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Saunterings:  Walking in North-West England

Saunterings is a set of reflections based upon walks around the counties of Cumbria, Lancashire and North Yorkshire in North-West England (as defined in the Preamble). Here is a list of all Saunterings so far.
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167.  Yealand Woods, Leighton Hall and the Pheasants

I set out from the snow leopards aiming to enjoy the autumn colours of various Yealand Woods, with Warton Crag to provide a final flourish. To the south was Hale Moss, a nature reserve of the Cumbria Wildlife Trust. The map shows a flat area crossed by numerous straight blue lines representing drainage ditches. Hale Moss is one of several ‘Moss’s in the region. It is therefore no surprise to read that the region was once a lake. In fact, even with all the drainage ditches, it is not far off one today, as most of the fields seemed waterlogged.
hale moss

Hale Moss

holiday homes Oh, those snow leopards. They are in the Lakeland Wildlife Oasis by the A6. I didn’t seek them out on this occasion although I did wonder if we will have plenty of snow this winter and they would therefore feel more at home. I think not, on both counts.

At the first road junction I was confronted by a sign directing me to six holiday parks but nowhere else. I had no idea the region has been taken over by holiday parks. What do holiday-makers do here?  Do they use the parks as a base for commuting to the Lake District, where, no doubt, holiday homes are more expensive?

Right: Holiday parks galore.

I walked on along quiet lanes past limestone outcrops and various woodlands, including Thrang Coppice, which I at least liked the name of. The woods were quiet and still although I did hear some nuthatches. I came to realise that the woods were past their autumn best, with really only the hazel still holding onto its leaves, although they were a rather insipid greeny-yellow. All the cheery reds and oranges were on the ground.

I came to the hamlet of Yealand Storrs, the first of several mentions of Yealand on the map. According to British History Online (1, 2), “in 1066 there was only one manor of Yealand, and it no doubt included Silverdale”. Over the centuries parts of the land passed through various hands, with a great many names being referred to on the webpages mentioned. Among them I spotted a Henry de Redmayne and a Robert de Conyers, who are presumably remembered in the names of the two nearby villages, Yealand Redmayne and Yealand Conyers. I couldn’t, however, find a de Storrs to explain Yealand Storrs.

I walked on past Yealand Hall, a rather ordinary building for the eponymous hall of such an historic region, and then south through Cringlebarrow Wood, another appealing name that I have no explanation for. The wood is to the west of the village of Yealand Redmayne but provides no view of it. Still, it was pleasant enough although I turned west halfway along to see Deepdale Pond.
Cringlebarrow Wood                Deepdale Pond

Left: Cringlebarrow Wood;  Right: Deepdale Pond.

This pond, as it is labelled on the map, lacks an essential feature of ponds, namely, water. I understand that a pond formed in a large sink-hole in the limestone but has now been covered with vegetation. I didn’t step upon the ex-pond to see how solid it was. (I am assuming that what I found was the pond. This document describes it as a "glistening jewel".)

The path, carefully enclosed within 'private' signs to make sure I didn't wander where I shouldn't, continued to the estate of Leighton Hall. The present hall was built for George Towneley of Towneley Hall near Burnley in 1759-1761 and was acquired in 1822 by the Gillow family, of the world-renowned furniture makers Gillow & Co, which was founded in Lancaster by Robert Gillow (1704-1772). The building was given its striking white façade of local limestone at that time. The hall, with displays of Gillow furniture, is open to the public but only for three days a week (five in August) for five months of the year. The footpath to the east provides a view of the hall and the estate, and across it to Morecambe Bay and the Lake District hills.
Leighton Hall

Leighton Hall

The path continues to Yealand Conyers but I didn’t go that far, instead cutting south towards Warton and then taking the old track that climbs over the northern flank of Warton Crag to Crag Foot. I looked for a way to leave the track to climb Warton Crag but didn’t find one for some distance, but from there it was a direct path south-east to the top (169 metres). It provides a fine view over Morecambe Bay to the hills of southern Cumbria – but they were in dark cloud which seemed to be coming my way, so I set off hotfoot for Carnforth forthwith, which is easier done than said.
Warton Crag

The view from Warton Crag

What do you think of Leighton Hall?  Doesn’t it look grand?  Well, I am rarely content to give a brief history of a mansion with an “oh, isn’t it marvellous!” photo. Here’s a couple of things that may influence your opinion of Leighton Hall. The reputation of Gillow furniture was established in the 1730s when the company began to use mahogany imported from the West Indies, where it had been prepared for export by slaves. Gillow & Co duly exported their esteemed products back to slave owners. Therefore, Gillow & Co directly benefitted from the slave trade, as no doubt did many industrialists of the time. Were the Gillows involved in the slave trade itself?  It seems (Elder and Stuart, 2021) that Robert Gillow had a one-twelfth share of the ship Gambia, which made three slave journeys. So, yes, to a minor extent. It is doubtful that Gillow himself paid much attention to it.

That’s all a long time ago. Is everything hunky-dory today?  The present owners, descendants of Gillow, stoutly bear the burden of maintaining the estate so that they may continue to live there. Amongst the activities, Leighton Hall offers pheasant-shooting at £792 a day. On my walk the dominant sound was gunfire and the most common bird seen was pheasant. In the UK at least 50,000,000 pheasants are bred every year to be shot. A couple of months ago a short film was released showing how Leighton Hall contributes to this number. If you are of a sensitive disposition you may prefer not to watch the film and just accept my word that it shows pheasants in an appalling condition. Actually, sensitive souls should watch the film. The pheasants need all the outrage they can get. [*]

leighton hall shooters pheasants Left: On the portals of Leighton Hall a crack regiment ready for combat in the fields.
Right: The enemy, as seen in the fields around Leighton Hall.

What sort of society accepts that millions of people will struggle to feed and heat themselves, while one family owns an estate of 450 acres and wealthy individuals pay £792 a day to enjoy killing pheasants bred in squalor?  Ours.

[*] Footnote added on December 4th 2022. The Lancaster Guardian of December 1st reported that Lancashire Police attended Leighton Hall and said "We conducted a joint visit with the RSPCA. No offences have been committed and no further action taken." The original investigating team had already commented on their website that "We are informed that the RSPCA and police attended the site. However by the time this visit was arranged, the gamekeeper had *somehow* been alerted and was able to clear away the evidence. Despite the horrifying footage obtained, we believe no further action is being taken." According to the Lancaster Guardian, Leighton Hall have said "they do not wish to comment on the issue."

    Date: November 4th 2022
    Start: SD509778, Wildlife Centre on A6  (Map: OL7)
    Route: (linear) S, SW, S past Hale More Farm, SW – Yealand Storrs – E past Yealand Hall, S, SW – Leighton Hall Home Farm – E, S – road – SW, S, W on track, SE – Warton Crag – S, E – Warton – W, S – Carnforth New Street bus stop
    Distance: 8 miles;   Ascent: 140 metres

The two following items:
     169.   A Quinquennial Ambulation over the Moor
     168.   To Lancashire’s Highest Point, Wherever It Is
The two preceding items:
     166.   Bretherdale Then and Now
     165.   In Gisburn Forest in the Forest of Bowland
Two nearby items:
     105.   An Autumn Stroll through Beetham Woods
     198.   The Bitterns and Marsh Harriers are Booming
A list of all items so far:

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    © John Self, Drakkar Press, 2018-


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