Western Howgills

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Saunterings:  Walking in North-West England

Saunterings is a set of reflections based upon walks around the counties of Cumbria, Lancashire and North Yorkshire in North-West England (as defined in the Preamble). Here is a list of all Saunterings so far.
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119.  Silence, Serenity and Solitude

In May, during the first lockdown, when describing what I called the ‘Brookhouse-Claughton circular’ (93), I said that the stretch along the River Lune between Brookhouse and Claughton is best walked in the winter because the cattle are then in their barns and not in the fields. It’s not that the cattle are ferocious – it’s that they are so unused to walkers here that they become inquisitive, and there is nowhere to by-pass them. So, it being a real winter’s day with the ground frozen, a chilly breeze and snow on the hills, we set off seeking silence, serenity and solitude by the river.
ponds

The ponds that were photographed in 81, and which we saw become completely dry during spring 2020, were now white, being frozen and covered with a layer of snow

And we found it, or them. Once we had left the end of the Lune Millennium Way and walked onto the flat, wide fields of the Lune floodplain we saw nobody at all (apart from a runner on the opposite bank) between here and Claughton Beck – either on the way there or on the way back – giving us three miles of peaceful riverside walking. There were no other walkers, as usual – and we didn’t even see any farmers or anyone else. Alongside the Lune, opposite the village of Aughton high on the hills to the north, we were far from any traffic, and so it was silent, apart from the birds.

We did not walk as serious birders keen to note every species of bird spotted but we couldn’t help noticing several of them: a flock of about thirty curlews took wing, tentatively practising their warbles in preparation for their spring migration up the hills; some scrawny cormorants flew along the river but looked more elegant when on it; various geese rested in the fields safe in the meander of the river or paddled lazily in the water; a single grey wagtail bobbed on the river pebbles; a few grey heron drifted about lazily; a kingfisher zipped past, a greenish-turquoise blur; a few lapwing flapped by, looking black one second and white the next; two or three bright white little egrets circled about; a couple of oystercatchers peeped past; a number of ringed plovers (I think) beat their thin wings to skim over the water; and some gulls flew over, leading to an inconclusive discussion as to what exactly a ‘gull’ is and whether all gulls are necessarily sea-gulls and how, precisely, do sea-gulls differ from other sea-birds.
three peaks

The floodplain to the east is wide open, providing expansive views up the valley. In the distance, beyond Hornby, the Three Peaks (Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent) can be seen. Is there anywhere else where from a height of only 20 metres or so it is possible to see all Three Peaks? (OK, it's a distant view but it's good to know that they are still there, waiting.)

the lune erosion

The River Lune, with erosion of the north bank continuing apace

We walked as far as Claughton Beck where the bridge that was washed away has not been replaced, which is a shame because otherwise, in normal times, it could be used to continue on a permissive path (if it still exists) to Hornby (and to catch the bus back to complete a loop). We were more than happy to return the way we came. Walkers are not normally keen on there-and-back walks but on this occasion more silence, serenity and solitude provided the best way home.

This bank of the River Lune is neglected by walkers. The Lune Valley Ramble [*] runs on the opposite bank but it does not provide the sense of being out in the middle of nowhere that the south bank does. The south bank path doesn’t contribute to a circular walk unless you continue up to the windmills (as in 93). Even then the riverside part of the walk seems to be thought insignificant. The Ramblers’ Association (now called Ramblers) booklet of Lune valley walks describes this circular walk but it has nothing to say about the river walk other than “follow this [path] for over a mile until the river comes near to the old railway line”. Another guide to Lune valley walks (Kelsall and Kelsall, 2012) has forty of them but none that tread this part of the Lune. The Walking Down the Lune book (Swain, 1992) does describe walking here but only in terms of the various stiles and fences to be crossed (which is very straightforward). Nothing is said to indicate that there is anything of interest or enjoyment to be gained from such a walk. I therefore think it best that you ignore my words so that the silence, serenity and solitude remains.

    Date: February 11th 2021
    Start: SD543644, Brookhouse  (Map: OL41)
    Route: N – Bull Beck Bridge – NE on south bank of the Lune – Claughton Beck – and back the same way
    Distance: 5 miles;   Ascent: 20 metres


[*]  There is a new song about the Lune Valley Ramble by Hiroshima Twinkie. Hear it on youtube!


     120.   A Walk in Littledale in 1847
     118.   Coast-to-Coast in Six Days
               A list of all Saunterings so far

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    © John Self, Drakkar Press, 2018-

Blencathra

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