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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 receive an email update after every five items (that's usually after a couple of months or so) - please send an email to johnselfdrakkar@gmail.com. Some readers' comments are included in the Preamble.

dentdale      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’?
     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
     Previous 1 - 130

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 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

140.  Short-Circuiting Wharfedale

We set out to explore middle Wharfedale by means of four short circuits over two days: two walks together, one walk alone (me), and one ride on horseback (Ruth).

Wharfedale is the most visited of the Yorkshire Dales and not just because it is the closest to Leeds and Bradford. The River Wharfe runs through the most varied landscapes of all the rivers of the Dales. It arises on the eastern slopes of Cam Fell, to the north of Pen-y-ghent, with various becks coalescing to form the Wharfe at Beckermonds. It then flows east through Langstrothdale, past evocatively-named hamlets such as Yockenthwaite and Hubberholme, and then south past Buckden to Kettlewell. It gathers its main tributary, the River Skirfare, from Littondale and proceeds through a glaciated limestone valley past Grassington towards the narrow, wooded area of The Strid and Bolton Abbey. This is all classic Dales country. Wharfedale is usually considered to end at the Dales boundary but the River Wharfe itself continues through Ilkley, Otley and Wetherby to join the Ouse south of York.

Our plan got off to a flying start when Ruth took a step from the van and tumbled over the walking boots that I had foolishly placed there, spraining an ankle in the process. After some time wondering “What do we do now?” we set off, one of us rather gingerly, down the path from Grassington to Linton Falls. There was too little water for the falls to be impressive. We then followed the Dales Way east. This must be one of the most walked sections of the Dales Way – but few walkers will have walked it slower than us.
Linton Falls

The River Wharfe at Linton Falls

After a picnic by the river, we continued to the Hebden suspension bridge, which a plaque says was completed in 1885, although much of the present structure is surely more recent. After walking through the village of Hebden, we picked up the track west that eventually becomes the High Lane into Grassington. By now Ruth was hobbling so much that a walker offered her his walking stick. Back at the van we were surprised (well, I was) to find that Ruth’s left ankle was twice the size of her right ankle and some of it was a rather unappealing purple.
hebden suspension bridge

The Hebden suspension bridge and stepping stones

On the following morning Ruth’s planned ride depended on whether she could get her left foot in her riding boot. She could, eventually. So I left her to her ride and walked up the limestone hills to the east of Conistone. It had rained overnight, after the unseasonably hot day yesterday, and there was still misty moisture in the air, making the views not as good as they can be. I walked up Scot Gate Lane, which looked like it was a historic track over the moor, to Mossdale and Nidderdale, I assume. At the Dales Way crossing I took the Way path south for a couple of miles of easy walking.

At Lea Green, where there are signs of ancient settlements and field systems (but not to my untutored eye), I cut west to follow the path that returns northwest to Conistone. This I found a more enjoyable path than the Dales Way. For one thing, there was nobody else to be seen, whereas the Dales Way was littered with walkers. The path had more character and passed some fine scenery, including a secluded limestone cliff above Dib Beck that I never knew was there. Back at the riding stables the next question was whether Ruth would be able to get her riding boot off. Eventually, she could. (It is outside my brief to describe outings on horseback but I have it from the horse-rider’s mouth that it was “a lovely ride” on Kilnsey Moor, on the other side of the Wharfe.)
conistone path

The path to Conistone, with a hazy Kilnsey Crag in the distance

There was no question about the planned fourth short circuit on the limestone terraces north of Conistone. Ruth couldn't walk on uneven surfaces. Instead, we drove into Kettlewell and ambled about its lanes, which there are more of than we thought (and more pubs too!), trying to recall details of previous visits of some time ago. As with most Dales villages, its air of reassuring timelessness is challenged by its increased business. We walked a little way up the narrow, steep road that crosses over the moor into Coverdale and that provides a good view of the stone walls aligned in the fields of Kettlewell.
kettlewell fields

