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Saunterings:  Walking in North-West England  121 - 130

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.

     Latest (with a list of all Saunterings so far)  
pen-y-ghent      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  
               Diversion 6:  Plane Sailing on Windermere   
               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  
     Previous 1 - 120

130.  By the Lancaster Canal and the River Lune

To my surprise, the easing of lockdown restrictions has not enthused me to go gallivanting on the hills again. It seems unnecessary, unethical and frivolous to do so, after the experiences of the last fourteen months. How can I justify driving for an hour or so just to go for a walk?

Of the 77 Saunterings before the pandemic, 56 involved a drive (41 of them alone and 15 with Ruth), 18 made use of public transport, and 3 times I walked locally. During the pandemic, my outings have, of course, been very different. Of the 51 Saunterings since March 2020 only 18 have involved a drive, when it was allowed, (3 alone (the last time being over seven months ago) and 15 with Ruth). I have not used public transport at all. All the other walks have been local, mostly with Ruth.

I used to soothe my guilt over driving to walk by reflecting that my carbon emissions must be lower than average, since I never fly anywhere. But every little helps, we are told. However, my stopping driving to go for a walk would be like removing a snowflake from a snowy mountain in the hope of avoiding an avalanche. Our ex-prime minister, David Cameron, one-time flaunter of his green credentials (remember ‘hug a husky’, ‘vote blue, go green’ and the green tree logo?), said during his recent grilling about lobbying that he flew in a Greensill private jet (he declined to say how often) to his Cornwall holiday home – and nobody seems to think that untoward. I doubt that any of our ‘leaders’ has any personal commitment to reducing carbon emissions, despite what they may tell us. With their example, why shouldn’t anybody fly to Portugal or Greece as soon as they can?

I don’t share David Attenborough’s confidence that there is the time and the will to avoid calamitous climate change (Attenborough, 2020). It is a pity that he didn’t warn us all decades ago while he was travelling the world enthralling us with what in Life on Earth he called the ‘infinite variety’ of nature when he must have known that nature was shrinking and must have wondered why. He now thinks that “ecotourism, which enables all of us to experience the wonders that are being protected, can bring a great deal of income to wild places without significant impact” (Attenborough, 2020, p179). All of us? The majority of the world’s population cannot afford to be ecotourists. Prefixing an ‘eco’ does not alter the fact that tourism involves people touring. He's just giving rich people an excuse to pollute even more.

Perhaps my pessimism derives from the simple fact that I have seen few swallows this year and no swifts at all – and I have seen no comments on their absence. Are people so relieved to be vaccinated that they haven't noticed that the world isn't working as it should? Anyway, I doubt that I will resume the more-or-less random visits to points of North-West England envisaged in the Preamble. I will endeavour to use public transport more, which will limit my scope. Visits to distant regions of the north-west will be merged into two-or-more-day stays. I will try to integrate the walks better with other activities, so that fewer outings are ‘just for a walk’. In this spirit, since we had a couple of things to do around Lancaster, I took the opportunity to walk along the Lancaster Canal and by the Lune estuary.

lancaster canal Broken Back Bridge I walked south from Haverbreaks along the Lancaster Canal. It was quiet and relaxing – apart from the ever-present threat of being elbowed into the canal by one of the many joggers. No, really it was good to see people about. The Lancaster Canal follows the contour between Preston and Kendal. Along its length it provides open views across the adjacent fields, except in two places – one at Hincaster Tunnel, on a now-disused part of the canal, and the other here at Deep Cutting, where, as the name suggests, the canal passes through a cutting (not so deep, in fact) through dark woodland.

Further on, near Whinney Carr, I left the canal at Broken Back Bridge, so-called, presumably, because from the side it looks as if the lane above has collapsed a little into the bridge. I then walked west through the hamlet of Stodday, along Snuff Mill Lane (which always used to be flooded but has recently had its drainage repaired), past the extensive Sewage Works (which calls itself a Wastewater Treatment Works), to reach the old railway line, now a path for walkers and cyclists. The Lancaster-Glasson line was short-lived. It opened in 1883 and closed for passengers in 1930 and for goods in 1964. Now it provides an excellent footpath, with views across the River Lune (at a very low tide on this occasion) to the distant Lake District hills and to the nearby power station, pylons and wind turbines.

Where the lane from Aldcliffe meets the footpath I left the old railway line to walk along the embankment that proceeds closer to the Lune marshes. This embankment was built in the early 19th century but whether to protect properties from flooding or to claim farming land from the marshes, I don’t know. If the latter, it doesn’t seem to have been successful as many of the inland fields are always under water. As the embankment curved towards Lancaster, Snatchems (mentioned in 123) was prominent on the opposite bank but I couldn’t tell if it was any more alive.
Lune

The River Lune, near Lancaster

As I neared the end of the coastal path and approached the outskirts of Lancaster I had to step aside from the path while a party of about forty walkers, chatting excitedly, passed by. The man tasked with bringing up the rear apologised, explaining that it was their first group outing for over a year. They were from Blackpool. Well, I thought, if all these Blackpudlians think it OK to travel this far to walk in this relatively unexciting terrain, then surely I may be allowed to travel to walk up a mountain. When I asked the man where they were walking to he replied that he had no idea and that he was just following all the others. Whatever walking I do, it won’t be that kind of walking!

    Date: May 18th 2021
    Start: SD470605, by canal at Haverbreaks  (Map: 296)
    Route: (linear) S by canal – Whinney Carr – W – Stodday, old railway line – N – lane to Aldcliffe – NW on embankment, NE – Lancaster
    Distance: 6 miles;   Ascent: 30 metres
    Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 188/400;   Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 12.90


129.  From the Delights of Downham to the Heights of Pendle

from Pendle We set off walking from the village of Downham, which is a few miles north-east of Clitheroe. The Downham website states, with false modesty, that “It is often hailed as the most beautiful village in Lancashire”. However, we had a hill to walk up first. The delights of Downham could wait until we returned, if we had any time and energy left.

We walked east on a pleasant path by Downham Beck, passing Clay House, which is, I read, “a good example of the revived vernacular style” of the region. Crossing Pendle Road, we then followed a permissive path across Downham Moor all the way to the top of Pendle. I appreciate the permissive path across the first field but beyond that it is all open access land. We don’t need permission to use the path there, so why isn’t it just marked on the map as a path? Anyway, it was a good path, easy to follow and obviously well-used. It provided excellent views across the Ribble valley to the southern Bowland hills and to the distant Dales hills, which we were surprised to see covered in fresh May snow.

The last time I came here (20) they were repairing the path along the top. The result is so fittingly unobtrusive that I can excuse the embellishment of the trig point, now surrounded by circles of stones. We sat on the eastern edge with our sandwiches, with swallows swooping along the hillside, and with the view shown right.

