued in the
The view from Castlehead Wood
[July 2018; NY2822; Castlerigg Hall Farm – SW – Walla Crag – S – Ashness Bridge, Lodore Wood – N – Ashness Bridge, Calfclose Bay – W, N – Stable Hills – NW – Friar’s Crag – N – Crow Park – E – Castlehead Wood, Castlerigg Hall Farm; 8 miles; 196 km squares]
17.  Sheep-Wrecked Matterdale?
Pooley Bridge has a new bridge. It’s only a temporary one but that’s better than no bridge at all.
It was installed quickly to replace the fine 1764 bridge that was washed away in Storm Desmond of 2015.
However, the design for a rather splendid
has been released and it is hoped that it will be
erected in 2019, although Pooley Bridge may be again without a bridge for nine months while it is erected.
Ullswater from Pooley Bridge
From Pooley Bridge I walked to Maiden Castle. This is, of course, not as impressive as the Dorset Maiden Castle. In fact,
it’s just a circular mound that wouldn’t get a second glance if it weren’t marked as ancient on the map. Somehow I
found myself on an Ullswater Way, and I had a chat with a couple of walkers about it:
“Do you know what this Ullswater Way is – it’s not marked on my map?”
“Yes, it’s a new path they set up after Storm Desmond washed away some old paths.”
“Oh – and where does it go?”
“All round Ullswater.”
“That’s a long way.”
“Yes, twenty miles. We’re aiming to walk it today.”
“That is a long way.”
“It’s not so far. You can see the end of Ullswater just over there.”
That ‘end of Ullswater’ was in fact just the bay at Howtown, at the first bend of Ullswater.
Most of Ullswater couldn’t be seen. Before I could say anything she added:
“But there’s always the steamer back if necessary.”
I had a feeling it would be necessary. It was a hot day – much too hot for a twenty-mile walk. My aim was more
modest – to get to the top of Little Mell Fell (505m) in order to gain a view of Matterdale.
Matterdale is the home of James Rebanks whose acclaimed The Shepherd’s Life
was published in 2015. This book portrays
in vivid and elegant prose what life is like for a Lake District shepherd. It is, however, more than a book about being
a shepherd: it is also a book for
being a shepherd. He argues for the importance of sheep-farming within the Lake District’s
cultural and natural heritage. To this end, he enrols the concepts of ‘shepherd’ and ‘tradition’ that are, like motherhood,
inherently a good thing that it is difficult to argue against.
The concept of ‘shepherd’ owes more to the metaphor than to the activity itself. It has religious overtones. We are
all members of a flock being shepherded on the path towards righteousness. There are many Churches of the Good Shepherd.
There used to be swineherds but there is no Church of the Good Swineherd. The Lord is not my swineherd. Of course,
shepherding is an arduous activity requiring detailed knowledge passed down through centuries. That does not make it inherently
virtuous, no more than it does for, say, mining or sea-fishing, although we may have the utmost respect for those who carry it out.
We should note also the ‘The’ in Rebanks’s book title. He is not describing his life but presumes to speak for the life of all
shepherds. Whether the work of all shepherds is so similar I cannot say but I doubt that many shepherds are Oxford-educated,
UNESCO consultants, authors and twitterers, as Rebanks is.
Rebanks is on shaky ground relying on ‘tradition’ to justify the continuation of sheep-farming. He points out that
sheep-farming has been carried out in the Lake District for millennia and that his own family has farmed for generations.
No doubt the core of sheep-farming has continued much the same but the detail has evolved and the job now is surely very
different to what it was a thousand years ago. Even in the mere 67 years since the National Park was established the number
of sheep in the Lake District has doubled and the number of cattle has halved. Not long ago I expect almost every small-holding
had a pig: today we never see one. The rural traditions of thatching, charcoal-making, blacksmithing, and so on have all but
disappeared. My father made shoes, along with 10,000 other people in Norwich. Norwich had a tradition for shoe-making.
Now nobody makes shoes. Are shoes less important than sheep? Is sheep-farming intrinsically different to all the other
traditions that have gone?
Our governments think so. As Rebanks barely acknowledges in his book, sheep-farming is subsidised. It would not
be viable otherwise. Since the public pays, it has a right to ask if it is money well spent. Some think not. For example,
considers the Lake District to be a ‘sheep-wrecked wasteland’ of “wet deserts grazed down to turf and rock;
erosion gullies from which piles of stones spill; woods in which no new trees have grown for 80 years, as every seedling
has been nibbled out by sheep; dredged and canalised rivers, empty of wildlife and dangerous to the people living downstream;
tracts of bare mountainside on which every spring is a silent one.”
