Coming home after work early afternoon, I realised what a glorious day it was. After days of rain, wind and wall to wall cloud, I was going to make the most of it.
I grabbed a startled dog from her sleep and we headed out. The colours were gorgeous – there were big fluffy clouds that cast deep shadows across the hills that contrasted with the bright sunshine, the contours of the fells starkly defined. I love days like these.
It was the first real hint of Spring, despite it being early February . Everything seemed bright and fresh. We parked by the bridge near the River Greta in Burton and walked along the single track road. I kept stopping to admire Ingleborough and the Dales. The Dog was not impressed with this stop/starting lark – even though I have to on her investigative sniffing. I didn’t care. I realised, after months of gloom, that I had forgotten to look and observe. (Hood up, head down watching for puddles).
I started noticing all sorts. We turned off down towards Clifford Hall, a huddle of houses and down to the fabrication site. Here The Dog gathered pace as the woods were just around the corner and there were squirrels to seek. There were good views of the village and Dales beyond. The Dog ran around unsuccessfully while I stood and looked. The remains of a tall tree trunk riddled with holes – obviously where woodpeckers came to hone their pecking skills. Another tree, weak and feeble, toppled by wind and gently caught and held by its fellow neighbours. They almost spoke “hey don’t worry, we’ve got you”.
The wood, though in shadow, dark and damp, was quite green with moss draped over trees, branches, rocks and gate posts. It was quite vivid. In amongst it all, was clumps of snowdrops. I was really looking. We normally walk the same way in but today I had reversed it and it seemed a completely different world.
Then I despaired. Man had put his ugly hand in and some one had dumped a machine of some kind in. It had been there for years, rusted and crumpled, nature gradually eating it. But it was still an eyesore, in its bed of brown leaves and woodland debris.
The Dog and I carried on until I spotted something perched high in the woods. I had never seen it before and wondered why I hadn’t. It looked like an electrical sub station, from a distance, surrounded by high metal railings, but was in such a ridiculous spot. I clambered up, slipping and sliding, expecting to fall on my bum in a muddy mess. As we approached the railings, I realised the signs weren’t all about danger of death, but of a hole in the ground. The wood is full of little quarries and is known as a small local coal mining area many years ago. It must of been one of the shafts. I could see why it was cordoned off, hidden in the undergrowth. I could imagine people disappearing down it like Alice in Wonderland! There were no other signs to tell you it’s history which was a shame. The wood is owned by the Woodland Trust and thought they would be more forthcoming. The railings looked pretty recent – maybe that’s why I had only just spotted it. It was intriguing.
We slithered back down – well I did. The Dog with four paw drive made it look easy, watching me grab branches and making ungainly noises. She seems to shake her head in amazement like Gromit. Back on the path, we sauntered back, stopping to admire and take photos.
The church hoved into view, perched high on the hill in the village. About 5 years ago, it had its spire completely reroofed with larch. For about a year, it had this gorgeous deep copper colour that glowed and could be seen for miles. It was fantastic. But now it has weathered in and lost its glory, but it’s still an imposing building.
The sun was gradually sinking and the air turning cold. It had been a great afternoon of wandering around and finding unexpected things. We sauntered reluctantly back to the car and drove slowly home, watching the glorious colours change as the sun slid behind the horizon.
We had enough items to get to warrant a trip to Settle and so we got ourselves organised and set off.
The weather apps said it would rain in the afternoon but as we drove over, large rain spots hit the windscreen. This wasn’t suppose to happen.
The Dog and I parked near Booths supermarket and sauntered up into town, the big plan being to walk the dog before the worst of the weather. It had sort of brightened up, with the sun feebly poking through the clouds, but in the distance it looked wet.
