Western Howgills

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Saunterings

Saunterings is a set of reflections based upon walks around the counties of Cumbria, Lancashire and North Yorkshire in North-West England (more details of my ‘North-West England’ are given in the Preamble).

If you'd like to give a comment, correction or update (all are very welcome) or to receive a two-monthly email update - please send an email to johnselfdrakkar@gmail.com. Some readers' comments are included in the Preamble.

caton moor      120.   A Walk in Littledale in 1847   
     119.   Silence, Serenity and Solitude   
     118.   Coast-to-Coast in Six Days   
     117.   Empirical Studies into Gender Differences in Hilly and Horizontal Pedestrianism   
     116.   Are the Caton Windmills on their Last Legs?   
               Diversion 5:  The Duke of Westminster’s A to Z   
     115.   Risk, Fear and Pain – or Beauty, Joy and Wonder?   
     114.   Never Mind the Danger   
     113.   White Stoats on Caton Moor   
               113 onwards are about walking and walks from home during another lockdown.
     112.   Walking around Pilling with Pink Feet   
     111.   From Millstone Grit to Limestone   
     Previous 1 - 110

120.  A Walk in Littledale in 1847

We left the house early-ish on Monday morning and decided to walk in 1847. We walked up the narrow, stony track, past empty fields, to Moorside House. [I will butt in, in italics, from time to time to relate this fantasy to the scene today. They specified 1847 because that is the date of the first OS map available on-line. It was a good job that they didn’t decide it was 1847 before leaving the house because their house didn’t exist in 1847. Neither did almost all the other houses in the village. In 1847 there were only about a dozen houses clustered around the church and pub. However, the layout of the village tracks (now roads) was much as it is now. Moorside House is now called Moorside Farm.]  

Turning right, past the Quarry Road track, we passed the Caton Workhouse, a building of some grandeur, which may be some compensation for the poor souls compelled to live there and trek across to work in the Caton mills. At least the women and boys only have to work for ten hours a day now, thanks to the new Factory Act. [Quarry Road ran up to the quarries near the top of the moor. It still does although the quarries have been disused for over a century. Caton Workhouse closed as a workhouse in 1866 and was converted to a residence, Moorgarth.]   Passing Tenters Farm [still there] and crossing Tarn Brook, views opened out over fields to the east. [They don’t today because Tarn Brook Plantation was planted some time between 1847 and 1891 (the date of the next OS map on-line). It looks a natural woodland now.]   littledale road

We turned left onto Littledale Road [although called a road on the 1847 map it was probably a rough track], ignoring the track straight ahead to Cransfield House [not named on the 1847 map, still there today], and passed two farms to the right, Stoven House and Hodgson’s [now called Stauvins Farm and Ravenscar Farm].   After a while, Roeburndale Road [another track then, no doubt] branched off to the left but we continued straight ahead over the rise of Littledale Road, pausing at the ancient Cross Stone at the highest point. [The main road now turns to the right. It was built between 1847 and 1891. The present track of the old Littledale Road (shown right) perhaps indicates the state of these ‘roads’ in 1847. I doubt that the cross was still there in 1847 but its stone base was. It’s there now.]  

We then dropped down to pass the Crossgill Bobbin Mill [where the scout camp now is] and took the side track to Fostal Bridge over Foxdale Beck – Fostal presumably being a corruption of Foxdale. [New House Farm, on today's map, wasn’t there in 1847 but it was built before 1891 and so is new with respect to the other farms in the region. In 1847 the main track continued to the hamlet of Crossgill along what is now an overgrown avenue between trees. The continuation of the road to Crossgill wasn’t completed until some time between 1895 and 1913.]  

caton moor We then walked through a pleasant dell by Nicka Wood and Udale Beck rising to Bell Hill House, with views to the moor below Ward’s Stone. [Bellhill Farm now has a few new residences adjoining.]   We didn't continue as far as Dale Side but took the airy track east to Field Head which provided views over to Caton Moor. [Caton Moor was empty then. Now we have windmills - but only three or four working. Never mind the windmills - what about the clouds! Field Head is still a farm. Dale Side, built 1685, is marked on today's map, but is derelict, although maybe the barn is still in use. It is a listed building, as are many of the other buildings passed on this walk. The path to Field Head is a little less airy now as a number of plantations were added to the map between 1847 and 1891. Again, some of them look natural woodlands now although others have dense conifers. I don’t know if they would have been planted with conifers in the 19th century – or indeed why there was a spate of tree-planting at this time.]  

From Field Head we walked across boggy fields, down through a wood, to cross Foxdale Beck and emerge at Tongue Moor. Ruth saw a white stoat (Sauntering 113) near here: I missed it. [The name Tongue Moor referred to a farm or house, not to the moor itself. It dated back to at least the 15th century but was demolished in the 1970s. The Littledale Hall that is now here is not on the 1847 map because it was built for the Rev. John Dodson who retired as Vicar of Cockerham in 1849. His isolated ‘free church’ a little further on bears a date of 1849. Littledale Hall is now a residential addiction treatment centre.]   Turning west, we walked past the quarry and coal pits and took a little detour to the hamlet of Crossgill, which is not much more than a farm, with a date of 1681, and the Crossgill Chapel, built in 1755. [The quarry and coal pits are now within a small plantation. The site of the old quarry is clear but not that of any coal pits. Crossgill is little bigger today than it was in 1847. The chapel was renamed as St Anne’s Church by 1891 before being converted to a residence in the 1990s.]  

over morecambe bay We then struggled up the steep track passing Haws House [still there], turned west on the Roeburndale Road, crossing Crossgill Beck and walked on, with wide views over Morecambe Bay and to the Lake District hills. [The Brookhouse Brickworks near Crossgill Beck came and went between 1847 and now.]   After passing Berry’s Plantation, we re-joined the Littledale Road and walked home, our feet beginning to feel a little sore. It’s time someone made some stout walking shoes. How old Wordsworth manages to wander about his hills I don’t know. [Berry’s Plantation (called the Roeburndale Road Plantation today) looks a natural woodland to me. Nearly all the woodlands on the 1847 map are called ‘Wood’s – and I assume these are more natural than the Plantations. Why would anyone plant such a Plantation before 1847? Perhaps ‘Plantation’ doesn’t necessarily mean that trees were planted?]  

[The overall conclusion from this walk is that anyone who lived in this region in 1847 would have little difficulty in finding their way around today. Most of the tracks (called roads then) have become tarmacked roads. The only new (between 1847 and 1891) road is the one avoiding the steep rise over the Cross Stone hill. The fields, fences and walls are all pretty much in the same place. All the farm buildings (except the derelict Dale Side and demolished Tongue Moor) are still there (modernised, of course) and most are still farms. It’s likely that some have the same families within them. Only one farm (New House) has been added to the set since 1847. It’s rather reassuring that in this rapidly changing world some things change hardly at all.]  

    Date: February 15th 2021
    Start: SD543644, Brookhouse  (Map: OL41)
    Route: S, SW on Littledale Road and past Cross Stone – New House Farm – S over Fostal Bridge – Bellhill Farm – E – Field Head – NE – Littledale Hall – W – Crossgill – E, NE – Roeburndale Road – W, NW – Brookhouse
    Distance: 7 miles;   Ascent: 160 metres


[P.S. Our walkers had no camera in 1847, so I’ve re-used some photos taken a few years ago. Nothing much has changed since then.]  

119.  Silence, Serenity and Solitude

In May, during the first lockdown, when describing what I called the ‘Brookhouse-Claughton circular’ (Sauntering 93), I said that the stretch along the River Lune between Brookhouse and Claughton is best walked in the winter because the cattle are then in their barns and not in the fields. It’s not that the cattle are ferocious – it’s that they are so unused to walkers here that they become inquisitive, and there is nowhere to by-pass them. So, it being a real winter’s day with the ground frozen, a chilly breeze and snow on the hills, we set off seeking silence, serenity and solitude by the river.
ponds

The ponds that were photographed in Sauntering 81, and which we saw become completely dry during spring 2020, were now white, being frozen and covered with a layer of snow

And we found it, or them. Once we had left the end of the Lune Millennium Way and walked onto the flat, wide fields of the Lune floodplain we saw nobody at all (apart from a runner on the opposite bank) between here and Claughton Beck – either on the way there or on the way back – giving us three miles of peaceful riverside walking. There were no other walkers, as usual – and we didn’t even see any farmers or anyone else. Alongside the Lune, opposite the village of Aughton high on the hills to the north, we were far from any traffic, and so it was silent, apart from the birds.