However, visitors to the Lake District seem to like it
just as it is, and looking down from Little Mell Fell I could understand why. The fields were in various stages of verdancy,
depending on when they were mown; there were trees-a-plenty, and I could see only a few sheep dotted about (I think most were
sheltering from the sun). It looked a picture. In fact, like the picture below. Monbiot might do better to apply his
argument to where the ravages of sheep are more apparent, as, for example, on the Howgills where sheep keep the grass
garden-lawn short and nibble any would-be tree, thereby increasing run-off and flooding. Also, on the western slopes of
Ingleborough we can see the marked difference between areas where sheep are excluded, enabling shrubbery and varieties of
wildlife to flourish, and areas of monotonous, sheep-cropped grass.
Matterdale from Little Mell Fell
This is a complicated topic and it will no doubt be debated in earnest when we leave the EU and have to decide for
ourselves how best to allocate farm subsidies. I felt a little weary walking down Little Mell Fell. It was probably the
hottest day of the year so far. I followed quiet lanes rather than worry about finding paths
across fields. They were indeed quiet for I saw one car and one bicycle during an hour’s steady walking. The tar on
the lanes was melting, and so was I. Eventually I got back to my old friend, the Ullswater Way. I am always a little relieved to be back on familiar
ground towards the end of a walk. It’s when you’re tired that mistakes are made, and I was really tired. I had an ice-cream
by the new Pooley Bridge. I felt I deserved it.
[June 2018; NY4724; By Pooley Bridge – W – Waterfoot, Maiden Castle – SW – Bennethead – W – Cove, The Hause – N –
Little Mell Fell – NW – Nabend – E – Sparket – S – Bennethead – NE – Pooley Bridge; 9 miles; 185 km squares]
16.  The Wildflowers of Sulber
It must be frustrating being a botanist, not being able to stride out on a long walk, head up, admiring the scenery. Botanists
must be forever focussed on the flora underfoot. It must be even more frustrating if there is little
flora to see. Having got rid of nearly all our meadows, removed many hedges, and converted our hills into monocultures
suitable only for sheep or grouse, we haven’t left much space for wildflowers. It is not a problem for me on my saunters
because my knowledge of flora is so scanty that I rarely feel the need to investigate it. However, I made an exception on
this short walk. We set out with the main objective of finding a bird’s-eye primrose.
National Nature Reserve
is an area of over 1,000 hectares around Ingleborough managed by Natural England. The leaflet
describing the Sulber part of the Reserve mentions a number of plants and flowers: purple-flowered heather, pink-flowered
cross-leaved heath, juniper, common butterwort, the white flowered grass of Parnassus, wild thyme, salad burnet, bird’s-foot
trefoil, fairy flax, rock-rose, many types of fern within the limestone crevices, as well as the bird’s-eye primrose.
That is too many for novices so we focussed upon the
, a particularly fine-looking
and (we hoped) distinctive flower that is relatively rare in the region. It is found almost exclusively on damp grassy,
stony or peaty ground on limestone in the northern Pennines and the Lake District. We set off hoping that it would be
found by us.
We entered the reserve above Beecroft Hall, ignoring the turquoise pond and the noise of the quarry and instead
admiring the view of Pen-y-ghent behind and of limestone terraces ahead. As we walked along Sulber Nick we noted the
buttercups and many other yellow flowers that weren’t. Some of these, on closer inspection, we identified as rock-rose
and bird’s-foot trefoil. Ingleborough came into view ahead. We then tackled our main objective by walking north along
the bridleway to Borrins where, in the flushes below the bridleway where lime-rich water seeps from the rock, the leaflet
promised us the bird’s-eye primrose.
Pen-y-ghent from Sulber
Ingleborough from Sulber
However, we did not find any bird’s-eye primrose. Maybe it had all finished flowering after our hot May. Maybe it was
there but we just missed it. Maybe it’s not there at all. Maybe the cattle had eaten it all. (Natural England
emphasises that the reintroduction of hardy native cattle breeds helps the wildflowers but I don’t know why the cows
should be so considerate as to avoid the bird’s-eye primrose.) We were a little disappointed but we still had a breezy,
brisk walk-out in fine limestone scenery. A real botanist would be frustrated not to see what they hoped and expected to.
[June 2018; SD8072; Horton-in-Ribblesdale – W – Sulber – N – Borrins – E, S, E – Horton-in-Ribblesdale;
5.5 miles; 172 km squares]
15.  On the Hobdale Fence
Do the Howgill Fells form the largest area in England with no walls, no hedges and no fences? There is a wall around the periphery of the 25 square miles of open access land, separating farmland from the rough grasses of the fells, and on the northern slopes there are a few walled islands of farmland, but there are no walls in the whole area of the Howgills above about 300m. There are no hedges either. However, the answer to my question is ‘no’ because there is one fence, which I’ll return to in a minute.
Why are there no walls on the Howgills, when they are such a distinctive feature of the Lake District and the rest of the Yorkshire Dales? There are few stones on the Howgills with which to make walls. The only significant areas of exposed rock are at Cautley Crag and Black Force. The rest is steeply rolling grassland, with some heather and bracken. This is because the Howgills are mainly of very hard Silurian Coniston Grit, different to the Carboniferous rocks of most of the Yorkshire Dales and to the Ordovician volcanic rocks of the central Lake District.
