Western Howgills

Home   Preamble   Index   Areas   Map   References   Top10s   Me   Drakkar

Saunterings:  Walking in North-West England  61 - 70

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

If you'd like to give a comment, correction or update (all are very welcome) or to be notified of new items as they appear - please send an email to johnselfdrakkar@gmail.com.

     Latest (with a list of all Saunterings so far)  
     Next 71 - 80  
coniston hills      70.   Up the Conder   
     69.   Lakeside, Finsthwaite Heights, Rusland Heights and Tourists   
     68.   Landscape and the Howgills   
     67.   The Consolation of Arant Haw   
     66.   In Search of the Paythorne Salmon   
     65.   Grisedale and Another Tarn   
     64.   Beyond the Leagram Pale   
     63.   These Are a Few of My Favourite 'Superficial Things': in Crummackdale   
     62.   On and Off the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail   
     61.   Knott Alone   
     Previous 1 - 60  

70.  Up the Conder

The Conder is an unassuming river, most of the time. It arises on Black Fell, below Clougha Pike, and runs inconspicuously, never more than a few feet wide, for about eight miles through what nobody has ever called Conderdale. This is a surprisingly broad valley, there being over two miles between Clougha Pike and the Langthwaite hills on the opposite side. After its initial spurt off Black Fell, the Conder declines gently towards the coast, with no waterfalls or other excitements along the way. It ends not by boldly entering Morecambe Bay of its own accord but by sidling into the River Lune at Conder Green, just before the Lune enters the bay.

An iffy forecast for later in the day led me to begin my walk before sunrise, setting off from Glasson marina and aiming to walk up beside the Conder to its source (and then home). The path along the old railway line to Conder Green was icy and required attention that might otherwise have been directed towards identifying the birds stirring in the dark estuary. A bright white little egret was all that I could discern. The tide was out and the Conder ran low below its muddy banks towards the Lune. As I made my way to the Glasson spur of the Lancaster Canal the sky evolved through oranges and purples. In its own good time the sun arose over the Bowland hills but, alas, within ten minutes it disappeared behind a bank of cloud, where it hid for the rest of the day – which wasn’t what had been forecast.
Glasson marina

Glasson marina

Conder Green

River Conder at Conder Green

Glasson canal

Glasson canal and sunrise

The canal here is banked up above the level of the Conder, which meanders unseen in the fields to the left. I continued north on the canal mainly to see the River Conder flowing under it. It’s an odd juxtaposition – a flowing river crossing a still canal. I followed the path of the Conder through the village of Galgate, for the residents of which I added that ‘most of the time’ to my first sentence. The Conder floods the village with depressing regularity. Here the river passes through a fairly narrow channel within high walls and, of course, most of the time it flows harmlessly enough. However, the Conder has a large catchment area for such a normally docile river and if there’s a cloudburst on the Bowland fells then, as there is little to detain it, the water must rapidly fill this channel.

North of Galgate, at the hamlet of Ellel, I took a footpath east. The Conder protects its privacy by having no public footpaths anywhere on its banks except here – and this short footpath passes under the M6, so it hasn’t much appeal to walkers. Disappointingly, the cloud was now dampening what little colour there was on a December morning and, with the Conder inaccessible and hidden away down to the north, I settled in for a spell of road-walking.

At the corner of Long Lane the OS map marks an ‘Old School House’ but the plaque says it’s the old schoolmaster’s house, which seems more plausible given its isolation. Did the schoolmaster teach his pupils to split the word th
e over two lines, as on the plaque? Long Lane was not as quiet as might be expected, with various workmen wandering about. Our utility services think that this valley deserves to be cluttered with enormous pylons, large reservoirs (on the Langthwaite hills) and fenced-off constructions. A view of Clougha Pike was somewhat obscured, as the photo shows.
Clougha pylons
Halfway along Long Lane I cut down to Conder Side Farm. I felt a duty to see anything that had ‘Conder’ in its name. Sure enough, the farm was beside the Conder, which I crossed by a nondescript bridge. I continued east and then dropped down from the other side to Conder Mill, which with a mill pond and a scheduled bridge is a pretty setting (when in sunshine). Just above Conder Mill the Conder is joined by its largest (but still not large) tributary, Rowton Brook.

After walking through the village of Quernmore and past the isolated St Peter’s church I crossed the Conder again, now quite diminutive, by a bridge that nobody passing on the road would notice as a bridge. Here I needed to swing east because the Conder flows from what looks like a side valley, with the main valley north having no significant watercourse. An explanation for the width of the valley, and the fact that the Conder seems much too small for it, may now be appreciated – the River Lune once flowed through here before it was diverted towards Lancaster by glacial deposits.
Conder source
Passing the peacocks at Cragg Cottage and crossing the Conder again, I entered the Bowland Access Area near Cragg Wood. This wood, known in particular for its old sessile oaks, is one of only four Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) in Lancashire. It is, however, private land. After too much road-walking my boots welcomed the rather rocky and muddy track through heather above the Conder and also enjoyed their first walk of the winter in snow, albeit only the soggy remnants of the snowfall of a few days ago.

Now, at last, I reached the source of the Conder – or as close to it as you can reasonably expect after the long trek from Glasson. The true source, of course, lies higher up the slopes of Clougha but I was content to see it gushing down through a small ravine and then swerving off west whence I had come. I crossed it for the ninth and last time, taking only a single step to do so. A few yards further on I walked by Sweet Beck, which flows north to join the Lune. It is strange to think that apart from those few yards the land between the Conder and the Lune is entirely surrounded by water – it is almost a sort of island. But something similar can be said about any watershed.

Unfortunately for my legs I still had a couple of miles to go to get home but as far as the River Conder was concerned, that was it. I said at the beginning that it is an unassuming river and I am tempted to add, paraphrasing Churchill, that it has much to be unassuming about – but that would be unfair. The river and the valley are not at their best on a cold, grey day. Me neither.

    Date: December 18th 2019
    Start: SD445561, Glasson  (Maps: 296, OL41)
    Route: (linear) E on old railway line, road – Conder Green – S, SE – hotel, canal – SE, E, N on towpath – Ellel Hall Bridge – E – Galgate – N – Ellel – E on path under M6 – Lower Kit Brow – NE on Kit Brow Lane, Long Lane, W – Conder Side Farm, road – NE, SE – Conder Mill – E – Quernmore crossroads – N on Rigg Lane, NW past church, E on Littledale Road – near Bark Barn – S (past peacocks), SE, E – Sweet Beck – NE – Belhill Farm – N, NW - Brookhouse
    Distance: 14 miles;   Ascent: 200 metres

69.  Lakeside, Finsthwaite Heights, Rusland Heights and Tourists

1,634,654 people took a Windermere Lake Cruise in 2018, according to a Cumbria Tourism report. However, on this bright December morning there were hardly any potential customers at Lakeside, at the southern end of Windermere. There might have been more if the car parks weren’t closed because a large crane was manoeuvring some red structures into place. A worker told me that “someone with a load of money wants a big boat put in the water”.

I left them to it. I hadn’t intended to take a cruise anyway. I planned to walk on Finsthwaite Heights and Rusland Heights, the gentle hills to the west that reach no higher than about 250m. I walked first to Stott Park Bobbin Mill, which was, as expected, closed. It is a (summer) visitor attraction but from 1835 to 1971 the mill made bobbins for Lancashire’s spinning and weaving industries. I need to come back when it’s open because I don’t really know what a bobbin is, or why the industries needed millions of them every year, or why the Furness trees were so suitable for making them. I know the trees were coppiced, rather than cut down, but even so a huge quantity of wood was being removed from these hills.

I continued up to High Dam, which was built to provide power for the mill. The lake is in a sylvan setting of pine and larch, with a wide, gentle path around it, strollable by all. It reminded me of the tourist hotspot of Tarn Hows – so much so that halfway round I felt the need to escape for a scramble. I climbed a fence and made my way through dead bracken to the top of Great Green Hows, which despite the name is only 229 metres high. It was worth the little effort because beyond the deep blue Green Hows Upper Tarn there was a wonderfully wide panorama from the Howgills to Black Combe, with the Coniston hills particularly well displayed. There was, however, no view of Windermere or Coniston Water.
Great Green Hows

North from Great Green Hows, to Green Hows Upper Tarn and, on the horizon, the Langdale Pikes, Helvellyn and Fairfield (in cloud), Red Screes and High Street

I headed south over Rusland Heights. The scrubby, hummocky, heathery land was criss-crossed by a maze of what-might-be-paths. The bearing was clear but the path less so, until I realised that white topped posts marked the way. There was a post every few yards, which was very kind of whoever put them there. Two jets flew past, ruining the silence. Their sound reverberated around the hills for some time as they made their way along various dales.