Pendle now has such a myriad of well-worn paths that we felt the need to escape for some moorland yomping. So we set off west, where we found that some of the boggy bits now have straw bales to ensure that they become boggier and thus retain their peat. We found a step-stile in Oaken Clough and continued by the wall to reach another so-called permissive path. We ignored it and instead walked more on the western edge in order to better enjoy the view of Bowland and the Dales (where the snow had now all but melted away). We could also see below us the route back to Downham and dropped steeply down the slopes to pick up the path near Burst Clough. On the path past Worsaw Hill there were fine views back to Pendle. Pendle

Back in Downham, we strolled around its lanes, up to the pub (re-opening in June) and the church. A visitor who had read nothing about Downham and who had been deposited in its Main Street would probably find the surroundings calmly reassuring but oddly unsettling. It would be like finding oneself in a village from the pages of an Enid Blyton or Topsy and Tim book. Downham seems more of a museum or a model than a natural village of 2021. Downham

A Lancashire Life article explains why Downham is as it is. The region has been owned and managed for centuries by the Assheton family of Downham Hall. Their directions ensure that, as the article says, “Downham hasn’t changed since the 1950s”. There are no television aerials, satellite dishes, overhead wires, or road markings. There was no sign to the car-park either, but we had skilfully found it anyway. Surely it is better to help visitors find where to park than leave them to clutter the lanes, where there are, of course, no yellow lines.

The present manager of the estate, the Hon. Ralph Christopher Assheton, 3rd Baron Clitheroe in waiting, is quoted as saying “We agreed to a bus timetable next to the telephone box, but there’s no sign for the bus stop. We don’t need it.” What about those who have commendably taken the bus from Preston for a day’s visit to Downham? No doubt the Hon. Ralph doesn’t need a bus stop sign – or even a bus.

The directives of the Assheton family are no concern of mine but I think I’m allowed to comment on the principle of this arrangement. The Hon. Ralph may be the epitome of an English country gentleman and may have the Wisdom of Solomon but how can Downham residents, while no doubt grateful that the place is kept so spick and that someone pays for work, such as the planting of trees, in the local environment, accept that one man has the right to determine what is allowed in their village? How can one man assume that he has the God-given (or parent-given) right to make such decisions on their behalf? Are there other villages in England where such feudalism still exists?

Yes, there are. The Who owns England? website lists a number of them: Albury (Duke of Northumberland); Eridge (Marquess of Abergavenny); Glynde (Viscount Hampden); Firle (Viscount Gage); Yattendon (Baron Iliffe). At least the Asshetons don’t insist that all the houses, none of which is privately owned, are in the family colours. Albury, for example, is all green. Unless, perhaps, the Assheton colour is white. Everything is stone grey or white, apart from the red telephone box. We didn’t inspect it to determine whether it was a stage prop or functional. If the latter, I expect that it requires the use of shillings, tanners, threepenny bits and old pennies.

The 1950s mirage is maintained not just by the absence of modern appendages to houses but by the absence of modern houses. As far as I could tell, there are no post-1950 houses in Downham. My own village has grown from about 20 houses in 1950 to about 200 now. And it has, like most villages, recently had to develop a ‘neighbourhood plan’ detailing, amongst other things, where more new houses may be built. Is Downham exempt from such requirements? We noticed that Downham doesn’t opt out of the refuse collection services. Do Downham residents pay Council Tax, although they may pick and choose what services they make use of? At all events, it seems unfair to acclaim Downham as the most beautiful village in Lancashire when it is playing by its own special rules that make it hardly a village.

The present manager is the son of Ralph John Assheton, 2nd Baron Clitheroe, who is the son of Ralph Assheton, 1st Baron Clitheroe, who was the son of Sir Ralph Cockayne Assheton, 1st Baronet. There are some women in the family tree too. All four Ralphs went to Eton College. I see from his Wikipedia page that the 2nd Baron was Deputy Chief Executive of the Rio Tinto Group, a company well-known to environmentalists, and that in 1955 he became a Liveryman for the Worshipful Company of Skinners. What an achievement!

If having old Etonians assuming a right to determine whether we may have a bus stop sign and much else besides and having a populace happy to accept that they do indeed have that right results in such a charming, harmonious, local society then perhaps we should try it at a national level. Oh.

    Date: May 5th 2021
    Start: SD785441, Downham car-park  (Map: OL21 or OL41)
    Route: E by Downham Park, SE past Clay House – Lane Head – S, SE on permissive path – Pendle Big End – SW – Ogden Clough – NW by wall, SW, NW by Burst Clough, NE, NW, NE – Worsaw End – N – Downham
    Distance: 6 miles;   Ascent: 425 metres
    Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 188/400;   Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 12.79


128.  Spring around Scout Scar

barrowfield I haven't taken our usual route, the A591, into central Lakeland for eighteen months (since travelling to Grasmere to walk to Grisedale Tarn, in 65). We didn’t take it on this occasion either, stopping instead to walk around the limestone escarpment of Scout Scar, west of Kendal. We weren’t entirely sure whether central Lakeland was quite ready to welcome us yet.

We walked north above Cunswick Scar. It was a warm, sunny, windless day that made it too hazy for us to recognise many of our long-neglected hills. The Whinfell ridge could be identified but the aerials on it were almost invisible. The Howgills stood like distant velvet curtains, with no discernible detail. On this occasion, therefore, we would have to forget the long-distance views for which Scout Scar is known and focus instead on what is nearby.

Taking the steep diagonal path, we dropped down to pass Cunswick Tarn. Reeds prevented a good view of the tarn, which is, I understand, an entirely natural tarn (and not one created for the nearby Cunswick Hall) that sits upon an impermeable slate layer below the limestone cliffs. Past the hall we reached the ancient Gamblesmire Lane, a delightful lane that has retained a fair smattering of wild flowers in its hedges – bluebells, celandines, daffodils, trefoils, violets, wood anemones. It was silent apart from a noisy green woodpecker.

Turning south from the lane we passed some rocky ridges in the fields. I won’t pretend to be competent enough to identify the species of rock – but I am confident that it isn’t limestone. The limestone cliffs towered to the left and the green Lyth Valley spread to the right, whilst we walked past flowering gorse bushes and through fields of lambs with their mothers. Garth Row Lane was another quiet lane, which we left to walk through the woodland of Barrowfield Lot, where there was much less wood than there used to be because of recent felling. A buzzard circled lazily above. I had read in Jan Wiltshire’s excellent little book About Scout Scar (Wiltshire, 2008) that there’s April blossom in Barrowfield’s damson orchard. However, what we assumed to be the orchard had only two damson trees. Perhaps damsons are less valued nowadays. In any case, the damson blossom was nothing compared to the exuberant blackthorn elsewhere. Still, Barrowfield (shown top right) has an enviable location, sheltered within woodland below the cliffs of Scout Scar.

scout scar We continued south around the foot of Scout Scar into the enclosed area managed by the National Trust, where it feels more like parkland, with mature trees, than on the open fell. We came hoping to find some of the flora and fauna described in Wiltshire’s book. The book is organised as a diary, over several years. The trouble is that these selected entries give the impression that the flora and fauna are rampantly abundant all the time. Judging by the number of mentions, we are, for example, in April bound to hear wheatear singing everywhere. Sadly, in the whole mile along the limestone ridge we hardly saw or heard a single bird. It wasn’t that we couldn’t identify the birds (as is usually the case): we couldn’t see or hear any birds to identify. The scar was silent. This normally suits me fine but here it seemed unnatural, as if there was something amiss with the world. This scar really should not be devoid of birds. Perhaps the unaccustomed warmth had led them to siesta. Perhaps the stillness had eliminated their insects from the air. Perhaps there are too many walkers on this ridge for birds.

