Farleton Fell – a long awaited encounter.

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“Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine; they are the life, the soul of reading…”

Laurence Sterne quoted in I Put a Spell on You by John Burnside.

Some years ago now, I went to a meeting of the Mourholme Local History Society. I’ve only ever attended two of the meetings, one on the Silverdale Hoard and the other on maps of the area, and I enjoyed them both enormously, I really should make the effort to go again. Anyway, during the talk on maps I learned that on some early maps, before the concept of contours had been hit upon, hills were pictorially depicted, with the size of the picture presumably reflecting the perceived height of the hill in question.

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On Robert Morden’s map of Westmorland and Cumberland (1695), Farleto Knothill is one of the biggest hills, not just locally, but on the entire map. Oddly, it’s shown on the west side of the coach road through Burton, now the A6070, when it’s actually to the east. Since Morden relied on information sent by ‘Gentlemen of the County’, rather than carrying out surveys, these errors are perhaps not all that surprising. I assume that the prominence given to Farleto Knothill was precisely because it loomed over the coach road, dominating the view of travellers and appearing to be much larger than it actually is.

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These days it also looms over Junction 36 of the M6, the South Lakes turn, and has become a very familiar landmark to visitors who drive up to the Lake District from the South. Andy had often mentioned that he had never climbed Farleton Fell, although he has frequently driven past it. Time to put that right.

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We made a late start, but whether that was due to sleeping-in, board game-playing, poor weather, general indolence or a combination of those factors, I’ve already forgotten.

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What I shan’t forgot is how unseasonably cold it was. The wind was bitter and I was woefully underdressed. I ended up borrowing a hat from TBH who took pity on me and made do with her hood.

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Even on a gloomy day, the views are vast and we took advantage of that fact by heading west first to then follow the limestone edge up to the top.

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Looking toward Whitbarrow and the Kent Estuary.

Burnside uses the Sterne quote as an epigraph at the start of his book, which I suppose serves as fair warning that this memoir of a sort, is brim full of digressions. Since I finished ‘I Put a Spell on You’, I’ve been reading Graham Hoyland’s ‘Walking Through Spring’ an account of a walk from the Dorset Coast to Gretna Green all taking place between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice. The full quote from Sterne, which is taken from ‘The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman’ is:

“Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine;—they are the life, the soul of reading;—take them out of this book for instance,—you might as well take the book along with them;”

Which is undeniably true of Sterne’s great novel. It also applies to ‘Walking Through Spring’, which is very enjoyable but which sometimes feels like it is less about the walk than a patchwork of the research sparked off by each location or wildlife encounter along the way. Hoyland is a fan of W.G.Sebald so this wide-ranging style is perhaps no surprise. I should say however, that I’m enjoying ‘Walking Through Spring’ whereas I was completely underwhelmed by ‘The Rings of Saturn’. Perhaps I should give it another go.

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Enjoying the view.

This very digressive style of writing about a walk at the very least avoids the ‘I went through the gate and over a stile. It rained. I had ham sandwiches for my lunch.’ blow-by-blow account of a walk which some authors too often descend to. That was one of the many topics we discussed on one of our walks over the Easter weekend and maybe that’s another thing which Hoyland captures – the way that the steady, slow pace of walking allows for wide-ranging conversations and for people to get to know each other well. (He is walking with his partner and also often with friends and relatives).

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Following the edge.

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I’ve always called this hill Farleton Fell. The National Trust, who own the land, have it as Holmepark Fell. The Ordnance Survey have both of those names, as well as Newbiggin Crags and Farleton Knott which seems to be attached to the slightly lower top which lies to the North of the main summit and is seen in the photo above.

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Looking back along the edge to Clougha Pike, Morecambe Bay and Warton Crag.

At the top we hunkered down behind the crags, following the example of small group of cows which were using the same shelter from the wind, and enjoyed the views for a while.