I was now a dedicated follower of the white posts, although I left them briefly to have a peek at the secluded Boretree Tarn. I could see that it was surrounded by much squelchiness, so a peek was enough. Thinking of all those cruisers, I wondered how many people visited Boretree Tarn in 2018. I doubt that it was as many as a thousand, or three a day on average. That 1,634,654 for the Windermere Lake Cruises is a very precise figure. The Cumbria Tourism report gives us other precise figures. It says that there were 47.03m ‘tourism visits’ to Cumbria in 2018, with 40.41m of them being day visits and 6.62m being staying visits, a stay being for 3.4 nights on average. This means, it calculates, that there were 62.76m ‘visitor days and nights’ in 2018 – this figure being 40.41 + (6.62 x 3.4). Well, I have news for Cumbria Tourism – when we stay one night in the Lake District we have two full days there. So, I’d say that the total of ‘visitor days and nights’ is 40.41 + (6.62 x 4.4), that is, 69.50m. I have hereby instantly increased the total by over 10%, which will please Cumbria Tourism no end.
Coniston hills

The Coniston hills from Rusland Heights

The white posts led me down through Yewbarrow Wood heading, it seemed, for the Rusland valley, where many fields were flooded. The trouble with following posts – or indeed people – is that they may not be leading you where you expect them to. But my lapse of faith proved unfounded because I emerged at the road at the exact point necessary to take the path east to Town End. Walks through woods are always pleasant but I never find that I have much to say about them. Stark trees, at this time of year; sprinkles of sunlight on dead leaves; luxuriant mosses covering the rocks; a few birds twittering in the tree tops.

I am sure that Cumbria Tourism will eagerly welcome that extra 10% I found for them because the tourism industry is, like all industries, one that depends on growth. It is vital to attract more people, who bring more money to the local economy and create more local jobs. Cumbria Tourism’s 10-year plan of 2008 was to increase the number of trips to Cumbria by 12%, from 15.2m to 17m. The difference between 17m and the 47m above is a mystery (perhaps a 'visit' is different to a 'trip'?) but need not detain us. The important factor is the 12% increase. That may seem ambitious but the world population increased by 13% from 2008 to 2018. The Lake District thinks of itself as a world-class tourist destination, so it was really aiming to attract a lower proportion of its target. Cumbria Tourism must try harder.

Given the importance of the figures quoted in Cumbria Tourism’s reports – and the fact that there are many vested interests that they should increase – it is natural to wonder where they come from. The tourism industry cannot just guesstimate figures – it has to have sophisticated mathematical models that can provide reliable, convincing data. To this end, Cumbria Tourism uses STEAM (Scarborough Tourism Economic Activity Monitor). Many tourism bodies say that they use STEAM but none of them tell us how it works. It takes more than a neat acronym and the .03 in 47.03 to convince me. All I’d ask is: did I contribute to the 47.03m ‘tourism visits’? On most of my visits to Cumbria I am not aware of doing anything that would enable me to be counted.

Reaching the road, I felt obliged to have a look at the village of Finsthwaite, having tramped over its Heights. Near the grand Finsthwaite House I passed a woman who was admiring the view whilst sat upon two shooting sticks, one per buttock. I noticed also that something called Lakelovers offered me a ‘handpicked holiday home’ but if I needed one then I’d prefer to handpick it myself. Finsthwaite was, like most villages, quiet. The church, at least, looked different. The Lancaster firm of Paley & Austin seems to have had a monopoly hereabouts of church building and re-building in the 1870-1880 period. They naturally developed a house style, or rather, a church style, but they let themselves go with the Finsthwaite church, putting a pyramidal top on the tower.

Windermere from Lakeside, Gummer's How on the right

After walking through Great Knott Wood, I reached Lakeside to find that they were preparing to move the afore-mentioned big boat, which I now noticed was parked or berthed in the second car park. How they got this boat over Newby Bridge, along the narrow roads, and into the car park I don’t know. It looked more like a ferry-boat than a privately-owned boat. Perhaps they are upgrading the boats used for the cruises, to cater for even more trippers. (**)

The number of people taking a cruise on Windermere is three times what it was thirty years ago. Excellent! I am all in favour of transporting as many visitors as possible to the middle of Windermere in order to keep them away from the fells. I hope that they are also lured away by the other attractions so carefully listed by Cumbria Tourism in its enthralling annual top twenties. Below are the lists for the years 2018, 2017, 2007 and 1988. There are so many caveats that should be made but I won’t bother. Make of them what you will.

                                             2018           2017           2007           1988
Windermere Lake Cruises                    1. 1,634,654   1. 1,611,491   1. 1,274,976   1.  520,060
Ullswater Steamers                         2.   448,820   3.   414,777   7.   187,469
The Rheged Centre                          3.   440,178   2.   423,908   2.   465,452
Grasmere Gingerbread                       4.   250,000   7.   200,000
Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway          5.   220,014   8.   198,377                  6.   85,000
The World of Beatrix Potter, Bowness       6.   205,258   9.   191,590
Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery        7.   204,912   6.   204,854   3.   279,889   14.  55,000
Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway             8.   204,500                                 2.  250,000
Whinlatter Forest Park & Visitor Centre    9.   196,294   5.   237,499   8.   187,269   11.  74,500
Carlisle Castle                            10.  174,171                  18.   53,407   13.  57,495
Grizedale Forest Park and Visitor Centre   11.  169,395   10.  183,900   5.   231,500
Carlisle Cathedral                         12.  149,637   11.  157,742   9.   152,138
Lowther Castle and Gardens                 13.  119,085   13.  110,000                  7.   84,000
Theatre By The Lake, Keswick               14.  112,397   14.  107,790   10.  108,598
Hill Top, Beatrix Potter’s House           15.  110,206   12.  119,044                  5.   90,000
Wray Castle                                16.  103,900   15.   95,829
Lakeland Motor Museum, Backbarrow          17.   76,068   16.   78,850                  17.  43,209
Muncaster Castle                           18.   60,570   18.   64,772                  20.  39,553
The Puzzling Place, Keswick                19.   49,077   19.   47,716
Beatrix Potter Gallery, Hawkshead          20.   41,212  
Lake District Visitor Centre, Brockhole                   4.   293,437   11.  108,530   4.   98,000
Tree Top Trek, Brockhole                                  17.   72,637
Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Museum                    20.   46,029   15.   61,870   8.   80,400
South Lakes Wild Animal Park                                             4.   252,631
Aquarium of the Lakes, Lakeside                                          6.   229,342
Cumberland Pencil Museum, Keswick                                        12.   85,000   10.  75,000
The Dock Museum, Barrow                                                  13.   70,563
Wetheriggs Country Pottery, Penrith                                      14.   65,000   15.  50,000
Northern Lights Gallery, Keswick                                         16.   60,000
The Teapottery, Keswick                                                  17.   56,350
The Homes of Football, Ambleside                                         19.   53,000
Lake District Coast Aquarium, Maryport                                   20.   46,972
Sellafield                                                                              3.  148,000
Holker Hall                                                                             9.   80,100
Border Regiment Museum, Carlisle                                                        12.  58,621
Levens Hall                                                                             16.  47,701
Windermere Steamboat Museum                                                             18.  40,236
Sizergh Castle                                                                          19.  40,000

    Date: December 9th 2019
    Start: SD378874, Lakeside  (Map: OL7)
    Route: NW – Low Stott Park – W, NW – High Dam – N,W – Great Green Hows – S – Rusland Heights, Great Ellerside, road – E, NE – Town End, Finsthwaite – E, SE – Lakeside
    Distance: 7 miles;   Ascent: 205 metres

** Since writing the above I have found that the vessel is indeed a new addition to the Windermere Lake Cruises’ fleet. This website gives details of its construction and, at the time of writing, of its ‘soft launch’ on December 11.

68.  Landscape and the Howgills

Nowadays, ‘landscape’ is how you orient your page if you don’t want ‘portrait’. There is rather more to the concept of landscape than this but I hadn’t appreciated how much more until I read the book Landscape (Wylie, 2007). I was taken on an exhilarating journey through all of geography – landscapes are to geography as plants are to botany, according to some landscapologists – plus parts of philosophy, psychology, politics, history, aesthetics, art, culture, epistemology, phenomenology, imperialism, race, class and feminism. That is too long a journey to embark on in one Sauntering although I can mention one crucial junction along the way. This is the thought that our modern conception of landscape was developed in recent centuries by ‘landscape gardeners’, ‘landscape painters’ and those that paid for their work, who were almost all wealthy white men. It is possible that those of us who are not wealthy white men have a different conception of landscape.