We crossed the market place, full of parked cars and headed up into the corner, up a very steep hill. An utility company was busy digging up the road in various places and had it cordoned off for vehicles. There were workmen around too (usually it seems they dig up streets just for the fun of it and then lose interest – roadworks seem to last weeks). I peered into the holes, full of wet mud and dirt. Lovely work in the summer, but in these conditions, another story. I gave them admiring looks and making a mental note to cross that one off my career choices.
The hill bent left and flattened out. It was a narrow back road but with it blocked off I unleashed the hound. It was a pleasant stroll, high up enough with a good view of Settle, Giggleswick and surrounding countryside. A freight train rattled along the Settle Carlisle line, tugging a string of cement containers. The sky looked broody and threatening – there was a drizzle in the air and a chill. I put my hood up.
A lot of people hate the month of January for various reasons, but I quite like it. The days are getting quietly longer and at 5pm it’s usually only just getting truly dark. Also the daffodils are poking through the soil, waiting for that last push to finally bloom and there’s, of course, the numerous patches of snowdrops along the grass verges which just uplift your heart, knowing that Spring is coming and it’s all going to get better (okay we might get a dumping of snow for the next few weeks but hey – just love the unpredictability of British weather). It’s just seeing the new life in mid winter that makes you feel so much better and that’s why I like January.
We approached the main B6479 road leading to Horton in Ribblesdale and wandered on the pavement past the little hamlet of Langcliffe. A little further along, a wooden pedestrian footbridge took us over the railway line and opposite our road to the river. We were in the valley, the fells rising all around us, limestone crags and quarried hillsides peering down. The hills were a mixture of browns and greens in the intermittent sunlight. Above us were the Attimires, crags and walls of rock with caves burrowed into them.
We dropped down the steady incline, to a huddle of cottages and a weir. The River Ribble was high, full of energy. It tumbled down the man made weir with its little runways for the salmon to leap up when spawning. We paused to admire the river, the fields full of ewes ready to lamb and a better view of the fells all around.
We continued along the footpath up towards another little community Stackhouses. We now were heading back to Settle. We walked along the little road together until we reached a fingerpost and a gated stile. Pushing through, we strolled across a wide field. I kept The Dog on lead. There were sheep in the field, albeit down the very far end and down a dip, out of sight, but farmers can still get cross. We soon came to another gate and on the other side the footpath was fenced off from the rest of the field, so The Dog got unleashed again. We were again high up overlooking the river and a large factory opposite. Think it’s some sort of aggregate place and it jarred against the scenery it stood in.
We went passed a farmhouse and up to a stile. There was an opening built into the fencing for dogs who were too wimpy to jump stiles, but there was a length of wood that owners had to lift to let the hound through. The Dog had it figured and waited for me to plod up to lift the barrier. I was scanning the next field for livestock and wanted to make sure before I let The Dog through. I clambered over the stile first and as I landed and went to open the dog barrier, my impatient mutt decided to follow me and leapt effortlessly over the stile. Sometimes I do despair of her, but admire her ability to negotiate such obstacles with more grace and ease that I’ll ever muster.
It was a vast field. As we started to cross, I realised that a large black menacing rain cloud was approaching. Oh great, just at the most exposed bit – typical! We quickened our pace. It started to rain, but it was heavy drizzle than a lashing downpour. We had the wind in our faces and the predicted 5 degrees bit at my cheeks, making them tingle. Another stile and gate were successfully negotiated and we found ourselves on the edge of a large school field.
