Book Reviews: Wainwright’s ‘Other’ Guides

So, I was sent some books to review: ‘Walks On The Howgill Fells’ and ‘Walks In Limestone Country’ or, to give them their full titles, ‘Walks On The Howgill Fells and Adjoining Fells’ and ‘Walks In Limestone Country. The Whernside, Ingleborough and Penyghent Area of Yorkshire.’ We might call them Wainwright’s other, less famous, guide books.

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Warrendale Knotts from Attermire Scar

Now, you might think it a bit presumptuous for this insignificant blog with a trickle of readers to be reviewing the books of one Alfred Wainwright. The man has spawned an industry. He has an appreciation society! His surname has become a noun! He has a beer named after him, surely the ultimate accolade? He is a guidebook writing mega-star. A colossus!

I couldn’t agree more. I can’t help feeling that Wainwright doesn’t really need my help.

But I’m going to do it anyway.

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Whernside from Ribblehead

The books are available in the original edition, Wainwright’s unsullied version, or in a second edition which has been updated by Chris Jesty.

The unrevised edition has a handsome Wainwright drawing on the dust-jacket, the new editions have fetching photographs. (Personally, I prefer the drawing, but I think it’s good that the two are clearly distinguished.)

The books are fairly small and can handily fit in a rucksack (mine have both already been out numerous times). The new edition is slightly bigger than the old, which, if you’re of a certain age and are beginning to find that most things must be read at arms length, can be quite handy when trying to decipher some of the small handwriting.

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The Mare’s Tail, Force Gill

Wainwright and I have a bit of a history. Several of my friends are bagging the Wainwright’s or have finished the Wainwright’s or are pretending not to be bagging the Wainwrights. I’m in the latter category, surreptitiously ticking off the Wainwright’s as I accumulate Birketts. At University, always Tommy Opposite by nature, I was temperamentally inclined to take a dislike to anything which was popular with my peers – and one of those things was, as I saw it, the cult of Wainwright. I still stick by some of my opinions – ‘Allo, Allo’ really was dreadful,  and I’ve never warmed to the music of Genesis, Haircut One Hundred or Thomas Dolby, but I’ve grudgingly come to admire Wainwright’s pictorial guides.

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Catrigg Force

But, although I’ve gradually put together a second-hand collection of the Lake District Fells guides, and fairly recently added ‘The Outlying Fells’, I’ve never had either of these books. (I almost bought a second-hand copy of ‘Walks In Limestone Country’ but decided in the end that the copy I had found was prohibitively expensive.)

So – what do I think of them? Well, as I’ve alluded to already, I love them! They’re gggggrrreat! They’ve inspired me to go back and rediscover some corners of the North-West I haven’t visited for far too long and have also pointed me toward some delights that I hitherto was unaware of. (A few of these walks have appeared on the blog, but there are many more to come!)

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Stainforth Force

Initially, I was predisposed to prefer the original versions – why muck about with the best? But – I must admit that I’ve changed my mind. The access status of some of the routes in the Dales book are questionable and I wanted to know whether the routes were still OK to use. In the revised Howgills book, Chris Jesty’s additions, handwritten and sympathetic to, but distinct from, the original, are really useful and if were to buy Wainwright’s books again, I’d be strongly tempted to go for the revised editions.

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Rowten Pot

Either way, if you don’t know these books, I can’t recommend them highly enough. They’ve galvanised me in a way which I really didn’t anticipate.

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Brunt Knott and Potter Fell

A Post-Work Ramble

A Friday evening, and a walk sandwiched between an early escape from work and watching B play cricket in Windermere. ( Almost exactly two months on, their season is over, and a very successful one it has been. B loves cricket. Each to their own! Incidentally, the cricket pitches of South Cumbria are wonderfully relaxing places – some compensation for the ‘chauffer’.)

A sunny day had clouded over, but it was still warm. Later the sun would reappear and the cricket match would be played in lovely spring, evening weather.

