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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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5.  Circumperambulating Stocks Reservoir

Stocks Reservoir is multi-purpose and it was kind enough to present its various purposes to me, one-by-one, during a walk around the reservoir. First, as I left the School Lane car park heading north I saw two hides, for observing water-birds on the reservoir. The part of the reservoir north of the larger island is essentially reserved for birds and bird-watchers. Stocks Reservoir is an important wintering site for cormorants, mallard, pintail, teal and wigeon. Many other species, such as whooper swan, Canada goose, pink-footed goose and red-breasted merganser, have also been recorded here. There are also many species of waders that visit or breed around the reservoir and various raptors also call in. However, it was so bitterly cold, with wisps of snow in the air, that I suspect the birds were snuggled together somewhere for warmth.

There were no bird-watchers in the hides for me to snuggle together with, so I wandered on, to appreciate the second purpose of the reservoir, that is, to provide timber from the adjacent forest. Gisburn Forest, the largest forest in Lancashire, is not an old woodland. It was planted when the reservoir was created in order perhaps to prevent possible pollution from the many farms that would otherwise have remained on the land above the reservoir. Today, its conifers are being replaced by native, broad-leaved trees, although there are plenty of conifers still to go. There is a Gisburn Forest Hub at the centre of a network of forest walks and cycle trails but my focus on this outing was on the reservoir itself.
River Hodder

River Hodder (above the reservoir)

I proceeded north past the derelict farmhouse of New House, across the young River Hodder, and eventually back towards the reservoir. As I swung west, I came upon the third purpose of the reservoir, that is, to provide a fishery. Stocks Reservoir is said to be the largest fly-fishery in North-West England. It is, I read, well-stocked with brown, rainbow and blue trout. I never knew there were blue trout. The genetic diversity of trout is complex – too complex for me – but as I understand it only the first of these three is native to England, which seems a shame for Stocks Reservoir, although I am somewhat reassured to read that the Stocks fish are triploid, meaning that they are sterile. Anyway, the anglers are clearly content, not least because they are not restricted to fishing from the bank. There is a fleet of ‘Coulam boats’ specifically designed for fly-fishing. The boats must, of course, stay in their part of the reservoir, south of the island. I wonder how the anglers get on with those cormorants, when they are keen to cull them elsewhere.

Fisherman and Coulam boats at Stocks Reservoir

I saw five fishermen, which was five more than I expected on such a cold day – two of them up to their thighs in the icy water. I walked on and came across several signs warning me of frogs. The frogs certainly looked ferocious on the signs, but I managed to evade them. I then reached the dam, which is the most obvious sign of the reservoir’s fourth purpose – its original one – to hold back water for the people of Fylde and Blackpool. The reservoir was created in the 1930s, and in the process drowned the village of Stocks-in-Bowland. Its chapel and the 165 bodies in its graveyard were moved to a new site on the eastern shore. I wonder if they were equally considerate in moving the living to a new site.

I had crossed a reasonable-sized River Hodder flowing into the reservoir but at the dam there was no water in the large outflow channel. From what I read, there normally is – but in that case what prevents the alien fish from escaping downstream?  When the Hodder below the dam would otherwise be too dry, up to 15 million litres per day are released from the bottom of the dam (Greenhalgh, 2009).
Stocks Reservoir

Stocks Reservoir and Gisburn Forest

Just ahead of me, over the dam, I could see a party of sixteen walkers, confirming the last purpose of the reservoir, the one that I was making use of, that is, to provide a pleasant outing for saunterers like myself. In fact, I was delighted to find that this is no ordinary walk – it was voted the 67th best walk in a recent ITV programme on Britain's Favourite Walks. Wow! Just for the record, North-West England (as defined by me in the Preamble) has 16 walks in the top 100, including 6 of the top 10:
   1.	Helvellyn (via Glenridding Common)
   3.	Malham and Gordale Scar
   4.	Catbells
   5.	Scafell Pike (from Wasdale Head)
   7.	Buttermere (around the lake)
   8.	Coniston Old Man, including Dow Crag
   25.	Ingleborough (from Clapham)
   27.	Ambleside to Grasmere, via the Coffin Route
   30.	High Cup Nick
   36.	Ingleton Falls
   54.	Richmond to Reeth (part of the Coast-to-Coast)
   61.	Grassington to Kilnsey
   67.	Forest of Bowland (around Stocks Reservoir)
   69.	Brontë Waterfalls
   81.	Saltaire to Skipton (by the Leeds-Liverpool Canal)
   86.	The Witches Trail (below Pendle)
I was delighted not so much because the Stocks Reservoir circuit is a fine walk but because it is, in fact, a rather unadventurous one by North-West England standards. We have many other walks that could have appeared on the list, but I won’t quibble, seeing as the vote proved that North-West England is the best region for walking in Britain.
Stocks Res

Stocks Reservoir

    Date: February 26th 2018
    Start: SD732565, School Lane car park, by Stocks Reservoir  (Map: OL41)
    Route: NW – New House – SW by Copped Hill Clough, SE – Eak Hill – S, SW – Hollins House – S, SE – dam – NE on permissive path – causeway – NW – School Lane car park
    Distance: 8 miles;   Ascent: 65 metres

The two following items:
       7.   Castling in Cumbria: From Brougham to Lowther
       6.   The Count of Flasby Fell
The two preceding items:
       4.   In a Flap at Bolton-le-Sands
       3.   Zipping over or around Thirlmere
Two nearby items:
     96.   Castles and Towers from the Cross of Greet
   165.   In Gisburn Forest in the Forest of Bowland
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