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Saunterings:  Walking in North-West England  1 - 10

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).

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     Latest (with a list of all Saunterings so far)  
     Next 11 - 20  
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   

10.  The 'Hillfort' of Addlebrough

Mike Harding – singer, songwriter, comedian, author, poet, broadcaster and multi instrumentalist, according to his website, and also a Lancastrian enamoured of the Yorkshire Dales and a former president of the Ramblers’ Association – wrote in his 1986 best-seller Walking the Dales that the first century Brigante chief Venutius “hoped to contain the power of the Romans … [and] as well as the massive fort at Stanwick [near Brough], he built forts on Ingleborough, Gregory Scar (north of Grassington) and on Addlebrough in Wensleydale”. It is a romantic thought that the brave British Brigantes built a fort on the prominent flat-topped hill of Addlebrough in order to face off the Romans based down in the valley at Virosidum, their fort at Bainbridge, but is it likely?


Addlebrough, from the north-west

The second part of the name Addlebrough is presumably derived from the Old English word burh, meaning "a fortified place”. However, the Ordnance Survey does not use its special font to mark an ancient hillfort on Addlebrough although it does indicate ancient settlements and cairns on and around it. Perhaps Harding assumed an analogy with Ingleborough, where a hillfort is marked by the Ordnance Survey. However, Johnson (2008) doubts that the evidence of ancient constructions on Ingleborough signifies a hillfort, despite what the Ordnance Survey has marked.

Perhaps it depends what exactly we mean by a ‘fort’. If we adopt the standard dictionary definition of a “military building designed to be defended from attack” then, yes, a hill-top barracks, surrounded by a wall, is rather difficult to attack. However, there is little need to attack because the garrison therein is no threat and does not have the means (water and food) to survive there for long. Although the Brigantes were hardy people, it seems somewhat perverse for them to expose themselves to the worst of the elements on Ingleborough and Addlebrough (perhaps less so on Addlebrough, as it is only 480 metres high), although the climate was rather warmer and less windy at that time.

However, if we doubt the existence of a hillfort on Ingleborough and especially on Addlebrough then we need to explain what the ancient constructions were. As far as Ingleborough is concerned, Johnson suggests that the ancient hut circles are from structures that may have served more of a ceremonial function. In Addlebrough’s case, we seem to have settlements marked not on the plateau top but to the west and south of it. I went to try to absorb the atmosphere of these ancient settlements, without, of course, expecting to find any answers.

Wensleydale, from near Bainbridge

I walked from the triangular green of Bainbridge to Thornton Rust, a quiet village of fine houses and a tucked-away car park, from which a bridleway heads up to Addlebrough. I detoured south to Greenber Edge to have a look at the remains of old settlements, that is, the lines of old walls and a large pile of stones forming the cairn of Stony Raise. Of course, not all ancient people settled in the higher regions. That is just where there are still remains. The remains of those who lived in the valley of Wensleydale no longer remain, because the farming since has obliterated them. Anyway, clearly some people had long ago settled themselves upon this high ridge, with a view of Addlebrough across Thornton Mire. I settled myself there to have a snack and to imagine their life. Radiocarbon dating studies of the mire have shown that 8,500 years ago it was a pine forest, that by 4,500 years ago birch, alder and hazel predominated, and that by 2,500 years ago the woodland had been cleared. I don’t know how they survived then but if they had lived here now they could have had a rabbit-rich diet, as the hill was full of them.

I reflected also upon the geology. The scars below Addlebrough, and of Addlebrough itself, are obviously of limestone but the walk up the bridleway headed towards the darker hills of Black Pasture and Stake Fell. One or two grouse flew past, and a shooting hut and butts could be seen. This hill becomes heather moorland, with the heather growing upon millstone grit, not limestone. The Greenber Edge settlers seemed to use slate, not limestone, for their walls and cairns.

The view from Addlebrough was splendid. The spring green valley of Wensleydale was stretched out below, with the River Ure meandering therein and with Abbotside Common and Askrigg Common rising above. The only discordant note lie on the horizon, which was disfigured by patches of rare, medium and thoroughly burnt heather. How did we come to accept this as natural? And how did the Commons come to be uncommon, reserved for a few to kill birds? I turned away, west, where a fine view opened out of Semer Water, the second largest natural lake in North Yorkshire, Malham Tarn being the largest.
Semer Water

Semer Water, from Addlebrough

I wandered about the top of Addlebrough. I could see nothing that, to my inexpert eyes, seemed similar to the remains of ramparts and hut circles that even I can make out on Ingleborough. Addlebrough has a natural defence to the north, in its limestone cliffs, but that seems all that might support a hillfort theory. My doubts are reinforced by a 2014 report by the Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Archaeology Group that says categorically that “there are no defended settlements, or hillforts, in Wensleydale.” I conclude that Mike Harding was carried away in his enthusiasm.

    Date: April 30th 2018
    Start: SD934903, Bainbridge green  (Map: OL30)
    Route: SE over bridge – Brough Scar – E – Cubeck, Thornton Rust – SW, SW on bridleway, S – Greenber Edge – W – Stony Raise – N – Addlebrough – W – Devil’s Stone – NW, N – Bainbridge
    Distance: 8 miles;   Ascent: 260 metres

9.  "The Prettiest Mere of All" Lakeland

We are fond of our superlatives, especially when it comes to the Lake District. If it is a matter of fact – the highest mountain (Scafell Pike) or the deepest lake (Wastwater) in England – then there is little scope for discussion. But when it is a matter of opinion we can have endless arguments.

What, for example, is the best mountain in the Lake District? For some the highest is necessarily the best. Others would opt for another of the high mountains, such as Helvellyn or Great Gable. Wainwright, in the last of his seven volumes on the Lakeland Fells, felt compelled to list the “six best fells”: Blencathra, Bowfell, Crinkle Crags, Great Gable, Pillar and Scafell Pike. He added that “the grandest of the lot” is Scafell Pike. However, the fell that he liked best was Haystacks, which some don’t even count as a mountain, since it is less than 2,000 feet high. I don’t know if Harry Griffin, who wrote about the Lake District in The Guardian for over forty years, committed himself to a best fell but he did say that a friend considered Pen “his favourite Lakeland summit” and that “it is also, certainly, one of mine”. The fact that Pen is not one of Wainwright’s 214 may have been a factor. Griffin did, at least, express an opinion on the fell that afforded the best view: Bowfell.

What about the lakes? Wordsworth said that Ullswater has “the happiest combination of beauty and grandeur which any of the lakes affords”. Many would concur but some would suggest Derwent Water instead. The famous Baddeley guide (1880, 1922) said that the “upper reach of Windermere is without doubt the most striking example of diversified beauty in the British Isles.” Davies (2016) comments that Buttermere is “a perfect little lake”. Well, you can’t get better than perfect, although perhaps the ‘little’ disqualifies Buttermere from being thought comparable to Ullswater or Windermere.

