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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
79-90 are about walks from home during the coronavirus lockdown.
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
90.  “One Form of Exercise – such as Walking” to the River
The second of the default short walks that I mentioned in
is to the river. We walk down the road, through
the churchyard, along the Kirkbeck Close passage … and then pause to appreciate the view that is revealed of
the Lune valley towards Hornby. Although it is familiar it is still worth appreciating, especially at the
moment with the hawthorn in full blossom ...
The Lune valley, with hawthorn
It is perhaps time to pause during these local walks too. We have walked from home for fifty days now. Originally
) I said that I was not really walking for exercise (as the government guidelines required) but to be reassured that nature was progressing. I no longer need such reassurance. Nature gets along fine without us – better, in fact. So if I am not walking for exercise or to commune with nature, why am I walking?
I have dipped into a few books that philosophise about walking to see what other reasons there are for walking. They discuss at extraordinary length many reasons to walk, such as … deep breath … no, I’ll relegate the list to a footnote (*) to make it optional reading. I can go through the list one by one and say, no, that is not really why I am walking now. Despite their wisdom, the philosopher-walkers don’t seem to have anticipated the present circumstances.
Most of our walks nowadays are short ambles. I think of these now as ‘social walks’. At first, I was frustrated that Ruth would pause for a two-metre-apart chat with everyone we met. I’d stride off, muttering that the walks were supposed to be for exercise, not chatting. However, these walks are the only opportunity we have for face-to-(two-metre-apart)-face chats. The “how are you?” is no longer a clichéd greeting. We all mean it, as is clear from the “and the family” usually added. We are all part of a shared effort to keep healthy. More people are out walking, they are all local, and the village is small enough that we know or recognise many of them. We all acknowledge with a perhaps rueful smile that we are in the same predicament. Walking, then, has become a way to maintain some sense of local society, which is not what the politicians had in mind when they allowed us to walk.
Others of our walks are more purposeful. These are the ones that tend to get written about here, and as before they are a consequence of my peculiar need to ‘walk to learn’, which is another purpose not on the philosophers’ list. I need to learn something about where I’m walking, and the challenge of writing something of possible interest afterwards has helped me through the past weeks.
On April 5th
) I convinced myself that a walk from home of up to two hours was permitted by the guidelines.
I now think back to that walk on February 27th
) from home to Ward’s Stone, a good five hours, most of it on rough fell. At that time coronavirus was not on my mind. There had been very few UK cases and the first reported death was not until March 5th. As I wrote then, I saw nobody on the fell and I knew that there was nobody within a mile of me – you can hardly ask for more social distancing than that! I passed through two gates (which I could have avoided handling if necessary), walked through no farmyards, and passed, at a distance, only a few houses. Does such an ‘extra’ three hours walking risk the spread of the virus? Perhaps this weekend’s announcement will clarify matters.
… We then walk across the field, over the A683 (very quiet nowadays), across the old railway line, and on to the river bank … and then pause again to enjoy the river, the views, the birds, the fish (if any). And then back up Holme Lane.
The River Lune (still very low)
[May 8th 2020; SD5464; Brookhouse – NE – Bull Beck Bridge – NW along river, S – Brookhouse; 2 miles]
(*)  Possible reasons to walk are: to escape from worries, noise, civilisation, and so on; to take on a
challenge, such as conquering a list of peaks or completing a long-distance path; to go on a pilgrimage to enable
prayers during or at the end of a long walk; to see things inaccessible without walking, such as wilderness areas;
to just get from A to B; to enjoy the physical sensation of walking; to achieve a kind of serenity from the
repetitive, somewhat monotonous, process of walking; to seek solitude in order to mull over ideas; to be with or meet others, for example, as a member of a
walking club; to be seen, for example on a catwalk or promenading in a park; to make a political point, for example, on the Jarrow March or on the Iraq War demonstrations; to follow a kind of educational trail, for example, the Bronte Way or the Liverpool Slavery Trail; to raise money for charity, from a long-distance walk or many short ones, as with Captain Tom.
89.  Tracking the Thirlmere Aqueduct
The Waterworks Bridge
We walked to the Waterworks Bridge – again. An obvious question is: What is the bridge for? The bridge itself gives us a clue by saying “Manchester Corporation Water Works 1892” on its side. In fact, it carries the aqueduct from Thirlmere to Manchester. This aqueduct, 153km long, is the longest gravity-fed aqueduct in Britain, supplying up to 227m litres (or 50m gallons) a day, with water flowing at a stately 6km an hour. That’s slow enough for the Manchester dignitary who turned the tap at Thirlmere in 1894 to be able to get to Albert Square, Manchester in time to turn the tap there to welcome the new water. If I were that dignitary, I’d want to do the same.
A less obvious question is: Why is the aqueduct on a bridge over the Lune and not in a tunnel? The aqueduct is
obviously underground as it approaches the bridge down the slope to the north and also as it leaves the bridge across fields to the south. I’ll offer an answer later but you might like to mull over the question while we follow the route of the aqueduct across our region.
