Saunterings:  Walking in North-West England
111 - 120
Saunterings is a set of reflections based upon walks around the counties of Cumbria, Lancashire and
North Yorkshire in North-West England
(more details of my ‘North-West England’ are given in the Preamble).
If you'd like to give a comment, correction or update (all are very welcome) or to
receive a two-monthly email update - please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some readers' comments are included in the Preamble.
Latest (with a list of all Saunterings so far)
120.   A Walk in Littledale in 1847
119.   Silence, Serenity and Solitude
118.   Coast-to-Coast in Six Days
117.   Empirical Studies into Gender Differences in Hilly and Horizontal Pedestrianism
116.   Are the Caton Windmills on their Last Legs?
Diversion 5:  The Duke of Westminster’s A to Z
115.   Risk, Fear and Pain – or Beauty, Joy and Wonder?
114.   Never Mind the Danger
113.   White Stoats on Caton Moor
113-125 are about walking and walks from home during another lockdown.
112.   Walking around Pilling with Pink Feet
111.   From Millstone Grit to Limestone
Previous 1 - 110
120.  A Walk in Littledale in 1847
We left the house early-ish on Monday morning and decided to walk in 1847. We walked up the narrow, stony
track, past empty fields, to Moorside House. [I will butt in, in italics, from time to time to relate this
fantasy to the scene today. They specified 1847 because that is the date of the first OS map available
on-line. It was a good job that they didn’t decide it was 1847 before leaving the house because their
house didn’t exist in 1847. Neither did almost all the other houses in the village. In 1847 there were
only about a dozen houses clustered around the church and pub. However, the layout of the village
tracks (now roads) was much as it is now. Moorside House is now called Moorside Farm.]
Turning right, past the Quarry Road track, we passed the Caton Workhouse, a building of some grandeur,
which may be some compensation for the poor souls compelled to live there and trek across to work in the Caton
mills. At least the women and boys only have to work for ten hours a day now, thanks to the new Factory Act.
[Quarry Road ran up to the quarries near the top of the moor. It still does although the quarries have been
disused for over a century. Caton Workhouse closed as a workhouse in 1866 and was converted to a residence,
Passing Tenters Farm [still there]
and crossing Tarn Brook,
views opened out over fields to the east. [They don’t today because Tarn Brook Plantation was planted
some time between 1847 and 1891 (the date of the next OS map on-line). It looks a natural woodland now.]
We turned left onto Littledale Road [although called a road on the 1847 map it was probably a
, ignoring the track straight ahead to Cransfield House [not named on the 1847
map, still there today]
, and passed two farms to the right, Stoven House and Hodgson’s [now
called Stauvins Farm and Ravenscar Farm].
After a while, Roeburndale Road [another track
then, no doubt]
branched off to the left but we continued straight ahead over the rise of
Littledale Road, pausing at the ancient Cross Stone at the highest point. [The main road now turns to
the right. It was built between 1847 and 1891. The present track of the old Littledale Road (shown right) perhaps
indicates the state of these ‘roads’ in 1847. I doubt that the cross was still there in 1847 but its
stone base was. It’s there now.]
We then dropped down to pass the Crossgill Bobbin Mill [where the scout camp now is]
took the side track to Fostal Bridge over Foxdale Beck – Fostal presumably being a corruption of Foxdale.
[New House Farm, on today's map, wasn’t there in 1847 but it was built before 1891 and so is new with respect to the other
farms in the region. In 1847 the main track continued to the hamlet of Crossgill along what is now an
overgrown avenue between trees. The continuation of the road to Crossgill wasn’t completed until some time
between 1895 and 1913.]
We then walked through a pleasant dell by Nicka Wood and Udale Beck rising to Bell Hill House, with
views to the moor below Ward’s Stone. [Bellhill Farm now has a few new residences adjoining.]
We didn't continue as far as Dale Side but took
the airy track east to Field Head
which provided views over to Caton Moor. [Caton Moor was empty then. Now we have windmills - but
only three or four working. Never mind the windmills - what about the clouds!
Field Head is still a farm. Dale Side, built 1685, is marked on today's map,
but is derelict, although maybe the barn is
still in use. It is a listed building, as are many of the other buildings passed on this
walk. The path to Field Head is a
little less airy now as a number of plantations were added to the map between 1847 and 1891. Again,
some of them look natural woodlands now although others have dense conifers. I don’t know if they
would have been planted with conifers in the 19th century – or indeed why there was a spate of tree-planting
at this time.]
From Field Head we walked across boggy fields, down through a wood, to cross Foxdale Beck and
emerge at Tongue Moor. Ruth saw a white stoat
near here: I missed it.
[The name Tongue Moor referred to a farm or house, not to the moor itself.
It dated back to at least the 15th century but was demolished in the 1970s. The Littledale Hall that is
now here is not on the 1847 map because it was built for the Rev. John Dodson who retired as Vicar of
Cockerham in 1849. His isolated ‘free church’ a little further on bears a date of 1849. Littledale Hall
is now a residential addiction treatment centre.]
Turning west, we walked past the
quarry and coal pits and took a little detour to the hamlet of Crossgill, which is not much more than a
farm, with a date of 1681, and the Crossgill Chapel, built in 1755. [The quarry and coal pits
are now within a small plantation. The site of the old quarry is clear but not that of any coal pits.
Crossgill is little bigger today than it was in 1847. The chapel was renamed as St Anne’s Church by
1891 before being converted to a residence in the 1990s.]
We then struggled up the steep track passing Haws House [still there]
, turned west on the
Roeburndale Road, crossing Crossgill Beck and walked on, with wide views over Morecambe Bay and to
the Lake District hills. [The Brookhouse Brickworks near Crossgill Beck came and went between
1847 and now.]
After passing Berry’s Plantation, we re-joined the Littledale Road
and walked home, our feet beginning to feel a little sore. It’s time someone made some stout walking shoes.
How old Wordsworth manages to wander about his hills I don’t know. [Berry’s Plantation (called
the Roeburndale Road Plantation today) looks a natural woodland to me. Nearly all the woodlands
on the 1847 map are called ‘Wood’s – and I assume these are more natural than the Plantations.
Why would anyone plant such a Plantation before 1847? Perhaps ‘Plantation’ doesn’t necessarily
mean that trees were planted?]
[The overall conclusion from this walk is that anyone who lived in this region in 1847 would
have little difficulty in finding their way around today. Most of the tracks (called roads then) have
become tarmacked roads. The only new (between 1847 and 1891) road is the one avoiding the steep rise
over the Cross Stone hill. The fields, fences and walls are all pretty much in the same place. All the
farm buildings (except the derelict Dale Side and demolished Tongue Moor) are still there (modernised, of course)
and most are still farms. It’s likely that some
have the same families within them. Only one farm (New House) has been added to the set since 1847.
It’s rather reassuring that in this rapidly changing world some
things change hardly at all.]
Date: February 15th 2021
Start: SD543644, Brookhouse  (Map: OL41)
Route: S, SW on Littledale Road and past Cross Stone – New House Farm – S over
Fostal Bridge – Bellhill Farm – E – Field Head – NE – Littledale Hall – W – Crossgill – E, NE –
Roeburndale Road – W, NW – Brookhouse
Distance: 7 miles;   Ascent: 160 metres
[P.S. Our walkers had no camera in 1847, so I’ve re-used some photos taken a few years ago. Nothing much
has changed since then.]
119.  Silence, Serenity and Solitude
In May, during the first lockdown, when describing what I called the ‘Brookhouse-Claughton circular’
I said that the stretch along the River Lune between Brookhouse and Claughton is best walked in the
winter because the cattle are then in their barns and not in the fields. It’s not that the cattle are
ferocious – it’s that they are so unused to walkers here that they become inquisitive, and there is
nowhere to by-pass them. So, it being a real winter’s day with the ground frozen, a chilly breeze
and snow on the hills, we set off seeking silence, serenity and solitude by the river.
