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Monday, May 28, 2012

Pendle Hill from Downham

Walking with; Nobody

Pendle, old Pendle, thou standest alone.
Twixt Burnley and Clitheroe, Whalley and Colne,
Where Hodder and Ribble's fair waters do meet
With Barley and Downham content at thy feet

Pendle Hill truly does stand alone, an imposing monolith towering over the impossibly picturesque village of Downham. For all the associations with witches and the supernatural (, in the bright and glorious sunshine of an unseasonably warm May morning Pendle Hill sat like a benign giant and off I set. The path from Downham took me across farmland passing wooded glades filled with Bluebells and Wild Garlic. Passing under Worsaw Hill I followed a brook along as far as Worston where there were some beautiful cottages and plenty more Wild Garlic and Cow Parsley. I followed the narrow lane, encountering no traffic and plenty more wildflowers including Forget-me-not and Rose Bay Willowherb, before striking off onto the lower slopes of Pendle Moor and climbing very steeply (and sweatily) to a fine vantage (and resting) point. Pendle Moor acts as a plateau and after following a stream for a while the path climbed steeply again towards a cairn on the edge of the broad, fairly featureless summit. Pendle Hill is well known for difficult navigation in tricky conditions but today with not a cloud in the sky, the whole summit plateau spread out before me, as did spectacular, if slightly hazy, views back into the Ribble Valley. I passed the Scout Cairn and continued on across moorland with not a soul in sight until I reached the stone wind shelter and decided that it offered a modicum of shade and would make a decent spot for lunch accompanied by Skylark, Curlew and Meadow Pippit.
Fuelled by cheese and my Granny's excellent Green Tomato chutney I crossed the boggy plateau and headed to the summit. The summit, on the Barley side, was much busier with a couple of groups enjoying the views over the Black Moss reservoirs, so I didn't stay long but retraced my steps back towards the open land before striking off on a descending track above Downham Moor. It was easy, but warm, walking and as I crossed the moor there were plenty of lambs and sheep but not many people even on such a spectacular day. The path continued down through farmland before following the stream back into Downham passing many more beautiful cottages.
Downham is part of the estate of the Assheton family and is reckoned by many to be the prettiest village in Lancashire with no phone lines, electrical lines or satellite dishes, giving it a olde world charm that the pub and tea rooms trade on (and judging by their business do very well from......). The Assheton family have owned the manor since 1588 and have a small private chapel in St Leonard's Church as well as several stained glass windows dedicated to various of their clan. It's unspoilt nature makes it popular with TV and film crews and "Whistle Down the Wind" was mostly shot in the area, as well as, more recently, the TV series Born and Bred. After a wander round the church and graveyard I refreshed myself with a coffee in the sunshine and basked not only in the sun, but in the reflected glory of conquering Old Pendle!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Old Man of Coniston

Walking with; Nobody

I think it is the name that has always made me yearn to climb the "Old Man", it has a benign sounding feel at odds to the exposure to the elements that summiting it can chuck at you. The peak itself is at 803 metres which means it just squeezes into the top forty mountains in England! The peak is supposed to be the inspiration for "Kanchenjunga", the mountain climbed by the Swallows and Amazons in Arthur Ransome's book "Swallowdale". It is also a mountain very much shaped by man (as indeed is most of the Lake District). It is estimated that slate has been quarried on the mountain since Norman times, not to mention sheep being grazed on the slopes and copper mining which began towards the end of the 16th Century. Coniston itself is a pretty village, less busy than Ambleside and Bowness, but well supplied with pubs and nowadays famous for Donald Campbell and his tragic attempt on the World Water speed records. Many years before Campbell though it was John Ruskin though who bought fame to the village and who lived in the spectacular Brantwood on the shores of Coniston Water, the third largest lake in England.
I set out from the village green in reasonable sunshine and ascended past The Sun hotel, the path ran alongside the fast flowing Church Beck and up towards the ruins of the old coppermines now home to a YHA and some beautifully situated holiday homes. There were plenty of Herdwick Sheep and every stream was full of water swelling the falls into picturesquely spectacular cataracts. The steady climb upwards took me through the abandoned slate workings and up into the clouds before stopping for lunch at Low Water, a well situated tarn at the bottom of a bowl below the Old Man. The path to the summit took me into the clouds as it zig zagged up the side with occasional views back towards the village and the lake. The summit was wind blasted and the cloud was down so after a brief stop for the obligatory photo it was onwards along the ridge before dropping down to Goat Hause and then after a steep descent to the moodily situated Goat Water in the valley between the Old Man and the forbidding rockfaces of Dow Crag. I continued onto Little Arrow Moor and across the Walna Scar Road before hitting another quarry (complete with spectacular waterfall) and then continuing onto the village of Torver.
Torver saw the heavens open and I pressed on in the pouring rain towards the lake. I passed through the beautiful woodland of Torver Common where the Oaks and Birch were coming into leaf with the vibrant pale green that only comes with early spring before emerging on the lakeside at the exact spot where a group were barbecuing under a huge tarpaulin and the smells of cooking meat hurried me onward. The path hugged the lakeside with fine views of Brantwood until I hit Coniston Hall and cut inland back to the village through fields of Herdwick Sheep and their lambs to The Crown Inn for a pint and some welcome shelter from the deluge.
I had planned to stay in the YHA for a night and attempt another walk the next day but car problems meant I had to leave Coniston behind and head home a day early, however my appetite is now whetted and I can't wait to be back in this part of the world!
To view the full album for this walk please click on the link below;

