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
(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 an email update after every five items (that's usually after a couple of months or so) - please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some readers' comments are included in the Preamble.
146.   A November Day around Grasmere and Rydal Water
145.   Naturalising the Long Preston Deeps
144.   Fencing The Clouds
143.   Two Days as a Lake District Tourist
142.   Eskmeals: Dunes, Estuary and Firing Range
141.   In and Out of the Lake District, in the Ennerdale Region
140.   Short-Circuiting Wharfedale
139.   Ruskin’s View and a View of Ruskin’s View
138.   Ghosts, Lunatics and Invincibles – but no longer
137.   Bowness, Empty and Full
136.   Green Fields or ‘Garden Village’?
Previous 1 - 135
146.  A November Day around Grasmere and Rydal Water
It has not occurred to me to wear gloves yet this autumn-cum-winter. I checked that they were safely ensconced
at the bottom of my backpack, just in case I might need them on this, the first cold (well, average, really) day
for a while. Surely in decades past I would have been wearing gloves in late November? Or is my memory failing
me? Has anyone else noticed that we are a wee bit warmer nowadays? I understand that there was some sort of
gathering recently in Glasgow to discuss this matter. They even held the event, COP 26, five years early in
order to give themselves longer to talk about it.
From Ambleside I headed past the church, over the River Rothay and up onto the open access land of
bracken and scrubby knolls to reach Lily Tarn. This charming little tarn is not so little that it hasn’t
space for a necessarily littler island. Being near the highest point of this undulating area, it provides
good views of Fairfield and, distantly, Crinkle Crags.
Taking the bridleway south, I noticed a sign saying that the larch were being felled because a fungus-like
pathogen called phytophthora ramorum is spreading a highly contagious disease amongst the trees. I know
how they feel. I then reached Loughrigg Tarn which must have one of the most impressive backdrops, when
viewed from the north-east, of any Lakeland tarn, with the Langdale Pikes prominent. I sat for a snack to
admire it for a while.
I then scrambled up Loughrigg Fell (335 metres, although there seemed to be a lot more of them than on
previous occasions). This is, of course, one of the most walked up fells in the Lake District and
understandably so, since however often one walks up it, one always feels well rewarded by the magnificent
views from the top in all directions, including Bowfell, the Langdale Pikes, Helm Crag, Skiddaw, the
Fairfield Horseshoe and the Coniston Group. As usual, there were a good number of people about on the
fell, most now without winter wear on a windless, sunny day.
Langdale from the slopes of Loughrigg Fell
It is not easy to relate specific weather events, such as a mild November here or floods in Canada, to longer-term
climate change. My earliest winters were in Norfolk and (according to my memory) it was always frosty on Guy
Fawkes night, we always had frost on the inside of windows, every footpath became an icy slide for queues of
kids, and teachers took us outside for snowball fights. Perhaps winters were different here in North-West
England, basking in the Gulf Stream and not blasted by freezing winds from Siberia, like Norfolk.
I consulted Cumbria’s Weather: Your Complete Guide, written in 2009 by Peter Johnson, a meteorologist.
He claimed to be on the fence about climate change but his opinion is revealed by comments such as that, in view
of the varying predictions, “horoscopes … carry an equal degree of probability”. He thought that even if we
were getting warmer that’s no bad thing:
“The effects of a warmer climate would be largely beneficial [for Cumbria], as far less fossil fuel would
be required for domestic and industrial heating. The demand for electricity would fall … In addition, a
longer growing season would be a boon to farmers [and] a lack of frost would benefit fruit growers” (Johnson 2009).
So that’s all right, then. If there’s drought in Africa, floods in Bangladesh and fires in Greece, then I’ll
be able to grow a few more courgettes.
I did, of course, enjoy the view from Loughrigg Fell for some time. One thing could not be not noticed. There
was no snow anywhere to be seen, even on the highest peaks, neither recent snow nor remnant of past snow. So far
this autumn-winter I have heard no mention of snow in the Lakes and, as far as I can recall, no forecast of snow
upon the Lake District hills. Is this normal?
The Cumbria’s Weather book has more opinions than facts but it does include one relevant graph. This
shows the average number of days each month that Fairfield has snow cover. There is no suggestion that this may
have changed recently. It as though Fairfield has had, and has always had, and will always have, eight days (on average) of snow cover in November. Whatever the precise meteorological definition of ‘snow cover’ is I suspect that Fairfield has had zero days of it this November. There are eight days of November left.
To see whether this year’s absence of snow is unusual I consulted Harry Griffin, the doyen of Lake
District writers, who wrote about the Lake District for the Guardian for over fifty years. He had been a
founder-member of the Lake District Ski Club in 1936 and, being a keen skier, he kept a close watch on snow
conditions. In 2003 he wrote
“Where have all the winters gone? … 30 or 40 years ago we could count on up to four months of skiing almost
every winter … Everything’s changing – not just the weather but the seasons. Can we really dream this year of a
white Christmas?” (Griffin (2003), in Griffin (2005)).