The ponds that were photographed in
which we saw become completely dry during spring 2020, were now white, being frozen and
covered with a layer of snow
And we found it, or them. Once we had left the end of the Lune Millennium Way and walked onto the
flat, wide fields of the Lune floodplain we saw nobody at all (apart from a runner on the opposite
bank) between here and Claughton Beck – either on the way there or on the way back – giving us three
miles of peaceful riverside walking. There were no other walkers, as usual – and we didn’t even see
any farmers or anyone else. Alongside the Lune, opposite the village of Aughton high on the hills
to the north, we were far from any traffic, and so it was silent, apart from the birds.
We did not walk as serious birders keen to note every species of bird spotted but we couldn’t
help noticing several of them: a flock of about thirty curlews took wing, tentatively practising
their warbles in preparation for their spring migration up the hills; some scrawny cormorants flew
along the river but looked more elegant when on it; various geese rested in the fields safe in the
meander of the river or paddled lazily in the water; a single grey wagtail bobbed on the river pebbles;
a few grey heron drifted about lazily; a kingfisher zipped past, a greenish-turquoise blur; a few
lapwing flapped by, looking black one second and white the next; two or three bright white little
egrets circled about; a couple of oystercatchers peeped past; a number of ringed plovers (I think)
beat their thin wings to skim over the water; and some gulls flew over, leading to an inconclusive
discussion as to what exactly a ‘gull’ is and whether all gulls are necessarily sea-gulls and how,
precisely, do sea-gulls differ from other sea-birds.
The floodplain to the east is wide open, providing
expansive views up the valley. In the distance, beyond Hornby, the Three Peaks (Whernside,
Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent) can be seen. Is there anywhere else where from a height of only 20
metres or so it is possible to see all Three Peaks? (OK, it's a distant view but it's good to
know that they are still there, waiting.)
The River Lune, with erosion of the north bank continuing apace
We walked as far as Claughton Beck where the bridge that was washed away has not been replaced,
which is a shame because otherwise, in normal times, it could be used to continue on a permissive
path (if it still exists) to Hornby (and to catch the bus back to complete a loop). We were more
than happy to return the way we came. Walkers are not normally keen on there-and-back walks but
on this occasion more silence, serenity and solitude provided the best way home.
This bank of the River Lune is neglected by walkers. The
Lune Valley Ramble
[*] runs on the opposite bank but it does not provide the sense of being out in the middle of nowhere that
the south bank does. The south bank path doesn’t contribute to a circular walk unless you
continue up to the windmills (as in
Even then the riverside part of the walk seems to be thought insignificant.
The Ramblers’ Association (now called Ramblers) booklet of Lune valley walks describes this
circular walk but it has nothing to say about the river walk other than “follow this [path] for
over a mile until the river comes near to the old railway line”. Another guide to Lune valley
walks (Kelsall and Kelsall, 2012) has forty of them but none that tread this part of the Lune.
The Walking Down the Lune
book (Swain, 1992) does describe walking here but only in terms of
the various stiles and fences to be crossed (which is very straightforward). Nothing is said
to indicate that there is anything of interest or enjoyment to be gained from such a walk. I therefore think
it best that you ignore my words so that the silence, serenity and solitude remains.
Date: February 11th 2021
Start: SD543644, Brookhouse  (Map: OL41)
Route: N – Bull Beck Bridge – NE on south bank of the Lune – Claughton Beck –
and back the same way
Distance: 5 miles;   Ascent: 20 metres
[*]  There is a new song about the Lune Valley Ramble by Hiroshima Twinkie. Hear it on
This one is on a separate web-page because it is a bit long to include here.
117.  Empirical Studies into Gender Differences in Hilly and Horizontal Pedestrianism
two women powering along the Roeburndale Road on my previous Sauntering set me thinking. On my
local walks I see others taking their daily constitutional, and I’d say that there are as many women
as men, probably more. It is different with walking on the hills, as far as I remember. Hill-walking
is an egalitarian activity. It doesn’t matter, and it is impossible to tell, whether a walker is
a bricklayer, a judge, or a nurse. However, it is usually possible to tell, without being too inquisitive,
whether a walker is male or female – and most of them, I would say, are male. Is it possible to give
these informal observations a more scientific footing?
Looking up the Lune valley from the old railway line
I set out first to investigate thoroughly the gender of local walkers. I walked along the old
railway line, which is the most popular walk for local walkers, since it is flat, sheltered and
requires no map-reading skills. It was a bright but cold Monday morning with wisps of snow in
the air, so I didn’t expect a great number of walkers – but I duly recorded them all as I strolled
along. I intended to walk as far as the Lancaster Canal and back but I found that the path was
still closed at the motorway bridge because of seemingly never-ending flood defence work. Undeterred,
I continued on the road because I wanted to see if the canal, at least, was back in action. The last
time I looked it was drained for repair work but now it was full of water, with a layer of ice. From
the aqueduct I could look wistfully up the valley to a freshly snow-capped Ingleborough.
As regards an analysis of hill-walkers, the Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA) helpfully
of all those walkers who have achieved various challenges. In particular, it has a list
of those who have registered as ‘Wainwright completers’, that is, people who have walked to the top of all
the 214 Lake District hills described in Wainwright’s books. It boldly labels them as ‘M’ or ‘F’.
I can report that of the 856 names (at the time of writing) 76% are male and 24% are female.
What is the explanation for this difference? This is risky ground but we can speculate. It could be because:
•  Men just walk more than women – perhaps they have more time or energy to spare.
•  Men like walking on the hills more than women – perhaps they don’t mind the mud or the rain so much.
•  Men are more likely than women to take on ridiculous challenges, such as walking to the top of all the hills on somebody’s list – perhaps they are more generally keen on ‘collecting’ things.
•  Men are more likely to complete such a challenge – perhaps they are more determined or stubborn.
•  Men are more likely to report to LDWA that they have completed the challenge – perhaps they take more pride in seeing their name on the webpage list.
The LDWA list provides further details that we may analyse (well, it helps to pass the lockdown days). For each completer, the list specifies the date of completion and the hill on which completion was achieved. From this we may define three types of completer:
•  A ‘single’ completer, who completes on a date and hill different to all other completers. (This doesn’t mean that a single walked alone on this or other occasions – just that if there were co-walkers then they didn’t complete at the same time and place.)
•  A ‘paired’ completer, who completes on a date and hill the same as exactly one other completer, the other completer being of the opposite sex. (This does not, of course, mean that the two paired completers are a couple in any everyday sense or that they reached the top of all previous 213 hills together.)
•  A ‘grouped’ completer, any other completer who completes on a date and hill the same as one or more other completers. (Again, this doesn’t mean that the previous 213 hills were walked as a group.)
The numbers of walkers of different types are as follows:
Single Paired Grouped
Male 461 101 87
Female 83 101 23
Isn’t that fascinating? Most (71%) of the male completers are single. Most (60%) of the
female completers are not single. In fact, nearly half (49%) of the females are paired. Of all
singles, 85% are male. Of all completers, not quite 10% are single women. I appreciate that
Wainwright completers are a rather special breed of walker and I daren’t speculate much. But does
it suggest that men are more likely to walk on the hills alone? And that women are more likely
to walk paired? If so, we two are stereotypical: I often walk alone on the hills and Ruth very
rarely walks on the hills without me.
The River Lune approaching the M6 bridge
I returned from the canal the way I came, somewhat jaded and uninspired but determined to continue
my assiduous analysis of the local horizontal walkers. Before presenting the results in the above
format, I must point out that the LDWA register, helpful though it is, is remiss in one respect. It
doesn’t mention dogs. Clearly, some hill-walkers walk with dogs – and some dogs must have completed
the Wainwrights. They are not allowed to register the fact, which seems unfair. I, however, can
record the dogs, which is no more than they deserve since there are plenty of them on our footpaths.