We fared no better with the flora. Of course, the scrubby ash, hawthorn and juniper couldn’t be missed but we did miss the early purple orchids and rue-leaved saxifrages mentioned in the April entries. The recent lack of rain had made the area so parched that it was hard to imagine that any flowers would flourish. The only dash of colour we saw was from a few plants that gave passable imitations of dandelions. Perhaps they were dandelions.

Scout and Cunswick Scars has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its flora and fauna, although we saw little of it. We saw little of the surrounding hills either because of the haziness – for example, we could only just make out the distinctive shape of the Langdale Pikes. At the ‘mushroom’, the shelter that provides a panoramic view of the surrounding hills, we looked inside the roof of the shelter to study the fine toposcope that shows, to all points of the compass, the hills that may be seen. But the toposcope had been removed, so we couldn't even see which hills we couldn't see. We didn’t mind: it had been a good, varied, not too strenuous walk around the scar.

    Date: April 19th 2021
    Start: SD489924, car-park off Underbarrow Road  (Map: OL7)
    Route: N, E, N above Cunswick Scar, NW, W past Cunswick Tarn, S past Cunswick Hall – Gamblesmire Lane – W, S – Underbarrow Raod – E, S on Garth Row Lane, S, E – Barrowfield – E, S – National Trust land – NNW – gate at top corner – N – trig point, mushroom – N, E – car park
    Distance: 7 miles;   Ascent: 185 metres
    Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 187/400;   Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 12.70


127.  To Calf Top Top

Walking to the top of Calf Top is not as straightforward as it may seem. Calf Top (610 metres) is the highest point of Middleton Fell, the sprawling upland that lies in the triangle between Barbon, Dent and Sedbergh. The recent boundary changes have brought the fell within the Yorkshire Dales National Park although its geology is not typical of the Dales. The Dent Fault runs through Barbondale and across Dentdale and separates the Silurian slate of Middleton Fell from the more characteristic limestone and millstone grit of the Dales. Middleton Fell is more akin to the Howgills but the latter’s southern half has always been part of the Yorkshire Dales, so why not Middleton Fell?

Until recently, then, Middleton Fell did not feature in Yorkshire Dales literature. The fell does not contain any really note-worthy features, the names of the fell and the tops thereon (Castle Knott, Calf Top, Combe Top and Brown Knott) are not particularly memorable, and the only public footpath marked doesn’t form a reasonable circular walk. Consequently, Middleton Fell attracted few walkers. This may have changed recently but probably not by much. The main appeal of Middleton Fell lies not in the fell itself but in the evolving panorama of views of the surrounding hills gained from a walk along the south-eastern and north-eastern rim.

We walked past the dormant Churchmouse, Barbon Inn and St Bartholomew’s and across the parkland west of Barbon Manor to begin the climb up past Eskholme Pike. The Lakeland skyline to the west soon came into view and every step revealed a little more of it. To the east the familiar outlines of Pendle and Ingleborough became visible. Beyond Castle Knott (538 metres) we reached the snow that had fallen yesterday. This snow had been very choosy about where it fell. The tops of Crag Hill and Great Coum across Barbondale were quite white, as was the Ward’s Stone ridge of Bowland, but all the surrounding hills, many of them of greater height, appeared to be snow-free. We could see no whiteness on the Lake District hills, although admittedly it was a distant view, nor on the Howgills, Wild Boar Fell and the north Pennines. But, it being a clear, blue-skied day, we could see them all, which was the main thing. On this our first walk up a non-local hill for some months we wanted to see many of our old friends again, in the hope that we can resume walking upon them.
calf top

The Calf Top trig point, looking north towards the Howgills and Sedbergh, with Wild Boar Fell directly behind the trig point.

We paused at the Calf Top trig point. In 2016 Calf Top had caused a spasm of excitement among the hill-bagging community. The Ordnance Survey decided that its height was not 609.58 metres, as previously stated, but 609.61 metres. The significance of that extra 0.03 metres may escape you, until I give the heights in old money: 1999.93 feet and 2000.03 feet. Yes, Calf Top had magically leapt over the 2000 feet threshold, which meant that it had become, in some people’s eyes, a bona-fide mountain.

However, anyone who stands by the trig point and thinks that that is enough to tick off the mountain of Calf Top is sadly mistaken. The real top, marked by a few stones, is 0.15 metres higher than the trig point and about 12 metres south-east of it (we’ll have to take the surveyor’s word for this). Excellent viewpoints though they are, neither affords the best view. For this it is necessary to walk a little further east for a bird’s-eye view into Barbondale. Across the valley are the slopes of Crag Hill, wrinkled by the various gills running down it and pock-marked by shake-holes indicating the line of the Dent Fault. There’s also a sight of a mysterious dark brown region, south of Short Gill, which seems to have been left for heather and shrubs. Is this what all these slopes would look like without the sheep?
calf top east

The view eastwards from just east of the Calf Top trig point. The Barbondale Road is directly below, with Crag Hill opposite and Ingleborough to the right.

calf top northeast

The view north-east from just east of the Calf Top trig point, showing the Barbondale Road leading to Dentdale, with Great Knoutberry Hill at the head of Dentdale.

The path to Calf Top is fairly well trodden but we saw no walkers, only a group of four runners, one of whom happens to play in the same orchestra as Ruth (when it is able to play, as it may be soon). From the trig point we headed west into the hinterland of Middleton Fell, where we expected to see nobody. A clear path ran past a small tarn and a fine cairn, none of which is marked on the OS map. Nothing much is marked anywhere except some grouse butts a little to the north. We did disturb a couple of grouse but I doubt that there are sufficient to satisfy grouse-shooters. Really, though, it wasn’t what was on the ground that held our attention – it was the view across the green Lune valley to the Lake District, with the Howgills to the north and Morecambe Bay to the south.
cairn

The unnamed cairn on the unnamed slope west of Calf Top, looking towards the Lake District.

millhouse gill

The view back from beside Millhouse Gill towards Northdale Gill and Southdale Gill. We had dropped down from Calf Top on the slope to the left.