We did not walk as serious birders keen to note every species of bird spotted but we couldn’t help noticing several of them: a flock of about thirty curlews took wing, tentatively practising their warbles in preparation for their spring migration up the hills; some scrawny cormorants flew along the river but looked more elegant when on it; various geese rested in the fields safe in the meander of the river or paddled lazily in the water; a single grey wagtail bobbed on the river pebbles; a few grey heron drifted about lazily; a kingfisher zipped past, a greenish-turquoise blur; a few lapwing flapped by, looking black one second and white the next; two or three bright white little egrets circled about; a couple of oystercatchers peeped past; a number of ringed plovers (I think) beat their thin wings to skim over the water; and some gulls flew over, leading to an inconclusive discussion as to what exactly a ‘gull’ is and whether all gulls are necessarily sea-gulls and how, precisely, do sea-gulls differ from other sea-birds.
three peaks

The floodplain to the east is wide open, providing expansive views up the valley. In the distance, beyond Hornby, the Three Peaks (Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent) can be seen. Is there anywhere else where from a height of only 20 metres or so it is possible to see all Three Peaks? (OK, it's a distant view but it's good to know that they are still there, waiting.)

the lune erosion

The River Lune, with erosion of the north bank continuing apace

We walked as far as Claughton Beck where the bridge that was washed away has not been replaced, which is a shame because otherwise, in normal times, it could be used to continue on a permissive path (if it still exists) to Hornby (and to catch the bus back to complete a loop). We were more than happy to return the way we came. Walkers are not normally keen on there-and-back walks but on this occasion more silence, serenity and solitude provided the best way home.

This bank of the River Lune is neglected by walkers. The Lune Valley Ramble [*] runs on the opposite bank but it does not provide the sense of being out in the middle of nowhere that the south bank does. The south bank path doesn’t contribute to a circular walk unless you continue up to the windmills (as in Sauntering 93). Even then the riverside part of the walk seems to be thought insignificant. The Ramblers’ Association (now called Ramblers) booklet of Lune valley walks describes this circular walk but it has nothing to say about the river walk other than “follow this [path] for over a mile until the river comes near to the old railway line”. Another guide to Lune valley walks (Kelsall and Kelsall, 2012) has forty of them but none that tread this part of the Lune. The Walking Down the Lune book (Swain, 1992) does describe walking here but only in terms of the various stiles and fences to be crossed (which is very straightforward). Nothing is said to indicate that there is anything of interest or enjoyment to be gained from such a walk. I therefore think it best that you ignore my words so that the silence, serenity and solitude remains.

    Date: February 11th 2021
    Start: SD543644, Brookhouse  (Map: OL41)
    Route: N – Bull Beck Bridge – NE on south bank of the Lune – Claughton Beck – and back the same way
    Distance: 5 miles;   Ascent: 20 metres


[*]  There is a new song about the Lune Valley Ramble by Hiroshima Twinkie. Hear it on youtube!

118.  Coast-to-Coast in Six Days

This one is on a separate web-page because it is a bit long to include here.


117.  Empirical Studies into Gender Differences in Hilly and Horizontal Pedestrianism

The two women powering along the Roeburndale Road on my previous Sauntering set me thinking. On my local walks I see others taking their daily constitutional, and I’d say that there are as many women as men, probably more. It is different with walking on the hills, as far as I remember. Hill-walking is an egalitarian activity. It doesn’t matter, and it is impossible to tell, whether a walker is a bricklayer, a judge, or a nurse. However, it is usually possible to tell, without being too inquisitive, whether a walker is male or female – and most of them, I would say, are male. Is it possible to give these informal observations a more scientific footing?
lune valley

Looking up the Lune valley from the old railway line

I set out first to investigate thoroughly the gender of local walkers. I walked along the old railway line, which is the most popular walk for local walkers, since it is flat, sheltered and requires no map-reading skills. It was a bright but cold Monday morning with wisps of snow in the air, so I didn’t expect a great number of walkers – but I duly recorded them all as I strolled along. I intended to walk as far as the Lancaster Canal and back but I found that the path was still closed at the motorway bridge because of seemingly never-ending flood defence work. Undeterred, I continued on the road because I wanted to see if the canal, at least, was back in action. The last time I looked it was drained for repair work but now it was full of water, with a layer of ice. From the aqueduct I could look wistfully up the valley to a freshly snow-capped Ingleborough.

As regards an analysis of hill-walkers, the Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA) helpfully maintains a register of all those walkers who have achieved various challenges. In particular, it has a list of those who have registered as ‘Wainwright completers’, that is, people who have walked to the top of all the 214 Lake District hills described in Wainwright’s books. It boldly labels them as ‘M’ or ‘F’. I can report that of the 856 names (at the time of writing) 76% are male and 24% are female.

What is the explanation for this difference? This is risky ground but we can speculate. It could be because:
     •  Men just walk more than women – perhaps they have more time or energy to spare.
     •  Men like walking on the hills more than women – perhaps they don’t mind the mud or the rain so much.
     •  Men are more likely than women to take on ridiculous challenges, such as walking to the top of all the hills on somebody’s list – perhaps they are more generally keen on ‘collecting’ things.
     •  Men are more likely to complete such a challenge – perhaps they are more determined or stubborn.
     •  Men are more likely to report to LDWA that they have completed the challenge – perhaps they take more pride in seeing their name on the webpage list.

The LDWA list provides further details that we may analyse (well, it helps to pass the lockdown days). For each completer, the list specifies the date of completion and the hill on which completion was achieved. From this we may define three types of completer:
     •  A ‘single’ completer, who completes on a date and hill different to all other completers. (This doesn’t mean that a single walked alone on this or other occasions – just that if there were co-walkers then they didn’t complete at the same time and place.)
     •  A ‘paired’ completer, who completes on a date and hill the same as exactly one other completer, the other completer being of the opposite sex. (This does not, of course, mean that the two paired completers are a couple in any everyday sense or that they reached the top of all previous 213 hills together.)
     •  A ‘grouped’ completer, any other completer who completes on a date and hill the same as one or more other completers. (Again, this doesn’t mean that the previous 213 hills were walked as a group.)

The numbers of walkers of different types are as follows:
                Single   Paired   Grouped
      Male       461      101       87
      Female      83      101       23 
Isn’t that fascinating? Most (71%) of the male completers are single. Most (60%) of the female completers are not single. In fact, nearly half (49%) of the females are paired. Of all singles, 85% are male. Of all completers, not quite 10% are single women. I appreciate that Wainwright completers are a rather special breed of walker and I daren’t speculate much. But does it suggest that men are more likely to walk on the hills alone? And that women are more likely to walk paired? If so, we two are stereotypical: I often walk alone on the hills and Ruth very rarely walks on the hills without me.
lune

The River Lune approaching the M6 bridge

I returned from the canal the way I came, somewhat jaded and uninspired but determined to continue my assiduous analysis of the local horizontal walkers. Before presenting the results in the above format, I must point out that the LDWA register, helpful though it is, is remiss in one respect. It doesn’t mention dogs. Clearly, some hill-walkers walk with dogs – and some dogs must have completed the Wainwrights. They are not allowed to register the fact, which seems unfair. I, however, can record the dogs, which is no more than they deserve since there are plenty of them on our footpaths.

