Andy Goldsworthy Sculpture, Clougha Pike

Goldsworthy sculpture, Clougha Pike

When I was up on Clougha last year with my friend Tony, we passed close by these three regular stone constructions and I wondered what they were (but not enough to walk over and take a look). Back at home, a bit of searching revealed that they are in fact an Andy Goldsworthy Sculpture and I resolved to come back at some point to have a proper look.

Goldsworthy Sculpture, Clougha Pike II 

Another pleasant day frittered away at work had clouded over slightly now that I was free to enjoy it. The the wind had picked-up too. Through the walk, the hills of the Dales and the Lakes would disappear from view behind some sullen black clouds, and when I a was just a few hundred yards short of getting back to the car, a little light rain fell.

Goldsworthy Sculpture, Clougha Pike III 

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’d parked in the car park off the Littledale Road, took the path past the sizable Skelbow Barn and then the permission path which follows Sweet Beck and leads to the intake wall and access land. The OS map shows one of those hesitant black dotted lines which indicate a path rather then a right-of-way. I’d tried to find the top of the same path last year, but missed it. It turned out to be a nice route up the hill – a small path following a line of grouse shooter’s butts. (They’re simply ‘Grouse Butts’ on the map of course, but that’s pretty useless as a name – makes it sound like they might be somewhere for the Grouse to live, or possibly to hide whilst they take pot shots at startled tweedy types.)

Goldsworthy Sculpture, Clougha Pike IV 

I was impressed with the sculptures. Nice to think that they were paid for by the Duke of Westminster who, in the past, has so jealously guarded his privacy on this land, and that the Right to Roam legislation makes it available to us all.

In the photo above you can see that below the hollow space…

Looking into a 'hollow'

…in each sculpture there’s a sturdy step. Rather inviting I thought, so I stepped into one of them. I know, I know, I’m a Big Kid at heart.

Looking out from a 'hollow'. 

I think our kids would appreciate this – another walk I shall have to share with them, maybe when there’s some snow on the fells.

Goldsworthy Sculpture, Clougha Pike V 

The sculptures sit in an area of spoil heaps from former quarrying, some of which are so regular that I wondered if there had been buildings here at one time too.

Quarry....remains, Clougha Pike 

There’s a small circular enclosure which I sheltered behind to enjoy the view and take a drink and a snack.

Goldsworthy Sculpture and Caton Moor Wind Farm 

I continued up on to Grit Fell and contemplated heading on to Ward’s Stone, the highest point in the Bowland Fells, but after finishing virtually in the dark last year when doing that, I decided against it this time.

Lancaster, The Lune and Morecambe from Clougha Pike 

So I ambled down to Clougha Pike ‘summit’ and found a sheltered spot amongst the rocks of the edge there for another drink and snack and contemplative pause. The fast moving clouds were providing a bit of a light show – crepuscular rays sweeping silvery patterns across Morecambe Bay, or picking out the Lune as it snakes through Lancaster, or Langthwaite and Blea Tarn reservoirs on the south-western edge of the city.

Clougha Pike 

It’s a particularly fine place to sit.

Clougha Pike II

I returned by the large bulldozed track which drops down to the Littledale Road, but then skirted the top edge of Cragg Wood to rejoin my outward route. It had been a great walk for birds, nothing too unusual, but lots of them. From Cragg Wood I saw surprisingly large flocks of wood pigeon – it seemed almost exotic, from my elevated position, to see so many flying above the tree-canopy, like something from a wildlife programme about distant jungles.

Having spotted a nicely patterned feather on the path early in the walk, I’d kept my eyes peeled and had managed to gather a fine collection, including one of around two feet in length with beautiful bands of colour.

Andy Goldsworthy Sculpture, Clougha Pike

Roeburndale – Bluebells, Bogs, Barns, Birds and Blueskies!

Bluebells Outhwaite Wood

After our visit to Roeburndale last year I promised myself a return visit this spring. I chose the bank holiday weekend, thinking that even then this would be a quiet spot – and it was.