In the table below, I record the numbers of walkers of different types observed on my walk,
where 'single', 'paired' (that is, one male and one female) and 'grouped' now have their more everyday meaning.
I have also separated singles into ‘Single’ (that is, really walking alone) and ‘S+Dog’ (that is, a single person
walking with one or more dogs), and similarly for the paired and grouped types. Here you are
then – ta, ra – the figures for my walk of February 8th 2021:
Single S+Dog Paired P+Dog Grouped G+Dog
Male 15 9 15 2 0 4
Female 12 12 15 2 8 9
Of the 103 walkers that I recorded, 58 (56%) were women, supporting my suspicion that most local walkers are women.
Most (53%) of the men were single and most (59%) of the women were not single, as was the case for the hill-walkers.
I am pleased to see that our local men are more chivalrous: 38% were paired, compared to 16% for the hill-walkers.
Sadly, they also seem to be somewhat friendless (unless you count their pair as a friend): there
were 0 all-male groups, compared to 7 all-female groups.
Pairs are content with one another for company: only 12% of them had a dog, whereas 44% of the singles did.
Of the 103 walkers, 38 (36%) were accompanied by one or more dogs. The total number of dogs seen was 31. As the
best academic papers say, these
interesting preliminary results need further investigation.
Hold on a minute. Counting dogs?! Has it come to this? Have I finally snapped under the stress of months of restrictions?
Date: February 8th 2021
Start: SD543644, Brookhouse  (Map: OL41)
Route: NW across A683 – old railway line – W – Crook o'Lune, Denny Beck bridge, M6 bridge –
S, W on road – Lancaster Canal – and back the same way
Distance: 7 miles;   Ascent: 20 metres
116.  Are the Caton Windmills on their Last Legs?
Some walkers walk the same walk every day – usually following their dog. They probably say that it is never
the same walk, because of the changing seasons, the weather, and so on. Even so, there must be much of a
muchness from one walk to the next. We have half-a-dozen short walks from home
(well trodden in the last ten months) which can be tweaked a little
to provide some variety but I have come to feel that I need longer walks to get into trim in case
we are ever let out into the wild again.
So I’ve dusted off my old running-from-home routes, which took me further afield. They are mainly on road, which I am not so keen on walking on, but perhaps that’s to be preferred at the moment, with the fields sodden. I decided to tackle the simplest of these routes: up Littledale Road, up Roeburndale Road, back over the moor on the bridleway, and down Quarry Road. A loop, in other words, around the Caton windmills.
Near what we call Bluebell Wood (part of the Roeburndale Road Plantation) three cars were parked for their owners to take their dogs for a walk. They must have driven at least a couple of miles to get here. Is that an ‘essential journey’? Do dogs get fed up with the same walk every day and neurotically whine so much that their owners just have to take them into the countryside? If so, perhaps I should do even more neurotic whining at home.
Beyond the wood, the views opened out. To the left were the Caton windmills, with only four of the
eight moving. Approaching the cattle grid before the moor, I headed into an eye-wateringly cool breeze that should
stir the other four into action. To the right the sun was just above the Ward’s Stone horizon, making
it difficult to see if any snow remained there. It was a bright, not quite spring-like day, with no sound of moorland
birds to encourage the hope that spring is on its way.
The Caton Moor windmills
As I reached the crest of Roeburndale Road I was passed by two purposeful women walkers who could only
spare a curt ‘morning’ for me. They strode on, their four sticks clicking a rhythm on the road to make
sure they didn’t flag. Walking sticks certainly add a business-like air to the walking but otherwise I’ve
not seen the point of them. They seem to require the arms to be held unnaturally for hours. I wouldn’t
like to end a long walk with aching arms as well as aching legs.
At the second cattle grid I walked up on the bridleway, pausing as I always do to admire the view
of the Yorkshire Three Peaks (Whernside, Pen-y-ghent and Ingleborough), fifteen miles away. The view wasn’t
as clear as sometimes but I could see that their tops still held some snow. I continued over the moor,
with the breeze now behind me and the windmills ahead. There were still only four of them moving – and they
were moving at a fair lick so there was plenty of wind for them all.
Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent
Actually, I have not seen all eight in action for some time. Clearly, they are producing only a fraction of the
energy that they should. In past years when a windmill was feeling poorly engineers would soon be up to oil the bearings to
get it moving again. Now, they don’t seem bothered. Doesn’t the owner’s income depend upon the energy produced?
The first set of wind turbines here (ten of them) was erected in 1994, after some controversy. They were
said to produce enough energy to power the local villages of Caton and Brookhouse, which seemed fair enough. We
could look people in the eye and say that we were doing our bit, by sacrificing Caton Moor for green energy.
It wasn’t much of a sacrifice as Caton Moor already had the Claughton Brickworks clay-pit and hardly anybody,
except a few sheep, visited the moor anyway.
The turbines had a planned life-span of twenty years but advances in turbine technology led to their
replacement in 2006 by eight much bigger windmills that generated seven times more energy. If the present turbines
have a similar life-span then they are approaching their demise. They have already lasted longer than the first set. I have heard nothing about what might happen next.
No doubt, turbine technology – especially for off-shore windmills – has continued to improve. Of course,
off-shore windmills generate less hassle from local residents. Since the Caton windmills were installed hundreds
of off-shore windmills have appeared off Morecambe Bay. The yield from the Caton windmills, even if they are all
working, must be tiny compared to that from the off-shore ones. Every little may help but perhaps not enough
to encourage further maintenance and possible replacement of these turbines. In the end, it will be a matter of
money, and not directly green policy. Does the government still subsidise land-based wind farms? I assume
that the contract requires the windmills to be removed at the
end of their lives. It is already sad to see them becoming increasingly moribund, if that is the case.
Perhaps the moor will soon be restored to its previous glory?
Date: February 1st 2021
Start: SD543644, Brookhouse  (Map: OL41)
Route: SE on Littledale Road, E on Roeburndale Road – second cattle grid – N, NW on
bridleway – picnic spot – W on Quarry Road – Brookhouse
Distance: 7 miles;   Ascent: 250 metres
Diversion 5:  The Duke of Westminster’s A to Z
(There's not a lot of walking to be diverted from nowadays but after the danger and fear of the last
two Saunterings I needed some light relief. Since I am confined to Bowland I called upon Bowland's wealthiest
(part-time) resident for help.
Before the lawyers begin sharpening their quills I should emphasise that the twenty-six
'facts' listed below are
entirely fictional. (Between you and me they are not entirely entirely fictional because I have smuggled into
at least six of them a nugget of non-fiction.))
When the dear 6th Duke of Westminster sadly departed from us in 2016 he left his estate
and title to Hugh, now the 7th Duke of Westminster. As the latter was a mere stripling of 25 the 6th Duke also left
an A to Z of advice on how to cope with unwanted, unwonted and unwarranted celebrity and wealth. Here it is:
A is for Aunt Miriam, whom you have never met because she has been incarcerated in
the east wing since she set fire to Harold Macmillan’s trousers after he rejected her advances in the summer of 1962.
Poor Harold never recovered from this incident. He was still rather off-kilter when in the notorious ‘Night of the Long Knives’ he decapitated seven members of Cabinet.
B is for boots. It is jolly muddy around our little country house at Abbeystead.
Since you have infinite wealth buy
the best boots there are. I recommend Le Chameau’s Jameson Unisex Standard at £385. You buy one and get one free.
Jolly generous. I’ve said ‘unisex’ because I’m not sure of your inclinations in that direction. We never did have
that chat. Sorry.