I have been provoked towards these thoughts by reading that William Palmer, in his classic book The English Lakes (1905), written with the artist Alfred Heaton Cooper, referred to the “prettiest mere of all”. To what do you think he was referring?

I felt duty-bound to see it. I began my search at Grasmere. Some will say that I need look no further. Davies indeed comments that Grasmere “does look very pretty”, as, of course, it does when viewed from Loughrigg Fell. No doubt the Wordsworths considered it so when they wandered up Loughrigg from Dove Cottage. But no, the prettiest mere is not Grasmere, according to Palmer, although it is within walking distance of it.

You will probably next think of Easedale Tarn. The walk to Easedale Tarn, past Sourmilk Gill, is one of the standard Lake District walks, popular since Victorian times – so popular that for many decades there was a refreshment hut by the tarn. The tarn itself is in a fine setting, lying in a hollow between Blea Rigg and Tarn Crag, forming an ideal spot for a summer picnic. I did indeed continue my search by walking up to Easedale Tarn. The path is now reinforced almost all the way, trodden to submission by many boots. It was a relief to get off this path and to wander on grass. I came upon a couple plodding gingerly along. The man said only one thing: “It’s a bit soggy in places, isn’t it?” I don’t know if he was unhappy or happy about that. It is often a lot soggy everywhere.

Easedale Tarn

Easedale Tarn

But no, it was not Easedale Tarn that Palmer had in mind. I continued up the steep slope alongside which Belles Knott seemed surprisingly precipitous. I turned north, hardly able to contain my anticipation. When walking to a mountain top one is aware of the looming presence ahead. At the top, the view over the other side is always a pleasant reward but the top itself, so long the target, is not really a surprise. However, when walking up to a tarn, there is nothing of the tarn to see on the way. It is only at the moment one reaches the level of the tarn that it is suddenly revealed, all of it. It is as if a curtain in front of a masterpiece is whipped aside.

And there it was … Codale Tarn. Palmer wrote in Chapter 17 that "Codale Tarn, to my mind, is the prettiest mere of all: stand back from its outlet and drink in the picture – the narrow dark band of water, the great pile of rock dabbed with spits of grass, seamed with moss-laces and with parsley fern." Codale Tarn had not figured in my consciousness before I read this comment. How could I have overlooked such a gem?
Codale Tarn

The Prettiest Mere of All

I was not alone in not really being aware of Codale Tarn. Davies describes the best tarns, in addition to the sixteen lakes, and includes Easedale Tarn but does not mention Codale Tarn. Baddeley said only that Codale Tarn is “an insignificant sheet of water … swampy and stuffy”. Wainwright, being focussed upon the mountains, did not usually say much about the lakes and tarns. He did, however, describe Easedale Tarn as “a romantic setting, inurned in bracken-clad moraines with a background of craggy fells”. He then added that Easedale Tarn “is not the only jewel in Tarn Crag’s lap. A smaller sheet of water, Codale Tarn, occupies a hollow on a higher shelf.” That’s it, but still it seems that he conceded that Codale Tarn is a ‘jewel’, although a lap is a funny place for two jewels.

I was not disappointed by Codale Tarn. But then, despite Palmer’s words, my expectations were not that high. It was obvious from the map that Codale Tarn does not have the rugged scenery of Helvellyn’s Red Tarn, the lofty eminence of Bowfell’s Three Tarns, or the manicured beauty of Tarn Hows. Codale Tarn is an average-sized tarn, set within modest fells. Perhaps ‘pretty’ meant something different in 1905. Today, it smacks of faint praise. Something ‘pretty good’ is not that good. It suggests perhaps a twee artificiality, but that certainly does not apply to Codale Tarn. The scene seems entirely natural, apart from the fact that over the centuries we have removed trees in order to farm sheep. I could see no other sign of humanity: no buildings, no walls, no paths, no cairns, no rubbish and, of course, no people.

I began to walk around the tarn in order to appreciate it from all angles. Then, suddenly, I saw two walkers, heavily backpacked, striding out purposefully. They marched to the main inlet of the tarn and began placing various instruments in the beck. I wandered around. They were researchers from Lancaster University, testing the nutrients entering the tarn. Being from Lancaster University myself (although over two decades ago) we began to mention names, hoping to find mutual acquaintances – and we did find two names that we all knew. They were amused to think that they’d come all the way to this remote tarn only to find a Lancaster University person there. They had several more tarns to test, so I left them to it, pleased to know that others also have an eye on Codale Tarn.

I must admit that I had grown rather fond of Codale Tarn by the time I left it. It has an unpretentious charm. I cannot say that there is anything special about it at all. And yet through its very ordinariness, it becomes a special place. It is a prototypical Lakeland tarn. If you wished to show someone a typical Lakeland tarn then you could not do better than Codale Tarn. And you can’t say fairer than that.

    Date: April 23rd 2018
    Start: NY339073, Grasmere car park  (Maps: OL7, OL6)
    Route: NW, NW on Easedale Road – Easedale – W – Sourmilk Gill, Easedale Tarn, path south of Belles Knott – N – around Codale Tarn – SE – below Slapestone Edge – E – north side of Easedale Tarn, around Ecton Crag – SE – Grasmere
    Distance: 7 miles;   Ascent: 405 metres

8.  What Price Catrigg Force?

From the Settle Market bus stop I headed straight to the Settle Hydro, hoping to get some up-to-date information about it. At least, I intended to but I didn't find it. Never mind, I pressed on along the west bank of the River Ribble, a pleasant walk if rather gluey after recent rain. As compensation, Stainforth Force was in frisky form. It’s not really a waterfall but more a sequence of cascades. I then walked up beside Stainforth Beck to Catrigg Force, which really is a waterfall, or rather two waterfalls.

Stainforth Force

Stainforth Bridge and Stainforth Force

A few years ago Catrigg Force was put up for sale. Why would anyone buy a waterfall, even with a buy-one-get-one-free offer? A buyer would be able to stand and admire their waterfall – but then so would anyone else prepared to walk half a mile up the steep public footpath from Stainforth. They might imagine building a home from which they could sit and watch their tumbling waters – but there is no easy access to the waterfall to enable it to be built. So there’s not much point buying it really, is there?

My mention of the Settle Hydro may have primed you but in case not the ever-reliable Daily Telegraph has the answer. With its knack for homing in on what is important, it published an item about a “profitable waterfall” going on sale. The power freely available, all day and every day, could be harnessed by means of a hydro-electric scheme that could, according to experts, generate £1,000 worth of electricity a day. So for an environmental entrepreneur that’s surely an eco-friendly windfall and waterfall.