The pupils were playing football – I ushered The Dog along as the teams were heading our way as the goal was only a few metres away from the path. I had images of the lads shooting wide and me getting a hefty thud on the side of the head. The path turned and we walked up the side of the pitch, still following the river. I looked at the scene and it reminded me of my schooldays long ago, when seemingly sadistic and enthusiastic PE teachers took pleasure of dragging you out to the furthest reaches of the playing field on the most horrible days of the year and making you do sports. These people were obviously still alive and kicking . I seem to remember that I was always a wretched fielder when playing rounders, posted far out in case one of the more competitive kids decided to thwack the ball into the next county, but in reality never did much apart from shiver. I looked at the boys. A couple wore just shorts and a short sleeved top, oblivious to the rain and piercing cold. I looked like Michelin Man and was still cold. Other lads had jumpers or light coats on, but they were all running around being competitive and dreaming about playing for a top club. One particular lad stood to one side, armless – he had retracted his limbs under his inadequate clothing and obviously had his hands under his armpits in a vain attempt to get some warmth. I looked at him – you could tell he hated football and was wishing for lunchtime to arrive and get back inside or just to his Xbox. I didn’t help his cause by telling him he looked frozen and he nodded in reply, his face pleading me to rescue him. I smiled back and carried on, thinking it wouldn’t hurt to hardened him up a bit.
The big black cloud had swamped Settle with a big grey blanket – it was drizzling now. The path veered from the river and towards the main road into Settle. We crossed over and rejoined the river. We walked along the riverside path where the River Ribble splits Settle from Giggleswick. It’s a functional path, lined with houses, flats, a school and further down, light industry. The Dog stuck her paws in the water because she could and the drizzle got heavier.
We walked through a little housing estate and a path between the houses, onto another road and back towards urban life. We turned left to head back into town and the car. Over the river, past the Land Rover showroom and industrial estate and up toward the station. We did a little shopping. The town was quiet, though full of parked cars. Perhaps everybody was cowering in the numerous cafes. Our business done, we sauntered back to the car and headed home. The timing was perfect. It seriously started raining and you could tell it was in for the rest of the day. The wind was getting up too. Time to hunker down.
We drove over the tops to Hawes in Wensleydale, dropping down into the little town, January tourists wandering around. We drove through and up and over to Buttertubs Pass and into Swaledale. We resisted our usual detour of driving through Thwaite, to our little holiday cottage which changed our lives completely many years ago. We carried on through Muker, Gunnerside and Reeth, admiring the wild fells and stunning scenery. It was a nostalgia trip. We stopped at The Dales Bike Centre as they’ve got a brilliant little cafe there, for elevenses. We ordered coffee and cake. There’s a bike hire and repair shop on site and according to their literature, it’s on the brink of a major redevelopment apparently. Suitably refreshed, we continued to Brompton on Swale and found Lucy Pittaway’s gallery on a light industrial park right next door to the A1.
We spent quite a while going through the pictures. She has such a unique quirky style. She came to prominence with us with her Tour de France and Tour de Yorkshire pictures depicting cyclists across the Yorkshire landscape and we have promised ourselves one ever since. Finally, we made a decision and bought one and feeling very happy, we drove the couple of miles back to Richmond to find somewhere to walk The Dog.
We headed towards the river area, looking for somewhere to park. The road signs sent us towards the former railway station building. We parked up in the pay and display, in between the station and the leisure centre. The poor Dog had her legs crossed. We sauntered up to the station looking for loos ourselves – outside it was all buffed sandstone and red paintwork. Inside there were shops which opened out into a wide cafe area, which was extremely busy. Then we realised it was also a cinema with three doors leading to the different screens. It was quite splendid. It had kept its character – high glass roof and Victorian ironwork painted red. You could visualise it being a busy railway station, such was the sympathetic development. We were well impressed.
We walked back outside, after a little checking out of shops etc, and found the leisure centre equally pleasing to the eye. Made of timber and glass, it seemed to melt into the woodland area it was set in, despite being fairly modern and municipal. It was just very well done.
We found the old railway bed now converted into a path and now followed it. The Dog was off lead and ecstatic. We wandered along a wide tree lined path, spotting the river through the trees. The sun was sort of out, making the day bright. It was a pleasant stroll. We came to a wooden bridge with signposts and wanting to return to town, followed the one marked Easby.