The aqueduct is not downhill all the way. It is, for example, higher on the flanks of Clougha (about 150m) than
it is at the Waterworks Bridge (about 20m). The aqueduct therefore functions as a syphon, as explained in this rather good
which features the Waterworks Bridge from 4.20. For most of its length the aqueduct is a concrete pipe within a channel over 2m deep and 2m wide, with about 1m of cover above the pipe. Some of the aqueduct requires a tunnel, for example, for 5km through Dunmail Raise. It was, of course, technically possible to tunnel under the Lune, in which case we’d hardly be aware that the aqueduct was here.
There are clearly four pipes within the Waterworks Bridge. According to one
about the Thirlmere Aqueduct,
“where the aqueduct route had to cross river valleys multiple pipelines were used”, which rather implies that
the water in the underground pipe was split into four to get across the Lune – but I’ll express some doubts
about that in a minute. The average fall of the aqueduct is 20 inches per mile. At the Waterworks Bridge,
however, the pipes can be seen descending at a steep angle. This is, in fact, the steepest drop, and hence
the point of greatest hydrostatic pressure (410 feet), for the whole aqueduct, with a displacing force at
the angles of 54 tons. The anchoring arrangements here, then, have to be very efficient.
From the valve house on the south bank, the aqueduct heads due south for over 1km before curving slightly east. We walked on the line of the aqueduct to meet a gate in a fence (shown right). It looks like an ordinary gate but it has a distinctive style, with narrow metal bars plus diagonal and an undulating top. From the gate we can see (with binoculars) two similar gates in the hedges ahead. These gates were added not so much to function as gates but to enable engineers to follow the line of the aqueduct. They enable us to do the same today.
We returned to the old railway line to meet up with the line of the aqueduct near Ellers Farm. Here the aqueduct passed
under the railway line by means of a bridge, now overgrown. It continues under an otherwise inexplicable gap through
the new houses. Two of our distinctive gates can be seen by the A683, with another two across the fields (one open
when we looked). We walked south by Artle Beck (through houses as the footpath is still closed) and then east on
Brookhouse Road, where there is a gate to be seen on both sides of the road.
In the field by Artle Beck north of Brookhouse Road there are four square objects (shown left - note the gap
through the new houses).
These are air valves for the aqueduct. At every summit along the pipeline, and on long level stretches, a valve must be placed to allow the escape of air. Accumulations of air in the pipe would cause an enormous diminution in the quantity of water delivered. But why are there four of them, if the four pipes across the Lune are consolidated into one pipe underground, as suggested above?
After 1892, because Manchester and other cities of the north-west were increasingly thirsty, three further pipes
were laid, presumably adjacent to the first one, between 1904 and 1927. No doubt, there’s one valve
per pipe. As can be seen, one of the valves is a little apart from the other three. My guess is that the three further pipes were laid together in a wider channel than the first one. They may not have been all turned on at once but laid in anticipation of future need. But what about the Waterworks Bridge – and especially the tunnels? Were they designed from the beginning to carry four pipes? I can see no evidence that the Waterworks Bridge was later widened, so I think it must have been.
We walked through the Hawthorn Close ginnel to reach the footpath to Forge Mill, finding another gate in the hedge to
the right, with a further gate in the hedge to the north, with more valves, one of them quite far apart from the
others. From Forge Mill we took the footpath east to cross the aqueduct again, just west of Stauvins Farm. We know
what to look for now – we saw three more gates (making fourteen in all) and two more sets of valves, one by the
fence to the north and the other near the Artle Dale wood (making four in all). The photo right shows the valves and gate to the north with a distant view of the valve house on the north bank of the Lune. We said goodbye to the aqueduct here as it continued across Artle Beck, heading for Intack House, Birk Bank, and so on. We thus felt satisfied that we had tracked the path of probably the largest engineering works carried out within the region.
So why was the aqueduct taken over the Lune and not under it? It could, of course, be a simple matter of cost.
However, I notice that to the south the aqueduct goes under Artle Beck (where a bridge would be seen by
nobody) but has a flamboyant bridge over Ottergear Clough (which is on a footpath).
The Waterworks Bridge is clearly not just a functional one.
It is quite ornate and shows the Manchester coat-of-arms (now painted grey).
The bridge reflects Manchester's desire to display its civic pride and wealth.
[May 5th 2020; SD5464; Brookhouse – N – Waterworks Bridge – S – old railway line – W – near Ellers Farm – S by
Artle Beck – E, S, SW – Forge Mill – E – Littledale Road – S – Brookhouse; 5 miles]
88.  The Lune Millennium Park Artworks
When we visited Gray’s Seat (83
we were disappointed to see that the fine carved, curved bench was rather
weathered. So to motivate our walk along the old railway line to the bridge at Denny Beck we set out to
look at the state of the other artworks installed in 2000. The railway line path, which was christened
the River Lune Millennium Park in 2000, runs for 15km between Salt Ayre and east of Bull Beck. This so-called
Park is probably the narrowest park in England. They didn’t anticipate the 2-metre apart requirement.