I dropped down from Loughrigg Fell to the north, with the perfect views of Grasmere below, walked through the
National Trust’s Deerbolts Wood past Red Bank into the village of Grasmere. It was still moderately busy with
people milling about, although much of it was closed. I sat with my sandwiches, wondering whether the sheltered
inhabitants of Grasmere experience (or used to experience) harsh winters. Griffin’s observations concerned snow
on the mountain tops – has the weather at lower levels changed at all? I turned to Cedric Robinson who was for
56 years the Queen’s Guide to the Sands of Morecambe Bay, which is as low a level as you can get. He led
walks across the perilous bay and his life and that of his walkers depended upon him knowing about the bay’s
weather. Nobody would be more aware of changes in the bay’s climate. In 2007 he wrote
“We seem to have lost our four seasons. Gone are the hard winters I knew as a child when almost every family
in the village of Flookburgh owned a sledge and the snow seemed to lie for ages” (Robinson, 2007).
This is all most perplexing. Two locals who had more reason than anyone to be aware of the weather were convinced
that the climate had changed in recent decades – but an expert meteorologist professed to be unsure. Our prime
minister says that he was only convinced of the reality of human-caused climate change when he was briefed by
scientists when he took office in 2019. But if he had then spoken to his friend Owen Paterson, Environment
Secretary 2012-2014 and climate change sceptic, he would no doubt have been persuaded of the opposite.
It is hard now to be sure what I thought when. I can only go by our actions. Ruth and I have not
flown anywhere since 2001. I don’t recall this being an explicit, principled decision. We just didn’t feel
comfortable polluting unnecessarily. When the Caton Moor windmills were erected in 1994 we were, I think,
pleased that our local hill was contributing green energy to help to reduce carbon emissions. I see that I
have books on my shelf of that vintage, for example, one by Jonathon Porritt, who wrote in 1990 that
“It’s not the fact that our oil and coal will one day run out that matters most. Rather, it is the fact that the Earth’s capacity to absorb the pollution arising from their combustion will be exhausted long before that distant day … Global warming is the mother and father of environmental problems today. The degree of consensus among international scientists is remarkable: a 1.5°C to 4. 5°C warming by 2050” (Porritt, 1990).
Even the House of Lords – hardly the most progressive of organisations – published a Select Committee Report
on the Greenhouse Effect in 1990.
It was written in response to a conference held in Toronto in 1988 at which
the scientific opinion was that we were on course for a 3°C rise by 2030 and that we should aim to cut CO2
emissions by 20% by 2005.
The debate on the report can be read
if you can stomach all the 'noble and gallant Lord' floweriness.
Good Lords, I’m sure that 2030 seemed a long way away in 1990!
From Grasmere I followed the ‘coffin route’ to Rydal. This is a rather fine path that contours below
Nab Scar, well above the busy A591. There were glimpses of Rydal Water but it was not seen to its best, being
largely in shade with the sun now low over Loughrigg Fell. I did not pause in Rydal because I was feeling so
weary that I feared that if I stopped then I might not be able to get going again. So as brisk a walk as I
could manage through Rydal Park brought me back to Ambleside. Again the gloves were forgotten. Will I need
gloves at all in 2030?
Date: November 22nd 2021
Start: NY376044, Ambleside  (Map: OL7)
Route: N, SW, W, SW – Lily Tarn – W, SW, NW, SW, NW past Loughrigg Tarn and The How,
NW, NE – Loughrigg Fell – NW through Deerbolts Wood, N, NE – Grasmere – SE – How Top – E on ‘coffin
route’ – Rydal – SE through Rydal Park – Ambleside
Distance: 9 miles;   Ascent: 285 metres
Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 208/400;
Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 14.72
145.  Naturalising the Long Preston Deeps
The River Ribble pauses halfway. It is quite sprightly as it runs from the hills of Ribblehead through
Horton and Stainforth to Settle. And at Long Preston it is still 130 metres above sea-level, so it runs
jauntily south-west by Barnoldswick and Clitheroe to the estuary and the Irish Sea. But in the few miles
between Settle and Long Preston it proceeds sluggishly in long, deep meanders. After heavy rain the
surrounding fields are flooded and in winter travellers along the A65 can see that they are passing a
sort of lake. This region is known as the Long Preston Deeps.
I began from the maypole by The Maypole in Long Preston, a village that suffers from the A65 traffic
streaming through it. As I walked down the road towards Wigglesworth I could see that the fields were flooded
but not to the extent that they often are. There was a range of low hills to the south towards Hellifield,
and indeed to the east and west as well. The Long Preston Deeps lie in a shallow basin, which the
Ribble enters at Settle and eventually leaves at the low-lying Cow Bridge on the road to Wigglesworth.
The Deeps from Long Preston
The Deeps are a Site of Special Scientific Interest primarily because of the flora of this wetland site and the birds
that nest and feed upon it. After
previous attempts to build flood defence embankments and to drain the fields for farming,
there is now a programme to ‘naturalise’ the Deeps (as described in the
first few minutes of this
video). As the video shows,
the Ribble normally flows low between high, fragile-looking banks that appear to have hardly a protective rock within them.
