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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 (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 be notified by email when a new item is posted - please send an email to johnselfdrakkar@gmail.com. Some readers' comments are included in the Preamble.

littledale      147.   Snow-Walking in Littledale
     146.   A November Day around Grasmere and Rydal Water
     145.   Naturalising the Long Preston Deeps
     144.   Fencing The Clouds
     143.   Two Days as a Lake District Tourist
     142.   Eskmeals: Dunes, Estuary and Firing Range
     141.   In and Out of the Lake District, in the Ennerdale Region
     140.   Short-Circuiting Wharfedale
     139.   Ruskin’s View and a View of Ruskin’s View
     138.   Ghosts, Lunatics and Invincibles – but no longer
     137.   Bowness, Empty and Full
     136.   Green Fields or ‘Garden Village’?
     Previous 1 - 135

147.  Snow-Walking in Littledale

Bull Beck Bluebell Wood Left: Tarn Brook in Sarney's Wood
Right: Tarn Brook in Roeburndale Road Plantation (Bluebell Wood)


Inevitably, I wrote too soon (in 146) about the lack of snow on our hills. I am sure that the hills have plenty of snow now, just six days later. We have snow on our lawn, at a height of about 50 metres. I doubt that we have had a white lawn in many Novembers of the previous forty-plus years. Whatever happened to those wonderfully mild autumn-winters of recent years when we could go walking without even thinking of wearing gloves?

The weather forecast this morning was for ‘light snow’ but it seemed unlikely to me so I dismissed it as the forecasters being pessimistic as usual. At 11 o’clock there were a few wisps and then more determined flakes began to fall. Gradually the world turned white. I had already intended to go for an hour’s walk from home (Ruth having commandeered the car for a rehearsal and concert in Morecambe) so, undeterred, I donned gloves and beanie hat and set off up-hill. Quarry Road, the road up to the Caton Moor windmills, was already white. Snow was still falling and it was a pleasure to stride out, being the first to crunch into the crisp snow, making my mark in the world, if only temporarily. There was little wind as the snow gently fell from grey clouds and the world was silent, apart from a low hum, which I assumed to be the sound of the motorway five miles away reflected from the clouds. There was nobody about, until a car drew up and disgorged a family, to frolic excitedly in the snow.

I wandered back down, quite exhilarated. I have walked and run on these roads and tracks hundreds of times but suddenly, in the snow, they are transformed. Every tree, shrub and wall is neatly delineated by fresh snow lining all the branches, twigs and stones. Snow-walking was such fun that, after a quick sandwich, I went out again, for a longer walk. When I grow up I will probably be less excited by the first snowfall of winter.

This time I set off to walk in Littledale. It was still snowing but not quite as much. I was disappointed to find the Littledale Road free of snow but it has no doubt been salted and I suppose people must be allowed to drive on it. Never mind, I soon left it to take the track that was the old road, where there was plenty of snow, and dropped into Crossgill. Here, for the first time, I saw evidence that I was not the first on these snowy lanes. I detected the boot-prints of two people walking side-by-side, who seemed to have walked between Crossgill and Hawes House. On the Roeburndale Road I saw remarkably smooth, foot-shaped prints. So foot-shaped were they that I inspected them to see if they had toes. They didn't. The foot-prints were about a metre apart. I deduce that someone had gone running in their slippers, an activity even sillier than my own, since there was ice under the snow in places. But perhaps not as silly as that of a bold cyclist who had left tyre-prints in the snow, not always following the intended line.

Bull Beck Bluebell Wood Left: The old Littledale Road
Right: Looking towards Ward's Stone from near Hawes House


The clouds were still low, preventing much of a view of Ward’s Stone and the windmills, and I suppose it was quite gloomy – but not to me. On the road down I detoured a little into Roeburndale Road Plantation (which we call Bluebell Wood). It was quite enchanting with snow plastered on all the trees and completely quiet. It is often said that walking in snow is a good time to see wildlife but on this occasion I think it was all hunkering down, unsure how to behave in this novel environment. The sheep were, of course, still in their fields, gamely trying to find grass.

As snow-walking goes, this was a gentle outing. I didn’t venture onto the craggy moors, where walking in snow is much more of a challenge. If the snow is deep, walking is slow and tiring. It’s also harder to find one’s way and to avoid hazards and, of course, more dangerous if not properly attired. I will leave that kind of outing for another day, if there is one.

