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.

Farleton Fell and Hutton Roof

Or: Not fixing the summer house roof.

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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.

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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’…

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

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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.

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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.

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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

Farleton Fell

On Sunday afternoon, Sam and I took advantage of the glorious weather and got out for another walk, this time on Farleton Fell. Well…I went for a walk, and Sam came along for a carry. We have a good view of Farleton Fell from our house, but I haven’t climbed it for ages. Seeing it everyday, I’ve been wanting to revisit for some time.

It’s a small hill, and with places to park on the verges of the narrow road that crosses over from Clawthorpe to Hutton Roof it can be climbed in just over an hour, even at my pace.

Like our walk of the morning, this route is dominated by limestone pavement.

There are far fewer trees growing out of the grykes, presumably because of the sheep. Farleton Fell’s higher but less conspicuous neighbour, Hutton Roof Crag is thoroughly overgrown with thickets of small trees, thorny shrubs and brambles. Since the topography of Hutton Roof Crag is also quite complex it makes for interesting navigation. I was talking to my old friend The Adopted Yorkshireman, when we walked in the White Peak recently, about wooded hills. In the UK the hills are generally pretty bare of trees. I was contending that this is because the woods were cleared for timber, charcoal and to make way for sheep – which may not be right but sounds plausible. The Adopted Yorkshireman opined that this is something we should be thankful for, because it means that we always have a clear view. Now normally, there’s nothing I like more than to pick a fight, especially with The Adopted Yorkshireman who always has an opinion and a cogent argument to back it up. But on this occasion I didn’t rise to the bait. Personally, I’d settle for occasional and partial views if those views were of wide stretches of woodland. Years ago I was walking near Kirby Lonsdale with my friend Valerie. We were ostensibly there to see some of Andy Goldsworthy’s sheep bields, but I was more impressed with the view. Valerie is French, and grew up near to the Pyrenees. When I asked her what she thought of the view, she replied simply: “Where are the trees?”

There are other things growing in the grykes, like this Hart’s Tongue Fern:

Without trees there aren’t so many birds either, but we were taken with this wheatear.

Apparently the name has nothing to do with either wheat or ears, but is actually from old Norse and translates as white-arse.

A board near to the top of Farleton Fell informed that it now belongs to the National Trust and that they call it Holme Park Fell. But I know that on maps dating back as far as the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries it appeared as Farleton Fell or Farleton Knot, so I’ll stick with the old name. On those same maps the hills are shown pictorially as rounded lumps and Farleton Fell is often shown disproportionately large, presumably because it rose so precipitately above the old coach road through Burton, just as it does now above junction 36 on the modern M6. Ironically, from the top there are views in almost every direction to much higher hills – the Lakeland Fells…

…the Forest of Bowland; over Scout Hill to the Howgills…

…and the hills above Barbon and Kirby Lonsdale. Perhaps the best view is of Ingleborough…

…which was also oversized on old maps because for a long time it was thought to be the highest hill in England.

Why am I so well informed about old maps? Because last week I went to a fascinating talk on the subject by Doctor Ian Saunders, who collects antique maps. Most old maps were bound into Atlases or printed on huge unfolded sheets. The first folding maps, recognisably like our modern walking maps, backed onto linen, were produced in 1644 for the parliamentarian forces in the civil war – Dr Saunders had one of those maps with him. The first UK maps to show roads were printed in 1676 on playing cards – because there were 52 counties in England and Wales – each card showed a county. As a lover of both card games and maps – I want a set! Sadly, even single original cards are very expensive.

Hmmm…through the wonders of Google I’ve discovered that I can buy a facsimile set for £10…..

The talk was in the village hall at Yealand, which is practically on the doorstep, but I only found out about it two days before. Dr Saunders is a physicist and the tutor of a friend who told me about the talk whilst accompanying A and I to yet another talk, this time about Einstein, particle physics and the Large Hadron Collider. The talk, given by Professor Brian Foster of Oxford university, was very engaging and was punctuated by astonishing violin playing from Jack Liebeck and the professor himself – the connection being that Einstein was a very keen violinist. They also do a talk with music on Superstrings – if they come to a venue near you I strongly recommend it. Professor Foster has the rare gift of making complex ideas accessible to a lay audience.

Farleton Fell