We dropped down to ford Northdale Gill and then Southdale Gill, thinking that it would be easier to cross the two tributaries separately than to tackle their combined waters in Millhouse Gill. The two tributary gills are named on old OS maps but not the present one. The OS seems determined to show that Middleton Fell is empty. We then picked up pleasant tracks to take us back to Barbon. Why is this circular walk from Barbon not better known? I suppose the map doesn’t encourage it – and I've not seen it described in any guide-book – and perhaps the bracken makes it difficult at other times of the year – and perhaps it cannot be guaranteed that the becks will be fordable – but for us it was the ideal outing in the circumstances. Back in the village the Barbon Inn had, on the first day for months that it was allowed to do so, opened its garden for refreshments, but we desisted. We are taking one step at a time – and our first mountain, if it is a mountain, since September was a big step for us.

    Date: April 12th 2021
    Start: SD628823, Barbon village hall  (Map: OL2)
    Route: N, E – church – NE, E – Eskholme Pike – E, NE – Castle Knott, Calf Top – W, SW across gills – S, SW - Barbon
    Distance: 9 miles;   Ascent: 515 metres
    Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 186/400;   Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 12.60


126.  Return to Roeburndale

outhwaite wood river roeburn On March 20th last year we drove, with some foreboding, to the adjacent valley of Roeburndale for a walk (78). Three days later we were all told to stay at home. Now, over a year later, we again drove to Roeburndale but this time with some optimism. We are being encouraged to believe that the easing of restrictions will be irreversible. We shall see. For now we certainly hope that our two walks in Roeburndale will serve as bookends to the period of the pandemic.

We parked at the same place, at the head of the track to Backsbottom Farm, and again headed east, down to the River Roeburn. This time we turned upriver, to follow the permissive path through Outhwaite Wood. This is a familiar walk for us, shorter than the one tackled in 78. A person held captive and starved for months should not immediately feast when released.

As soon as we entered the wood we saw a large deer – it is always good to be reassured that deer are able to continue to live in this wood. The wood was peaceful, of course, with just the sound of the river and a few birds. On the ground were carpets of wild garlic but it was too early for any blue on the bluebells – or indeed much green on the trees.

Last March we were puzzled by some new wire fencing that had been installed in the wood. This time we came upon three men who were dismantling the fence. They said that the fence was ‘for pheasants’ and that they were moving the fence to the other side of the river. A multitude of why?s arise but we didn’t ask them. It wasn’t the time or place to debate the release of 50 million pheasants in the UK every year to be shot. Anyway, it is a shame that non-native birds are protected within this ancient woodland.

We emerged from the wood to walk across fields and over the river to reach the road near Barkin Bridge. We were a little disappointed that the sun hadn’t managed to disperse the cloud, especially when, walking along the road past Thornbush and Back Farm, we could see that there was sunlight on the slopes of the Dales hills and the cloud had almost disappeared from their tops. But we heard curlew and skylark and, at once and at last, the world seemed a cheerier place.

    Date: April 1st 2021
    Start: SD600657, by start of track to Backsbottom Farm  (Map: OL41)
    Route: E past Backsbottom Farm – bridge over Roeburn – S on permissive path – Bowskill Wood – SW over Roeburn – near Barkin Bridge – N on road – track to Backsbottom Farm
    Distance: 5 miles;   Ascent: 70 metres


Diversion 6:  Plane Sailing on Windermere

(This is one of the 'Rainy Day Rambles in the Lake District', which are of unknown date and were apparently written for the Cumberland Courier but never printed there. I can't think why.)

From a Cumbria Council Meeting

      Diana Dubble-Barrell (chair):   For the next item on the agenda it is my great pleasure to welcome Mr Charles Smarm, who has just been appointed the head of Cumbria Tourism Services. Welcome, Charles. Would you like to introduce the next item?
      Charles Smarm:   Yes, thank you, Diana. May I first of all say how pleased I am to be here and how much I am looking forward to working with you all to develop tourism in the fine county of Cumbria. Now, my guiding principle is that the tourist is always right. Whatever the tourist wants we should seek to provide. Even if what he wants is not what Cumbria has traditionally provided. Especially if, in fact. That is what we mean by diversification.
      Joss Jenkinson (Cartmel ward):   Could you spell that for me.
      Diana Dubble-Barrell:   Please. Let Charles finish.
      Charles Smarm:   Thank you, Diana. Now, as you may recall, my predecessor received the results of a comprehensive survey of tourist requirements just before he left. Indeed, that may be why he left. Anyway, I have summarised the main conclusions in the report that you have before you. There are many interesting outcomes but for today may I just draw your attention to all the comments on the low-flying planes ...
      Joss Jenkinson:   Damn jets, they give my sheep kittens.
      Charles Smarm:   ... the wonderful terrain of the Lake District, with its long valleys and steep hills, provides an excellent training area for RAF aircraft, as you are no doubt aware. Many of our visitors really appreciate the unique photo-opportunities provided by the Tornados and Harriers swooping over the Kirkstone Pass and Dunmail Raise, with the accompanying sound effects adding a piquancy to the normal tranquillity of Lakeland. With this in mind, and considering that we are now in the 21st century, when punters are looking for a bit of excitement and entertainment, I have arranged with the Windermere Revolutionaries to put on an Air Show next summer. red arrows
      Harry Cowan (Furness ward):   An Air Show? On Windermere? Windermere isn’t a runway you know.
      Charles Smarm:   Yes, I appreciate that. I have visited the site. But we have booked some Chinook Search and Rescue Helicopters just in case some pilots aren’t aware of that.
      Harry Cowan:   Are you sure that you are not confusing jets with jet-skiers? These we do have on Windermere, more’s the pity.
      Charles Smarm:   I don’t think so. I don’t recall any proposals for the jets to ski on the lake. Although it sounds fun. I’ll check.
      Harry Cowan:   But we don’t have an aeronautical tradition in Cumbria, do we? It’s not really part of our heritage, is it?
      Charles Smarm:   Precisely. That is why we must diversify. We must create new heritages. A new heritage has to start sometime. Cumbria wouldn’t be known today for its daffodils if, er, er, somebody hadn’t written a poem about them.
      Mary Bland (Hartsop ward):   Um, excuse me. I have been reading through this survey and trying to make sense of it. It seems to me that most of the comments about the jets are in the ‘negatives’ column not the ‘positives’ column, in the section from page 224 onwards.
      Charles Smarm:   Oh. Let me see ... Oh dear. Ah. Um. Ah. Um. Ah, you misunderstand me: when I said that the tourist is always right, I wasn’t referring to the ones already here. They are already here. It’s the potential tourist I mean. The new breed of tourist. Who wants excitement, action and thrills. Who finds daffodils and walking a bit, um, dull.
      Mary Bland:   I see.
      Charles Smarm:   Anyway, it’s too late to change now. We have already booked the Red Arrows and a Vulcan Bomber for the punters to gawp at. And lots of thrilling action: aerobatics, parachutes, wingwalking (whatever that is), ... Great fun for all the family. Not that they have to be families, I am open-minded about that sort of thing. I am sure crowds will swarm here from far and wide. From Manchester and Liverpool, at least. Those sorts of people expect plenty of noise in the environment.
      Diana Dubble-Barrell:   Well, thank you, Charles. I suppose we will just have to see how this one flies. In the future, Charles, perhaps you could bring your ideas for us to discuss before your enthusiasm carries you too far. Thank you.