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Malham Tarn

Walking with; Ruthy

Malham is a tiny hamlet at the Southern end of the Yorkshire Dales, but it has a big reputation and attracts a lot of visitors. There  has been a settlement on the site for over one thousand years and it is named in the Domesday Book as Malgun. It's main claim to fame are the limestone formations in the area, the notable limestone pavements and the magnificent curving amphitheatre of Malham Cove. The village also found cinematic fame when it was used as one of the filming locations for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One. We were heading towards a well known but slightly less popular sight, about three miles from the village down ever narrowing lanes, Malham Tarn, the highest lake in England at 377 metres above sea level and a site of Special Scientific Interest. The limestone has made the lake very akaline and this has led to an unusual habitat. It is said that the Tarn was the inspiration for Charles Kingsley when he wrote "The Water Babies" and it certainly has a certain mystical quality to it.
   After parking up near the Tarn we headed across to Malham Moor and across the rough, tussocky access land to the Smelt Mill Chimney, a restored reminder of the industrial past of the area and a notable local landmark that made for an easy target. The chimney was used to remove poisonous fumes from the smelting of lead, copper and zinc carbonate, but the bitter wind blowing off the moor was a lot purer today! We carried on along the ridge with views of the Tarn before dropping down across Dean Moor and crossing the road at Water Sinks onto The Pennine Way. The Way loops round the lake and we had good views of a Curlew sheltering in the lee of more impressive limestone cliffs. The path led through some woodland (helping to provide a little protection from the rain) to the Tarn House which is now used as a centre for Field Studies. The house was originally a hunting lodge for the Lister family. In 1852 it was bought by James Morrison, a prominent MP,  and then five years later inherited by his son, Walter. Walter loved the house and spent a lot of time there and extended the building considerably to something approaching the current form ( We headed down from the house and after a brief, but fruitless, stop at the bird hide we pressed on to the newly constructed boardwalk winding for nearly a mile over the top of a boggy moorland liberally sprinkled with Marsh Marigolds, the occasional Early Purple Orchid and home to a couple of beautiful Pheasant. By this time the rain was coming down pretty hard and we were glad to make the sanctuary of our car. We drove back through the throngs in Malham and away damp but content and en route to "The White Bull" in Gisburn for an excellent fish and chips.
To view the full album for this walk, please click on the link below;!/media/set/?set=oa.212633265522253&type=1

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A split shift stroll to South Head

Walking with; Nobody
Split shifts are not my favourite thing, but the advantage of working in Castleton is that given a spare five hours between cleaning dormitories and cooking dinners there is some magnificent landscape out on my door step. Last week from Lantern Pike I'd had fantastic views across towards Kinder and South Head, so this week I decided to head up to South Head and return the compliment.
I parked up on the layby on the road between Castleton and Chapel-En-Le-Frith and set off on the Pennine Bridleway. One of the advantages of this route was that the intended target, South Head, was in view all the way making it easy to gauge my progress. The Bridleway is rough but easy walking in spite of the ups and downs, however it is very busy with a variety of horse riders, off road bikers and a lot of mountain bikers (most of whom seemed to be gentlemen of a certain age clad in lycra and in the midst of some kind of mid-life crisis involving throwing themselves down the hill at high speed........). The path dropped down to a valley floor where a stream crossed it before the long but steady ascent to the boundary of the High Peak. The last 100 metres is straight up, very steep and provides magnificent 360 degree views stretching for miles. Maybe it was because of the steepness of the last ascent but I had the summit to myself and nestled down in the lee of the cairn for a sandwich and drink and the spectacular vista of Mount Famine and Kinder Scout. I returned the same way but there is serious potential to head onwards from this spot.
So, split shifts may not end up being too much of a bad thing in the end as the accessibility of this kind of spectacular countryside from my (workplace's) doorstep is a real boon almost worth the one hour each way commute! I get the feeling this could become a regular lunch spot!
To view the full photo album for this walk please click on the link below;