Unlike the case of The Clouds SSSI discussed in the previous Sauntering, all those involved in the naturalisation
programme seem certain that the version of nature that they are creating is
just as nature intended. What the local farmers gain I'm not sure – except perhaps some
compensation from others trying to manage this troublesome land.
As with all landscapes, it is possible to just accept the Deeps for being what they are – and to
admire (or not) the scenery, which in this case, with a slow river within flat green fields, is not so
exciting. I have passed these fields many times, on the A65 and on the Leeds train, but never once, until
now, paused to reflect on why these Deeps are here. Greenhalgh (2009) describes this as a “unique area”.
I don’t know if it is literally unique but it is certainly unusual to find such a floodplain within the
middle reaches of a river. It is unusual enough to make one suspect that there might have been some
unusual cause or event that created these Deeps. If so, what could it have been?
The Ribble Way crosses the road near Cow Bridge and I was tempted to follow it north. But I had not walked
here before and couldn’t be sure that the path wouldn’t disappear under water somewhere along the way. So I continued
on the road to Wigglesworth, which is a small village with a large pub. The road turns north through Rathmell,
the birthplace of
Richard Frankland (1630-1698),
a nonconformist divine who founded the Rathmell Academy, which was apparently important in the history of northern
religious practices. From the road there are occasional views to the east of the flooded fields of the Deeps
but there isn’t much to be seen from a distance and probably not much more when close by. I preferred
the long-distance views of Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent ahead and came to regret not making better use of
this bright, clear November day – oh, to be walking up a proper hill rather than tramping along a road
beside flooded fields.
To Long Preston across The Deeps from near Rathmell
Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent from near Rathmell
As for why the Deeps are here, the explanation goes something like this. The Ribble used to flow east towards
where Gargrave is today to join the River Aire and thus flow to the North Sea. Then glacial deposits built a barrier
in the Long Preston region behind which a lake formed. Eventually the barrier was breached where Cow Bridge now is
and the lake escaped by flowing west to the Irish Sea. The Deeps have been formed in the layers of
silt that accumulated in the lake. The present floodwater ‘lake’ is therefore a kind of remnant of this
Date: November 4th 2021
Start: SD829585, Long Preston  (Map: OL41)
Route: (linear) SE on A65, SW on B6478 – Cow Bridge – E – Wigglesworth – N – Rathmell – N,
E, NE – Settle market
Distance: 8 miles;   Ascent: 50 metres
Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 208/400;
Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 14.58
144.  Fencing The Clouds
These Saunterings transport a reader to the sunny idyll that is North-West England. In over 400 photos so far there
is scarcely a rain-cloud or a puddle to be seen. There is a reason for this: I don’t go walking if there’s
a prospect of a rain-cloud or a puddle. I am not like those walkers who commit to travel for a walk in, say, the
Lake District next
Sunday and then feel bound by that commitment, come monsoon or blizzard. I am content to wait for blue skies.
On this occasion the forecast of heavy rain, at least in the morning, left little hope for a
worthwhile walk on a visit to the Kirkby Stephen region. However, in the afternoon the sun shone intermittently,
so we paused for a short walk on The Clouds (or in their full nomenclatural glory, Stennerskleugh Clouds and
Fell End Clouds). This is a small area of limestone outcrop to the west of Wild Boar Fell. The Clouds are
a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and are therefore protected under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside
Act, and they were also a Special Area of Conservation, which provided a higher level of protection under EU law.
Harter Fell from The Clouds
In 2013 Natural England, the body responsible for the welfare of SSSIs, assessed the site to be in poor (or, in
its words, ‘unfavourable’) condition, mainly because sheep were eating the esteemed flora. It therefore
proposed that the sheep be replaced by cattle, which would require a fence around The Clouds. This apparently
simple, innocuous proposal stimulated a number of questions, such as:
•  How will the fencing affect commoners’ ability to exercise their rights on common land?
•  What is to happen to the hefted sheep, that is, the sheep reared to regard this land as their home?
•  What about the sheep farmers – are they to sheep-farm elsewhere or take up cattle farming?
•  Does the proposal breach farmers’ tenancy agreements?
•  Would sheep’s diet suffer from losing access to the sweeter grasses and plants growing near to limestone?
•  Would the presence of cattle affect the water supply to local properties?
•  What evidence is there that replacing sheep with cattle will yield the desired ecological benefits?
•  How does the proposal affect the island of non-open access land in the middle of The Clouds?
•  Is fencing appropriate for a landscape with traditional stone walls as boundaries?
•  Who would be responsible for maintenance of the fences and access points?
•  Would water have to be brought in for the cattle, as there are few natural sources of water in the area?
•  Would the cattle affect archaeological remains and other features of historical interest, such as mine workings?
•  What about the ponies that rely upon the minerals and calcium found in the area?
•  Would the presence of cattle deter walkers in the area?