The first artwork encountered is actually one of a set of three, the ‘Maybe’ of ‘Was, Is, Maybe’ by
(I am adding a link to the artists’ current webpages in case you’re interested in their subsequent work).
The three pieces are carved stone pictures on easels of the scene ahead. In its shady location, Maybe has
become somewhat overcome with mould. We walked on to the Crook o’Lune, keeping away from the many dogs and,
especially, their owners.
The next artwork is the one at Gray’s Seat and requires leaving the Millennium Park (as we did in
The bench was created by
Jim Partridge and Liz Walmsley
It is a shame that this excellent structure was placed
in such an out-of-the-way location, where very few people would ever have sat upon it. It is now, it seems, on
an inevitable path to ruin, in this damp, gloomy spot. There is, in fact, a second artwork at Gray’s Seat, a
series of stone slabs (by Alan Ward) that have Gray’s quote engraved upon them. These, of course, will not decay.
Perhaps when the Seat is abandoned they could be moved to where they might be better appreciated.
Next on the Millennium Park is the Heron’s Head, which is easily missed because it is above a small tunnel
and not seen clearly against the background of trees. It is made of wrought iron and remains in good condition.
I rather like the fitting simplicity of this work - but then I rather like herons.
The artist was
who has gone on to establish a reputation for her clay sculptures, mainly of animals.
Further on we come to the site of the most controversial of the Millennium Park artworks, the Upside Down
. As the title tells us, these were a set of trees (larch, in fact) that
were inserted in the ground with
their trunks upside down and roots aloft. They were immediately the subject of derision, one person feeling so
irate at their absurd spoiling of the setting that he or she set about them with a chain-saw in 2001. They rotted
quickly enough for the Council to deem them a hazard in 2012 and use a chain-saw themselves. Nobody mourned, not
even Giles Kent, I suspect, after all the angst.
Nearby is an artwork that provoked no controversy because most people did not realise that it was an
artwork. A set of Flowing Benches – wavy seats mimicking the Lune – were placed just where people might expect a
seat. They, too, being of wood, have begun to deteriorate. It was the first commission for the artist
, who has
since gone on to specialise in “handmade bespoke award winning nature and leaf inspired artisan jewellery”.
Next is, or almost was, the River Rocks by
. These were a set of three glass ovoid ‘rocks’ fixed to
the rocky edge of the Lune. As with much art placed in a natural setting, I was unsure what these anomalous
objects added, other than perhaps to prompt us to reflect upon that already fine setting. They
survived for longer than I expected but two of the rocks have disappeared now, presumably washed away in some flood.
The third remains but is easily missed as its glassy sheen is now mud-covered. The photo shows the third River Rock,
with the pegs for the other two to its right.
At the old Halton railway station is the second, ‘Was’, of Wilbourn’s three. This one is mould-free: somebody
must be scrubbing it from time to time. From here, we walked over the bridge to return on the other side of the
Lune through the new houses of Halton Mill and along the narrow path above the Lune where, luckily, we met nobody
coming the other way. The third of the Wilbourn set, ‘Is’, is at the Crook o’Lune picnic spot, overlooking the
scene shown in
. But who admires a sculpture depicting the scene ahead when they are at the precise spot where they can
admire the real thing?
[May 2nd 2020; SD5464; Brookhouse – NW across A683 – old railway line – W – bridge near Denny Beck
– N, E, SE – Crook o'Lune – E on old railway line – SE – Brookhouse; 6 miles]
87.  Around the Claughton Clay Pit
I have mentioned the Claughton Brickworks twice recently so I thought we should go to see how it’s getting on. We
have peered into what the OS map calls a Clay Pit a few times in the past while the workers were beavering
away and it always seemed a little voyeuristic. Now, with the Brickworks closed like so much else, we can investigate
without being intrusive.
We walked up Quarry Road and then along the track that is part of the North Lancashire Bridleway. It is odd that the moor to the east is not Open Access land. The 1847 map shows that it was tree-covered within a Claughton Plantation but today it seems little different to the rest of Claughton Moor and Caton Moor. In fact, as cows and sheep seem no longer to browse here, it has become wilder than most of the moor, with heather and willow trees colonising.
Perhaps the owners, who I assume to be the Oystons of Claughton Hall, claimed some special dispensation for this part of the moor. Maybe they wanted to reserve it for shooting? In recent years a line of boards (they can hardly be called butts) has appeared on the moor. Thousands of red-legged partridges used to be (and maybe still are) reared for shooting but perhaps it is hoped that the increased heather will lure some grouse here. Top-class people shoot grouse, therefore if you shoot grouse you are a top-class person. The logical fallacy may be lost on a family in which Owen Oyston was convicted of rape in 1996 and he and his son were in 2017 ordered to repay £31 million after the illegitimate stripping of Blackpool Football Club.
