Western Howgills

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

If you'd like to give a comment, correction or update (all are very welcome) or to receive a two-monthly email update - please send an email to johnselfdrakkar@gmail.com. Some readers' comments are included in the Preamble.

     104.   From Bampton Grange to the Lake District's Highest Hills   
     103.   Bogged Down around Rawcliffe Moss   
     102.   Upper Ribblesdale: Drumlins, Three Peaks and a Cave   
     101.   Passing the Time at Heysham   
     100.   Crookdale and Horseshoes   
     99.   Heather on Hawthornthwaite Fell   
     98.   Karren and Flora on Hutton Roof Crags   
     97.   Remeandering the Lyvennet   
     96.   Castles and Towers from the Cross of Greet   
     1 - 95

104.  From Bampton Grange to the Lake District's Highest Hills

The villages of Bampton Grange and Bampton lie peacefully by the River Lowther (which runs from Wet Sleddale Reservoir) and Haweswater Beck (which runs from Haweswater Reservoir), tucked between limestone crags to the east and the slopes up to the High Street ridge to the west. They are pleasant, rather isolated, villages now but were more important when the nearby Shap Abbey was flourishing, that is, between the 12th and 16th centuries. We set off west from Bampton Grange along quiet lanes and across rolling fields to reach the open moor at Drybarrows. From there we began a long, steady, gently rising tramp over moorland with occasional views over Haweswater, the quietness a little spoiled by the regular, distant thump of, we assumed, quarry blasting.

Haweswater from Bampton Common

The standard smart-arse question to ask about the Lake District is: “How many Lakes are there in the Lake District?” To which the hoped-for answer is: “15 or 16 or so.” Which can then be followed by: “No, there’s only one. Bassenthwaite. It’s the only one with Lake in its name. All the others are Meres or Waters”. It's so standard that most people interested in the Lake District will not fall for it. So, here’s an alternative: “How many Hills are there in the Lake District?” (It is important to say this with a capital H.) To which the answer might be: “214” (assuming that the answerer is a devotee of Wainwright). And then one can pounce: “No, there’s only two. Wether Hill and Loadpot Hill. All the others don’t have Hill in their name”.

If you do ask this question then be prepared for an argument. Wainwright (1955-66) included Eel Crag in his 214 but the Ordnance Survey and everyone else calls it Crag Hill. Crag Hill (839m) is considerably higher than Wether Hill (674m) and Loadpot Hill (672m). Birkett (1994) also included Sand Hill (756m), Jenkin Hill (735m) and seventeen lesser Hills in his 541 tops. So, it could be argued that there are 22 Hills in the Lake District, and that the highest Hill in England is Crag Hill. However, we strictly followed our dear friend Wainwright so that our walk took us to not only the Lake District’s highest Hills but also its only Hills. (Perhaps I should have added “according to Wainwright” to my title.)

Despite the two Hills’ eminence, Wainwright didn’t think much of them. Of Wether Hill, he said “The top … is quite without interest, while the eastern slopes [the ones we walked up] are little better … There are many fells more worthy of climbing than Wether Hill, the final slope being very dull.” The summit was considered “a dreary and uninteresting place.” Loadpot Hill fared little better: “By Lakeland standards … territory of this type is uninteresting … There is the appearance of desolation.”

Wainwright’s opinion was coloured by the fact that, although he described approaches up the flanks, he knew that almost all walkers will reach Wether Hill and Loadpot Hill by walking along the High Street ridge, from the north from Pooley Bridge or from the south from the High Street top itself. For such walkers, Wether Hill and Loadpot Hill are barely noticeable rises along the long ridge. Walkers will have had the view to the west – in particular, of the Helvellyn range – all the way and it doesn’t suddenly change upon reaching Wether Hill or Loadpot Hill. It is different, however, for walkers from the east, like us. After striding over moorland for some time, as we pass High Kop there is a revelation through a dip in the High Street ridge of the Helvellyn mountains ahead, to which one can only respond ‘wow’. As if by design, there is even a sight of Scafell Pike through the Grisedale col. How can this be considered “very dull”?!

The Helvellyn range as seen approaching the High Street ridge from High Kop

We continued across the High Street ridge to sit on the western slopes in order to absorb the view. The full extent of the Helvellyn ridge, from Dollywaggon Pike to Clough Head, was immediately ahead of us, with all the eastern ridges picked out by shadow. Equally finely arrayed were the Fairfield hills to the south, with the Coniston hills in the distance. To the north were Skiddaw and Blencathra, although we couldn’t make out the Scottish hills that are, no doubt, visible on a clearer day. Directly below us were the green fields of Martindale, with the intricate layout of the hills around Hallin Fell and Place Fell displayed for us. To the northwest, on either side of Hallin Fell, two sections of Ullswater could be seen.
west of Wether Hill

The Fairfield fells and Helvellyn range, with Martindale's Bannerdale below, from the western slopes of Wether Hill

to Skiddaw

To Skiddaw and Blencathra over Ullswater from the western slopes of Wether Hill

Magnificent though the Helvellyn view was, it was only part of what was, for us, in the circumstances, a perfect day. We will particularly remember – although it will mean little to any reader – the four splendid spots where we paused for sustenance: First, on a rare pair of rocks on the long, grassy eastern slope of Wether Hill that provided a comfortable seat from which to survey over Haweswater and the green Lowther valley towards Shap; Secondly, the afore-mentioned lunch break on the western slope of Wether Hill, looking towards Helvellyn; Thirdly, a small bank beside the path down from Loadpot Hill, where we ate an apple while looking across the Eden valley to the Cross Fell set of hills and the Howgills; And fourthly, after a stroll about the village, by the bridge at Bampton Grange where we cooked ourselves our evening meal (chilli, sweetcorn, kale, tomatoes, plus strawberries and Heinichen’s 0.0) which we consumed sat upon a low wall by the river. A local man, out for an evening jog, paused for a chat, from which we learned that if we had been sitting here in January then we would have been underwater. The sun lowered over the High Street Hills, and we left.

    Date: September 17th 2020
    Start: NY521179, by the bridge in Bampton Grange  (Map: OL5)
    Route: SW – Hungerhill, Drybarrows – SW, W – Low Kop, High Kop, High Street path – N – Wether Hill, Loadpot Hill – E, NE past The Pen – Howe – E, SE – Gillhead, Woodfoot, Bampton, Bampton Grange
    Distance: 11 miles;   Ascent: 500 metres
    Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 175/400;   Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 11.40

103.  Bogged Down around Rawcliffe Moss

In 1745 the weather caused an event five miles west of Garstang the like of which will almost certainly never be seen in Lancashire again. The event itself was not the most spellbinding but the fact that it happened in 1745 and that similar won’t happen again tells us something about the history of the region. On this walk I encircled the site of the 1745 event.

I began from the eponymous church of Churchtown, that is, St Helen’s, which I understand is called ‘the Cathedral of the Fylde’. This tells me two things. First, that there is no actual Cathedral of the Fylde, and quite right too because the Fylde is flat and it would be unseemly for a spire to puncture the vast skyscapes, although there is in fact a tiny spire on St Helen’s, hosting a weather-vane. Secondly, that this church, fine as it may be, is not a cathedral, which is good to know because I couldn’t define what a cathedral is. Does a cathedral have to have a spire? Does a spire have to be spiral?

Wyre I followed the Wyre Way westwards, through the sickly sweet smell of rampant Himalayan balsam, ameliorated somewhat by the sewage works. After a mile the Way left the River Wyre for the A586, which wasn’t much fun, and passed a sign saying St Michael’s-on-Wyre, which caused me some angst. When I started these Saunterings I resolved, when in doubt, to use the Ordnance Survey spelling of place-names. However, nobody but the OS spells Haystacks as Hay Stacks or Scafell as Sca Fell, and when it comes to compound names like St Michael’s-on-Wyre the OS is not consistent in its use of hyphens. In this case, the OS opts for St Michael's on Wyre. But surely the people who put up road signs should know. Within the village it is invariably St Michaels, with no apostrophe.

