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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54.  Follies around Flusco

The region west of Penrith and north of the A66 lies just outside the Lake District National Park. It is ignored by most visitors to Cumbria, who speed on to Keswick to enjoy the scenery of Derwent Water, Borrowdale and Skiddaw. The residents of this quiet farming region around Greystoke have views of the Lake District but must feel not part of it. In consequence, perhaps, they have endowed their otherwise ordinary buildings with a quirkiness not normally associated with the Cumbrian character. I set out to stroll along these lanes and through these villages looking for architectural oddities.

I headed first for what’s called the Summer House on Flusco Pike. It is a small, rather ornate, roofed cuboid atop a hillock. If it ever served as a summer house then it would have been on better days than I had, with a strong wind, spits of rain in the air, and cloud hiding the Lakeland hill-tops.
Flusco Pike

The Summer House on Flusco Pike

On the map south of Flusco Pike a couple of tiny ‘access areas’ are marked, with half-a-dozen more nearby. I had a look at a few of them and they were all nondescript wasteland. Maybe, when the Countryside and Rights of Way Act of 2000 came into force, the local councils felt they needed to find some access land – since there are swathes of it in the Lake District – and contributed whatever parcels of useless land they could. Certainly, nobody (apart from me) will visit them.

I walked north on a track by Silver Field where the Penrith Hoard of 10th century silver brooches (now in the British Museum) was found. The path then passed a large landfill site. It is good to be reminded – but not too often – of what we have to do to deal with the mess we make. At the end of the track was a sign for Ullswater Heights describing it as “The Lake District’s Newest Holiday Park”. Any holidaymaker disappointed that it is not actually within the National Park has the consolation of the noise and smell of the landfill site.

Passing Flusco Wood’s ‘Luxury Holiday Lodges’ and the Beckstones Art Gallery, I then headed north as I was intrigued by what looked like a racetrack marked on the map. Indeed it was, part of Nicky Richards Racing, Nicky being the son of famous trainer Gordon Richards, who trained two Grand National winners. Ten fine, rather frisky, racehorses were in the field and, as the footpath is shown going right through the racetrack, I feared that the horses would challenge me to a race. I trespassed to escape and made my way towards Fort Putnam and Bunkers Hill.

These two names may sound familiar. They are sites of engagements in the American War of Independence. The names are on our map because, apparently, the owner, the 11th Duke of Norfolk, wanted to show his support for the rebel colonists and to irritate hostile Tory neighbours. I cannot say if the buildings resemble anything at their American counterparts but I can say that they look decidedly odd in this location. Today Fort Putnam has been converted into dwellings and Bunkers Hill is a dairy – “udderly good, from moo to u” (don’t blame me).
Fort Putnam

Fort Putnam, from the west

Bunkers Hill

Bunkers Hill (to the left) and Blencathra (to the right), from near Spire House

I then walked north to the village of Blencow (Great and Little) in order to have a look at Blencow Hall. To appreciate the hall today it is necessary to see the before-and-after Blencow Hall. Before its renovation the left tower was split by a wide gash and the right tower had lost its battlements. Somehow new rooms have been incorporated within the gashed tower, with the gash remaining as a feature.

While pausing for a sandwich at the village green of Blencow surrounded by a dozen or so houses I realised that they all had different styles – different brickwork, colours, stonework. No disrespect, as I am sure they are fine houses, but I rather preferred the old terrace, with its old laundry, post office and smithy. Further along the road I came to the grand house of Ennim, the home for over forty years of William Whitelaw (Margaret Thatcher’s right-hand man – “every prime minister needs a Willie”). I always felt rather close to William Whitelaw. I once leapt onto a train just as it was leaving the station and landed in his commodious lap. Anyway, Ennim, for anyone who wants to buy it (and it looked rather unoccupied), has bullet-proof windows because of Whitelaw’s stint as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. You never know when that might be useful.
Spire House

Spire House and Cross Fell, from near Bunkers Hill

I walked on to Spire House, which is a house with a spire. This is the 11th Duke of Norfolk’s handiwork again. What he was playing at here I neither know nor care. It’s not the most impressive spire anyway – more like a dunce’s cap. Next I passed Clickham Inn, as I had to because it was closed, at Clickem, as the OS map spells it, and finally walked south through the village of Newbiggin, passing Tymparon Hall, which is said to be the oldest hall in the region but too far from the road for me to see clearly, and several recently-restored wells. Newbiggin seems fond of its wells, which is fair enough as the wells brought the village here.

So, I met some odd buildings on this walk but are any of them, strictly speaking, follies?  It is impossible to say because any definition of ‘folly’ is bound to include subjective terms. For example, Folly by Design, a company that makes follies and should therefore know what they are, says that “A folly is an ornamental structure whose creation reflects a whimsical inclination on the part of the builder”. But what precisely is ‘ornamental’? Almost every building has an element of ornamentation. And who can say whether the builder was whimsically inclined? The Folly Fellowship, established in 1988 to “protect, preserve and promote follies”, declines to give a brief definition. Instead it gives hundreds of examples – including the four in the photographs above: Flusco Pike, Fort Putnam, Bunkers Hill and Spire House.

    Date: June 3rd 2019
    Start: NY472288, Newbiggin, near Hawbank House  (Map: OL5)
    Route: N, SW – Flusco Pike – S – two tiny access areas – N, SW – Flusco Bridge – N, W – Beckstones Art Gallery – N – Old Rectory Farm – E – Red Barn – N, E – Fort Putnam, Bunkers Hill – W – Fort Putnam – NE, N – Little Blencow – SW – Blencow Hall – NE – Little Blencow – SE – Spire House, Clickem – S – Newbiggin
    Distance: 8 miles;   Ascent: 100 metres

The two following items:
     56.   Cross Fell: The Apex of England
     55.   Butterflying on Whitbarrow
The two preceding items:
     53.   Why? On the Wyre Way
     52.   Morecambe Bay - from Cark to Grange-over-Sands
Two nearby items:
       7.   Castling in Cumbria: From Brougham to Lowther
   178.   Back in the Saddle of Blencathra
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