The graceful fields of Kettlewell

In the village we saw the familiar signs of the Dales Way. Way walkers are led down from the hills to Kettlewell, which must be good for its trade, and on to Buckden. The Dales Way is an 80-mile trail from Ilkley to Bowness-on-Windermere. The Way is always described as being walked in that direction, which means that it is downhill all the way, metaphorically speaking. The best bit is the first half or so up Wharfedale to (near) its source. Thereafter the Way proceeds, somewhat aimlessly, through Dentdale to Sedbergh, with the final section across relatively uninspiring land, neither Dales nor Lakes, to Bowness. If I were walking 80 miles to the Lake District I wouldn’t want to end up in Bowness. Anyway, the Dales Way seems psychologically misguided to me. A Dales Way should revel in the scenery of the Dales – after all, there is plenty of it. It shouldn’t give the impression that a Dales walker really wants to escape and get to that other National Park to the west.

Since the Dales Way was devised the borders of the Dales National Park have changed. The north-west boundary no longer runs across the middle of the Howgills. It has moved fifteen miles north, to north of the Orton Fells. A New Dales Way could continue from Sedbergh to Tebay or Ravenstonedale, say, and then across the Orton Fells through Crosby Ravensworth and Maulds Meaburn to Shap, say. That would give another two or three days of good Dales walking instead of the pointless Bowness section and help to incorporate the newer parts of the Dales. Shap is not within the National Park but then neither is Ilkley. A walk across the Yorkshire Dales should start and finish just outside the National Park otherwise it isn't fully across it. A walk between the south-east corner and the north-west corner of the Yorkshire Dales would make, to me, a more satisfying, complete, genuine Dales Way.

    Date: September 8th/9th 2021
    (a) Start: SE003637, Grassington car park  (Map: OL2)
    Route: S – Linton Falls – SE on Dales Way – Hebden suspension bridge – N – Hebden – NW – High Lane, Grassington – S – car park
    Distance: 5 miles;   Ascent: 85 metres
    (b) Start: SD980675, Conistone  (Map: OL2)
    Route: N, NE, E on Scot Gate Lane – Dales Way – S – Lea Green – W, NW – Conistone
    Distance: 5 miles;   Ascent: 160 metres
    (c) Start: SD968723, Kettlewell car park  (Map: OL2)
    Route: around the lanes of Kettlewell, plus a short walk up the road to Coverdale
    Distance: 1 mile;   Ascent: 50 metres
    Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 199/400;   Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 14.20

139.  Ruskin’s View and a View of Ruskin’s View

Messages from deepest Cumbria continue to confuse me. Yes, visitors, lots of them, are welcome. Especially if they spend lots of money. Which I don’t. But every week there’s a news item regretting all these visitors. They are walking up the fells in flip-flops, over-stretching the Mountain Rescue teams; they are causing the Lake District to be knee deep in the rubbish that is usually distributed across the continent; they are walking socially distant on the fells, thereby increasing erosion; they are infecting locals with covid, giving Cumbria one of the highest infection rates in the country. Visitors are now asked to take a test before coming – but since they are less likely to be infected than the locals perhaps it’s the latter who should be doing the testing. I thought it best to stay away and took a short bus-trip to Kirkby Lonsdale instead.

ruskin's view From the market square I walked through the churchyard to the view (now called Ruskin’s View) that in 1875 caused John Ruskin to say “Here are moorland, sweet river and English forest at their best … [the view is] one of the loveliest in England and therefore in the world”. At that time Ruskin was 56 and a man of the world sufficient to have seen many views with which to compare this one. He saw the River Lune approaching and then swerving south by the bank below, with the hills of Barbon Low Fell in the distance.

