Yoke via Rainsborrow Crag

Kentmere Resevoir

Kentmere Reservoir

It was almost exactly midday when I finally stood on the shores of Kentmere Reservoir, to be rewarded with a first hint of blue sky – certainly a suggestion of blue reflected in the mirror-calm water anyway – and a square of golden sunlight on a distant hillside. A little back down the valley as I came past the old quarries below the dam, I’d thought that the sky was beginning to show some signs of differentiation – some darker and lighter patches, rather than the uniform low grey blanket which had kept me company as I walked up past Kentmere itself (the lake), Kentmere Hall and the village.

I’d hoped to reach this point rather earlier than 12, but a weather forecast offering little encouragement hadn’t helped to motivate a particularly early start and then I found that I was too late to nab one of the few parking spaces in Kentmere village and had had to drive back down the valley and park close to the factory, marked on the map below as ‘Works’. I’d been scaling back my originally very ambitious plans ever since, but now I wondered whether perhaps I should be aiming to climb a hill after all.

Well, I thought, I’ll have a brew while I consider my options.

A brew in the making...

Hot stove action – a gas canister unit I was given (don’t know the make or model, sorry) and an old Trangia kettle.

A sign this of the influence of reading other blogs I think – Darren’s epic quest for the perfect stove springs instantly to mind – but for some reason, this post also seemed to flick a switch somewhere in the dim recesses of my grey matter, leaving me with a firm conviction that I should start to take a stove with me on day hikes.

As I sat and enjoyed a large and very hot cup of tea, without that yucky flask taste, a movement to my left alerted me to the presence of a heron poised on a rock at the edge of the reservoir. It had been a good day for birding so far: when I climbed out of the car the first sound that greeted me was the pip-pip-pip of a woodpecker which I then spied in the highest branches of a wayside tree. As I walked beyond the village and along the valley with Raven Crag behind me and Calfhowe Crag ahead a peregrine falcon swooped overhead between the crags. In the same area, two ravens perched in a tree at the base of a crag appeared at first to be one bird and I wondered what local black bird could be so big.

I snapped a few shots of the heron, and of the attractive looking Lingmell Gill and its waterfalls on the far side of the reservoir and then settled down with the map and a head full of ideas. It was clear that my original plan: to climb Yoke by the steep north-east ridge of Rainsborrow Crag, turn northwards over Ill Bell and Froswick and then to continue my exploration of the Kent by following it from its source into Hall Cove and back down past the reservoir was too ambitious for a short winter day with a late start from the wrong spot. I could still climb Yoke but instead turn south and head back to the car via the top of the Garburn pass, or maybe I should try to take in as much of the Kent as I could and follow it upstream until I felt it necessary to turn back. Whilst I was considering these possibilities the blue sky and sunshine had disappeared and if anything it looked as though the cloud might be coming in again. Why was I contemplating flogging myself like this? It wasn’t a nice day, would it be sensible to stumble up the steepest slope I could find? I’d explored a little more of Kentmere at least, within the environs of the river if not on its banks; why couldn’t I content myself with a wander around the reservoir and then a walk back down the valley on the other side of the river, and perhaps a little poke around the quarries? I could. That was sensible. That’s just what I would do. Who needs to obsessively tick-off peaks or walk every inch of the banks of their local river?

Content with my sensible choice, with discretion rather than valour, with enjoying being in the mountains rather than being compelled to climb mountains, I packed up the stove, pulled on my rucksack, took one last look at the view and set-off up the steepest slope I could I find into the mist and up Rainsborrow crag’s north-east ridge.

Rainsborrow Crag NE Ridge

No – I don’t really know why either. It was just that once I was on my feet again my perspective changed, I discovered that, with a precious opportunity to get out for a walk on my own, I really wanted to climb something, weather not withstanding. Also I blame Stef. His post about camping beside Rainsborrow Tarn (in rather better conditions) reminded me of coming this way one evening with an old friend years ago, and had me hankering to come this way again. The ridge is in Aileen and Brian Evans’ scrambling guide as a grade 2, but ‘disappointing’ since it is mostly a walk if ‘airy’. After an initial plod to Steel Rigg, a little knobble with it’s own contour (rather surprisingly not a Birkett), the climb really is very steep. I imagine that on a better day there are fabulous views back down to the reservoir.

