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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69.  Lakeside, Finsthwaite Heights, Rusland Heights and Tourists

high dam Left: High Dam.

1,634,654 people took a Windermere Lake Cruise in 2018, according to a Cumbria Tourism report. However, on this bright December morning there were hardly any potential customers at Lakeside, at the southern end of Windermere. There might have been more if the car parks weren’t closed because a large crane was manoeuvring some red structures into place. A worker told me that “someone with a load of money wants a big boat put in the water”.

I left them to it. I hadn’t intended to take a cruise anyway. I planned to walk on Finsthwaite Heights and Rusland Heights, the gentle hills to the west that reach no higher than about 250 metres. I walked first to Stott Park Bobbin Mill, which was, as expected, closed. It is a (summer) visitor attraction but from 1835 to 1971 the mill made bobbins for Lancashire’s spinning and weaving industries. I need to come back when it’s open because I don’t really know what a bobbin is, or why the industries needed millions of them every year, or why the Furness trees were so suitable for making them. I know the trees were coppiced, rather than cut down, but even so a huge quantity of wood was being removed from these hills.

I continued up to High Dam, which was built to provide power for the mill. The lake is in a sylvan setting of pine and larch, with a wide, gentle path around it, strollable by all. It reminded me of the tourist hotspot of Tarn Hows – so much so that halfway round I felt the need to escape for a scramble. I climbed a fence and made my way through dead bracken to the top of Great Green Hows, which despite the name is only 229 metres high. It was worth the little effort because beyond the deep blue Green Hows Upper Tarn there was a wonderfully wide panorama from the Howgills to Black Combe, with the Coniston hills particularly well displayed. There was, however, no view of Windermere or Coniston Water.
Great Green Hows

North from Great Green Hows, to Green Hows Upper Tarn and, on the horizon, the Langdale Pikes, Helvellyn and Fairfield (in cloud), Red Screes and High Street

I headed south over Rusland Heights. The scrubby, hummocky, heathery land was criss-crossed by a maze of what-might-be-paths. The bearing was clear but the path less so, until I realised that white topped posts marked the way. There was a post every few yards, which was very kind of whoever put them there. Two jets flew past, ruining the silence. Their sound reverberated around the hills for some time as they made their way along various dales.

I was now a dedicated follower of the white posts, although I left them briefly to have a peek at the secluded Boretree Tarn. I could see that it was surrounded by much squelchiness, so a peek was enough. Thinking of all those cruisers, I wondered how many people visited Boretree Tarn in 2018. I doubt that it was as many as a thousand, or three a day on average. That 1,634,654 for the Windermere Lake Cruises is a very precise figure. The Cumbria Tourism report gives us other precise figures. It says that there were 47.03 million ‘tourism visits’ to Cumbria in 2018, with 40.41 million of them being day visits and 6.62 million being staying visits, a stay being for 3.4 nights on average. This means, it calculates, that there were 62.76 million ‘visitor days and nights’ in 2018 – this figure being 40.41 + (6.62 x 3.4). Well, I have news for Cumbria Tourism – when we stay one night in the Lake District we have two full days there. So, I’d say that the total of ‘visitor days and nights’ is 40.41 + (6.62 x 4.4), that is, 69.50 million. I have hereby instantly increased the total by over 10%, which will please Cumbria Tourism no end.

Towards the Scafells from Rusland Heights

The white posts led me down through Yewbarrow Wood heading, it seemed, for the Rusland valley, where many fields were flooded. The trouble with following posts – or indeed people – is that they may not be leading you where you expect them to. But my lapse of faith proved unfounded because I emerged at the road at the exact point necessary to take the path east to Town End. Walks through woods are always pleasant but I never find that I have much to say about them. Stark trees, at this time of year; sprinkles of sunlight on dead leaves; luxuriant mosses covering the rocks; a few birds twittering in the tree tops.

I am sure that Cumbria Tourism will eagerly welcome that extra 10% I found for them because the tourism industry is, like all industries, one that depends on growth. It is vital to attract more people, who bring more money to the local economy and create more local jobs. Cumbria Tourism’s 10-year plan of 2008 was to increase the number of trips to Cumbria by 12%, from 15.2 million to 17 million. The difference between 17 million and the 47 million above is a mystery (perhaps a 'visit' is different to a 'trip'?) but need not detain us. The important factor is the 12% increase. That may seem ambitious but the world population increased by 13% from 2008 to 2018. The Lake District thinks of itself as a world-class tourist destination, so it was really aiming to attract a lower proportion of its target. Cumbria Tourism must try harder.

Given the importance of the figures quoted in Cumbria Tourism’s reports – and the fact that there are many vested interests that they should increase – it is natural to wonder where they come from. The tourism industry cannot just guesstimate figures – it has to have sophisticated mathematical models that can provide reliable, convincing data. To this end, Cumbria Tourism uses STEAM (Scarborough Tourism Economic Activity Monitor). Many tourism bodies say that they use STEAM but none of them tell us how it works. It takes more than a neat acronym and the .03 in 47.03 to convince me. All I’d ask is: did I contribute to the 47.03 million ‘tourism visits’?  On most of my visits to Cumbria I am not aware of doing anything that would enable me to be counted.