In the table below, I record the numbers of walkers of different types observed on my walk, where 'single', 'paired' (that is, one male and one female) and 'grouped' now have their more everyday meaning. I have also separated singles into ‘Single’ (that is, really walking alone) and ‘S+Dog’ (that is, a single person walking with one or more dogs), and similarly for the paired and grouped types. Here you are then – ta, ra – the figures for my walk of February 8th 2021:
                Single   S+Dog    Paired   P+Dog   Grouped   G+Dog
      Male        15        9       15       2        0        4
      Female      12       12       15       2        8        9 
Of the 103 walkers that I recorded, 58 (56%) were women, supporting my suspicion that most local walkers are women. Most (53%) of the men were single and most (59%) of the women were not single, as was the case for the hill-walkers. I am pleased to see that our local men are more chivalrous: 38% were paired, compared to 16% for the hill-walkers. Sadly, they also seem to be somewhat friendless (unless you count their pair as a friend): there were 0 all-male groups, compared to 7 all-female groups. Pairs are content with one another for company: only 12% of them had a dog, whereas 44% of the singles did. Of the 103 walkers, 38 (36%) were accompanied by one or more dogs. The total number of dogs seen was 31. As the best academic papers say, these interesting preliminary results need further investigation.

Hold on a minute. Counting dogs?! Has it come to this? Have I finally snapped under the stress of months of restrictions?

    Date: February 8th 2021
    Start: SD543644, Brookhouse  (Map: OL41)
    Route: NW across A683 – old railway line – W – Crook o'Lune, Denny Beck bridge, M6 bridge – S, W on road – Lancaster Canal – and back the same way
    Distance: 7 miles;   Ascent: 20 metres


116.  Are the Caton Windmills on their Last Legs?

Some walkers walk the same walk every day – usually following their dog. They probably say that it is never the same walk, because of the changing seasons, the weather, and so on. Even so, there must be much of a muchness from one walk to the next. We have half-a-dozen short walks from home (well trodden in the last ten months) which can be tweaked a little to provide some variety but I have come to feel that I need longer walks to get into trim in case we are ever let out into the wild again. So I’ve dusted off my old running-from-home routes, which took me further afield. They are mainly on road, which I am not so keen on walking on, but perhaps that’s to be preferred at the moment, with the fields sodden. I decided to tackle the simplest of these routes: up Littledale Road, up Roeburndale Road, back over the moor on the bridleway, and down Quarry Road. A loop, in other words, around the Caton windmills.

Near what we call Bluebell Wood (part of the Roeburndale Road Plantation) three cars were parked for their owners to take their dogs for a walk. They must have driven at least a couple of miles to get here. Is that an ‘essential journey’? Do dogs get fed up with the same walk every day and neurotically whine so much that their owners just have to take them into the countryside? If so, perhaps I should do even more neurotic whining at home.

Beyond the wood, the views opened out. To the left were the Caton windmills, with only four of the eight moving. Approaching the cattle grid before the moor, I headed into an eye-wateringly cool breeze that should stir the other four into action. To the right the sun was just above the Ward’s Stone horizon, making it difficult to see if any snow remained there. It was a bright, not quite spring-like day, with no sound of moorland birds to encourage the hope that spring is on its way.
windmills

The Caton Moor windmills

As I reached the crest of Roeburndale Road I was passed by two purposeful women walkers who could only spare a curt ‘morning’ for me. They strode on, their four sticks clicking a rhythm on the road to make sure they didn’t flag. Walking sticks certainly add a business-like air to the walking but otherwise I’ve not seen the point of them. They seem to require the arms to be held unnaturally for hours. I wouldn’t like to end a long walk with aching arms as well as aching legs.

At the second cattle grid I walked up on the bridleway, pausing as I always do to admire the view of the Yorkshire Three Peaks (Whernside, Pen-y-ghent and Ingleborough), fifteen miles away. The view wasn’t as clear as sometimes but I could see that their tops still held some snow. I continued over the moor, with the breeze now behind me and the windmills ahead. There were still only four of them moving – and they were moving at a fair lick so there was plenty of wind for them all.
three peaks

Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent

Actually, I have not seen all eight in action for some time. Clearly, they are producing only a fraction of the energy that they should. In past years when a windmill was feeling poorly engineers would soon be up to oil the bearings to get it moving again. Now, they don’t seem bothered. Doesn’t the owner’s income depend upon the energy produced?

The first set of wind turbines here (ten of them) was erected in 1994, after some controversy. They were said to produce enough energy to power the local villages of Caton and Brookhouse, which seemed fair enough. We could look people in the eye and say that we were doing our bit, by sacrificing Caton Moor for green energy. It wasn’t much of a sacrifice as Caton Moor already had the Claughton Brickworks clay-pit and hardly anybody, except a few sheep, visited the moor anyway.

The turbines had a planned life-span of twenty years but advances in turbine technology led to their replacement in 2006 by eight much bigger windmills that generated seven times more energy. If the present turbines have a similar life-span then they are approaching their demise. They have already lasted longer than the first set. I have heard nothing about what might happen next.

No doubt, turbine technology – especially for off-shore windmills – has continued to improve. Of course, off-shore windmills generate less hassle from local residents. Since the Caton windmills were installed hundreds of off-shore windmills have appeared off Morecambe Bay. The yield from the Caton windmills, even if they are all working, must be tiny compared to that from the off-shore ones. Every little may help but perhaps not enough to encourage further maintenance and possible replacement of these turbines. In the end, it will be a matter of money, and not directly green policy. Does the government still subsidise land-based wind farms? I assume that the contract requires the windmills to be removed at the end of their lives. It is already sad to see them becoming increasingly moribund, if that is the case. Perhaps the moor will soon be restored to its previous glory?

    Date: February 1st 2021
    Start: SD543644, Brookhouse  (Map: OL41)
    Route: SE on Littledale Road, E on Roeburndale Road – second cattle grid – N, NW on bridleway – picnic spot – W on Quarry Road – Brookhouse
    Distance: 7 miles;   Ascent: 250 metres


Diversion 5:  The Duke of Westminster’s A to Z

(There's not a lot of walking to be diverted from nowadays but after the danger and fear of the last two Saunterings I needed some light relief. Since I am confined to Bowland I called upon Bowland's wealthiest (part-time) resident for help. Before the lawyers begin sharpening their quills I should emphasise that the twenty-six 'facts' listed below are entirely fictional. (Between you and me they are not entirely entirely fictional because I have smuggled into at least six of them a nugget of non-fiction.))