There are no walls because nobody has felt the need to build them. Nobody needed to clear rocks from fields for
cultivation or any other purpose, as nobody ever had much purpose for the Howgills. Nobody ever lived high on the Howgills.
There has been no mining or quarrying. In short, nobody needed to establish ownership, which is a prime function of a wall,
of a patch of the Howgills. Most stone walls in the Lakes and Dales were built in response to the Enclosure Acts of the
18th and 19th centuries but those Acts seem not to have had much relevance for the Howgills. The second main function of a
wall is to limit the movement of animals – to keep farm ones in and wild ones out. Today the only farm animals on the
Howgills are sheep and fell ponies, and they can wander at will within the periphery fences. There are no wild animals on
the Howgills to worry about.
The one fence that is on the Howgills encloses about fifty hectares around Hobdale Gill, south of Calders. Thousands of people walk past this fence every year on their way to The Calf but how many wonder what this fence is for? I hadn’t thought about it before now. Is it to keep something out or to keep something in? Is the enclosed area dangerous or contaminated? Is some scientific study being carried out? Is there some valuable resource within that people and animals must not spoil? Is there some stock that must not be allowed to wander?
I walked up Hobdale Beck to investigate. I came upon a weir that served no obvious purpose but at least
indicated that somebody once cared about this beck. I reached the fence and found the gate by Hobdale Gill
flat on the ground. So the fence is no longer fully functional. There were only a few sheep inside the fenced area.
The enclosed area was clearly less munched than the open fell because it had a deeper shade of green, thanks
to a profuse growth of bilberries. Despite the fence, the enclosed area is marked as open access, so I wandered in.
A small rectangular structure marked on the map turned out to be derelict (as shown top left). Whatever function it had was no longer
I became aware of someone high on the fell opposite, below the path to Calders, moving about in a puzzling manner
and glinting every so often. So, as is my wont, I scrambled up to Rowantree Grains (no rowans now or any other tree) to
find out what he (for it was a he) was up to. I don’t think he minded. I was probably his only company all day, for
I saw no walkers anywhere. It turned out that he was an employee of Natural England carrying out a survey prior to the
possible planting of trees around Hobdale Gill. He was chuffed to have found a bilberry bumblebee. They are rare and
quite distinctive, he said. He had however also found that the soil was shallow, perhaps too shallow for
trees. He couldn’t get his spade in before hitting rock. Still, it was good to see that the modern scientist is au fait
with the latest technology (the spade), although it was so glinty I suspect that he only bought it yesterday.
I asked him why the area was fenced but he had no idea. I left him to his survey and walked on to The Calf (676m).
The Lake District peaks could be seen in a grey silhouette that made only a few distinctive outlines identifiable.
The nearby little tarn had dried out. I walked over to Red Gill Beck to see the
Andy Goldsworthy sheepfold
that others have enthused about. It added nothing for me but at least it got me into a secluded dale where I could watch the art of a kestrel cavorting over the hillside.
The track to The Calf (on the horizon) from Calders
I returned to the fence. So far it had looked to be in good nick but as I walked down to Middle Tongue, entranced by Ingleborough ahead and Pen-y-ghent, with a similar profile, to its left, I realised that parts of the fence were missing, with the wooden posts that had replaced the metal ones having rotted. I began to accept that I won’t need to worry about the fence for much longer but then came across rolls of wire netting and new posts sunk into the ground. So somebody is concerned to keep this fence functional.
The Hobdale fence (non-existent here), showing old metal post, rotting wooden posts and new posts
But I still had no idea why. I had seen nothing to support any of my provisional thoughts. My guess, for what it’s worth, is that it has something to do with Sedbergh’s water supply. We’re now on at least the third generation of fencing, so the original fence was at least 50 or 60 years ago. At that time water authorities were more concerned about the purity of water supplies, as they did not have modern purification plants. I had not noticed a water inlet near that derelict shed but perhaps there was too little water for it to be functioning anyway. However I did notice a track that sliced the midriff of the opposite slope of Sickers Fell. It was much too level and precise to be a walker’s track and anyway led nowhere but to the fenced-off area. Perhaps it’s the line of a pipe. If so, perhaps it’s still functioning. If so, perhaps the good people of Sedbergh are unaware that trees may soon drink their water.
[June 2018; SD6994; Near St Mark’s Church on A683 – N, NW – Crook Holme – SW – Hobdale Beck – NW – fence –
E, N – Calders, The Calf – S, E – Red Gill Beck – S – Little Dummacks – E, S – Middle Tongue – S, NW – Crook Holme –
A683; 6 miles; 166 km squares]
14.  Logging Along the Cam High Road
Should the Cam High Road be made a proper road? Is it fit for purpose in the 21st century?