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I parked on the minor road between Burneside and Staveley, just north of the Kent and then climbed past the farm houses at Side House (above) and the wonderfully named Frost Hole (perhaps not helpful to an Estate Agent!)

The route of ascent which Wainwright describes in ‘The Outlying Fells’ looks like a good track, but has a sign across it warning that it is not a right-of-way. I struggled with my inner trespasser but decided to take the path up to Potter Tarn. Just beyond the tarn, you’re into Access Land and a fairly obvious path follows the unnamed (on the OS map) stream northward. Stick with that path – it brings you to a gateway close to a nice rock outcrop, which gives a brief, easy scramble, and then a pleasant view over Potter Tarn and back towards Kendal.

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Possibly a garden tiger moth caterpillar?

From the unnamed (on the OS map) summit of 395m (Potter Fell?) the descent was pretty rough going due to the vegetation. The re-ascent onto Brunt Knott should have been easy by comparison, but I felt very heavy-legged. (I also had no appetite, and, I discovered the next day, a raging temperature, the beginnings of a cold which would last for several weeks).

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The ‘summit’ of Brunt Knott (427m) is one end of a horseshoe around Dockernook Gill, and in fact, there’s a another high point with a spot height of 429m, but no name. I didn’t have time on this occasion, but I shall have to come back and walk the whole thing. I also didn’t have time to complete my original plan, which would have been to take in another unnamed summit at 390m. Bill Birkett mentions three summits on Potter Fell which he would have included in his ‘Lakeland Fells’ book but for access problems. One is Ulgraves which is still out with Access Land, but I assume that the other two are the 395m and 390m summits.

I had some difficulty finding a suitable place to cross the wall by Black Beck, but then found that it was relatively easy walking, given that it was pathless, back by the stream to Potter Tarn (I’d expected bog, but it was surprisingly dry).

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To ring the changes, I  returned to the car by Ghyll Pool (like Potter Tarn, a reservoir built to feed mills by the Kent) and another farm at Hundhowe, finishing beside the Kent and into Beckmickle Ing woods.

A pretty fine outing, and the first, I’m pleased to report, of many this summer.

Posted in Birketts, Wainwright's Outlying Fells, Walking | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Scoat Tarn, Scoat Fell and Red Pike

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Another weekend get together with old friends. Another top weekend at Church Stile campsite in Nether Wasdale. And once again the kids went to compete in the Nether Wasdale Sports, with some wonderful adults who ‘took one for the team’, whilst the rest of us escaped for a beano.

It was overcast, but surprisingly warm and a bit sticky as we started up the Nether Beck valley. I was soon well behind, as per usual, but one thing that can be relied upon in this group is frequent stops for brews, snacks, chatting and general lazing around.

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As I often do, I took the opportunity to ‘plod on by’ as Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach never quite put it. This is a cracking walk in to the hills, and I just kept plodding, pausing frequently to take photos of the beck, admire Haycock dominating the view ahead and watch the antics of the wheatears and meadow pipits which were numerous on the hillsides.

I often thought I heard stonechats and when I spotted a pair bobbing about on some rocks not too far from the path, I felt relaxed about taking a longer break to try to photograph them, since I was still ahead of the peloton.

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From the head of the valley we took the very faint path off to the right, heading toward Scoat Tarn.

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This cloven boulder is close to Scoat Tarn.

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Scoat Tarn has a special place in my affections. We camped here on a couple of our May bank holiday weekend backpacking trips, many moons ago, when showers and comfortable sleeping arrangements etc weren’t considered essential for a weekend away.

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From Scoat Tarn we took different lines, all making for the summit of Scoat Fell. The others were all gradually overhauling me now.

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I chose to go well over to the left, giving some bouldery scrambling (of sorts) and nice views of Haycock again.

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It was a bit of a surprise to arrive on Scoat Fell in a strengthening, and fairly cold, wind. The weather seemed to be closing in.

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Steeple.