Any such scheme would, of course, need to obtain planning permission. However, the authorities have already approved the Settle Hydro nearby and any Catrigg Force scheme would be much more hidden away. Indeed, we are assured that modern hydro-electric plants can be completely inconspicuous. Paradoxically, this invisible power plant would, it is claimed, make a “stunning tourist attraction”. The Settle Hydro has a projected 40-year life-time and so something similar at Catrigg Force could, over 40 years, earn £14.6 million. Worth a plunge?

I looked hard at Catrigg Force to see if there was any sign that some entrepreneurial environmentalist had taken up the challenge but I could see none. But then I wouldn’t if it was completely inconspicuous, would I?

Pen-y-ghent and Fountains Fell from above Catrigg Force (which is in the trees to the left)

Having somehow missed the Settle Hydro I had a second try. I forewent the intended walk up to Winskill Moor and instead dropped down to the Ribble again at Langcliffe. I asked at the Watershed Mill centre about the Hydro and was passed from person to person until someone was at last found who knew that it was just downstream – and indeed it was, not completely but fairly inconspicuous, especially from the other side of the river, as I was before.

The Settle Hydro began in 2009 and immediately received awards and criticism, in equal measure. The former acknowledged its contribution to renewable energy, although I note that the last of the seven awards listed on the website is in 2011. Perhaps the website-updater is too modest or too inefficient, or perhaps there have been no later awards. Critics, such as the Angling Trust, pointed out that the Hydro had taken water from the Ribble when it shouldn’t have on 238 occasions in 2010 and perhaps as a result of this the numbers of salmon upriver were greatly reduced. Nevertheless, the Environment Agency renewed the licence in 2015, deeming that the contraventions of the abstraction licence were minor and that the salmon decrease was just part of an international decline.

We need more than anglers’ anecdotes and bland EA reassurances to make a judgement about Settle Hydro. We need data. Even the precise sounding “238 occasions” tells us little. We don’t know how often they check the abstractions – it could be once a day or, say, every ten minutes (and in the latter case, 238 occasions could amount to just two days). How can we know whether the Hydro is a problem for salmon or not? The anglers suggest that the noise of the Hydro may deter salmon, but I doubt it, as the fish pass is already right by the busy B6479. Surely scientists know, or can determine, whether salmon are affected by such a rhythmic hum. But why isn’t the fish pass on the quieter side anyway? Why isn’t there a fish count to tell us precisely how many salmon passed before and after the Hydro was constructed? At least, I couldn’t see one and if there were a fish count and the data showed that the salmon were happily passing the Hydro then I am sure that Settle Hydro and the EA would be keen to tell us so. But I suspect that the sloppy science is deliberate. Without figures, nobody can use the pioneering Settle Hydro as a precedent, either way, for any other proposed hydro-electric scheme, leaving the EA to make a decision as it wishes.

The information board at the Hydro is perfunctory. It doesn’t even tell us how much power is generated – it says the maximum possible, but not the actual. I noticed no signs to the Hydro. It is not a tourist attraction, let alone a ‘stunning’ one, as promised for any Catrigg Force scheme. I wandered into the Settle Tourist Information Centre to ask about the Hydro. One assistant hadn’t heard of it; the other knew where it was but no more. It seems that the Settle Hydro is of about as much interest to locals and visitors as, say, a bottle bank – and perhaps that is how it should be.

Overall, then, I am sceptical about any Catrigg Force hydro-electric scheme. Perhaps the Telegraph reporter was confused by the ‘force’. Force is not the same as power, as any school physicist knows.

    Date: April 5th 2018
    Start: SD819637, Settle market square  (Map: OL2)
    Route: NW – River Ribble – N along Ribble Way – Stainforth Force, Stainforth Bridge – E – Stainforth, Catrigg Force – SW – Winskill, Langcliffe – S on road – bridge over Ribble – SE – Settle market square
    Distance: 7 miles;   Ascent: 250 metres

7.  Castling in Cumbria: From Brougham to Lowther

According to Wikipedia’s list of castles in England, Cumbria has more castles than any other English county, 63 in fact. I went to see four of them on this saunter: Brougham Castle, Lowther Castle, Clifton Hall and Brougham Hall.

A definition of ‘castle’ would be helpful. Unfortunately there isn’t a precise one because the concept just developed over the centuries. The Wikipedia list is of medieval fortifications, although there are, of course, older constructions that are called castles, such as the Iron Age Maiden Castle in Dorset and the Roman Burgh Castle in Norfolk. Most Roman forts, such as Brocavum, next to Brougham Castle, are not normally considered to be castles. Brougham Castle itself, founded in the early 13th century, certainly qualifies and indeed serves well as a prototypical English castle.

Brougham Castle

Brougham Castle

I did not dally at Brougham Castle, as I had visited it before, but viewed it from across the River Eamont, as I walked west by the riverside. The Eamont flows from Ullswater to meet the River Lowther at Brougham Castle on its way to join the River Eden. Sometimes it flows too fulsomely and is unable to pass under the fine 15th century Eamont Bridge, causing flooding of nearby houses. At other times the bridge's narrowness means that traffic is unable to flow smoothly over it. When the A6 was the main road north it was a notorious bottleneck. Only its antiquity has saved it from replacement.
Eamont Bridge

Eamont Bridge

At the M6 I turned south to have a look at the two Neolithic henges, Mayburgh Henge and King Arthur's Round Table. I paused at the latter to read the information board but walked off when I read its first three words: “Despite it’s name”. I never found out who Neolithic Arthur was. On reflection, I accepted that even people employed by English Heritage to produce information boards may make a slip. Its unlikely that there are none in this document.

Earl Henry’s Drive on the west bank of the River Lowther was a three mile plod. I tried to imagine this drive without the ever-present noise from the adjacent M6, without London-Glasgow trains rattling by, and without the large holiday park. Then the owners of the Lowther Estate would have had this long, leisurely, quiet, impressive entrance to their abode. By the time I emerged from the wood into the parkland, I felt that it was absurdly over-the-top to flaunt one’s wealth in this way when the majority of the population was so poor. I suppose the wealthy do much the same today.

I was not in the mood to appreciate Lowther Castle when at last I reached it. It is an odd building. Its walls look new and yet the building is a ruin, in the sense that roofs and windows are missing. It looks more like part of a film set than a real castle. Is it, in fact, a castle? It was built from 1806, which is hardly medieval. It was, no doubt, built on the site of earlier mansions but, as far as I know, they were not castles from which the title may be inherited. It cannot be reasonably described as fortified either. It did not need to be fortified in the 19th century. The turrets and so on are just embellishments that look like fortifications. But I suppose ‘fortified’ is an elastic concept. Even my own house is designed to keep intruders out. Overall, I’d say that Lowther Castle is a folie de grandeur, if not a folly.
Lowther Castle

Lowther Castle

Walking back on the east side of the Lowther and crossing the M6, I arrived at Clifton Hall. Actually, I arrived at the squat tower house, which is all of the hall that remains. The information board (no slips this time) gave many details of its history but nowhere did it call Clifton Hall a castle. It was a 15th century manor house.