Horrockses So distracted was I that I walked through St Michael’s-on-Wyre without noticing anything of it, although I did pause at the end of it, at the church, St Michael’s (of course), which is, like St Helen’s, a Grade 1 listed building. I continued by the Wyre, which according to the OS map is at its tidal limit at this point. Since the Wyre still has fifteen miles to go to reach the estuary at Fleetwood it obviously has a sedate journey from here. The Wyre is now snug between high banks to prevent flooding, which meant that when I left the Wyre to walk along the quiet Rawcliffe Road I could no longer see it. I then passed Horrockses, whose sign said that it was a “Curiosity Shop, Dress Agency and Hat Hire”, which perhaps is just what the few locals need.

Beyond Ratten Row I walked north away from the Wyre, climbing all of about five metres, to survey the scene. But there was nothing to see, in all directions. It was flat for miles, like the Australian outback. No, flatter – and greener – and wetter – and without the kangaroos. I will need to take a Creative Writing course to describe the scene adequately. In the meantime, I can only say that there were many fields, most green and a few yellow, some with sheep or cows or horses. I had seen maize by the Wyre but from here on I saw no crops. The first of the farms passed was the wryly named Belle Vue. At least, that’s what the OS map says. As elsewhere in this region, the names given on the map often don’t seem to be owned by any particular building. Valiants However, Valiant’s Barn displayed its name in large ornate letters (I couldn’t work out why).

Passing Wilson House Holiday Park, I turned east on Skitham Lane, which I followed for three miles. It was the most tedious three miles I have walked since I started these Saunterings. While I think of something interesting to say about it, here’s a question: Where would you say is the heart of Lancashire? The county of Lancashire is, of course, much smaller than when it included Manchester, Liverpool and what is now south Cumbria, but it is still large enough to have a heart. Where?

I passed a place that sold – what? Have a guess (I’ll tell you at the end of the paragraph). And on through Skitham, a name that probably derives from the old English ‘scitan’, from the proto-Germanic ‘skit’. The ‘k’ has softened in modern English. Ah, now, I am sure that you are agog to know what happened in 1745. An analogy may help. Imagine that you made a sponge cake but it was too soggy. You trimmed off the collapsed edges so that the cake had a neat little wall. Then you accidentally left the cake in the rain. The sponge continued to absorb the rainwater – until it could absorb no more, at which point the cake ‘burst’ and flattened itself over a wide area. (Sliding-door wardrobes – did you guess it?)

A ‘bog burst’ occurred on Rawcliffe Moss in 1745. The bog was a raised mire, which is naturally higher in the centre but in this case was unnaturally considerably higher because the surrounding peat had been removed for burning and the land had been drained, causing further shrinkage to lower the land. A similar situation can still be seen today at Winmarleigh Moss to the north, a small bog but the largest remaining in Lancashire, where the bog stands rather weirdly perched a metre or two above surrounding farmland, which is not what you expect of a bog. After heavy rain saturated the Rawcliffe Moss bog it collapsed to spread its contents over a wide area. A witness said that the centre of the bog sank to leave the bed of a river a mile long and half-a-mile wide.

The reason that a similar bog burst will not occur in Lancashire again is that there is little similar bog left. People in Fylde continued to extract peat for burning until the 1950s and the land has been comprehensively drained. The old bogs of the Fylde are now criss-crossed by many ditches, creating rich pasture. The outcome of the peat extraction and the drainage is that the land is now lower than it was and therefore at higher risk of sea-flooding, which is, of course, why the Pilling Embankment was built in 1981.
Rawcliffe Moss

Rawcliffe Moss (I feel obliged to include a photo of Rawcliffe Moss in order to show that there is indeed nothing to see)

I had achieved my main ambition of the day – to see the site of a bog burst, although no evidence of it remains today – but now what? I didn’t think I could cope with any more excitement so I walked on to the village of Nateby. Actually, there was no alternative. The road went on, above the level of the fields, so that I could be sure that I wasn't missing anything. I passed Trashy Hill, as anybody would. Hereabouts, any eminence that it is a couple of metres higher than the fields is called Something Hill. How droll.

Wilson House Woodlands So, where is the heart of Lancashire? The Wilson House Holiday Park is in it, according to its sign. Myself, I’d say that this Park is in the middle of nowhere. The sign says that it was completed in 2018 after EU funding. Oh for the days when we could pay our taxes, have our government send money to Brussels, for a committee there to decide that a Holiday Park here is just what this region needs. I next passed Woodlands Country Park, with an ornamental entrance. Somebody has spent a lot of money here (the sign didn’t mention the EU this time). There must be a bigger market for people who really do want to get away from it all than I thought.

I approached Nateby with some trepidation because the only previous time that I had visited (in 2007) I was suspected of loitering with intent. At that time, the Nateby region was in a spasm of excitement because someone had thought he’d found the remains of a Roman road (a side-road from the Lancaster-Ribchester road to the Wyre estuary) and someone else had thought he’d found, from aerial photographs, a huge circular henge. I hurried then to visit before hordes of tourists engulfed this would-be Stonehenge of the North. I parked near the school, had a snack and prepared to set off while the kids ran about the playground. They were ushered indoors and two teachers came out to ask what I was up to. I mentioned the Roman road and the henge, which reassured them that I was a weirdo but one harmless to their children. There has, I think, been no more news about the henge (which there surely would have been if it were significant) and the news about the Roman road is that it is unlikely to be one.

Nateby church This time I stayed clear of the school but I wanted to see the church again, or rather the sign on the church. I realise that this is a touchy topic but I have to say that Christians sure make it hard for someone like me. Love thy neighbour is all very well as a principle but in practice it seems that Christians hardly love one another. Any slight disagreement over some sub-clause of the Christian faith leads to another group flouncing off and setting up yet another –ism, with its own churches and so on. Lutheran, Anabaptist, Waldensian, Catholic, Presbyterian, Congregational, Calvinist, Apostolic, Mennonite, Pentecostal, Adventist, Coptic, Protestant, Orthodox, Quaker, Christadelphian, Methodist, Hutterite, Moravian, Evangelical, Anglican, Unitarian, Baptist, Episcopal, Wesleyan, and on and on. I have no interest whatsoever in the precise differences between them.

With Churchtown and St Michael’s-on-Wyre in the parish of Kirkland this is a region that takes its religion seriously. The Nateby church sign says that it is a “Strict & Particular Baptist Chapel”, whatever that is. The sign also says "all welcome" so they probably don't have bouncers at the doors keeping out those who are not particularly strict. Sadly, the sign no longer says “marriages solemnised” as it did in 2007. I do hope that our Strict & Particular Baptists are not treating their marriages too frivolously nowadays.

    Date: September 9th 2020
    Start: SD482428, by St Helen’s Church, Churchtown  (Map: 296)
    Route: SW on Wyre Way – St Michael’s-on-Wyre – W on Wyre Way, on Rawcliffe Road – Ratten Row – SW, N – Hoskinshire, Crook Farm – E on Skitham Lane – Nateby – S through Poplar Grove Farm – Sharples Lane – E – Churchtown
    Distance: 10 miles;   Ascent: 10 metres
    Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 173/400;   Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 11.16

102.  Upper Ribblesdale: Drumlins, Three Peaks and a Cave

Cars were jam-packed along the road in Chapel-le-Dale and also at Ribblehead but elsewhere parking spaces were virtually empty. We parked alone near Ribble Head House, and set off south over the Thorns Gill packhorse bridge (shown in 14) and past the ruins of the once-substantial Thorns Farm, once a grange for Furness Abbey, according to Hartley and Ingilby (1956). We had come to see, firstly, the Ribblesdale drumlin field which Waltham (1987) described as “Britain’s finest”. Waltham had been rather over-the-top about the Hutton Roof Crags karren as well (98) but he is not alone in enthusing about the drumlins. Many writers remark on this aspect of the Yorkshire Dales geology and landscape, often likening the appearance of the drumlins to (rather large) eggs in a basket.