dukes       When the dear 6th Duke of Westminster sadly departed from us in 2016 he left his estate and title to Hugh, now the 7th Duke of Westminster. As the latter was a mere stripling of 25 the 6th Duke also left an A to Z of advice on how to cope with unwanted, unwonted and unwarranted celebrity and wealth. Here it is:
      A is for Aunt Miriam, whom you have never met because she has been incarcerated in the east wing since she set fire to Harold Macmillan’s trousers after he rejected her advances in the summer of 1962. Poor Harold never recovered from this incident. He was still rather off-kilter when in the notorious ‘Night of the Long Knives’ he decapitated seven members of Cabinet.
      B is for boots. It is jolly muddy around our little country house at Abbeystead. Since you have infinite wealth buy the best boots there are. I recommend Le Chameau’s Jameson Unisex Standard at £385. You buy one and get one free. Jolly generous. I’ve said ‘unisex’ because I’m not sure of your inclinations in that direction. We never did have that chat. Sorry.
      C is for charities. You will need to be patron of a few hundred of them, to show your commitment to society, whatever that is. I used to enjoy the board meetings of the Society for the Preservation of English Real Men, which aims to stick up for men in our increasingly female-dominated world. The japes we got up to! But it may not be your kind of thing?
      D is for Daniel Snow, who is one of your brothers-in-law. He’s in television, which is something ordinary people look at. If he turns up with cameras and what-not turf him out. People have no business looking at what we do here.
Eaton Hall       E is for Eaton Hall, our home in Cheshire. It is jolly big. You'll need to get more familiar with it than I managed. Staff hide away. In 1988 one girl had a five months holiday there. I eventually found her wandering in the old stables, where she said that she had become lost and was living on a diet of mice and hay. Unfortunately, the wretch was unable to resume her duties, which involved the daily combing of the Duchess’s wigs.
      F is for fishing, an activity for the real English gentlemen. Your great-great-grandfather Arthur – known to all as Bendor or ‘bend or’ or azure, a reference to the family armorials lost in the famous case of Scrope v Grosvenor heard before the Court of Chivalry in 1389 – was a jolly good fisherman. They say that in his old age, as he spent more and more time standing in the river, he took on the characteristics of his beloved fish. But not sufficiently so, for he drowned whilst grappling with a large trout. Even so, after his partial cremation he was considered to be delicious.
      G is for George, of whom you are the godfather. I need hardly say that it is your duty to inculcate in him the habits of the English gentleman (his parents will be much too busy explaining the complexities of royal life). In particular, the sooner he is given a gun to shoot grouse the better. If he should inadvertently dispose of some of the lesser members of the royal family then I am sure that his parents wouldn’t mind.
      H is for Horse and Hound, my complimentary subscription to which should pass on to you. It has been in the family since the magazine began in 1884. It is nearly all about horses nowadays, with little about hounds – although there are jolly interesting pieces about fox-hunting from time to time. Essential reading. My dear wife is a close friend of the editor, Lady Levershoome. They were at Eton together. The teachers never noticed them but the boys did.
      I is for inheritance, which is all yours. If your elder sisters should come knocking asking for fair shares then tell them that fairness has nothing to do with it. That equality nonsense does not apply to dukedoms, and it never will as long as esteemed eminences such as our dear friends Jacob Rees-Mogg and Lord Dallyrymple have a say in the matter.
      J is for je ne sais quoi. We superior men have that indefinable quality that raises us above lesser men. As with a balloon, it is better not to try to pin it down.
      K is for knickerbockers. I leave you four wardrobes full of knickerbockers. They were my favourite garments for the lower limbs until they unaccountably fell out of fashion, the garments, that is, not my limbs. I tried to make knickerbocker glories with them but with only modest success. If you cannot find a use for them take them along to the next golf club jumble sale.
Loelia       L is for Loelia Ponsonby, the most exotic leaf on the family tree. She was the third wife of the second Duke, but the marriage, despite getting off to a flying start with Winston Churchill as best man, was described as “a definition of unadulterated hell” by James Lees-Milne (whoever he was). After her divorce, Loelia became a needlewoman and magazine editor. She sewed every copy herself. She is known for saying “Anybody seen in a bus over the age of 30 has been a failure in life” – but what the age of the bus has to do with it, I don’t know.
      M is for marriage, which I am sorry to say you must contemplate if only to perpetuate the dukedom in the traditional manner. The only advice I can give is to avoid anyone called Loelia, if such a person exists.
      N is for nodding acquaintance, on which you must be with all you see about the estate. A nod is enough. It shows that you have acknowledged their existence, which is all they need to lighten their dreary lives. On no account address anyone by name. It is impossible to remember them all and mistakes can cause untold misery. I was once mangling with a young maid in the laundry and at a sensitive moment moaned “Oh, Joan”, causing Jean to storm off leaving my underwear unmangled.
      O is for Ouija board. You will find mine in the twelfth bedroom. It has been a great comfort to me, to be able in times of stress to seek advice from my forebears. If you ever think I can help please get in touch.
      P is for parsimony. Look after the pennies and the billions will look after themselves, my granny used to say. Ordinary people know that we are jolly rich but they don’t like us to flaunt it. It is better not to offer to pay for anything if you are ever in the unlikely situation that a payment is required. Ordinary people are, I find, extraordinarily grateful for the opportunity to show that they are momentarily on a par with us.
      Q is for queue. This is probably something that you will never encounter yourself but you may be puzzled by the behaviour of ordinary people. It seems that when they want something that is not immediately available they stand behind someone who has already wanted it. Very strange! Once, when I lost my valet at Covent Garden, I had to stand in a queue for the lavatory. The unaccustomed delay led to an unfortunate accident. On balance, though, sitting in the foyer in wet knickerbockers was preferable to sitting through the third act of Gotterdammerung.
      R is for rattlesnake. I trust that you will look after my pet rattlesnake. I found it great company on those dreadful occasions when we were visited by people from something called Natural England. They go on and on about things we’re not supposed to kill on the estate. What do they think an estate is for? However, they were always charmed by the rattlesnake. Once it escaped during luncheon and the Minister for the Environment nearly stuck her fork in it, which would have been the end of her, and no bad thing too.
      S is for shooting stick. I have been given many of these but I haven’t managed to shoot anything with any of them.
      T is for tweed, essential wear for all occasions, even, or especially, in bed. My father, who was one of identical twins, was known as Tweedledee because he was not dum, unlike his twin sister.
      U is for upper crust. Someone who was ushered off the moor at gun-point shouted at me that I was a member of the ‘upper crust’. I asked our chief cook what on earth that meant. He said that it’s better than being a member of the lower crust or even the side crust. Since then I have never dared to eat the crust of any loaf.
motto       V is for virtus non stemma, the family motto. As you know, it means ‘virtue not pedigree’. Whichever of our ancestors devised this motto may have had a great sense of irony but it is best to assume that he just got his Latin back to front.
      W is for Westminster, where we have a palace and 650 specially appointed people to work on our behalf. However, some of these are distressingly independent-minded. The like-minded ones, however, are always jolly good company for a chin-wag and a touch of venison.
      X is for xenodochium. This is the room in the servants’ quarters at Abbeystead where we quarantine any strangers found wandering on the estate. They keep saying they have a right to roam, whatever that is. The ones with binoculars are particularly shifty. Our head groundsman returns them to Preston Lost Property Office on the first Monday of the month.
      Y is for yesterday, my favourite day.
      Z is for sleep, of which we deserve plenty. The third Duke was a great sleeper. He usually needed eight hours sleep a day, and nine hours a night. He fell asleep on the eve of the war in 1914. He awoke eight days later, a couple of hours before his funeral. The Duchess thought of the many great and good people who had travelled far for the occasion despite the sombre national mood and decided not to disappoint them because of a technicality.

115.  Risk, Fear and Pain – or Beauty, Joy and Wonder?

windmills

Caton Moor from the Lune valley

I continue to be local-bound and reflecting upon, rather than walking upon, the mountains. If Simon Ingram (as discussed in Sauntering 114) needs to imperil himself upon the mountains in order to get his adrenaline flowing then I think he is in the wrong game. He should be mountaineering not walking. Then he could learn from the classic book Mountains of the Mind (Macfarlane, 2003). Macfarlane agrees that mountains are for engendering fear: “We had talked, as mountaineers always do, about how strange it is to risk yourself for a mountain, but how central to the experience is that risk and the fear it brings with it.”

Macfarlane buttresses his argument that risk, fear and indeed death are an integral part of the mountain experience with various quotes, such as this one from John Ruskin, writing in 1863: “This I know and find, practically, that if you come to a dangerous place, and turn back from it, though it may have been perfectly right and wise to do so, still your character has suffered some slight deterioration; you are to that extent weaker, more lifeless, more effeminate, more liable to passion and error in future; whereas if you go through with the danger … you come out of the encounter a stronger and better man … and nothing but danger produces this effect.”

I didn’t know that Ruskin was a mountaineer but I can appreciate that he didn’t want to be thought more effeminate. However, you can only get so far by quoting others. We wouldn’t pay much regard to a writer who proselytized the benefits of LSD if he hadn’t himself experienced those benefits, no matter how many LSD-users he quoted. So, just as Ingram is at pains to show that he’s a real walker, Macfarlane has to show that he’s a real mountaineer and not a man of letters, words and sentences, safe in his Cambridge study. He interlaces his narrative with various instances of his own daring escapades. He felt “a humming, jostling swarm of fear” on the snowy ridge of Lagginhorn; his “limbs were shivering … heart pistoned” in a rock avalanche near Zinalrothorn; he spent twelve hours huddled in a snow cave during a Cairngorms blizzard; his party crossed the ridge of the Inylchek glacier “like tight-rope walkers”; he was “seized with panic” when he half fell into a crevasse; he “was reminded of medieval knights preparing for combat” when preparing to climb Nadelhorn.

napes needle I hope that none of his readers was inspired by all this manly heroism to dash out to tackle Napes Needle on Great Gable, for the requisite risk, fear and perhaps death, before they had reached page 99. For there Macfarlane has an epiphany. He comments that “I have discovered that it is eminently possible to spend time in the mountains and to be at far less risk than one would be, say, crossing city streets … For me now … the attraction of mountains is far more about beauty than about risk, far more about joy than fear, far more about wonder than pain.”