No map for this walk – you can find it here, on a helpful leaflet, one of many about Lancashire walks stored on this website. We followed the walk as described, except we walked the big loop anticlockwise.

The leaflet mentions parking by Bridge House Farm tearoom, which now seems to be part of a garden centre. TBH and I (the kids were terrorising their grandparents for the weekend) couldn’t resist a leisurely start with a pot of tea, and a cherry scone for TBH, in the dappled sunlight on the decking by the river. Very civilised. If you find yourself in the area, the lunches looked very appetising too.

Early purple orchid

More by luck than judgement, we’d timed our visit to perfection. Not only was the sun shining, but the bluebells in Outhwaite Wood looked and smelled absolutely stunning. Dotted about amongst them were early purple orchids too,

River Roeburn

The gorse too was throwing off a heady aroma, redolent of coconut. The woods were busy with birdsong.

River Roeburn II

The route takes advantage of a permission path which is way-marked with small green discs, each decorated with a white silhouette of a deer’s head.

Female large red damsfley

This damselfly had me confused, but I’m almost certain that it’s a female large red damselfly, which are apparently quite varied in their markings. This one is green on it’s abdomen rather than the more usual black, but the yellow stripes and red banding are right. The British Dragonfly website was helpful, although…

Can be found in almost any freshwater habitat but rarely on fast-flowing rivers or streams.

…has me a little concerned, since I would say that the Roeburn is best described as fast-flowing.

Path through the Ramsons

In places the carpet of bluebells gave way to the broad leaves and white stars of ramsons; and the sweet smell of the Hyacinthoides non-scripta was over-whelmed by a pungent waft of garlic.

Negotiating a boggy bit

More bluebells in Outhwaite Wood

A path through the bluebells

The path climbs to the top edge of the wood, where we found a sunny spot for a picnic.

The upper edge of the wood

The path then drops down to cross the river on a footbridge.

River Roeburn again

This was where I brought the kids last year. There was a family party here on this occasion too, some paddling in the river, most sunning themselves on the bank. They didn’t seem to be under-attack in the way that we had been almost exactly a year ago.


We left the woods here, and crossed the river…

River Roeburn from Barkin Bridge

…by Barkin Bridge.

A bright flash of white and a strident song from nearby trees alerted me to the presence of….

Pied Flycatcher II

…a male pied flycatcher.

Pied Flycatcher I

I was half hoping to see a redstart, which are also found in these woods apparently, but that will have to wait for another time.

Roeburndale Chapel

By the tiny Roeburndale chapel we turned to head across rough and reedy pastures, past a couple of broken eggshells (whether they were evidence of a family triumph or tragedy I’m not sure)…..


…to a tributary stream named both Pedder Gill and Goodber Beck on my map.

Waterfall - Pedder Gill / Goodber Beck

The return journey, above Roeburndale, was enlivened by the spectacular escapades of stunting lapwings..



…and the burbling calls and swift low flights of curlews.

A number of very substantial barns…

Bowland Barn

…fabulous views….

Above Roeburndale

,,,both near and far….


Wray Wood Moor

What’s that on the horizon?



Another Bowland Barn

Which was fortunate, because parts of it were tediously wet and boggy. Next time I think I’ll try the path on the west side, on the slopes of Caton Moor. Or, I could go up to the access land and climb to the top of Caton Moor…..

Further exploration is called for!


We’d started late that day and were very late back. I was quite proud of the chowder which I threw together with some smoked mackerel which was languishing in the fridge, some prawns frozen in a lump at the bottom of a freezer draw and various odds and ends of veg. Which is my cheesy way of working in a link to today’s Food Programme (see what I did there?). I’m not generally a fan, but caught it in the car and found it very thought provoking. It featured an interview with Michael Pollan about his latest book ‘Cooked’ which received a rave review in the Guardian this weekend. If you have half an hour to spare I recommend listening to it.