After our fortuitous foray to Arant Haw last week, I have been wondering why I am disproportionately fond of the landscape of the Howgills compared to other regions of the north-west. Mindful that the M6 engineers had in 1971 been given a Civic Trust Award for “an outstanding contribution to the appearance of the Westmorland landscape”, I parked as close to the motorway as possible, in case the M6 has something to do with it. Some landscapologists insist that there is more to landscape than appearance. We hear, smell and feel the landscape too. In this respect, the M6 is not merely outstanding: it is overwhelming. It swamped all other sound – except that of the occasional train that whooshed by. In fact, after a while I came to accept the constant noise of the motorway as a permanent feature of the environment, a bit (but not much) like the sound of waves on a beach. It is the sudden clatter and rattle of the trains that is more disturbing.
Lowgill Viaduct

Lowgill Viaduct and western Howgills

The M6 became less overwhelming as I walked towards the Lowgill Viaduct, with the rolling, smooth, interlacing western slopes of the Howgills forming a backdrop. I think I can agree with landscapologists that there is no such thing as ‘the landscape’, at least not in the sense that there is ‘the Lowgill Viaduct’. The latter is a tangible, physical object that we can touch and, in this case, walk under. The former is more an interpretation that we place upon the array of physical objects on the land – and that interpretation is different for all of us.

I have become more aware of this recently. After decades of running on the hills I had become accustomed to viewing the landscape with respect to its runnableness. It was not a deliberate, conscious reflection: it just happened without me being aware of it. I am aware of it now because I find that I am still assessing runnableness even though I am no longer running. I pull myself up, smile and tell my brain to behave. So I know that I appreciate the landscape in a particular way and I therefore assume that everybody else does too. Everybody has a particular mix of interests and experience – photography, farming, climbing, walking, painting, and so on – that they bring to bear, without their awareness, whenever they appreciate a landscape.

The same is true, if to a lesser extent, with everything we perceive, even the Lowgill Viaduct. Engineers, artists, historians and so on will see the viaduct differently. And, of course, our perception of structures like the viaduct may change over time. No doubt, when it was built in 1859 some people reacted then as I do to the M6 today. Now, especially as it no longer carries trains, we might consider it to make an ‘outstanding contribution’ to the landscape as well.

My unreasonable fondness for the Howgills landscape probably derives from a subconscious perception of its runnableness. Its long, smooth ridges are a delight for a runner to glide over, at least compared to the steep, rocky inclines of the Lake District, the uneven, fragile limestone pavements of the Dales, and the heathery, boggy plateaus of the Pennines. Almost all the slopes of the Howgills can be run up by a reasonably fit person, and I am sure that when I look at the Howgills now I am affected by an instinctive memory of running up and down them all in the past.
Fell Head

River Lune and Fell Head

I walked under the viaduct and over the quaint, narrow Crook of Lune Bridge, which was damaged by Storm Desmond in 2015 but seems in order now, and then north by the River Lune past the old farms of Brunt Sike, Mire Head, Low Wilkinson’s and Howgill Head, only one of which seems to be farming today. The noise of the motorway still dominated. If landscapologists are right to say that landscape is more than something to gaze at and that it involves the other senses too then it follows that we need to get closer so that those other senses come into play. This leads to the conclusion that we too are part of the landscape, which means that we need to consider all the complexity of humanity to understand landscape. The notion that we are part of the landscape is no revelation to walkers. We know that what we see now as a landscape is where we’ll be in two hours time – and in two hours time where we are now will be seen as a landscape. So with the reassuring thought that landscape is neither here nor there I pressed on.
Whin's End

From Whin's End towards the Lake District, with the M6 in the middle distance

I walked up by Fairmile Beck to Whin’s End (384m). The Lake District hills from Black Combe to Great Gable could be seen, with the motorway now humming away gently in the middle distance. As I dropped over the col to Brown Moor (412m) the sound of the M6 at last disappeared. In fact, it was eerily quiet and empty, with no sheep or fell ponies or walkers to be seen. The western slopes of the Howgills’ highest tops (Fell Head, Bush Howe, the Calf, Bram Rigg Top) were elegantly displayed, with the low sun picking out their gullies. Another reason why the Howgills are appreciated as a landscape is that no one top stands alone. The smooth slopes merge them into one and the eye naturally flows along them.
Brown Moor

From Brown Moor towards White Fell Head and The Calf

I walked over to Castley Knotts (361m), which has, unusually for the Howgills, a few rocky outcrops. Again no sheep or ponies could be seen on the fells although I could see one ‘horse’ – the so-called Horse of Bush Howe, where exposed scree resembles the shape of a horse, although less so every time I see it. I crossed Chapel Beck, with difficulty, and walked over Bram Rigg to cross Bram Rigg Beck, also with difficulty. I then left the foothills of the Howgills to drop down to the River Lune to follow the Dales Way back to the Crook of Lune Bridge. Here at least there was no sound of the motorway, the swirling Lune overcoming it. The last time I walked along this path I came across two women swimming in deep pools of the Lune – au naturel, as I recall although my memory may be embellishing the scene. I always like to see wildlife on my walks but I did not expect to see similar in November, with the sun having dropped below Firbank Fell and with frost still on the grass. And I didn’t, try as I might. My mind has wandered, sorry … I must return to the concept of landscape.
Chapel Beck

Chapel Beck from the slopes of Castley Knotts, with the so-called Horse of Bush Howe in the middle, near the horizon

My camera tells me that I am taking ‘landscape’ photographs. Indeed, I have peppered this blog with what I would think of as landscapes, including one of the Howgills as the banner. Some I have stretched wide and thin to emphasise their panoramic nature. I must have felt, when I began this blog, that such photographs convey the appropriate impression of the region. North-West England is a land of landscapes, especially if you are prepared to walk up a hill to view them. Landscape photography is today an art form, with its own prizes (for example, Landscape Photographer of the Year), that perpetuates the old-fashioned view that landscape is primarily something to be looked at. Photography is not mentioned in the Wylie (2007) book but it does include the comment that “cultural forms (art, literature, fashion, cinema – and landscape) constitute an ideological realm through which powerful economic and political interests exercise control”, suggesting that landscape itself is a ‘cultural form’ on a par with the more obviously human-created forms mentioned.

So, landscape is not a precise, scientific term like, say, momentum, defined as the product of mass and velocity. A scientific term may be used unscientifically, say, as the name of a political group. A non-scientific term may be argued about as if the aim is to give it a precise, scientific meaning. In reality, the arguers are using the vague term to develop a particular thesis. Therefore, the arguments about landscape tell us more about the arguers than they do about landscape.

What does the M6 award tell us about the Civic Trust? Perhaps that the Civic Trust considered itself competent and important enough to give such awards and wanted us to regard the Trust as ‘with it’ and not a fuddy-duddy conservative organisation. The Civic Trust went into administration in 2009 but magically the Civic Trust Awards continue. Where would be without them to tell us what is good? I see that of the 101 finalists for the 2020 Awards 33 are in Greater London and only 1 (the Windermere Jetty Museum) is in North-West England (as defined in my Preamble). This is very pleasing. The awards are for “excellence in the built environment” and we don’t want too much building in our environment, thank you.

    Date: November 29th 2019
    Start: SD610964, by railway and motorway  (Map: OL19)
    Route: E – Beck Foot, Crook of Lune Bridge – NE – Brunt Sike – N – Howgill Head – N, E – Fairmile Road – S – Fairmile Beck – E, SE – Whin’s End – E, S – Brown Moor – S – Castley Knotts – E, S – Bram Rigg – E across Bram Rigg Beck, S, W, S, SW – Birkhaw – W – Hole House – NW on Dales Way – Crook of Lune Bridge – W – by motorway
    Distance: 9 miles;   Ascent: 280 metres

67.  The Consolation of Arant Haw

I always assume that an enforced change to a plan works out for the best. We intended to walk in Dentdale. Having decided to avoid the narrow, steep, and possibly icy roads through Barbondale, Kingsdale and upper Dentdale, we set off towards Kirkby Lonsdale and Sedbergh only to be stopped by a barrier across the road at Tunstall. After a detour through Burton-in-Lonsdale, we eventually reached Sedbergh only to be stopped by another barrier across the road to Dent. Apparently a lorry had damaged a bridge over the Rawthey. No sensible detours were possible this time, so we stopped and wandered, rather aimlessly, into Sedbergh.

After a stroll along the main street of Sedbergh, browsing the bookshops and enjoying a leisurely cappuccino, we reviewed our options. Having come this far, we thought we might as well walk up Winder (473m), since every visitor to Sedbergh is expected to do so. It was a bright, still frosty, day but the puffs of hill cloud were lifting, promising good views from the top of Winder. On the way up, we chatted with locals lucky to have this for a regular walk. They assured us that we were better off on Winder than we would have been in Dentdale, which, they said (exaggerating a little), would all be in shade this time of the year. Winder was certainly in the sun and with no breeze it began to feel quite balmy.