We were quickly over Red Pike and then began a long descent down the west side of Over Beck

Red Pike Scoat Tarn Map

The following day was pretty wet and eventually we decided to try the coast and spent the afternoon in Seascale. Our trip was notable for two reasons. Firstly, the wonderful Mawson’s Ice-Cream Parlour in the Bailey Ground Hotel, where they were very patient with our large, soggy party. I can’t attest to the homemade ice-cream personally, although I gather that it was very good, and A who often misses out due to problems with dairy produce, was very chuffed to have a choice of sorbets. I had the crayfish salad which was just the ticket. Secondly, we did a bit of windswept beach–combing and we found, well B found (his eyes are very sharp), several Sea Potato shells (like a sea urchin) and also a number of exoskeletons of the rather curiously shaped masked crab.

I thought I took some photos, but if I did, I can’t work out where they are now. Humph.

Seemed appropriate.

There are more photos, and an alternative take on events, in Andy’s post here.

Posted in Birds, Birketts, Friends, Wainwright bagging, Walking | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Spring Flowers etc.

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Wilding apple.

What could be more cheerful than some images of spring flowers? Finally, we’re emerging from winter’s steely grip and……what do you mean it’s July? Well – I was busy! Here’s some photies, mostly flowers, gleaned from numerous local walks around Easter-time.

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Primrose.

There’s a spot between Clark’s Lot and Sharp’s Lot, a gap in the limestone pavement which is completely colonised by a mass of primroses. I visited several times, but never seemed to catch it when it was sunlit. This is the best of several failed attempts to do it justice….

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‘The Primrose Garden’.

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Peacock butterfly.

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Green Alkanet.

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Garlic Mustard.

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Welsh Poppy.

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Forget-me-not.

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Emerging whitebeam leaves.

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Violet.

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Early Purple Orchid almost flowering.

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Early Purple Orchid.

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Green-winged orchid. 

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And another.

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Bluebells by the undercliff.

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New beech leaves – first appearance.

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Almost out.

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Completely emerged.

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Honesty.

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Crab apple.

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The roots of a fallen birch reveal the shocking white limestone pavement beneath.

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One of last autumn’s apples still clinging on.

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Cowslip.

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 Wood sorrel.

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 Wood sorrel leaves – very tasty, sort of citrusy.

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Blackthorn.

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More honesty.

There you go – exactly what it said on the tin.

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Reston Scar and Hugill Fell

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Another Easter outing. I had a morning window of opportunity, I forget now why it was only a morning, no doubt I had some ferrying about of kids to do in the afternoon. For once I wasn’t up and out very early. I drove to Staveley with a vague idea that I might climb Brunt Knott and a hazy feeling that I didn’t really have time. By the time I reached Staveley I was convinced that I definitely didn’t have time. So I went for plan B. If you’ve driven up to the Lakes on the A591 you’ll know Reston Scar, even if you aren’t familiar with the name – it’s the steep and rather attractive looking little hill which sits behind Staveley.

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View North from the summit of Reston Scar.

Not much to say about this one really – it’s a cracking little walk. The weather wasn’t as pleasant as the blue sky in the photos might suggest – there was a cold and heavy wind blowing.

The hill in the middle distance, with the Kentmere fells behind, is what I’ve taken to be Hugill Fell (spot height 273 on the map). It’s not the summit which Wainwright describes a walk to in ‘The Outlying Fells of Lakeland’ which is just off to the right of this photo, north of where it says ‘Black Crag’ on the OS map below. Wainwright says that it’s not possible to walk between these hills, but this is now access land, and there are convenient gates so a short circular walk is possible.

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High Knott – another ‘Outlying Fell’ is the very green expanse on the left.

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Wainwright’s Hugill Fell viewpoint (or Black Crag?), Potter Fell behind.

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Potter Fell from Wainwright’s Hugill Fell viewpoint (or Black Crag?)

This is a pleasant round, but worth bearing in mind that there is one short, but very boggy section on the way across Hugill Fell towards it’s eastern arm.