The planning inspector duly wilted in the face of so many questions, most of which Natural England
could not answer satisfactorily, and declined to give consent to the proposal (a rare example of one part of
the government machinery saying ‘no’ to another part). According to the report, the inspector had visited the
site for two days – one day to walk alone and the second day with interested parties. While the inspector
was no doubt competent to assess the proposal on its merits, I rather doubt that two days is enough to
appreciate fully the subtle, special character of this region. Natural England officials probably only visit
the site once every few years to assess its condition.
A more fundamental and broader question arises: What is the ‘natural’ state of The Clouds? Sheep
have been farmed here for centuries, helping to create the present landscape, much valued by local farmers
and visitors, like me. But, of course, it is now ‘unnaturally’ barren, with hardly a tree or a shrub or
even a wildflower to be seen. Who is to decide what is natural? As I understand it, anyone wishing to
carry out work affecting an SSSI must get approval from Natural England (for example, if a farmer wanted
to install fencing) but I don’t know if Natural England has the powers to impose changes on an SSSI (presumably
not, without the agreement of an inspector). In the case of The Clouds, Natural England did not seem to
have an adequate appreciation of all the factors that should be considered before making their proposal.
Anyway, the proposal was rejected and has, I think, been shelved. On our walk we saw sheep and
one pony but no cattle and no fences. The sun shone on surrounding hills and in the Eden valley to the
north but less so on The Clouds themselves. They stayed rather grey, lacking the bright nebulosity for
which they known.
The Clouds and some clouds
Date: October 30th 2021
Start: NY734006, by the road  (Map: OL19)
Route: E – Stennerskeugh Clouds – S a bit - NW - road
Distance: 2 miles;   Ascent: 100 metres
Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 207/400;
Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 14.44
143.  Two Days as a Lake District Tourist
I did not intend to mention these two days here. Our daughter, Pamela, with Andrew and son Cassius, came up from London,
keen to see plenty of the Lake District. But three-year-olds are not fond of fell-walking, so I left
the camera and note-pad at home, since Saunterings is supposed to be about ‘walking in north-west England’.
However, Pamela has now sent us her photos, which she doesn’t mind me sharing with you. So I will.
Here are some of them (plus a few words).
The Saturday had low cloud and incipient drizzle. It is only fair that visitors see the
Lake District when it is off-colour. We crossed Lake Road in Ambleside, climbed many steps to
reach Low Gale and then High Gale, and eventually reached Stockghyll Lane, not far below Stockghyll Force.
The waterfall was an impressive sight after the recent rain.
Being within easy walking distance of the centre of Ambleside, Stockghyll Force must be the most-visited of the Lake District’s waterfalls (or if not it must be second only to Aira Force, near Ullswater).
We lunched at Gandhi’s, a small café that deserves to be bigger. It must be frustrating for the
owners that many more people turn away, or are turned away, than can be served. We moved on to the
Windermere Jetty Museum. Pamela, being an architect, was no doubt more interested in the
buildings than their contents. The
was on the short-list for the prestigious Stirling Prize for 2021. The first impression is of dark sheds
with enormous eaves. With the high ceilings, open aspect, and wood panelling, the museum is clearly
designed to suit its lakeside setting and function. I don’t know enough about boats myself to be that
interested in the museum’s contents, although I am impressed that even with the plethora of Lake District
tourist attractions it is possible to find a distinctive niche, that of the history of boating on the
lakes. I suspect, however, that the café (which can be independently entered) will prove more popular
than the museum. I cannot think of another café in the Lake District that is right by a lake and that
provides such a view, even better, no doubt, when the clouds aren’t so low that they are swirling about on Claife Heights on the other side the lake.
Sunday was a brighter day and we headed first for another museum, the Threlkeld Quarry and Mining
Museum, which contrasted with the Windermere Jetty Museum. There are no new buildings here. We thought
that the short train ride might appeal to a three-year-old but all our co-passengers were of mature years.
The museum itself was housed in a real old shed and comprehensively detailed every mine, quarry, and
type of rock in the Lake District. Fascinating though they may be to mining aficionados, there were, for
me, far too many words covering all available surfaces. There is scope here for someone who knows about modern
museum design to turn this into an appealing attraction. Myself, I was more enthused by the magnificent view of the whole southern aspect of Blencathra.
Threlkeld Quarry and Mining Museum - and (some of) Blencathra
After lunching at Kat’s Kitchen in Keswick (is this the only entirely vegan restaurant in the Lake District?),
we moved down to Derwent Water to take the ferry to Hawse End. Feeling like real tourists now, we could enjoy
the views to Skiddaw, Borrowdale, Catbells, Causey Pike, and so on.
Causey Pike from Derwent Water
We returned home over Dunmail Raise, with the sun setting, and paused at Langdale Chase, of fond memories, for a view of the Langdales.
Windermere and the Langdales from Langdale Chase
Date: October 9th/10th 2021
142.  Eskmeals: Dunes, Estuary and Firing Range
Continuing our expedition around the
western borders of the Lake District National Park (from
followed the A595 and National Park border to the village of Holmrook,
where the border suddenly darts to the west, following the River Irt, towards the shore. It then
makes a bee-line for the small, low-tide-only island of Kokoarrah, just off shore. Why the Park authorities were
so keen to include this part-time island, I have no idea. As far as I know, it has no relevant merits.