We followed the path down and in the distance could see buildings. To our delight, we stumbled across Easby Abbey, sitting next door to a beautiful dinky church, which had been there since Norman times. Sadly we couldn’t go in, it’s door gated and severely padlocked, thanks to thieves vandalising and pinching the lead off the roof. It was quite sad. We wandered around the graveyard and then into the Abbey itself next door. It was a substantial edifice which had stood for many years until Henry VIII got all uppity about monasteries and went around destroying them. It was quite a splendid ruin, with many rooms still outlined. It was a fascinating diversion and a pleasant surprise.
We leashed The Dog as we were now walking through a private driveway which allowed us to admire a rather lovely house and gardens before walking through a pasture and into a wood. There were two paths, one down towards the river again and the other one keeping high. As they both rejoined up the road, we kept on the higher path and carried on.
It eventually brought us back on the edge of town. We crossed the main road by the bridge and into a large open park where The Dog made a determined attempt to dip her paws into the river. Richmond stood high on the hill above the river, with houses set in the steep hillside, cascading down the valley. It was very pleasant. We found steps leading up to the centre – a steady pull for several minutes. They were tough as the steps themselves sloped backwards so it was hard going. We ended up on Frenchgate, where we paused trying to catch our breath. Once recovered we turned left and followed the road as it widened into the wide circular Market Square, lined with shops.
We wandered along, more out of interest than necessity, peering into the shops and diverting down side streets. It had a pleasant feel. It had been many years since our last visit and it hadn’t really changed. It was a mixture of upmarket independent businesses and then your downmarket cheap and cheerful outlets which kind of spoilt it with their gaudy frontages. It made Richmond look a little scruffy. The old Trinity church stood dominant in the middle of the Market Square.
It was now coming up to 4 o’clock, the light was starting to go and it was time to ahead home. We retraced our steps back to the park and the bridge which we crossed to get back to the car park. We drove slowly out of the town, up through its winding streets to the main road, where we took the route back up to Swaledale. We were hoping to have tea at the Farmers Arms in Muker – Yorkshire pudding with sausages and lashings of gravy, but alas they didn’t start meals til 6pm. It was only 4:30. Disappointed, we headed home, stopping off by the fish and chip shop for supper. Not quite Yorkshire Pudding, but it filled a hole and we were happy.
There was a window of good weather between two windy and rainy fronts and we made the most of it.
Wanting some elevation and a different route where we wouldn’t get blathered in mud, we headed up to Kingsdale, just beyond Thornton in Lonsdale near Ingleton. It’s a narrow road, hemmed in by centuries old dry stone walls and climbing into limestone country.
We parked by a convenient lay-by with other hardy souls. Leashing the dog, we walked a short distance down the road and around a bend, where a wooden finger post pointed us left through the wall. It was a steady ascent through stubby grass and scattered rock until we reached a ladder stile. Here we lifted The Dog over, not that she’s not capable, but she tends to launch herself and there was rocky boulders on the other side. She was not impressed being manhandled and wiggled, so it was pretty undignified for both me and The Dog.
Once over, we continued to pick our way through the remnants of a limestone pavement. You had to watch where you put your feet and look out for wobbly stones. It was a good pull up. Finally the limestone petered out and we were able to stop and take stock. There were fantastic views across the valley. It was a broody day and a haze hung low. We followed a wall across the field until we joined a broad track and turned left.
We were heading down very gently, along a gravelly track, rutted with puddles. The wind blew in our faces and as we neared the edge, a panoramic view opened up before us. To the left was the Forest of Bowland and as we turned our heads, in the far distance, the silhouette of Heysham Power Station and the Irish Sea, Then across to Morecambe, Carnforth, Silverdale and Arnside Knott. It was quite spectacular and with the sun rays peeking out and lighting up the landscape, it was breathtaking. We stood for many minutes admiring it.