Many visitors to Kirkby Lonsdale must wander to Ruskin’s View and wonder what all the fuss is about. It is pleasant enough but nothing special. The words of Ruskin quoted above are never put into context. He was not writing for the local tourist industry. His words were within a diatribe criticising the inhabitants of Kirkby Lonsdale. He was saying, it seems to me, that this location (the beauties of which he exaggerated for effect) should be valued and protected, not ruined. He was appalled that locals used the bank as a rubbish tip: they “pitch their dust-heaps, and whatever of worse they have to get rid of, crockery and the rest – down over the fence among the primroses and violets to the river – and the whole blessed shore underneath … is one waste of filth, town drainage, broken saucepans, tannin and mill-refuse”. He didn’t like the recently-erected iron rails, which he thought dangerous, nor the seats, which he thought badly-designed. He didn’t think much of their church renovation either: “there is a fine old church, with Norman door, and lancet east windows, and so on; and this, of course, has been duly patched, botched, plastered and primmed up; and is kept as a tidy as a new pin”. Today, the rest of Kirkby Lonsdale is as tidy as a new pin too.

I dropped down to the river, crossed the Devil’s Bridge, walked along Chapelhouse Lane, and continued under the old railway line, along a stretch of the Roman Road, and past Fell Yeat plant nursery. There are two tracks north from Fell Road. The lower (Fellfoot Road) is the better known but the higher one is better – and it heads where I wanted to go. It is not only higher but also more open, giving fine views across the serene, green Lune valley to the Lake District skyline. It also affords a view of the stone circle which you would never notice without the map telling you it is there. It is not worth trespassing for a closer view of the dozen or so small stones.

From this track it was a short climb to the prominent cairn of Brownthwaite Pike (421 metres). The view from the cairn is extensive. To the south, the Lune heads towards Morecambe Bay. Circling east, we then have the Bowland ridge of Ward’s Stone and, closer by, Gragareth, Crag Hill and the top of Calf Top. To the north is the upper Lune valley, from the Howgills. To the west is the majestic skyline of the southern Lakeland hills. And there, nestled in the valley, lies Kirkby Lonsdale, including Ruskin’s View. I need hardly say which of the two views I prefer. (Brownthwaite Pike is the nobble on the right skyline of the Ruskin’s View photo above.)
south from lane

Looking south from the track approaching Brownthwaite Pike

from Brownthwaite Pike

The view from Brownthwaite Pike, with Kirkby Lonsdale in the middle distance

north from Brownthwaite Pike

Looking north from the northern slopes of Brownthwaite

From Brownthwaite Pike I began a circuitous – rather too circuitous, it turned out – return to Kirkby Lonsdale. I dropped down to Fellfoot Road, which would have been easier without the bracken, and walked past the mansion of Whelprigg, which I could hardly see through the trees. After looking for some time for somewhere to pause for a lunch-break, I eventually walked onto the driving range of Kirkby Lonsdale Golf Club (the golfers were all on the course proper, none of them needing to practise their driving), where I found a comfortable bench. Afterwards I walked on and detoured north to Beckfoot Farm to see the small old packhorse bridge, only a metre wide, now overgrown and unusable.

The rest of the walk passed in something of a daze, as, although it was pleasant enough with views across to the Barbon hills, I saw little that was sufficiently different from what I had seen on previous walks in this region to distract me from my increasing exhaustion. Eventually, I re-crossed the Devil’s Bridge, which was now crowded, and saw that many people were frolicking in and by the banks of the Lune. Perhaps I should have done likewise.
from Devil's Bridge

From the Devil's Bridge

    Date: August 26th 2021
    Start: SD612786, Kirkby Lonsdale market square   (Map: OL2)
    Route: N – Ruskin’s View – SE, S – Devil’s Bridge – E, NE on Chapelhouse Lane, E under old railway line, N on Wandales Lane, E past Fell Yeat, N, NE – Brownthwaite Pike – NW, W by Drygill Wood – Fellfoot Road – N, W, SW, N past Whelprigg and Low Bank House – lane – SW, N, SW, W on Scaleber Lane – N – Beckfoot Farm – S, E on Lowfields Lane – S, E – Casterton church – S past Old Manor, SW on Chapelhouse Lane, W – Devil’s Bridge, Kirkby Lonsdale
    Distance: 11 miles;   Ascent: 370 metres
    Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 196/400;   Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 14.04