Thereafter, the Park border follows the coast south for some ten miles. No doubt,
Drigg Dunes and Eskmeals Dunes deserve protection, which they now have as designated Nature Reserves,
but they are far from the
scenery of lakes and mountains normally associated with the Lake District. According to Berry and Beard (1980), the earliest proposals for the National Park boundaries argued that the “narrow strip of land between the foot of the mountains and the sea was almost untouched by development and was worthy of the same standards of preservation as the mountainous area.”
The A595 continues south over the Esk estuary but we
turned off at Waberthwaite to have a wander around this atypical part of the National Park. From the
Eskmeals Viaduct, we headed for Eskmeals Dunes. The map shows nothing at all within the Nature Reserve,
so we were expecting a featureless, flat, sandy area. In fact, the dunes are well-established, surely
high enough in places for a contour or two, with plentiful vegetation and even some small trees. We had
arrived after high tide, which it is essential to do, otherwise the access road from Newbiggin and the
path to the dunes are liable to be under water. An angler assured us that the bridleway marked on the
map as crossing the river was indeed usable (on horseback, I assume) at low tide, although this looked quite
implausible at near high tide. Anyway, we set off along the promontory’s edge confident that more of the
beaches and mud flats would be revealed as the tide receded.
We spent some time wandering about, along the shore, up the highest sand dune and over to the
seaward side. Here, three volunteers were commendably gathering up bagfuls of rubbish washed up on these
shores. Apart from them we had the promontory to ourselves. It is a spot that may not seem part of
the Lake District but that is considerably more peaceful (usually) than many places that do.
The reserve is home to the rare natterjack
toad and to several species of birds, although we saw none of the former (nor even any ponds that they
might inhabit) and few of the latter. It is also said to provide habitat for over 300 species of plant.
Autumn is not the best time of year to look for plants and, apart from the marram grass and shrubby
trees, the only one that really caught our eye was the sea buckthorn, with its profuse orange berries.
I understand that sea buckthorn is non-native and that it is therefore being removed from the
promontory (so, there's plenty of work still to do). Back at the viaduct a Cumbria Countryside Services van
was parked with on its side
the words ‘Japanese knotweed’, which is also, of course, non-native. We told the man standing by that we hadn’t
seen any Japanese knotweed and he said “no, there isn’t any”. He must have been on guard to make sure
it didn’t sneak in.
From the highest sand-dune, looking south to Eskmeals Viaduct and Black Combe, in cloud
From the highest sand-dune, looking north to the village of Ravenglass on the other side of the River Esk
From the highest sand-dune, looking west across the dunes and River Esk to Drigg Dunes
This was the first half of a ‘figure of eight’ walk, with a leisurely lunch break in the middle. The second
half was a circuit inland, still (we had to remind ourselves) within the Lake District National Park.
We walked south, with the Ministry of Defence’s Firing Range, a two-mile long area closed to the public,
to the west. On this occasion it was not blasting shells into the sea. It is the shells that made me
add the '(usually)' to a sentence above.
We turned east past Eskmeals House and then battled along an unused, overgrown footpath with stiles
well hidden in bushes. We were relieved to reach the lane near Waberthwaite and to be able to stroll back
through Newbiggin and by the estuary to the viaduct.
Now, about that Firing Range. Why is there a Firing Range within the Lake District National Park?
When the Park borders were defined in 1951 the Firing Range was either there or it wasn’t. If it’s the former case,
why was the border placed to include the Firing Range when it could easily have been moved to the east to
exclude it? If it’s the latter case, why did the authorities agree to a new Firing Range within a National Park
or why were they forced to accept one?
In order to seek an answer I asked a relative, Christopher Butler-Cole, whose
family owned land around Eskmeals House and who himself lived there at the time in question. I could paraphrase his reply but it is probably better that I include it here in full (with permission, of course):
According to some written recollections of my grandmother (father’s mother) an
offer was made in 1911 to the family to rent part of the sandhills for use in “Safety in Mines Research”,
which was installed under a committee headed by Sir Henry Cunningham. Her recollections continue as follows:-
So it seems that this area has been used for industrial-military purposes for over a century. There was
an out-of-bounds region here when the National Park was established. Old OS maps tended not to show
military establishments in detail but maps from 1899 to 1957 on-line indicate a 'Vickers gun range' with
'flagstaffs' (for warning flags?) but no buildings within the present restricted area.
The history of Vickers is
complex, with its aircraft, shipbuilding and steel-working interests being separately nationalised
at various times. Whoever owned the firing range when the Park borders were defined, why was it included
in the National Park? Did the Park authorities optimistically believe or hope that the land would be
released soon (as other military land had been) and would revert to natural sand-dunes?