Editor's note: The Rotary Club of Windermere began an Air Show in 2000, which may or may not be relevant. The stated aim of Rotary Clubs is to build goodwill and peace in the world.

125.  “Walking is not a sport”

walking “Walking is not a sport” is the very first sentence of Frédéric Gros’s book A Philosophy of Walking (Gros, 2014). Gros should inform the International Olympics Committee. It has been awarding medals for walking since 1908 (the photo right is of the women’s 20 km walk at the 2012 London Olympics).

Wittgenstein famously wrote about the concept of a ‘game’, concluding that it was impossible to give a precise definition of the concept, since there is no one feature that formed a common element of all games. Instead, there is a complicated network of similarities and relationships, overlapping and criss-crossing. Gros is no Wittgenstein. He asserts that “sport is a matter of techniques and rules, scores and competition, necessitating lengthy training … and also obviously means cultivation of endurance, of a taste for effort, for discipline”. Walking is not a sport, he says, because “putting one foot in front of the other is child’s play”.

Maybe something has been lost in translation but this seems extraordinarily simplistic for a philosopher. I’d be more inclined to say that most sports are child’s play, or at least are derived from child’s play: running, swimming, jumping, kicking a ball, cycling, wrestling, and so on. Consider, for example, swimming. Most people can swim. Very few people swim competitively. When people go to their local swimming pool they usually go for exercise, for their mental and physical well-being, and maybe for camaraderie, but not for competition. Is swimming a sport? Is a swimming pool a sports facility?

Is walking less of a sport than swimming? If so, in what way? Some say that competitive walking looks weird – but at least there’s only one way to do it, as defined by the rules. There are several weird ways to do competitive swimming. Is there any other sport that you can do backwards? And ‘butterfly’, what’s that all about? Perhaps, to become recognised as a real sport, walking needs Olympics events for silly walks, as in the Ministry thereof. Even for ‘serious sports’ there’s a lot of silliness or childishness. I find it hard not to laugh at a rugby scrum, especially when it keeps collapsing. However, as the activity becomes more serious it becomes less sport. How often do we hear, usually about football, that “it’s not a game anymore; it’s a business”? Sport is a frivolous activity that is taken seriously but not too seriously. It occupies the space in the spectrum between pastime and business. great north swim

The second chapter of the venerable Baddeley (1880, 1922) guide to the Lake District is entitled “Sport in Lakeland”. It describes climbing (in 187 lines – I’m giving the number of lines to indicate the relative importance of the sport, according to Baddeley), angling (164 lines), fell-walking (56 lines), fox-hunting, beagles and otter hounds (38 lines), golf (28 lines), ice and snow sports (16 lines), yachting and boating (9 lines), tennis and bowls (5 lines) and swimming (0 lines). How many of those have the rules, scores and competition that Gros requires of a sport?

The entry on fell-walking is not as you might expect. It is not concerned at all with walks such as an amble up Loughrigg Fell. It is entirely about very long ‘walks’ up many fells. Fell-walking seems to have been included in the chapter on sport because a few people pursued extreme versions of it, which is odd because none of the other sections are concerned with extreme versions of the activity. The latest entry in the fell-walking section of my 1922 edition is a ‘walk’ of 21 hours 25 minutes over 19 named summits, covering 90 miles and involving a total ascent of 22,500 feet. Nobody can walk that distance over mountains in that time. It was a run, at least partly. It was clearly a competitive activity – to get to more tops or to get to them quicker. Today, there are fell-races and long-distance challenges and, of course, the activity of peak-bagging but most people on the fells are there, like those swimmers in the pool, river, sea or lake, for exercise, for their mental and physical well-being, and maybe for camaraderie.

Does it matter whether walking is a sport? Not really, except that I notice that the government’s roadmap out of lockdown says that, all being well (or at least a sufficient proportion of all being well), on March 29th “outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts, and open-air swimming pools, will ... be allowed to reopen, and people will be able to take part in formally organised outdoor sports” and “the ‘stay at home’ rule will end”. People will be able to travel to swimming pools and then mingle with other people when using the changing rooms, showers, pools, and so on. Whether or not walking counts as an outdoor sport, it is surely safer for me to travel alone (or with Ruth), to mingle with nobody, to touch nothing, and to use as my ‘sports facility’ the natural world.

    Date: March 27th 2021
    Start: home;   Route: various;   Distance: not far (but far enough to see that the herons (85) are nesting again and the sand martins (79) haven't arrived yet);   Ascent: not much


124.  The Most Prominent Hills of North-West England

This one is on a separate web-page because it is too long to include here.


123.  Over to Overton and Around Little Fylde

(I promised in 122 to answer here the question posed there but a rare opportunity for a non-local walk has intervened.)

st helens The government’s February 23rd ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown has not so far led to any change in the advice on the Ramblers web-page that “you must continue to stay local and avoid non-essential travel”. So I have. However, it became essential for me to travel to have the car serviced, even though it hardly ever moves. While it was in the garage I took the opportunity to have my first walk this year not from home.

Nobody would choose to walk on a cold, drizzly March morning along the A589 (Heysham Road) but I was determined to relish the change of scenery, such as it was. I walked briskly for three miles or more to Overton because I knew that there was little of interest on the way. Overton is a small village at the northern end of the road that runs across the tidal marshes of the Lune estuary to Sunderland. On previous visits, I have found Overton to be a lively, sunny place with two pubs, a garden centre, and a school. I anticipated that it would be different on a grey day during a pandemic. I could hear children, recently returned to school, and there were a couple of people in the garden centre, but the two pubs were, like all pubs, closed. They looked like they have been closed for some time and are unlikely to re-open any time soon. The two houses (Overton Hall and the Manor House) that were once the grandest of the village both looked neglected and forlorn. On the other hand, there were a number of roofers, carpenters, and so on working on various properties.

According to Visit Lancashire, Overton “occupies the site of a Roman settlement”. Visit Lancashire is “the tourist board for the county and a division of Marketing Lancashire”, which is “the agency charged with promoting the county on a national and international stage” – charged by the County Council, I assume. None of these bodies would wish to mislead about Lancashire but what is the evidence for this Roman settlement? A number of other websites make the same assertion, in the same words. They have probably copied from one another. The book The Romans in Lunesdale (Shotter and White, 1995) makes no mention of Overton. As far as I know, no Roman artefacts or remains of Roman roads or buildings have been found in the region. I wonder if somebody once confused Overton with Over Burrow (where there was a Roman fort) or Overtown (which is on the line of a Roman road), midway up the Lune valley.

