Burton Pottery Walk

I was scrolling through Facebook whilst drinking a cup of coffee the other day, when a post caught my eye. It was a chap who has written a book about the potters and their potteries of Burton In Lonsdale in North Yorkshire which has also been known as “Black Burton”. He described a walk around the village taking in all the pottery sites and I thought “I need to check this out”.

The village of Burton In Lonsdale

We parked at a convenient layby near the river and followed the instructions to Greta Wood. We have walked along this route before to the woods so The Dog can chase squirrels so we know it quite well, so we followed the road alongside the River Greta and dropped onto a path/driveway on the right as the road began to rise. Reading the guide, we immediately noted where the clay had been dug to such an extent, that it got close to the road we had just left and threatened the foundations. Looking at the dense undergrowth, you could see where the digging had been. We carried on, this time with our noses to the ground looking for more evidence, but this part of the path had been covered with hardcore, but as the track turned into a path and into the woods, we spotted the terracotta clay the book mentioned and picked up the larger bits to have a closer look, looking for fingerprints. We didn’t see any obvious signs, but it was still fascinating.

The lane leading to Greta Wood
The little bits of terracotta

We came up to the little bridge and turned left, much to The Dog’s surprise as we usually carry on up the hill. We walked up a little narrow track, a bubbling little stream gurgling down the bottom of a steep bank on the right. On our left, fallen trees and undergrowth dominated, but again, you could clearly see where the ground had been cleared and excavated, a sloping cliff as a backdrop. We stopped at the spot shown in the guide’s photograph and imagined how the potters worked hard to get the clay out of the ground. There is also evidence of coal mining in the area too. We retraced our steps and went off the guide slightly to check out a fenced off area high up the hill. It was extremely muddy and we looked like a pair of Bambi’s, but got up there. It’s just a very deep hole, hidden under grass, brambles and woodland debris – no wonder they had closed it off. There’s no signs pronouncing what it is, so we presumed it was a ventilation shaft of some description and slithered back down the hill again.

We walked back to the car and the bridge, admiring the cottages opposite which were formerly a pottery. At one end, there’s a little side room with a sloping roof which apparently has a sloping floor inside, where the waste water from the pottery making flowed to the outside. Genius. The cottages are in private hands, but what a great little piece of local working history to have in your home. We walked past these cottages, up to the little concrete cap covering a mine ventilation shaft – it’s kind of hidden in a fenced off area near the picnic site and a bit overgrown. There’s a utilitarian company sign unceremoniously attached to the fence, and the cap is unremarkable, but it’s nice to have it noted and not just filled in and lost forever.

The road continued up to the Waterside Potterys down a long driveway. Again, these are in private ownership so you would look highly suspicious loitering down there. It’s a cluster of private housing, converted from the pottery and there’s no real evidence of there being a thriving pottery industry there, so we trotted back to the crossroads and the car. From this point, we marked where two other potteries were, one completely gone and replaced by detached modern housing and the other, converted into homes. It looked too modern to be a former pottery, but the photos were there to prove it

We wandered up the steep hill until we got to another small crossroads half way up and turned left into Leeming Lane, a charming street of cosy cottages with splendid views across the river. The road curved right and we faced the towering preseince of Burton’s beautiful parish church. Situated on top of the hill, it can be seen for miles around and is a lovely building. We peered into the graveyard where most of the potters are buried, but didn’t go in. A few years ago, the spire of the church was refurbished with cedar and for many months, it had a beautiful deep copper colour that shone in the sunlight. Now weathered into a grey, it’s lost that wonderful lustre which is a bit of a shame.

We carried on past the church and got burped out onto the High Street. We strolled along, looking at the mixture of charming stone cottages, tall elegant houses and village hall. Burton in Lonsdale has a lovely little village shop run by the community and staffed by volunteers, crammed with all sorts even a little cafe. At the end of the High Street, the road curves to the left where we found a little indent at the foot of the wall – either a plague bowl to wash your hands in before entering the village or a mortar and pestle from yet another pottery that existed just around the corner. Again, it’s disappeared and replaced by modern bungalows. Opposite, down a driveway, we spotted a footpath sign and plunged down towards a little stream – it was quite steep and muddy, so there was a lot of slithering and yelps. The Dog looked at us in bemusement and with a look “you useless bipedals, you need four paw drive” as she patiently waited for us by the dinky little bridge at the bottom.