As I continued down Littledale Road, the grey clouds began to disperse. I was, for once, disappointed to see the sun and blue sky. It meant that although the snow would now sparkle in the sunshine it wouldn’t do so for long. Indeed, by the time I reached home the snow on the trees was already looking a little soggy. It is the evanescent nature of our snow that makes it appeal. We know that this snow will not lie around and accumulate for months. It was good to enjoy it while it was pristine – and to get home with a glow on the cheeks and in the heart.
windmills from brookhouse

Looking towards the windmills from near home in Brookhouse

    Date: November 28th 2021
    Start: SD543644, Brookhouse  (Map: OL41)
    Route: E on Quarry Road – near windmills – W – Brookhouse (quick sandwich) – SE on Littledale Road, track – Crossgill – NE, W past Roeburn Glade - NW – Brookhouse
    Distance: 8 miles;   Ascent: 350 metres


146.  A November Day around Grasmere and Rydal Water

It has not occurred to me to wear gloves yet this autumn-cum-winter. I checked that they were safely ensconced at the bottom of my backpack, just in case I might need them on this, the first cold (well, average, really) day for a while. Surely in decades past I would have been wearing gloves in late November? Or is my memory failing me? Has anyone else noticed that we are a wee bit warmer nowadays? I understand that there was some sort of gathering recently in Glasgow to discuss this matter. They even held the event, COP 26, five years early in order to give themselves longer to talk about it.

From Ambleside I headed past the church, over the River Rothay and up onto the open access land of bracken and scrubby knolls to reach Lily Tarn. This charming little tarn is not so little that it hasn’t space for a necessarily littler island. Being near the highest point of this undulating area, it provides good views of Fairfield and, distantly, Crinkle Crags.
lily tarn

Lily Tarn

Taking the bridleway south, I noticed a sign saying that the larch were being felled because a fungus-like pathogen called phytophthora ramorum is spreading a highly contagious disease amongst the trees. I know how they feel. I then reached Loughrigg Tarn which must have one of the most impressive backdrops, when viewed from the north-east, of any Lakeland tarn, with the Langdale Pikes prominent. I sat for a snack to admire it for a while.
loughrigg tarn

Loughrigg Tarn

I then scrambled up Loughrigg Fell (335 metres, although there seemed to be a lot more of them than on previous occasions). This is, of course, one of the most walked up fells in the Lake District and understandably so, since however often one walks up it, one always feels well rewarded by the magnificent views from the top in all directions, including Bowfell, the Langdale Pikes, Helm Crag, Skiddaw, the Fairfield Horseshoe and the Coniston Group. As usual, there were a good number of people about on the fell, most now without winter wear on a windless, sunny day.
loughrigg fell

Langdale from the slopes of Loughrigg Fell

It is not easy to relate specific weather events, such as a mild November here or floods in Canada, to longer-term climate change. My earliest winters were in Norfolk and (according to my memory) it was always frosty on Guy Fawkes night, we always had frost on the inside of windows, every footpath became an icy slide for queues of kids, and teachers took us outside for snowball fights. Perhaps winters were different here in North-West England, basking in the Gulf Stream and not blasted by freezing winds from Siberia, like Norfolk.

I consulted Cumbria’s Weather: Your Complete Guide, written in 2009 by Peter Johnson, a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society. He claimed to be on the fence about climate change but his opinion is revealed by comments such as that, in view of the varying predictions, “horoscopes … carry an equal degree of probability”. He thought that even if we were getting warmer that’s no bad thing:
“The effects of a warmer climate would be largely beneficial [for Cumbria], as far less fossil fuel would be required for domestic and industrial heating. The demand for electricity would fall … In addition, a longer growing season would be a boon to farmers [and] a lack of frost would benefit fruit growers” (Johnson 2009).
So that’s all right, then. If there’s drought in Africa, floods in Bangladesh and fires in Greece, then I’ll be able to grow a few more courgettes.

I did, of course, enjoy the view from Loughrigg Fell for some time. One thing could not be not noticed. There was no snow anywhere to be seen, even on the highest peaks, neither recent snow nor remnant of past snow. So far this autumn-winter I have heard no mention of snow in the Lakes and, as far as I can recall, no forecast of snow upon the Lake District hills. Is this normal?

The Cumbria’s Weather book has more opinions than facts but it does include one relevant graph. This shows the average number of days each month that Fairfield has snow cover. There is no suggestion that this may have changed recently. It as though Fairfield has had, and has always had, and will always have, eight days (on average) of snow cover in November. Whatever the precise meteorological definition of ‘snow cover’ is I suspect that Fairfield has had zero days of it this November. There are eight days of November left.

To see whether this year’s absence of snow is unusual I consulted Harry Griffin, the doyen of Lake District writers, who wrote about the Lake District for the Guardian for over fifty years. He had been a founder-member of the Lake District Ski Club in 1936 and, being a keen skier, he kept a close watch on snow conditions. In 2003 he wrote
“Where have all the winters gone? … 30 or 40 years ago we could count on up to four months of skiing almost every winter … Everything’s changing – not just the weather but the seasons. Can we really dream this year of a white Christmas?” (Griffin (2003), in Griffin (2005)).
I dropped down from Loughrigg Fell to the north, with the perfect views of Grasmere below, walked through the National Trust’s Deerbolts Wood past Red Bank into the village of Grasmere. It was still moderately busy with people milling about, although much of it was closed. I sat with my sandwiches, wondering whether the sheltered inhabitants of Grasmere experience (or used to experience) harsh winters. Griffin’s observations concerned snow on the mountain tops – has the weather at lower levels changed at all? I turned to Cedric Robinson who was for 56 years the Queen’s Guide to the Sands of Morecambe Bay, which is as low a level as you can get. He led walks across the perilous bay and his life and that of his walkers depended upon him knowing about the bay’s weather. Nobody would be more aware of changes in the bay’s climate. In 2007 he wrote
“We seem to have lost our four seasons. Gone are the hard winters I knew as a child when almost every family in the village of Flookburgh owned a sledge and the snow seemed to lie for ages” (Robinson, 2007).