138.  Ghosts, Lunatics and Invincibles – but no longer

In 1900 Anthony Hewitson wrote a book entitled Northward (Hewitson, 1900). The title is less informative than the sub-title – Historic, Topographic, Residential, and Scenic Gleanings, etc. between Preston and Lancaster. The book described the region passed through on a journey along and around the twenty miles or so of the A6 between Preston and Lancaster. I began my exploration from the A6 at Barton, heading east and then southward towards Preston.

Hewitson’s book focussed on the many mansions near the A6. The impression is given that the whole region between Preston and Lancaster was parcelled up into large estates, the ownership of which passed amongst families whose names appear over and over in the book: Bird, Brockholes, Butler, Dalton, Garnett, Lamb, Parker, Pleasington, Rawlinson, Shuttleworth, Tyldesley. Most of the estates were indeed large. The Barton estate, through the remains of which I walked, was sold in 72 lots in 1899 for £141,652, equivalent to about £12m today.

There is little mention in the book of what Hewitson and the various estate-owners would regard as the peasantry. They appeared only in incidental anecdotes. For example, it was said that in 1863 an accident occurred near Barton Brook Bridge when a large waggon ran out of control down a steep hill and killed three horses and a man. It must have been a tragedy for three valued horses to be killed. To help avoid similar accidents the hill was made less steep in 1869, with a tablet placed at the top reading “To relieve the sufferings of the animals labouring in our service …”.

barton cross After crossing the M6 I came to what is marked on the map as an antiquity, Barton Cross. The base may well be old but the rest isn’t, especially the absurd white cross on top. I then headed towards Whittingham House. Hewitson described this house in some detail but I couldn’t see it (if it’s still there) behind high hedges. So I walked on to Chingle Hall.

According to a BBC report, “many people believe Chingle Hall at Goosnargh to be the most haunted house in England”. Since the present owners do not, I understand, want to perpetuate this reputation they will not thank me for mentioning this. Who would want passing strangers peering into their property in search of apparitions? I didn’t see any. I experienced no spine-Chingling events.

I do not normally allow in these pages claims about the most this-or-that without some rigorous scientific justification. So I have searched the pages of phenomenology for a measure of hauntedness, but without success. I therefore propose the following formula for the coefficient of hauntedness CH:
    CH = i * n * g * l * e
where i is the average number of incidences of ghostly visitations (as detected by any of the human senses) per week; n is the number of distinguishably different ghosts per cubic metre of the house; g is a measure of the gory ghastliness of the pre-ghost’s(s') demise(s); l is the average length of ghostly manifestation; e is a measure (on the Beaufort scale) of the average experience of wailing, knocking or other manifestation. As in all science, these factors must be determined by extensive reliable observations. And therein lies a problem.

Hewitson did not mention Chingle Hall. Perhaps he was scared off by its reputation. He also didn’t mention the nearby County Lunatic Asylum. This asylum had opened in 1873 and was at one time the largest mental hospital in Britain. Although the buildings were of no interest to Hewitson they were, as were similar asylums elsewhere, on a grand scale and a matter of some civic pride. Winchester (2006) describes the Whittingham asylum’s “very generous and imaginative landscaping and monumental buildings”, including hospital, gasworks, church, sports facilities and railway station with its own private railway branch. It closed as a hospital in 1995 and has, to some extent, been refurbished as a residential Guild Park.

banner I had intended to walk east to see how the refurbishment was getting on and then south across fields. However, there is a lot of new building going on in the area and it is not difficult to imagine what they are doing with the old asylum. And I had already had problems locating footpath signs and stiles among the overgrowth and finding that the paths disappeared into brambles, nettles and Himalayan balsam. So I retreated to the B5269 and returned west. I was clearly within an area beset by arguments about building developments. There were banners and signs urging protest – and building work under way regardless.