We popped out by a stile and as instructed, kept left of an old barn and strolled across the fields. They would afforded us some great views if the weather had not closed in and we now walked in a steady drizzle. We clambered through stiles, across fields of sheep who watched us warily and stopped to admire the scenery and the little valley below us. Trying to work out where the river was, we pulled out our phone which has a handy Ordnance Survey app and realised we were slightly off course! Turning around, we saw a finger post by the wall and trotted over to it and onto the road. We followed the lane down and around to the right, passing farms and cottages, tucked down this little road. It was very pleasant with high hedges and walls. Eventually we came to a dead end. To our left was a very fancy house, set well back from the road, slightly elevated. In front of us, the track ran out by a gate. At one time, you could walk down to the river here and cross a bridge, but as the guide mentions, the locals found a seam of free coal and gladly helped themselves to it. Unfortunately, they were a little bit too keen and undermined the riverbank and bridge, which collapsed into the river and never rebuilt. It sounds like it also took away the income from the toll house that was there too.

We started to feel a bit uncomfortable standing there, pointing, thinking that the people in the house were watching us and wondering what we were up to – potential burglars casing the joint? We turned around and walked back along the road back into the village. We took a different route back to the car, down a little back lane full of lovely terraced cottages and read more about where the potters lived. We passed the Punch Bowl pub and licked our lips. Oh for a Sunday dinner, meat and vegs, stuffing, a Yorkshire pudding on top and lashings of thick gravy together with a pint of the landlord’s best brew, but alas it was to be a pipe dream. It was firmly shut, a victim of the current Covid restrictions and we were denied. So we waddled back down the hill, slightly damp from the drizzle and headed home for a warming cuppa and a large slab of cake.

Here’s the link to the Burton Pottery Walk.

https://www.burton-in-lonsdale.net/

Lord’s Lot Woods, Capernwray, Lancashire

It’s been a wood that I drive past fairly regularly and often wondered if it was open to the public. Recently, I’ve passed when there has been a few cars parked on the one or two gravel laybys and thought I would check it out.

So, one sunny spring afternoon, I parked up on the first layby I came to – there was already a car there. Lord’s Lot Wood is owned and managed by the Forestry Commission. I let The Dog out of the boot and she bounded down an earth path into the woods. I followed her. The path weaved its way between the trees, alongside a trench full of muddy water. Here and there, the path turned a little boggy – softened mud squashed gently underfoot. There were all sorts of trees – sometimes it got quite dense, the trees growing close together and then it would widen out, so you could see a carpet of brown autumnal leaves covering the ground against a backdrop of silver birch trees.

We followed our noses – there is no way marks or posts, but the earth path was clearly visible and we tracked it until we hit the other side of the wood and a dry stone wall. We followed the side of the wall, with a vast panorama of the Forest of Bowland fells before us, wind turbines turning lazily. (despite it’s name, there are no forests, just moorland – I believe Forest is an old name for royal hunting). Again we came across patches of bogginess, The Dog tripping over them lightly, while I hesitated, looking for the best route across – the feet sunk a little deeper this time, but all was good.

https://www.visitlancashire.com/explore/forest-of-bowland-aonb

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_forest

Far reaching views across to the Forest of Bowland

The wood was a mixture of deciduous and coniferous trees – beech, red oak and Scot’s pine amongst others. Fallen trees lay everywhere, slowly rotting and returning to the earth – a few times, The Dog and I had to negotiate them as they lay across our paths. It seemed a proper wood, left to its own devices, but quietly overseen.

I was thankful that I had the trusted Ordnance Survey map app on my phone as I tracked our way around. Thinking it was a simple case of following the wall, a couple of times I discovered that I was heading in the wrong direction and had to correct ourselves. Another time, I turned a corner and the path disappeared so we started to hack our way through twigs and branches. We didn’t get far before I gave up – The Dog had actually held back, with a look of “Really??”on her face. She has special looks for me when she knows that I doing something that’s guaranteed to fail – and despite my calling and cajoling, she stood fast and finally, realising the folly of my endeavour, we went back to the path we had just left. It was little further down that the path became truly boggy and unnegotiable so I had a cunning plan, putting my feet in the footprints of previous walkers, in the misguided belief that I would be successful. (It hasn’t rained for a few weeks, so I had expected it to be pretty dry, but obviously there are bogs and underground springs throughout that just never dry out). Alas, I trod confidently on one section, which not only squirted a voluminous amount of gloopy mud up my leg with a vigorous fart, but also swallowed my trainer so that the gloop overflowed into my boot and soaked my foot. I think I swore. The Dog stopped in her tracks and swivelled her head – her own paws and lower legs covered in sticky mud -and gave me a despairing Gromit the Dog stare. She can make you feel so small.