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Andy was insistent that we should go over to Farleton Knott, and he was absolutely right because that gave a great view back to the limestone crags and also, apparently, if you went far enough over, down to the M6 and Junction 36, which he was inexplicably excited about. I decided to forgo that particular pleasure.

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Unfortunately, Little S had fallen on the limestone pavement and skinned his knees, even through his trousers, so we took the most direct route back to where the cars were parked on the Clawthorpe Fell Road.

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Our route crossed several more areas of limestone pavement and Andy and I were both trying to catch with our cameras the fleeting bursts of sunshine as they passed over the rocks. I wasn’t anywhere near quick enough.

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I find maps, old or new, endlessly fascinating. You can find the Robert Morden map here. It’s interesting to see what has been included and what left out. It’s no surprise that Silverdale is not there, in 1695, and that Warton is there. The spellings are interesting too: Armside Toure, Helvillin Hill; which is not as big as Farleto Knothill incidentally. It was Robert Morden who published, in 1672, a pack of cards each of which showed a map of one of the counties of England and Wales.

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I imagine original 1672 cards are hard to come by, but in 1972 facsimile sets were produced. Over the weekend we played lots of games, though I think it’s fair to say that King Domino was the most popular. I was grateful to TJS though for reminding me how much fun can be had with a few friends and a pack of cards. He introduced us to a game I’ve never played before, but with incredibly complicated variant rules which he remembered in stages as we played and which had me pretty much crying with laughter as had repeatedly said: “Oh, and another thing…”

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Farleton Fell – a long awaited encounter.

Exploding Kittens

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The Cove on Boxing Day.

We spent Christmas at home here in Silverdale. My mum and dad and my brother and his family came to stay for the week. We packed a fair bit in: walks, turkey, stuffing, lots of games, trampolining (well, not all of us), a trip to the flicks, turkey pie, a get together with two of our cousins and their families, a take-away curry (no turkey in sight), more games, more walks, far too much chocolate etc.

The very serious expressions here…

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…don’t really convey how funny the card game Exploding Kittens is to play. We also played: Fives-and-Threes, One-armed Pete, Mexican Train (all dominoes), Camel Super Cup, Code Names (picture version), Tension, Caboodle, Pictionary, and probably several others which I have temporarily forgotten.

My own current favourite of the new games we bought each other is Kingdomino which we’ve played quite a bit since Christmas and which, especially with just two players, really makes you think, whilst being easy to understand and quick to play.

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At the Pepper Pot on Christmas Day.

On Boxing Day we had a fairly long walk, about 5 miles, to the cove, across the Lots, through Bottom’s Wood to Woodwell, along the clifftop path to the Green, through Burtonwell Wood to the rift cave, on to The Row and home through Eaves Wood.

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The weather started bright, but rain clouds were building and, whilst we didn’t get wet, it did cloud over. Still, a lovely stroll and there was more to come…

Exploding Kittens

Clobiosh

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This post could have been ‘Half-Term at Home’, because, well, half-term is all but spent, and we’ve been spending it here in sunny Silverdale. And the curious thing is, it being February and this being the North-Wet of England, that it has often been quite sunny. It’s chucking it down now, but this has been the exception rather than the rule.

So, I’ve been getting out for a local stroll every day (except Wednesday), sometimes with company, sometimes without. Mostly they’ve been short strolls – I think my Valentine’s Day bird-ramble which featured in the last post was probably the longest. Now that gives me a bit of a dilemma – do I roll them all together into one portmanteau post, or grant each little meander the dignity of it’s own write-up?

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I’m currently part way through reading Mark Kurlansky’s ‘Salt’, and am really enjoying it. I read his ‘Cod’ and ‘A Basque History of the World’ quite some time ago, and thought that those were magnificent too. I think it was my brother who first put me on to ‘Cod’. I’ve been trying to put my finger on just why it is I find his books so engaging: I’m not entirely sure to be honest. I think part of it is the fact that there’s a mixture of history, both political and social, some science, recipes, some etymology and a fair dollop of odd and surprising facts in a kind of QI sort of a way. Oh – and there are pictures and maps too which always goes down well with me.