We continued down the track and in the distance, we could see a collection of vehicles. As we neared, we realised it was the Cave Rescue Organisation and they were on a live rescue. We stopped and chatted to the chaps who were basically at base camp. They were in the middle of rescuing four lads who had gone caving the previous day and had got stuck due to rising flood waters. The Cave Rescue were not pleased as two of the lads, from a university caving club had been rescued only three weeks previously in exactly the same situation. They obviously hadn’t learnt their lesson and I found it quite discerning that they were university students. Not a lot of common sense going on there, considering the weather forecast had been predicting heavy rain. So the Cave Rescue guys weren’t best pleased, though stoic. They had a job to do. We met one of the actual cave rescuers who had been down the cave twice in the last twelve hours trying to assist them. He looked knackered.
And the thing is, these guys are all volunteers. They don’t get paid to go and rescue people. They go out in all weathers, day and night, in their own time and at their own risk. Then they go and do their normal everyday jobs afterwards. I am in awe of these men and women. So selfless. So dedicated. And it’s all run on charitable donations – all the vehicles, equipment, the lot. It’s an amazing organisation and we’re so lucky to have it.
The cavers were safely rescued.
As we stood chatting and admiring them and their vehicles, four modern Land Rovers and a Suzuki pulled up. They squeezed past the rescuers and continued up another lane. They were off roading on green lanes – tracks that the public can use if they’re in the right vehicle.
We said goodbye to the CRO and followed the Land Rovers. They had now stopped in one of the fields and one of the women was taking photos of the cars from all angles. We caught up with them and started to chat to another lady. We then continued along the track, expecting to have to move over to let them pass, but every time we looked back, they still seemed to be taking photos. In fact, we walked for ages before we joined the tarmac road and they were still nowhere in sight.￼
We followed the road towards the ugly BT tower (a necessity if we want our broadband and phones). Some off road bikers overtook us and finally the Land Rovers. We looked at the tower in awe that something so fundamentally out of place was granted planning permission – a horrible faux brick edifice with corporate blue windows and doors. It needed a stick of dynamite in my opinion.
We carried on to the T junction, where we discovered a lovely seating area – stone built with a little stone plinth with a metal inlay pointing to areas of interest and the distant towns. It was really sweet.
The sun was out now and lighting up the surrounding hills, though Ingleborough was covered in dark clouds. We waddled up the road towards the car, pleased to get out and get some fresh air. We made the most of it – tomorrow was predicted to have a big storm, one of those they like to name to make it a bit more serious. We drove slowly home.
I first came across Clitheroe last year when my sister in law and I were looking for vintage furniture shops in the area. We literally parked up, hunted down the relevant shops, did a coffee and shot out again, not really taking the town in. But it was enough to get me intrigued and make another, more leisurely trip there.
To be honest, I had always imagined Clitheroe to be a struggling little town, clumping it with the likes of Blackburn and Burnley, former woollen towns down on their luck. But it wasn’t. It seemed to be a thriving community, with well dressed citizens and a feeling of being reasonably upmarket.
I returned with my daughter a few weeks after that first hectic trip, driving over the Forest of Bowland. It’s a bit misleading is the name Forest of Bowland as it’s not exactly a Forest now, but a huge swathe of remote moorland, to the east of Lancaster. Many centuries ago, it was a large hunting area, presumably covered in trees. Now the only woodland surrounds Stocks Reservoir, managed by the Forestry Commission as a commercial concern and a cycling hub. We passed through the little village of Slaidburn, nestling in the valley before heaving up again. A long hill descends into Clitheroe.
We parked up in the car park near the railway station and walked the brief distance to the town centre. We wandered around. Apart from Fat Face, Cafe Nero and the ubiquitous Costa Coffee, Clitheroe is full of independent shops and cafes. My kind of town.
We wandered up to the castle, perched high on a hill in the middle of town. It was a steady drag, investigating the grounds. At the top was the museum and cafe which we didn’t visit, but clambered up towards the ruined tower where you got spectacular 360 degree views of the town and surrounding fells. We spent quite a while there, just taking in the view and watching the good people of Clitheroe go about their business.