Shaking my foot, we carried on, up gentle slopes and down the other side. We passed an open grassy area, an obvious bog full of grasses and flowers, a little savannah surrounded by trees. A little further on, there was evidence of some form of tree management as tall pine trees stood in regimented rows, with avenues of grass between them. Another different aspect of this fascinating wood. We kept the wall in sight and finally dropped onto a track outside the wood and followed that up and round, keeping the wood to our right. Sheep and their lambs gambolled in their fields, mothers calling their offspring to their sides as we popped out, watching us warily. In the distance, the purple hazy contours of the Lake District fells could be seen. We carried on walking up the gravelly path as it branched right, another open vista on one side and woodland on the other. Vehicles had been up here and as the gravel track ended and turned back into an earth path, the tyres had dug deep and mashed the track into a muddy mess, so there was a lot of picking and skipping my way around the miniature lakes and soggy bits.

As we walked, I noticed that Spring was still reluctant to arrive with the odd bush starting to bud. A hawthorn with its vivid green leaves, bright yellow gorse brightening up the path and clumps of primrose. The trees stood stock still, bare of leaves still thinking it was winter. We have had lots of sunshine, but it’s hardly rained for weeks and we still get cold frosty mornings. Perhaps the trees knew something we didn’t. Perhaps it was self preservation on their part. I love Spring, probably my favourite season. You’re on the edge of a precipice of new beginnings and it’s lovely to see everything gradually burst into life. Perhaps we’re all desperate for warm weather, colour and life after a long winter of lockdown – it just seems to be taking its time this year.

The muddy churned up path finally finished by an outbuilding and we branched slightly right. The path smooth and dry once again. We climbed a slight incline, where the trees spaced themselves more widely allowing you to peek between their trunks and see open fields and gentle hills beyond. It opened the woodland up again, allowing the milky sun to warm us up. Again there were allsorts of trees here, a real mixture with holly bushes mixed in between. It was quite a pleasant part of the wood and yet another different view. It just kept changing.

The first bluebells are starting to make an appearance.

We followed the path back up, a gentle pull to the other side of the wood – you could hear the cars travelling on the road above and occasionally see them between the gaps in the trees. Checking my app, we found another path to our right and headed down there, the trees and bushes enclosing on us again. We trotted through, looking around us and then the path forked. The Dog took the left fork and I started to follow her, but it looked a bit of a dead end, with a tree stump to negotiate. I backtracked and decided to go down the right fork, which was definitely a well defined path. We hadn’t walked far when we came across a small plantation of randomly planted Christmas trees, just growing happily on either side of the path. Short and stumpy, there was probably no more than 20 of them and just in an improbable spot. It just had me puzzled and required a photo.

The Dog watched me as I consulted the app to double check I was heading in the right direction, but alas, the little arrow showed I was heading due south rather than east. Shows how easily you can get disorientated and lured into a false sense of security in a wood, by confidently assuming that a well worn path is the right one. I called the hound, retraced our steps back to the fork and took the left one, which my faithful dog had already taken a few minutes earlier. This so called dead end was actually a proper path. The times my dog is correct in her choices is amazing and I should of learnt by now. She just rolled her eyes and scent marked a log.

We were heading this way to check out Syphon Well as marked on the map and honed in towards that, hoping to find a well or something of historical interest. On the way there, the path took us past a plantation of those certain type of conifer trees, that huddle so closely together that you can’t see more than 10 foot into their interior – totally black and devoid of any vegetation, just a mass of blackness – you expect some vile creature to come bounding out. And to spook you further, the trees gently groan in the wind and make other unnatural noises. The Dog and I picked up speed and scuttled by quickly. They are so creepy.

We got to Syphon Well but could not find any evidence of a long lost well or anything to suggest something was there. The ground was covered in leaf litter and other debris, broken branches and twigs. It also alternated between hard ground and bogginess. Disappointed, we wandered down the path a little further and to our delight and puzzlement, came across a series of oversized protruding manholes set across the path all in a line. Amazed by their presence, I did a quick Google, typing in the MCWW from the lid and discovered that they were part of a Manchester Corporation Water Works pipeline from the Lake District to the city of Manchester, feeding water to the city’s population. What a long way for water to travel to one city? It’s the same in the Yorkshire Dales, reservoirs in the middle of nowhere, miles from anywhere, built to deliver water to the cities of Leeds and Bradford. Most of them are Victorian, that busy age of invention and advancement. But to think that many men with just picks and shovels dug the trenches and lowered the pipes, with none of the machinery and technology of today, working for hours in end in atrocious conditions. It made you think of the ingenuity and sacrifice of such projects. I just love the name of J Blakeborough and Sons, the valve makers of Brighouse stamped on the cover for prosperity too.

My Googling burped up this link, not much information, but realised the pipeline crosses the River Lune at Caton, another one of my walks.

https://www.steane.com/gallery/index.php?/category/113

I also Googled Syphon Well and didn’t get very far at all on that. On another inspection of the map, there is another Syphon Well marked just outside the woods – maybe it’s something to do with this pipeline.