grasmere

Grasmere

This is all most perplexing. Two locals who had more reason than anyone to be aware of the weather were convinced that the climate had changed in recent decades – but a meteorologist professed to be unsure. Our prime minister says that he was only convinced of the reality of human-caused climate change when he was briefed by scientists when he took office in 2019. But if he had then spoken to his friend Owen Paterson, Environment Secretary 2012-2014 and climate change sceptic, he would no doubt have been persuaded of the opposite.

It is hard now to be sure what I thought when. I can only go by our actions. Ruth and I have not flown anywhere since 2001. I don’t recall this being an explicit, principled decision. We just didn’t feel comfortable polluting unnecessarily. When the Caton Moor windmills were erected in 1994 we were, I think, pleased that our local hill was contributing green energy to help to reduce carbon emissions. I see that I have books on my shelf of that vintage, for example, one by Jonathon Porritt, who wrote in 1990 that
“It’s not the fact that our oil and coal will one day run out that matters most. Rather, it is the fact that the Earth’s capacity to absorb the pollution arising from their combustion will be exhausted long before that distant day … Global warming is the mother and father of environmental problems today. The degree of consensus among international scientists is remarkable: a 1.5°C to 4. 5°C warming by 2050” (Porritt, 1990).
Even the House of Lords – hardly the most progressive of organisations – published a Select Committee Report on the Greenhouse Effect in 1990. It was written in response to a conference held in Toronto in 1988 at which the scientific opinion was that we were on course for a 3°C rise by 2030 and that we should aim to cut CO2 emissions by 20% by 2005. The debate on the report can be read online if you can stomach all the 'noble and gallant Lord' floweriness. Good Lords, I’m sure that 2030 seemed a long way away in 1990!

From Grasmere I followed the ‘coffin route’ to Rydal. This is a rather fine path that contours below Nab Scar, well above the busy A591. There were glimpses of Rydal Water but it was not seen to its best, being largely in shade with the sun now low over Loughrigg Fell. I did not pause in Rydal because I was feeling so weary that I feared that if I stopped then I might not be able to get going again. So as brisk a walk as I could manage through Rydal Park brought me back to Ambleside. Again the gloves were forgotten. Will I need gloves at all in 2030?

    Date: November 22nd 2021
    Start: NY376044, Ambleside  (Map: OL7)
    Route: N, SW, W, SW – Lily Tarn – W, SW, NW, SW, NW past Loughrigg Tarn and The How, NW, NE – Loughrigg Fell – NW through Deerbolts Wood, N, NE – Grasmere – SE – How Top – E on ‘coffin route’ – Rydal – SE through Rydal Park – Ambleside
    Distance: 9 miles;   Ascent: 285 metres
    Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 208/400;   Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 14.72


145.  Naturalising the Long Preston Deeps

The River Ribble pauses halfway. It is quite sprightly as it runs from the hills of Ribblehead through Horton and Stainforth to Settle. And at Long Preston it is still 130 metres above sea-level, so it runs jauntily south-west by Barnoldswick and Clitheroe to the estuary and the Irish Sea. But in the few miles between Settle and Long Preston it proceeds sluggishly in long, deep meanders. After heavy rain the surrounding fields are flooded and in winter travellers along the A65 can see that they are passing a sort of lake. This region is known as the Long Preston Deeps.

I began from the maypole by The Maypole in Long Preston, a village that suffers from the A65 traffic streaming through it. As I walked down the road towards Wigglesworth I could see that the fields were flooded but not to the extent that they often are. There was a range of low hills to the south towards Hellifield, and indeed to the east and west as well. The Long Preston Deeps lie in a shallow basin, which the Ribble enters at Settle and eventually leaves at the low-lying Cow Bridge on the road to Wigglesworth.
Deeps

The Deeps from Long Preston

The Deeps are a Site of Special Scientific Interest primarily because of the flora of this wetland site and the birds that nest and feed upon it. After previous attempts to build flood defence embankments and to drain the fields for farming, there is now a programme to ‘naturalise’ the Deeps (as described in the first few minutes of this video). As the video shows, the Ribble normally flows low between high, fragile-looking banks that appear to have hardly a protective rock within them. Unlike the case of The Clouds SSSI discussed in the previous Sauntering, all those involved in the naturalisation programme seem certain that the version of nature that they are creating is just as nature intended. What the local farmers gain I'm not sure – except perhaps some compensation from others trying to manage this troublesome land.