According to Stephens (1990), “of all the features deposited by the last ice sheets, arguably the drumlin would rank as the most evocative of the former passage of an ice sheet” since drumlins are “unmistakably the work of the ice”. In the case of the Ribblesdale drumlins, ice sheets moved west from Langstrothdale into Ribblesdale and then swung south-west and south. These changes of direction are indicated by the orientations of the long axes of the drumlins. The ‘eggs in a basket’ effect is, I'm sure, best appreciated from the air – from a hot-air balloon perhaps – with a low sun casting shadows to show the shapes of the drumlins. On the ground one is aware only of walking up, down and around various smooth humps that are quite unlike the limestone crags on the valley sides.

After a pleasant hour or so navigating ourselves around the humps, we reached Nether Lodge, where we met a stream of walkers from the opposite direction. These were Three Peakers, taking the Bank Holiday Saturday opportunity to tackle the classic 24-mile walk over Pen-y-ghent (694m), Whernside (736m) and Ingleborough (723m). That’s why all the parked cars were there. Many of the walkers were clearly part of a sponsored group. It is the convention nowadays to do the walk anti-clockwise, starting in Horton-in-Ribblesdale. So these walkers had completed one of the three peaks (Pen-y-ghent) and had about 18 miles still to go. One of them asked us – since we were being a nuisance walking the wrong way but clearly looked exceedingly fit – whether we had already conquered two peaks, which would have meant having walked 18 miles clockwise from Horton since breakfast.

Ingleborough, from near Ribble Head House


Whernside, from near Nether Lodge, with the Ribblehead Viaduct in the middle


Pen-y-ghent, from Selside Shaw

Browgill Cave We paused at God’s Bridge, which is (as God’s Bridges usually are) a natural bridge formed, in this case, by a huge limestone slab lying across Brow Gill Beck. Of course, almost all the Three Peakers marched straight over the bridge as they didn’t have the time to pause to look at it. They certainly couldn't detour a little to see Browgill Cave - they might need every bit of time and energy later. Here the beck emerges from a rather impressive cave which it is possible to walk some distance inside, although there was too much water gushing out for us to do so.

We returned to the Three Peaks path to continue against the endless stream of walkers. Sheep looked at them, puzzled, wondering why they were all following in a line like, well, sheep. Who on earth thinks it’s sensible to take on these regimented marches, twelve hours of toil, aches and pains, blisters and sore knees, up and down three mountains?

We did – a long time ago, so long ago, in fact, that at the time our friends calculated that our son (who's now a summer chicken) was conceived on our Three Peaks walk. It was a more isolated and relaxed walk then, but not that isolated and relaxed. The Wainwright (1970) description of the Three Peaks walk comments at one point that “a decision must be taken: whether to trespass or not to trespass”. In those days, you made your own way, as best you could to avoid the quagmires, especially on the long trek between Pen-y-ghent and Whernside. Today’s walkers don’t need to make any decisions. They hardly need a map. The path is a reinforced thoroughfare most of the way and in any case all you need to do is follow everybody ahead of you.

We left the Three Peakers at High Birkwith, the residents of which must be mightily relieved that Three Peakers are now signposted well to the north of them, and dropped down past Low Birkwith, over the River Ribble, under the railway line, through the hamlet of Selside, and across the road and Selside Shaw to reach the area around Colt Park, part of the Ingleborough National Nature Reserve. Here, there are fenced off limestone crags where the native flora is protected to allow it to flourish (and where you need a permit to enter), fields where experiments are carried out to see how our flower-rich meadows may be restored, and at an old quarry a reserve where many relatively rare native plants may be seen. However, this was not the time of year to see flowers, so we resolved to return another time. Instead, we appreciated the play of light and shade on the drumlins across the valley.

Ribblesdale drumlins, from Selside Shaw

    Date: August 29th 2020
    Start: SD771796, on Blea Moor Road, Ribblehead  (Map: OL2)
    Route: NE on road, S over Thorns Gill bridge, E – Ribble Way – SW – Nether Lodge, High Birkwith – SW – Selside – N on road, NW across Selside Shaw, N – Colt Park – NE, N – road – NW, N – Blea Moor Road
    Distance: 8 miles;   Ascent: 100 metres
    Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 171/400;   Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 10.96

101.  Passing the Time at Heysham

Heysham Head strata It is necessary to keep track of time when walking about Heysham. The elements of Heysham’s long history should be appreciated within their temporal context. I walked first to Half Moon Bay in order to try to visualise the region before man interfered. The bay is backed by a cliff face with clear sandstone strata to tell us that this bedrock was laid down many millennia ago. When the Ice Age ended some 12,000 years ago this promontory of Heysham Head was left almost as an island, with the Irish Sea to the west and low-lying marshland to the north, east and south.

The cliffs are modest and Heysham Head is only about 40 metres high but even so they must have formed a prominent landmark for travellers up the Lancashire coast at a time when people travelling long distances tended to do so by boat rather than on foot (and when, of course, the artificial promontory of Heysham port and power station wasn’t there). I don’t think that there are any similar cliffs or anywhere higher on the Lancashire coast south of here.

I scrambled up from the bay onto the gorse-scrubby land known as The Barrows. A barrow is an earthen grave mound and therefore it is no surprise that excavations have found many artefacts that suggest that this was an ancient burial ground. The dating of some of these finds to the Mesolithic period of about 10,000 years ago shows that the first colonisers of the region after the ice melted considered this to be a prime location, as no doubt it was since its isolation provided safety and the sea and marshland yielded a plentiful supply of fish and wildfowl, topped up with the occasional elk or mammoth, perhaps.

For centuries communities lived upon this headland – and died, as shown by the burial ground on The Barrows and more spectacularly by the famous rock graves. These are unique in England and although they are difficult to date they are probably pre-Conquest. Today we can only speculate on their precise use but clearly it took considerable effort to create these eight graves (six together and a further two a little to the north) and they must therefore have been for people revered within the community. A young man sat on the graves, tapping on his mobile.
Heysham rock graves

The Heysham rock graves

With all these graves, and with the views across the bay to the Lake District hills provoking awe and serenity, we can understand that these people would have developed a sense of spirituality. How that manifested itself in the early centuries I don’t know but no doubt more formalised forms of worship gradually developed. Near the rock graves are the ruins of St Patrick’s Chapel, dated to the 8th or 9th century. Excavations around the chapel recovered bone fragments of about sixty individuals, dated to about 1000. Whether the site of the chapel had any direct association with St Patrick (of the 5th century) is a matter of debate but regardless of that the remains are impressive for being a rare example of a pre-Conquest church in England. Families took photos of themselves feigning surprise through the Saxon arched doorway.
St Patrick's Chapel

The ruins of St Patrick's Chapel

The chapel is rather small and it is assumed that congregations often assembled outside. Even for our hardy predecessors this may not have been ideal, since the location is exposed to the westerly gales. Just a short distance down the hill is St Peter’s Church, a more substantial but still modest structure, dating from the 14th century with a pre-Conquest nave and believed to be on the site of an earlier church. It has, of course, had minor renovations over the years but it retains its peacefulness, as can be appreciated by pausing among the graves on the slope down to the bay to share their view across the water.
St Peter's Church

St Peter's Church, Heysham

The earliest surviving homes of the church-goers are to be found near the church in Lower Heysham, where some of the cottages bear 17th century dates. The adjective most often applied to Lower Heysham is ‘quaint’, which seems a little patronising to me. It was, no doubt, a tight-knit, isolated community making a rough living from fishing and cockling around the rocky cove. The cottages remain, small and higgledy-piggledy, gathered about the Main Street, but there are no boats here now. I sat on the small jetty watching the tide pulsing in, gradually covering the rocks, until it was within a few metres of the jetty.