The answer depends, of course, on what its purpose is deemed to be. However, before tackling
that question I treated myself to a detour. I walked to Thorns Gill, within which flows the
infant River Ribble, in order to see the splendid little bridge with a narrow arch perched
across a mini-gorge. If fairies lived then they would surely live here. I continued
alongside the beck past various small waterfalls, by many dark, deep pools, and by Katnot Cave,
where gushing water could be heard but not seen.
And then out on to the open moor to walk up the Cam High Road. It is a track that runs for about ten miles, reaching a height of nearly 600m, between Bainbridge in Wensleydale and Gearstones at Ribblehead. It is on the line of a Roman road between the camp at Bainbridge and camps to the south, such as Ribchester in the Ribble valley near Blackburn. It is therefore a track of considerable vintage.
In 1751 the Cam High Road became part of the Lancaster-Richmond turnpike. The first turnpike act in England had been passed in 1663, making travellers contribute to the maintenance of roads for the first time. Previously, it had been the responsibility of those living by the road to keep it in good repair, but they had little incentive to do so and nobody lived by the Cam High Road anyway. The first turnpikes in the north were created fairly late in the process but the Lancaster-Richmond turnpike was one of the first, and certainly one of the most important, in the region. All of the Lancaster-Richmond route was subsequently surfaced apart from the Cam High Road, which remained a track much like it was in 1751.
In 1965 the Cam High Road between Cam End and Kidhow Gate became part of the Pennine Way, England’s first Long-Distance Path. Later it also became part of the Dales Way and the Pennine Bridleway. In the early 21st century, the walkers and horse-riders on these paths began to be accompanied by ‘green-laning’ motor-cyclists and drivers of 4x4s. A ‘green lane’ is not a legal term but is generally understood to mean an unsurfaced, public byway used for recreational purposes. After some controversy, a Traffic Regulation Order deemed that the Cam High Road is not a green lane and hence this absurd activity – flaunting off-road vehicles, damaging the track, and annoying track users on legs – is no longer allowed there.
The Cam High Road faced a new challenge in 2011. Forty years before, thanks to generous tax concessions,
land owners had planted coniferous forests at Cam Woodlands and Greenfield Forest, to the east of the Cam High Road.
Now the time had come to harvest this crop of timber. It seems that, in the hurry to profit from those tax concessions,
not much thought had been given to how this harvesting might be done. There is a narrow, winding road from Cam Houses
north to Gayle but instead
permission was sought
to use the more direct Cam High Road south to enable huge timber trucks
to get to and from the forests. Extraction work began in 2011 but was immediately halted when the historic track was
seen to be damaged. I understand that some agreement was reached to allow the felling to continue but whether this
involved work on the Cam High Road or the road to Gayle I am not sure.
I thought I’d walk up to see how the Cam High Road and the trees of Cam Woodlands and Greenfield Forest were getting on. On the way up I was passed by a van with ‘Komatsu Forest Quality’ on its side. So forestry work was on-going and vans did use the track. I could not, however, believe that timber trucks could use it, as the track was much as I remembered it, being somewhat eroded in places, although it is perhaps wider and more stone-surfaced than it was, creating a more visible scar on the hillside. I walked on up but sadly, at about 500m, I met the cloud coming down. I reached West Gate where a sign warned of operations being carried out by K.R. Dodd Forestry – but I could see nothing of them. I could not see the trees for the cloud and therefore, sorry, I cannot report on how the timber extraction is progressing.
Cam High Road
I strained my ears to hear any sound of work but all was silent. Actually, I became more aware of the sounds, now that I could see so little. The clouds hissed over the grass. I heard the occasional morose sheep somewhere out there. I heard curlews but now with only snatches of their early spring burble, or just a staccato beep-beep-beep, or sometimes an even more staccato five-beep version. I heard lapwings, also less flamboyant than earlier in the year. I disturbed two golden plover before they could treat me to the plaintive whistle that would so suit the conditions. I did not hear any grouse, even though I passed several grouse butts. They were all dilapidated apart from one line of butts that had recently, if optimistically, been re-furbished. This line ran across the Dales Way. Are walkers and shooters compatible?
The dominant sound, however, was that of the skylark. Its song was like a continuo throughout the ten-mile walk, as I could hear one or more skylarks for almost every step of the way, even in the cloud. A recent radio item reported that half the people surveyed had never heard a skylark. This was presented as evidence that skylarks aren’t about as much as they used to be. It might also be evidence that people don’t get about as much as they used to.