Reaching the road, I felt obliged to have a look at the village of Finsthwaite, having tramped over its Heights. Near the grand Finsthwaite House I passed a woman who was admiring the view whilst sat upon two shooting sticks, one per buttock. I noticed also that something called Lakelovers offered me a ‘handpicked holiday home’ but if I needed one then I’d prefer to handpick it myself. Finsthwaite was, like most villages, quiet. The church, at least, looked different. The Lancaster firm of Paley & Austin seems to have had a monopoly hereabouts of church building and re-building in the 1870-1880 period. They naturally developed a house style, or rather, a church style, but they let themselves go with the Finsthwaite church, putting a pyramidal top on the tower.

Windermere from Lakeside, Gummer's How on the right

After walking through Great Knott Wood, I reached Lakeside to find that they were preparing to move the afore-mentioned big boat, which I now noticed was parked or berthed in the second car park. How they got this boat over Newby Bridge, along the narrow roads, and into the car park I don’t know. It looked more like a ferry-boat than a privately-owned boat. Perhaps they are upgrading the boats used for the cruises, to cater for even more trippers. (**)

The number of people taking a cruise on Windermere is three times what it was thirty years ago. Excellent!  I am all in favour of transporting as many visitors as possible to the middle of Windermere in order to keep them away from the fells. I hope that they are also lured away by the other attractions so carefully listed by Cumbria Tourism in its enthralling annual top twenties. Below are the lists for the years 2018, 2017, 2007 and 1988. There are so many caveats that should be made but I won’t bother. Make of them what you will.

                                             2018           2017           2007           1988
Windermere Lake Cruises                    1. 1,634,654   1. 1,611,491   1. 1,274,976   1.  520,060
Ullswater Steamers                         2.   448,820   3.   414,777   7.   187,469
The Rheged Centre                          3.   440,178   2.   423,908   2.   465,452
Grasmere Gingerbread                       4.   250,000   7.   200,000
Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway          5.   220,014   8.   198,377                  6.   85,000
The World of Beatrix Potter, Bowness       6.   205,258   9.   191,590
Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery        7.   204,912   6.   204,854   3.   279,889   14.  55,000
Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway             8.   204,500                                 2.  250,000
Whinlatter Forest Park & Visitor Centre    9.   196,294   5.   237,499   8.   187,269   11.  74,500
Carlisle Castle                            10.  174,171                  18.   53,407   13.  57,495
Grizedale Forest Park and Visitor Centre   11.  169,395   10.  183,900   5.   231,500
Carlisle Cathedral                         12.  149,637   11.  157,742   9.   152,138
Lowther Castle and Gardens                 13.  119,085   13.  110,000                  7.   84,000
Theatre By The Lake, Keswick               14.  112,397   14.  107,790   10.  108,598
Hill Top, Beatrix Potter’s House           15.  110,206   12.  119,044                  5.   90,000
Wray Castle                                16.  103,900   15.   95,829
Lakeland Motor Museum, Backbarrow          17.   76,068   16.   78,850                  17.  43,209
Muncaster Castle                           18.   60,570   18.   64,772                  20.  39,553
The Puzzling Place, Keswick                19.   49,077   19.   47,716
Beatrix Potter Gallery, Hawkshead          20.   41,212  
Lake District Visitor Centre, Brockhole                   4.   293,437   11.  108,530   4.   98,000
Tree Top Trek, Brockhole                                  17.   72,637
Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Museum                    20.   46,029   15.   61,870   8.   80,400
South Lakes Wild Animal Park                                             4.   252,631
Aquarium of the Lakes, Lakeside                                          6.   229,342
Cumberland Pencil Museum, Keswick                                        12.   85,000   10.  75,000
The Dock Museum, Barrow                                                  13.   70,563
Wetheriggs Country Pottery, Penrith                                      14.   65,000   15.  50,000
Northern Lights Gallery, Keswick                                         16.   60,000
The Teapottery, Keswick                                                  17.   56,350
The Homes of Football, Ambleside                                         19.   53,000
Lake District Coast Aquarium, Maryport                                   20.   46,972
Sellafield                                                                              3.  148,000
Holker Hall                                                                             9.   80,100
Border Regiment Museum, Carlisle                                                        12.  58,621
Levens Hall                                                                             16.  47,701
Windermere Steamboat Museum                                                             18.  40,236
Sizergh Castle                                                                          19.  40,000
** Since writing the above I have found that the vessel is indeed a new addition to the Windermere Lake Cruises’ fleet. This website gives details of its construction and, at the time of writing, of its ‘soft launch’ on December 11.

    Date: December 9th 2019
    Start: SD378874, Lakeside  (Map: OL7)
    Route: NW – Low Stott Park – W, NW – High Dam – N,W – Great Green Hows – S – Rusland Heights, Great Ellerside, road – E, NE – Town End, Finsthwaite – E, SE – Lakeside
    Distance: 7 miles;   Ascent: 205 metres

The two following items:
     71.   Low in Low Barbondale
     70.   Up the Conder
The two preceding items:
     68.   Landscape and the Howgills
     67.   The Consolation of Arant Haw
Two nearby items:
     32.   Russet Rusland Valley
     52.   Morecambe Bay - from Cark to Grange-over-Sands
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