We walked up by Settlebeck Gill and, with more enthusiasm now, instead of cutting across directly to Winder, we thought we’d continue to Arant Haw (605m), which promised even better views. As we reached the ridge, the Lake District profile appeared ahead of us, with the first snows of winter (the first snows seen by us, anyway) visible on the Scafells, Bowfell and Helvellyn. At Arant Haw we sat basking in the sun, although there was still ice on the puddles. It was quite soothing, having, for once, no objective and no plan. We didn’t even have a map to make a plan with (well, we did have a map but not of where we were) but, with the cloud having dissipated, we could hardly lose our bearings.
Arant Haw north

North from Arant Haw, towards Calders and The Calf, with Wild Boar Fell to the right

Arant Haw east

East from Arant Haw, towards Baugh Fell, Great Knoutberry Hill, Aye Gill Pike and Pen-y-ghent

Arant Haw west

West from Arant Haw, towards the Lake District hills

So we sat admiring the view eastwards. It was not what we had set out to see but the view could hardly be bettered. To the north were Wild Boar Fell and Swarth Fell, with the tops of the Mallerstang hills visible through the col between them. Then the broad expanse of Baugh Fell was spread out, looking quite appealing from this distance although it is a muddy morass on closer acquaintance, with its gullies etched out by the low sun and with the dark valley of Garsdale below. Great Knoutberry Hill stood in the distance, at the head of Garsdale and Dentdale, with our original objective of Aye Gill Pike to its right. The distinctive tops of Pen-y-ghent and Ingleborough could be seen, with the less distinctive top of Whernside between. Below all this lay the green fields of Rawtheydale, its drumlins half in sun and half in shade. Morecambe Bay and our home valley of Lunesdale glittered to the south.

Because of our late start and our relaxed frame of mind, we did not think about walking further north, as walkers on the standard walk to The Calf, the highest point of the Howgills, would do. Instead we retraced our steps and then wandered over to Winder, with its trig point and toposcope added in 2000. We again took our time to appreciate the views over a distant M6 to the Lakeland hills, our sense of peace and stillness enhanced by the implicit comparison with the noise and haste of the motorway. We then ambled down to Sedbergh.

Sedbergh from the slopes of Winder

On the way home we paused at the picnic spot by Killington service station to watch as the sunset transformed the Howgills from red-orange to grey, while the reservoir was perfectly still to reflect the hills and trees. So a not particularly energetic, purposeful or informative Sauntering this one but perhaps one more in the spirit that I originally envisaged when I started this blog.

    Date: November 18th 2019
    Start: SD658917, Sedbergh, by the school  (Map: OL19)
    Route: N by Settlebeck Gill – Arant Haw – S, SW – Winder, Lockbank Farm – E, S – Sedbergh school
    Distance: 4 miles;   Ascent: 475 metres

66.  In Search of the Paythorne Salmon

The region south of Hellifield is neither Dales nor Bowland. The map shows a number of hamlets – Swinden, Nappa, Newsholme, Paythorne and Halton West – but I can’t say that I had heard of any of them. The map also indicates many flattish fields, fine for sheep but dull for walkers. I read what little I could find about the region – and came across Paythorne’s Salmon Sunday (the third Sunday of November), when villagers gathered at the bridge to celebrate the salmon spawning in the Ribble. The custom has, of course, lapsed. Whether the villagers or the salmon lapsed first, I don’t know. Anyway, I set out, with little optimism, to look for salmon in the Ribble. Hellifield Peel

I walked first to Hellifield Peel (shown right), built as a tower house in the 15th century. Twenty years ago English Heritage produced a list of graded buildings that were at risk, that is, of being or becoming derelict. Hellifield Peel was on the list but it is one of the few that has since been revived, its restoration featuring on Channel 4’s Grand Designs.

After walking past some strangely empty farm buildings at Swinden, I continued to the Ribble for my first study of it. I waited for a while – but saw no salmon. Two footpaths meet here at the river but the OS map seems to indicate that the paths do not cross the Ribble. They clearly don’t in practice. However, the path at Nappa Ford, which I proceeded to next, is marked by the OS as crossing the river. If I were foolishly to trust the OS and attempt to cross would my widow be able to sue the OS for providing false information?

As I walked towards Nappa Ford I passed two women chatting at a gate. They looked at me quizzically. They knew – and I suspected – that there was no way across the river. At the so-called ford I paused again but saw no salmon. As I returned past the women I commented that it must be many years since anyone had used that ford. I was told that it may be possible to paddle over in a dry summer. But this was a wet autumn. The older woman then said “there used to be islands in the river”. “What happened to them?” I asked. “Oh, they removed them, to stop flooding, or something.” “Really?” I asked, “When did they do that?” “In the fifties” she said, as if it were yesterday. (I have since found a website giving some information about this ford, including the claim that it was used by the Romans.)

From Nappa I walked south on what seemed to be an old track called Needless Hall Lane. Needless to say, there is no such hall on the map today. I disturbed a roe deer and two hares. It was reassuring to see that there is still some wildlife about. I then had to tackle a second stretch of the A682. I should emphasise here that I am reporting on this walk for the edification of any readers, not to encourage anyone to follow in my footsteps. The A682 is sometimes said to be Britain’s most dangerous road. I expect that they mean for drivers. It is even more dangerous for walkers. Paythorne Bridge

I reached Paythorne Bridge (the view from which is shown left) and settled with my sandwiches to look out for salmon. I saw none. I am not an expert salmon-spotter but I am sure that there are fewer salmon today than there were in the days of Salmon Sunday. The Environment Agency (EA) produces voluminous data on the numbers of salmon in British rivers. For example, its 2017 Ribble report shows (on pages 7 and 10) the numbers of salmon caught by nets and by rods for the years 1951 to 2015. It averages about 1,500 fish a year, although in the last three years, 2013 to 2015, it was less than half that number.

However, we need to look further back. The 1993 Ribble report says that “In 1867, the combined catch from the nets and rods was 15,100 salmon, yet by the end of the century the fishery had declined to such a degree that no salmon were caught in 1899 or 1900 by either the nets or rods”. From 1930 to the 1950s the Ribble was restocked with Scottish fry. The numbers of salmon have obviously increased from zero but they are still only a tenth of what they were in 1867. Who knows, there may have been even more salmon before then.

Halton Bridge As I walked up to the small village of Paythorne I noticed a large number of cars parked and then saw a woman waiting to close the chapel door for the 2pm service. She hoped that I was a last-minute worshipper but I shook my head. I was devoted to my muddy fields. I contrived to lose the path but it didn’t matter. One field was much like another, and I could see a row of houses that had to be Halton West ahead. I eventually reached the wide, low-lying Halton Bridge (shown right), where I paused again. No salmon.

Many reasons have been given for the decrease of salmon: pollution, weirs and other obstructions, salmon disease, climate change affecting predators and prey at sea, salmon farms spreading parasitic sea lice, over-fishing, and so on. Over-fishing certainly but what about fishing? The EA reports read as if the EA is part of the angling industry rather than an independent body. It analyses the angler-supplied figures, when there could be many factors affecting catch numbers that have nothing to do with the salmon themselves, whereas it skims over the more objective, neutral, scientific data about the fish passing through the counter near Clitheroe. This is about 1,250 (according to page 16 of the 2017 Ribble report), which is of the same order as the number of salmon caught. Of course, the same silly salmon may be caught over and over but I think we can conclude that a high proportion of the salmon are caught. I think this is what the EA means by the ‘exploitation rate’ – a term that confirms a mind-set that the salmon are only there to be exploited, that is, caught, by us. It is estimated at 20% by the EA. Does catching the salmon do them any harm? Studies show that salmon have memories, form mental maps, and avoid ‘stressful’ situations. I’d imagine that being hoisted out of a river by a hook in the mouth is stressful.

Many solutions to the salmon problem are offered too. In 2014 angling associations wrote to the government “to demand urgent implementation of a five-point action plan”. In brief, we should: remove or bypass barriers; maintain adequate flows in all rivers; ensure that farmers follow best practice; increase funding for river restoration; and limit stock taken on north-east coast net fisheries. That leaves anglers to carry on as usual. I suppose the salmon problem is, like climate change, one where everybody has to contribute for a solution. Everybody else, that is.