[June 2018; SD7779; Blea Moor Road at Ribblehead – NE – Ribble Head House – S – Thorns Gill – NE, on Cam High Road –
gate beyond West Gate – N – Gavel Gap – W, on Ribble Way – Stoops Moss – S, on Dales Way –
Gearstones – SW – Blea Moor Road; 10 miles; 157 km squares]
13.  The Cairns of Grisedale Pike
From Garsdale Station I could see the cairns of Grisedale Pike. They stood like pimples on the horizon of east Baugh
Fell, some two miles away. Our northern hills have thousands of cairns but few of them are as finely located as those
of Grisedale Pike. Do we have too many cairns? What are they all for? Grisedale Pike was my first objective, and as
I slogged up the long slope, accompanied by an insistent cuckoo (my first of the year) and admiring the emerging view
of Whernside and Ingleborough to the left and Mallerstang and Great Shunner Fell to the right, I contemplated the nature
Sometimes the word ‘cairn’ is used for just a mound of stones but here I am meaning a cylindrical stack of
rocks, usually constructed by methods similar to dry-stone walling, a few inches to several feet high. Such a cairn
could fall down, whereas a mound looks like it has already fallen down. A cairn is often on a hill-top or skyline,
like those of Grisedale Pike, or, more typically, beside a trail. It is, of course, intended to be seen.
There seem to be three purposes for a cairn. One is to mark a significant site, for example, a memorial.
Some ancient cairns mark burial sites. A second purpose is to serve as some kind of personal or spiritual statement,
perhaps as a work of art. The sculptor
has created a number of cairn-shaped artworks to adorn the
landscape. At this very moment, the
Art of Balance Exhibition
in Edinburgh is displaying the art of stone stacking.
Apparently, “an international community of land artists are finding mindfulness, meditation and patience in the art
of finding the balance”. I have not seen any examples of their work on the hills of North-West England but even so
many of our more down-to-earth cairns are more elaborate than seems necessary and may be thought to have some aesthetic
merit. For example, Thornthwaite Beacon, near High Street, is an impressive 14 feet tall.
Thirdly, a cairn may serve as a landmark or guide, to shepherds or walkers, for example. Sometimes a cairn
acts as a magnet, as Grisedale Pike was doing for me. In addition to landmark cairns, walkers are blessed with many
smaller cairns intended to indicate a route. Indeed, many walkers feel it their duty to add a rock to a cairn, or to
start a new one, as they walk by. The outcome is a profusion of cairns of doubtful utility. Harry Griffin counted 128
cairns on the Nan Bield pass, where it would be an achievement to lose the trail even in fog.
Apart from this unnecessary proliferation, there are other objections to cairns. First, of course, it involves
moving rocks from their natural position. While one person moving one rock is no big deal, if thousands of walkers do
so then obviously this will expose soil and increase erosion. Also, there is the simple fact that we do not have the
legal right to move rocks and build structures on land that is not ours. Perhaps the most serious complaint is that
cairns interfere with the natural wilderness that we sometimes seek away from humanity. They make it clear that
others have been this way before us, and that they are guiding us where to go. To some walkers, cairns are like other
detritus left by inconsiderate walkers or even a form of graffiti. At all events, it is clear that cairn-making does
not accord with the ‘leave-no-trace’ ethic advocated for walkers.
I noticed no cairns to guide me up to Grisedale Pike. The direction is obvious, although the pudding shape of
Baugh Fell ensures that, once you embark on the walk up, the Grisedale Pike cairns are never in view until you reach
them. As I reached Grisedale Pike, I saw that there were several cairns here, in various states of repair – fourteen,
counting generously. This raises the further question: Why are there often several cairns and not just one? There
are other groups of cairns in our region, such as the Megger Stones in Dentdale and Nine Standards Rigg above Kirkby Stephen.
Perhaps it is simply to underline the special nature of the spot, and Grisedale Pike is certainly an excellent viewpoint. Or it could be because there happens to be a plentiful supply of the right kind of rocks to hand. Cairns tend to be made of flat slates that can be fitted together. Here, after walking up a long, featureless, grassy slope, it makes an agreeable change to come upon a rocky outcrop with loose millstone grit slates lying about. There seems no harm in adding a few slates to the piles – and, of course, to admire the views of the surrounding hills and the valleys of Rawtheydale and Wensleydale.
Despite having come as far as Grisedale Pike (at 620m), I felt no obligation to continue up to Tarn Rigg Hill (678m),
the highest point of Baugh Fell. I have been there before, so I knew what I was prepared to miss. There is nothing at all
(certainly no cairn) to indicate the top, and the peat is tiring and uninspiring. Yes, a view from a mountain top is
always good but I decided to forego it this time and instead drop down by Shorter Gill, over some limestone scars,
into Grisedale. I wanted to see how the dale was getting on, after its demise reported by ‘The Dale that Died’ book
(Cockcroft, 1975) and
The latter tells how the fourteen hardy hill-farming families had gradually moved out, unable to make a
living in this high, remote valley, to be replaced by a lone incoming ex-miner (and wife). We see him
striding out in the mud and snow to the accompaniment of Sibelius’s 5th and spending a lot of time with
the local chapel (I skipped the latter).