“A committee house was built right inside the sandhills with a light railway running to it, while on the edge of them (nearest to Eskmeals House) was a bungalow for the chief chemist with laboratories where experiments were tried out in glass tubes, before further experiments were made in great tubes the size of mine workings. All the miners’ lamps for the North were tried out here. To accommodate the junior chemists we built, at our own request, four cottages on the main road near Eskmeals station. We called them Falcon Place in memory of an old oak-panelled house on the Workington docks whence my great-grandfather had come to Eskmeals. Then the first world war came and brought great animation to the branch of Vickers which tested man-of-war guns. The noise of their testing was frequent and the first caterpillar wheels in the world were tested on our main road, little balloons were sent up for marksmanship trials, and 200 women and girls came daily to fill shells in a new big building at the south end of the site (Marshside)”.
This will give you the bones of the origins of the range. When we came back from Ceylon in 1947 we could walk all along the shore and directly across the sandhills to the shore when the warning flags were not flying and there were huge sheets of armour plating held upright by mountains of sandbags for testing the guns, by that time, I believe, of tanks.
The range extended some way north but did not occupy the final half mile or so up to Ravenglass Point and we could walk on that part of the sandhills at any time. The building for the chemists and the one for the committee were in my family’s possession from, I think, before the last war, and were I assume bought off Vickers as they were not used by the Ministry of Defence. When the takeover occurred I do not know but presumably before the National Park was constituted. In 1947, and for several summer holidays thereafter, the family used to stay in what was the chemists’ house. The two buildings were called Sandy Gap (the one with the railway to it) and the chemists’ house was in effect two properties, one housing the laboratories and one the living accommodation. They were known as Broombank and Broomclose. Sandy Gap was overwhelmed by shifting sand and I remember in the late ‘40s going into the abandoned house and marvelling at the way the sand reached up to the ceiling in many of the ground floor rooms. Broombank and Broomclose are still there I think, but now in the Danger Area. Sandy Gap was, I believe, demolished long ago, but I haven’t been able to access that part of the sandhills for many years.
In 1950 my parents took over one of the Falcon Place cottages as my father was still working in Ceylon so we were up at Eskmeals for only short periods of time, mainly holidays when my parents were back in the UK. In 1955 the tenant of Eskmeals House (it had been let by the family from 1920) died and we moved in as our permanent home. They left Eskmeals House in 1979 when the Ministry said they wished to extend the Danger Area and purchased the house and surrounding land from my father. It lay abandoned for many years and whether the Danger Area was ever officially extended I don’t know. As far as I am aware the use of the road alongside was never restricted.
The two core aims of a National Park are to protect exceptional landscapes and to enable public access
to those landscapes. For seventy years those aims have been violated by the Eskmeals Firing Range.
Date: September 17th 2021
Start: SD087943, Eskmeals Viaduct  (Map: OL6)
Route: NW, N, W, SW, E, SE around Eskmeals Dunes – Eskmeals Viaduct –
S, E past Eskmeals House – lane north of Waberthwaite – NW through Newbiggin – Eskmeals Viaduct
Distance: 5 miles;   Ascent: 20 metres
Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 205/400;
Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 14.37
141.  In and Out of the Lake District, in the Ennerdale Region
The Lake District National Park was designated in 1951 only after a thorough scrutiny of the terrain to determine what
should be inside and outside the park. In the south, for example, Millom, Barrow, Ulverston and Grange-over-Sands, those notorious dens
of inequity, squalor and industry, were carefully excluded. To the north, the northernmost lake,
Bassenthwaite, was necessarily included but the actual northern border of the park was drawn some
miles further north, for some reason. I am not so familiar with the north-western border – it is,
after all, on the other side of the park for me and why would anyone head there, passing the more
attractive landscapes on the way? We did, to have a look at those north-western borders.
The A66 west from Bassenthwaite Lake is within the National Park until it nears Cockermouth. Then the
border veers south on a seemingly haphazard path across ordinary-looking fields. It then turns south-west through
Ennerdale Bridge before swinging south-east to resume its southerly direction. We paused within this bulge at the
Low Cock How riding stables. Ruth's ankle (which starred in
did not yet allow long, rough or steep walks but I was not so inhibited, so I left her at the stables and headed for the highest hill nearby, Blakeley Raise (389 metres).
I immediately became bogged down in Blakeley Moss, which is best left to the snipe, about half a dozen of
which I disturbed. After retreating to the road, I passed the Kinniside Stone Circle, which is pointedly not in
antique font on the OS map because it is of dubious authenticity, having been recently constructed where an ancient
circle is thought to have been. Blakeley Raise is within the National Park but has few of the characteristics of a
typical Lake District hill. It is smooth and grassy with only a few scattered rocks, none of which needs to be walked upon.
From the top the view east is over the unexciting grassy expanses of Kinniside Common and the view west is over the Cumbrian coast, which is not in the National Park, to the Irish Sea.