Before reaching the M6 I took a path south. I must have been foolishly attracted by the name, Pudding Pie Nook. It was a scruffy track, awaiting planning permission for development (as everywhere seemed to be), and the footpath again became a morass of brambles and nettles. So I retreated to the B5269 again and continued west. By now I just wanted this ordeal to end, so I took the simplest option of walking to the A6 and then along it south into Preston, which is no fun at all.

After crossing under the M55, I noticed ‘Cromwell’s Mound’ marked as an antiquity on the map so I set off on the B6241 to see it. However, after half-a-mile I changed my mind. There were new buildings and roads not on my map and I suspected that the mound wouldn’t be worth seeing anyway. It probably has an absurd white cross on top. Or it has been flattened for new houses. (Later I read that I wasn’t far wrong. The mound, which is supposed to be the site of the Battle of Preston of 1648, is due to have a retail park built upon it. A retail park isn’t a park.)  So for the third time on this walk I backtracked.

benson memorial I turned my mind off and plodded down the A6, pausing at Moor Park, a rare area of green in Preston. It was created as a municipal park, from common moorland, in 1833. At the corner of the park I came across a memorial to Tom Benson, whom I had never heard of, which is remiss of me, since he was a champion long-distance walker. He set some sort of world record in 1986 by walking around Moor Park non-stop, covering a total of 415 miles. He could have walked from Preston to Weston-super-Mare and back.

Across the park I could see where in 1888-1889 a group of men ensured that the proud name of Preston would be forever remembered and revered throughout the land, which is more than can be said for all the estate-owners that Hewitson wrote about. Preston North End football club won the league and cup without losing a game, a feat that has never been matched. They were known as ‘The Invincibles’. The site of their ground at Deepdale is the longest continually used site of any English Football League team.

Of course, Hewitson did not mention football in his book, as he was writing a ‘county history’. It is said that history is written by the winners although it is evidently truer to say that it is written by those who are able to write histories. Hewitson was a well-to-do man on friendly terms, it seems, with all the well-to-do estate owners in the region and he and they naturally assumed that the only county history worth having was one about those owners and their estates. The large majority of the population who lived and worked in the region (and who celebrated the success of Preston North End) did not have the time and skills to write history, and are therefore not part of it.

    Date: August 13th 2021
    Start: SD514376, Barton   (Map: 286)
    Route: (linear) E past Blacow House Farm – Barton Cross – E, S, E, S past Meadowcroft – Whittingham House – E, S – Chingle Hall – N – B5269 – W, S – Pudding Pie Nook and path to M6 – N – B5269 – SW – old A6 crossroads in Broughton – S under M55, E on B6241 for a half a mile – W back to A6 – S – Moor Park, bus stop for No 40 bus
    Distance: 10 miles;   Ascent: 30 metres
    Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 196/400;   Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 13.93

137.  Bowness, Empty and Full

Bowness-on-Windermere is a place that provokes thoughts on the nature, meaning and futility of life. Bryson (1995) described Bowness as a "misplaced seaside resort" and found "at least twelve shops selling Peter Rabbit stuff". However, he missed 'The World of Beatrix Potter', which had opened in 1991.

Left: The view from School Knott school knott

Me too. I walked from Windermere railway station away from the lakeside attractions of Bowness towards the gentle, undulating, rocky hills east of Bowness. I headed first for School Knott (232 metres), which provides a splendid view over the upper reaches of the lake towards the central peaks. On this occasion, the view was not perfect. Clouds sat upon Scafell Pike, as they often do, but the shapes of Coniston Old Man, Bowfell and the Langdale Pikes could be made out through the haze that had accumulated after several hot, still days.