I continued to Brougham Hall. I was rather taken with it. Who wouldn’t like a place whose first door was labelled ‘Brougham Cupboard’? There has been a recent attempt to rescue the hall from dereliction and to develop it into a centre for local crafts. I saw an appeal to “any American or other kind-hearted visitor”. I am kind-hearted but I can only wish it well. But is it a castle? It describes itself as ‘the Windsor of the North’. Well, Windsor is a castle, so … but, no, Brougham Hall is not, and never has been, a castle, to my mind. It was a manor house, plus pele tower.

The history of the ownership of these four buildings is a convoluted tale of several illustrious dynasties of the north. Suffice to say that in medieval times several wealthy families lived cheek-by-jowl within the scope of my saunter, in what I had assumed to be a relative backwater. It couldn’t have been a haven of retreat for them either, with marauding Scotsmen just to the north. Perhaps this small region always had great strategic importance, as indicated by the other evidence passed on this walk – the ancient Henges and the Roman fort at Brougham. As I was well aware on this walk, the region has little strategic importance today as a gateway to and from the north because most people dash straight through it on the M6, the A6 or the London-Glasgow train.

As someone who resents the opulence of the few when the many were (and are) in poverty, I am pleased to read that the families’ centuries-long tenancies of these castles and halls ended in ignominy. Lowther Castle was abandoned in 1937 after the extravagance of the 5th Earl of Lonsdale squandered much of the family fortune. The 7th Earl at least had the sense to say that the castle “exemplified gross imperial decadence during a period of abject poverty” and began to have it demolished. He desisted after others appealed for mercy on its behalf. The present Earl of Lonsdale (the 8th) is in such penury that he now owns a mere 5,000 acres and has tried to sell Blencathra. Similarly, Brougham Hall was sold in 1934 by the 4th Baron Brougham and Vaux in order to pay off many debts, some incurred by gambling. The fortunes of the Wybergh family, who owned Clifton Hall, declined after Thomas Wybergh was on the losing side in the English Civil War (1642-1651) and after the hall was looted by the Bonnie Prince Charlie Jacobites of 1745, during the last-ever skirmish on English soil. The Clifford family of Brougham Castle continues – we are now up to the 27th Baron de Clifford (not to be confused with the 14th Baron Clifford of Chudleigh or a Clifford barony in abeyance (whatever that means) since 1858) – but it abandoned Brougham Castle after the death of the redoubtable Lady Anne Clifford in 1676. The locals re-used much of the castle’s stonework in nearby properties and I don’t blame them.

Despite what Wikipedia says, I consider that I saw only one castle on this walk. I won’t worry too much about the other 59 on its list.

    Date: March 19th 2018
    Start: NY538291, by Brougham Castle Bridge  (Map: OL5)
    Route: W on north bank of River Eamont – Eamont Bridge – S over bridge, W – M6 – SE past Mayburgh Henge, E past King Arthur’s Round Table, S under M6, under Hugh's Crag Viaduct – Low Gardens Bridge, Lowther Castle – N, NE – Buckholme Lodge, M6 – N, E over M6 - Clifton Hall – N – Brougham Hall – NE, N – Brougham Castle Bridge
    Distance: 9 miles;   Ascent: 80 metres

6.  The Count of Flasby Fell

When the Yorkshire Dales National Park was created in 1954 its boundaries were carefully defined so that the Park was unsullied by undesirable urbanness. Skipton, Settle, Ingleton, Richmond, Leyburn and Pateley Bridge were all kept just outside the Park. As a result a number of places claim to be ‘the gateway to the Dales’. The most insistent of these is Skipton, being as it is on the route from the cities of Leeds and Bradford.

Nowadays it is not necessary to go through the Skipton gateway at all because of the bypass opened in 1982. For this walk, in fact, I started from a lay-by on the bypass. It is a variant of a walk for those in Skipton wishing to get a foothold in the Yorkshire Dales, to hear the skylarks and the lapwings singing (if the sound the latter makes counts as singing), and to gain, for relatively little effort, a fine view of some Dales scenery. It is also possible to ‘bag’ the various tops of Flasby Fell although this is no great achievement since the highest, Sharp Haw, is only 357 metres high, which is just 200 metres up from the lay-by. Still, it has a distinctive conical top, which it is satisfying to conquer. My glow of success was somewhat dimmed by finding a shiny garden bench awaiting me at the top, with the message “sit thee down and rest awhile, the view will surely make thee smile.” How sweet!

Sharp Haw and Rough Haw

Sharp Haw and Rough Haw in the distance

However, I must not be sniffy about Flasby Fell. Sharp Haw is a Marilyn and as such is an object of desire for certain walkers. They have a mission to get on top of all the Marilyns in England, all 176 of them. A Marilyn is a hill that, regardless of absolute height, has a relative height of 150 metres. This means that if you walk in any direction at all from the top of a Marilyn you must drop at least 150 metres before you can walk up a higher hill. For example, the isolated Pendle (557m) is clearly a Marilyn because you have to drop nearly 400 metres before you can begin to walk up Whernside or any other higher hill. Not all Marilyns are big mountains – for example, Arnside Knott (159m) is a Marilyn because you have to drop to near sea-level in every direction. Not all big mountains are Marilyns – for example, Bowfell (902m) is not a Marilyn because you only have to drop 120 metres or so before walking up Scafell Pike. If you are into peak-bagging then the Marilyns can help by coalescing the peaks into smaller sets. For example, the Howgills has about forty named tops over 400 metres but only two of them are Marilyns. If you want to work out for yourself which two they are then look away now … while I add a bit of irrelevant padding here in case your eyes have wandered ahead … before I say that obviously one of them must be the highest point of the Howgills, The Calf, and the other happens to be Yarlside.

The only other named summit on Flasby Fell is Rough Haw (339m). Some lists of hill-tops to be bagged do not use a precise prominence rule like the Marilyns. For example, the original peak-bagging list, the Munros of Scotland (Marilyn Munro – ah) listed all separate mountains over 3,000 feet, but ‘separate’ was rather vaguely defined and as a result the list seems subject to perpetual revision. There are other lists of peaks to bag. Or you could make up your own. You could decide to include all OS named tops – so Rough Haw would be in. You could decide to include all tops with an immediate drop of, say, 10 metres in all directions – that would include three further unnamed rises (326m, 289m and 283m) on Flasby Fell. You could include all peaks with a shiny bench on top.

One? Two? Five? Who cares? I am more interested nowadays in appreciating the fells than in counting them. I investigated the stones on the slopes of Rough Haw that are believed to be the remains of Neolithic or Bronze Age ramparts. I couldn’t see it myself as I scrambled up past impressively large boulders but I was prepared to bow to the antiquarians. Then, as I dropped down the northern side, I came across a disorderly row of boulders that could have once been a wall or even ramparts, if they insist.