The fact that this is called Lower Heysham tells us that there is, or was, a Higher Heysham too. Higher Heysham is half a mile to the south-east and was, old maps indicate, rather separate from Lower Heysham. There isn’t much left of old Higher Heysham now apart from the Old Hall whose sign says that it was built in “about 1598”. It is now an inn. The space between and around Lower and Higher Heysham has been in-filled with suburban housing. In the past Heysham has had a holiday camp, a pleasure park, a go-kart track, and a bird zoo but today it seems to have given up on explicit tourist attractions. Its attraction now is itself – its old streets, cottages, chapel and church, and the headland and its views. Tourism here, then, mainly involves grey-haired folk ambling along Main Street, which, they will be pleased to discover, must be one of the shortest Main Streets in the country.

I walked back to the promenade that continues to Morecambe. There are still green fields with horses but above them the suburban houses that have engulfed Heysham continue beside the A589 to join Heysham with Morecambe. Houses were built alongside the road in the 1930s and in subsequent decades over large areas behind them. I sat for a while looking across the bay, now full to the brim, towards Barrow-in-Furness, Black Combe and the central Lakeland hills, under cloud, and then back towards the Heysham Head promontory.

Heysham has a long history and now seems at ease with itself. But what of the future? I have tried to ignore the power station but Heysham’s future must be partly tied to that of the power station. I believe that the two reactors are due to operate until 2024 and 2030 and although the government said in 2010 that Heysham was one of the sites to be considered for future nuclear power stations there has not been any commitment, as far as I am aware. Maybe Heysham’s future prosperity will depend more on the adjacent port, now that its trade should be boosted by the new dual carriageway linking to the M6. However, I am always surprised that large ships such as the Isle of Man ferry can find a way across the shallow Morecambe Bay, so I’m not sure how much scope for further trade there is.

Time was up. I had whiled away enough time on this amble around Heysham. The car service should be finished.

    Date: August 19th 2020
    Start: SD422626, Woodlands Drive, Heysham  (Map: 296)
    Route: S on Kingsway, W on Heysham Mossgate Road, Smithy Lane – Half Moon Bay – N – Lower Heysham – S on Barrows Lane, E – Higher Heysham – N on School Lane – promenade – N, E on Oxcliffe Road – Woodlands Drive
    Distance: 4 miles;   Ascent: 40 metres
    Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 170/400;   Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 10.84

100.  Crookdale and Horseshoes

Horseshoes are said to bring good luck, so I thought I’d try one. Hill-walkers are particularly fond of horseshoe walks, that is, walks out on one ridge of a dale, across the head of the dale, and back along the opposite ridge. There is something satisfying about a walk that fully embraces a dale, enabling it to be viewed from all angles. It is good to be able to see across the dale to where you will be walking later and, later, to see back across to where you were walking before.

In his comprehensive review of Lakeland fells, Birkett (1994) includes 21 horseshoe walks among his 129 walks up 541 tops. He names his Horseshoes:
   •   Bannerdale   (7 miles over East Top, Bowscale Fell, Bannerdale Crags, Souther Fell)
   •   Bannisdale   (8 miles over Whiteside Pike, Todd Fell, Capplebarrow, Ancrow Brow, Long Crag, White Howe, Borrowdale Head, Lamb Pasture)
   •   Buttermere   (6 miles over Fleetwith Pike, Black Star, Grey Knotts, Brandreth, Haystacks)
   •   Calder   (8 miles over Blakeley Raise, Grike, Crag Fell, Whoap, Lank Rigg, Kinniside, Latter Barrow, Swarth Fell, Burn Edge)
   •   Cawdale   (9 miles over Low Kop, Red Crag, Wether Hill, Loadpot Hill)
   •   Combe Gill   (5 miles over Thornythwaite Fell, Combe Head, Stonethwaite Fell, Rosthwaite Cam, Bessyboot)
   •   Crookdale   (7 miles over High House Bank, Robin Hood, Lord’s Seat, Great Yarlside, Little Yarlside, What Shaw)
   •   Dale Head   (10 miles over Skelgill Bank, Catbells, Maiden Moor, High Spy, Dale Head, Hindscarth, High Crags, Red Knott, Scope End)
   •   Deepdale   (10 miles over Arnison Crag, Birks, Gavel Pike, St Sunday Crag, Cofa Pike, Fairfield, Hart Crag, Gill Crag, Gale Crag)
   •   Fairfield   (10 miles over Low Pike, High Pike, Dove Crag, Hart Crag, Fairfield, Great Rigg, Rydal Fell, Heron Pike, Nab Scar)
   •   Hartsop   (6 miles over Hartsop Dodd, Stony Cove Pike, Gray Crag)
   •   Helm Crag to Steel Fell   (7 miles over Helm Crag, Gibson Knott, Calf Crag, Dead Pike)
   •   Hesk Fell   (6 miles over The Pike, Hesk Fell, Yoadcastle, Stainton Pike, Whitfell, Bigert)
   •   Hope Gill   (6 miles over Dodd, Whiteside (East, West), Gasgale Crags, Hopegill Head, Sand Hill, Ladysike Pike, Swinside)
   •   Kentmere   (12 miles over Shipman Knotts, Goat Scar, Kentmere Pike, Harter Fell, Mardale Ill Bell, Thornthwaite Beacon, Froswick, Ill Bell, Yoke)
   •   Martindale’s Bannerdale   (9 miles over Beda Head, Angletarn Pike (North, South), Brock Crags, Rest Dodd, The Nab)
   •   Mosedale   (7 miles over Looking Stead, Pillar, Black Crag, Scoat Fell, Steeple, Red Pike)
   •   Naddle   (7 miles over Scalebarrow Knott, Harper Hills, Powley’s Hill, Hare Shaw, Naddle High Forest, Wallow Crag, Naddle Low Forest)
   •   Riggindale   (7 miles over Rough Crag, High Street, Rampsgill Head, Kidsty Pike)
   •   Robinson   (7 miles over Scope End, Red Knott, High Crags, Hindscarth, Robinson)
   •   Wetherlam and the Greenburn   (9 miles over Birk Fell, Wetherlam, Black Sails, Swirl How, Great Carrs, Little Carrs)
It is easily possible to add further horseshoes – for example, Dovedale, Eskdale, Grisedale and Scandale are all fairly well-known horseshoes – and, of course, horseshoes are not restricted to the Lake District.

I opted for the most remote and the least craggy of Birkett’s 21 horseshoes, that is, the Crookdale Horseshoe. This is within the Shap Fells, the wide area of moorland south of Shap and west of the A6. I first walked under a double line of tall pylons marching across the moor, next to a rough track that, hard to believe now, was the main thoroughfare before the A6 was built and where Bonnie Prince Charlie marched his Jacobites. I forded Crookdale Beck and scrambled up the slopes of High House Bank (495 metres, which may seem an impressive height – but the car park was at 426 metres, although to do myself justice I had dropped down a fair way to the beck). This scramble was the only steep climb of the whole walk. Once the ridge was attained, it was a matter of striding out (as far as that was possible over the boggy bits) over the various humps along the way. From this southern ridge of the horseshoe the view south into upper Borrowdale and across to Bannisdale Fell was rather better than that into the featureless, grassy Crookdale.
High House Bank

Upper Borrowdale from High House Bank (and is that Kidsty Pike?)