Thereafter, I walked for five miles through fields of bracken and gorse, around rocky outcrops, with occasional glimpses of distant tops. I had not come armed with an itinerary of interesting features to seek out – and indeed I saw little of interest or excitement to report here. It was perfectly peaceful and pleasant. I particularly enjoyed two sections. First, the path between Crag House and Gilpin Farm, which is the kind of place where not only do you see nobody but you would be astonished to see somebody. You feel alone with the birds, butterflies and bushes. And, secondly, the old track marked as a permissive path across the moor after Mitchelland Farm. I expect that very few people walk along this track although, from the look of it, it was probably a significant route in past centuries. On old maps it is marked as 'Green Lane' and of equal importance to the now paved road to the south.

Right: Typical terrain behind Bowness

Since leaving Windermere railway station I had seen only a handful of people, none with a backpack and most with a dog. This all changed once I left Brant Fell (191 metres), where there is another fine view over the lake, and dropped down into Bowness. Bowness was full. Every guest house had ‘no vacancies’, every café seat was occupied, traffic barely moved, families cluttered the pavements – and it was hot.

I took refuge on the island of calm that is St Martin’s Church. The Baddeley guide to the Lake District (Baddeley, 1880, 1922) devotes more pages to this church than to any other in the Lake District, so if I am to be marooned at a church perhaps there is no better one. Baddeley describes many features of the church – the ancient font, the biblical texts on the nave pillars, the Latin jubilation (1629) on the failure of the Gunpowder Plot (1605), the marble reredos, and so on – but, as expected, the church was closed. This is just as well since I feel it best to leave church visits to those who are able to appreciate church architecture. Nobody should be allowed to visit a church unless they know the difference between architrave and archivolt. I tried to study the stained glass windows of the eastern wing, said to be the church’s outstanding treasure with the earliest glass believed to date from 1260, but it was impossible to do so from the outside. I did at least find the grave-stone of Rasselas Belfield, an ‘Abyssinian slave’. The inscription, written in 1822 (before the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833) and not by Rasselas Belfield, of course, seems so mind-bogglingly naive to me that I include it here:
       A Slave by birth I left my native Land
       And found my Freedom on Britannia's Strand:
       Blest Isle! Thou Glory of the Wise and Free,
       Thy Touch alone unbinds the Chains of Slavery
Historic England provides a more detailed and sympathetic analysis.

I couldn’t cower in the churchyard forever. So I battled through the throngs and made my way up New Road (the A5094) to Windermere, passing the Baddeley Clock Tower on the way. It seems that Baddeley was a Bowness man. No wonder he thought so much of the church. Perhaps it’s not so special after all.

I am left to ponder. Why do so many people pile into Bowness? Do they enjoy the hustle and bustle? Do they think that Bowness represents the best of the Lake District? Does pottering about Bowness for a week really make a pleasurable holiday? Do they go home thinking that they have seen the Lake District? What’s wrong with me, that unlike thousands of others I prefer walking on empty hills and fields?
Brant Fell

The view from Brant Fell

    Date: July 26th 2021
    Start: SD414987, Windermere railway station   (Map: OL7)
    Route: E on A591, S, SE – School Knott – SE, SW, E – Hag End – E, S – Outrun Nook – S – Gilpin Farm – W – Mitchelland Farm – SW, W, NW – Lindeth Lane – N, W – Brant Fell – N, W, NE, W – Bowness – NE on A5074 – Windermere railway station
    Distance: 9 miles;   Ascent: 180 metres
    Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 195/400;   Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 13.76

136.  Green Fields or ‘Garden Village’?

Lancaster Council is considering a proposal to spend £260m on 9,000 new houses, most of them within a ‘Garden Village’, on green fields south of Lancaster. I am not competent to comment on the merits of this proposal – but I can at least walk through some of those green fields before they are no longer green fields.