As with all landscapes, it is possible to just accept the Deeps for being what they are – and to admire (or not) the scenery, which in this case, with a slow river within flat green fields, is not so exciting. I have passed these fields many times, on the A65 and on the Leeds train, but never once, until now, paused to reflect on why these Deeps are here. Greenhalgh (2009) describes this as a “unique area”. I don’t know if it is literally unique but it is certainly unusual to find such a floodplain within the middle reaches of a river. It is unusual enough to make one suspect that there might have been some unusual cause or event that created these Deeps. If so, what could it have been?

The Ribble Way crosses the road near Cow Bridge and I was tempted to follow it north. But I had not walked here before and couldn’t be sure that the path wouldn’t disappear under water somewhere along the way. So I continued on the road to Wigglesworth, which is a small village with a large pub. The road turns north through Rathmell, the birthplace of Richard Frankland (1630-1698), a nonconformist divine who founded the Rathmell Academy, which was apparently important in the history of northern religious practices. From the road there are occasional views to the east of the flooded fields of the Deeps but there isn’t much to be seen from a distance and probably not much more when close by. I preferred the long-distance views of Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent ahead and came to regret not making better use of this bright, clear November day – oh, to be walking up a proper hill rather than tramping along a road beside flooded fields.
Long Preston

To Long Preston across The Deeps from near Rathmell

2 peaks

Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent from near Rathmell

As for why the Deeps are here, the explanation goes something like this. The Ribble used to flow east towards where Gargrave is today to join the River Aire and thus flow to the North Sea. Then glacial deposits built a barrier in the Long Preston region behind which a lake formed. Eventually the barrier was breached where Cow Bridge now is and the lake escaped by flowing west to the Irish Sea. The Deeps have been formed in the layers of silt that accumulated in the lake. The present floodwater ‘lake’ is therefore a kind of remnant of this post-glacial lake.

    Date: November 4th 2021
    Start: SD829585, Long Preston  (Map: OL41)
    Route: (linear) SE on A65, SW on B6478 – Cow Bridge – E – Wigglesworth – N – Rathmell – N, E, NE – Settle market
    Distance: 8 miles;   Ascent: 50 metres
    Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 208/400;   Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 14.58


144.  Fencing The Clouds

These Saunterings transport a reader to the sunny idyll that is North-West England. In over 400 photos so far there is scarcely a rain-cloud or a puddle to be seen. There is a reason for this: I don’t go walking if there’s a prospect of a rain-cloud or a puddle. I am not like those walkers who commit to travel for a walk in, say, the Lake District next Sunday and then feel bound by that commitment, come monsoon or blizzard. I am content to wait for blue skies.

On this occasion the forecast of heavy rain, at least in the morning, left little hope for a worthwhile walk on a visit to the Kirkby Stephen region. However, in the afternoon the sun shone intermittently, so we paused for a short walk on The Clouds (or in their full nomenclatural glory, Stennerskleugh Clouds and Fell End Clouds). This is a small area of limestone outcrop to the west of Wild Boar Fell. The Clouds are a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and are therefore protected under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act, and they were also a Special Area of Conservation, which provided a higher level of protection under EU law.
harter fell

Harter Fell from The Clouds

In 2013 Natural England, the body responsible for the welfare of SSSIs, assessed the site to be in poor (or, in its words, ‘unfavourable’) condition, mainly because sheep were eating the esteemed flora. It therefore proposed that the sheep be replaced by cattle, which would require a fence around The Clouds. This apparently simple, innocuous proposal stimulated a number of questions, such as:
   •  How will the fencing affect commoners’ ability to exercise their rights on common land?
   •  What is to happen to the hefted sheep, that is, the sheep reared to regard this land as their home?
   •  What about the sheep farmers – are they to sheep-farm elsewhere or take up cattle farming?
   •  Does the proposal breach farmers’ tenancy agreements?
   •  Would sheep’s diet suffer from losing access to the sweeter grasses and plants growing near to limestone?
   •  Would the presence of cattle affect the water supply to local properties?
   •  What evidence is there that replacing sheep with cattle will yield the desired ecological benefits?
   •  How does the proposal affect the island of non-open access land in the middle of The Clouds?
   •  Is fencing appropriate for a landscape with traditional stone walls as boundaries?
   •  Who would be responsible for maintenance of the fences and access points?
   •  Would water have to be brought in for the cattle, as there are few natural sources of water in the area?
   •  Would the cattle affect archaeological remains and other features of historical interest, such as mine workings?
   •  What about the ponies that rely upon the minerals and calcium found in the area?
   •  Would the presence of cattle deter walkers in the area?

The planning inspector duly wilted in the face of so many questions, most of which Natural England could not answer satisfactorily, and declined to give consent to the proposal (a rare example of one part of the government machinery saying ‘no’ to another part). According to the report, the inspector had visited the site for two days – one day to walk alone and the second day with interested parties. While the inspector was no doubt competent to assess the proposal on its merits, I rather doubt that two days is enough to appreciate fully the subtle, special character of this region. Natural England officials probably only visit the site once every few years to assess its condition.