I changed my mind about visiting the two northerly unnamed summits. They did not promise a better view than the ones I’d already had. Reaching Flasby Beck, it seemed impolite, having come this far, to not have a look at the village of Flasby. It only took a few minutes to walk around the triangle of houses but there was nothing particularly noteworthy, not even a view of Flasby Hall.

I walked back to Crag Wood but found it semi-demolished, and what wasn’t demolished was mainly rhododendron. And then, lo and behold, another shiny bench. How convenient! Just the place to sit for a sandwich. The morning mist that had rendered Ingleborough a small island in a grey sea had now evaporated, and Pendle, snowier than the Dales tops, was prominent. Eshton Hall looked rather grand, if a little distant. Sandwich over, I aborted the rest of Crag Wood and returned to the fell. I walked up the unnamed summit (326m) and, flushed with my success with the ramparts, searched for the ancient enclosure marked on the map. I could find nothing among the bracken and boulders that looked like an enclosure to me. On balance, I think I am more convinced of antiquity by something tangible, something that I can lay my hands on, such as the Flasby Sword, an Iron Age sword and scabbard discovered here in 1848. It is now in the Craven Museum in Skipton.
Sharp Haw

Sharp Haw from the unnamed summit to its south

Back at the car, I thought about nipping in to the museum and laying my hands on the sword, but I knew that they wouldn’t let me. They wouldn’t even let me see it, because it is apparently in such poor condition that the sword cannot be removed from its scabbard. I suppose that I would be prepared to accept that it is in there, but even so it’d be a tad unconvincing. Anyway, it is clear that Flasby Fell is a landscape of vintage Yorkshireness, and I am not referring to the cantankerous fast-bowler Fred Trueman, who lived in Flasby.

    Date: March 9th 2018
    Start: SD988527, layby on the Skipton by-pass  (Map: OL2)
    Route: N across golf course – Brackenley Lane – W, NW – Sharp Haw – NE – Rough Haw – W – Flasby – around triangle, E, S, SE – New Laithe – S – near White Rock in Crag Wood – SE – unnamed summit south of Sharp Haw – SE, retracing outward route – Skipton by-pass
    Distance: 8 miles;   Ascent: 200 metres

5.  Circumperambulating Stocks Reservoir

Stocks Reservoir is multi-purpose and it was kind enough to present its various purposes to me, one-by-one, during a walk around the reservoir. First, as I left the School Lane car park heading north I saw two hides, for observing water-birds on the reservoir. The part of the reservoir north of the larger island is essentially reserved for birds and bird-watchers. Stocks Reservoir is an important wintering site for cormorants, mallard, pintail, teal and wigeon. Many other species, such as whooper swan, Canada goose, pink-footed goose and red-breasted merganser, have also been recorded here. There are also many species of waders that visit or breed around the reservoir and various raptors also call in. However, it was so bitterly cold, with wisps of snow in the air, that I suspect the birds were snuggled together somewhere for warmth.

There were no bird-watchers in the hides for me to snuggle together with, so I wandered on, to appreciate the second purpose of the reservoir, that is, to provide timber from the adjacent forest. Gisburn Forest, the largest forest in Lancashire, is not an old woodland. It was planted when the reservoir was created in order perhaps to prevent possible pollution from the many farms that would otherwise have remained on the land above the reservoir. Today, its conifers are being replaced by native, broad-leaved trees, although there are plenty of conifers still to go. There is a Gisburn Forest Hub at the centre of a network of forest walks and cycle trails but my focus on this outing was on the reservoir itself.

River Hodder

River Hodder (above the reservoir)

I proceeded north past the derelict farmhouse of New House, across the young River Hodder, and eventually back towards the reservoir. As I swung west, I came upon the third purpose of the reservoir, that is, to provide a fishery. Stocks Reservoir is said to be the largest fly-fishery in North-West England. It is, I read, well-stocked with brown, rainbow and blue trout. I never knew there were blue trout. The genetic diversity of trout is complex – too complex for me – but as I understand it only the first of these three is native to England, which seems a shame for Stocks Reservoir, although I am somewhat reassured to read that the Stocks fish are triploid, meaning that they are sterile. Anyway, the anglers are clearly content, not least because they are not restricted to fishing from the bank. There is a fleet of ‘Coulam boats’ specifically designed for fly-fishing. The boats must, of course, stay in their part of the reservoir, south of the island. I wonder how the anglers get on with those cormorants, when they are keen to cull them elsewhere.

Fisherman and Coulam boats at Stocks Reservoir

I saw five fishermen, which was five more than I expected on such a cold day – two of them up to their thighs in the icy water. I walked on and came across several signs warning me of frogs. The frogs certainly looked ferocious on the signs, but I managed to evade them. I then reached the dam, which is the most obvious sign of the reservoir’s fourth purpose – its original one – to hold back water for the people of Fylde and Blackpool. The reservoir was created in the 1930s, and in the process drowned the village of Stocks-in-Bowland. Its chapel and the 165 bodies in its graveyard were moved to a new site on the eastern shore. I wonder if they were equally considerate in moving the living to a new site.
Stocks Reservoir

Stocks Reservoir and Gisburn Forest

I had crossed a reasonable-sized River Hodder flowing into the reservoir but at the dam there was no water in the large outflow channel. From what I read, there normally is – but in that case what prevents the alien fish from escaping downstream? When the Hodder below the dam would otherwise be too dry, up to 15 million litres per day are released from the bottom of the dam (Greenhalgh, 2009). Just ahead of me, over the dam, I could see a party of sixteen walkers, confirming the last purpose of the reservoir, the one that I was making use of, that is, to provide a pleasant outing for saunterers like myself. In fact, I was delighted to find that this is no ordinary walk – it was voted the 67th best walk in a recent ITV programme on Britain's Favourite Walks. Wow! Just for the record, North-West England (as defined by me in the Preamble) has 16 walks in the top 100, including 6 of the top 10:
   1.	Helvellyn (via Glenridding Common)
   3.	Malham and Gordale Scar
   4.	Catbells
   5.	Scafell Pike (from Wasdale Head)
   7.	Buttermere (around the lake)
   8.	Coniston Old Man, including Dow Crag
   25.	Ingleborough (from Clapham)
   27.	Ambleside to Grasmere, via the Coffin Route
   30.	High Cup Nick
   36.	Ingleton Falls
   54.	Richmond to Reeth (part of the Coast-to-Coast)
   61.	Grassington to Kilnsey
   67.	Forest of Bowland (around Stocks Reservoir)
   69.	Brontë Waterfalls
   81.	Saltaire to Skipton (by the Leeds-Liverpool Canal)
   86.	The Witches Trail (below Pendle)
I was delighted not so much because the Stocks Reservoir circuit is a fine walk but because it is, in fact, a rather unadventurous one by North-West England standards. We have many other walks that could have appeared on the list, but I won’t quibble, seeing as the vote proved that North-West England is the best region for walking in Britain.