At a tumble-down wall we turned left towards the Clay Pit. After a month of walking on lanes, tracks and
paths, we had forgotten what a dubious pleasure it is walking across rough moorland. At least it was not wet, as
it usually is. But in their thirst the moor-grass, sphagnum moss, bilberry and heather seemed to have swelled into
dry sponges. On every step it was impossible to tell how far the foot would sink before reaching solidity. The
unevenness made for very slow going but we didn’t mind as we saw dozens of small, emerald green butterflies with
delicate dotted markings on the wings, which had a reddish fringe. We are no lepidopterists but these must surely be green hairstreaks. I hesitate because Barkham (2010) says that hairstreaks are “elusive” and that he “had not seen a green hairstreak for a decade”. On the other hand, the trusty Collins guide to British insects says that the green hairstreak “flies April-July in a wide range of habitats including moorland …” and the first of its food-plants listed is bilberry. Our butterflies looked like textbook examples of the green hairstreak – intense green, smooth, neat streaks – more so than the examples of textbooks and online – varied yellowish greens, bedraggled, partial streaks.
Claughton Clay Pit, looking east to the Yorkshire Dales
We eventually reached the rim of the Clay Pit and looked down into the crater. In 2008 we had joined a guided tour of the Brickworks and the Clay Pit. On that occasion it was such a gloomy, drizzly day that everything was a shade of black and we could believe that nothing had changed at the pit since the brickworks began. Claughton Brickworks was not the first brickworks in the region. From 1874 there was a Clay Pit in Potter Hills Wood, south of Hole House Farm, with a Lunesdale Brick & Tube Works to the north, near the present Lunesdale Terrace. This closed in 1901 but the remains of the old tramway can still be seen from the road from Caton Green. The 1895 map marks Claughton Quarries (for sandstone flags, not brick-making) at what’s now the humpy land around the parking spot near the windmills, and marks nothing where the present Clay Pit is. The 1913 map shows two brickworks in Claughton, West End Brick Works and Manor Brick & Tile Works, both with rail tracks linking to the North Western line. The works had an aerial ropeway and a tramway, respectively, linking to quarries a short distance up the hill (with no Clay Pit marked where it is today). Claughton Quarries is marked as disused by 1916. A Clay Pit appears where it is now on the 1956 map, with aerial ropeways to both the Claughton brickworks, the West End part of which closed in the 1970s.
Shortly after our tour the Brickworks was mothballed because of the downturn in house building after the financial crisis. Since then the Brickworks has been revitalised with new investment. On our visit we had the now-customary blue skies, there were no workers toiling in dreary conditions, and there was even a touch of colour in the renovated sheds and aerial ropeway that carries the shale down. The pit itself is larger than shown on the OS map and larger than on our last visit. It now extends further east. Where will it end? This is not a rhetorical question. Is all of Claughton Moor suitable for making bricks? The brickworks has permission to continue operating until 2036.
Claughton Clay Pit, looking west towards Morecambe Bay
We had to detour south on yet more rough ground to get around a deep gully (the beginning of Claughton Beck) before finding a good path on the eastern edge of the pit. From here it was mainly a matter of enjoying the excellent views: beyond Hornby, to Fountains Fell, Pen-y-Ghent, Ingleborough, Whernside, Gragareth, Barbon Fell and the Howgills; over the Lune valley, to Shap Fells, Kentmere Pike, Red Screes, Fairfield, the Langdales, the Coniston Old Man group and Black Combe. (It is distressing having the distant fells flaunt themselves in this tantalising fashion but I will resist them.) The tide was out, leaving Morecambe Bay quite empty. We tried to convince ourselves that beyond Barrow we could see the Isle of Man – but we didn’t quite manage it.
[April 27th 2020; SD5464; Brookhouse – SE, E on Quarry Road – picnic site – SE on bridleway, N – Clay Pit – around pit – SW past Moorcock Hall – picnic site – and back; 6 miles]
86.  Bluebells and Going Round the Lune Bend
There was only one local public footpath that we had never set foot upon – the one on the other side of the
river around the long meander below Burton Wood (mentioned in
). Well, there’s no time like the present –
and you can say that again. I have several times walked or run on the north bank of the Lune between the
Loyn Bridge at Hornby and the Waterworks Bridge, but that is a long walk or run and I had always taken a
shortcut across the neck of the meander to avoid making it even longer. Today we would dutifully follow
the footpath, enjoying new views of the Lune valley from all angles, 360 degrees of them.
We crossed Waterworks Bridge to enter Lawson’s Wood and admire the bluebells. There was a fine but not the most fulsome display, we thought. The bracken, bramble and other undergrowth has advanced so much that the bluebells weren’t in their usual isolated glory. It has not rained for two weeks and we’ve had at least ten hours of sunshine on all but one of those days, so we cannot blame the bracken and bramble for thinking it was time to get a move on. At least the bluebells are proper British ones, upstanding and deep blue, not the so-called Spanish bluebells, frilly and light blue, that are taking over our gardens. Government regulations require me to make a comment about Brexit at this point but I cannot be bothered. Oh, I already have.