A more fundamental and broader question arises: What is the ‘natural’ state of The Clouds? Sheep have been farmed here for centuries, helping to create the present landscape, much valued by local farmers and visitors, like me. But, of course, it is now ‘unnaturally’ barren, with hardly a tree or a shrub or even a wildflower to be seen. Who is to decide what is natural? As I understand it, anyone wishing to carry out work affecting an SSSI must get approval from Natural England (for example, if a farmer wanted to install fencing) but I don’t know if Natural England has the powers to impose changes on an SSSI (presumably not, without the agreement of an inspector). In the case of The Clouds, Natural England did not seem to have an adequate appreciation of all the factors that should be considered before making their proposal.

Anyway, the proposal was rejected and has, I think, been shelved. On our walk we saw sheep and one pony but no cattle and no fences. The sun shone on surrounding hills and in the Eden valley to the north but less so on The Clouds themselves. They stayed rather grey, lacking the bright nebulosity for which they known.
clouds

The Clouds and some clouds

    Date: October 30th 2021
    Start: NY734006, by the road  (Map: OL19)
    Route: E – Stennerskeugh Clouds – S a bit - NW - road
    Distance: 2 miles;   Ascent: 100 metres
    Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 207/400;   Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 14.44


143.  Two Days as a Lake District Tourist

Stockghyll Force Jetty Museum I did not intend to mention these two days here. Our daughter, Pamela, with Andrew and son Cassius, came up from London, keen to see plenty of the Lake District. But three-year-olds are not fond of fell-walking, so I left the camera and note-pad at home, since Saunterings is supposed to be about ‘walking in north-west England’. However, Pamela has now sent us her photos, which she doesn’t mind me sharing with you. So I will. Here are some of them (plus a few words).

The Saturday had low cloud and incipient drizzle. It is only fair that visitors see the Lake District when it is off-colour. We crossed Lake Road in Ambleside, climbed many steps to reach Low Gale and then High Gale, and eventually reached Stockghyll Lane, not far below Stockghyll Force. The waterfall was an impressive sight after the recent rain. Being within easy walking distance of the centre of Ambleside, Stockghyll Force must be the most-visited of the Lake District’s waterfalls (or if not it must be second only to Aira Force, near Ullswater).

We lunched at Gandhi’s, a small café that deserves to be bigger. It must be frustrating for the owners that many more people turn away, or are turned away, than can be served. We moved on to the Windermere Jetty Museum. Pamela, being an architect, was no doubt more interested in the buildings than their contents. The Museum was on the short-list for the prestigious Stirling Prize for 2021. The first impression is of dark sheds with enormous eaves. With the high ceilings, open aspect, and wood panelling, the museum is clearly designed to suit its lakeside setting and function. I don’t know enough about boats myself to be that interested in the museum’s contents, although I am impressed that even with the plethora of Lake District tourist attractions it is possible to find a distinctive niche, that of the history of boating on the lakes. I suspect, however, that the café (which can be independently entered) will prove more popular than the museum. I cannot think of another café in the Lake District that is right by a lake and that provides such a view, even better, no doubt, when the clouds aren’t so low that they are swirling about on Claife Heights on the other side the lake.

Sunday was a brighter day and we headed first for another museum, the Threlkeld Quarry and Mining Museum, which contrasted with the Windermere Jetty Museum. There are no new buildings here. We thought that the short train ride might appeal to a three-year-old but all our co-passengers were of mature years. The museum itself was housed in a real old shed and comprehensively detailed every mine, quarry, and type of rock in the Lake District. Fascinating though they may be to mining aficionados, there were, for me, far too many words covering all available surfaces. There is scope here for someone who knows about modern museum design to turn this into an appealing attraction. Myself, I was more enthused by the magnificent view of the whole southern aspect of Blencathra.
Threlkeld

Threlkeld Quarry and Mining Museum - and (some of) Blencathra

After lunching at Kat’s Kitchen in Keswick (is this the only entirely vegan restaurant in the Lake District?), we moved down to Derwent Water to take the ferry to Hawse End. Feeling like real tourists now, we could enjoy the views to Skiddaw, Borrowdale, Catbells, Causey Pike, and so on.
Causey Pike from Derwent Water

Causey Pike from Derwent Water

We returned home over Dunmail Raise, with the sun setting, and paused at Langdale Chase, of fond memories, for a view of the Langdales.
Langdale Chase

Windermere and the Langdales from Langdale Chase

    Date: October 9th/10th 2021

142.  Eskmeals: Dunes, Estuary and Firing Range

Continuing our expedition around the western borders of the Lake District National Park (from 141), we followed the A595 and National Park border to the village of Holmrook, where the border suddenly darts to the west, following the River Irt, towards the shore. It then makes a bee-line for the small, low-tide-only island of Kokoarrah, just off shore. Why the Park authorities were so keen to include this part-time island, I have no idea. As far as I know, it has no relevant merits.