    Date: February 26th 2018
    Start: SD732565, School Lane car park, by Stocks Reservoir  (Map: OL41)
    Route: NW – New House – SW by Copped Hill Clough, SE – Eak Hill – S, SW – Hollins House – S, SE – dam – NE on permissive path – causeway – NW – School Lane car park
    Distance: 8 miles;   Ascent: 65 metres

4.  In a Flap at Bolton-le-Sands

The coast of Morecambe Bay is low-lying and somewhat fluid. Over the centuries we have tried to claim salt-marshes for farmland and occasionally the sea has tried to claim it back. To prevent seawater inundation, we build barriers, like the Pilling Embankment to protect Fylde. Unfortunately, barriers also prevent water from rivers, streams and becks from reaching the sea, and so, in trying to prevent seawater flooding we may cause freshwater flooding.

The answer, of course, is a tidal flap in the barrier. The force of the river opens the flap but the force of the sea closes it. Most of the Morecambe Bay outlets have tidal flaps. However, if the flap is closed to seawater then it is also closed to migratory fish such as salmon, trout and eel. Those who installed the flaps presumably considered that the prevention of flooding justified the loss of fish in our rivers. In our more enlightened times considerable thought is being given to the design of flaps that achieve the apparently impossible of allowing fish, but not seawater, to pass. One possible solution is being trialled at Red Bank in Bolton-le-Sands.

Before going to look at it (it would only take five minutes to walk straight to it), I walked on a detour through the village of Bolton-le-Sands (shouldn’t that be les-Sands?), along the canal to Carnforth, and back along the Lancashire Coastal Way. This 66 mile Recreational Route runs between Freckleton and Silverdale, although Lancashire County Council believes that it is 138 miles long, between Merseyside and Cumbria.

The sky was disappointingly milky over Morecambe Bay. I could only just see Grange-over-Sands. The Lake District hills had disappeared. I was also frustrated, as I walked inland, to be held up for several minutes at the level crossing, but once at the canal I strode along, pausing only twice, once to watch a luxuriantly turquoise kingfisher and the other to read a sign by the Friends of Carnforth Coke Ovens. I am glad that the coke ovens have friends but I haven’t been able to find out why they deserve them.

I was soon at Carnforth, where I paused to browse in the excellent Carnforth Bookshop, which always has a good range of books about North-West England. With my backpack now heavier, I proceeded past Hagg Farm, with a date of 1638, to the Coastal Way. The signpost to it was accompanied by a “Danger Quicksand” warning, which must be a novelty for a Recreational Route. I treaded warily around the bleak estuary of the River Keer, accompanied by a little egret. Sightings of the once-rare little egret are now so common that I perhaps shouldn’t bother to mention it. I did not see many other birds as my eyes were fixed upon all the winding creeks trying to trap the unwary. I did, however, hear skylarks, for the first time this year.

The River Keer estuary

The River Keer estuary

At Black Dyke I noticed an eel pass that had been funded by The Rivers Trust, the Sustainable Eel Group, Marine Management Organisation and the EU’s European Fishery Fund, which is pretty impressive for a structure that was about one-foot square. Which reminds me … the ‘solution’ to our migratory fish problem. The key point is that the crucial time for the fish is the transition phase when the river and sea forces are about equal. The river is concentrated towards the flap and is therefore normally running fast – and perhaps too fast for fish, especially eels, to swim against, even assuming that they could reach the flap. When the tidal sea water balances the river flow there is a lull – for a few minutes twice a day – when the fish can, in principle, pass through.

The solution being trialled around the Morecambe Bay coast is to install a second, much smaller, flap within the tidal flap. It looks rather like a cat-flap. This small flap has some device, such as a float, that adds inertia to the flap, to hold it open during the transition phase. The fish are, apparently, quite adept at utilising the small flap at this time. The first such flap was installed on the River Gilpin, which flows into the River Kent, in 2009, and a number have since been installed around the bay. Most are larger than the one at Red Bank, which was installed in 2014. The Red Bank flap-within-a-flap seemed to be still in working order, and not clogged up with debris as flaps are liable to become. I hope that the eels appreciate it.
Warton Crag

Warton Crag and Wild Duck Hall from Red Bank

    Date: February 23rd 2018
    Start: SD473682, by Red Bank Farm, Bolton-le-Sands  (Maps: 296, OL7)
    Route: E – canal – N on canal tow-path – Carnforth – NW – Hagg Farm – W – Keer estuary – S (on Lancashire Coastal Way) – Red Bank Farm
    Distance: 7 miles;   Ascent: 25 metres

3.  Zipping around Thirlmere

Thirlmere is perhaps the least highly regarded of the Lake District’s lakes (which are generally taken to number sixteen: Bassenthwaite Lake, Buttermere, Coniston Water, Crummock Water, Derwent Water, Elter Water, Ennerdale Water, Esthwaite Water, Grasmere, Haweswater, Loweswater, Rydal Water, Thirlmere, Ullswater, Wastwater and Windermere). For a start, Thirlmere is not a natural lake. It is a reservoir, although, to be fair, there were two lakes (Leathes Water and Wythburn Water) before they completed the dam to create Thirlmere in 1894. At least, that is what is almost always written but I have found online a map of 1867 that shows one lake (already called Thirlmere) with a narrow ford in the middle at a now-submerged Wath Bridge, east of Armboth. To the south, the 1867 Thirlmere extended just past the present Hause Point.

Nowadays most people who see Thirlmere see it from a car as they pass on the A591, the road between Grasmere and Keswick. There is little reason to stop at Thirlmere, as there are no cruisers on the lake, no shops, no museums, no Dove Cottages or Hill Tops (although there is one inn, at Thirlspot). Those who do stop are probably intending to walk away from Thirlmere, to the east up Helvellyn or to the west up to the High Seat ridge.


Thirlmere from Highpark Wood

Perhaps this apparent lack of public affection for Thirlmere encouraged an enlightened proposal to add some sadly missing touristic pizzazz to Thirlmere. The idea was to install zip-wires across the lake near Armboth. You would zip over the lake and A591 on the highest and longest zip-wires in England. This would be “an all-year-round attraction, attracting a large number of visitors … [to] this stunning part of the Lake District … [and the] … environmental impact is minimal”. According to an online poll, people under 45 were over four times more likely to support the proposal than be against it and people over 59 were twice as likely to be against it. It’s only a matter of time, then. Mind you, the company proposing the zip-wires ran the poll. The planning application was duly submitted in December 2017, with the support of Cumbria Tourism, the official Tourist Board for the Lake District, who consider that “the proposal aligns with Cumbria Tourism’s longstanding commitment to promoting the county as the UK’s ‘adventure capital’.”