Is it possible to ‘discover’ something that almost everybody else knows already? By ‘discovered’ I think he means ‘belatedly realised’. I am reminded of those long-distance runners who emphasise that pain, vomiting, hallucinations, and so on, are all an essential part of the activity, for only by overcoming them do you reap the full benefit. For example, Harvie (2011) implicitly compares his unsuccessful attempt to run the 152-mile Athens-Sparta race with the fateful Everest expedition of George Mallory in 1924. I never set out on a run expecting pain and I never sought pain to gain the full benefits from running. My objective was, on the contrary, to train to reach a level of fitness that would enable me to run within my limits to avoid pain, vomiting, hallucinations, and so on. I feel the same way about mountains. I do not expect or seek risk, fear and pain on the mountains. I try to ensure that I never place myself in a situation where they arise. In fact, during decades of running and walking on the mountains, I have never experienced fear there – the occasional quiver of doubt or misgiving perhaps, but never fear.

However, Macfarlane’s discovery on page 99 does not restrain him for long. He doesn’t go on to write about the beauty, joy and wonder of mountains. He forgets about all that and continues with another 200 pages of self-inflicted bravery, climaxing with a gruelling 50-page account of the heroic, glorious death of Mallory on Everest (plus, of little account it seems, ten others on this and preparatory expeditions). After his discovery on page 99, why does he care about Mallory so much? Why does he think we care? I know I don’t. My appreciation of mountains owes nothing to Mallory and his kind.

P.S.  I am pleased to report that, after establishing his credentials as a fearless, committed walker on his first four walks (Sauntering 114), Simon Ingram relaxes somewhat. His next six walks are up: Cnicht (689 metres) in Snowdonia, Cross Fell (893 metres) in the North Pennines, Schiehallion (1,083 metres) in Perthshire, Ben Loyal (764 metres) in Sutherland, and Cùl Beag (769 metres) and An Teallach (1,062 metres) in the Northwest Highlands. Actually, lightning caused him to abandon Cùl Beag and settle for a lower, unnamed summit instead. Still, it did enable him to scare the bejesus out of us again by going on for pages about the dangers of lightning. I have the measure of Ingram now. He suffers from acute morbidosity. He wallows in the dangerous and unpleasant. At the National Slate Museum he is fixated on the horrific injuries suffered by miners. He goes on for pages about the Scottish midges. And then it's ticks and Lyme Disease. But it is not quite all angst. He has a relatively gentle walk up Cross Fell, which I sauntered up myself (Sauntering 56). The terrain on Cross Fell is little more challenging than that on Caton Moor, although there is a lot more of it. My walk, like Ingram’s, was on a sunny, windless day. That suited me but not Ingram because he had come specifically to experience Cross Fell’s notorious wind, The Helm. He seems not to bother with weather forecasts.

    Date: January 16th 2021
    Start: home;   Route: various;   Distance: not far;   Ascent: not much


114.  Never Mind the Danger

These days I am pootling about on the foothills of Caton Moor, if Caton Moor is considered high enough to have foothills. It is only 361 metres at the trig point. It is a smooth hump, with moor-grass all over, and hardly a rock exposed anywhere. On the other side of Littledale, below Ward’s Stone, there are jumbles of millstone grit enabling some scrambling but not on Caton Moor. In short, Caton Moor is benign and not a ‘real mountain’. I haven’t tackled one of those for over a year and there is no prospect of doing so at the moment, so I thought I’d read about them instead.
caton moor

Caton Moor, with its windmills, from the slopes up to Ward's Stone (Whernside is directly behind the highest point of Caton Moor, with Ingleborough to the right in cloud)

The book Between the Sunset and the Sea (Ingram, 2015) describes expeditions up sixteen British mountains. It has been well-reviewed and the author, Simon Ingram, is the editor of Trail, the “bestselling, hillwalking magazine”, and therefore knows what he is writing about. The walks themselves provide the narrative propulsion but there are long diversions to discuss associated topics, such as the mass trespasses, the nature of mountain legends, the work of rescue teams, and so on. So far, I’ve only read the first four chapters but I think I have detected a theme.

The first four mountains are Beinn Dearg (914 metres) in the north-west Scottish Highlands, Black Mountain (802 metres) of the Brecon Beacons, Cadair Idris (893 metres) and Snowdon (1,085 metres). He sets off up the first, Beinn Dearg, alone and in rain, noting that the slopes ahead appeared “steep and outwardly impenetrable”. The ascent becomes increasingly scary, with the text peppered with phrases such as “alarming void”, “exciting, nerve-wracking”, “a fragile pivot between the thrilling and the frightening”, “gingerly reversed”, and so on. After five pages of this, he reaches the top and, since it’s getting late, he descends, with “increasing alarm”, passing “a drop of similar horror”, and commenting that “descents like this are what fatal accident statistics are made of”. He realises that he was under-prepared for this “unexpectedly hairy” outing – “a lesson I could learn from provided I could safely find a way out of this jam”. Which, of course, he did.

Next it’s the Black Mountain. He wanted to see the stars of the night sky from the mountain top but he set off in rain and wind. He was soon as “wet as hell” because he had forgotten to bring waterproof trousers. The wind, which he estimated to be 50 mph, gusting to 70 mph, threatened to blow him off the mountain. But he reached the top, where he “realised just how silly [his] decision to push on had been” and that “it wouldn’t be long before hypothermia began to gnaw”. So he aborted the plan to camp at the top in order to admire the stars and descended. He found that walking back to his car “was a hell of a lot harder than walking from it”. It was now “almost totally dark” and, since the batteries in his head torch were now almost flat, “stream crossings were done in a darkness that was too profound for comfort”.

He set out for Cadair Idris with the intention of appreciating the legends that surround the mountain and in particular to see the sunset from the top. However, he had dallied on his way to the foot of the mountain and his “plan for getting to the summit by sunset was now on a perilously tight schedule”. He hurries to the top – which at 893 metres requires quite a lot of hurrying – and there he finds that instead of carrying up his warm clothing for the night he has by mistake brought a tent, which he didn’t need because he intended to sleep in a hut on the mountain top. He comments that “had this been a cold or rainy night … I could have been in quite a bit of trouble”. But he survived.

crib goch On Snowdon, Ingram planned to walk, alone again, across Crib Goch. To get us in the mood, he first discusses the work of mountain rescue teams, who deal with nearly sixty fatalities a year. He twice speculates whether he will become one of them on Crib Goch because it is “a personification of all that is deviously hazardous”. Crib Goch is, he says, 500 metres of exposed arête with sheer drops of several hundred metres on both sides. The evening before the planned assault a friend tells him that the weather forecast (which he has not himself checked) is for rain and gales the following morning – so he decides to tackle half the crest that evening, with darkness approaching, then camp overnight halfway along (somehow), and do the rest early next morning. So we are then treated, over five pages, to a step-by-step account of his traverse of half of Crib Goch, which “was giving [him] dreadful feelings”.

You may not appreciate what an impressive achievement this is. I struggle myself to write a sentence sometimes about the step-by-steps of my own walking. Ingram manages to write 2,500 words about 250 metres of walking, each word building the tension like Ravel’s Bolero, but without hesitation, deviation or repetition, and without the dramatic end of Bolero. How does he remember or record the intricate details of every lump of rock whilst grappling to avoid falling off? As I say, most impressive.

As he sets up camp, he finds that he has a text message from his friend telling him that the gale is now forecast to be earlier. So he decamps and sets off immediately to tackle the second half, with the “light fading rapidly”. We have more pages of danger, peril and horror. I suppose that readers are expected to have a white-knuckled grip of their armchair – but, of course, we know that, like James Bond in a car chase, our hero will come through unscathed. He concludes that his experience on Crib Goch and the earlier mountains will help on the “higher, wilder peaks [that] were coming”. I can hardly wait!

I find it strange that a professional walker is not embarrassed to admit to such recklessness and to a series of elementary, foolhardy mistakes. Maybe what happened is that his magazine published a ‘do not …’ list intended to help novice hill walkers avoid risk and he mistook it for a ‘do …’ list, and set about ticking them off one-by-one. In that way he enhanced the danger, and after all it is the whole purpose of mountain walking to experience and to overcome danger. For Ingram, that is – not for me.