After an hour or so I reached Lord’s Seat (524 metres). It is clear from Lord's Seat, and from the map, that the top of Harrop Pike (637 metres), over a mile ahead, marks the head of Crookdale. The headwaters of Crookdale Beck run directly from it. However, Birkett considers that “rocky knolls and peat hag do not allow it to be easily reached” from Lord’s Seat and instead directs the walker to traverse over Crookdale Beck and up to the northern ridge. What sort of horseshoe is that? It omits the climax, the very apogee, the zenith of the real horseshoe, its highest point and grandest view.

Wainwright (1974) also describes a Crookdale Horseshoe but his version is even worse. He directs walkers away from Harrop Pike and the whole northern ridge! Instead, walkers are to forego the views from the ridge and trudge within the dreary, damp, enclosed dale, on the bank of Crookdale Beck. I expect that Wainwright had a good giggle at the thought of his devoted followers, without a mind of their own, dutifully traipsing into this morass. He did at least give fair warning, writing of the “drab monotony … of the marshy valley floor, of which in a lifetime one experience is enough”. The reason that both Birkett and Wainwright do not describe a proper Crookdale Horseshoe is that their omitted tops are visited on others of their walks. Such considerations will not sully the purity of my horseshoe.

So, I set off for Harrop Pike. The bee-line for Harrop Pike, over the rocky knolls and peat hag that deterred Birkett, is not the way to go. The true horseshoer must follow the watershed, although admittedly it isn’t really a ridge here. This passes Red Crag to the west, and as it happens a sort-of-path can be picked up beyond Lord’s Seat to take us past Red Crag and up to a fence which may then be followed all the way to the top. This is straightforward and avoids the worst of the peat hag. Harrop Pike is not high enough to provide much of a view of the central Lake District fells – in fact, there are only such tantalising glimpses of them along the whole southern ridge that it’s hardly worth the trouble of trying to identify them. However, from Harrop Pike to the east there are excellent views of the expanses of the northern Shap Fells and in the distance of the Howgills and northern Pennines.
Harrop Pike

Harrop Pike (and is that The Old Man of Coniston?)

Nobody with the heart, soul and spirit of a fell-walker will have read the list of horseshoes above without mentally ticking off those already walked and maybe setting the target of walking some or all of the others. Fell-walkers can’t help bagging items on a list, so why not horseshoes? If, however, we are to invent such a thing as horseshoe-bagging then we need to be precise about our horseshoes. We have already seen that to qualify a horseshoe has to include the head of the dale and both ridges.

A systematic naming system would be welcome too. The identifying factor for a horseshoe is the dale or watercourse enclosed, not a peak that happens to be passed on the way. The Fairfield Horseshoe – the most well-known and most walked horseshoe – should really be called the Rydal Horseshoe because it is around Rydal Beck. It is perfectly possible to have another horseshoe that includes Fairfield and indeed there is one on Birkett’s list – the Deepdale Horseshoe. This has an equal right to be called the Fairfield Horseshoe, although that would, of course, be confusing.

Consider the Blencathra Horseshoe. That is hard to do as there is no agreed such thing. However, there are on its southern slopes four watercourses (Blease Gill, Gate Gill, Doddick Gill and Scaley Beck) and therefore five ridges. That would provide four horseshoes and, if you allow yourself to encompass two or more dales, a further six horseshoes. There would be no ambiguity if the horseshoes were named after the dale(s) or watercourse(s) enclosed. So if anyone would like to campaign for horseshoe-bagging then I would recommend that they begin by renaming the Fairfield Horseshoe. Good luck with that.

The return walk on the northern ridge has the virtues of simplicity (just follow the fences and walls) and of wide-ranging views ahead. But it is long. At first, the northern ridge provided no view into Crookdale, but I had seen more than enough of it already. Instead, there were views north of the empty fells of Mosedale, Sleddale and Wasdale, where in the past I have seen red deer, but not today. Eventually, Crookdale came back into view, with the ridge of High House Bank to Lord’s Seat beyond. The wall and fence led unerringly and uneventfully over Great Yarlside (585 metres), Little Yarlside and Whatshaw Common to reach the A6.
Great Yarlside

Crookdale (to the right) from Great Yarlside

Overall, then, the Crookdale Horseshoe (as properly walked) is a long, lonely, unexciting walk with expansive views. There is little of interest to cause any pause, which is good because a steady tramp is what’s required. Bavin (1999) writes that “the Shap Fells of eastern Lakeland extend over a desolate, inhospitable area of forty square miles, crossed only by an old packhorse trail. This lofty, silent, barren moorland is uninviting, uninhabited and unfrequented, except by creatures of the wild”. Which includes me.

    Date: August 9th 2020
    Start: NY554062, P on A6  (Map: OL7)
    Route: W, SW (fording Crookdale Beck) – High House Bank – NW – Robin Hood, Lord’s Seat – W above Red Crag – fence – N – Harrop Pike – E – Great Yarlside – SE – Little Yarlside – SE, E – P on A6
    Distance: 9 miles;   Ascent: 300 metres
    Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 170/400;   Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 10.83

99.  Heather on Hawthornthwaite Fell

According to the Moorland Association, heather moorland is “rarer than rain-forest” and “around 75% of Europe’s upland heather moorland is found in the UK”. Therefore, it concludes, it is important to “protect and preserve the moors” by continuing the management without which “the precious land would revert to scrub and forest and the heather moors lost forever”. The conclusion seems ungrammatical – but, more importantly, is it sound (assuming, for the sake of argument, that the premises are true)?

We set out from Grizedale Bridge to walk across the heather moorland of Hayshaw Fell, Catshaw Fell, Hawthornthwaite Fell and Fellside Fell. Grizedale Bridge is over Grizedale Brook, which arises a couple of miles to the east at Grizedale Head and flows below Grizedale Fell, under the bridge, through Grizedale Reservoir and along Grize Dale to join the Wyre near Garstang. If that isn’t enough Grizedales for you, there are plenty more (and lots of Grisedales and even a Grisdale) in North-West England, the ‘grize’ or ‘grise’ being from the Old Norse for ‘pig’.

heather We soon met heather as we walked around Harrisend Fell and it accompanied us all the way for the three miles to the top of Hawthornthwaite Fell. It was not particularly difficult walking, with the heather being of variable height but never more than knee high and sometimes bone dry (the photo left, looking back along the fence in the direction of Blackpool, shows, on the two sides of the fence, the heather in its two extreme states). The heather's white and purple flowers were rather sparse but enlightened occasionally by the brighter bell heather. Overall, though, the moor was sombre, as the promised blue skies had not fully materialised, with the dark heather covering the whole expanse of the Bleasdale Moors.

The wire fence went on and on to the top of the fell and so did we. With no variety in our surroundings my mind wandered. I thought of the botanist Richard Salisbury (1761-1829) who first recognised the unique nature of common heather (or ling). The heather family (Ericaceae) has over 4,000 species within over 100 genera, including rhododendron, blueberry and various heaths and heathers. Salisbury placed the common heather in a genus all of its own Calluna (from the Greek for a besom, which heather used to be made into) when he noticed that the corolla and calyx are in four parts instead of the five for the rest of Ericaceae.

Salisbury was a Yorkshireman and a difficult character (I’m saying nothing). He was born Richard Markham and changed his name in order to inherit from a relative of his grandmother. He suffered a series of financial difficulties and once spent time in a debtor’s prison in order to escape claims from his wife’s family. He moved from Yorkshire after acquiring a private botanic garden in London and became instrumental in establishing the Horticultural Society (now the Royal Horticultural Society). He became its first secretary in 1809 but he was soon forced to give up the role, with the Society’s accounts in disarray.