At least we know that Overton is old since it is mentioned in the Domesday Book. Today, the main reminder of this antiquity is the church of St Helen’s (shown top right). Being of the 12th century, it is one of the oldest churches in Lancashire. It must have been one of the most isolated too. I walked to it next. It was locked, as all churches are nowadays, but I remember on a previous visit being intrigued by the novel (to me) arrangement inside, where an extension to the side has no view of the altar. The church building is small and plain, although the south doorway has a weathered Norman arch. Walking on to Bazil Point, I came to a peaceful but gloomy view across the mud of the Lune estuary to Glasson Dock and the Bowland hills, in cloud. I treaded carefully through the tidal debris and walked up to the trig point (31 metres) for its view over to Sunderland.
sunderland

Looking along the Lune estuary towards Sunderland from near the trig point

I had intended to return by walking across the flat area known as Little Fylde when it was an undrained bog, or moss as they are called hereabouts. However, I thought that there was a good chance that the paths were under water so I stayed on the roads. The Lancaster Road from Overton is not a road that people are expected to walk on, certainly not by the surprisingly large number of drivers on their ‘essential travel’. The only light relief from the constant hopping into the hedge was the sight of two horses pulling one cart with five people in luminous yellow (drivers wouldn't be expecting to bump into them either).

After my recent discussion of hills, I should admit that, after walking up to the Bazil Point trig point, I didn’t tackle any of the other formidable hills of Little Fylde (they’re all on private land, anyway). Their names (Byroe Hill, Colloway Hill, Great Swart Hill, Oxcliffe Hill, Windmill Hill) are impressive; their heights (28m, 36m, 23m, 15m, 25m, respectively) less so. As in the (big) Fylde, any rise from low-lying land is deemed worthy of being called a Hill.

Continuing on the road over the marsh to the legendary Golden Ball pub (Snatchems), I was not surprised to find it closed but was sad to see it up for sale. I wonder how many of our closed pubs are closed for good. Will we ever again see Snatchems as it was?
snatchems

Snatchems as it was (from the Snatchems web-site)

snatchems

Snatchems as it is today

The surroundings did not lift me from the thought that we will have lost more important things than pubs. The air of dereliction was emphasised by all the rubbish washed ashore by tides. Old baths, sofas, trampolines, cupboards, you name it, I walked past it. It’s not all tidal debris: people know that there’s rubbish here so feel free to add to it. I’m sorry to say that on this walk I passed a record amount of rubbish, not just from the tides but beside all the roads – and all of this walk apart from around Bazil Point was on roads. When I provide details of a route (as below) it should never be taken to imply that I recommend it. With all the squalor and danger, I certainly don’t in this case. But it was my first non-local walk of 2021. Yippee.

    Date: March 9th 2021
    Start: SD422626, Woodlands Drive, Heysham  (Map: 296)
    Route: S, W – A589 – S – A683 roundabout – S, SE – Middleton – E, SE – Overton – S past church – Ferry Cottage – W around Bazil Point, N – Overton – W – Globe – E, N on Lancaster Road, E – Woodhouse Farm – N, NE past Snatchems – B5273 roundabout – W on Mellishaw Lane, on Oxcliffe Road, S, W, N – Woodlands Drive, Heysham
    Distance: 10 miles;   Ascent: 30 metres
    Fraction of 5x5 km squares visited so far: 186/400;   Percentage of 1x1 km squares visited so far: 12.52


122.  Walking Uphill and Walking Up a Hill

In 121 I said bluntly that the Oaken Head top (height 163m, drop 113m) “is not a hill, to my eyes”. At the time, the Oaken Head top was not visible to my eyes: I was relying on my memory. I now felt an obligation to walk to this top to see if I had treated it unfairly.

So we set off for the top, which lies on the opposite side of the Lune valley from us, on a day that was cloudless but with a low-lying mist-cum-murk that meant that of Ingleborough only the grey outline of its top could be seen. We crossed Waterworks Bridge, walked through Lawson’s Wood, and took a short-cut across the Lune meander to reach Aughton Barns. And from there we began a walk from a height of about 15 metres through the village of Aughton to a height of about 150 metres near the Kirkby Lonsdale Road.

It is undeniably a walk uphill. Is it a walk up a hill? If I wrote that we walked up a hill then you would reasonably expect me to say which one and where it is. The OS map doesn't attach a name to any of the rises in the region, including the highest one, which is a gentle, grassy mound north of the road, a mile north-west of Aughton, near the farm of Oaken Head. Nobody would notice it – except us, who were specifically looking for it. To the eye, it is not obviously higher than other rises nearby. It is on private land but if we were able to walk to the top then I doubt that we would find anything there to mark its eminence. Even the phantom hills of Mallowdale Pike, High Stephen’s Head and Gallows Hill (in 121) had their piles of stones and cairns to show that somebody thought them points of interest, even if the Database of British and Irish Hills doesn’t. No, I don’t think I treated the Oaken Head top unfairly. As a hill, if it is a hill, it is far inferior to Mallowdale Pike.
Oaken Head

The Oaken Head top (with the farm of Oaken Head to the left)

It may seem that all this pseudo-philosophising about something as nebulous as the concept of a hill is pointless. Unfortunately, it is a characteristic of our age, now that we have technology to yield numbers (in this case, GPSs to measure height to millimetres) and computers to mangle those numbers, to try to quantify the unquantifiable and to regard the outcome as necessarily important and meaningful. Who can fail to be impressed that the Oaken Head ‘hill’ has the 148th biggest drop in North-West England? It has a bigger drop than most of Wainwright’s 214 hills!

The Database of British and Irish Hills is not responsible for people (like me) imbuing its data with significance. The database is neutral, except in two respects. First, the fact that it exists at all implies that this mass of data warrants all this effort, and secondly the decisions that have been made about what to include influence what we think are important attributes of a hill. Once the database exists, what use we make of it thereafter is up to us. We, not the database, decide what the significance of the ‘drop’ is, for example.

We must not mistake this vast accumulation of numbers for science. As with train-spotting, we have many numbers but they cannot lead to any theories about the nature of the world. We must not agonise over decisions the database-compilers have made, wondering how, for example, a hill can possibly have a drop of 0 metres. There are 68 of them in the database. We must not worry our heads about Corbetts, Deweys, Dodds, Donalds, Grahams, Hewitts, Humps, Marilyns, Munros, Murdos, Nuttalls, Simms, Tumps, Yeamans, Clems, Pughs, McGrews, Cuthberts, Dibbles and Grubbs. We must not feel annoyed to find, after slogging 400 metres up three hills, that the database considers them to be of no account and yet manages to find 22 hills in my home county, the famously flat Norfolk, including, for example, Ramsey Salt Marsh with a height of 3 metres and a drop of 3 metres (it’s an island). Of course, once it’s in the database it just has to be bagged (you'll need a kayak) – see hill-bagging.co.uk. It’s laughable really – that anyone sets out to climb a 3 metre high hill, just because it is mentioned in a database, and then thinks the achievement deserves to be recorded on-line – so let us too use the database for amusement, now that we cannot get out and about on real hills. Here, then, is a puzzle for you:

        Which twenty hills in North-West England have the biggest drops, according to the Database of British and Irish Hills?