P.S. The title, 'Never mind the danger', is a phrase in 'On the Ball, City', said to be the oldest football song still in use today (well, not exactly today, unless fans sing it in front of their TV sets). The City referred to is, of course, Norwich City.

    Date: January 12th 2021
    Start: home;   Route: various;   Distance: not far;   Ascent: not much


113.  White Stoats on Caton Moor

Our local hill, Caton Moor, received its first snow of the winter on New Year's Eve, so, as is almost traditional, we walked up the hill as soon as we could, bright and early on New Year's Day. We thus began the year as we are intended to carry on, that is, by walking from home. I had the ulterior motive of looking for white stoats but I didn't mention this to Ruth, as I didn't want her to feel disappointed when we didn't see any.

The roads were still white and icy but we walked up gingerly, appreciating the views of the Lune valley and the gradual revelation of the surrounding hills. At first, we could see only the Howgills and Barbon Fell up the valley, but eventually Gragareth, Whernside and, after passing Quarry House Farm, Ingleborough came into view. Their tops were smudged by grey cloud but, as far as I could tell, they appeared to have less snow than Ward's Stone, just off to the south. But the highlight was behind us. The Lake District hills appeared over the ridge on the north bank of the Lune and they too were mainly under grey cloud except for a sunny patch that made the Coniston hills and then the Langdales seem aglow.
ld hills

Towards the Lake District hills (about 30 miles away), Black Combe on the left, Coniston hills in sunshine

Now, about those white stoats ... Handel, Vivaldi and other composers of that vintage thought nothing of recycling their compositions to meet their commitments. Writers nowadays are liable to re-use their words in various forms - newspaper columns, books, anthologies, even in films if they are lucky. I have more excuse than them for borrowing from myself. I am supposed to be writing about walking in the northern hills and dales but I can't walk there, for the time being. So, as it happens, I wrote something about white stoats five years ago which I can regurgitate here (slightly edited) ...

You can’t really set out to see a stoat. Stoats are seen by chance, if they are seen at all. But I had resolved that when the first snow of the winter fell on Caton Moor then I would set off in search of a white stoat. By chance I have, during occasional visits in the last 35 years, seen two white stoats on Caton Moor. I don’t know if I am lucky to have seen as many as two, or unlucky to have seen only two. I just don’t know how common white stoats are on Caton Moor. I have also seen several brown stoats not on snow. I’ve never seen a white stoat without snow nor, I think, a brown stoat with snow. These observations, scanty though they are, provoke a number of questions in my febrile mind.

brown stoat As is well known, stoats in places where there is plenty of snow, such as the Cairngorms, turn white in winter and stoats in places where there is little snow, such as Dorset, do not turn white. But how does the mechanism work in intermediate places like Caton Moor, where snow is patchy and unpredictable? What causes the change? Is it in anticipation of snow, or in response to it? Does it occur gradually or quickly (like human hair that turns white overnight as the result of some trauma)? Is it an adaptation to the environment, like that of a chameleon? Does turning white occur once each winter, or could a stoat turn white, then brown, then white in response to snowy periods? If you took a Dorset stoat to the Cairngorms would it turn white? If you took a Cairngorms stoat to Dorset would it turn white? If turning white is such a nifty strategy, then do other species adopt it? Do all stoats in a particular location turn white or do they all not turn white? If not, why not? Are the numbers of white stoats decreasing, in response to climate change?

I have found the answers to some of these questions in the book The Natural History of Weasels and Stoats (King and Powell, 2006). It seems that the white stoat provides a pristine case study on the interaction between genes and the environment.

First of all, some preliminaries. Stoats are members of the Mustelidae family, which also includes weasels, minks, ferrets, martens, badgers and otters. The stoat Mustela erminea and weasel Mustela nivalis are within the Mustela genus of this family. Ermine is an alternative name for the stoat, usually used for the white stoat and for its fur. In the United States, Mustela erminea (our stoat) is called the short-tailed weasel and Mustela nivalis (our weasel) is called the least weasel or common weasel. They also have a long-tailed weasel. In Ireland Mustela erminea (our stoat) is usually called the weasel. There are no Mustela nivalis (our weasel) in Ireland. You could say that there are no weasels in Ireland, but the Irish might say that there are no stoats. Clearly, outside the UK, the weasel is not so easily distinguished and the poor stoat is totally confused.

Stoat and weasel have a huge range, across the whole northern hemisphere from western North America to eastern Asia. Within that range there are many climatic zones with prolonged snow cover. Some stoats and weasels live at 3000 metres in permanent snow. Snow is not a problem for stoats, as it is for many animals. With its long, thin, sinuous body the stoat is well-adapted to burrowing in grass and small tunnels and is therefore equally well-adapted to burrowing within snow, where it may seek prey, find safety from predators, and take refuge from the cold.

stoat and rabbit A stoat has quite an appetite, needing to eat up to one third of its body weight every day. This is because it leads such a frenetic life: it is alert, with rapid movements; its pulse runs at 500 beats per minute; it digests and defecates within two hours; and it doesn’t sleep for long. It can kill rabbits twice its weight. I once saw a stoat doing a strange leaping dance beside a hedge. I then noticed that it had at its feet a dead rabbit. It was leaping up trying to get the rabbit into the hedge but it was too heavy and the stoat lost its grip. It eventually succeeded. On another occasion I saw a stoat disappear into a stone wall. I stood by the wall and eventually the stoat popped its head out, stared at me, squeaked, and went back inside. It repeated this performance every minute or so. The squeaks became gradually more threatening so, bearing in mind what a vicious killer the stoat is, I thought I had better move on.

The stoat does not hibernate in winter. With its slim, fat-free body, it needs twice as much energy to retain its body heat in winter as it does in summer. It is therefore essential that the stoat be adapted to survive harsh winters. Now we can consider the change to white. Stoats moult twice a year, in spring and autumn. The new fur, replacing the old, is brown except for autumn moults in cold climates, when it is white. The moult does not occur instantaneously and therefore stoats may be seen at an intermediate brown-white stage. In mild climates (such as here) the moult can take a month; in the Arctic it takes a few days.

The moult is triggered by the hours of daylight. This is easily demonstrated by manipulating the lighting over the cages of captive stoats. They can be induced to moult at any time of the year, even if the temperature is not consistent with the apparent sunlight. In this respect, the stoat is similar to other animals that moult. If the temperature or some other environmental factor were the sole determinant then stoats transferred from, say, the Cairngorms to Dorset (or vice versa) would turn white or not according to the conditions in their new home - but they don’t. They moult at the usual time but into the ‘wrong’ coat. So the colour of the new fur is controlled mainly, if not entirely, by heredity.

British weasels do not turn white. Why not? If it's a good idea for stoats to turn white, why isn't it for weasels too? Swedish weasels do turn white - or at least those in north Sweden do while those in south Sweden stay brown (rather like the British stoat divide). However, the two sets of Swedish weasels are two different subspecies (the two sets of British stoats are not). British weasels belong to the same subspecies as the south Sweden weasels. Therefore the reason that British weasels don’t turn white may be more to do with their genes and evolutionary history than the climate.

In the United States it was found that the boundary between white and brown winter stoats was at points where there was an inch of snow for fifty days of winter. In Britain stoats whiten in somewhat milder winters (Caton Moor normally has an inch of snow for only a few days of winter). The boundary line divides Wales, Scotland and parts of northern England from the rest of England - but of course it is not a precise, single line, as mountain-top stoats are more likely to whiten than low-level ones. Caton Moor, with a highest point of 361 metres, is hardly a mountain-top.