We emerged from the wood to follow our new path on the opposite bank of the Lune. First, we paused to
watch the sand martins circling around and in and out of about thirty tunnels where, three weeks ago, we had
spotted our first sand martins
It was interesting to view the Lune from a different perspective. We could see – especially now that the
river was so low – the extensive masonry placed in the river to protect the banks on ‘our side’ from further
erosion. As we walked on we saw too much Japanese knotweed, where later in the summer
there will be too much Himalayan balsam (any at all is too much). We passed where the farmer boldly fords the river
in his tractor and
where we once, even more boldly, paddled over. We could do so now, the river being so low, but
we pressed on.
Inland, the floodplain was totally quiet, apart from the birds, and totally flat, apart from some old
river channels. There were extensive views to the Yorkshire Three Peaks, unobscured by the smoke that usually
drifts from the Claughton Brickworks chimneys. We passed close by Over Lune Barn, which we have seen hundreds
of times from the opposite side of the river, and continued on a bank, now far from the river, that may well
have been the river bank 200 years ago (81
It was too warm for somnolent cows to stir themselves. At the
river bend, where many large tree trunks had been deposited by floods, we took the shortcut (sshhh) back to Lawson’s Wood.
On the way back we saw a yellow butterfly. A brimstone? We don’t remember seeing brimstones here before.
[April 24th 2020; SD5464; Brookhouse – N – Waterworks Bridge – NW through Lawson’s Wood (upper
permissive path) – S etc. around the meander, W through Lawson’s Wood (lower permissive path) – Waterworks
Bridge – and back; 5 miles]
Diversion 3:  The Fairy Fell Roundelay (Rainy Day Walk No. 3251)
(This is one of the 'Rainy Day Rambles in the Lake District', which are of unknown date and were apparently written for
the Cumberland Courier but never printed there. I can't think why.
This one may help those missing the days when we could walk on Lake District fells come rain or more rain.)
Disclaimer: The following details are given in good faith and the author cannot be held
responsible for any calamities that may arise. The details were correct yesterday.
Park in the Ambleside car park
if it is not under water. (Incidentally, if you have a hoard of pound coins to get rid of, this is a great place
to do so.) Follow the young couple with matching red bobble hats. Do not follow them into the Golden Rule pub.
Instead proceed along Nook Lane behind a Doberman Pinscher walking a man. After they enter number 26, glissade
onto the fell and cross the torrent of Scandal Beck, if you can.
The path is unmistakable, which is just as
well, as you can only see three yards of it. Occasionally, a group of walkers, one holding
an umbrella aloft (obviously not a bona-fide fell-walker), can be espied ahead. Follow them to High Pike and pause
to reflect on the view thereby attained, allegedly excellent.
At the top of Fairy Fell a fouetté rond de jambe en
tournant is in order. The summit plateau is a confusing place. People emerge from the mist, wandering, lost, in
all directions. Do not be led astray by any of them. Ignore the stationary ones: they are cairns. Your best bet
is to take a compass bearing. If you do not have a compass, you have and are lost.
Perform a demi-détourné and prance
for ten furlongs south to Great Rigg. Do not waste time looking for a lesser Rigg. A group of five young men are
having a rapidly-diluting drink from a flask. Or perhaps some of them are young women. Who can tell, or care, in
Follow the prevailing tempest south. If you are very lucky the clouds may lift to give you a
glimpse of the welcoming lights of Ambleside. Pass Riddle Hall, once the home of Walter Wordsmith. At the car,
realise that this walk is a roundelay and begin again at the beginning.
Photos: The public inconveniences at the Ambleside car park; The view from Fairy Fell (you'll have to take my word for it).
Editor's note: The fouetté rond de jambe en tournant is most famously performed
in the pas de deux of Swan Lake. But as the idea is to perform many turns without one’s toe moving a centimetre it
would have been useless for getting off the mountain.
85.  The Tarn Brook Heronry
On the face of it, the new police guidelines (April 16) that allow “driving to countryside and walking (where
far more time is spent walking than driving)” permit me to, say, drive to Jubilee Tower and walk up Ward’s Stone.
However, the guidelines reflect the reality of what can be policed and not necessarily the intention and spirit of
government advice and legislation. They acknowledge that some people need to travel to find somewhere worth
walking. I do not need to drive to the countryside: I am already there. The over-riding focus remains to minimise
unnecessary travel in order to limit the chance of infecting or being infected by others. I am mindful that
people who live elsewhere don’t want me there. So I’ll continue with local walks.
We have two default short walks of only thirty minutes or so, one ‘up the lane’, the other ‘down to the river’.
The former is along what we call Blackberry Lane, that is, the track up past the United Utilities reservoirs to
a gate and back. On the way there are views of the hills of Bowland and the Dales but the pièce de résistance
is the view from the gate over the Lune valley to the panorama of Lake District hills. It is reassuring to
know that they are still there, awaiting our return.