C is for charities. You will need to be patron of a few hundred of them, to show your commitment to society, whatever that is. I used to enjoy the board meetings of the Society for the Preservation of English Real Men, which aims to stick up for men in our increasingly female-dominated world. The japes we got up to! But it may not be your kind of thing?
D is for Daniel Snow, who is one of your brothers-in-law. He’s in television, which
is something ordinary people look at. If he turns up with cameras and what-not turf him out. People have no business looking at what we do here.
E is for Eaton Hall, our home in Cheshire.
It is jolly big. You'll need to get more familiar with it than I managed.
Staff hide away. In 1988 one girl had a five months holiday there. I
eventually found her wandering in the old stables, where she said that she had become lost and was living on a diet of mice and hay.
Unfortunately, the wretch was unable to resume her duties, which involved the daily combing of the Duchess’s wigs.
F is for fishing, an activity for the real English gentlemen. Your great-great-grandfather
Arthur – known to all as Bendor or ‘bend or’ or azure, a reference to the family armorials lost in the famous case
of Scrope v Grosvenor heard before the Court of Chivalry in 1389 – was a jolly good fisherman. They say that in his
old age, as he spent more and more time standing in the river, he took on the characteristics of his beloved fish.
But not sufficiently so, for he drowned whilst grappling with a large trout. Even so, after his partial cremation he was considered to be delicious.
G is for George, of whom you are the godfather. I need hardly say that it is your duty to inculcate in him the habits of the English gentleman (his parents will be much too busy explaining the complexities of royal life). In particular, the sooner he is given a gun to shoot grouse the better. If he should inadvertently dispose of some of the lesser members of the royal family then I am sure that his parents wouldn’t mind.
H is for Horse and Hound, my complimentary subscription to which should pass on to you. It has been in the family since the magazine began in 1884. It is nearly all about horses nowadays, with little about hounds – although there are jolly interesting pieces about fox-hunting from time to time. Essential reading. My dear wife is a close friend of the editor, Lady Levershoome. They were at Eton together. The teachers never noticed them but the boys did.
I is for inheritance, which is all yours. If your elder sisters should come
knocking asking for fair shares then tell them that fairness has nothing to do with it. That equality
nonsense does not apply to dukedoms, and it never will as long as esteemed eminences such as our dear friends
Jacob Rees-Mogg and Lord Dallyrymple have a say in the matter.
J is for je ne sais quoi. We superior men have that indefinable quality that raises us above lesser men. As with a balloon, it is better not to try to pin it down.
K is for knickerbockers. I leave you four wardrobes full of knickerbockers. They were my favourite garments for the lower limbs until they unaccountably fell out of fashion, the garments, that is, not my limbs. I tried to make knickerbocker glories with them but with only modest success. If you cannot find a use for them take them along to the next golf club jumble sale.
L is for Loelia Ponsonby, the most exotic leaf on the family tree. She was the
third wife of the second Duke, but the marriage, despite getting off to a flying start with Winston Churchill
as best man, was described as “a definition of unadulterated hell” by James Lees-Milne (whoever he was). After
her divorce, Loelia became a needlewoman and magazine editor. She sewed every copy herself.
She is known for saying “Anybody seen in a bus over the age of 30
has been a failure in life” – but what the age of the bus has to do with it, I don’t know.
M is for marriage, which I am sorry to say you must contemplate if only to perpetuate the dukedom in the traditional manner. The only advice I can give is to avoid anyone called Loelia, if such a person exists.
N is for nodding acquaintance, on which you must be with all you see about the
estate. A nod is enough. It shows that you have acknowledged their existence, which is all they need
to lighten their dreary lives. On no account address anyone by name. It is impossible to remember them
all and mistakes can cause untold misery. I was once mangling with a young maid in the laundry and at a
sensitive moment moaned “Oh, Joan”, causing Jean to storm off leaving my underwear unmangled.
O is for Ouija board. You will find mine in the twelfth bedroom. It has been a great comfort to me, to be able in times of stress to seek advice from my forebears. If you ever think I can help please get in touch.
P is for parsimony. Look after the pennies and the billions will look after themselves, my granny used to say. Ordinary people know that we are jolly rich but they don’t like us to flaunt it. It is better not to offer to pay for anything if you are ever in the unlikely situation that a payment is required. Ordinary people are, I find, extraordinarily grateful for the opportunity to show that they are momentarily on a par with us.
Q is for queue. This is probably something that you will never encounter yourself but
you may be puzzled by the behaviour of ordinary people. It seems that when they want something that is not immediately
available they stand behind someone who has already wanted it. Very strange! Once, when I lost my valet at Covent
Garden, I had to stand in a queue for the lavatory. The unaccustomed delay led to an unfortunate accident. On
balance, though, sitting in the foyer in wet knickerbockers was preferable to sitting through the third act of Gotterdammerung.
R is for rattlesnake. I trust that you will look after my pet rattlesnake. I found it great company on those dreadful occasions when we were visited by people from something called Natural England. They go on and on about things we’re not supposed to kill on the estate. What do they think an estate is for? However, they were always charmed by the rattlesnake. Once it escaped during luncheon and the Minister for the Environment nearly stuck her fork in it, which would have been the end of her, and no bad thing too.
S is for shooting stick. I have been given many of these but I haven’t managed to shoot anything with any of them.
T is for tweed, essential wear for all occasions, even, or especially, in bed. My father, who was one of identical twins, was known as Tweedledee because he was not dum, unlike his twin sister.
U is for upper crust. Someone who was ushered off the moor at gun-point shouted at
me that I was a member of the ‘upper crust’. I asked our chief cook what on earth that meant. He said that it’s
better than being a member of the lower crust or even the side crust. Since then I have never dared to eat the crust of any loaf.
V is for virtus non stemma, the family motto. As you know, it means ‘virtue not
pedigree’. Whichever of our ancestors devised this motto may have had a great sense of irony but it is best to assume that he just got
his Latin back to front.
W is for Westminster, where we have a palace and 650 specially appointed people to
work on our behalf. However, some of these are distressingly independent-minded.
The like-minded ones, however, are always jolly good company for a chin-wag and a touch of venison.
X is for xenodochium. This is the room in the servants’ quarters at Abbeystead
where we quarantine any strangers found wandering on the estate. They keep saying they have a right to roam, whatever that is. The ones with binoculars are particularly shifty. Our head groundsman returns them to Preston Lost Property Office on the first Monday of the month.
Y is for yesterday, my favourite day.
Z is for sleep, of which we deserve plenty. The third Duke was a great sleeper. He usually
needed eight hours sleep a day, and nine hours a night. He fell asleep on the eve of the war in 1914. He awoke
eight days later, a couple of hours before his funeral. The Duchess thought of the many great and good people who had travelled
far for the occasion despite the sombre national mood and decided not to disappoint them because of a technicality.
115.  Risk, Fear and Pain – or Beauty, Joy and Wonder?
Caton Moor from the Lune valley
I continue to be local-bound and reflecting upon, rather than walking upon, the mountains. If Simon
Ingram (as discussed in
) needs to imperil himself upon the mountains in order to get his
adrenaline flowing then I think he is in the wrong game. He should be mountaineering not walking. Then
he could learn from the classic book Mountains of the Mind
(Macfarlane, 2003). Macfarlane agrees that mountains are for engendering fear: “We had talked, as mountaineers always do, about how strange it is to risk yourself for a mountain, but how central to the experience is that risk and the fear it brings with it.”
Macfarlane buttresses his argument that risk, fear and indeed death are an integral part of the mountain experience with various quotes, such as this one from John Ruskin, writing in 1863: “This I know and find, practically, that if you come to a dangerous place, and turn back from it, though it may have been perfectly right and wise to do so, still your character has suffered some slight deterioration; you are to that extent weaker, more lifeless, more effeminate, more liable to passion and error in future; whereas if you go through with the danger … you come out of the encounter a stronger and better man … and nothing but danger produces this effect.”
