Western Howgills

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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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181.  Trail-Blazing on Farleton Knott

I set off west from Kirkby Lonsdale under grey skies. The clouds were flirting with the hill-tops, making me glad that I had not been so bold as to head there. Instead, I arrived first at the hamlet of Biggins, in two parts, Low and High. Biggins seems somewhat aloof from Kirkby Lonsdale, a gathering of grand houses, most of grey stone, including Biggins Hall, looking no grander than the rest. These houses are, however, outshone by the bright white Lonsdale Hall, recently built on the outskirts of High Biggins. It is, I believe, for sale for about £2.5m. Perhaps if I had enough money I could force myself to live in such a mansion so unsuited to its surroundings.

The view east from near Biggins, Ingleborough just visible, Whernside in cloud

Beyond High Biggins I walked across a series of fields. One was adorned with the spindliest buttercups I have seen. Another had equally tall grass, too wet for me, although it seemed to suit the many swallows swooping over it. Then I walked along a limestone ridge, past a few horses, safely corralled, with views of a rather sombre Hutton Roof Crags (walked on in Sauntering 98) and Farleton Knott to my left. Ahead, there was a distant view of some Lake District hills that had managed to be under but not in cloud, as most of the hills to my right (the Howgills and Yorkshire Dales hills) remained. But, if I looked carefully enough, I could see one or two tinges of blue in the sky, sufficient to add one or two dashes of colour to the gloomy fields.

Somewhere along the ridge I crossed the watershed, leaving Lunesdale behind me, with the waters of Lupton Beck to my right eventually joining the Kent estuary near Milnthorpe. I settled in for some walking along quiet country lanes. At Kilnerfoot a roof displayed BINGO in large letters. This presumably advertised Bingo Fest 2023 but the nature of that fest eludes me. I skirted the village of Hutton Roof to pause for sustenance at its church, accompanied by numerous swallows and martins.
biggins hall         hutton roof church

Left: Biggins Hall;   Right: St John's Church, Hutton Roof

Continuing towards another of the many Newbiggins in the region, I found that I had, at last, acquired a shadow. The lanes immediately perked up. The honeysuckle, hardly noticeable before, now shone bright white, yellow and purple. Rosehips sparkled bright red. Some butterflies appeared. I sampled a few blackberries. This was more like it.

At the end of Puddlemire Lane I came to a gate with the notice shown. Does it seem odd to you in any way?
During my wanderings I must have come across thousands of notices. Many of them are from land-owners advising me how not to misbehave on their land. Others are from some authority, such as Natural England or the local council, telling me of various conditions that restrict my walking on the land. This notice, however, is from Cumbria Police. I’m not sure that I’ve seen a sign from the police on our hills before. They don’t usually bother themselves with civil, as opposed to criminal, offences.

So, what terrible turpitude has occurred on Farleton Knott to cause the police to become involved?  The landowners here are the Dallam Tower Estate (the northern part of the fell) and the National Trust (the southern part) – the scope of the notice is not clear from the sign. Their opinions, if any, on Farleton Knott are limited by the fact that it is all open access. However, as the notice makes clear, the open access legislation does not provide access to all. Horse-riders and bikers are only allowed on bridleways and there never were any on Farleton Knott. Is that enough for the heavy hand of the police?

I expect that horse-riding has occurred on Farleton Knott for decades and I doubt that anyone has objected. The problem would therefore seem to lie with the bikers, although the two cannot be separated by law. I can certainly see (literally, since there are Youtube videos of bikers in action on Farleton Knott) that bikers careering over these limestone crags and down the narrow paths between gorse and bracken would be a hazard for walkers (and if bikers were allowed here they would no doubt say that walkers are a hazard for them). But is a dispute between walkers and bikers a police matter?

An additional factor is that Farleton Knott is a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of its limestone pavements and flora thereon. Bikers would not, however, bike over the clints and grikes of the pavements. They would follow the same paths as walkers. The straw that broke the police’s back was that some bikers found Farleton Knott not challenging enough and set about it with their spades to create new trails with various humps to soar over. I used ‘trail-blazing’ in the title but now I am unsure what ‘blazing’ means. Can you blaze anything other than trails?  So, after many years during which tolerance gradually turned to anger, the police finally decided that digging up other people’s legally protected land and potentially harming its special flora was going too far.

I zigzagged up on a path through the high bracken to emerge on the open limestone crags.

The view west to the Lake District from the path up


The view east towards Ingleborough and Whernside from near the top

The clouds that still hung over the bay and the Lake District hills dulled the view westward from the Farleton Knott cairn that overlooks the M6. I walked down past the cliffs of Holmepark Fell, and took the bridleway east. This skirts Holme Park Quarry, providing no view of it. The quarry was silent on this occasion but is, I think, still active. Even if it isn’t, it is too late for the vast quantities of limestone that have been removed, as shown by this aerial video.

I picked up the old track of Slape Lane that heads direct to Burton-in-Kendal. My impression of this track deteriorated as I went along. At first, it was a pleasant walk through woodland. It then became a narrow path between high beech hedges, so I could see nothing at all. It was just a matter of plodding on and on – and then on and on some more. At the end there was a toposcope telling me the names of the Lake District hills that I couldn't see from the path.

    Date: August 23rd 2023
    Start: SD609785, Kirkby Lonsdale bus stop  (Maps: OL2, OL7)
    Route: (linear) W by A65, S through Low Biggins, W through High Biggins and fields – Gallowber Lane – W, SW – Hutton Roof – N – Holly Grove – W – Newbiggin – NW on Puddlemire Lane, zigzag up – Farleton Knott – S below Holmepark Fell – bridleway – SE – Rawley Copse – SW, S, SW on Slape Lane – Burton-in-Kendal
    Distance: 9 miles;   Ascent: 205 metres

The two following items:
     183.   On the Moors and Pastures above Bentham
     182.   Along the North Fylde Esplanade
The two preceding items:
     180.   Bowland at Heart
     179.   A Kendalian Intermezzo
Two nearby items:
     186.   Thoughts from the Towpath (Holme to Carnforth)
       98.   Karren and Flora on Hutton Roof Crags
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