At one point I contoured right, on the less precipitous side of the ridge, to avoid a rocky section and then found a choice between steep broken ground ahead or a broad boulder-choked gully going back left up to the crest of the ridge. I choose the gully and its greasy boulders. Where the boulders ended the angle eased. I must, I thought, be near the top. This wasn’t any kind of navigational insight, but because the angle had eased, because the sky seemed a little lighter and because, frankly, I was knackered, and I wanted it to be the top. And at that opportune moment…

Yoke from Rainsborrow Crag

…the cloud lifted and I could see that I was at the top of Rainsborrow Crag, and could trace the edge of Rainsborrow Cove curving away from me towards the top of Yoke.

For a few moments I enjoyed really atmospheric conditions with blue sky overhead and the low sun, seen through cloud and reflected in Rainsborrow Tarn.

Rainsborrow Tarn

Then the sun was free of the cloud and it was briefly gloriously sunny and preposterously warm for an afternoon in mid-November.

A moment of sunshine

I didn’t have any views of other hills and the cloud soon rolled in again, but it was a few moments which I really enjoyed.

When I reached the summit of Yoke…

Yoke Summit

…the moment was gone. But I was more than happy with my decision.

Out came the stove again…


I’d like to report that I was frying a steak and serving it on a bed of wild rocket with a glass of Chilean shiraz, as Danny might, but my Covent Garden tagine was very satisfying.

It was a long old walk down from there and back along the valley. The cloud hadn’t just returned, it had actually dropped so that the disappointing partial views, under a lowering gloomy blanket of cloud, I had had in the morning now seemed like a positive boon compared to walking cocooned in a thick mist. Still – I’d had my moment in the sun.

Kentmere Map

I tried to draw my route on the map, but experienced technical difficulties (i.e. I am a numpty) so: start at Wks, follow the river to Kentmere Hall, then The Nook, and the road to Scales, Hartrigg, Reservoir Cott, Rainsborrow Crag, Yoke, Garburn Pass, back to the Nook and retrace route to Wks. About 10 miles. Probably. With some up. And down.

Yoke via Rainsborrow Crag

Dalton Crags Orienteering


The weekend after our Brougham Castle and Hall trip, TBH once again left me insole charge of the kids (irresponsible, I know) whilst she went gadding off shopping in Manchester. We were joined by our friend M, whom we took to sample orienteering at nearby Dalton Crags. Our kids had an idea of what to expect since we took part in a fancy dress, night-time points event in Eaves Wood on the Halloween weekend.  That may have given them rather false expectations however, since the rules were complicated and we ended up as ‘Vampires’ trying to shine a red-torch on other competitors to turn them into ‘Vampires’ so that we could steal their map and points. (We succeeded only to become the victims shortly afterwards of another group of ‘Vampires’.)

Anyway, the Dalton Crags event, organised by SROC (South Ribble Orienteering Club) was much more conventional. Dalton Crags is part of the Hutton Roof limestone ridge and the start was from the same car-park where S and TBH and I began our ascent of Hutton Roof back in August.

We opted for the yellow course and the girls had soon taken charge of the navigation.


The boys seemed happy to follow directions and race ahead to the next control.


Whilst I enjoyed the unseasonal sunshine and mild weather, and the autumn colours…


The route took us in and out of woodland. The limestone scenery is so complex in this area that the cartographer had invented his own unconventional symbols in an attempt to distinguish between the different areas of pavement, partially overgrown and otherwise.


We finished in a not particularly earth-shattering time of just under an hour. We didn’t mind. In fact, if we’d finished in 18 minutes like the winner did, I would have felt cheated.