Thereafter, the Park border follows the coast south for some ten miles. No doubt, Drigg Dunes and Eskmeals Dunes deserve protection, which they now have as designated Nature Reserves, but they are far from the scenery of lakes and mountains normally associated with the Lake District. According to Berry and Beard (1980), the earliest proposals for the National Park boundaries argued that the “narrow strip of land between the foot of the mountains and the sea was almost untouched by development and was worthy of the same standards of preservation as the mountainous area.”

The A595 continues south over the Esk estuary but we turned off at Waberthwaite to have a wander around this atypical part of the National Park. From the Eskmeals Viaduct, we headed for Eskmeals Dunes. The map shows nothing at all within the Nature Reserve, so we were expecting a featureless, flat, sandy area. In fact, the dunes are well-established, surely high enough in places for a contour or two, with plentiful vegetation and even some small trees. We had arrived after high tide, which it is essential to do, otherwise the access road from Newbiggin and the path to the dunes are liable to be under water. An angler assured us that the bridleway marked on the map as crossing the river was indeed usable (on horseback, I assume) at low tide, although this looked quite implausible at near high tide. Anyway, we set off along the promontory’s edge confident that more of the beaches and mud flats would be revealed as the tide receded.

We spent some time wandering about, along the shore, up the highest sand dune and over to the seaward side. Here, three volunteers were commendably gathering up bagfuls of rubbish washed up on these shores. Apart from them we had the promontory to ourselves. It is a spot that may not seem part of the Lake District but that is considerably more peaceful (usually) than many places that do.

The reserve is home to the rare natterjack toad and to several species of birds, although we saw none of the former (nor even any ponds that they might inhabit) and few of the latter. It is also said to provide habitat for over 300 species of plant. Autumn is not the best time of year to look for plants and, apart from the marram grass and shrubby trees, the only one that really caught our eye was the sea buckthorn, with its profuse orange berries. I understand that sea buckthorn is non-native and that it is therefore being removed from the promontory (so, there's plenty of work still to do). Back at the viaduct a Cumbria Countryside Services van was parked with on its side the words ‘Japanese knotweed’, which is also, of course, non-native. We told the man standing by that we hadn’t seen any Japanese knotweed and he said “no, there isn’t any”. He must have been on guard to make sure it didn’t sneak in.
eskmeals dunes 1

From the highest sand-dune, looking south to Eskmeals Viaduct and Black Combe, in cloud

eskmeals dunes 2

From the highest sand-dune, looking north to the village of Ravenglass on the other side of the River Esk

eskmeals dunes 3

From the highest sand-dune, looking west across the dunes and River Esk to Drigg Dunes

This was the first half of a ‘figure of eight’ walk, with a leisurely lunch break in the middle. The second half was a circuit inland, still (we had to remind ourselves) within the Lake District National Park. We walked south, with the Ministry of Defence’s Firing Range, a two-mile long area closed to the public, to the west. On this occasion it was not blasting shells into the sea. It is the shells that made me add the '(usually)' to a sentence above. We turned east past Eskmeals House and then battled along an unused, overgrown footpath with stiles well hidden in bushes. We were relieved to reach the lane near Waberthwaite and to be able to stroll back through Newbiggin and by the estuary to the viaduct.

Now, about that Firing Range. Why is there a Firing Range within the Lake District National Park? When the Park borders were defined in 1951 the Firing Range was either there or it wasn’t. If it’s the former case, why was the border placed to include the Firing Range when it could easily have been moved to the east to exclude it? If it’s the latter case, why did the authorities agree to a new Firing Range within a National Park or why were they forced to accept one?