I didn’t know that Ruskin was a mountaineer but I can appreciate that he didn’t want to be thought
more effeminate. However, you can only get so far by quoting others. We wouldn’t pay much regard to a
writer who proselytized the benefits of LSD if he hadn’t himself experienced those benefits, no matter
how many LSD-users he quoted. So, just as Ingram is at pains to show that he’s a real walker, Macfarlane
has to show that he’s a real mountaineer and not a man of letters, words and sentences, safe in his Cambridge study. He interlaces his narrative with various instances of his own daring escapades. He felt “a humming, jostling swarm of fear” on the snowy ridge of Lagginhorn; his “limbs were shivering … heart pistoned” in a rock avalanche near Zinalrothorn; he spent twelve hours huddled in a snow cave during a Cairngorms blizzard; his party crossed the ridge of the Inylchek glacier “like tight-rope walkers”; he was “seized with panic” when he half fell into a crevasse; he “was reminded of medieval knights preparing for combat” when preparing to climb Nadelhorn.
I hope that none of his readers was inspired by all this manly heroism to dash out to tackle Napes Needle on Great Gable, for the requisite risk, fear and perhaps death, before they had reached page 99. For there Macfarlane has an epiphany. He comments that “I have discovered that it is eminently possible to spend time in the mountains and to be at far less risk than one would be, say, crossing city streets … For me now … the attraction of mountains is far more about beauty than about risk, far more about joy than fear, far more about wonder than pain.”
Is it possible to ‘discover’ something that almost everybody else knows already? By ‘discovered’ I think
he means ‘belatedly realised’. I am reminded of those long-distance runners who emphasise that pain, vomiting,
hallucinations, and so on, are all an essential part of the activity, for only by overcoming them do you reap the
full benefit. For example, Harvie (2011) implicitly compares his unsuccessful attempt to run the 152-mile
Athens-Sparta race with the fateful Everest expedition of George Mallory in 1924. I never set out on a run
expecting pain and I never sought pain to gain the full benefits from running. My objective was, on the
contrary, to train to reach a level of fitness that would enable me to run within my limits to avoid pain,
vomiting, hallucinations, and so on. I feel the same way about mountains. I do not expect or seek risk,
fear and pain on the mountains. I try to ensure that I never place myself in a situation where they arise.
In fact, during decades of running and walking on the mountains, I have never experienced fear there – the occasional quiver of doubt or misgiving perhaps, but never fear.
However, Macfarlane’s discovery on page 99 does not restrain him for long. He doesn’t go on to write
about the beauty, joy and wonder of mountains. He forgets about all that and continues with another 200 pages
of self-inflicted bravery, climaxing with a gruelling 50-page account of the heroic, glorious death of
Mallory on Everest (plus, of little account it seems, ten others on this and preparatory expeditions). After his discovery
on page 99, why does he care about Mallory so much? Why does he think we care? I know I don’t. My appreciation
of mountains owes nothing to Mallory and his kind.
P.S.  I am pleased to report that, after establishing his credentials as a fearless, committed
walker on his first four walks (114
), Simon Ingram relaxes somewhat. His next
six walks are up: Cnicht (689 metres) in Snowdonia, Cross Fell (893 metres) in the North Pennines,
Schiehallion (1,083 metres) in Perthshire, Ben Loyal (764 metres) in Sutherland, and Cùl Beag (769 metres)
and An Teallach (1,062 metres)
in the Northwest Highlands. Actually, lightning caused him to abandon
Cùl Beag and settle for a lower, unnamed summit instead. Still, it did enable him to scare the bejesus out
of us again by going on for pages about the dangers of lightning.
I have the measure of Ingram now. He suffers from acute morbidosity. He wallows in the dangerous and unpleasant.
At the National Slate Museum he is fixated on the horrific injuries suffered by miners. He goes on for pages
about the Scottish midges. And then it's ticks and Lyme Disease.
But it is not quite all angst. He has a relatively gentle walk up
Cross Fell, which I sauntered up myself
). The terrain on Cross Fell is little more challenging than that on
Caton Moor, although there is a lot more of it. My walk, like Ingram’s, was on a sunny, windless day. That suited
me but not Ingram because he had come specifically to experience Cross Fell’s notorious wind, The Helm.
He seems not to bother with weather forecasts.
Date: January 16th 2021
Start: home;   Route: various;   Distance: not far;   Ascent: not much
114.  Never Mind the Danger
These days I am pootling about on the foothills of Caton Moor, if Caton Moor is considered high enough to have foothills. It is only 361 metres at the trig point. It is a smooth hump, with moor-grass all over, and hardly a rock exposed anywhere. On the other side of Littledale, below Ward’s Stone, there are jumbles of millstone grit enabling some scrambling but not on Caton Moor. In short, Caton Moor is benign and not a ‘real mountain’. I haven’t tackled one of those for over a year and there is no prospect of doing so at the moment, so I thought I’d read about them instead.
Caton Moor, with its windmills, from the slopes up to Ward's Stone (Whernside
is directly behind the highest point of Caton Moor, with Ingleborough to the right in cloud)
The book Between the Sunset and the Sea
(Ingram, 2015) describes expeditions up sixteen British
mountains. It has been well-reviewed and the author, Simon Ingram, is the editor of Trail
, the “bestselling,
hillwalking magazine”, and therefore knows what he is writing about. The walks themselves provide the narrative propulsion but there are long diversions to discuss associated topics, such as the mass trespasses, the nature of mountain legends, the work of rescue teams, and so on. So far, I’ve only read the first four chapters but I think I have detected a theme.
The first four mountains are Beinn Dearg (914 metres) in the north-west Scottish Highlands, Black
Mountain (802 metres) of the Brecon Beacons, Cadair Idris (893 metres) and Snowdon (1,085 metres). He sets
off up the first, Beinn Dearg, alone and in rain, noting that the slopes ahead appeared “steep and outwardly impenetrable”. The ascent becomes increasingly scary, with the text peppered with phrases such as “alarming void”, “exciting, nerve-wracking”, “a fragile pivot between the thrilling and the frightening”, “gingerly reversed”, and so on. After five pages of this, he reaches the top and, since it’s getting late, he descends, with “increasing alarm”, passing “a drop of similar horror”, and commenting that “descents like this are what fatal accident statistics are made of”. He realises that he was under-prepared for this “unexpectedly hairy” outing – “a lesson I could learn from provided I could safely find a way out of this jam”. Which, of course, he did.
Next it’s the Black Mountain. He wanted to see the stars of the night sky from the mountain top but he
set off in rain and wind. He was soon as “wet as hell” because he had forgotten to bring waterproof trousers.
The wind, which he estimated to be 50 mph, gusting to 70 mph, threatened to blow him off the mountain. But he reached the top, where he “realised just how silly [his] decision to push on had been” and that “it wouldn’t be long before hypothermia began to gnaw”. So he aborted the plan to camp at the top in order to admire the stars and descended. He found that walking back to his car “was a hell of a lot harder than walking from it”. It was now “almost totally dark” and, since the batteries in his head torch were now almost flat, “stream crossings were done in a darkness that was too profound for comfort”.
He set out for Cadair Idris with the intention of appreciating the legends that surround the mountain and
in particular to see the sunset from the top. However, he had dallied on his way to the foot of the mountain and
his “plan for getting to the summit by sunset was now on a perilously tight schedule”. He hurries to the top
– which at 893 metres requires quite a lot of hurrying – and there
he finds that instead of carrying up his warm clothing for the night he has by mistake brought a tent, which he didn’t need
because he intended to sleep in a hut on the mountain top. He comments that “had this been a cold or
rainy night … I could have been in quite a bit of trouble”. But he survived.