We waddled down again, around the little parkland and back into town. We discovered the market with the traders working out of little purpose built cabins, selling all sorts. The shops in Clitheroe are quite upmarket and are very varied. A whiskey shop, a shop selling the likes of Joules and Barbour merchandise, a fantastic butchers specialising in sausages of every description and many others. It was a delight to wander around. We did coffee and cake in Jungle, an trendy cafe, though it was hard to choose – they all looked welcoming. At the bottom of the hill, the shops petered out as we approached a big Sainsburys supermarket. We paused – the little row of shops left seemed to be those shabby places housing taxi offices, tattoo parlours and fast food chicken joints. For some reason, we carried on and discovered, unexpectedly, at the rear of these shops, looming over them, a large building, which I initially mistook as a Marks and Spencer’s outlet.
It transpired to be an old mill called Holmes Mill, refurbished into a retail outlet, a large pub and bar, an Everyman cinema and a food hall. A quick peek in the bar – full of people enjoying a drink, trendy and full of atmosphere. The food hall was another on trend place and very popular. Stuffed with food, drink and gifts, it had an excellent deli, cheese and meat counter. It was one of those places where you can end up buying lots of things and spending a fortune – which we did. We decided to eat lunch here and sat at the bar on high stools. It was very agreeable. I decided to have the Buddha bowl and was able to choose my food at the deli. It was a very pleasant lunch indeed.
We staggered out again and wandered around, checking down ginnels and alleyways, finding more shops. It was all remarkably compact. Clitheroe seemed to have everything you needed in a town. I was very impressed – it’s just had a really nice feel about it and I decided that this was the place I would come to spend a day shopping when I was in the mood.
Very happy, we found the car and headed back over the moor. There was just one blot on the landscape literally, in the shape of an ugly belching cement works just up the road. It dominated the local area, but it must of employed hundreds of the townspeople and obviously kept the local economy humming. A necessary evil, I suppose, rearing it’s ugly head in the very pleasant surrounding countryside.
Below are some photos of the castle at Clitheroe. We came across a little white pillar in the castle grounds, which seemed to connect the town with the Pendle Witchcraft Trials in the 1600’s – Pendle Hill is nearby. There are many stories around this area of the infamous Pendle Witches, all of which are fascinating. Clitheroe is definitely worth visiting!
The Dog and I were overdue a big walk and with the forecast looking good, we headed to the coast.
We didn’t head to our usual haunt of Hest Bank, but decided to head further south to Heysham near Morecambe. It’s an easy drive with by-passes around Lancaster and Morecambe, so there was no need to fight our way through both towns. The dual carriageways cross seemingly flat scrubby marshland, with farms scattered. You feel it’s about to be built on by the likes of Amazon and their huge warehouses. Pylons marched across the landscape from all angles, converging on the edge of Heysham to an enormous electrical substation. I was sure my hair briefly stood on end and wafted to the left. We approached a roundabout on the edge of Heysham and dutifully turned right.
I was after Heysham Village, but I was driving along a main road flanked by post war, pebble dashed housing that seemed to go on for ages. It didn’t seem very villagey. A road sign pointed left marked Heysham Village and took us down into the original Heysham settlement.￼
The Dog and I parked in a large deserted car park and paid £1 for 4 hours. We walked towards Main Street, past an ugly toilet block and it still felt very modern. But once on Main Street, it all changed – we walked past little cottages with date lintels marked 1629. Wow, nearly 400 years old. Most had been sadly pebble dashed (that should be a criminal offence in my world) which didn’t reflect their antiquity – they were stone buildings. It was a narrow street, with a one way system for cars. There were little shops (mainly cafes) and the Royal Hotel in the middle. It was all rather charming. Further along, off the street was St Peter’s church staring out to sea. The road swung round to the right and ended about a hundred yards, the little cottages petering out and large 19th century villas taking over. Many years ago, it was probably a sleepy isolated fishing village, miles from anywhere and self sufficient. Now it was attached to the modern world by housing estates and had been subsumed into the greater Heysham area.