The view from the gate over the Lune valley to the Lake District
The enforced patrolling of our locality may help us become more familiar with it. We have managed to pinpoint
the source of strange kraaks heard in our garden in recent springs. There are two heron nests in pines by
Tarn Brook (or Bull Beck), and we look to see how they are progressing every time we walk up the road. Herons are normally seen standing silent and still at the river’s edge or flying
with languid ease but when nesting they can make quite a din. I don’t know if two heron nests constitute a
heronry but if not they are the necessary first two steps towards one. It is an honour to have such fine birds
nesting within 200 metres of our house. It also good to know that there are adequate fish in our watercourses for them, despite appearances to my eye.
Vintage locals tell us that Tarn Brook has changed character since they were children. It used to have an equable
temperament, flowing steadily through most of the year, with plenty of fish. Now it is volatile. It is generally
placid with not much more than a trickle but occasionally it is ferocious. In the former state, any fish must be
marooned in deep pools, since there is not enough water to escape from them. In the latter state, fish can hardly
swim upstream against the huge boulders being washed down.
We attributed this change to the increased drainage of farmers’ fields but I am wondering if those reservoirs
have anything to do with it. A 1979 booklet produced by a Caton Village Exhibition Committee says that “Caton
reservoir at Moorside, built about 1860 and one of the oldest in the country, is fed by a network of pipes across
the moors”. The second reservoir was built in about 1970 and must also be fed from the moors. When there has
been little rain, as recently, the pipes must extract from what little water there is to keep the reservoirs
topped up, leaving Tarn Brook even lower than it would be. When there is a day-long deluge then the water must
shoot down those pipes, find the reservoirs full, and then continue to flood the beck. (I suspect that the
first reservoir is no longer used to water the residents of Caton. There are often United Utilities workers
at the filter house and second reservoir (which is covered and protected by CCTV and a high security fence) but
I have never seen them take any interest in the first reservoir.)
The number of fish in Tarn Brook has clearly decreased. Perhaps the heron get all the fish they need
from the Lune but there must be fewer fish there if all its tributaries are like Tarn Brook, almost devoid of
fish. I would be grateful if residents with garden pools could keep them well stocked with newts, frogs and
goldfish. So would the herons.
[April 23rd 2020; SD5464; Brookhouse – SE – Reservoir – E – gate – and back; 2 miles]
84.  A Loop along Littledale Lanes
The lanes above Caton and Brookhouse leading to the moors were always fairly quiet BC (before coronavirus). We set out hoping that they would be even more so now, enabling us to stroll care-free, apart, of course, from the other matters that are making us care-worn. It turned out that there was more traffic than expected, some people perhaps taking advantage of the new police guidelines suggesting that is reasonable to drive a short distance for a walk.
We walked up Littledale Road, past the burgeoning bluebells of the woodland by Tarn Brook, and then along Roeburndale Road, with views opening out to the Caton windmills, to Ward’s Stone and, behind, to Morecambe Bay and the grey silhouette of the Lake District hills. We passed Roeburn Glade on the site of the old Brookhouse Brick Company, which operated from the 1920s to the late 1960s. This was the last extractive industry within the Caton parish. It is still possible to come across the odd Brookhouse brick lying about.
There is a long history of quarrying and mining in the region (Winstanley, 2000). At first, of course,
people gathered up whatever was to hand to make walls, tiles, drains and so on, but eventually it was realised that some of the material had properties that made them valued elsewhere. On Black Fell below Clougha and at Baines Cragg there was high-quality millstone grit, which was useful for millstones (naturally) and for prestigious buildings, for example, in Lancaster and locally, such as Escowbeck House and Quernmore Park Hall. There were innumerable small quarries on the fells, some marked on today’s map as “Quarries (dis)”. They have all been disused for some time, although a few were re-opened for work on the railway line in the 1840s and the Thirlmere pipeline in the 1880s.
The properties of the clay and shale used for brick-making were recognised by the Romans, who made tiles and pottery in the Quernmore valley. Local brick-making began in the mid-19th century, no doubt encouraged by the new railway enabling the easier transport of the bricks. The kilns of the large Claughton brickworks, which began in the late 19th century, were right by the railway line. The Brookhouse Brick Company did not have this advantage. Strangely, despite all this local brick-making, few local houses are made of brick.
There was also local extraction of coal, a near-surface strip of which exists from Quernmore towards Ingleton.
According to Hudson (2000), there were pits at Hollinhead near Gresgarth Hall and near Haws House, past which we
walked next. But only after encountering a hare on the road. This is the third of our recent local walks on
which we have seen a hare, although we did not see any when we set out specifically to see them
That’s the nature of nature.
We passed what was the tiny St Anne’s chapel, which functioned from 1752 until 1969. It may have been tiny but
it seems substantial for the small number of people who could have formed the congregation. At Crossgill Farmhouse,
dated 1681, we noticed our first swallows of the year, on schedule, two weeks after the sand martins
Leaving the road for the first time for the track from New House Farm, we managed to locate the medieval cross base, now a little overgrown. The cross itself is, of course, no longer present but its memory lives on in the name of Crossgill.