    Date: November 11th 2019
    Start: SD852572, Hellifield railway station  (Map: OL41)
    Route: S, SE on A65, S through Hellifield Green, E – Hellifield Peel – S – Swinden – W to Ribble, S on A682 – Nappa – to Ribble and back – S on Needless Hall Lane, W, SW on A682 – Newsholme – W – Paythorne Bridge – N – Paythorne – N on Ing Lane, NE – Halton West, Halton Bridge – N, E, N on A682, NE, N – Hellifield
    Distance: 10 miles;   Ascent: 60 metres

65.  Grisedale and Another Tarn

Grisedale Tarn is one of the highest, largest and deepest tarns in the Lake District. It sits below Fairfield at 538m, has an area of 0.11 sq km and is 33m deep. It provides a fine objective for a walk, especially if the mountain tops are likely to be windy, cold or in cloud. All three appeared to be the case as I set forth from Grasmere. A chilly wind sent the autumn leaves scuttling about and ahead of me I could see that Fairfield and Seat Sandal, between which I aimed to walk, were in cloud.
from Grasmere

Seat Sandal and Fairfield in cloud, from Grasmere

As I headed from Mill Bridge along the ancient track that leads to Patterdale, I passed a house that had a plaque saying “St Bees Head 40 Robin Hood’s Bay 150” embedded in its wall. It kindly tells coast-to-coast walkers that they have far, or very far, still to go. I had less far but it seemed far enough with a real struggle against the wind. It was an excellent path but it had the disadvantage that the best view – of Grasmere, Helm Crag and surrounding hills – was behind, causing many pauses, welcome though they were. The hills were covered in bracken, which was a dead brown except occasionally – very occasionally – when it would become alive as if a spotlight scanned over the hillsides when a fleeting, small gap appeared in the cloud. Eventually I reached Grisedale Hause, the col between Fairfield and Seat Sandal at about 590m, through which the ferocious gale made progress intermittent.
to Grasmere

Towards Grasmere, from the path to Grisedale Hause

At last, I looked down upon Grisedale Tarn. It was dark, with clear edges as if drawn on a map. Occasionally, the tops of waves would be whisked off and sent swirling over the tarn. I can see why some people consider the tarns to be the pearls of the Lake District. Almost everybody focusses upon the large lakes and the mountains but in reality they have no more grandeur than those of the Scottish Highlands and elsewhere. It’s just that in the Lake District they are huddled together for our convenience. The tarns, however, are more distinctively Cumbrian. Well, Scotland has its tarns but it doesn’t call them Tarns. Yorkshire has about fifty named Tarns but most aren’t really tarns, in my eyes: they are just upland pools of water. For me, a tarn (for example, Red Tarn) sits, still and dark, nestled between two mountain ridges (Striding Edge and Swirral Edge) below a mountain top (Helvellyn).

Most Lake District walking books describe ways to get to the tops of mountains. They are usually written by men who rock-climb or scramble and who have condescended to explain how ordinary walkers can walk up the mountains to see real men like themselves in action. However, there are books of lowland Lake District walks and also books describing walks to tarns, for example, Drews (1995) and Naldrett (2017). The acclaimed artist William Heaton Cooper produced a volume of paintings of Lake District tarns (Heaton Cooper, 1960). So there are admirers of the tarns. And just as there are people who go peak-bagging, inevitably there are those who go tarn-bagging.

Two questions immediately arise. First, how do you bag a tarn? For example, I stood above Grisedale Tarn – what should I do next to consider it bagged? It is clear how you bag a peak: you stand at the highest point of it. Do you stand by the tarn to bag it? Do you have to walk round the tarn? Do you have to paddle in it? Do you have to swim in it? Or across it? Two men, whose silliness I will not glorify by naming them, swam in all (all, to their satisfaction anyway) 463 tarns, according to a 1959 Guardian Miscellany item by Harry Griffin. I wasn’t bothered about bagging Grisedale Tarn. I turned right to cross the outlet from the tarn that forms Grisedale Beck, which runs to Patterdale, and then returned on the north side of the tarn to reach the col between Seat Sandal and Dollywaggon Pike, so completing three-quarters of a circuit.
Grisedale Tarn

Grisedale Tarn, with Fairfield behind and Grisedale Hause to the right

That ‘463’ above prompts the second question: What exactly is a tarn? My dictionary defines a tarn as “a small mountain lake or pool” but Wikipedia adds the clause “formed in a cirque excavated by a glacier”. How big does a body of water have to be to count as a tarn? Can it be too big? Is Burnmoor Tarn really a tarn? It is bigger than Elter Water, which is counted as one of the sixteen lakes. Does it have to be a ‘permanent’ body of water or do large puddles after heavy rain count? Must a tarn be entirely natural? What about Seathwaite Tarn, which was a natural tarn before being turned into a reservoir by Barrow Corporation in 1907? Does it have to be on or by a mountain? Does it have to have been formed by glacial action? My prototypical tarn, Red Tarn, is clearly formed by glaciers having carved out a hollow and deposited debris to close it off, but then all the hills of northern England were covered by ice and could be said to be, to some degree, formed by glacial action.

Does a tarn need to have a name? Does it need to have a name including Tarn? That would simplify matters! But if so that would exclude many pools that most would consider to be tarns, such as Blea Water below High Street. Does Innominate Tarn count as a name? What about the large pool above Steel Fell that was inexplicably missing from OS maps until it was added in the late 1980s, but still without a name? This tarn (if it is one) is possibly the largest unnamed pool in the Lake District. Those who attempt to answer all these questions come up with a list ranging from about 250 to 2,500 Lake District tarns.

When I set off from Grasmere I had in mind the option of, after visiting Grisedale Tarn, heading west to Dunmail Raise, climbing Steel Fell, continuing to see another tarn (the anonymous one), going on to Calf Crag, and returning to Grasmere. As I left the col (at 574m) I could see the flank of Steel Fell, seemingly far below, with Ullscarf, High Raise and the Langdale Pikes rising beyond. However, as I continued scrambling down on the path by Raise Beck I saw that the traffic on Dunmail Raise was miniscule and realised that I had some considerable way to drop down. By the time that I had reached the road Steel Fell had risen to vertiginous heights above me. I could see no obvious path of ascent. After my slow struggle up to Grisedale Hause, I really didn’t fancy another battle uphill into the wind, so Another Tarn will have to wait for another day.

    Date: November 5th 2019
    Start: NY338077, Grasmere  (Maps: OL7, OL5)
    Route: W by Easedale Beck and on Easedale Road, N – Underhelm, Low Mill Bridge – E – Mill Bridge – NE by Little Tongue Gill – Grisedale Hause – NE – stepping stones over Grisedale Beck – W by Raise Beck – Dunmail Raise – S by road, W – Town Head – S – Ghyll Foot, Low Mill Bridge, Grasmere
    Distance: 7 miles;   Ascent: 525 metres

64.  Beyond the Leagram Pale

We set out hoping to see evidence of something that hasn’t existed since 1556. At that date the Leagram Deer Park was disparked. However, the gods were perhaps telling us something when we were confronted by two ‘road closed’ signs on the way there, necessitating long detours through the meandering lanes of southern Bowland.

Eventually we were able to set off south from Chipping towards Pale Farm. This is on the edge of the old deer park, with the ‘pale’ referring to the fence that enclosed it. Details of the Leagram Deer Park are given in this document, including a map of the park on page 30. The park, which was established in the 1340s, was one of more than thirty within or near Bowland. It required a licence from the monarch to create a deer park and it was more a status symbol than a source of income. Fallow deer formed the main quarry, although there was also hunting of other deer, boar, hare and game birds. In order to keep the nimble fallow deer within the park it was surrounded by a ditch (8 feet wide, 4 feet deep for Leagram Deer Park) with a fence or pale on a raised ridge outside it.

The perimeter of Leagram Deer Park measured nearly seven miles and we continued along the line of it, now a hedge, and through the grounds of a hotel to Gibbon Bridge. Here we continued on the south side of the River Loud, where the park boundary no doubt took advantage of this natural barrier. The banks had Himalayan balsam and the river was far from crystal clear, sadly, considering that the water had only flowed a few miles from the slopes of Parlick. Maybe the recent rain had muddied it. The footpath is shown crossing to the north bank but, as we found out, only by means of stepping stones and they were under water, if indeed they were all there. So we retreated to the road to reach Loud Mytham Bridge.

We continued north along the line of the park boundary past Leagram Mill Barn where the footpath leaves the boundary to head for Knot Hill. This was a pity as there are intriguing outdentations in the wall along the boundary around Buckbanks Wood (itself a suggestive name) that are thought to be where there were deer leaps, enabling deer to enter the park but not to leave. The path to Knot Hill, with an avenue of trees leading nowhere in particular, was the most English-park-like that we saw even though it was not within the deer park. Knot Hill itself is half of a small limestone outcrop, the other half having been quarried away. Knot Hill, only 156m high, provided a good prospect of the sunny southern Bowland Fells, Longridge Fell (which was in shade) and a distant Pendle, all of which we saw from time to time throughout the walk.
Bowland fells

The Bowland hills from Saddle Fell to Totridge, from Knot Hill

On the path to Lickhurst Farm we came upon a dead raptor (a kestrel, I believe). Anyone finding a dead raptor and thinking that a crime has occurred is supposed to contact the Wildlife Crime Unit. There was nothing suspicious about this bird other than the fact that it had died in Bowland, where there is a reluctance to allow raptors to die of natural causes. Recently, the case against a gamekeeper from the nearby Bleasdale Estate, who was charged with a string of wildlife offences including the killing of two peregrines, collapsed after the video evidence was deemed inadmissible.