The abandoned farms of West Scale and East Scale
We humans think a lot of ourselves. A dale does not die just because people move out.
On the contrary, wildlife returns. It becomes more alive than it was with people there. Anyway, the dale is
not empty of people today. It is true that there is only one farm (Mouse Syke) left but most buildings have
been renovated, presumably as holiday homes. A few of the old farmsteads, however, are beyond repair. West
Scale and East Scale, for example, are impressive ruins, or rather are ruins of once impressive farm buildings.
Reachey was described as derelict by Wainwright (1972) but now it is receiving the final touches of
a renovation so thorough that I doubt that much of the original dereliction remained. The once-ruined Aldershaw is
now surrounded by mature trees that make it hard to appreciate the quality of its renovation.
Blake Mire, an exposed, desolate building, also seems in the process of resuscitation: it has a new roof and
windows. Despite this evident vitality I am afraid that Grisedale will be stuck with its epitaph for some time,
thanks to those who keep mentioning it.
[May 2018; SD7891; Garsdale Station – N, SW (along Old Road) – NW – Grisedale Pike – NE – West Scale –
SE – Reachey, Blake Mire, Garsdale Station; 6 miles; 143 km squares]
12.  Uplifted by High Street
It is a fine Lakeland walk from Mardale Head to High Street but it starts with a tone of melancholy. A noticeboard
reminds us that the village of Mardale Green, with houses, church and pub, was submerged when the Haweswater
Reservoir was constructed. However, that sad event – sad to the ex-residents of Mardale Green anyway – happened
in 1935, so it would be a very elderly walker who had personal memories of it today.
A second notice advises those who have come to see the eagles that they are too late. The eagles have
gone – which is indeed rather sad. Palmer (1930)
said that “Martindale was the last nesting haunt of the golden eagle south of the Border. About eighty years ago
the last bird was shot, and there has been no resettlement.” However, about a hundred years after that eagle was
shot – that is, in the 1950s – golden eagles began to be seen again in the Lake District. In 1969 a pair managed
to breed in Riggindale, below High Street. Since then the nest had been sustained by a series of male and female
eagles, producing sixteen young. Unfortunately, after 2004 the returning male eagle was unable to attract a mate.
Even more unfortunately, he has not been seen since 2015 and is presumed to have died.
The chances of golden eagles returning again to the Lake District are not high at the moment. Although
there are about 500 pairs of golden eagles in Scotland only a very few of those breed south of Glasgow. There is a
to increase the numbers of golden eagles in southern Scotland by re-introducing up to ten eagles a year in the Moffat hills.
It is hoped that some of the eagles will be able to run the gauntlet of grouse moors in the Scottish borders and
English uplands and drift south to establish territories in northern England. However, experts apparently consider
that there is a shortage of suitable terrain and food – but eagles did manage for decades in Riggindale, which
seems similar to several other dales to me. Anyway, for now, walkers will look wistfully and forlornly around
the Riggindale crags and in the skies above in search of a golden eagle.
Enough negativity. There is plenty still to be enjoyed on this walk. We walked up to Blea Water, to see
it at close quarters for the first time (previously we had only peered down at it from the heights of Mardale Ill
Bell and High Street). On the way we passed many recently-planted trees, a welcome attempt to return some of the
over-sheep-grazed grass and bracken slopes to a more natural habitat. Blea Water is one of the finest of Lakeland
tarns, enclosed on three sides by the steep cliffs of Blea Water Crag, High Street and Riggindale Crag. It is said
to be 61 metres deep – and I could well believe it – which is deeper than all the Lake District lakes except Wastwater and
Windermere. We met a team from United Utilities who were contemplating removing the small dam, which serves no
function and is a bit of an eyesore. The word ‘blea’, incidentally, comes from an Old English word meaning blue or
dark, which I suppose Blea Water is, but it was also sparkling like a dewdrop in fresh May sunshine.
Blea Water from Long Stile
We clambered up the Long Stile ridge to High Street (828m), which is by far the best way to approach it. High Street
itself is, let’s be honest, a little dull, unless you have a vivid imagination and can see Romans marching along their
road or horses galloping on Racecourse Hill. But emerging from Long Stile you suddenly see a wide panorama of all the
great Lakeland peaks: from left to right, Coniston Old Man, Crinkle Crags, Bow Fell, Scafell Pike, Great Gable, Fairfield,
Helvellyn, Skiddaw, Blencathra. Only the High Street range presents all the classic peaks ahead of you. Admittedly,
they are a little distant but they have to be in order to fit them all in. It is inspirational to see them all arrayed
ahead, especially on a clear day such as this was. I can hardly wait to visit them again during the course of these
From High Street (south-west): Coniston Old Man, Crinkle Crags, Bow Fell,
Scafell Pike, Great Gable, Fairfield
From High Street (north-west): Helvellyn, Raise, Skiddaw, Blencathra
We admired the view for some time before setting off down past Kidsty Pike. The view from Kidsty Pike suffers by
comparison with the High Street view. Kidsty Pike is the prominent pointed peak seen from the M6 and you would
expect that, in consequence, it provided a good view to the east – and indeed it does, of the Cross Fell Pennines,
the Shap Fells, the Howgills and some of the Yorkshire Dales peaks. These too are all within my Saunterings scope! And on the
walk down and at closer quarters there’s a fine prospect of Haweswater.