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Kentmere.

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Looking back to Reston Scar.

I dropped down the route which Wainwright recommends for Hugill Fell, the bottom part of which is marked as a track on the OS map.

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And which brought me down to a quiet lane beside the River Kent.

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Weir near Barley Bridge.

Reston Scar

A lovely way to spend a morning. Or an evening I would hazard to suppose. I can see myself doing that again.

Posted in River Kent, Wainwright's Outlying Fells, Walking | Tagged , | 1 Comment

The Caves of Ribblehead

So, here I was, back at Ribblehead, with a bit of time on my hands, clear blue sky overhead and wall to wall sunshine spreading its munificence to one and all. And when I say ‘one and all’, I do so advisedly, because, in stark contrast to how quiet it had been at seven thirty, Ribblehead was now thronged with people.

I had ‘Walks in Limestone Country’ in my pack: I had a bit of a shufti at that and decided that Walk 22: The Caves of Ribblehead, or at least part of it, was just what was required.

This is one of several entrances to Roger Kirk cave.

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I didn’t venture into this one, and now that I’ve read a little more about it*, I’m happy with that decision.

(*If you’re thinking of poking around in these caves, you’ll need a more knowledgeable and comprehensive guide. Fortunately, there’s one available here, and a very interesting read it is too.)

The caves in this first section of Wainwright’s walk are all close to Runscar (the OS map has Runscar Scar but that sounds awful, a tautological nightmare like Windermere Lake or Torpenhow Hill)

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Runscar’s clean white rocks add interest to what otherwise might be a rather bleak stretch of moorland.

I couldn’t find all of the cave entrances which Wainwright mentions, but, disconcertingly, found some that he doesn’t mention. Both Thistle Cave and Runscar Cave have upper and lower sections. I didn’t find the top entrance to Thistle, but I had a good poke around in Runscar Cave. Which was most enjoyable.

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Then I was across the limestone pavement (Penyghent in the background)….

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…and heading towards the upper branches of a tree apparently emerging at ground level from the otherwise tree-less moor. The tree is a good marker for Cuddy Gill Pot…

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You can scramble down into the bottom of the pot, pausing on route to enjoy a marvellous display of primroses…

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At the bottom, Cuddy Gill appears from under a low lintel of rock and almost immediately disappears beneath another. In the bright sunshine it was hard not to notice that some of the rock had tiny, shiny crystals catching the light and sparkling. What would these be in sedimentary rock? (A geologist’s opinion required please. Amateurs welcome. Actually, almost any opinion welcome – keep it clean however, this is a family show.)

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Not far from the pothole, and upstream, is Cuddy Gill Cave, which also has a number of entrances. I had a bit of a look in there, but it’s narrower and the rocks are sharp edged, and to my mind, worth a look, but not as satisfactory as Runscar Cave.

Here’s Penyghent again…..

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…because, well….why not?

Turning back towards the car I came across this resurgence, which I now know is Runscar Cave again.

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I went in a little way, but when it looked like I might need to use my knees, decided that shorts are not the best attire for caving and left it at that.

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Must go back and have a more thorough gander sometime.

I’d seen this tight cave entrance under a small bluff on my way out, but a lady with two dogs was sat nearby eating her lunch and it seemed rude to interrupt. I crawled a small way into it now, but, not knowing what I was letting myself in for, thought better of it. In fact this is the exit for the top section of Thistle Cave.

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As I say, I shall definitely have to come back and follow through the top sections of Thistle and Runscar Caves as Stephen describes on A Three Peaks Up and Under:

A Rabbit Round Ribblehead

Posted in Cave, Limestone Pavement | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Whernside from Ribblehead

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A solo outing. And one of my early morning starts – if I remember rightly, I parked up at Ribblehead at around 7.30am. It was, as you can see, clear and bright: very sunny, but also bitterly cold.

As I walked alongside the viaduct, I was distracted by a pair of wheatears, who posed for numerous photos – which turned out to be a bit of a feature of the day.