As we walked down Littledale Road, we appreciated that, since there are no longer any extractive industries
in the Caton parish and there are unlikely to be any in the foreseeable future now that the parish is within the Forest
of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, nobody can take anything away from our local landscape. As we would
wish, what we see now is what we will continue to see – apart from what we add to it, such as windmills.
[April 20th 2020; SD5464; Brookhouse – SE on Littledale Road, Roeburndale Road, SW – Crossgill – NW on track,
Littledale Road – Brookhouse; 5 miles]
83.  Gray's Seat and the View from the Crook o'Lune
We set off to walk alongside the River Lune to Gray’s Seat, which we have not visited since shortly after it was
created as one of the artworks to mark the new millennium. The river was very low, scarcely moving, and a haze
reduced Ingleborough to a faint outline. After walking to the Crook o’Lune and through the wood, we found the
path from the A683 to Gray’s Seat to be rhododendron-shrouded and narrow, which in these strange times is a worry,
since if there were anybody else on the path we could only keep two metres apart by manoeuvring like two lorries on
a narrow lane.
Thomas Gray (1716-1771) visited this spot – or somewhere near it – in 1769 and expressed the opinion
that “every feature which constitutes a perfect landscape of the extensive sort is here not only boldly marked
but in its best position”. His opinion needs to be put into context. Gray was an eminent poet at that time,
which was a time when society afforded poets eminence. His reputation had been established mainly by his
Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard
. He was a diffident character, considering only thirteen of his
poems to be worth publishing and declining the position of Poet Laureate. He spent most of his life in Cambridge although he had travelled to the Alps to be suitably awe-inspired. In 1769 he decided on a ten-day tour of the Lake District, perhaps anticipating similar thrills.
However, Gray was not much of an outdoor type. Thompson (2010) has the impertinence to say “he was – in twentieth century slang – a bit of a wally, both gullible and inept”. His retreat from the fearsome ‘jaws of Borrowdale’ is now regarded with ridicule. This serves him right for going on about being a-tremble at the thought of being squashed by huge rocks tumbling down from the mountains. If he had said that he needed to return to Keswick for his dinner then we’d have thought nothing of it.
Anyway, he is sometimes considered to be the Lake District’s first tourist and his subsequent journal was instrumental in starting the Lakes’ tourist industry. After leaving the Lakes, he stayed at Lancaster and presumably passed the Crook o’Lune on his way to Yorkshire. With his timorous nature, he seems to have found the mellow Lune valley more to his taste than the alarming precipices of the Lake District.
As for the view from Gray’s Seat it was, of course, a disappointment. I say ‘of course’ because it was a disappointment from the start, when there was only a tiny gap through the trees to see a fraction of Gray’s “perfect landscape”. That’s still the case even though the trees are not fully-leaved yet. I’m not even convinced that it’s possible to see Ingleborough from this spot, despite Gray saying that “Ingleborough … makes the background of the prospect”. Perhaps he sat somewhere else?
His opinion of the Crook o’Lune probably encouraged J.M.W. Turner to pause here too, in 1816, leading to his
celebrated painting of the view. The Tate Gallery offers us three versions. The first is a
(a sketchy sketch) made on the 1816 tour. The second is an 1820
based upon it. This somewhat lacks detail and topological verisimilitude. The third, published in 1821, is described as a
"after Turner". The engraver was James Archer and I have no idea whether the extra detail of the 1821 version
should be attributed to Archer or Turner. Nowadays it is a fourth version, a
of the line-engraving, which is most often seen. I also have no idea who is responsible for the colouring. Should this painting be attributed to Turner at all? At all events, we can probably say that Turner’s view was from somewhere near Gray’s, since he seems to have been able to see over the crook to the valley upstream.
Neither Gray’s view nor Turner’s view is the one most appreciated today. We are over-keen to seek support from eminent aesthetes of the past. We should make our own judgements. The familiar view from near the Crook o’Lune car park is as good as Gray’s or Turner’s, whatever they saw, wrote and sketched.
The view from the Crook o'Lune (on an earlier, less hazy day)
[April 15th 2020; SD5464; Brookhouse – N – Waterworks Bridge – SW on south bank of Lune – Gray’s Seat – NE on
north bank of Lune – Waterworks Bridge – S – Brookhouse; 6 miles]
82.  A Peek into Artle Dale
There are only eight woodland Sites of Special Scientific Interest in Lancashire (listed in
and the residents of Caton and Brookhouse have two of them within walking distance. One is the Burton Wood SSSI
(shown in the photo below), which we will no doubt walk through when the bluebells are out. The other is the
Artle Dale SSSI
which runs for about 2km on the steep slopes of Artle Beck above Gresgarth Hall to near the Scout Camp at Udale Bridge.