We returned to the deer park boundary at Park Style (which was derelict) and Park Gate (which wasn’t), at the northernmost part of the park. The boundary continued a little to the west but we were beginning to tire of searching for stiles to enable us to walk through yet more muddy fields, so we dropped south past Chipping Lawn (from ‘laund’, which was a clearing where deer grazed) to pick up the boundary again near Leagram Hall, which was the base for the deer park. We had no view of the hall.
Pendle and Longridge

Looking over the old deer park towards Longridge Fell and Pendle

It seems almost needless to say that we saw no deer, boar or hares and that the only game birds seen were non-native pheasants. We had followed a succession of hedges, walls, fences, tracks and roads that are on the line of the boundary of the old deer park. However, none of those hedges, walls, fences, tracks and roads seemed different to others, as far as we could see. There was nothing we could point to and say “aha, that’s obviously to do with the deer park”. But then it has had 463 years to disappear.

    Date: October 23rd 2019
    Start: SD621433, Chipping  (Map: OL41)
    Route: SE, S – Pale Farm – E, NE – Gibbon Bridge, Bailey Hippings – S, NE – Loud Mytham – NW, N – Knot Hill, Lickhurst Farm – SW – Park Style, Park Gate – S, W – Birchen Lee – S – Chipping
    Distance: 8 miles;   Ascent: 115 metres

63.  These Are a Few of My Favourite 'Superficial Things': in Crummackdale

I am still perplexed by the proposition that arose in the previous Sauntering, namely, that nature-lovers absorb and are attuned to the moods and spirit of a place rather than observe ‘superficial things’. It would seem to follow that it is better not to know anything about those superficial things so that you are less likely to be distracted by them. Ignorance is bliss, perhaps – or if you know too many trees then you can’t see the wood. However, I fear that I have been led astray by my scientific training. I can’t help wanting to observe things and to know more about them.

I again took the bus to the Yorkshire Dales to walk around the Craven Faults and to mull over this absorb-observe conundrum. I set off from Austwick, over Flascoe Bridge, one of the finest clapper bridges in the Dales, and on to the hamlet of Wharfe. I left the enclosed track to walk across the fields below Studrigg Scar. Views of the green valley of Crummackdale opened out, enclosed within a spectacular rim of limestone scars, with the heights of Ingleborough and Simon Fell beyond. The last time we were in Crummackdale, some ten years ago, two merlins argued noisily whilst nesting on the scar. This time there were again two noisy, but less argumentative, birds, which I couldn’t see. Could they be the same merlins? Or their descendants?

Austwick and Robin Proctor's Scar

The first few times that I visited Crummackdale I did not notice a particular feature of Studrigg Scar. This omission did not, I feel, lessen my appreciation of Crummackdale at the time. By the way, there is a difference between appreciating and loving nature. I appreciate the friendliness of my postman but I don’t love him. We tend to appreciate specific features and to love the whole. In fact, we may love despite specific features! Anyway, my point is that although I missed the Studrigg Scar feature there were plenty of other Crummackdale features for me to appreciate and, if you pushed me to be emotional about it, to cause me to love the whole.

The feature that I missed can be seen by looking to the right from the footpath. The cliff is in two parts. The top part has clear horizontal layers. The bottom part has layers tilted to about 60 degrees. You don’t need to be a geologist to be intrigued by this. Most of us would say that we don’t know anything about rocks, but of course we do. We know that rocks aren’t all the same. We can name a few (granite, limestone, millstone grit, quartz, say) and have a stab at identifying them. We know that rocks are heavy, and that they are old. We know therefore that the rocks of Studrigg Scar didn’t just get blown into their present positions yesterday. In fact, we probably suspect that since these rocks have layers then they were formed from ocean sediments of long ago. If so, what explanation can there be for the two parts of the cliff?
Studrigg Scar

Studrigg Scar

A four-stage process seems likely: the bottom part was laid down; it was then tilted in some enormous upheaval; it was then eroded so that its surface was horizontal; and then the top part was deposited upon it. All this must have happened over millions of years. Well, I don’t know about you but that makes me see the whole of Crummackdale in a different light. No longer is it just a visually perfect dale but I have a partial understanding, and hence an enhanced appreciation, of how it came to be how it is. If I had not read about Studrigg Scar then I suspect that I would have continued to walk right past it. And then, not being distracted by this ‘superficial thing’, I could focus on absorbing the spirit of the place.

That’s about as far as we can think by looking at Studrigg Scar from a distance but if we walk up closer we can see that the rocks of the two parts are different. Geologists can name them for us – Carboniferous limestone (top part) and Silurian slate (bottom part). If we look those up in a geology book we will find that there’s a 60 million year gap between them. What happened to the Devonian rocks that should be in between? Again, we don’t have to be a geologist to think about it. There seem to be only two possibilities: either the Devonian rocks were never formed here or they were formed but were then eroded away before the limestone was deposited. Geologists tell us that the former is the case – that between the Carboniferous and Silurian periods this area was not under the sea.

I walked up past Studrigg Scar, through a convenient (for me, not the farmer) gap in the high wall where it had fallen or been knocked down (not by me, honest), and on to the top of Moughton (427m), with grand views across to Pen-y-ghent. Back across the dale could be seen the famous Norber Erratics. I won’t belabour their history now but similar naïve thoughts could be followed to help us to understand why these huge rocks are scattered there and hence possibly enhance our appreciation of their contribution to the landscape.

Pen-y-ghent from Moughton

From the trig point I walked north past old grouse butts and stunted juniper towards the footpath that runs between Crummackdale and Horton-in-Ribblesdale. Now, one doesn’t want to pause too often on a walk asking oneself questions – but grouse butts? I’d bet that anyone walking on Moughton will see no grouse. There is little heather for grouse. The butts only make sense if there were grouse here once. Why have they disappeared? Because sheep have eaten almost all the heather. In fact, a century ago the slopes of Ingleborough were heather-clad, with grouse and butts.

There is no limit to what may be thought interesting (by some) in Crummackdale or anywhere else. There may be rare plants in the limestone grikes, special insects on the juniper, and exotic spiders in the grass. Walkers cannot worry about them all or they would never walk very far.

I continued along the edge of Moughton Scars, a walk that would be even more exhilarating than it is if you didn’t have to take care with every step on the fragile limestone pavement. Crummackdale was spread out below and in direct line beyond there was a distant view of Pendle. From Beggar’s Stile and Thieves Moss (more questions), I followed the broad, grassy track past Long Scar and then the ancient Long Lane to Clapham. Clapham is a village with many attractive features, including a waterfall from the lake and a couple of neat bridges over Clapham Beck. I particularly appreciate the prim and precise footpath sign near the war memorial telling me that it is 102 metres to Broken Bridge (although I’m not sure that the sign is precise in its spelling: it’s usually written Brokken Bridge). Sometimes it is the superficial things that capture the spirit of a place best.
Moughton Scars

Ingleborough and Simon Fell from Moughton Scars

Overall, then, my conclusion is that, since knowledge is not all-or-nothing, it is up to everyone to determine the position on the scale that provides the degree of appreciation of the environment and nature that satisfies them. I will continue to try to enlighten myself – to the benefit of these Saunterings, I hope.

    Date: October 16th 2019
    Start: SD767683, centre of Austwick  (Map: OL2)
    Route: (linear) NW, NE, SE over Flascoe Bridge, N – Wharfe – NW, N across fields below Studrigg – near Hunterstye – E – Moughton – N, W, NW – Thieves Moss – SW – Long Scar – SW, S on Long Lane – W – Clapham
    Distance: 9 miles;   Ascent: 280 metres

62.  On and Off the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail

After all the recent rain I thought I’d look at some waterfalls, and the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail provides the best set of them in North-West England. They cost the most to see, so they must be the best. People have been paying to see the Ingleton waterfalls since 1885. In the early years people swarmed here on the train from places such as Leeds and Bradford to walk up by one subset of waterfalls and down by the second subset. They found that they were charged twice, to their displeasure (Humphries, 1985). There is no such problem today.