Unlike most of his fellow botanists, he did not accept the Linnean system, the taxonomy for biological classification set up by Carl Linneaus in 1735. Salisbury preferred a ‘natural system’. He was further ostracised by the botanic community for plagiarising another botanist, Robert Brown, who later became president of the Linnean Society and after whom ‘Brownian motion’ is named. Brown commented that Salisbury “stands between a rogue and a fool”. Well, he cannot have been a complete fool, as he did at least spot that the corolla and calyx of common heather are in four parts. However, he never saw a heather moorland like the one we were walking over.

Hawthornthwaite trig point We eventually reached the top of Hawthornthwaite Fell (478 metres) to find the trig point horizontal in the peat. In 2008 the trig point had been upright (shown right) but standing like a tooth whose gum had rotted away to expose the root. The fact that the trig point has since fallen is only of mild interest. The question is: Why? Why has two or three metres of peat disappeared in the century or so since the trig point was installed?

As always, I don’t know but I am prepared to speculate. Peat forms from vegetation dying, decaying, and being compressed into the soil, to grow millimetre by millimetre over the centuries. The Pennine hills have layers of peat that may be several metres deep. Clearly, this process has been abruptly reversed here recently. In the southern Pennines industrialisation has killed off vegetation, leading to erosion, but that it is unlikely to be the explanation here, with the hills being in a rural part of Lancashire. The erosion cannot be blamed on walkers either, because walkers were not allowed here until the Countryside and Rights of Way Act of 2000.

Hawthornthwaite Google Earth A major change in the last century or two has been that these moors have been rigorously managed. The core part of that management is the practice of rotational burning whereby patches of heather are burned in a roughly ten-year cycle so that there are always young green shoots for grouse to eat. This burning obviously reduces vegetation and exposes the soil. In wet weather the soil will be more liable to be washed away, since it is less protected and there is less vegetation to absorb the water. In hot weather the soil will be more liable to dry out, become dusty and be blown away in a wind. And once erosion is underway there may be little to stop it.

The effects of this burning are scarcely noticeable at ground level, by a walker, other than in the variability of the heather. To appreciate the effect and extent of the burning it helps to look at the Google Earth views of the hills. The image to the left shows the moor that we walked over, from bottom left to top right. If you use Google Earth to view the range of north Pennine hills you will find that a great many of them show the distinctive signs of rotational burning, despite being within National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest. The whole area that we walked over, and for miles around, is a patchwork of recently burned heather.

The practice of rotational burning is controversial, for many reasons, but I don’t want to engage with the controversy now: I want merely to point out that so-called heather moorland is clearly not a natural environment. At least, it is rather less so than, say, a golf-course, which is maintained without such destructive practices. In fact, the aerial view of managed moorland looks much like a huge golf-course, but with more variations than its green, fairway and rough.

From the top we walked west across Hawthornthwaite Fell and Fellside Fell. There had been a rough path beside the fence along the ridge top but there was no path here. It was a tiring struggle but we had views across Morecambe Bay to see Lake District rain clouds drifting our way but never quite making it. We passed various peat hags, wondering how they came to be in the condition they’re in. We noticed young rhododendron and fir trees (which the sheep won’t eat) and also a small silver birch (which the sheep hadn’t noticed yet) taking hold, perhaps indicating how these moors might change if they were no longer managed. We also saw a raptor which wasn’t of a species that we can normally identify. Perhaps it was a hen harrier? At long last, we were glad to reach the shooters’ track by Catshaw Greave. Shooters’ tracks do have their uses.
peat hag heather
Hawthornthwaite Fell

Looking back to Hawthornthwaite Fell. (According to the Moorland Association, heather moorlands are "treasured by millions of walkers and wildlife enthusiasts". If that is the case then most of them treasure the moorlands as shown here - at a distance. We saw nobody anywhere on the moors all day.)

So, to return to the original question: must we preserve our heather moorlands? Imagine that in the 19th century some landowners had decided that large cypress hedges were a good idea to provide privacy (some did) and that the practice caught on so much that we now had many square miles of tall, dense cypress forests – in fact, over 75% of the world’s such forests, forming a habitat rarer than rain-forest. Would we feel obliged to preserve them? Of course not. They would be unnatural ecological deserts. As are our heather moorlands.

    Date: August 3rd 2020
    Start: SD535491, Grizedale Bridge  (Map: OL41)
    Route: NE – gate at junction of fences – NE, E – Grizedale Head, Greave Clough Head – NE – Hawthornthwaite Fell Top – W across Hawthornthwaite Fell, Fellside Fell – shooters’ track by Catshaw Greave – N – road – W past Isle of Syke Farm – SW, S on footpath on Harrisend Fell, S on road – Grizedale Bridge
    Distance: 8 miles;   Ascent: 315 metres
    Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 168/400;   Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 10.66

98.  Karren and Flora on Hutton Roof Crags

I am often humbled by coming across people who seem incredibly knowledgeable on some particular topic, presumably after a lifetime’s dedicated study of it. Whilst contemplating a walk on Hutton Roof Crags I read a blog by Bryan Yorke. For years he has been reporting on his observations around the crags, especially on the flora. He kindly gives a list of 79 species of flora that he has found there. I had never heard of most of them but I was tempted to try to learn the names so that when I ventured onto the crags I could proudly identify plants from angular Solomon’s seal to zigzag clover, as the case may be (or even point out Polygonatum odoratum or Trifolium medium, if I had an impressionable companion, which I don’t).

But then I read Tony Waltham’s book called Yorkshire Dales: Limestone Country (Waltham, 1987), which includes a section on Hutton Roof Crags. He doesn’t mention the flora once – not just in the Hutton Roof Crags section but in the whole book. He is much more interested in crags, cliffs, caves and potholes. As far as Hutton Roof Crags is concerned, he enthuses about the karren, a term which again I am not sure that I had ever heard of. These he considers “spectacular” and “on a scale unmatched elsewhere in Britain, and account for Hutton Roof Crags being so widely known”. So, obviously, I must try to find the karren.

As far as I can determine, Yorke’s blog does not discuss the karren at all, or any other geological feature much. Clearly experts have their niches and stay deep within them. They look at the same things but see them differently. I must moderate my ambitions: I cannot hope to acquire an expert’s depth of knowledge in everything. So I set off towards Hutton Roof Crags with some optimism that I could locate the karren, with Waltham’s guidance, but as far as the flora goes I would just set out to spot interesting plants that later I would try to identify from Yorke’s list. hutton roof karren

We walked from Plain Quarry to Hutton Roof, passing the National Nature Reserve of Park Wood, and headed up Blasterfoot Gap. The bracken was high. It’s a shame that Hutton Roof Crags is so overwhelmed by bracken that in many places it is hard sometimes to locate the paths and almost impossible to walk off them. However, we could see The Rakes off to the left, with a path towards them. Karren (or, to be precise, rinnenkarren, according to this website) are long, parallel grooves caused by rainwater dissolving the limestone, the grooves becoming wider and deeper lower down the limestone. The Rakes karren (shown right, with a general view of Hutton Roof Crags further right) were not, to me, a particularly impressive sight. I have seen similar elsewhere, without knowing a name for it, because limestone always shows signs of water erosion although it does, of course, require a considerable expanse of sloping rock, as at The Rakes, for a whole vista of such grooves to form.

We walked up, with views to the Lakes and Dales and Morecambe Bay, dropped down to the road below Farleton Knott, followed the bridleway to reach Lancelot Clark Storth (what a name for a scrubby wilderness!) and continued up to the trig point. All the way we kept our eyes peeled for flowers – but we didn’t see much variety. The most prevalent was a tall, handsome one, with fine yellow flowers (shown left). The centre of the flower was ragwort like a mini-sunflower, from which spread a dozen or so rays, with curls at the ends. The flower-heads grew in clusters to provide a welcome splash of colour to the bracken-dominated crags. I have searched carefully through Yorke’s 79 species but cannot find it there. I will have to email Mr Yorke to inform him that he has missed one.