M’s lack of enthusiasm here had a lot to do with the fact that 10 yards short of the finish she slipped and fell in a particularly muddy spot.

More photos…

The eagle-eyed amongst you may have spotted that in my last post I mentioned ‘days out’ plural, but that I haven’t posted about the second of those. I’m not sure that it belongs on a walking/natural history/castle obsessed blog, but for the curious….


….an eagle-owl and….?

If you have kids of CBBC age you might know that this is Steve Backshall, presenter of Deadly Sixty, all-round action man and a huge hero as far as my kids are concerned.

We went to Preston for a free Deadly Day Out courtesy of the BBC. TBH had organised the tickets before realising that she would be away and unable to attend with the rest of us. That was her story anyway.


This is co-presenter Naomi Wilkinson with a barn owl during a falconry display which was part of the day’s events.

There were an awful lot of people there and inevitably a lot of queuing, but the kids loved it. Here they are in the results of their den-building…


I took a ridiculous number of photos of Mr Backshall and various creatures – if you’re interested, then they’re here. I have to say – his talk and question and answer session was most impressive – he really knows his stuff.

Dalton Crags Orienteering

Brougham Hall and Brougham Castle


TBH was away for the weekend, so: days out! With Sean Bean reading a modern adaptation of the Arthurian Legends playing on the CD player in the car, we drove up the M6 heading for the Penrith area. This was another day inspired by one of the Discover Eden leaflets, in particular ‘Brougham and Eamont Bridge’. We wouldn’t walk much of the route this time, or visit either of the two megalithic sites it takes in (they will have to wait for another time). We were after castles.

We started with Brougham Hall, more a fortified house than a castle, known (for reasons which escape me) as ‘The Windsor of the North’. There’s been a hall here for a very long time (possibly since 1307) but the current buildings are of various periods – the oldest being Tudor. One previous owner was the first Lord Brougham, one time Lord Chancellor of England, and designer of the Brougham carriage, the first of which was produced here in 1837.


More interestingly (to my mind) the Hall also once belonged to Lady Anne Clifford (1590 – 1676). This formidable lady, born at Skipton Castle, inherited her father’s estates when she was 60, during the English Civil War, and spent the remainder of her life touring her properties and restoring or rebuilding the castles and churches which she owned. There’s a Lady Anne Clifford Way from Skipton to Penrith which I have long wanted to walk, with a guide book and a website by Sheila Gordon.


The enormous door-knocker is a copy of the one at Durham Cathedral (TBH a County Durham girl, saw this photo and recognised it as such immediately). Before that copy was made there was another – I can’t decide from the Hall’s website whether it was original or another copy. Anyway, what is clear, is that it’s a 12th Century design and very imposing.

A private restoration of the hall is underway. It’s free to visit, but a donation is requested. The hall is home to several businesses including a small cafe which we can heartily recommend (try the pan-fried haloumi and humus baguette).


I think that this is the oldest surviving building.


Many people were taking advantage of the glorious November sunshine and sitting outside the cafe to eat al fresco.

(Yes, I know, this is the North of England and that sentence sounds completely implausible, but – it’s true!)

Close to the hall is Brougham Castle.


This is another former residence of Lady Anne Clifford, in fact this is where she died. The castle is now ruined but it still has a very imposing keep…

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And an almost equally formidable gatehouse…


It’s possible to climb the keep, on a set of very worn steps (the sandstone is not very hard-wearing), and to tour the top floor in a passage in the wall…


From where there are great views of the River Eamont…


Once we’d had a thorough look around the kids were adamant that they wanted to stay and play (or sword fight).


So I had another roam around. The walls of the keep were festooned with…




…which I was surprised to find still flowering.


Poor old Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee are destined to stare out in horrified disbelief from high on the Keep walls, perhaps for hundreds more years.