I walked, as did the early visitors, from the railway station – now an information centre and bus-stop – down to where the two tributaries merge, near the old railway viaduct, to form the River Greta. The tributaries are called the River Doe and the River Twiss but there is confusion as to which is which. I prefer to use neither name and to continue the names of Chapel Beck (from Chapel-le-Dale) and Kingsdale Beck (from Kingsdale) down to the merger. There can be no confusion about those names. I continued up Oddies Lane between the two becks in order to better appreciate the open views and then dropped down to join the Trail near the footbridge that crosses Chapel Beck below Snow Falls. There was plenty of brown-stained water gushing down but not as much as I had expected. I passed Snow Falls, the view of which is rather distant, and a series of smaller falls and deep pools within the wooded glens up to Beezley Falls but the most impressive feature was the narrow Baxenghyll Gorge, through which the beck flowed dark and deep, far below the viewing bridge.

Ingleborough from Oddies Lane, with Ingleton Quarry in the middle distance. (We should not turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to Ingleton Quarry. Most descriptions of this region paint it as a peaceful idyll but the sight and sound of the quarry does intrude. It is not oppressive but we should not pretend it isn't there.)

Walking against the general flow of walkers on the Trail, I passed Twisleton Hall and continued down to Thornton Force on Kingsdale Beck. This, at 14m, is the largest waterfall on the Trail and the most photogenic. I paused by the waterfall for some time – and I will also pause in my narrative, as Hayden (2016) did midway through his book about a walk from John o’Groats to Land’s End. He suddenly blurted out “It strikes me here … what a poor hand I am at this travel-writing lark. I have no eye, or ear, or heart for detail. My descriptions are always vague”. He had walked by many fields, mountains, rivers and woodlands but lamented that he could not identify trees, birds, rocks, flowers, insects, and so on. He confessed “I am ignorant of these things. And therefore, gentle reader, so must you be.”

Why? I had assumed that if I tried to rectify my own lamentable ignorance of botany, geology, lepidopterology, ecology, and so on then that would be bound to enhance my appreciation of the environment. Surely it helps to know the difference between dolerite and dolomite, between redshank and redstart, between mullion and muntin, between dark green fritillary and snake head’s fritillary.

Hayden, however, draws the opposite conclusion. He wants to consider himself a ‘nature-lover’, which he defines as one who prefers to absorb rather than to observe. He draws inspiration from Wordsworth, who decried attending to ‘superficial things’ rather than being attuned to the moods, affections and spirit of a place. Wordsworth was a gardener but I doubt that he was a sufficiently knowledgeable botanist to write about many plants other than the daffodil. Hayden presumes to consider Wordsworth his “fellow nature-lover” but I hope that it takes more than an equality of ignorance to qualify as a nature-lover.

Something of the same attitude can be found with John Ruskin, who moved to the Lake District in his old age and inherited Wordsworth’s mantle as the sage of Lakeland. According to Nicholson (1955), although Ruskin approached his subject scientifically, as he was perhaps obliged to do in the late 19th century, his heart wasn’t really in it: “he turned to geology … not to understand the way the rocks had come into being, but rather how to look at them.” Likewise, when a boy, he collected various minerals but he was attracted by their prettiness rather than by their physical properties. No doubt, they have a point. I once took a year-long course on crystallography. We studied the angle of this and the symmetry of that but we never once held a crystal and said ‘wow’.
Thornton Force

Thornton Force and Ingleborough

As I sat enthralled by Thornton Force I wondered what there is to know about a waterfall. The adjacent information board tells us little. It relies on J.M.W. Turner, who visited in 1816. It lazily implies that if the esteemed Turner thought it worth visiting then so must we. His sketch is described as ‘fine’ by the Turner Trails website although I can make neither head nor tail of it. What do I know about Thornton Force? I know where the water comes from (the slopes of Whernside and Gragareth via Kingsdale) and where it is going (to form the Greta and then to join the Lune). I know that the water is, as it is for all the Ingleton waterfalls, crossing the Craven Faults, which have exposed rocks that erode at different rates, in particular, the Carboniferous limestone and Ordovician slate visible in the wall of Thornton Force.

But does any of that affect my appreciation of Thornton Force? Thornton Force appeals more to the senses than to the rational mind. The sight of the plunging water, ever-changing and yet unchanged for millennia, is mesmerising. The sound, when the waterfall is in spate, is overwhelming too. We might imagine that we can feel the force of the water as it lands and we can certainly feel the spray if we stand close enough. Is there a sensual element in our appreciation of any aspect of the environment?

I left the natural art of Thornton Force to walk over Raven Ray to view a piece of man-made art. Andy Goldsworthy’s Arch is housed within a hut by the road just past the prominent radio station. This flummoxes me. The arch is almost impossible to see, let alone appreciate, in this hut. It doesn’t look much of a structure to me. Perhaps we are supposed to regard the hut as part of the artwork. The arch itself had an interesting life, travelling from Dumfries, before coming to rest here. Peering through the hut window is like peeking into a mausoleum.

I walked through Thornton-in-Lonsdale, where a notice in the church porch informs us that Arthur Conan Doyle was married here in 1885. Coincidentally, so was his wife, maiden name Louisa Hawkins. I reached the official entrance to the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail and wandered towards it. I had already seen several signs telling me to pay £7 (but no-one to pay it to). I somewhat resent paying for what nature has freely provided. In any case, only half a mile of my six-mile walk was not on public land. I don’t mind paying (a little) for the upkeep of the paths to ensure our safety, especially if any profit went to the local community. The Trail is managed by Ingleton Scenery Company Ltd, registered in Skipton, and profits have enabled the construction of a café and the Falls Park holiday homes near Beezley Falls. The lady at the turnstile (a turnstile to see waterfalls!) told me that local people pay £1 a year, which seems fair enough.

Back at the information centre, an assistant was positive about the Trail, as he was bound to be. He said that locals are grateful that it brings so many visitors to Ingleton but felt that the council made a mistake fifty years ago in not gaining ownership. (I don’t know if that was ever an option. At the time of Humphries (1985) all the shares of the Ingleton Scenery Company were owned by descendants of Samuel Worthington, a member of the 1885 committee that established the Trail. Probably they still are.) When I queried the price, it was sharply pointed out that the Trail is cheaper than the nearby White Scar Caves. Is there a fundamental difference between charging for waterfalls and charging for caves? It's often said that people don’t appreciate what they don’t pay for. I do.

    Date: October 2nd 2019
    Start: SD694730, Ingleton Information Centre  (Map: OL2)
    Route: N, over bridge, N on Oddies Lane – Twisleton Manor House – E – Chapel Beck, near footbridge – N – Beezleys – NW, S – Thornton Force – W, S, W past radio station – S – Bank House – E, S – Thornton-in-Lonsdale – E – Ingleton
    Distance: 6 miles;   Ascent: 165 metres

61.  Knott Alone

I have never joined a walking club. I notice that the local papers give details of the various clubs’ outings. It seems that happy wanderers (“my knapsack on my back, val-deri, val-dera”: what does that mean?) are partitioned into groups A+, A, B, C and so on, depending upon their experience, expertise and energy, to be led about the countryside on suitable walks. I don’t feel inclined to join them.

Misanthrope, I hear you say. How dare you! I don’t always walk alone but there are some good reasons to do so, I thought as I set off from Bowscale to walk to Knott in the open hills north of Skiddaw and Blencathra. I did not expect to see anyone else walking these hills, as anybody wanting to go for a walk can find more interesting and exciting terrain nearby. These Caldbeck Fells are for quiet solitude, a place to stroll with only one’s own thoughts for company. It is natural to walk alone here.

I walked into the verdant valley of Mosedale, beside the River Caldew and with the slopes of Carrock Fell and Bowscale Fell towering above. The wildlife introduced itself one-by-one. A woodpecker attacked a conifer; a wren flitted about the hedges; a grasshopper hopped onto the road; a dragonfly flew by; a red squirrel ran along the wall ahead of me. Sadly, I did not see much wildlife after that. A couple more wrens, a few rooks and crows, some pipits, and one grouse – that was about it for birdlife. I scanned the skies from time to time but they were empty. On the ground I saw even less, apart from sheep, of course. Mosedale seemed picturesque but sterile. Is it really so? Has it always been the same?

What I had read on the map as a track turned out to be a surfaced road that continued as far as the Grainsgill Beck tributary. I could have saved myself four miles of walking – but it was pleasant walking, completely quiet apart from the sound of the Caldew. The impressive crags of Bowscale Fell enclosed Bowscale Tarn, too high for me to see. I could however see the moraine ridge implausibly holding the tarn in place. At the end of the road a magician drove up in his car and produced from it, with a flourish, a large dog, and then another … in total, seven dogs. They leapt about excitedly and about me.