We took the path by the side of St Peters church, pointing the way to the Chapel and up onto the headland. Here a ruined chapel stands, facing the westerly winds and looking across Morecambe Bay. Only a few walls remain and the stone coffins – open to the elements and the contents gone, but the shapes still held.
It was an exposed spot here and I wondered what it was like to come here especially during storms, being lashed by wind and rain. In the murky distance you could see the south Lakeland fells. It just added to sense of loneliness this place once had.
The Dog was excited and galloped down to a little sandy bay. This was her heaven. The sun popped out sporadically and there was a chilly wind. The tide was heading out. We headed south along the grassy headland along with numerous other dog walkers, the dogs enjoying the freedom of running free. We followed the well worn paths as Heysham Nuclear Power Station and docks hoved into view. I’m not completely happy with nuclear power stations for some reason, expecting to meet people with a green glow and a third eye slap bang in the middle of their forehead. There were some fancy houses on the ridge line on our left and I wondered why you would buy one. Look right to see the glorious fells of the Lake District, look left and the imposing rectangular twin bulks of a humming nuclear reactor.
We dropped down onto the pebbly sandy beach and wandered along. The ferries for the Isle of Man departed from here as well so the foreground was quite industrial. At the end of the beach is a cracking little cafe. It must serve all the workers from the power station and ferry terminal. We didn’t stop, but turned to walk back to the village. We stopped to look at the newly installed Ship monument, which was quite stunning, but seemed strangely out of place, on this seemingly remote straggly part of coastline next door to dock lands. There was a little sign on it, but gave no information why it was built and it’s significance.We headed back to the centre of the village and had a poke around. It was mainly a huddle of 17th cottages, with 19th century interruptions and the odd 1950’s bungalow squeezed in. The village was kind of growing in its own right before Britain launched the massive house building after the Second World War.￼We wandered around the church yard, full of gravestones old and new. It dropped down towards the sea and had a wonderful view of Morecambe Bay. It was a lovely spot. The church itself was dinky, with a slate roof and not particularly tall. I poked my head into the church as The Dog wasn’t allowed in. It was enchanting, with timber beams, lanterns and stained windows. It was so cosy and welcoming, a lovely little place of worship.
We then went into a little woodland opposite which delighted The Dog as there were unsuspecting squirrels to be chased and she spent a happy half hour on red alert. It was a pleasant little diversion, full of rocky crags in its small acreage and offered a view of the surrounding urban area between the trees. We did a lot of exploring, up and down steps and following paths.
The Dog was impatient for her beach walk I had promised, so we ambled back past the church, onto Main Street and strolled further down the road, turning down a little alleyway to the promenade. It stretches all the way to Morecambe. We walked along until steps allowed us access to the beach itself. The Dog was elated. We strolled across the wet sand, the sea on one side and the edge of civilisation on the other.
To prevent flooding, huge sea defences in the shape of massive boulders had been built along the length of the promenade. They were impressive and not a eyesore at all. They were also built out into the sea, probably to break up the power of the waves, so the beach was in sections. Every so often, we had to leave the beach and walk along the promenade before we could drop back into the beach, but the access points were few and far between. In consequence, we missed large chunks of beach. However, on our visits to the promenade, we found these little plaques giving little bits of information. There was lots of them, embedded in the path. We spent some time reading them.
We could of walked to Morecambe, but we had gone far enough. We turned around and retraced our steps. From this angle, we could see the little village cascade down from headland to the edge of the beach, sheltering in a natural valley. You could imagine it being a tiny isolated fishing hamlet now, tucked away from the heaving Atlantic storms.
We got back into the Main Street – there were a few people wandering around, but there seemed to be an overwhelming amount of cafes vying for our business. Perhaps I come at the wrong time of year, but never seen it heaving or the car park full and wondered how they stayed in business. For a not so obvious tourist destination, the retail outlets seem to be thriving and good for them! Maybe it was a mixture of locals, dog walkers and visitors that came to Heysham Village time and time again and supported the local economy.