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Then the early train crawled past…

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I followed the railway line North towards Dent, stopping briefly to admire a tiny wren which was singing with great gusto from a sapling on the embankment.

Ingleborough dominated the view…

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Handily, Force Gill crosses the railway line via an aqueduct and the path slips across the same way.

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The path then climbs Force Gill Ridge towards Knoutberry Hill and ultimately Whernside. I left the path however, to follow Wainwright’s suggestion of an ascent beside Force Gill itself. The immediate reward for such a choice is an encounter with ‘the lower fall’….

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..which is very impressive. I’ve climbed Whernside many times over the years, why don’t I remember seeing this before? I watched a dipper which seemed to disappear into a spot near the top of the falls. This was the first of several dippers I saw, or perhaps the one dipper several times, or maybe a few dippers a few times each. Whatever: they’re birds I associate with mountain streams and I’m always pleased to see them.

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The stream was a delight to follow, with many small cascades and falls.

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I suppose progress was slow – I took lots of pictures and, where the banks closed in a little, found myself frequently crossing the stream to find an easier passage – but then, what was the hurry?

Soon enough, I’d reached the ‘upper fall’, which Wainwright calls ‘The Mare’s Tail’.

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This was a superb spot and since I had it all to myself and the sun was shining I decided to stop, break out my stove and kettle and have several brews. Once again I was entertained by wheatears – three of them were chasing each other around rather vigorously. A skylark (or similar LBJ) joined them on the far bank for a while. And another dipper seemingly disappeared into the rocks by the waterfall – a nesting site?

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It was very pleasant sitting there, taking photos of the birds and the waterfall and the miniature rainbow in the spray near near the base of the falls.

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It took me quite a while to decide to move on and climb past the Mare’s Tail.

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I got a bit of a shock when I did, because now I could see the main path above and to my right and see also the steady stream of bobble-hatted hikers, lead-dragged dog-walkers, Lycra-clad runners, and bike-wielding mountain bikers who were variously promenading to the top. The quiet of Force Gill had me suffering the delusion that I had the hills all to myself, but nothing could have been further from the truth.

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Not to worry: I still had a little more of the stream to enjoy.

I was quite surprised to be regaled by another enthusiastic wren which was perched on a mid-stream boulder. I can’t help thinking that wrens are garden or hedgerow birds and therefore a little out of place so high in hill-country.

Hereabouts limestone predominates and the stream disappears and reappears in entertaining fashion. There’s also some pavement…

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…and some potholes too, though I didn’t find those.

Perhaps the reason why the crowds were all further north on the flagged path is the fact that the area around Greensett Tarn….

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….is very wet and boggy. It is called Greensett Moss and the word Moss in a place name never leads one to anticipate sand dunes, wadis and distant caravans of camels.

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A short steep climb brought me on to the highly populous path and since the chill of earlier was decidedly banished, I waited for a lull in the convoy and switched my trousers for my temperature-regulation ultra-high air-permeability leg-wear -  otherwise known as shorts.

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There’s a little walled shelter by the trig pillar on Whernside, and fortuitously, nobody was using it. Out of the wind there it was really quite warm. Soon the kettle was humming again and all was right with the world. There were quite a few people about: there seemed to be a bicycle maintenance class in progress, and a small party underway nearby, but a couple who joined me in the shelter told me that I was lucky to be there on such a quiet day, when no charity Three Peaks walks were mobbing the area.

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Wainwright advocates a very direct route down from the top. I opted for the main tread down the ridge a little and then steeply down into the valley. The wander back to Ribblehead via Broadrake, Ivescar and Winterscales Farm was balmy and butterfly blessed.

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This engaging bird posed quite obligingly on a wall-top. A meadow pipit?

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Soon I was back at the viaduct and having yet another brew. I’d promised to be home in time to cook tea, but the kids had been invited to a party and would be out all afternoon, leaving me with a fair bit of leeway. So – what next?