The valley of Mosedale

I left the road, humanity and caninity to walk up by Grainsgill Beck. First, I came to the ruins of Carrock Mine, which was Cumbria’s only tungsten mine. It always puzzles me that a mineral can be found in only one place. What special conditions caused it to form? Or perhaps it does exist elsewhere but not where it was economical to mine. The tungsten was used to make filaments of electric lamps and during the two World Wars for armament production. The mine closed in 1981.

I continued on what is marked as a bridleway, although it would be an intrepid horse and rider that tackled this path. It was an enjoyable scramble, a bit muddy in parts. I reflected that before the 18th century people did not walk for pleasure but for a purpose, alone or in a group, like Dick Whittington walking to London and the pilgrims to Canterbury. Then the Romantics found spiritual inspiration for their art through energetic walking. The ordinary person did not have much leisure time to walk for fun but some escaped occasionally from cities and factories to the fresh air of the hills. Walking clubs were formed to aid the mental and physical improvement of workers and also because there was safety in numbers when trespassing on the land of the wealthy.

But walking alone you can walk at your own pace and not have to “trot alongside a champion walker, nor mince in time with a girl” as Robert Louis Stevenson so bravely put it in his Walking Tours (Stevenson, 1876). The philosopher Frédéric Gros (referred to in 45) agrees that one should walk alone, for the main reason that the “body follows badly” if it is forced to adjust to the pace of others (Gros, 2014, p53).

Alone, you can adapt the walk to suit your own energy, changes in the weather, observations on the way, and so on, without lengthy negotiations and compromises with co-walkers. For example, on this walk I dallied overlong, for some, by Carrock Mine rummaging amongst the ruins, and then I walked relatively briskly up the slopes of Rigg and Knott when others might have dawdled taking many photographs. On the other hand, it is sometimes best to relax and let someone else make all the decisions, as with walking clubs.

When walking alone you are more likely to encounter wildlife than when accompanied by a group of chatterers. On the other hand, with many eyes and perhaps more expertise the group may be more likely to spot that wildlife. When alone, you aren’t going to be held up by someone else having an accident. On the other hand, it could be you having the accident and needing help. If I had fallen down a disused shaft near Carrock Mine then I would probably have had a long time alone to regret it. If, like me, you are intending to make notes along the way, you don’t want people pestering you to know what you’re scribbling. On the other hand, they may have helpful suggestions. Without them, after spending four or five hours tramping alone, shallow in your own thoughts, the hoped-for profundity might not emerge – as I am demonstrating.

I eventually reached the top of Knott (710m), which is the central and highest point of the Caldbeck Fells north of Skiddaw and Blencathra. The former had white clouds billowing over it and the latter, with the sun behind, was simply a dark outline. Knott wears its eminence lightly. Some nearby hills have ‘Great’ or ‘High’ in their name but not our humble Knott. It is only a few metres higher than some of them and it is just a smooth, grassy hump with nothing of interest. Revelling in my solitude, I settled to have a snack of some nuts when, oh no, I saw a man with seven dogs approaching. I waited for them to arrive. The dogs leapt about, attracted by my nuts. I gathered from the man that this was a regular walk for him and his dogs.

From Knott towards Blencathra (and man plus dogs)

I escaped by walking across Miller Moss to Great Lingy Hill. Here I felt more alone, not just from the man and his dogs but from all those who had previously created the path across Rigg to Knott. I could believe that nobody had ever walked over Miller Moss. There were no paths over this peat, grass and heather. Sitting on a rare large rock in the middle of this wilderness I paused to scan all the hills and horizons. Just as I had convinced myself that there was nobody to be seen anywhere I spied two tiny figures on a far distant ridge. My aloneness was shattered further as I made my way down by Arm o’ Grain when four walkers and a dog appeared on the track from High Pike. In all then I saw eight dogs and seven people, but only one who, through a lapse of sociability, I was able to chat to.

From Knott towards High Pike

I did not therefore fully achieve the anticipated solitude in the Caldbeck Fells. But in any case, according to Gros, despite the desirability of walking alone, “it’s impossible to be alone when walking, with so many things under our gaze … when walking you earn the sympathy of all the living things that surround us: trees and flowers” and that “you are not alone because when you walk you soon become two … there is always this dialogue between the body and the soul”.

There may be deep, original insights there as Gros, being a professional philosopher, is obliged to provide them for us. However, popular culture is way ahead of him. For a start, it is not just people that may be alone. For example, Ray Bradbury’s short story There Will Come Soft Rains has the sentence “The house stood alone in a city of rubble and ashes”. Also, it is not just individuals. Tiffany warbled I Think We’re Alone Now to No 1 in 1987. So we can certainly be alone, thank goodness. As for the notion that aloneness is lost in the company of objects such as trees and flowers – pah, the classic 1959 You're Never Alone with a Strand advertisement knew that. Although, to be fair, the ad was notoriously unsuccessful because even in 1959 few people wanted to think themselves so alone that they needed the company of a cigarette. And as far as walking alone is concerned, 50,000 Liverpudlians tell us every other week that it is impossible: You'll Never Walk Alone.

    Date: September 19th 2019
    Start: NY359316, south of Bowscale  (Maps: OL5, OL4)
    Route: N – Mosedale – W – Swineside – W by River Caldew and Grainsgill Beck – Miller Moss – SW – Rigg – W – Knott – NE – Great Lingy Hill – SE – Grainsgill Beck – E – Mosedale, Bowscale
    Distance: 9 miles;   Ascent: 485 metres

the nab      60.   The Longsleddale Green Lane   
     59.   The 1 in 5,000 Hen Harriers of Bowland   
     58.   From Hawes, in the Poet Laureate's Footsteps   
     57.   A Blowy Lowsy Point   
     56.   Cross Fell: The Apex of England   
     55.   Butterflying on Whitbarrow   
     54.   Follies around Flusco   
     53.   Why? On the Wyre Way   
     52.   Morecambe Bay - from Cark to Grange-over-Sands   
     51.   On Wild Boar Fell   
langdales      50.   With the Lune from Kirkby Lonsdale   
     49.   Lingmoor Fell - For the Best Medium-High View in Lakeland?   
     48.   With The Grane   
     47.   The 'Wild Desert' of Kingsdale   
     46.   To the Point of Winterburn Reservoir   
     45.   Thoughts from the Towpath (Bilsborrow to Preston)   
     44.   Interlude: We Are Sorry for the Delay ...   
     43.   The Red Screes - Wansfell Question   
     42.   Appreciating Meg and Lucy   
     41.   Safe in Littledale   
singing ringing tree-felling      40.   In the Borderlands of Burton-in-Lonsdale and Bentham   
     39.   Halls Galore by the Middle Ribble   
     38.   Reflections from Jeffrey's Mount   
     37.   Whoopers on Thurnham Moss   
     36.   The Flow and Ebb and Flow of Morecambe   
     35.   Dufton Rocks   
     34.   Thieveley Pike and the Singing Ringing Tree   
     33.   Is Nappa Hall Napping - or Dying?   
     32.   Russet Rusland Valley   
     31.   Pink Stones on the Orton Fells   
butter tubs rainbow      30.   Dunsop Bridge, Whitewell and Duchy-land   
     29.   The Quiet End of the Ribble Way   
     28.   Broughton Moor, or What's Left of It   
     27.   The Footpaths of Anglezarke Moor   
     26.   A Booze by Any Other Name   
     25.   Mysterious Harkerside Moor   
     24.   Up Ingleborough with the Holiday Crowds   
     23.   The Kentmere Diatomite   
     22.   In the Lancashire Yorkshire Dales   
     21.   The Fortunes of Fleetwood   
pendle      20.   On the Sunny Side of Pendle   
     19.   Viewpoints around Keswick (part 2)   
     18.   Viewpoints around Keswick (part 1)   
     17.   Sheep-Wrecked Matterdale?   
     16.   The Wildflowers of Sulber   
     15.   On the Hobdale Fence   
     14.   Logging Along the Cam High Road   
     13.   The Cairns of Grisedale Pike   
     12.   Uplifted by High Street   
     11.   The Struggle over Boulsworth Hill   
thirlmere      10.   The 'Hillfort' of Addlebrough   
     9.   "The Prettiest Mere of All" Lakeland   
     8.   What Price Catrigg Force?   
     7.   Castling in Cumbria: From Brougham to Lowther   
     6.   The Count of Flasby Fell   
     5.   Circumperambulating Stocks Reservoir   
     4.   In a Flap at Bolton-le-Sands   
     3.   Zipping around Thirlmere   
     2.   The Dentdale Diamonds   
     1.   The Taming of Caton Moor   

Home   Preamble   Index   Areas   Map   References   Top10s   Me   Drakkar

    © John Self, Drakkar Press, 2018


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