The Dog and I had now exhausted Heysham Village and lunch was beckoning. She was very reluctant to jump into the back of the car, but she finally did, not looking impressed. We drove through Morecambe with its impressive frontage and promenade, but distinctly struggling in its shopping area and surrounding areas. It’s all rather sad – a typical British seaside town suffering from the lack of investment and unable to reinvent itself. We drove home as the sun disappeared and the clouds took over. It had been a good morning’s walk.
And what a start. Yet another beautiful clear sunny day. A high pressure system was sitting over our little island nation and thus was the third day of sunniness. And the third day of hard overnight frosts, an accumulation that made it looked like there had been a flurry of snow.
We had to take The Dog for her daily exercise – if you don’t, she pesters you until you do. So we had a little walk from the little village of Low Bentham, some 15 miles east of Lancaster.
We were trying to avoid the fields which were sodden and squelchy, so we stuck to the roads. We walked up Mill Lane where many years ago, a thriving silk mill employed the local people. It’s now long gone and replaced by a small attractive development of flats and houses. The road inclined upwards and soon Ingleborough hoved into view – tall, majestic and watching over the little communities around it. The frost was thick up here, hanging off the grass. It felt like Christmas. The road dropped down again and bore left, where water had snaked its way across the road. It had frozen and had become an ice rink. We took it steady, checking where our feet were going and hoping not to do a Bambi. We traversed it without mishap and carried on to the next corner and studied the vista across High Bentham, Ingleborough and the Yorkshire Dales. It was stunning. Not a cloud in the sky.
We walked a little further and then plunged left down a bridle way. The trees were bare and stark against the sky, a few final brown leaves hanging on. Towards the Lake District, the distant fells had little caps of snow on them. It had been a cold few days.
We crossed a couple of fields – any mud had frozen solid and we crunched our way across. There was no fear of sinking knee deep into gloop today, though there were a couple of springy spots. We dropped down towards a terrace of houses and onto another road. Another great view to admire. The road headed downwards towards High Bentham – we stopped to look at a small cemetery and what looked like pigeon lofts. Just love coming across little things like that.
At the bottom by the river, we turned left again and into the entrance of the Riverside Caravan Park, through a little coppice of trees and into the park itself. It’s quite a big caravan park, the vans in regimented rows, empty and silent. It soon would be time for the annual close down for a couple of months. It was quiet and ghostly, only a few residents spending time there. In the summer it’s a hive of activity and bustling. We sauntered through towards the riverside footpath that would take us back to Low Bentham.
The Dog was excited. Water. Her ears drooped as we forbade her to go swimming, telling her that it was far too cold, as if she cared. She compensated by going for a paddle anyway and didn’t seem bothered by the chilly waters. She was now off lead and loving it, trying to chase rabbits who were safely behind fencing and running after a passing train (one of her obsessions – train chasing. Weird). We went over stiles with caution, but the sun had melted the frost here. Again, a huge churned up part of the path had thankfully frozen hard saving our trainers from clagging up.
We followed the river, flowing high and fast. The sun was starting to lose height and its warmth. It was chilly in the shade. We sauntered back under the railway tunnel and back into the village. We walked up a little incline and got a fantastic view of the Forest of Bowland, a vast moorland stretching down to Slaidburn some 12 miles south. Despite the name, there is no forest – it’s an ancient name for hunting grounds – apart from small patches of Forestry Commission woodland. With the sun setting, it was just a dark silhouette with distant wind turbines turning lazily on the tops.
The smell of wood burning smoke hung in the air making it all very atmospheric. Love that smell in the winter. It reminded us to head home ourselves to our own fire, with a warming mug of coffee and a chocolate Digestive and snuggle up on the sofa.