PS this post has been brought to you via the inspiration of…

Walks In Limestone Country

…of which, more to follow.

Posted in Birds, Walking, Waterfalls | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Attermire Scar – a Walk from Settle with Caves

Our Easter fortnight started rather soggily. On my Birthday we lunched at Catch 23 (very handy for Junction 35 off the M6 and the food is terrific). The view over the fishing ponds showed heavy drizzle alternating with driving rain, but I was determined to get a walk in of some description and, fully water-proofed up, was dropped in Warton on the way home. My Mum was the only one daft enough to join me. As luck would have it, it stopped raining as we disembarked from the cars, and from that point on continued to brighten up. We had a smashing walk home via Warton Crag, Quaker’s Stang, Jack Scout and finally visited the Primrose Garden in the Limestone Pavement in Pointer Wood. Sadly, I didn’t take any photos, because I’d left my camera behind, anticipating continued rain.

Fortunately, the weather didn’t continue that way. In fact we had just over a week of absolutely corking weather. We took the boys to Blackpool Pleasure Beach and managed to get sunburned.

We drove to Settle to do a little exploring. And the sun shone…

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Looking back down on Settle.

Settle was bustling with a small street market. We picked up some unusual cheeses to supplement the picnic we’d packed and the boys each chose a pasty too.

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Climbing towards Warrendale Knotts

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Climbing uphill on a hot day wasn’t universally popular, and the consensus was that we should stop for our picnic sooner rather than later. TBH is brandishing the Norwegian caramelised cheese we’d bought. It was sweet, rather toffee like and not to our taste. Fortunately, everything else was very tasty, especially the Isle of Mull cheese.

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Brother’s in arms: “I think that’s Warrendale Knotts”

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First cave of the day.

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Warrendale Knotts and Attermire Scar.

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Looking back at Warrendale Knotts.

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Attermire Scar.

The rusted lumps of scrap in the foreground here are the remains of a shooting range. Towards the right-hand end of the scar you should be able to make out a tall, dark vertical fissure in the cliff. It’s Attermire Cave.

Through the magic of the little Olympus’s super-zoom, here’s a close-up:

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And here it is again, from below…

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I hope, but I’m not sure, that this conveys just how steep the ascent to the cave is. But it’s manageable, even with small ones, and the ledge which has to be traversed at the end is reasonably wide.

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On the ascent, looking back to Warrendale Knotts.

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Arriving on the ledge.

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The entrance to Attermire Cave.

The cave is quite long, we explored it a little. It has interesting physical features and a fascinating history (see Further Reading below). We did okay with our simple head-torches, but I struggled to get decent photos of the interior.

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When the cave got low, we turned back.

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Rather than retracing our steps, we took a contouring path below the cliffs. I suppose I’m inured to the vertigo which steep ground brings on. I was a bit surprised to find that the kids were all a bit freaked out by this path, felt dizzy and wanted to take rests and sit down.

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I suppose it was a bit exposed. B wasn’t so intimidated that he didn’t point out to me the abundance of these colourful banded snails….

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Eventually we reached the end of the ‘awkward’ section….

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And soon the boys has spotted something ahead which had rekindled their interest….

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What they could see, was the entrance to Victoria Cave…

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We had a lengthy pause here, to do a little more exploring. Again, Victoria Cave has amazing features and finds which show that it was occupied by bears, hyaenas, elephants and rhinoceros.

There are several other caves nearby.

Blackpool Cave…

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Here are the boys breaking-out their kit for Wet Cave…..

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Which was quite, well, wet…..

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The view from Wet Cave…

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Albert Cave…

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Looking back along the scar….

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A’s feet were bothering her, so she and TBH headed back down to Settle, but the boys and I had one final appointment with another set of Caves. Jubilee Caves….

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There are four small caves all connected. Or perhaps one cave with four entrances. As far as the boys were concerned this was the highlight of the day. (I would plump for Attermire Cave).

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They loved exploring, waving to me through narrow gaps in the rock….