By North-West England I mean the region defined in the Preamble, that is, as far as hills are concerned, the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the Pennines between Bolton and Cross Fell. There are no prizes, so there’s no need to go googling – just think of the hills and consider which have the biggest drop. I’ll give you a little help – of the twenty highest hills (nineteen of which are in the Lake District) only seven are among the twenty hills with biggest drops. I’ll give the answer in the next Sauntering.

    Date: March 1st 2021
    Start: SD543644, Brookhouse  (Map: OL41)
    Route: N – Waterworks Bridge – NE – Aughton Barns – N, NW, W – Kirkby Lonsdale Road – SW, S, W, S – Crook o’Lune – E on the old railway line, S – Brookhouse
    Distance: 8 miles;   Ascent: 175 metres


121.  The Phantom Hills of Mallowdale Pike, High Stephen’s Head and Gallows Hill

In 109 I mentioned that Wikipedia’s map of Bowland shows twelve hills. In the course of these Saunterings I have walked up eight of them but the other four are outside my walking-from-home range. However, the OS map shows to the north of Ward’s Stone three attractive names that are within my reach: Mallowdale Pike, High Stephen’s Head and Gallows Hill.

They attracted me, anyway. I walked up the Littledale Road again, with the low sun, directly ahead, having already removed all signs of the morning frost. I hoped that it would soon remove the clouds that sat upon the Bowland hills to yield the forecast blue skies. Following the permissive path to Haylot Fell, I soon lost the path – and then my bearings, as the cloud swirled about obscuring any features there might be on this featureless moor. Looking back, I could see that Caton Moor (361m) was well in the cloud. I occasionally glimpsed what I hoped was Gallows Hill (about 460m) ahead and tried to follow a bee-line towards it. The going was slow because, although there weren’t the boulders and heather as elsewhere on these slopes, it was mainly clumpy grass, with bogs between the clumps. At least, a skylark, my first of the year, was happy in the cloud.
deep clough

Looking back across Littledale to the farm of Deep Clough and Caton Moor, in cloud. (Looking ahead there was similar cloud.)

Gallows Hill

A glimpse of Gallows Hill and of the energy-sapping, clumpy, boggy land to cross to reach it

Eventually, I reached Gallows Hill, where only the configuration of walls and fences confirmed that it was indeed Gallows Hill. With fleeting sights to the east of Mallowdale Pike, looking quite diminutive, I followed the fence on to High Stephen’s Head (about 490m), which again I could only tell that I had reached by the complex of walls there. Dropping down out of the cloud, I contoured round to the top of Mallowdale Pike (about 430m), with good views into upper Roeburndale but with the Dales hills beyond still in cloud. From the top I headed north to Mallowdale Bridge, crossing a field where I disturbed several snipe, which tells you that it was a boggy field, and heard my first curlews on the moors, which, since it was only late February, may mean that we may hope that spring will be early this year.
mallowdale pike

Towards Mallowdale Pike and Roeburndale from between Gallows Hill and High Stephen’s Head. There’s a dab of sunlight on Mallowdale Pike, the col of which can be discerned to its right.

At the bottom corner of the field I had a decision to make: should I trespass a short distance on the west bank of the River Roeburn to reach the bridge or cross the river (quite a challenge) to continue on access land on the east bank? I don’t need to say what my decision might have been because at that point a farmer drew up on his quad. He said at first that he was checking that I had my dog under control, as a walker’s dog had recently killed two lambs. I easily reassured him on that point, having no dog. He then said that I shouldn’t be here as the access area ended at the wall above. So I produced the map from my pocket, to show him that I knew exactly where we were and where the access area was (unless my map was out-of-date). He didn’t exactly concede but after we’d chatted about where I’d been walking he knew that I was no mischief-maker. I then implied that since the OS map's orange border for the access area is on the west bank I thought I'd have access to the bridge there but it seems that I was supposed to cross the river. As I hoped, he took pity and suggested that I hop over his fence.

I had my sandwiches by the bridge, where a dipper peeped past. The walk back, with a delightful climb through Melling Wood, and then passing Haylot Farm and over Caton Moor (hearing more skylarks and curlews – but not yet any lapwings) was uneventful but longer than my walking fitness was ready for. For much of it, Mallowdale Pike, High Stephen’s Head and Gallows Hill were on the skyline opposite, but there was still cloud beyond.

Why weren’t one or more of these names on Wikipedia’s map? Are they not significant hills? Indeed, what exactly is a hill? There are many everyday words to describe our landscape: beach, bog, moor, stream, village, wood, and so on. We don’t insist on a precise definition of them. Unless we’re a scientist, in which case we need to define, for example, ‘bog’, ‘fen’, ‘mire’, ‘marsh’ and different varieties of them in order to ensure that our words are not misunderstood. And unless we’re a ‘bagger’, that is, someone who aims to visit instances of a class to tick them off on a list.

A hill-bagger needs a definition of a hill. This is usually in terms of two factors: the height and the drop. The height is, of course, the height above sea-level, although the height above the starting point for a walk up is more relevant to a walker! The drop of a hill is the minimum vertical height you have to lose when walking from its top to any higher hill. For example, the drop of Scafell (height 964m) is 132m because that is the minimum height you have to walk down before you can walk up Scafell Pike (978m). The drop of Scafell Pike is 912m. You’d have to walk down at least that much before walking up, say, Ben Nevis.

Quite small hills can have significant drops. For example, Arnside Knott (159m) has a drop of 151m. The drop is the usual measure for deciding whether a rise is an independent hill or merely a pimple on the slope of a higher hill. For example, walking down the southern ridge from Helvellyn we pass Nethermost Pike (891m, drop 29m), High Crag (884m, drop 9m) and Dollywaggon Pike (859m, drop 50m). If we require a drop of 30m (the usual criterion) for an independent hill then of the three only Dollywaggon Pike qualifies. A hill (of any height) with a drop of at least 30m is called a ‘tump’ (thirty and upwards metres prominence). Other species of hill may be generated by varying the height and drop requirements.

Does a tump correspond with our everyday, subjective sense of a hill? I’m sure everyone would agree that Arnside Knott is a hill even though it is not very high. And not many would insist that Nethermost Pike is an independent hill, despite its height. However, in 103 I walked to (I’d hardly say up) Trashy Hill (about 10m, drop about 4m) in the Fylde. Despite its name, it’s not a tump or a hill by any reasonable objective definition. For its residents its ‘hilliness’ was crucial. That drop of 4m meant that they had relatively solid ground to walk upon, not the flat bog that surrounded them. This suggests that what is considered a hill depends upon the context.