Blakeley Raise and Kinniside Stone Circle
From Blakeley Raise I headed east to drop down to Nannycatch Gate and then walk up Flat Fell but I was thwarted at Sillathwaite,
where I could find no footpath signs. Ordinarily I would have marched through where the map says the path should be but I had
no guarantee that there’d be no further problems ahead and I had to get back to the stables on time. I was frustrated because I had
hoped to take the path in the gully between Flat Fell (272 metres) and Dent (352 metres) to see why the former but not the
latter is deemed worthy of inclusion in the National Park. If there is a rational explanation then it eludes me.
Dent and Flat Fell from the slopes of Blakeley Raise
Being so close to Ennerdale Water, we thought it opportune to return to Ennerdale Bridge for a stroll along the western edge of the lake. As far as we could recall, we had only been to lower Ennerdale once before, parking at the other car park near Bowness Knott, and on that occasion it was under cloud. This time we had a magnificent view along the 2½ mile length of the lake, with the hills of Bowness Knott to the north and Anglers’ Crag to the south framing the distant peaks, in particular Pillar and Steeple. Ennerdale Water is the only one of the sixteen lakes not to have a road along its length. The serenity of the scene is also enhanced by boating not being allowed on the lake. Swimming is not allowed either but there were three swimmers, one of whom was a dog.
After decades of criticism that the regimented lines of conifer plantations had ruined the valley, Ennerdale is now
well into a ‘rewilding programme’. This topic is perhaps better considered in these pages when we (or I) have been able to
walk further up the valley. For now, I need only say that the Ennerdale slopes looked perfectly natural from this vantage
point. In fact, I’d say that this view from the foot of Ennerdale is the best of all the views from the feet of the Lake
District lakes. The usual view of Wasdale, voted England’s No 1 view, is actually not from the foot but from half-way up
the northern side, in order to include the Scafells. Most of the other lakes are either not straight enough to see in all
their glory or they have their best peaks off to the side or they are cluttered with human intrusions.
Right: The Gosforth Cross
We drove west to take the A595 south through Cleator Moor and Egremont, two small towns that are not within the
National Park, and we could see why. In appearance, they are quite unlike the towns and villages of central Lake District.
The sturdy white terraces are distinguished by the solid, wide frames of every window and door, painted a different colour on each house. Cleator Moor was created in the 19th century as an iron-mining community, with Egremont being a market town that had been the centre of the local iron industry since medieval times. The iron industry had ended by the 1930s and it would take more than a zip through on the A595 to notice signs of it today.
At Calder Bridge the A595 becomes the National Park border, so Gosforth, where we were staying, just east of the A595 is within the Lake District National Park, although you’d never know it from its appearance. We walked along the main road (which is not designed for walkers) to the most remarked upon feature of Gosforth, the 10th century cross at St Mary’s church. The cross stands tall among a packed army of high gravestones and is decorated with scenes from Norse mythology. One side of the column, for example, apparently shows the Norse god Loki bound, with his wife Sigyn catching the venom of the serpent who drips poison into his eyes until the coming of Ragnarok. It is amazing what experts are able to read into such weather-worn carvings.
And then we settled down for a meal at the only pub we know with a 'pony park' (not that we had a
pony to park) and to spend our first night in the Lake District (just) since 2018.
Date: September 16th 2021
(a) Start: NY057144, Low Cock How  (Map: OL4)
Route: E, S on road, NE on bridleway, SE – Blakeley Raise – SW – Sillathwaite – NE – road – N, NW –
Low Cock How
Distance: 4 miles;   Ascent: 190 metres
(b) Start: NY086153, Bleach Green car park  (Map: OL4)
Route: NE alongside the lake for an hour or so, and back
(c) Start: NY068036, Gosforth car park  (Map: OL6)
Route: along the road to the church, and back
Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 202/400;
Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 14.31
140.   Short-Circuiting Wharfedale
139.   Ruskin’s View and a View of Ruskin’s View
138.   Ghosts, Lunatics and Invincibles – but no longer
137.   Bowness, Empty and Full
136.   Green Fields or ‘Garden Village’?
135.   By the Old Farmhouses of Dentdale
134.   North and South in the Arnside and Silverdale AONB
133.   The Limestone Hills East of Settle
132.   Three Viaducts and a Tunnel of the Settle-Carlisle Railway
131.   A Taste of the Kendal Mint
130.   By the Lancaster Canal and the River Lune
129.   From the Delights of Downham to the Heights of Pendle
128.   Spring around Scout Scar
127.   To Calf Top Top
126.   Return to Roeburndale
113-125 are about walking and walks from home during another lockdown.