Back at the car park we met the United Utilities team again. I hope I’m not giving away any company plans
by saying that the main problem they foresaw in removing the dam was getting rid of all the concrete. They reckoned
it’d take a hundred helicopter trips to lift it all out! Quite why United Utilities would pay to do this I don’t
know but I hope that they do return Blea Water to its natural state. I am sure that they won’t be tempted to just
tip all the concrete into the depths of Blea Water. It would hardly be in a natural state then, would it?
[May 2018; NY4610; Mardale Head – W – Blea Water – NW – Long Stile – W – High Street – N – Straits of
Riggindale – E – Kidsty Pike, Kidsty Howes – S – Mardale Head; 6.5 miles; 133 km squares]
11.  The Struggle over Boulsworth Hill
I set off to walk from Colne up Boulsworth Hill, following in the footsteps of mill-workers of over a century ago.
Colne was the birthplace in the 1890s of the
Co-operative Holidays Association (CHA), a fact that will not mean
much to most ramblers of North-West England today. We have been led to believe that we owe our modern right
and keenness to walk on the mountains and moors entirely to the influence of William Wordsworth and fellow
poets of the Lake District. It was they who changed our cultural perception of mountains. No longer should
we regard the mountains with trepidation but we should walk upon them in order to appreciate their lustrous scenery.
So pervasive was Wordsworth’s influence that for a time the region was commonly called Wordsworthshire.
Boulsworth Hill from near Trawden, on the way from Colne
However, the struggle for access to the mountains and moors was fought not in the Lake District but
in the South Pennines and the Peak District, in industrial towns such as Colne. Landowners in the
Lake District had always accepted that people could walk on the mountains, as they knew that very
few people would choose to do so. A few poets tripping about, polishing their triplets, did not
change that. Even if they did inspire others to come to see the daffodils and the mountains,
there were not many people within easy access of the Lake District to do so.
It was different in the Pennines. By that time, the 19th century, millions of working people had moved from rural areas to live and work in the grit and grime of industrial cities such as Manchester and Sheffield. They could not just up sticks and move to the Lake District and spend days walking around it, as Wordsworth and friends did. However, many of those workers felt an equal, if not greater, need for fresh open air and fine scenery – and probably appreciated it as much even if they didn’t write poems about it. The many ‘rambling clubs’ that formed in industrial cities to help worker-walkers into the countryside emphasised fellowship – the chance to walk and talk with others away from the noise of factories – rather than wandering lonely as a cloud. This communal aspect was the foundation for the famous mass trespasses that played a key role in changing access legislation (eventually).
The CHA was a leading player in this movement but with a slightly different emphasis. It welcomed male and female
members, which was somewhat controversial for the time. It also had a broader aim than just rambling, providing what would
nowadays be called ‘adventure holidays’. CHA was founded by Thomas Leonard, who went on to help establish the Youth Hostels
Association and the Ramblers’ Association. There is, a touch ironically perhaps, a
to him, as a pioneer of the
open-air movement, on Catbells near Derwent Water. Colne does not seem to remember Leonard at all – but then Leonard did
refer to Colne as a “bleak upland township” in his memoirs.
Would-be ramblers were not asking for a new right. They were asking for the restoration of the right to walk freely on uncultivated land, on common land, and on centuries-old rights of way – a right that their ancestors had taken for granted. This right was disappearing for two reasons. First, the many Enclosure Acts had led to the consolidation of land ownership within the hands of a relatively few wealthy people. Those owners increasingly felt that, just as they wouldn’t allow anyone to walk through the corridors of their mansions, so they wouldn’t allow them to walk across their fields. Secondly, the uncultivated land that previously had been worthless – and therefore not made worth less by allowing anyone to walk on it – had now become valuable, because people were keen to pay handsomely for the fun of killing grouse and deer.
The struggle for access was extraordinarily protracted, as described by Hill (1980). The first Access to Mountains Bill was in 1884. A solution acceptable to ramblers was not found until the Countryside and Rights of Way Act of 2000. The thousands of worker-walkers were up against the ruling landed gentry, the views of which can be gauged from comments in 1932 by the Duke of Atholl, who owned 140,000 acres of deer forests. He considered the then Access to Mountains Bill to be “a crank’s measure, which would injure farming, sport [by which he meant deer-killing], and rateable values” and that “there was not the slightest desire on the part of the general public to go on these hills”.