It certainly galvanised me today. When I got home, I picked up the kids from school and then got them to make tea. B barbecued some chicken drumsticks and some lamb chops, A made potato salad and tomato salad and S washed and dressed some ‘cabbage’ (lettuce to you and I) with a dressing he’d made himself, and was also generally helpful. (‘I think I did the most jobs’ as he modestly put it.) Yes I helped them. And, no, A didn’t lop off any fingers when she was chopping spuds and B didn’t burn himself (or the meat). I think they had a real sense of achievement. And they subsequently ate things they would otherwise have just poked suspiciously and moved around their plates.

It wasn’t their first experience of cooking. It certainly isn’t going to be their last.

Nothing to do with walking, I know. But expect more rambling off message. Possibly. Or not


Andy and I were talking about TED talks just the other day. Here’s one by Michael Pollan about a plant’s eye view of Darwinism:

Roeburndale – Bluebells, Bogs, Barns, Birds and Blueskies!

Langden Castle and Totridge


The day after my walk with B to see the avocet chicks. A day, sandwiched between two bright and sunny days, of low cloud and heavy, persistent rain. Perhaps a day to stay indoors. But….the rest of the family were celebrating the jubilee with the village’s various Scout and Guide organisations, a long anticipated window of opportunity; and the forecast suggested that the weather would improve at least a little in the late afternoon; and the week before I’d picked up a second-hand copy of ‘Bird-watching Walks In the Forest of Bowland’ by John Wilson and David Hindle (and with illustrations by the Proper Birder’s daughter). The Forest of Bowland is rather convenient for a quick getaway from work…

Langden Brook 

The first walk in my new book -  ‘In Search of the Mountain Blackbird’ – had immediately caught my eye. It was suggested that pretty much straight from the car I might see stonechat and reed buntings, and I did. Oystercatchers too. And a heron loped away on slow wing-beats up the valley.

Not one but two tracks follow Langden Brook upstream, one only slightly above the stream, the other a little higher up the hillside. For reasons perhaps best described as ‘not thinking it through’ I spurned them both and took a thin trod which seemed to offer to keep me closer to the watercourse. It did. Close to numerous watercourses in fact. The thin trod soon petered out and I found myself plotting a course through a complex web of bogs, dykes, drains, runnels…

Langden Brook II 

It slowed my progress a bit, but it was lovely walking. It also meant that I could watch several sandpipers whirring away from me and flying upstream on rapid pulses of wingbeats followed by gliding with wings held in a downward v.

Langden Brook III 

Every now and again, the heron would reappear and retreat a little further upstream. I also seemed to be following several groups of mallards up the valley. And a quartet of sheep which didn’t have the sense to turn away from the stream and be rid of me.

At one turn in the river, a mallard duck sprang up from almost under my feet, dropped into the river and then proceeded to half-fly, half-swim in a wide arc around me. She was sweeping her wings along the surface of the water, almost as if she was attempting breaststroke. I assumed that this was a broken wing routine and looked briefly for a nest or a brood of chicks, but could find neither.

Lichen flowers? 

There was plenty of interest at my feet too, although I wasn’t always sure what I was looking at.

Heath milkwort 

This I thought I knew – heath milkwort.

But there were very similar flowers in both white and pink….


…a related species perhaps? As it turns out, yes…very closely related: heath milkwort, which is usually blue, but in some populations can also be found in white and pink.

Langden Brook IV 

As Langden Castle (not a castle at all, but a barn or a former hunting lodge, depending on who you believe) came into view, I spotted another mallard duck and nine chicks, all rooted to the spot, not two yards away, between me and the stream. They were huddled together and hunkered down in a feeble attempt to hide, but still in plain view. They stayed frozen, as if engaged in a game of ‘What time is it Mr Wolf?’, until I pointed my camera their way. Then, as if by some prearranged signal, they all moved in unison. The chicks dropped into the stream….