The focus upon the height and the drop ignores any aesthetic factors. Some hills have an appealing conical shape (from some viewpoints). Some hills are more enjoyable to walk up than others – although we won’t agree on which ones. Some hills enable better views. Which of Skiddaw (931m, drop 709m), Skiddaw South Top (925m, drop 4m) and Latrigg (368m, drop 73m) provides the best view?

What about Clougha Pike, walked up in 110? It’s in the Wikipedia 12. And it certainly looks like a hill as you walk up it, with its peak and trig point on the sky-line. However, when you reach the top you find that you don’t need to lose much height to walk on up to Grit Fell. The trudge to Grit Fell adds little to the enjoyment of climbing Clougha Pike and the view from there is worse. Grit Fell (468m, drop 31m) is a tump; Clougha Pike (416m, drop 5m) isn’t. Similarly, consider Winder (473m), near Sedbergh. It looks like a hill from Sedbergh. What happens on the other side of Winder – whether it drops down or continues up – is irrelevant to the perception of hilliness. In fact, it drops 32m. Would it be less of a hill if its drop were 29m?

So there are non-tumps that I would consider hills. Are there tumps that I would consider non-hills? The B6254 (the Kirkby Lonsdale Road) runs through undulating terrain for about ten miles between Halton and Kirkby Lonsdale. The OS map gives spot heights for about fifty rises. Nobody could name the highest of them, for the simple reason that it has no name. The highest point (163m) of the region is in fact in a field east of Oaken Head. Nearby there are high-points of 159m, 153m, 153m, 150m, 149m, and so on. The Oaken Head top is not a hill, to my eyes, but its drop is 115m! Maybe I should think of the whole ten-mile ridge as a hill?
mp, hsh, gh

Mallowdale Pike to the left, with the nobbles of High Stephen's Head and Gallows Hill on the sky-line (or cloud-line, as I'm not sure they'd be on the sky-line if there weren't cloud behind)

What of Gallows Hill, High Stephen’s Head and Mallowdale Pike? From below, Gallows Hill looks like a hill but from it there is a drop of no more than 2m, I’d say, to reach High Stephen’s Head although it’s hard to tell what’s horizontal by eye, especially in cloud. High Stephen’s Head was in cloud but seemed to drop 5m or more before rising to Ward’s Stone. I approached Mallowdale Pike from the south over its highest col and it is surely a good 10m rise to the top. Seen from the north, its striking conical shape make it look every inch a hill.

Fortunately, there is a Database of British and Irish Hills. It’s a monumental piece of work, diligently created over decades to provide definitive data about all our hills, all 21,192 of them. Clougha Pike is in the database (but is not a tump, as said above) but I can find no mention of Mallowdale Pike, High Stephen’s Head or Gallows Hill. They are not hills, according to this database. Well, I don’t care what the database, the number-crunchers, the technology, the surveyors and the hill-baggers say – they are all hills for me. In fact, I’d say that Clougha Pike and Mallowdale Pike are among the best hills of Bowland.

    Date: February 26th 2021
    Start: SD543644, Brookhouse  (Map: OL41)
    Route: S, SW on Littledale Road – New House Farm – E past Littledale Hall – Ragill Beck – SE on permissive path – Haylot Fell – SE – Gallows Hill, High Stephen’s Head – E, N – Mallowdale Pike – N – (note the comments above) Mallowdale Bridge – W, N, W – Haylot Farm – NW, W – cattle grid – N, NW on bridleway, W on Quarry Road – Brookhouse
    Distance: 12 miles;   Ascent: 430 metres


P.S. Just for the record, among the 21,192 hills of the database there are (I make it) 35 hills with a height over 200m and a drop over 30m within the boundaries of Bowland. This then is a list of the hills of Bowland:

                                   height   grid ref   drop
    Ward's Stone                     563    SD591587    395     75
    Pendle Hill                      557    SD804414    395     20
    Longridge Fell - Spire Hill      350    SD657410    242        
    Fair Snape Fell                  521    SD597472    226    109
    Easington Fell                   396    SD730486    194
    White Hill                       544    SD673587    159     96
    Whins Brow                       476    SD636532    134     59
    Caton Moor                       361    SD583639    128     94
    Middle Knoll                     395    SD654543     99
    Beacon Fell                      267    SD570427     94        
    Nicky Nook                       215    SD519485     90        
    Bowland Knotts                   430    SD722603     87
    Wheathead Height                 389    SD839427     75
    Hawthornthwaite Fell Top         479    SD580515     66     99
    Holden Moor [Whelp Stone Crag]   371    SD759591     66
    Hailshowers Fell/Ravens Castle   486    SD697608     65     96
    Mellor Knoll                     344    SD647495     61        
    Baxton Fell                      469    SD671560     56
    Ling Hill                        290    SD758534     53        
    Totridge                         496    SD634487     52
    Waddington Fell                  395    SD714475     51
    Mossthwaite Fell                 244    SD669494     48        
    Kitcham Hill                     283    SD669480     44     30
    Beacon Hill                      305    SD753480     42        
    Wolfhole Crag                    527    SD633578     39
    Parlick                          432    SD595450     39    109
    Boarsden Moor [Hund Hill]        245    SD677509     38        
    Burn Moor                        402    SD694645     36
    Top of Blaze Moss                424    SD619524     35
    Marl Hill Moor                   311    SD695466     35        
    The Cragg                        214    SD547617     35     91
    Stang Top Moor                   327    SD831412     34        
    Long Knots                       256    SD643472     34        
    Barnacre Moor                    219    SD533476     33        
    Grit Fell                        468    SD557587     31    110
    

caton moor      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?   
               Diversion 5:  The Duke of Westminster’s A to Z   
     115.   Risk, Fear and Pain – or Beauty, Joy and Wonder?   
     114.   Never Mind the Danger   
     113.   White Stoats on Caton Moor   
               113-125 are about walking and walks from home during another lockdown.
     112.   Walking around Pilling with Pink Feet   
     111.   From Millstone Grit to Limestone   
howgills      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   
               Diversion 4:  You Don't Need a Weatherman ...   
     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   
hawthornthwaite fell      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 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” to the River
     89.   Tracking the Thirlmere Aqueduct
     88.   The Lune Millennium Park Artworks
     87.   Around the Claughton Clay Pit
     86.   Bluebells and Going Round the Lune Bend
             Diversion 3:  The Fairy Fell Roundelay (Rainy Day Walk No. 3251)   
     85.   The Tarn Brook Heronry
     84.   A Loop along Littledale Lanes
     83.   Gray's Seat and the View from the Crook o'Lune
     82.   A Peek into Artle Dale
     81.   The Lost Meander of the Lune
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   

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    © John Self, Drakkar Press, 2018

Blencathra

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