On Snowdon, Ingram planned to walk, alone again, across Crib Goch. To get us in the mood, he first discusses the work
of mountain rescue teams, who deal with nearly sixty fatalities a year. He twice speculates whether he will become
one of them on Crib Goch because it is “a personification of all that is deviously hazardous”. Crib Goch is, he
says, 500 metres of exposed arête with sheer drops of several hundred metres on both sides. The evening before
the planned assault a friend tells him that the weather forecast (which he has not himself checked) is for rain
and gales the following morning – so he decides to tackle half the crest that evening, with darkness
approaching, then camp overnight halfway along (somehow), and do the rest early next morning. So we are then treated, over five pages, to a step-by-step account of his traverse of half of Crib Goch, which “was giving [him] dreadful feelings”.
You may not appreciate what an impressive achievement this is. I struggle myself to write a sentence
sometimes about the step-by-steps of my own walking. Ingram manages to write 2,500 words about 250 metres of
walking, each word building the tension like Ravel’s Bolero, but without hesitation, deviation or repetition,
and without the dramatic end of Bolero. How does he remember or record the intricate details of every lump of
rock whilst grappling to avoid falling off? As I say, most impressive.
As he sets up camp, he finds that he has a text message from his friend telling him that the gale is now
forecast to be earlier. So he decamps and sets off immediately to tackle the second half, with the “light fading rapidly”.
We have more pages of danger, peril and horror. I suppose that readers are expected to have a white-knuckled grip
of their armchair – but, of course, we know that, like James Bond in a car chase, our hero will come through
unscathed. He concludes that his experience on Crib Goch and the earlier mountains will help on the “higher,
wilder peaks [that] were coming”. I can hardly wait!
I find it strange that a professional walker is not embarrassed to admit to such recklessness and to a
series of elementary, foolhardy mistakes. Maybe what happened is that his magazine published a ‘do not …’ list
intended to help novice hill walkers avoid risk and he mistook it for a ‘do …’ list, and set about ticking them off one-by-one.
In that way he enhanced the danger, and after all it is the whole purpose of mountain walking to experience
and to overcome danger. For Ingram, that is – not for me.
P.S. The title, 'Never mind the danger', is a phrase in
'On the Ball, City
', said to be
the oldest football song still in use today (well, not exactly today, unless fans sing it in front of
their TV sets). The City referred to is, of course, Norwich City.
Date: January 12th 2021
Start: home;   Route: various;   Distance: not far;   Ascent: not much
113.  White Stoats on Caton Moor
Our local hill, Caton Moor, received its first snow of the winter on New Year's Eve, so, as is
almost traditional, we walked up the hill as soon as we could, bright and early
on New Year's Day. We thus began the year as we are intended to carry on, that is,
by walking from home.
I had the ulterior motive of looking for white stoats but I didn't mention this to Ruth,
as I didn't want her to feel disappointed when we didn't see any.
The roads were still white and icy but we walked up gingerly, appreciating the views of the Lune valley
and the gradual revelation
of the surrounding hills. At first, we could see only the Howgills and Barbon Fell up the valley,
but eventually Gragareth, Whernside and, after passing Quarry House Farm, Ingleborough came into view.
Their tops were smudged by grey cloud but, as far as I could tell,
they appeared to
have less snow than Ward's Stone, just off to the south. But the highlight was behind us.
The Lake District hills appeared over the ridge on the north bank of the Lune and they too were
mainly under grey cloud except for a sunny patch that made the Coniston hills and then the
Langdales seem aglow.
Towards the Lake District hills (about 30 miles away), Black Combe on the left, Coniston hills in sunshine
Now, about those white stoats ...
Handel, Vivaldi and other composers of that vintage thought nothing of recycling
their compositions to meet their commitments. Writers nowadays are liable to re-use
their words in various forms - newspaper columns, books, anthologies, even in films
if they are lucky. I have more excuse than them for borrowing from myself.
I am supposed to be writing
about walking in the northern hills and dales but I can't walk there, for the
So, as it happens, I wrote something about white stoats five years ago which I
can regurgitate here (slightly edited) ...
You can’t really set out to see a stoat. Stoats are seen by chance,
if they are seen at all. But I had resolved that when the first
snow of the winter fell on Caton Moor then I would set off in
search of a white stoat.
By chance I have, during occasional visits in the last 35 years,
seen two white stoats on Caton Moor. I don’t know if I am lucky
to have seen as many as two, or unlucky to have seen only two. I
just don’t know how common white stoats are on Caton Moor. I
have also seen several brown stoats not on snow. I’ve never seen
a white stoat without snow nor, I think, a brown stoat with snow.
These observations, scanty though they are, provoke a number of
questions in my febrile mind.
As is well known, stoats in places where there is plenty of snow,
such as the Cairngorms, turn white in winter and stoats in places
where there is little snow, such as Dorset, do not turn white. But
how does the mechanism work in intermediate places like Caton Moor,
where snow is patchy and unpredictable?
What causes the change? Is it in anticipation of snow, or in
response to it? Does it occur gradually or quickly (like human hair
that turns white overnight as the result of some trauma)? Is it an
adaptation to the environment, like that of a chameleon? Does
turning white occur once each winter, or could a stoat turn white,
then brown, then white in response to snowy periods? If you took
a Dorset stoat to the Cairngorms would it turn white? If you took a
Cairngorms stoat to Dorset would it turn white? If turning white is
such a nifty strategy, then do other species adopt it? Do all stoats in
a particular location turn white or do they all not turn white? If not,
why not? Are the numbers of white stoats decreasing, in response
to climate change?
I have found the answers to some of these questions in the book
The Natural History of Weasels and Stoats
(King and Powell, 2006).
It seems that the white stoat
provides a pristine case study on the interaction between genes and
First of all, some preliminaries. Stoats are members of the
Mustelidae family, which also includes weasels, minks, ferrets,
martens, badgers and otters. The stoat Mustela erminea
are within the Mustela genus of this family. Ermine
is an alternative name for the stoat, usually used for the white stoat
and for its fur.
In the United States, Mustela erminea
(our stoat) is called the
short-tailed weasel and Mustela nivalis
(our weasel) is called the
least weasel or common weasel. They also have a long-tailed weasel.
In Ireland Mustela erminea
(our stoat) is usually called the
weasel. There are no Mustela nivalis
(our weasel) in Ireland. You
could say that there are no weasels in Ireland, but the Irish might
say that there are no stoats. Clearly, outside the UK, the weasel is
not so easily distinguished and the poor stoat is totally confused.
Stoat and weasel have a huge range, across the whole northern
hemisphere from western North America to eastern Asia. Within
that range there are many climatic zones with prolonged snow
cover. Some stoats and weasels live at 3000 metres in permanent snow.
Snow is not a problem for stoats, as it is for many animals. With
its long, thin, sinuous body the stoat is well-adapted to burrowing
in grass and small tunnels and is therefore equally well-adapted to
burrowing within snow, where it may seek prey, find safety from
predators, and take refuge from the cold.
A stoat has quite an appetite, needing to eat up to one third of
its body weight every day. This is because it leads such a frenetic
life: it is alert, with rapid movements; its pulse runs at 500 beats per
minute; it digests and defecates within two hours; and it doesn’t
sleep for long.
It can kill rabbits twice its
weight. I once saw a stoat doing
a strange leaping dance beside
a hedge. I then noticed that it
had at its feet a dead rabbit. It
was leaping up trying to get the
rabbit into the hedge but it was
too heavy and the stoat lost its
grip. It eventually succeeded.