The boundary between white stoats and brown stoats is not a line but a transition zone. Within that zone (which includes Caton Moor) more or less stoats turn more or less white. Transition zone stoats are usually pied, rather than fully-white or fully-brown (actually, fully-white stoats are not fully white: they retain the black tail tip). This suggests that our stoats are a hybrid of northern fully-white genes and southern fully-brown genes. The colder or snowier a region normally is, the more pied stoats there are (and, I would guess, the more white they are). In the transition zone female stoats are more likely to turn white than male ones. Perhaps the gene that determines whitening is dominant in one sex and recessive in the other. This would ensure a genetic polymorphism so that the population always has some individuals with every combination, in which case some will benefit whatever the weather conditions turn out to be.

white stoat The reason that stoats turn white is obvious. It confers a clear evolutionary advantage. Stoats have much to gain by being able to live in snowy conditions but the penalty for being brown against a white background or white against a dark background is large. They become much more visible to their predators - hawks, owls and foxes. Other species, such as the mountain hare, arctic fox, ptarmigan and caribou, also turn white in winter. It is also clear how this is a self-regulating mechanism. Those stoats that moult to an inappropriate colour are more likely to be predated and therefore less likely to pass on their ‘inappropriate’ genes.

I have found no discussion of the effect of climate change on the transition zone for stoat-whitening - but I would expect the zone to be moving north. Forty years ago there were ski-orienteering events organised on the Howgills. The organisers could be confident that there would be enough snow. Today, the odds are that a winter date would see no or little snow on the Howgills. Ski-orienteers are now more commonly found further north. I expect white stoats are too.

So my expedition to snowy Caton Moor was made not in the belief that the brown stoats would suddenly have turned white in response to the fresh snow. My hope was that, after this exceptionally mild and wet winter (so far), those stoats unfortunate to have genes that have turned them white would have sufficient self-awareness to have hidden themselves away over the last few weeks in order not to make an easily-predated spectacle of themselves but that, now that the snow has fallen, they would be gambolling about, in their element. Unfortunately, it proved not to be the case. I saw no stoats, white or brown. On reflection, given the decreasing occurrence of snow on Caton Moor, I think it unwise for any stoat to turn white there. I suspect that white stoats have disappeared but I will keep looking and if I see one I’ll let you know.

... Now, back in 2021, we saw no white stoats on our January 1st walk and I haven't seen any in the intervening years either. Not to worry, it was an invigorating start to the New Year. We walked up to beyond the windmills, which had just begun to be stirred into action by a light breeze, and admired the snowy hills all around, with only a few in the glow of sunshine. By the time we set off down, a thaw had set in, which made the roads more slippery, but we made it safely back.
windmills

Clougha Pike and Morecambe Bay from above the windmills

    Date: January 1st 2021
    Start: SD543644, Brookhouse  (Map: OL41)
    Route: SE, E on Quarry Road – picnic site – along the windmill track, to the highest corner of the field – and back
    Distance: 5 miles;   Ascent: 250 metres


112.  Walking around Pilling with Pink Feet

pink foot old windmill Yes, I know: ‘pink feet’ is wrong. That was just to gain your attention. Birders call the pink-footed goose the ‘pink foot’. If there’s more than one, it’s still the pink foot, as in “The pink foot are back”, which is fair enough, as it is short for ‘pink-footed geese’.

From the embankment at Lane Ends we could see fresh snow on the Lake District hills. There were none of the usual birders about – but the sun had only just risen. A chilly wind caused us not to linger, so we walked to Pilling, the largest village of the flat Fylde. It is built mainly of red brick but has two non-red buildings protruding upward. The St John the Baptist Church with steeple was built in 1887 by the ubiquitous Paley & Austin. In Sauntering 69 I commented that Paley & Austin had a virtual monopoly hereabouts with church building and had at Finsthwaite gone beyond their usual style. That is even more the case at Pilling where, apart from including the steeple, they used pink stones to embellish the upper parts. This church replaced the smaller one nearby, where there is a sun-dial commemorating George Holden (1723-1793), vicar of Pilling Church, who is said to have devised the tide tables (although this is a convoluted tale that I tried to unravel in The Land of the Lune, page 242). The other prominent building is a converted windmill, which was built in 1808 to a height of 22 metres, the highest in Fylde, but had become derelict by the 1940s.

Floral displays, bold for December, enlivened the Pilling streets. May I politely ask that Pilling takes as much care with its footpath signs? We followed one that led to an old pinfold and then evaporated amongst gardens. Returning to Broadfleet Bridge, a group of about thirty pink foot flew over, low and noisy. These were what we had really come to see. Pink-footed geese from Iceland over-winter in their thousands in the north Fylde region, taking advantage of the Wyre-Lune Sanctuary Nature Reserve. They form the V-shaped skeins of our winter skies, with sometimes large numbers of geese passing over with celebratory honks. They are rather dainty birds, for geese.

Having noticed that this section of the Pilling Embankment was still open (it closes from December 26th to Good Friday), we walked back along it. At Lane Ends one birder was now at his station – but as we neared he up-tripodded and retreated to his car. It was too cold – or there weren’t enough birds. I agree with him on the latter point. The last time I came here I was treated to a spectacular display of thousands of pink-footed geese, swirling about, occasionally forming arrows or lines, breaking up and re-forming, cacophonous, eventually moving out over the bay.

After a coffee break we moved back to Cocker Bridge, from where we hoped to see more action in the skies. We walked on a muddy path to Patty’s Farm and on to the Black Knights Parachute Centre. A plane took off. We didn’t wait to see if it disgorged a parachutist. That wasn’t what we had come to see – this was:
pink footed geese

Pink-footed geese (as seen on the previous visit)

    Date: December 24th 2020
    Start: SD415493, car park outside Lane Ends amenity area  (Map: 296)
    Route: (a) N – viewing area – S, SW – Broadfleet Bridge – W, S – footpath – N, E – Broadfleet Bridge – N, E on embankment – Lane Ends; (b) SD453512, by Cocker Bridge – N – Pattys Farm – S – Cocker Bridge
    Distance: 4 miles;   Ascent: 5 metres
    Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 186/400;   Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 12.30


111.  From Millstone Grit to Limestone

A geologist will find the ‘solid geology map’ (1:625,000 scale) of the local district rather dull. The bedrock is millstone grit throughout. It is overlain here and there by glacial and alluvial deposits but even so the region lacks the variety of, say, the Lake District. The 1:50,000 scale map of the Lancaster region, however, shows an amazing range of detail, totally unsuspected by an amateur such as myself. A section close to where I live shows faults, anticlines, synclines, many varieties within the millstone grit group, and even intrusive igneous rocks within a kilometre of my house. This detail, however, I must leave for another day, until I have a better understanding of it. For now, I am stuck with millstone grit.

Or am I? The map also shows that just a few miles north the bedrock is limestone. Ah, limestone. The bright crags and dry paths. I haven’t sauntered on limestone since Beetham on October 7th (Sauntering 105). I miss it, but not as much as so much else at this time. Still, it provides motivation for a walk: to stride north to see where the limestone begins.

I set off through Halton, a village that with commendable self-sacrifice is single-handedly tackling the local housing shortage. A large V of geese flew over. The sun rose over a distant Clougha Pike, reminding me of my struggle against it in the previous outing. It would have been quiet but for the continuous rumble of the M6. Our present restrictions are clearly not as strict – or not as strictly followed – as they were in the spring, when there was an eerie silence. As I walked along I looked out for limestone in the fields and in the stone walls, but I saw none. I could, however, see limestone far ahead, at Warton Crag.

I passed the intriguingly-named Coolbawn and the even more intriguingly-named Moor End Farm. The farm is not today at the end of any moor but perhaps it used to be. Millstone grit tends to accumulate peat and puddles, and hence tends to form a moor if uncultivated. Limestone doesn’t. Water drains through it and we don’t tend to refer to areas on limestone as moors. The thought that this farm once marked a transition point between millstone grit and limestone was perhaps confirmed by the white rocky outcrop in the field ahead.

After negotiating the narrow Shaw Lane, I turned to Hill Top, where I could at last touch limestone. And then I reached undeniable evidence that this hill is of limestone – or rather was, since it has mainly disappeared. I reached the rim of the huge chasm left by the Dunald Mill Quarry. The shrubs on the rim made it difficult to see into the chasm but it appeared to be entirely abandoned and now to host a large lake. The equally huge chasm across the road seemed, however, to be occupied by industrial units. This video provides an aerial view of the two quarries. (The video describes the eastern quarry as a 'working quarry' but I don't think it is working as a quarry. The road nearby has none of the whiteness it used to have.) According to a 2010 report, the quarries are supposed to be completely restored by 2023, the western quarry “to a lake with visitor viewing facilities” and the eastern one “to an area of wildlife meadows”. From what I could see, they need to get a move on.
Dunald Mill Quarry

Dunald Mill Quarry

It should not be a surprise to find a quarry here. Quarries often develop on the fringes of a geological area. If people to the south, say, in the Lune valley want limestone, as they did, then they will seek it from the nearest limestone hill, which is here near Nether Kellet. Once quarrying has started, it will continue, to create these craters, as long as demand continues, as it did until a decade or two ago.