Thursday, May 3, 2012

3 Shire Heads with the Peak District Walking Festival

Walking with; The Peak District Walking Festival

Having tried to book a spot on The Roaches walk only to be told it was full, the Staffs rangers suggested that this outing would showcase the Staffordshire countryside equally well and they were definitely right. The walk was led by John Mills an experienced walker, caver and fell runner with 30 years of experience leading on the Staffordshire moors and there were eight of us accompanying him. The walk started from the remote hamlet of Gradbach on the banks of the River Dane, it was once famous for the old silk mill which is now the Youth Hostel. We climbed up through farmland towards Turn Edge passing fields of lambs, remote farms and the ruins of many barns and stone walls. It is clear the area has been farmed for many generations and some of the farms were very remote and looked battered by the elements. The path below Turn Edge led to Three Shires Head, the point where Staffordshire, Cheshire and Derbyshire meet at an old packhorse bridge over the river, next to a spot called Pannier's Pool. Apparently it was once a popular site for prizefighting and the whole area has a fairly nefarious past. John regaled us with tales of a murderous family who once lived in the area and preyed on travellers murdering them, stealing their possessions and burning their bodies in their kilns. The border area was popular with local criminals in the days when police jurisdiction was restricted to their county alone and they couldn't pursue miscreants across the boundaries. We continued over moorland putting up a few lapwing and curlew to reach Wolf Edge for a spot of lunch.The cloud had descended at this point and it was pretty chilly so we didn't stop for long and instead headed onto Flash which, sitting at 1500 feet, claims to be the highest village in England. Flash was once famous for the counterfeit money trade and has given it's name to the Flash men as shady characters were once known. Sadly, the village has a pretty run down air to it nowadays and, with the pub closed, we headed through it pretty swiftly and descended towards the beautifully named Flash Bottom.
After ascending Gib Tor for great views over towards The Roaches we skirted the forest plantation and crossed the moorland of Black Brook Nature Reserve towards the Bald Stone. One of the group told us that this area was supposed to have been the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle's "Lost World" and it certainly had an ancient feel to it, although I was put more in mind of the "Hound of the Baskervilles" or some Stone Age tribes making sacrifices on a rock altar. There were more fantastic views from there and after drinking them in we descended across yet more boggy moorland towards the Dane Valley. We passed the Scout camp and the YHA as the rain started to pour down before heading back into Gradbach and the sanctuary of my car. I'd never realised just how wild this area of Staffordshire was and will definitely be returning to explore it further!
To view the full album please click on the link below;

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Lantern Pike from Hayfield

Walking with; Nobody

I was due to be heading out on my Silver Navigation course but it was unfortunately cancelled at the last minute leaving me stranded in New Mills with full kit. The sun was, none-the-less, shining and I felt it was too good a chance to miss and not to get out and about in the hills. I parked at the head of the Sett Valley trail and started off down the track which follows the route of the old branch line between Hayfield and New Mills and was lined with bluebells, cow parsley, forget-me-nots and celandines. It is a busy route, probably due to its flatness and relatively short length, and there were plenty of bikes, pedestrians and horses for company.
After about a mile The Pennine Bridleway leaves the trail and heads sharply up the side of the valley towards Lantern Pike. The path starts off quite roughly before it becomes smoother but continues to head steeply up. A short scramble along a dry stone wall bought me onto the very windy summit with spectacular 360 degree views taking in seven counties not to mention the vast brooding bulk of the Kinder Plateau. It was a pretty spectacular spot and I had it to myself as I hunkered down in a sheltered spot amongst the rough heather for a bit of lunch. I followed the track on downhill towards the junction of five paths at Blackshaw Farm. Continuing forward on the Pennine Bridleway I followed the track as far as Matley Moor before setting off across the boggy land putting up a Lapwing en route to the farmland on the other side. My loop then led me back past Knarrs and along a narrow path above the wooded valley of Hey Brows where I saw a beautiful pair of Wheatears sitting on a stone wall. I carried on past a couple of pig sties full of wallowing sows and piglets and then headed back to the Blackshaw Farm junction. I decided to follow the path home via the hamlet of Little Hayfield with its beautiful converted mill sitting on the edge of the Sett before heading along the cinder path into Hayfield itself and a welcome pint of Cumberland Ale at "The Kinder Lodge".
To view full photo album please click on the link below;!/media/set/?set=oa.208041319314781&type=1