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…wandering from cave to cave….

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And, most of all, the fact that two of the entrances were tight wriggly holes, much too small for me…

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But just right for adventurous ankle-biters…

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From Jubilee Caves we could see yet another cave mouth, which the boys were eager to check out. I also know that we missed Horseshoe Cave and Look-Out Cave. This is an area which we shall definitely explore again.

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Even without the caves, the scenery is stunning and I’m amazed that I haven’t been here before, especially given the huge number of times I’ve driven past Settle on the A65.

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When we do come back, hopefully we’ll find time for a visit to The Folly….

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…which is Settle’s museum, and which last year had an exhibition on the finds from Victoria Cave – if only I’d known!

The Genesis of this walk deserves a little explanation. I’ve wanted to visit Victoria Cave since reading about it on the Teddy Tea Tours blog.

Then my memory was jogged when I was sent a copy of Wainwright’s…

Walks In Limestone Country

…to review. I’ll do a fuller review soon, but here’s the edited version: it’s fantastic. So much so, that I’ve become a bit Dales obsessed. This is Walk 30 from the book. We’ve tried several other walks since then, so expect more posts, some with caves, to follow.

Having hit upon the idea of taking the kids to maybe poke around in the caves a bit, I wanted some up to date info on the safety and sanity, or otherwise, of that enterprise and discovered the fascinating and informative blog A Three Peaks Up and Under.

Fuller posts can be found there about:

Attermire Cave

Victoria Cave

Well worth a read.

Posted in Books, Cave, Walking | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Another Luib Weekend

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Regular follower of this blog (hello Mum) will know that my year is punctuated by regular get-togethers with a band of accomplices of some 30 years standing. One such is the late winter so-called ‘Boys Weekend’. Very few of those who attend could honestly pass muster as ‘boys’, some being of the wrong gender, and others being a tad long in the tooth.

This year we once again stayed at the Suie Lodge Hotel and I’m sure we’ll be back again next year, because the food and the welcome are always excellent.

The forecast for the weekend didn’t promise much, but the Saturday morning brought at least some gaps in the cloud, and some fleeting glimpses of the obviously snow-plastered ridge leading to Meall na Dige and eventually Stob Binnein. A large contingent of our group set-off, much like we had last year, along the old Oban-Callander railway line and then up the valley of the Ledcharrie Burn.

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We were heading for Lochan Eireannaich, from where, last year, strong winds persuaded us to turn West and up the Stob. This time we were intending to head East on the ridge, possibly as far as one or both of the Corbett’s in that direction.

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The snow conditions were a bit odd, seeming almost to go from no snow cover at all to deep floundering drifts with little transition between. We stopped for a bite of lunch by Rob Roy’s Putting Stone (it’s much bigger and more impressive than this photo suggests).

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We were a bit surprised when a huge party of teenaged Americans walked past our lunch spot and then back past us again five minutes later.

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Leum an Eireannaich – the Irishman’s Leap.

The Hardman found us a route which bypassed the huge crag of Leum an Eireannaich taking us up to the unnamed (on the OS map anyway) point 789 (same height as Watson’s Dodd in the Lake District – is it a bit sad that I remember that, but can’t remember people’s names?). I knew by then that I had had enough, and I left the others to follow the ridge East and struck out to the North on the long ridge towards Creag Ghlas.

The walk that followed was a bit odd, at least at first. I was in the cloud and, with white in every direction, I found it very difficult to judge distances and also the gradient ahead. I knew from the map that this was the gentlest of descents, but on more than one occasion I found myself thinking that I had left the ridge, judging the slope below me to be too steep. I found myself checking a compass bearing repeatedly for reassurance. In the event, the ground never did turn out to be as steep as I had thought it.

Aside from the regular bearings, I had the additional comfort of the fact that a large group had clearly already come this way. To begin with, the snow was firm and a pleasure to walk on, but as I lost height I was pleased that somebody else had broken a trail for me.