To the south of the quarry is Dunald Mill Hole, a cavern that was once something of a tourist attraction, even stimulating a poem by Letitia Elizabeth Landon (1802-1838), although I hadn't heard of her, so perhaps that's not saying much. Further along the lane, surprisingly, are the substantial facilities of the Carnforth Compressor Station. Whatever a compressor station is, it is good that they have hidden it away from all but the occasional intrepid walker. To the left, of more interest to me, was a large limestone outcrop. I was tempted to trespass to walk upon it – but I mustn’t. The time will come again, eventually, when I will be able to walk on real limestone, in, say, the Yorkshire Dales.
Dunald Mill Lane

The limestone outcrop

As I expected, this proved to be the last I saw of limestone. I walked down, past Halton Park, to my home valley, where, in the absence of wind, the windmills were stationary, a smoky haze had settled, and a murky mist obscured views of Ingleborough. Ahead were the dark, millstone grit hills of Ward’s Stone, Grit Fell and Clougha Pike.

    Date: December 22nd 2020
    Start: SD506643, A683 lay-by at Denny Bank  (Map: OL41)
    Route: (linear) N over bridge – Halton – NW, along Scargill Road – N, along Shaw Lane – E, N, E – Long Dales Lane – S, SE on Dunald Mill Lane – S past Halton Park, SW, S – Lune – E – Brookhouse
    Distance: 8 miles;   Ascent: 125 metres
    Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 185/400;   Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 12.25



howgills      110.   Cloughs and Grit   
     109.   Fair Snape: the Fairest Fell of Bowland   
     108.   Westward Home!   
     107.   Along the Sands from Millom to Silecroft   
     106.   Twelve Ponds and a Power Station   
               Diversion 4:  You Don't Need a Weatherman ...   
     105.   An Autumn Stroll through Beetham Woods   
     104.   From Bampton Grange to the Lake District's Highest Hills   
     103.   Bogged Down around Rawcliffe Moss   
     102.   Upper Ribblesdale: Drumlins, Three Peaks and a Cave   
     101.   Passing the Time at Heysham   
hawthornthwaite fell      100.   Crookdale and Horseshoes   
     99.   Heather on Hawthornthwaite Fell   
     98.   Karren and Flora on Hutton Roof Crags   
     97.   Remeandering the Lyvennet   
     96.   Castles and Towers from the Cross of Greet   
     95.   Barbondale and the Dent Fault   
     79-94 are about walks from home during the coronavirus lockdown.
     94.   Away from It All on Caton Moor   
     93.   The Brookhouse - Claughton Circular   
     92.   The Small-Leaved Limes of Aughton Woods   
     91.   The Littledale Cuckoos are Back!   
lune ingleborough      90.   “One Form of Exercise – such as Walking”
     89.   Tracking the Thirlmere Aqueduct
     88.   The Lune Millennium Park Artworks
     87.   Around the Claughton Clay Pit
     86.   Bluebells and Going Round the Lune Bend
             Diversion 3:  The Fairy Fell Roundelay (Rainy Day Walk No. 3251)   
     85.   The Tarn Brook Heronry
     84.   A Loop along Littledale Lanes
     83.   Gray's Seat and the View from the Crook o'Lune
     82.   A Peek into Artle Dale
     81.   The Lost Meander of the Lune
edisford br      80.   The Caton Moor Hares   
     79.   Sand Martins by the Lune   
     79-94 are about walks from home during the coronavirus lockdown.
     78.   Around Roeburndale   
     77.   Bridging the Lower Little Ribble   
     76.   The Belted Beauties of Sunderland   
             Diversion 2:  These Boots ...   
     75.   To Ward's Stone: A Classic Walk?   
     74.   Blackpool Promenading   
     73.   The Raygill Foraminifers   
     72.   Turner and the Lune Aqueduct   
     71.   Low in Low Barbondale   
coniston hills      70.   Up the Conder   
     69.   Lakeside, Finsthwaite Heights, Rusland Heights and Tourists   
     68.   Landscape and the Howgills   
     67.   The Consolation of Arant Haw   
     66.   In Search of the Paythorne Salmon   
             Diversion 1:  Save Our Sausage   
     65.   Grisedale and Another Tarn   
     64.   Beyond the Leagram Pale   
     63.   These Are a Few of My Favourite 'Superficial Things': in Crummackdale   
     62.   On and Off the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail   
     61.   Knott Alone   
the nab      60.   The Longsleddale Green Lane   
     59.   The 1 in 5,000 Hen Harriers of Bowland   
     58.   From Hawes, in the Poet Laureate's Footsteps   
     57.   A Blowy Lowsy Point   
     56.   Cross Fell: The Apex of England   
     55.   Butterflying on Whitbarrow   
     54.   Follies around Flusco   
     53.   Why? On the Wyre Way   
     52.   Morecambe Bay - from Cark to Grange-over-Sands   
     51.   On Wild Boar Fell   
langdales      50.   With the Lune from Kirkby Lonsdale   
     49.   Lingmoor Fell - For the Best Medium-High View in Lakeland?   
     48.   With The Grane   
     47.   The 'Wild Desert' of Kingsdale   
     46.   To the Point of Winterburn Reservoir   
     45.   Thoughts from the Towpath (Bilsborrow to Preston)   
     44.   Interlude: We Are Sorry for the Delay ...   
     43.   The Red Screes - Wansfell Question   
     42.   Appreciating Meg and Lucy   
     41.   Safe in Littledale   
singing ringing tree      40.   In the Borderlands of Burton-in-Lonsdale and Bentham   
     39.   Halls Galore by the Middle Ribble   
     38.   Reflections from Jeffrey's Mount   
     37.   Whoopers on Thurnham Moss   
     36.   The Flow and Ebb and Flow of Morecambe   
     35.   Dufton Rocks   
     34.   Thieveley Pike and the Singing Ringing Tree   
     33.   Is Nappa Hall Napping - or Dying?   
     32.   Russet Rusland Valley   
     31.   Pink Stones on the Orton Fells   
butter tubs rainbow      30.   Dunsop Bridge, Whitewell and Duchy-land   
     29.   The Quiet End of the Ribble Way   
     28.   Broughton Moor, or What's Left of It   
     27.   The Footpaths of Anglezarke Moor   
     26.   A Booze by Any Other Name   
     25.   Mysterious Harkerside Moor   
     24.   Up Ingleborough with the Holiday Crowds   
     23.   The Kentmere Diatomite   
     22.   In the Lancashire Yorkshire Dales   
     21.   The Fortunes of Fleetwood   
pendle      20.   On the Sunny Side of Pendle   
     19.   Viewpoints around Keswick (part 2)   
     18.   Viewpoints around Keswick (part 1)   
     17.   Sheep-Wrecked Matterdale?   
     16.   The Wildflowers of Sulber   
     15.   On the Hobdale Fence   
     14.   Logging Along the Cam High Road   
     13.   The Cairns of Grisedale Pike   
     12.   Uplifted by High Street   
     11.   The Struggle over Boulsworth Hill   
thirlmere      10.   The 'Hillfort' of Addlebrough   
     9.   "The Prettiest Mere of All" Lakeland   
     8.   What Price Catrigg Force?   
     7.   Castling in Cumbria: From Brougham to Lowther   
     6.   The Count of Flasby Fell   
     5.   Circumperambulating Stocks Reservoir   
     4.   In a Flap at Bolton-le-Sands   
     3.   Zipping around Thirlmere   
     2.   The Dentdale Diamonds   
     1.   The Taming of Caton Moor   
     (and here's some I did earlier)
     Pre-Saunterings   

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    © John Self, Drakkar Press, 2018

Blencathra

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