No, of course, the yellow plant is ragwort, which is regarded as a weed by most people, especially owners of cattle and horses, for whom ragwort is poisonous – the cattle and horses, that is, although no doubt the owners too if they were foolish enough to eat it. Similar may be said of the cattle and horses: they are not normally foolish enough to eat it (Hutton Roof Crags has some distinctive Red Poll cattle, a breed that has its own Society: I think people can join too). They will only do so if the ragwort has been sprayed so that it doesn’t look like ragwort, or if the ragwort is included in hay for them, or if they are desperately hungry. So it’s us that have made ragwort a danger to cattle and horses.

cinnabar moth cinnabar moth caterpillar Nonetheless, the cattle and horse-owning lobby persuaded the government to introduce the Ragwort Control Act of 2003, although it was watered down somewhat when it was pointed out that the ragwort is important to many insect species, including some rare ones. The most gaudy of these is the cinnabar moth. We amused ourselves by looking for its caterpillars, which have gold and black stripes (there is one on the ragwort left, shown in close-up, near right). We also looked for the moth itself, but saw only one (shown far right).

If I had memorised Yorke’s 79 species names then I would still know very little about the species. Most of the names are meaningless although some (for example, spring cinquefoil) give a hint of some property. Old dialect names are sometimes more informative – those for ragwort include stinking willie, yallers, mare fart, summer farewell and staggerwort.

A recent book, called Pudding-Pokes, Flittermice and Bishy-Barney-Bees (Brewer, 2020), catalogues dialect names, many of which are dying out. The title’s bishy-barney-bee, for example, is a Norfolk name for a ladybird. It may seem a childish name to you, in which case I must have been ultra-childish because to me it was usually the bishy-bishy-barney-bee. It still is. In company I feel obliged to call it the ladybird, but with some reluctance because bishy-bishy-barney-bee at least tells me one thing (that its red and black resembled the garb of a bishop) whereas the name ‘ladybird’ is just plain silly. Ladybirds aren’t birds and half of them aren’t ladies.

    Date: July 19th 2020
    Start: SD553762, Plain Quarry  (Map: OL7)
    Route: NE on road and footpath – Hutton Roof – W up Blasterfoot Gap, detour to The Rakes, W – road – SW on road – bridleway – S, SW on bridleway, SE, E – Hutton Roof Crags trig point – S – Plain Quarry
    Distance: 7 miles;   Ascent: 115 metres
    Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 167/400;   Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 10.53

97.  Remeandering the Lyvennet

Part of the Lyvennet was remeandered in 2014. We went to see if there were any sign of it now – and to walk in the quiet Lyvennet valley, which is tucked away in the rural region between Appleby and the M6 at Shap. The Lyvennet arises on Crosby Ravensworth Fell as Lyvennet Beck, flows north for about ten miles through the villages of Crosby Ravensworth, Maulds Meaburn and King’s Meaburn to join the River Eden near Temple Sowerby, having become the River Lyvennet somewhere along the way.

We tackled a figure of eight route from Crosby Ravensworth. First we walked north-east to the ruins of Crake Trees, once a two-storey tower house. It is of 14th century origin and was abandoned in 1881. As ruins go, this one has gone far – but it has returned a little. According to a man we chatted to, a lot of money has been spent restoring the ruin so that it is at least safe – so much so that we were encouraged to walk around it. But why preserve a ruin in a particular state? I prefer a ruin to be left to disintegrate, naturally.
Crake Trees

The ruins of Crake Trees

Howe Beck We walked on, with views of the North Pennines, to Howebeck Bridge, which is over Howe Beck (shown right), and Dairy Bridge, which is over the Lyvennet. It is here that the remeandering was carried out but, not knowing what the watercourses were like before, we would never have suspected. The only indication of work on the watercourses was the fences on the banks to keep out cattle and so enable luxuriant vegetation to flourish. The banks seemed overgrown. On reflection, however, it is clear that this is their natural state. It is the other banks that are undergrown because sheep and cattle nibble and trample them.

A watercourse naturally forms meanders because erosive forces are greater at the developing bends. Over the centuries, therefore, a river becomes more meandering (except when it cuts across the neck of a meander). Most of our watercourses have been demeandered (that is, straightened) at some time, mainly so that riparian land-owners may gain more usable land that is less liable to flooding – although hurrying rainwater downstream may cause flooding there instead. However, a straight river channel, through which water shoots unnaturally fast, is not good for wildlife. The bed is eroded faster, river sediment is less likely to settle, small insects cannot survive, and the fish and the birds that depend upon them will disappear. Consequently, there is a programme to remeander rivers, that is, to reinstall or create meanders where a river has been straightened. Of course, this may not be possible where there has been building on the bank or where the landowner objects.

Remeandering is one of a class of ‘rewilding’ projects that acknowledge that our attempts to interfere with nature have caused problems and that sometimes nature had evolved to know best. Elsewhere in North-West England there are projects to ‘resaltmarsh’ farmland that has been claimed from saltmarsh, to ‘rebog’ moors by blocking drains added to improve farmland, and to ‘reforest’ hills from which we have removed trees.

We next came to the village of Maulds Meaburn. Is it for real? It looks like a Hollywood film director’s specification for an olde Englishe villagee, with a large meadow, a few sheep, a gentle stream, some neat bridges, and stone cottages scattered about on both banks. However, they seem to have forgotten the village shop, pub, school and church. Is there any village life? What do the villagers do? There are a number of footbridges, benches and picnic tables for villagers to wallow in the prettiness, but none were doing so when we passed through. We noticed one house with a blatantly modern frontage. I bet all the neighbours disapprove.
Maulds Meaburn

Maulds Meaburn

Maulds Meaburn is, in fact, an ancient village, with the map showing narrow fields stretching out behind the cottages, presumably a remnant of medieval strip farming practices. The name of Maulds Meaburn comes from a disagreement in the 12th century between King Henry II and the landowner Sir Hugh de Morville which resulted in the king taking ownership of part of the land (within which lies King’s Meaburn to the north) and leaving the rest to Hugh’s sister Maud. The Meaburn part means ‘meadow stream’, of course.

We then walked on past Flass House, which has a shorter but more melodramatic history than Maulds Meaburn. The house was built in 1851 in an Italianate style, with twenty bedrooms, for the brothers Lancelot and Wilkinson Dent, opium dealers. I expect that there will be a campaign soon to regard opium dealers as we now regard slavers. The Dent family left in 1973 and in 2000 the house was bought by a couple, the wife of whom had written ‘Devil Woman’, which was Cliff Richard's biggest US hit. They separated, leaving the husband to manage Flass House, which he found he couldn’t do without the help of a gang of cannabis-growers. The five gang members and the husband were jailed for a total of 39 years in 2015. The house then went to pot as it was vandalised after encouragement by an intruder's Youtube video. (The video is still on-line: why Youtube continues to show what seems to be an illegal activity and why the video-makers aren’t charged I don’t know.) The house was sold for £500,000 in 2019. There were some cars parked but we could see no sign of renovation work.

We duly arrived back in Crosby Ravensworth. An advantage of parking at the middle of a figure of eight route is that you can leave the food in the van and have a leisurely break there in the middle of the walk, which we did, beside a beck (Dalesbank Beck) that runs prettily under small bridges and by the imposing St Lawrence's Church to join the Lyvennet, with swallows, swifts and martins swirling about.
Lyvennet Beck

Lyvennet Beck, south of Crosby Ravensworth

The second, lesser, half of the walk was a simple stroll upstream by Lyvennet Beck, over Holme Bridge, along to a footbridge, and back on the other side. It was very pleasant and peaceful although we saw nothing of particular interest, other than many pink granite erratics. The beck was crystal clear, as it needs to be if it is to continue to host the rare white-clawed crayfish. As far as I could tell, the beck had been protected and straightened as usual, without any major remeandering. I wonder how effective remeandering is if it is only carried out on a small part (say, half-a-mile) of a longer (say, ten-mile) river. If salmon, say, cannot cope with the straight, fast (nine-and-a-half mile) parts then they may never get to appreciate the meandering, slow (half-a-mile) part.