Artle Dale has no public access, unfortunately (for us, but fortunately for the wildlife therein). However, the
two public footpaths that run across fields between Littledale Road and Forge Mill allow us a circular walk on
which we may peek into the Artle Dale SSSI. We walked along the lower, northern path to Forge Mill and then
up the track by a wood to reach a stile. Here, the public footpath follows the northern wall of the field and
then cuts across to another stile – but we strayed a little by following the fence south and then east to have a view into the Artle Beck gorge (I hope the farmer doesn’t mind: we didn’t enter any fields that we are not allowed within).
This looks like an ancient woodland, with a variety of tree species, within which one could imagine that fauna such as deer, badger and owl find a safe haven. However, it isn’t really the trees and the fauna that make Artle Dale an SSSI. It is the bryophytes. Whatever they are, Artle Dale has over 160 species of them, some of which are scarce and important nationally for being at the south-eastern limit of their British range, according to the SSSI citation.
As for what a bryophyte is, I will play safe and quote Phillips (1980): bryophytes, that is, mosses and liverworts, “reproduce by spores, as do the fern group, but have a simpler structure. They have stems and leaves but no roots, only modified stems forming root-like structures known as rhizoids … [Liverwort spore] capsules differ from moss capsules by breaking open into four flaps”. There are about 20,000 species of mosses and liverworts. All I am familiar with is the moss on the lawn and the sphagnum moss on the moors.
It’s good to know that they are there but mosses and liverworts are not very exciting for a non-botanist to look at. It might be better for walkers to behave and stay on the footpath by the northern wall. This provides excellent views of the Lune valley up to Kirkby Lonsdale, of Caton Moor and its windmills, and in the distance Black Combe and a glimpse of the Old Man of Coniston – at least, it does on a clear day. It was rather hazy on the day of our walk, the hottest day of the year so far.
[April 11th 2020; SD5464; Brookhouse – S, SW – Forge Mill – E – Littledale Road – S –
Brookhouse; 3 miles]
81.  The Lost Meander of the Lune
The River Lune, looking towards Burton Wood
The River Lune flows southwest below Burton Wood and then turns south on a long meander that adds over a mile to the
length it would have had if it had continued directly southwest. This, however, is not the ‘lost’ meander of the title
because it is easily ‘found’ by anyone who walks along this part of the Lune or who glances at the OS map.
We walked along the Lune Millennium Park (the old railway line) and over a stile and then a footbridge across Mears Beck to follow the public footpath to the bank of the Lune. Here the OS map shows the footpath heading straight across the Lune to the opposite bank and then turning abruptly to cross back over the Lune. It is clearly impossible for any walker to cross the Lune at this point even if it’s as low as it is now. Thankfully we don’t have to, as there is a permissive path along the eastern bank. But why does the public footpath cross and re-cross the Lune?
As you’ve guessed from what is to the right, the answer may lie in old maps. The 1847 OS map shows
that the Lune at that time followed an elaborate curve east and then west before continuing south. Where
the public footpath now crosses the river was probably all on the east bank in 1847.
We continued north alongside the Lune to see if we could detect any signs of this lost meander. The Lune is now settled deep within its banks. It is hard to believe that less than 200 years ago some of this river bed was a field. Or that some of this field was a river bed. I can almost understand how a river can wash away land to form a new river bed but how does an old river bed fill itself in to disappear within a field?
We walked on to the deep, sharp bend of the river. The only sounds to be heard were of the gentle ripple of the low-flowing Lune and of the
birds. The noisiest of the birds were oystercatchers, apart from when we disturbed some geese. We also saw heron,
little egret, sand martin, cormorant, redshank, curlew, pied wagtail, and gulls (which I cannot identify). The neck
of the long meander is now much narrower than it was in 1847 but nowadays we can try to slow erosion by dumping huge boulders in
the river to protect the bank.
A very low Lune, with Ingleborough in the distance
At the fishermen’s hut we turned back, walking more inland, to reach a large pond. This could be at the eastern end of the old bend, in which case I suppose it is an ox-bow lake, beloved of school geographers. It is hard now, though, to tell where the old Lune flowed towards and away from it.
The pond possibly on the route of the old Lune
The 1847 map does not fully solve the puzzle of why the present footpath crosses and re-crosses the river. Above I assumed that the present footpath is on the line of an 1847 path. If it is then, yes, that might explain why the present path crosses the river but it would also mean that the 1847 path crossed the old Lune twice a little further north, which seems implausible.
It seems that our period of confinement is affecting our emotions, because at the end of this walk Ruth enthused “I just loved that so much – wow!”
[April 8th 2020; SD5464; Brookhouse – N on Holme Lane, E on old railway line, N by Lune –
fishermen’s hut – and back via inland ponds; 4 miles]
80.   The Caton Moor Hares
79.   Sand Martins by the Lune
79 onwards 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
(and here's some I did earlier)
© John Self, Drakkar Press, 2018
Top photo: The western Howgills from Dillicar;
Bottom photo: Blencathra from Great Mell Fell