Mallard chicks I 

…and swam in tight formation….

Mallard chicks II 

…across a very fast flowing section and under an over-hanging bank where they were well concealed by drooping sedges. The duck flew perhaps a hundred yards upstream and tried to tempt me away with the same swimming/broken wing act as I had been treated to before.

Langden Castle 

The guide book suggests tarrying for an hour at Langden Castle to bird-watch before heading back down the valley to the car. I had thought about continuing up the valley to Fiendsdale Head and making my way across the moor from there, but that now seemed hopelessly ambitious. An attractive looking compromise looked to be to head up Bleadale instead to give a shorter moorland circuit.


This first entailed fording both Langden Brook and Bleadale Water. Both were a little swollen after the day’s rain, but I managed to get over with only slightly damp feet.

Looking back to Langden Castle 

The area around Langden Castle was the haunt of numerous pied wagtails and more reed buntings. Now, as I stopped to photograph two cascades in Bleadale Water, I saw a pair of dippers fly, in opposite directions, from the stream-bank beneath me.

Bleadale Water 

Sadly, I failed once again to capture a sharp image of the dippers….


…but as I watched them, I saw a bird, not too dissimilar from a blackbird, fly from a tree on the far bank to another tree upstream. It had a relatively long tail, I noticed, and….

First glimpse 

…a white chest-band. Could it be…

Ring ouzel 

…a ring ouzel? A mountain blackbird!

It was still a dull day, and this is not the sharpest photo ever, but I think that the last time I saw one of these, I was heading into Fisherfield Forest with a tent on my back intending to climb Ruadh Stac Mhor and A Mhaighdean, and that was…well, a long time ago.

Bleadale from Brown Berry Plain 

At the head of Bleadale the path on the ground went much further right, or west, than the path on the map did. As the path seemed to continue to head in an unhelpful direction, I struck off, heading for the ‘ridge’.

Totridge appears from the mist 

There was some heather bashing and a few peat hags to contend with, but nothing too onerous. The fells around were in and out of the cloud. I was aiming for Totridge, which at times I could see, but which was mostly hidden in mist.


A solitary curlew seemed highly alarmed by my presence and flew around me in wide circles, calling constantly.

Eventually, I was into the cloud myself and began to feel the cold. Even the red grouse had deserted me and only occasional glimpses of meadow pipits sustained my inner bird-watcher.

Peat hags 

Looking directly upwards from the summit of Totridge….

Totridge trig pillar 

…I could see blue sky. Could it be that the weather was going to improve?

It's trying to clear.... 

Hints of a view began to appear and then, quite suddenly, great vistas opened up.

It is clearing! 

The hillside drops away steeply from here, and the views were excellent.

Sunlit fellside 

One far hillside seemed to hog all of the sunshine for quite some time, although I did eventually get a taste of it myself.

Incidentally, if you decide to come this way, don’t try to follow the path shown on the map, which drops straight from the trig pillar down a fairly steep slope. Stick with the worn path on the ground instead: it follows the edge for awhile before doubling back in the first of several wonderfully graded zig-zags, presumably constructed for the purposes of grouse shooters.

Decent descent path 

On the way down I was entertained by more red grouse, and curlews, and a solitary hare.

The sun's still shining over there! 

It was getting pretty late, and as I came down through fields, the sheep all followed me, bellowing as they did so: seeing me off. If I’m honest, I find it pretty unnerving.

At Hareden Farm I spotted another dipper and more mallard chicks, before I rejoined Langden Brook for a final for a final kilometre back to the car.

Langden Brook V

Once again, I found myself following a quartet of sheep. As the spit of land between the stream and the fence narrowed they increasingly found themselves with little room to manoeuvre. One made an ineffectual attempt to jump the fence, catching a horn in the wire in the process. It bucked and pulled to no effect, but it was easy enough for me to unhook the horn and send the sheep on its way.

Langden Castle and Totridge