Whatever, I am all in favour of remeandering myself.

    Date: July 11th 2020
    Start: NY622148, near Crosby Ravensworth church  (Map: OL19)
    Route: N, NW – Crake Trees – N, NE – Howebeck Bridge, Dairy Bridge – S – Meaburn Hall, Maulds Meaburn, Flass House, Low Row, Crosby Ravensworth – S by Lyvennet Beck, over Holme Bridge – footbridge – N – Town Head, Crosby Ravensworth
    Distance: 6 miles;   Ascent: 55 metres
    Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 165/400;   Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 10.44

96.  Castles and Towers from the Cross of Greet

The road between Bentham and Slaidburn reaches its highest point, at 427 metres, at the Cross of Greet, which used to mark the Yorkshire-Lancashire boundary. Long ago there was a cross here but today there’s just a large stone with a rectangular socket in it. In winter the road provides a dark, dreary, dangerous crossing of bleak moors but in summer it's an excellent outing, especially for bikers and cyclists, with fine views to Pendle in one direction and to the Yorkshire Dales hills in the other. We went there on a very hot day and perhaps should not have been surprised to find at the Cross of Greet a sign saying “Extreme risk of fire. Access land closed.”

However, that sign was on the gate to the west leading to White Hill. So we walked, as we had intended anyway, to the east, where there was no gate or sign. We walked up to what is marked on the map as Raven’s Castle. There are just a few large rocks scattered about – certainly no castle. But there were good views across to Bowland Knotts and, further in the distance, Pen-y-ghent. We walked on to nothing very much, which is marked on the map as Ravens Castle. Imaginative names, I feel, but rather limited in range.

We walked down over Catlow Fell to the Cross of Greet Bridge (disappointingly modern, rather than old) where there were more signs, but now telling us not to light any fires. That was the last thing on our minds. We were too hot already. So we walked up the track to the shooters’ hut and far beyond. We walked past many grouse butts but saw only two grouse on the whole walk. We were also surprised to see no voles at all, considering that we saw hundreds of them on our last walk – up Crag Hill, over terrain somewhat similar to this. In modest compensation, we saw a single small lizard. I can remember as a boy catching dozens of lizards. It is sad that our wildlife has become so sparse.
Ravens Castle

Looking towards Ravens Castle from the track up to the shooters' hut (the road up to the Cross of Greet is in the middle distance (above the tree), with three cyclists struggling up it)

tower We walked on over Snout Berry Hill up to the fence in order to investigate the tower (shown left). It is five metres or so high, with a notch on the top. A kilometre north-west, near the trig point on White Hill (544m), there is a second, similar tower. And in a line with the other two, there is a third tower (which we didn’t walk to) a similar distance down on the other side of the hill. These towers are described as ‘sighting columns’ for the Haweswater Aqueduct, although I don’t know what their exact function was. The aqueduct itself is in a ten mile long tunnel directly below the towers.

There is no whiteness about White Hill. The underlying rock is millstone grit, not limestone. It is, in any case, overlain almost everywhere by dark peat. Overall, though, there is some equality in the naming of our North-West England hills – there are about as many Blacks (Black Combe, Black Fell, …) as there are Whites (White Maiden, White Pike, …). That is about as far as equality goes, though.

I very rarely see a black face on my walks. Does it matter? I could play safe and let others speculate and theorise about this empirical observation. However, it is an intriguing topic. We once went to see a play called ‘Black Men Walking’. It concerns a group of black men who decide to form a walking club in order to go hiking on the hills. I am restricting myself to men because the author of the play, the rapper Testament (Andy Brooks), did, mainly. The men are of different ages, background and social status, and, as they walk along, they ruminate about their motivations for walking, how it relates to their experiences in a predominantly white society, and the role of black walkers in British history. Towards the end of their walk they meet a younger, more working class, black woman, more bold and edgy in her own black Britishness, who comments pithily on the men’s activities and thoughts. caterpillar

As always with a good play, it was not clear to me what we are intended to make of it (and neither, it seems, was this review in a walking magazine). But at least I can ask: Why are there so few black people on the hills? Black people are, of course, not inherently unsuited to hill-walking. Some would suggest that hill-walking is not something that black people are likely to inherit from their ancestors. Well, all my ancestors that I know of lived all their lives in Norfolk.

Should those of us who appreciate the benefits of hill-walking encourage more black people to join us? As I wrote before (61), I have never been a member of a walking club but I wonder if such clubs feel it part of their brief to attract members from under-represented parts of society or do they just let people turn up who want to? Why did the Black Men Walking need to form a new club? Of course, these issues are not specific to hill-walking. There are, I’m sure, disproportionately few black faces in golf clubs, orchestras, fishing clubs, and so on. Hill-walking does, at least, have the advantage that it is relatively easy and cheap to give it a go. In a racially harmonious society we would have appropriately balanced representations on our hills. So, black walkers matter. [1]

Despite the good, if a little hazy in the heat, views of the Dales hills, it seemed a long, tiring walk down from White Hill to the Cross of Greet. It was enlivened by a sight of an exuberantly large hairy caterpillar (shown right) – if any reader can identify it for me I would be most grateful. [2] We left the moor through a gate on the other side of which it said, to our flabbergastation, “Extreme risk of fire. Access land closed”.

    Date: June 24th 2020
    Start: SD683608, Cross of Greet  (Map: OL41)
    Route: NE by fence – Raven's Castle or Crowd Stones – SE – Ravens Castle – SE, S over Catlow Fell – Cross of Greet Bridge – W on track past shooting hut – SW over Snout Berry Hill – tower – NW – White Hill trig point – N, NE – Cross of Greet
    Distance: 7 miles;   Ascent: 305 metres
    Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 164/400;   Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 10.36

[1]  A reader has kindly sent me details of these articles that provide some black peoples' perspectives on these issues:
    Cadogan, Garnette (July 8, 2016),
Walking while black, Literary Hub.
    Collier, Beth (October 10th, 2019), Black absence in green spaces, Ecologist.
    Pires, Candice (July 13, 2018), 'Bad things happen in the woods': the anxiety of hiking while black, Guardian.

[2]  Another reader has kindly commented that "I reckon it is probably a Northern Oak Eggar moth. This moth has a northern subspecies which takes two years to mature (southern one 1 year). Tends to be noticeable in its second year when larger. The timing and habitat look fairly OK for this. Its pupa (chrysalis) is large and sits visibly attached to plants like heather or bilberry (its principal food plants)."

     95.   Barbondale and the Dent Fault   
     79-94 are about walks from home during the coronavirus lockdown.
     94.   Away from It All on Caton Moor   
     93.   The Brookhouse - Claughton Circular   
     92.   The Small-Leaved Limes of Aughton Woods   
     91.   The Littledale Cuckoos are Back!   
lune ingleborough      90.   “One Form of Exercise – such as Walking”
     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
edisford br      80.   The Caton Moor Hares   
     79.   Sand Martins by the Lune   
     79-94 are about walks from home during the coronavirus lockdown.
     78.   Around Roeburndale   
     77.   Bridging the Lower Little Ribble   
     76.   The Belted Beauties of Sunderland   
             Diversion 2:  These Boots ...   
     75.   To Ward's Stone: A Classic Walk?   
     74.   Blackpool Promenading   
     73.   The Raygill Foraminifers   
     72.   Turner and the Lune Aqueduct   
     71.   Low in Low Barbondale   
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   
             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   
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      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   
     (and here's some I did earlier)

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    © John Self, Drakkar Press, 2018


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