Eventually, I dropped out of the cloud again, and leaving the ridge just short of Creag Ghlas, had a very pleasant walk back to the Hotel.

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A map: 

The Stob Map

On the Sunday, we climbed Ben Venue. The weather once again started reasonably brightly, but we knew that the forecast was for it to turn to rain. And it did.

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It was grand to be out, as ever, but I think I need to come back in better weather to get a fair view of Ben Venue and its charms.

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I don’t seem to have taken many photos. There’s a fuller account of the day on Andy’s post here. (Very lazy of me that, I know. but then, I have a talent for laziness.)

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Skiing at Ghöch

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Once upon a time, a small band of hardened nutcases drove (usually) or ski-trained (once, I think), or even, latterly, flew, once a year, to the winter playgrounds of the Alps. Everything was organised to accommodate maximum time on the pistes – 8 days skiing minimum; first lift in the morning; last lift in the evening to the highest possible station. Après ski wasn’t part of the deal. The aim was an Everest’s worth of descent every day. Single-minded stuff: ski, ski, ski.

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Now, for me at least, priorities changed several years ago. You might be able to guess why! The last time I went skiing, A was a toddler, B was on the way and S was just the proverbial glint. This is all fine, but when the rest of the boys come back from their annual trip, you could maybe forgive me a slight pang of jealousy. (Well, okay, a period of deep green, unbridled envy). Not so this year – we’ve been skiing!

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It was a bit different from Mottaret: we did almost all of our skiing at Ghöch. Mottaret, part of the Three Valleys has hundreds of kilometres of pistes, Ghöch, similarly has hundreds of metres of piste. Well, with one lift and one run shut, as it was that week due to a shortage of snow, leaving…one lift and one run…, maybe a hundred metres, but probably not.

But, as it transpired, this was the perfect place for the kids to learn. The people operating the lift couldn’t have been more friendly and accommodating, although they were a bit non-plussed to have tourists visiting. (“So, why did you come here?”). The sun frequently shone (and when it didn’t, the local swimming-pools were almost equally entertaining), we enjoyed our piste-side meals (picnics), and we managed to squeeze in a little sledging, snowman building, snow-angel making etc. The slope was gentle and wide, the other skiers more children learning and their parents and the queues for the lift were always short. (And if you were little, you were often rewarded with a sweet whilst queuing.)

All this was possible due to the hospitality of my brother and his family, who live in nearby Wetzikon. That’s him doing the ‘I’m a little teapot’ pose in the photo above. As well as putting us up, he was principal chef, and our ski instructor for the week.

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When the kids were all feeling more confident, we did branch out for a day trip to Arvenbüel. The weather wasn’t great, but there was a longer lift (a T bar – which did cause some difficulties) with a run down either side.

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Great fun.

Incidentally, the photos here were all taken by TBH, which is why she doesn’t feature in any of them, except this one….

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…if you look closely. She won a prize for this one – in the Village Show. Fifty pence I think. She’s probably saving it to put it towards our next ski trip.

With the option of Arvenbüel or Ghöch for our last day, our kids unanimously chose Ghöch. S was put-off by the T-bar at Arvenbüel (it was never his fault he fell off it apparently, his companion always pushed him off, whoever that was – I went on it with him, longest 5 minutes of my life, he skied every which way but the way we were going, sometimes two directions at once, one with each ski). A wanted to go back to brave the wee jump which the boys had been enjoying most of the week….

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After the vagaries of the T-bar, the boys were affecting a very nonchalant approach to the simple drag at Ghöch.

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A final view of the mountains…..

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It wasn’t just our kids who learned to ski that week; their aunt, my sister-in-law, having lived in Switzerland for 7 years without being tempted to try downhill skiing, joined us on the nursery slopes, stuck to it with admirable determination , and was skiing confidently by the end of the week.

The kids, needless to say, are hooked. I just need to get them to work on their mum when we plan next years’ holidays. Hmmmm, how many organs will I need to sell to finance a week in Mottaret?

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