Concessions were extracted like very reluctant bad teeth. Moor owners might concede access – but only outside the nesting and shooting seasons – which they then defined to be almost the whole year. Sometimes there was a ludicrous aspect to the proposed access agreements. For example, a proposal for access to Rombalds Moor, which includes Ilkley Moor, included a clause that there must be no singing on the moor. If there is one moor that we should be allowed to sing on then it is surely Ilkley Moor.
If an Access to Mountains Bill ever became an Act it was only after it had passed through lengthy parliamentary
committee discussions to emasculate it. For example, the eventual
bore little resemblance to the original Bill.
It ended up providing no access rights whatsoever. On the other hand, it did somehow come to include a ‘trespass clause’
that for the first time ever in England made it a criminal offence merely to be on wild moorland. Moreover, it gave
gamekeepers the legal right to demand names and addresses of anyone found there, with those refusing to give them being
liable to a fine of £5. The legacy of this rather astonishing assumption that gamekeepers were part of the law enforcement
process, and hence above the law themselves, is with us today, causing difficulties in tackling wildlife crime.
There was therefore a class and political dimension to the struggle, a dimension that did not trouble Wordsworth and his friends much. They were relatively well-to-do and no doubt mingled with the higher strata of Lake District society. The factory worker never met the Duke of Wherever who owned the local moors. As the ‘co-operative’ in CHA’s title indicates, there were affiliations with the growing labour and socialist movements. Indeed, some of the activists were known to be communists, which did not help their cause when, as in the Kinder Scout mass trespass of 1932, they were charged with assaulting a gamekeeper.
Boulsworth Hill, near Colne, is an interesting case study, as detailed by Hill (1980). Today’s OS map for Boulsworth Hill shows no green dotted lines denoting public footpaths. There never were any. There are plenty of public footpaths heading from Colne but they all end abruptly at the foot of the moor. I headed that way myself but, as Colne and Trawden have more or less merged now, it no doubt took me longer to reach open countryside than it used to.
In 1956 the councils of Colne, Keighley and Trawden, infiltrated as they were by local landowners, resisted pressure
to allow access to Boulsworth Hill, arguing at a public enquiry that the public should be content to gaze at it. No doubt,
some intrepid Colne walkers trespassed thereon. In 1956 they may have hoped that they wouldn’t need to trespass for much
longer because the County Council was obliged under the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act to impose
an access order. It was in fact the first one ever issued. However, it took another 22 years before a path to the summit
was opened, and this was on water authority land, not on grouse moor land. Today, of course, it is all open access land.
I walked up to Lad Law (517m), the highest point of Boulsworth Hill. Some might think that the view thereby
attained is somewhat desolate. Ahead, to the south, there are dull heather moors enlivened only by occasional millstone
grit outcrops. Behind, however, to the west, north and east, there are fine panoramas, although not as clear for me as they can be.
Pendle was prominent, but the outline of Ingleborough was only dimly discernible and the promised sight of Blackpool
Colne and Trawden from Lad Law on Boulsworth Hill
Having conquered Boulsworth Hill and paid my respects to the pioneering trespassers, I gave myself a bonus by heading for
Wycoller, a tiny, tidy village known to visitors for the ruined
(which, frankly, didn’t interest me much)
and three old bridges: in the order met on this walk, a ‘clam’ bridge, a clapper bridge, and a packhorse bridge.
The first two of these are not that exciting
to look at, being just great slabs across the beck, but the packhorse bridge is charming and skilfully built. It has two
arches, a width of a mere 66cm and parapets only 25cm high. According to Hinchliffe (1994), it has survived 700-800 years.
In the circumstances, I think we can forgive the slightly wonky brow of the right eye.
The Wycoller packhorse bridge
[May 2018; SD9138; Trawden – SE – Lodge Moss Farm, Boulsworth Dyke Farm – SW, SE – Lad Law – NE – Saucer Hole –
N – Saucer Hill Clough, Turnhole Clough, Wycoller – W, S – Trawden; 8 miles; 123 km squares]
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
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 (six straight lines and two wiggly ones):
1.  From near Caldbeck (the northernmost point of the Lake District National Park) east to Fiends Fell, just north of 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 Bolton
6.  To Banks, on the Ribble estuary
7.  Following the coast, to Allonby Bay, north of Maryport
8.  East 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 3,750 square miles (or about 10,000 square kilometres). Needless to say, I won’t rap myself over the knuckles if I stray outside my boundaries.
I could destroy the aimlessness of my saunterings by setting myself
some absurd objective, such as to walk in every one of those 10,000 or so 1 km squares on
Ordnance Survey maps. 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 end of each section. These will all be in the format:
saunter; grid-reference of start point; description of route, with bearings on the way; miles 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.
© John Self, Drakkar Press, 2018
Top photo: The western Howgills from Dillicar;
Bottom photo: Blencathra from Great Mell Fell