125.   “Walking is not a sport”
124.   The Most Prominent Hills of North-West England
123.   Over to Overton and Around Little Fylde
122.   Walking Uphill and Walking Up a Hill
121.   The Phantom Hills of Mallowdale Pike, High Stephen's Head and Gallows Hill
120.   A Walk in Littledale in 1847
119.   Silence, Serenity and Solitude
118.   Coast-to-Coast in Six Days
117.   Empirical Studies into Gender Differences in Hilly and Horizontal Pedestrianism
116.   Are the Caton Windmills on their Last Legs?
115.   Risk, Fear and Pain – or Beauty, Joy and Wonder?
114.   Never Mind the Danger
113.   White Stoats on Caton Moor
112.   Walking around Pilling with Pink Feet
111.   From Millstone Grit to Limestone
110.   Cloughs and Grit
109.   Fair Snape: the Fairest Fell of Bowland
108.   Westward Home!
107.   Along the Sands from Millom to Silecroft
106.   Twelve Ponds and a Power Station
105.   An Autumn Stroll through Beetham Woods
104.   From Bampton Grange to the Lake District's Highest Hills
103.   Bogged Down around Rawcliffe Moss
102.   Upper Ribblesdale: Drumlins, Three Peaks and a Cave
101.   Passing the Time at Heysham
100.   Crookdale and Horseshoes
99.   Heather on Hawthornthwaite Fell
98.   Karren and Flora on Hutton Roof Crags
97.   Remeandering the Lyvennet
96.   Castles and Towers from the Cross of Greet
95.   Barbondale and the Dent Fault
79-94 are about walks from home during the (first) coronavirus lockdown.
94.   Away from It All on Caton Moor
93.   The Brookhouse - Claughton Circular
92.   The Small-Leaved Limes of Aughton Woods
91.   The Littledale Cuckoos are Back!
90.   “One Form of Exercise – such as Walking” to the River
89.   Tracking the Thirlmere Aqueduct
88.   The Lune Millennium Park Artworks
87.   Around the Claughton Clay Pit
86.   Bluebells and Going Round the Lune Bend
85.   The Tarn Brook Heronry
84.   A Loop along Littledale Lanes
83.   Gray's Seat and the View from the Crook o'Lune
82.   A Peek into Artle Dale
81.   The Lost Meander of the Lune
80.   The Caton Moor Hares
79.   Sand Martins by the Lune
78.   Around Roeburndale
77.   Bridging the Lower Little Ribble
76.   The Belted Beauties of Sunderland
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
65.   Grisedale and Another Tarn
64.   Beyond the Leagram Pale
63.   These Are a Few of My Favourite 'Superficial Things': in Crummackdale
62.   On and Off the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail
61.   Knott Alone
60.   The Longsleddale Green Lane
59.   The 1 in 5,000 Hen Harriers of Bowland
58.   From Hawes, in the Poet Laureate's Footsteps
57.   A Blowy Lowsy Point
56.   Cross Fell: The Apex of England
55.   Butterflying on Whitbarrow
54.   Follies around Flusco
53.   Why? On the Wyre Way
52.   Morecambe Bay - from Cark to Grange-over-Sands
51.   On Wild Boar Fell
50.   With the Lune from Kirkby Lonsdale
49.   Lingmoor Fell - For the Best Medium-High View in Lakeland?
48.   With The Grane
47.   The 'Wild Desert' of Kingsdale
46.   To the Point of Winterburn Reservoir
45.   Thoughts from the Towpath (Bilsborrow to Preston)
44.   Interlude: We Are Sorry for the Delay ...
43.   The Red Screes - Wansfell Question
42.   Appreciating Meg and Lucy
41.   Safe in Littledale
40.   In the Borderlands of Burton-in-Lonsdale and Bentham
39.   Halls Galore by the Middle Ribble
38.   Reflections from Jeffrey's Mount
37.   Whoopers on Thurnham Moss
36.   The Flow and Ebb and Flow of Morecambe
35.   Dufton Rocks
34.   Thieveley Pike and the Singing Ringing Tree
33.   Is Nappa Hall Napping - or Dying?
32.   Russet Rusland Valley
31.   Pink Stones on the Orton Fells
30.   Dunsop Bridge, Whitewell and Duchy-land
29.   The Quiet End of the Ribble Way
28.   Broughton Moor, or What's Left of It
27.   The Footpaths of Anglezarke Moor
26.   A Booze by Any Other Name
25.   Mysterious Harkerside Moor
24.   Up Ingleborough with the Holiday Crowds
23.   The Kentmere Diatomite
22.   In the Lancashire Yorkshire Dales
21.   The Fortunes of Fleetwood
20.   On the Sunny Side of Pendle
19.   Viewpoints around Keswick (part 2)
18.   Viewpoints around Keswick (part 1)
17.   Sheep-Wrecked Matterdale?
16.   The Wildflowers of Sulber
15.   On the Hobdale Fence
14.   Logging Along the Cam High Road
13.   The Cairns of Grisedale Pike
12.   Uplifted by High Street
11.   The Struggle over Boulsworth Hill
10.   The 'Hillfort' of Addlebrough
9.   "The Prettiest Mere of All" Lakeland
8.   What Price Catrigg Force?
7.   Castling in Cumbria: From Brougham to Lowther
6.   The Count of Flasby Fell
5.   Circumperambulating Stocks Reservoir
4.   In a Flap at Bolton-le-Sands
3.   Zipping around Thirlmere
2.   The Dentdale Diamonds
1.   The Taming of Caton Moor
© John Self, Drakkar Press, 2018
Top photo: The western Howgills from Dillicar;
Bottom photo: Blencathra from Great Mell Fell