I began at Scotforth, a southern suburb of Lancaster that was itself once a small village separate from Lancaster. The two became joined early in the 20th century by development alongside the A6, with terraced houses in Bowerham and Greaves. By 1933 there were no green fields between Lancaster and Scotforth. In subsequent decades the fields around the old centre of Scotforth were built upon, notably by the building of the Hala estate to the east in the 1970s, extending further south towards Bailrigg in the 1990s.

The new building (for student accommodation, I believe), replacing the old Filter House on the A6 at Bailrigg, looks peculiarly ugly to me. I hope that it hasn’t set the standard for the new ‘Garden Village’. I paused at the trig point on Burrow Heights where, from a majestic height of 59 metres, I could survey most of the green fields that are due to disappear. I understand that a ‘green belt’ will be left to separate the ‘Garden Village’ from Scotforth and, to the south, from Galgate. Otherwise building is planned on the wedge-shaped region between the A6 and the A588 (the road from Lancaster to Cockerham and Pilling). lancaster canal

Also from the trig point I could see the Ashton Memorial, Clougha Pike, Hawthornthwaite Fell, Lancaster University, Fleetwood, Morecambe Bay and the Lake District hills. I wonder what I will be able to see when the new houses are finished. Judging from the map, the area to be built upon is about one-fifth or less of the area occupied now by Lancaster’s housing. The latter houses 53,000 people. The new houses are for another 32,000. So, it seems, the houses of the ‘Garden Village’ will be either smaller, higher, or more densely packed than those of Lancaster.

From the trig point I walked to the canal and then south along the tow-path for two miles. I heard nothing but birds and one plane. I saw two people – a man by his canal-boat and a cyclist. I wonder what the canal will be like when the new houses are finished. The plan aims to “retain [the] character and setting” of the canal and indeed “the heart of the garden village [is] to be near the canal”. I doubt that this stretch of canal will be peaceful with 9,000 houses nearby. At the least there will be a parade of dog-walkers with a dog-lead in one hand and a goody-bag in the other. Perhaps it’s better that instead of a few people appreciating the canal a lot we’ll have lots of people appreciating it a little.

As I neared Galgate I left the canal to walk west. The plan proposes that work begins east of the canal in 2022 and west of the canal in 2031. So the green fields that I walked through on the way to the A588 are also due to disappear. There is, as far as I know, nothing special about these fields, today occupied by sheep and cows, and the isolated woods, today the home, no doubt, of some wildlife. But then I’m not sure that there will be anything special about the new houses. The concept of a ‘Garden Village’ baffles me. A village garden, yes, but a garden village? What is proposed doesn’t seem very garden-y or village-y to me.
green fields

Just some green fields (plus pylons)

At Conder Green I left the area of the proposed new houses. This walk was another of my opportunistic outings – and this time I met up with Ruth for a coffee break at the Tithe Barn Hill lookout point in Glasson. We then walked along Marsh Lane to Crook Farm along the track that was well under water the last time we came this way (37). At Crook Farm we sat for some time with our binoculars, looking across to Fleetwood, Morecambe Bay and Sunderland Point. We were puzzled for a while by black objects well out to sea from Sunderland Point before realising that they were cows, waiting to be ushered inland by the incoming tide. We then had a pleasant lunch by the marina in Glasson, a village that has perked up somewhat from what it was like on our first visits here. If Lancaster does reach as far as Conder Green then Glasson will be next.

Sunderland from Crook Farm

    Date: July 8th 2021
    Start: SD480595, Barton Road   (Map: 296)
    Route: (linear) E, S, SW – A6 – S, W, NW – Burrow Heights trig point – NW – canal – S on tow-path – near Galgate – W – Parkside Farm, Webster’s Farm, A588 – S, W on tow-path – Glasson, Tithe Barn Hill – S, SW on Marsh Lane – Crook Farm – back to Tithe Barn Hill
    Distance: 8 miles;   Ascent: 50 metres
    Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 193/400;   Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 13.61

     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


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