The keep dates back to the early Thirteenth Century, but the castle is built on the site of an important Roman Fort ‘Brocavum’ built in 76 AD and once the most northerly fort in the Roman Empire. If you wander around the outside of the castle, as we did, you can clearly see ditches and mounds beyond the moat which date back to the Roman fort. A Roman headstone is built into the ceiling of the keep’s staircase and other Roman remains are on display in the small visitor centre at the entrance to the site.


Any Latin scholars up to translating this?

We rounded off our day with a walk beside the fast-flowing Eamont. We skimmed a few stones and the kids found a tree to climb. I’m pretty sure that A and I saw a salmon leap out of the water (it was a big fish anyway). We also found…


…another Pip Hall etching. (Once again no rubbings I’m afraid – we had crayons this time, but no paper!) The artwork helped to explain what this curious structure….


…in a riverside garden might be for. In fact this is where Penrith Swimming Club used to meet. Which immediately made me think of Roger Deakin’s marvellous ‘Waterlog’. If you haven’t read it, and you are the sort of person who is ever tempted by a dip in a tarn, or a river or the sea, then you really should.

Lots of photos in the slideshow this time:

Brougham Hall and Brougham Castle

Donna Nook Grey Seal Colony


Two years ago during an October half-term visit to my parents, we went to Donna Nook on the Lincolnshire coast to see the Grey Seal colony there. It was early in the season and there were relatively few seals there and only one new-born pup. This year we were visiting on the first weekend in November and though the beach was not yet at it’s busiest, there were many more seals and lots of pups.

On this side of the Atlantic the pups are born in the autumn. The gestation period must be close to a year, because the bulls are here not to assist with rearing the young, but in order to mate with the cows.

The bulls are huge (up to 3.3m and 310 kg apparently) and often have scarring around their necks.


Presumably from injuries picked up at this time of year during sparring with rival bulls.

In this photo of the same bull…


…you can see the distinctive nose which gives rise to the Latin name Halichoerus grypus, meaning “hooked-nosed sea pig”. Not exactly pulchritudinous and I now suspect that the rather more handsome seals I photographed off the Welsh coast this summer were probably common seals rather than grey seals. (It seems that the common seal’s dog like snout is the distinguishing feature)

Lying around seemed to be the order of the day, but even so, there always seemed to be something happening somewhere on the beach. We saw bulls chasing across the beach to fight. The seals can move surprisingly quickly when they want to. You can see here that this cow…


..is lifting herself up to shuffle forward.

This pup has something on it’s mind…




Goo onnnn.”

The cow moved away. But only to reposition herself so that…


The pups seemed to delight in having a bit of a roll around…

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This cow and her pup….


…climbed up into the dunes towards us.


We could see afterbirth in several places on the beach which seemed to have drawn in numerous black-backed gulls. I suspect if we’d stayed long enough we may well have seen a pup being born and I would have happily stayed for several hours, but there was a very bitter wind blowing off the sea and the kids had enjoyed seeing the seals but now wanted to be away to Cleethorpes for some fish and chips.

Donna Nook Grey Seal Colony

Farleton Fell and Hutton Roof

Or: Not fixing the summer house roof.


One day left of half-term, and now I really will have to fix the summer house (read: glorified shed) roof. It needs re-felting – just the kind of DIY fun I really relish. But then, at the eleventh hour, a phone call from our friend C, the painter, “We’re going for a walk tomorrow and we wondered whether A might like to come with us. Or you could all come?” Hmmm – tough decision.

The plan was to park on the Clawthorpe road, between Farleton Fell and Hutton Roof Crags – to explore Farleton Fell in the morning, return to the car for a picnic, and then to have a wander around Hutton Roof Crags in the afternoon.

Despite having had an extra hour in bed, with the clocks going back the night before, both families managed to be late for the rendezvous. Still, we were eventually underway, with occasional blue-sky and sunshine.