Some people seemed to find the proposal objectionable. For example, the British Mountaineering Council gave eight reasons to oppose the proposal: it would be inconsistent with National Park statutory purposes; it would result in unacceptable levels of traffic on local highways; it would negatively impact upon the landscape character and tranquillity of Thirlmere; it would set a precedent for similar developments elsewhere in the Lake District and other National Parks; it would undermine and threaten the Park’s World Heritage Site status; it would introduce commercial development to an area of tranquillity; it would not accord with the Sandford Principle, that conservation interests should take priority over public enjoyment; it would require permission from the Civil Aviation Authority, so as not to impede flight paths. Well, yes, but apart from that?

My own thinking on the matter was simplistic, as it usually is. Since the fastest zip-wires reach 100 mph (and surely our Thirlmere zip-wires would need to be the zippiest) and since it was decided in 2005, after a prolonged, controversial inquiry, that (in order to ban jet-skiing, power-boating, water-skiing, and the like) nothing would be allowed to travel at more than 10mph over Lake District lakes, why don’t we just interpret ‘over’ a little liberally? Then we can forget the whole thing.

I planned to walk around Thirlmere in order to imagine the zip-wires and to enjoy Thirlmere before they became a reality. However, the evening before my walk the local BBC news reported that the zip-wire proposal “had been scrapped.” I didn’t know the legal definition of ‘scrapped’ but it turned out that the proposal had been withdrawn, before the committee could reject it, because the Ministry of Defence objected that “the wires would pose a threat to low-flying aircraft.” So I went to complete a lap of celebration instead.

I followed the permissive path that meanders by the western lake-edge, around boulders, over the becks, with occasional inlets providing views of the lake. However, it was slow progress compared to striding out on the quiet road, which I did from time to time. I paused for a while by the lake at Armboth, imagining the zip-wirers above me and a huge ‘zip-wire-station’ across the lake. I didn’t tax my imagination for long, since the proposal is defunct. Instead, I admired the view. The lake was perfectly still, with the snow-streaked mountains reflected within it. It would be an exaggeration to say it was perfectly quiet, as there was a low hum from the A591, but it was certainly peaceful.
across Thirlmere

Across Thirlmere

Thirlmere and Blencathra

Thirlmere and Blencathra

United Utilities are making a commendable effort to improve their eco-credentials around Thirlmere, after many years of complaints over their treatment of surrounding forestry: permissive footpaths, information boards, and well-maintained footbridges (many repaired after Storm Desmond in 2015). At Armboth there are loos “powered by nature”. The notice says that “if it’s dark or icy they might be shut”. It doesn’t logically follow that if it’s not dark and not icy then they will be open, so I must not complain that they weren’t.

A group of four deer hopped nonchalantly over the footpath ahead of me. There were many United Utilities signs warning walkers not to stray from the footpaths because of on-going “deer management”, which I assume is a euphemism for deer culling. I wished the deer luck, and walked on. The peace was abruptly shattered by a jet, followed soon by four more, blasting over the lake. Isn’t it ironic that the zip-wire proposal was scuppered not by concerns about scenery, landscape, tranquillity and all that but by these blasted jets?

    Date: February 21st 2018
    Start: NY316140, Dobgill Bridge car park on west side of Thirlmere  (Map: OL5)
    Route: N (partly on permissive path by the reservoir, partly on road) – Armboth, dam – E, S through Greathow Wood – Highpark Wood car park – E, S through wood – Homesdale Green – N, W – Wythburn – N – Dobgill Bridge
    Distance: 10 miles;   Ascent: 100 metres

2.  The Dentdale Diamonds

What’s with all the green diamonds on Ordnance Survey (OS) maps? In preparation for these saunterings I replaced my beloved but battered OS maps with a sparkling new set. I found that the new maps have been decorated with green diamonds, which according to the legend denote Recreational Routes (RRs). Some maps look like green ants have been set loose upon them. The winner is OL21 (South Pennines), which marks 22 such routes, from the Brontë Way to the Worth Way. The only one of these 22 routes that I had heard of was the Pennine Way. Clearly, I have a lot of Recreational Routing to look forward to.

When I studied the new maps for an outing in lower Dentdale and on Frostrow Fells I was surprised to find that every step of my planned route was on a green diamond. I would be following three RRs. With all respect to lower Dentdale and Frostrow Fells, I don’t think anyone would claim this to be prime walking country. Lower Dentdale, by the River Dee, is pleasant enough but rather enclosed. The Frostrow Fells provide fine views north to the Howgills and south to Middleton Fell but they themselves form a rather small, run-of-the-mill moor, reaching no higher than 300 metres and with no distinctive peak.

So I set out to investigate these RRs. As I left the bridge by the River Rawthey to walk through Millthrop I was already on the Dales Way. At least I had heard of this one. The Dales Way is a well-established Long Distance Path (LDP), started in 1968, of about 80 miles between Ilkley and Bowness. I have walked much of it already, incidentally. I particularly like the fact that the Dales Way neither starts nor ends in the Yorkshire Dales.

Middleton Fell
Middleton Fell north

Middleton Fell from the Dales Way, to the south (top) and to the north (below)

Studying the OS map, I saw that the green diamonds also have “A Pennine Journey” written alongside. I may have heard of this but I had never paid any attention to it. Looking it up, I found that it is another LDP, this time of about 250 miles, described in Pitt (2010). It is based upon Alfred Wainwright’s 1938 walk from Settle to Hadrian’s Wall and back. As if we don’t have enough Wainwright walks! This 1938 walk was before he became celebrated for his seven-volume guide to the Lakeland Fells. Walking conditions were different in 1938 to what they are now. There was little traffic and therefore much of Wainwright’s route was on then-quiet country lanes. Also, we now have open access areas that make it clearer where we are supposed to walk and not walk. The outcome is that the new Pennine Journey shares only a few sections with the 1938 route. Nonetheless, walkers are encouraged to follow it, that is, the new route.

After strolling the shared green diamonds alongside the Dee, in silence apart from the burbling of the Dee and the gentle mewing of a buzzard, I turned north at Barth Bridge onto another set of green diamonds, this time for the Dales High Way. The Dales High Way is, I found, also a LDP, of 90 miles between Saltaire and Appleby. It was devised in 2007 as a high-level alternative to the Dales Way by Tony and Chris Crogan, who, naturally, have published books on the route. I don’t, of course, know the Crogans but why should I trustfully adopt a LDP designed by others?

Anyone can design a long-distance path, and a short-distance path for that matter. Who decides if it is a LDP? What exactly is a LDP anyway? The Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA) is duty bound to try to define it but it has no formal right to do so, as far as I can see. The Walking Englishman website lists over 650 LDPs, including, for example, a 68 mile Forest of Bowland Walk, which apparently passes close to my home but which I have never heard of, have never seen any sign of, and is not marked on OS maps. The LDWA lists it too. Who decides if a path is a RR? Are all LDPs RRs? Are all RRs LDPs, or can a RR be of short or medium distance? If not all LDPs and RRs are marked on the map, how does the OS decide which ones to mark? Who decides on the name for a LDP or RR? When a path is designated as a LDP or RR who is responsible for maintaining it (signposting and so on)? If we are to be marched along designated routes then let’s demand some real precision, organisation and regimentation!