In order to seek an answer I asked a relative, Christopher Butler-Cole, whose family owned land around Eskmeals House and who himself lived there at the time in question. I could paraphrase his reply but it is probably better that I include it here in full (with permission, of course):
      According to some written recollections of my grandmother (father’s mother) an offer was made in 1911 to the family to rent part of the sandhills for use in “Safety in Mines Research”, which was installed under a committee headed by Sir Henry Cunningham. Her recollections continue as follows:-
      “A committee house was built right inside the sandhills with a light railway running to it, while on the edge of them (nearest to Eskmeals House) was a bungalow for the chief chemist with laboratories where experiments were tried out in glass tubes, before further experiments were made in great tubes the size of mine workings. All the miners’ lamps for the North were tried out here. To accommodate the junior chemists we built, at our own request, four cottages on the main road near Eskmeals station. We called them Falcon Place in memory of an old oak-panelled house on the Workington docks whence my great-grandfather had come to Eskmeals. Then the first world war came and brought great animation to the branch of Vickers which tested man-of-war guns. The noise of their testing was frequent and the first caterpillar wheels in the world were tested on our main road, little balloons were sent up for marksmanship trials, and 200 women and girls came daily to fill shells in a new big building at the south end of the site (Marshside)”.
      This will give you the bones of the origins of the range. When we came back from Ceylon in 1947 we could walk all along the shore and directly across the sandhills to the shore when the warning flags were not flying and there were huge sheets of armour plating held upright by mountains of sandbags for testing the guns, by that time, I believe, of tanks.
      The range extended some way north but did not occupy the final half mile or so up to Ravenglass Point and we could walk on that part of the sandhills at any time. The building for the chemists and the one for the committee were in my family’s possession from, I think, before the last war, and were I assume bought off Vickers as they were not used by the Ministry of Defence. When the takeover occurred I do not know but presumably before the National Park was constituted. In 1947, and for several summer holidays thereafter, the family used to stay in what was the chemists’ house. The two buildings were called Sandy Gap (the one with the railway to it) and the chemists’ house was in effect two properties, one housing the laboratories and one the living accommodation. They were known as Broombank and Broomclose. Sandy Gap was overwhelmed by shifting sand and I remember in the late ‘40s going into the abandoned house and marvelling at the way the sand reached up to the ceiling in many of the ground floor rooms. Broombank and Broomclose are still there I think, but now in the Danger Area. Sandy Gap was, I believe, demolished long ago, but I haven’t been able to access that part of the sandhills for many years.
      In 1950 my parents took over one of the Falcon Place cottages as my father was still working in Ceylon so we were up at Eskmeals for only short periods of time, mainly holidays when my parents were back in the UK. In 1955 the tenant of Eskmeals House (it had been let by the family from 1920) died and we moved in as our permanent home. They left Eskmeals House in 1979 when the Ministry said they wished to extend the Danger Area and purchased the house and surrounding land from my father. It lay abandoned for many years and whether the Danger Area was ever officially extended I don’t know. As far as I am aware the use of the road alongside was never restricted.
So it seems that this area has been used for industrial-military purposes for over a century. There was an out-of-bounds region here when the National Park was established. Old OS maps tended not to show military establishments in detail but maps from 1899 to 1957 on-line indicate a 'Vickers gun range' with 'flagstaffs' (for warning flags?) but no buildings within the present restricted area. The history of Vickers is complex, with its aircraft, shipbuilding and steel-working interests being separately nationalised at various times. Whoever owned the firing range when the Park borders were defined, why was it included in the National Park? Did the Park authorities optimistically believe or hope that the land would be released soon (as other military land had been) and would revert to natural sand-dunes?

The two core aims of a National Park are to protect exceptional landscapes and to enable public access to those landscapes. For seventy years those aims have been violated by the Eskmeals Firing Range.

    Date: September 17th 2021
    Start: SD087943, Eskmeals Viaduct  (Map: OL6)
    Route: NW, N, W, SW, E, SE around Eskmeals Dunes – Eskmeals Viaduct – S, E past Eskmeals House – lane north of Waberthwaite – NW through Newbiggin – Eskmeals Viaduct
    Distance: 5 miles;   Ascent: 20 metres
    Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 205/400;   Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 14.37


141.  In and Out of the Lake District, in the Ennerdale Region

The Lake District National Park was designated in 1951 only after a thorough scrutiny of the terrain to determine what should be inside and outside the park. In the south, for example, Millom, Barrow, Ulverston and Grange-over-Sands, those notorious dens of inequity, squalor and industry, were carefully excluded. To the north, the northernmost lake, Bassenthwaite, was necessarily included but the actual northern border of the park was drawn some miles further north, for some reason. I am not so familiar with the north-western border – it is, after all, on the other side of the park for me and why would anyone head there, passing the more attractive landscapes on the way? We did, to have a look at those north-western borders.

The A66 west from Bassenthwaite Lake is within the National Park until it nears Cockermouth. Then the border veers south on a seemingly haphazard path across ordinary-looking fields. It then turns south-west through Ennerdale Bridge before swinging south-east to resume its southerly direction. We paused within this bulge at the Low Cock How riding stables. Ruth's ankle (which starred in 140) did not yet allow long, rough or steep walks but I was not so inhibited, so I left her at the stables and headed for the highest hill nearby, Blakeley Raise (389 metres).

I immediately became bogged down in Blakeley Moss, which is best left to the snipe, about half a dozen of which I disturbed. After retreating to the road, I passed the Kinniside Stone Circle, which is pointedly not in antique font on the OS map because it is of dubious authenticity, having been recently constructed where an ancient circle is thought to have been. Blakeley Raise is within the National Park but has few of the characteristics of a typical Lake District hill. It is smooth and grassy with only a few scattered rocks, none of which needs to be walked upon. From the top the view east is over the unexciting grassy expanses of Kinniside Common and the view west is over the Cumbrian coast, which is not in the National Park, to the Irish Sea.
blakeley raise

Blakeley Raise and Kinniside Stone Circle

From Blakeley Raise I headed east to drop down to Nannycatch Gate and then walk up Flat Fell but I was thwarted at Sillathwaite, where I could find no footpath signs. Ordinarily I would have marched through where the map says the path should be but I had no guarantee that there’d be no further problems ahead and I had to get back to the stables on time. I was frustrated because I had hoped to take the path in the gully between Flat Fell (272 metres) and Dent (352 metres) to see why the former but not the latter is deemed worthy of inclusion in the National Park. If there is a rational explanation then it eludes me.
flat fell

Dent and Flat Fell from the slopes of Blakeley Raise

Being so close to Ennerdale Water, we thought it opportune to return to Ennerdale Bridge for a stroll along the western edge of the lake. As far as we could recall, we had only been to lower Ennerdale once before, parking at the other car park near Bowness Knott, and on that occasion it was under cloud. This time we had a magnificent view along the 2½ mile length of the lake, with the hills of Bowness Knott to the north and Anglers’ Crag to the south framing the distant peaks, in particular Pillar and Steeple. Ennerdale Water is the only one of the sixteen lakes not to have a road along its length. The serenity of the scene is also enhanced by boating not being allowed on the lake. Swimming is not allowed either but there were three swimmers, one of whom was a dog.