On another occasion I saw a
stoat disappear into a stone
wall. I stood by the wall and eventually the stoat popped its head
out, stared at me, squeaked, and went back inside. It repeated this
performance every minute or so. The squeaks became gradually
more threatening so, bearing in mind what a vicious killer the stoat
is, I thought I had better move on.
The stoat does not hibernate in winter. With its slim, fat-free
body, it needs twice as much energy to retain its body heat in
winter as it does in summer. It is therefore essential that the stoat
be adapted to survive harsh winters.
Now we can consider the change to white. Stoats moult twice
a year, in spring and autumn. The new fur, replacing the old, is
brown except for autumn moults in cold climates, when it is white.
The moult does not occur instantaneously and therefore stoats may
be seen at an intermediate brown-white stage. In mild climates
(such as here) the moult can take a month; in the Arctic it takes a
The moult is triggered by the hours of daylight. This is easily
demonstrated by manipulating the lighting over the cages of captive
stoats. They can be induced to moult at any time of the year, even if
the temperature is not consistent
with the apparent sunlight. In
this respect, the stoat is similar
to other animals that moult.
If the temperature or some
other environmental factor were
the sole determinant then stoats
transferred from, say, the Cairngorms to
Dorset (or vice versa) would turn white or not
according to the conditions in
their new home - but they don’t.
They moult at the usual time but into the ‘wrong’ coat. So the colour
of the new fur is controlled mainly, if not entirely, by heredity.
British weasels do not turn white. Why not? If it's a good idea for stoats to
turn white, why isn't it for weasels too? Swedish weasels do turn white - or at
least those in north Sweden do while those in south Sweden stay
brown (rather like the British stoat divide). However, the two sets
of Swedish weasels are two different subspecies (the two sets of
British stoats are not). British weasels belong to the same subspecies as the south Sweden weasels. Therefore the reason that
British weasels don’t turn white may be more to do with their genes
and evolutionary history than the climate.
In the United States it was
found that the boundary between
white and brown winter stoats
was at points where there was
an inch of snow for fifty
days of winter. In Britain stoats
whiten in somewhat milder
winters (Caton Moor normally
has an inch of snow for only a few
days of winter). The boundary
line divides Wales, Scotland
and parts of northern England
from the rest of England - but of
course it is not a precise, single
line, as mountain-top stoats are
more likely to whiten than low-level ones. Caton Moor, with a
highest point of 361 metres, is hardly
The boundary between white stoats and brown stoats is not a
line but a transition zone. Within that zone (which includes Caton
Moor) more or less stoats turn more or less white. Transition zone
stoats are usually pied, rather than fully-white or fully-brown
(actually, fully-white stoats are not fully white: they retain the
black tail tip). This suggests that our stoats are a hybrid of northern
fully-white genes and southern fully-brown genes. The colder or
snowier a region normally is, the more pied stoats there are (and, I
would guess, the more white they are).
In the transition zone female stoats are more likely to turn white
than male ones. Perhaps the gene that determines whitening is
dominant in one sex and recessive in the other. This would ensure
a genetic polymorphism so that the population always has some
individuals with every combination, in which case some will benefit
whatever the weather conditions turn out to be.
The reason that stoats turn white is obvious. It confers a clear
evolutionary advantage. Stoats have much to gain by being able to
live in snowy conditions but the penalty for being brown against
a white background or white against a dark background is large.
They become much more visible to their predators - hawks, owls
and foxes. Other species, such as the mountain hare, arctic fox,
ptarmigan and caribou, also turn white in winter. It is also clear
how this is a self-regulating mechanism. Those stoats that moult to
an inappropriate colour are more likely to be predated and therefore
less likely to pass on their ‘inappropriate’ genes.
I have found no discussion of the effect of climate change on the
transition zone for stoat-whitening - but I would expect the zone to
be moving north. Forty years
ago there were ski-orienteering events organised on the Howgills.
The organisers could be confident that there would be enough snow.
Today, the odds are that a winter date would see no or little snow
on the Howgills. Ski-orienteers are now more commonly found
further north. I expect white stoats are too.
So my expedition to snowy Caton Moor was made not in the
belief that the brown stoats would suddenly have turned white in
response to the fresh snow. My hope was that, after this exceptionally
mild and wet winter (so far), those stoats unfortunate to have genes
that have turned them white would have sufficient self-awareness
to have hidden themselves away over the last few weeks in order
not to make an easily-predated spectacle of themselves but that,
now that the snow has fallen, they would be gambolling about, in
Unfortunately, it proved not to be the case. I saw no stoats,
white or brown. On reflection, given the decreasing occurrence of
snow on Caton Moor, I think it unwise for any stoat to turn white
there. I suspect that white stoats have disappeared but I will keep
looking and if I see one I’ll let you know.
... Now, back in 2021, we saw no white stoats on our January 1st walk and I haven't seen
any in the intervening years either. Not to worry, it was an invigorating start to the New Year.
We walked up to beyond the windmills, which had just begun to be stirred into action by
a light breeze, and admired the snowy hills all around, with only a few in the glow of
sunshine. By the time we set off down, a thaw had set in, which made the roads more
slippery, but we made it safely back.
Clougha Pike and Morecambe Bay from above the windmills
Date: January 1st 2021
Start: SD543644, Brookhouse  (Map: OL41)
Route: SE, E on Quarry Road – picnic site – along the windmill track, to
the highest corner of the field – and back
Distance: 5 miles;   Ascent: 250 metres
112.  Walking around Pilling with Pink Feet
Yes, I know: ‘pink feet’ is wrong. That was just to gain your attention. Birders call the pink-footed goose the ‘pink foot’. If there’s more than one, it’s still the pink foot, as in “The pink foot are back”, which is fair enough, as it is short for ‘pink-footed geese’.
From the embankment at Lane Ends we could see fresh snow on the Lake District hills. There were none of the
usual birders about – but the sun had only just risen. A chilly wind caused us not to linger, so we walked to Pilling,
the largest village of the flat Fylde. It is built mainly of red brick but has two non-red buildings protruding upward.
The St John the Baptist Church with steeple was built in 1887 by the ubiquitous Paley & Austin. In
I commented that Paley & Austin had a virtual monopoly hereabouts with church building and had at Finsthwaite gone
beyond their usual style. That is even more the case at Pilling where, apart from including the steeple, they
used pink stones to embellish the upper parts. This church replaced the smaller one nearby, where there is a sun-dial
commemorating George Holden (1723-1793), vicar of Pilling Church, who is said to have devised the
tide tables (although this is a convoluted tale
that I tried to unravel in
The Land of the Lune
page 242). The other prominent building is a converted windmill, which was built in 1808 to a height of 22 metres, the highest in Fylde, but had become derelict by the 1940s.
Floral displays, bold for December, enlivened the Pilling streets. May I politely ask that Pilling takes as
much care with its footpath signs? We followed one that led to an old pinfold and then evaporated amongst gardens.
Returning to Broadfleet Bridge, a group of about thirty pink foot flew over, low and noisy. These were what we
had really come to see. Pink-footed geese from Iceland over-winter in their thousands in the north Fylde region,
taking advantage of the Wyre-Lune Sanctuary Nature Reserve. They form the V-shaped skeins of our winter
skies, with sometimes large numbers of geese passing over with celebratory honks.
They are rather dainty birds, for geese.
Having noticed that this section of the Pilling Embankment was still open (it closes from December 26th to Good Friday), we walked back along it. At Lane Ends one birder was now at his station – but as we neared he up-tripodded and retreated to his car. It was too cold – or there weren’t enough birds. I agree with him on the latter point. The last time I came here I was treated to a spectacular display of thousands of pink-footed geese, swirling about, occasionally forming arrows or lines, breaking up and re-forming, cacophonous, eventually moving out over the bay.