I can’t say that my expedition along Dentdale and over Frostrow Fells was enhanced by the knowledge that I was walking on green diamonds. If anything, the opposite. Perhaps most walkers appreciate the green diamonds. They provide a reassurance that someone has reconnoitred a recommendable route and perhaps a hope that the route, being an ‘official’ one marked on OS maps, will be easy to follow. They therefore reduce some of the stress of rambling, for those who find it stressful. Perhaps our maps should be choc-a-bloc with green diamonds.

Sedbergh and Winder from above Millthrop

For me, the green diamonds take away some of the satisfaction of sauntering. Much of the point is to wander wherever interests me, not to tramp where someone has told me to. I saw many Dales Way signs – so many, in fact, that it must be hard to lose the Way. However, I saw only one Pennine Journey sign. It told me to follow the Dales Way for six miles, which, fair enough, is all it needs to say. And I saw one Dales High Way sign, near Barth Bridge. If there were any signs on Frostrow Fells then, to tell the truth, I recklessly ignored them. I don’t know what came over me. I think the names of Hunder Moor Hurrock and Clatter Beck on the map just appealed to me. I also wanted to stay high on the moor as long as possible so that I could continue to admire the Howgills as snow clouds and sunny patches swept over them.

    Date: February 12th 2018
    Start: SD662914, by bridge over the River Rawthey, Millthrop  (Maps: OL19, OL2)
    Route: S, SE, S (on Dales Way) – Brackensgill – SE (on Dales Way) – Barth Bridge – N – Lunds – N, W – Hunder Moor Hurrock, Long Rigg, Dales Way – N – Millthrop
    Distance: 8 miles;   Ascent: 170 metres

1.  The Taming of Caton Moor

According to Robert Burns, the best-laid plans often go agley. What about the worst-laid plans, whether of a life, a blog or a walk? They are agley already. My life-plans are … well, it is far too early to discuss my life-plans with you: I hardly know you. My blog-plans are to entertain and enlighten (myself mainly). But as far as this first saunter is concerned, the plan was simple: to walk up my local hill, Caton Moor. Nothing could go agley with that.

From the bottom of the track past the old workhouse of Moorgarth I could see ahead the turbine blades caressing the horizon. They didn’t seem far away. I walked up the track, badly eroded after the November deluge when Lancaster University weather station recorded more rain in a day than ever before, passing a few Water Works constructions and then crossing four fields of sheep [1]. As the slope levelled off the blades could be seen to have grown and arisen on sturdy bases. I trudged across the open, boggy moor and at last approached the turbines, to appreciate the immense size of these alien constructions. They have an overall height of about 90 metres (nearly the height of Big Ben). The blade tips move, at their maximum, at about 180 mph, which is best appreciated by standing in their shadow on a windy day. These turbines were put up in 2007 to replace a smaller, less efficient set of 1994, probably the earliest such turbines in North-West England.

Caton turbines from path

The path up to the Caton Moor turbines

I don’t know if the water and wind-power gathered from my local hill directly benefits my village or whether it disappears into the National Grids to be shared with all. Still, it is good to feel that my rather insignificant moor is making a contribution. So I don’t object to these turbines on the moor, as many do. I am, however, sad that the way we live has made them necessary. I used to run about on these empty moors before the turbines were there. People are now urged to visit what is advertised as a tourist attraction.

The moor has changed in other ways too. I was trespassing in the 1980s. Now the moor is all open access land, thanks to the Countryside and Rights of Way Act of 2000, so I can saunter where I will. We now have the permissive path (the track from Moorgarth) to help us up to the moor. It is described as a 'tramper trail', a tramper being an all-terrain mobility scooter. However, I have never seen a tramper there – and perhaps just as well because one of the little bridges over a boggy beck has long collapsed. I doubt that anybody checks that this path is still usable by trampers. It is still usable by me, anyway. There is a second tramper trail around the turbines, which looks a safer bet for trampers.

On the path from the turbines to the picnic site there is a ‘tercet waymarker’, indicating that this path is on the Lancashire Witches Walk, a 51 mile route from Barrowford to Lancaster that opened in 2012. On the waymarker is inscribed a verse (a tercet) of a poem by the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, written to mark the 400th anniversary of the Pendle witch trials. Each of the ten waymarkers along the route commemorates one of the alleged witches, Anne Redferne in this case. However, I am not aware that many people set out to traverse the Witches Walk.

The newish track from the picnic site to near the trig point is a permissive bridleway. Again, I have never seen a horse on the bridleway. Anyway, the bridleway is more convenient for me than the previous pathless morass. This track is part of the North Lancashire Bridleway that was opened in 2004 and runs for 31 miles through the Forest of Bowland AONB. I suspect that the land-owner, the Oystons of Claughton Hall, obtained some grant to allow this track. Perhaps the track also provides access to the shooting butts that have recently appeared above Moorcock Hall. I have never seen any shooters either! There is very little heather and therefore few, if any, grouse for them to shoot.
Caton Moor turbines

The Caton Moor trig point, with Middleton Fell, Gragareth, Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent

Turbines, picnic site, permissive path, tramper trails, bridleway, shooting butts … while not exactly wild before, Caton Moor now seems tamed. Where to walk – even where to picnic – is prescribed. And yet little has changed. There is sometimes a car parked at the picnic site but on this occasion, a January Monday, there wasn’t – and I saw nobody anywhere. If there are people they tend not to wander where they are not encouraged to, leaving most of Caton Moor empty. Some people must walk to the Caton Moor trig point, as there is a rough path to it, but I have never met anyone there. To keep it that way, perhaps I shouldn’t say that its modest 361-metre top provides a fine 360 degree view, to the Forest of Bowland tops of Clougha, Ward’s Stone and White Hill, to the Three Peaks of Pen-y-ghent, Ingleborough and Whernside, to the Howgills, along the Lune valley, to the Lake District fells, and across Morecambe Bay (to the Isle of Man, if it’s very clear). And to Blackpool Tower.

    Date: January 29th 2018
    Start: SD543644, Brookhouse  (Map: OL41)
    Route: SE – Moorside Farm – SE up the track past Reservoirs – E by Traitor’s Gill – Caton Moor wind turbines – N – picnic spot – SE, NE – Caton Moor trig point – SW, NE – picnic spot – W on Quarry Road – Moorside Farm, Brookhouse
    Distance: 6 miles;   Ascent: 300 metres

[1]. Footnote added in April 2019. This permissive path no longer exists: it is now marked ‘private’.

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    © John Self, Drakkar Press, 2018


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