If you have being paying very careful attention, you will know that back in August, after we last came this way, I discovered this detailed map, which shows some of the many paths on the fell. I was looking forward to trying it on the ground. A cautious person might have compared it with the OS map and discovered that it has some walls missing. I chose instead to lead two families of small children around in circles, thoroughly confused by the fact that usually reliable linear features like walls seemed not to conform to reality at all. Taking the OS map with me to supplement the new untried map might have been wise with hindsight. Eventually we found the route we were looking for however, a new one to me, taking a line to the top which was further west than the path I have used before. This route had the advantage of a final climb to the summit along a ridge of limestone pavement.

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Kent Estuary from the summit.

It was quite late for lunch by now and the kids were starving, so we took a more direct route back to the cars. Although when we came across this ‘shark sculpture’…


..the kids were captivated and temporarily forgot their grumbling stomachs.


C had suggested stoves and a cooked lunch, which seemed like a very fine idea, so I had knocked up a Dutch Hotpot in preparation. This is a very cheap and cheerful dish which I’ve been making for years and which usually goes down well.

  • 1 tin kidney beans
  • 1 pint stock
  • 1 lb spuds, cubed
  • 2 carrots sliced
  • 1 large onion sliced
  • 2 dessert apples cored and chopped
  • 1 green pepper (although on this occasion we had red so I used that)

Bung it all in a big pan then simmer it for half and hour. Simple. It’s nice with some Gouda cheese grated on top, and the recipe suggests that it should be served with bacon, but I don’t think I’ve ever tried that.

I’ve had this dish in my repertoire since my student days when I found it in ‘Grub on a Grant’ by Cas Clarke, the book which was the basis of most of my early attempts at cookery. It was a good starting point, mainly reliable, although I should warn the curious that nobody had a good word for the Carrot and Banana Curry.

We’d found a sheltered little spot on the verge, by a gate, and after hotpot and tea and sundry supplementary snacks, the kids played hide-and-seek whilst the adults lay on picnic rugs and enjoyed the sunshine and a few moments of relative peace and quiet.

Time was marching on, however, and if we wanted to make the top of Hutton Roof Crags at S pace we needed to be on the move.


Because most of Hutton Roof Crags is covered in dense scrub, and the OS map doesn’t show any of the paths, it was useful to have this map along. We followed the re-entrant which crosses Uberash Plain, and is named (on the OS map) as Potslacks.

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The second right turn of this path heads onto limestone pavement and if I hadn’t been here before and known how hard the turn would be to spot, I’m not sure that we would have found it.


Just short of the top the path emerges from the trees and wider views open out.

We returned via Uberash breast which is a long low cliff, and later disturbed a roe deer shortly before arriving back at the car.

In all, a grand day out. But not half as much fun as mending the shed roof would have been, obviously.

Farleton Fell and Hutton Roof

Long Meg Walk V – Lacy’s Caves

Our path had been running almost parallel to the Settle-Carlisle railway line and also to the river Eden. When it finally brought us to the banks of the river we were close to the viaduct where the railway line crosses the river. The step bank is wooded however and we couldn’t get a clear view of the viaduct. The Eden is a substantial river by local standards and when we came level with a weir on the river it was possible to scramble down the bank to get at least a partial view.

Part of weir on River Eden

Shortly beyond that point the bank became less steep and we had our first view of Lacy’s Caves.

Lacy's Caves - a first view Lacy's Caves

These curiosities were hollowed out in the 18th Century for the local landowner Colonel Samuel Lacy and it’s rumoured that he even paid someone to live here as a ‘hermit’. There is a series of connected rooms, some of which, alarmingly with S hurtling about in high excitement, have openings looking out over drops into the river. Fortunately, for once he didn’t fall in.

The first of the caves Looking out of Lacy's Caves

From the caves it seemed like quite a long way, first along the river a little further…

Walking by the Eden

…and then back up the hill to the car. It can’t have been however, since the whole walk is a mere four and a half miles. Four and a half miles which punches well above it’s weight.