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I’m with Alice on that one:

‘what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversations?’

So, luxuriating in the unfamiliar feeling of being almost up to date, I’m in the mood to be expansive and throw in some extra odds and ends. Which seems appropriate, since the walks have only occupied part of each day and there has consequently been time to slot in some other activities as well.

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Traditional Swiss cards. I don’t have a set. Not that I’m hinting.

Clobiosh – bet you were wondering when I was going to get to that – is one of the many names given to a card game which I taught A to play this week. She trounced me. And then took to playing B instead, probably seeking sterner competition.

Clob, Clobiosh or Klaberjass, a two-hander of widespread popularity, is probably the best known member of a family of games originating in the Netherlands and most highly developed in Switzerland…..The games are all much alike….Belote is the national game of France, Klaverjass of the Netherlands, and Jass of Switzerland. (It is) typically played with cards bearing the traditional Swiss suit symbols of acorns, flowers, shields and bells.

This from David Parlett’s ‘Penguin Book of Card Games’. As you can see above, my copy is a bit dog-eared, although it’s not as well-used as ‘Card Games Properly Explained’ by Arnold Marks which is a similar book and which I’ve owned for even longer. I know that my brother was responsible for that one because it has a ‘Happy Birthday’ message inside. He’s very good at presents is our kid. He lives in Switzerland……

Given how much I enjoy card games it’s a wonder I haven’t mentioned them here much before. There have been odd references – to the fact that A and B and I carried and played cards whilst we were walking a part of Hadrian’s Wall, to a 1676 pack of cards that I covet which has maps of the then 52 English and Welsh counties on them (a facsimile set is available I believe)….

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…and to a Greenlandic card game called Kapaka which I read about.

Still, not a great deal over 700 odd rambling posts. (You can take that either way, or both, obviously). When I was young I associated card games particularly with family get-togethers, especially trips to my grandparents where we would play Jack Draws The Well Dry a very simple game, or Stop The Bus or Knock-Out Whist. I think my cousins taught me Crazy Eights which somebody has cleverly reinvented and marketed as Uno, and which our kids love. At home, my mum and dad played Cribbage every weekend with an elderly neighbour. Inevitably we would want to learn to play too, although we were never allowed to stay up for Mr Martin’s visits.

At school, card games filled spare moments – Chase the Ace for waiting in corridors, three card Brag for lunchtimes when football or bulldog were rained off. In the sixth-form we seemed to find an inordinate amount of time to play protracted games of Solo, Cheat and eventually Bridge, not that I ever really mastered that.

When walking holidays with friends became the norm every Easter, Summer and New Year, cards featured strongly then too. We played an excellent variant of Whist in which each player had to nominate how many tricks they would win; I can’t quite recall all of the rules; I shall have to ask the Ginger Whinger, I think he introduced it. Michigan Rum was another regular. But our favourite game, however, was Black Maria. The Adopted Yorkshire Woman would unfailingly win that, but then disconcertingly ask “What’s that thing about Hearts again?”, thus confirming that she didn’t actually know the rules and was unwittingly cheating us. Or maybe it was an elaborate hustle, although to what possible end I can’t discern . Old Father Sheffield, meanwhile, could be relied upon, at some point in the proceedings, to throw in his hand and declare, in a huff, “It’s all luck!”

Which brings me neatly back to Sunday’s walk, from which was garnered the obligatory robin which headed the post. Sunday was another glorious day, almost as pleasant as Saturday, but for a niggly wind. B played rugby in the morning, but in the afternoon little S was very keen to visit Gibraltar Farm; this was because the previous day TBH and A had been there and A had had the opportunity to bottle feed a newly born lamb. It was quite late when we eventually set off and, as luck would have it, (It’s all luck!) the weather had turned a bit dour by then. We saw some lambs, but S didn’t get his hands on one, much to his disappointment. We returned via Woodwell, where A conducted a very thorough survey of the depth of the pond using a makeshift dipping stick.

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