After decades of criticism that the regimented lines of conifer plantations had ruined the valley, Ennerdale is now well into a ‘rewilding programme’. This topic is perhaps better considered in these pages when we (or I) have been able to walk further up the valley. For now, I need only say that the Ennerdale slopes looked perfectly natural from this vantage point. In fact, I’d say that this view from the foot of Ennerdale is the best of all the views from the feet of the Lake District lakes. The usual view of Wasdale, voted England’s No 1 view, is actually not from the foot but from half-way up the northern side, in order to include the Scafells. Most of the other lakes are either not straight enough to see in all their glory or they have their best peaks off to the side or they are cluttered with human intrusions.
ennerdale

Ennerdale Water

Right: The Gosforth Cross gosforth cross

We drove west to take the A595 south through Cleator Moor and Egremont, two small towns that are not within the National Park, and we could see why. In appearance, they are quite unlike the towns and villages of central Lake District. The sturdy white terraces are distinguished by the solid, wide frames of every window and door, painted a different colour on each house. Cleator Moor was created in the 19th century as an iron-mining community, with Egremont being a market town that had been the centre of the local iron industry since medieval times. The iron industry had ended by the 1930s and it would take more than a zip through on the A595 to notice signs of it today.

At Calder Bridge the A595 becomes the National Park border, so Gosforth, where we were staying, just east of the A595 is within the Lake District National Park, although you’d never know it from its appearance. We walked along the main road (which is not designed for walkers) to the most remarked upon feature of Gosforth, the 10th century cross at St Mary’s church. The cross stands tall among a packed army of high gravestones and is decorated with scenes from Norse mythology. One side of the column, for example, apparently shows the Norse god Loki bound, with his wife Sigyn catching the venom of the serpent who drips poison into his eyes until the coming of Ragnarok. It is amazing what experts are able to read into such weather-worn carvings.

And then we settled down for a meal at the only pub we know with a 'pony park' (not that we had a pony to park) and to spend our first night in the Lake District (just) since 2018.

    Date: September 16th 2021
    (a) Start: NY057144, Low Cock How  (Map: OL4)
    Route: E, S on road, NE on bridleway, SE – Blakeley Raise – SW – Sillathwaite – NE – road – N, NW – Low Cock How
    Distance: 4 miles;   Ascent: 190 metres
    (b) Start: NY086153, Bleach Green car park  (Map: OL4)
    Route: NE alongside the lake for an hour or so, and back
    (c) Start: NY068036, Gosforth car park  (Map: OL6)
    Route: along the road to the church, and back
    Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 202/400;   Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 14.31



dentdale      140.   Short-Circuiting Wharfedale
     139.   Ruskin’s View and a View of Ruskin’s View
     138.   Ghosts, Lunatics and Invincibles – but no longer
     137.   Bowness, Empty and Full
     136.   Green Fields or ‘Garden Village’?
     135.   By the Old Farmhouses of Dentdale
     134.   North and South in the Arnside and Silverdale AONB
     133.   The Limestone Hills East of Settle
     132.   Three Viaducts and a Tunnel of the Settle-Carlisle Railway
     131.   A Taste of the Kendal Mint
pen-y-ghent      130.   By the Lancaster Canal and the River Lune  
     129.   From the Delights of Downham to the Heights of Pendle  
     128.   Spring around Scout Scar  
     127.   To Calf Top Top  
     126.   Return to Roeburndale  
               113-125 are about walking and walks from home during another lockdown.
               125.   “Walking is not a sport”  
               124.   The Most Prominent Hills of North-West England  
               123.   Over to Overton and Around Little Fylde  
               122.   Walking Uphill and Walking Up a Hill  
               121.   The Phantom Hills of Mallowdale Pike, High Stephen's Head and Gallows Hill  
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?   
               115.   Risk, Fear and Pain – or Beauty, Joy and Wonder?   
               114.   Never Mind the Danger   
               113.   White Stoats on Caton Moor   
     112.   Walking around Pilling with Pink Feet   
     111.   From Millstone Grit to Limestone   
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   
     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 (first) 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” to the River
             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
             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   
     78.   Around Roeburndale   
     77.   Bridging the Lower Little Ribble   
     76.   The Belted Beauties of Sunderland   
     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   
     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   

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    © John Self, Drakkar Press, 2018

Blencathra

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