Long Meg Walk V – Lacy’s Caves

Long Meg Walk IV – Down to the River

The next section of our walk took us along a track which would eventually bring us on the banks of the River Eden. We watched four buzzards flying along a woodland edge on the hillside above us for quite some time. We also discovered…

Taking rubbings

…a post with a small bronze etching by Pip Hall:


The idea is that rubbings can be taken from the engraving. Sadly some bozo forgot the wax crayons (mea culpa) and although we stopped in Langwathby and managed to get a box of pencil crayons – they weren’t particularly successful. There are apparently six of these posts on each of the Eden Valley walks, although we only managed to find five.

Here are the five we found:

We were also much impressed by this mosaic map, made by children from local villages.

And I was busy trying to capture the autumn colours…


Long Meg Walk IV – Down to the River

Long Meg Walk III – Little Salkeld Watermill

Little Salkeld Watermill

From the standing stones it was a short stroll to lunch, taken in the cafe at Little Salked Watermill. The food was outstanding – I had Moroccan lentil soup, with four different breads home-made with flour from the mill. The mill also has a little shop selling their own flour, various other organic goodies and a curious mixture of books – some cookbooks and others about watermills and megaliths.

It’s also possible, for a small fee, to take a tour of the mill. It’s advertised as self-led, but we had the great fortune to be shown around by one of the people working in the mill. We were shown all of the machines in operation, and the ingenious way in which various cogs and pulleys could be engaged or disengaged so that the waterwheels could drive everything. There are two wheels, one outside and the other partly hidden away inside the building. Before our tour the outdoor wheel wasn’t running but we saw how simply releasing a chain allowed a sluice to open and very quickly the second wheel was turning and running a winnowing machine.


The kids were fascinated, in fact we all were.

The 'indoor' wheel


Long Meg Walk III – Little Salkeld Watermill

Long Meg Walk II – Long Meg and her Daughters

Long Meg and her daughters

The next stop on our itinerary was at Long Meg and Her Daughters a stone circle. It’s a large circle (the second or third largest in the country depending on which website you believe) and so quite hard to squeeze it all into one photograph. (There are aerial photographs and articles here and here.)

It’s an ancient site possibly dating from 1500 BC according to W.G.Collingwood*, whose ‘Lake District History’ (1925) I’m reading at the moment. He makes it clear that this is at best an educated guess. Other sources give even earlier dates. It’s also possible that Long Meg herself predates the stone circle from which she stands aloof.

Some daughters

The circle is of granite boulders – I can’t find even any supposition as the where these were brought from: the local stone is sandstone. Opinion as to the number of stones also seems to vary wildly – the kids counted and got 65, but apparently it’s impossible to count the stones accurately anyway. The stones were witches – turned to stone by a wizard, or for dancing on the Sabbath. If anyone could count the stones and get the same total twice they would break the spell and release the witches, or bring down bad luck on their own heads, or be able to hear Long Meg whispering if they put their ear to her side, or possibly all three.

Long Meg, meanwhile, is of local red sandstone, stands outside the circle and is very tall and thin.

Long Meg

She apparently is decorated with spirals, cup and ring marks and concentric circles although I didn’t find all of those. There’s a bit of chiselled graffiti too.

Long Meg Carving

I shall have to go back some time and have another look – maybe then I’ll catch the daughters dancing or Long Meg whispering.

The circle is not quite on top of a hill, but it does command very extensive views and is well worth a visit. If you’re lucky you will find it very quiet as we did – just a couple of other families were there when we visited. In the middle of the circle are two very substantial willows – presumably quite old themselves, but I was tickled to think that the stones may have seen several generations of willows grow from saplings to gnarly ancients and eventually topple.

Here’s a slideshow with lots more pictures of stones and an admixture of kids tearing around and climbing on things:

*Interesting chap W.G.Collingwood, author, historian and artist, friend of both John Ruskin and Arthur Ransome (Collingwood’s boat was the Swallow).

Long Meg Walk II – Long Meg and her Daughters