After a coffee break we moved back to Cocker Bridge, from where we hoped to see more action in the skies. We walked on a muddy path to Patty’s Farm and on to the Black Knights Parachute Centre. A plane took off. We didn’t wait to see if it disgorged a parachutist. That wasn’t what we had come to see – this was:
Pink-footed geese (as seen on the previous visit)
Date: December 24th 2020
Start: SD415493, car park outside Lane Ends amenity area  (Map: 296)
Route: (a) N – viewing area – S, SW – Broadfleet Bridge – W, S – footpath – N,
E – Broadfleet Bridge – N, E on embankment – Lane Ends; (b) SD453512, by Cocker Bridge – N – Pattys Farm – S –
Distance: 4 miles;   Ascent: 5 metres
Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 186/400;
Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 12.30
111.  From Millstone Grit to Limestone
A geologist will find the ‘solid geology map’ (1:625,000 scale) of the local district rather dull. The bedrock is
millstone grit throughout. It is overlain here and there by glacial and alluvial deposits but even so the region
lacks the variety of, say, the Lake District. The 1:50,000 scale map of the Lancaster region, however, shows an
amazing range of detail, totally unsuspected by an amateur such as myself. A section close to where I live shows
faults, anticlines, synclines, many varieties within the millstone grit group, and even intrusive igneous rocks
within a kilometre of my house. This detail, however, I must leave for another day, until I have a better
understanding of it. For now, I am stuck with millstone grit.
Or am I? The map also shows that just a few miles north the bedrock is limestone. Ah, limestone. The
bright crags and dry paths. I haven’t sauntered on limestone since Beetham on October 7th
miss it, but not as much as so much else at this time. Still, it provides motivation for a walk: to stride north to see where the limestone begins.
I set off through Halton, a village that with commendable self-sacrifice is single-handedly tackling the
local housing shortage. A large V of geese flew over. The sun rose over a distant Clougha Pike, reminding me of
my struggle against it in the previous outing. It would have been quiet but for the continuous rumble of the M6.
Our present restrictions are clearly not as strict – or not as strictly followed – as they were in the spring,
when there was an eerie silence. As I walked along I looked out for limestone in the fields and in the stone
walls, but I saw none. I could, however, see limestone far ahead, at Warton Crag.
I passed the intriguingly-named Coolbawn and the even more intriguingly-named Moor End Farm. The farm is not today at the end of any moor but perhaps it used to be. Millstone grit tends to accumulate peat and puddles, and hence tends to form a moor if uncultivated. Limestone doesn’t. Water drains through it and we don’t tend to refer to areas on limestone as moors. The thought that this farm once marked a transition point between millstone grit and limestone was perhaps confirmed by the white rocky outcrop in the field ahead.
After negotiating the narrow Shaw Lane, I turned to Hill Top, where I could at last touch limestone. And
then I reached undeniable evidence that this hill is of limestone – or rather was, since it has mainly disappeared.
I reached the rim of the huge chasm left by the Dunald Mill Quarry. The shrubs on the rim made it difficult to see
into the chasm but it appeared to be entirely abandoned and now to host a large lake. The equally huge chasm across the
road seemed, however, to be occupied by industrial units. This
provides an aerial view of the two quarries. (The video describes the eastern quarry as a 'working quarry' but
I don't think it is working as a quarry. The road nearby has none of the whiteness it used to have.)
According to a 2010 report, the quarries are supposed to be completely restored by 2023, the western quarry “to a lake with
visitor viewing facilities” and the eastern one “to an
area of wildlife meadows”. From what I could see,
they need to get a move on.
Dunald Mill Quarry
It should not be a surprise to find a quarry here. Quarries often develop on the fringes of a geological area. If people to the south, say, in the Lune valley want limestone, as they did, then they will seek it from the nearest limestone hill, which is here near Nether Kellet. Once quarrying has started, it will continue, to create these craters, as long as demand continues, as it did until a decade or two ago.
To the south of the quarry is Dunald Mill Hole, a cavern that was once something of a tourist attraction,
even stimulating a
by Letitia Elizabeth Landon (1802-1838), although I hadn't heard of her, so perhaps that's not
saying much. Further along the lane, surprisingly, are the substantial
facilities of the Carnforth Compressor Station. Whatever a compressor station is, it is good that they have
hidden it away from all but the occasional intrepid walker. To the left, of more interest to me, was a large limestone outcrop. I was tempted to trespass to walk upon it – but I mustn’t. The time will come again, eventually, when I will be able to walk on real limestone, in, say, the Yorkshire Dales.
The limestone outcrop
As I expected, this proved to be the last I saw of limestone. I walked down, past Halton Park, to my
home valley, where, in the absence of wind, the windmills were stationary, a smoky haze had settled, and a
murky mist obscured views of Ingleborough. Ahead were the dark, millstone grit hills of Ward’s Stone,
Grit Fell and Clougha Pike.
Date: December 22nd 2020
Start: SD506643, A683 lay-by at Denny Bank  (Map: OL41)
Route: (linear) N over bridge – Halton – NW, along Scargill Road – N, along Shaw Lane – E, N, E – Long Dales Lane – S, SE on Dunald Mill Lane – S past Halton Park, SW, S – Lune – E – Brookhouse
Distance: 8 miles;   Ascent: 125 metres
Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 185/400;
Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 12.25
110.   Cloughs and Grit
109.   Fair Snape: the Fairest Fell of Bowland
108.   Westward Home!
107.   Along the Sands from Millom to Silecroft
106.   Twelve Ponds and a Power Station
Diversion 4:  You Don't Need a Weatherman ...
105.   An Autumn Stroll through Beetham Woods
104.   From Bampton Grange to the Lake District's Highest Hills
103.   Bogged Down around Rawcliffe Moss
102.   Upper Ribblesdale: Drumlins, Three Peaks and a Cave
101.   Passing the Time at Heysham
100.   Crookdale and Horseshoes
99.   Heather on Hawthornthwaite Fell
98.   Karren and Flora on Hutton Roof Crags
97.   Remeandering the Lyvennet
96.   Castles and Towers from the Cross of Greet
95.   Barbondale and the Dent Fault
79-94 are about walks from home during the coronavirus lockdown.
94.   Away from It All on Caton Moor
93.   The Brookhouse - Claughton Circular
92.   The Small-Leaved Limes of Aughton Woods
91.   The Littledale Cuckoos are Back!
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
Diversion 3:  The Fairy Fell Roundelay (Rainy Day Walk No. 3251)
85.   The Tarn Brook Heronry
84.   A Loop along Littledale Lanes
83.   Gray's Seat and the View from the Crook o'Lune
82.   A Peek into Artle Dale
81.   The Lost Meander of the Lune
80.   The Caton Moor Hares
79.   Sand Martins by the Lune
79-94 are about walks from home during the coronavirus lockdown.
78.   Around Roeburndale
77.   Bridging the Lower Little Ribble
76.   The Belted Beauties of Sunderland
Diversion 2:  These Boots ...
75.   To Ward's Stone: A Classic Walk?
74.   Blackpool Promenading
73.   The Raygill Foraminifers
72.   Turner and the Lune Aqueduct
71.   Low in Low Barbondale
70.   Up the Conder
69.   Lakeside, Finsthwaite Heights, Rusland Heights and Tourists
68.   Landscape and the Howgills
67.   The Consolation of Arant Haw
66.   In Search of the Paythorne Salmon
Diversion 1:  Save Our Sausage
65.   Grisedale and Another Tarn
64.   Beyond the Leagram Pale
63.   These Are a Few of My Favourite 'Superficial Things': in Crummackdale
62.   On and Off the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail
61.   Knott Alone
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
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
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
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
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
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
© John Self, Drakkar Press, 2018
Top photo: The western Howgills from Dillicar;
Bottom photo: Blencathra from Great Mell Fell