With the The Dog looking weary and starting to dawdle behind me, I decided to head back to the car. At one time The Dog used to dawdle because she didn’t want to go home, but nearing 13 years of age, she just wants short walks and her mat so she can go to sleep. The only energy she expends these days is to beat you to a gate or a stile, a lifelong habit that we have never been able to train out of her or a possible half hearted run at a squirrel. She’s certainly slowing down.

But we had one final hurdle – we came up to a stream, the main path clearly on the other side. The stream was too wide to jump across and also steep sided. I had images of me misjudging my jump, sliding unceremoniously down the banking and into a messy heap into the water. It wasn’t particular deep either, but clearly our old friend Mud was there, just waiting. To show me up further, The Dog leapt across easily and patiently waited while I dithered and dallied looking for a suitable place. I think she leapt it three times until I found a spot where there was a lower shelf and I was able to step across with my dignity still intact. The Dog shook her head.

The car’s outline appeared between the trees and we tracked up towards it. The Dog leapt thankfully in the boot again and crashed. And to complete this lovely stroll around Lords Lot Wood, there was this lovely display of roadside daffodils, wafting gently in the wind.

Kendal Castle

Hubby had an appointment in Kendal, so me and The Dog decided to join him for the chance of a different walk and a change of scenery.

We headed out in glorious spring sunshine, albeit still very cold. Spring has sort of stalled here in the UK – it was getting warmer, but recently we’ve had quite a few days of hard frosts (and even snow) as high pressure dominates and the days remain cool. Nature has pressed the pause button for the time being, though she allows us to bask in brilliant sunshine which is a bonus.

Hubby found his destination in Kendal easily and parked up. We found ourselves in suburbia to the north of the town and a quick glance at the OS map on the phone, showed no immediate greenery. The Dog ain’t one for pounding the streets, so we expanded the map. On further investigation, I realised that Kendal Castle was in walking distance and with a hour to kill, we set off.

We walked down a busy A road, heading towards the town centre, a mixture of shop fronts and housing. We passed a little row of cottages, their front doors straight out onto the pavement and their curtains/blinds tightly closed to stop people like me having a good gawp into their living rooms, before turning down a peaceful side road. We followed the map, the small cottages turning into slightly bigger residences and as we approached the Castle, elegant Victorian villas with little well tended front gardens.

We found the entrance to the grounds of the Castle and squeezed through the kissing gate. The path went straight up a hill. After a brief read of the information board, we set off up the path as joggers ran down the hill and then promptly turned around and jogged back up. I just don’t have the right mental attitude to climb into lycra and run in any shape or form, unless it’s after a bus or some form of reward. The childhood memories of staggering around the school running track, while the PE teacher smirked and watched you suffering are seared deep into my brain still. Why inflict pain on yourself like that? A brisk walk suits me fine, thank you, so I let the joggers pant up the hill, while The Dog and I took in the scenery.

We were steadily rising above the town of Kendal, the houses, roads and industry surrounding the vast eminence we were climbing, with the Lakeland fells as a stunning backdrop. It was a huge parkland with groups of trees and the odd bench to rest on. I kept stopping to admire the ever expanding views, doing slow 360 degree turns. Finally, the Castle appeared at the top – a complete ruin with only a couple of corners left. I visit Kendal probably two or three times a year, usually on a shopping trip and had never visited the castle. There were several information boards to read and seats cut out of stone in front of the castle; people sat on other benches admiring the views over into the Lakeland hills while others stood and took photos. It was rather splendid.

We decided to investigate further, crossing the empty moat of the Castle and into the middle. To our right, was the remains of a tower with a stairway, so we sauntered over to check it out. The stairway was constructed of metal with the actual steps made of grating. The Dog followed me, though not particularly impressed. She wasn’t entirely comfortable with these steps design, going up very gingerly, with her back legs looking like she’d had weed herself. The grating must of been horrible for her paws and she could see through the stairs. She then wasn’t too happy with me with my too brief and cursory look once we had reached the top – it was a cylindrical stone construction with a window overlooking Kendal town centre and that was that – and so we immediately turned around and went back down the steps. Halfway down I waited for The Dog, who was even more unhappy, carefully stepping down each step. I thought at one point to scoop her up (at the risk of losing fingers) to carry her down, but she saw the end was in sight and with a wag of her tail, she skipped down to the grass and bounced away with relief.

We walked around the perimeter inside the castle and read the information boards. There were two cellars that we checked out, spooking a couple of birds who in turn spooked us. There were another set of steps that took you up to the other ruined tower, for another scenic view. This time they were a proper set of stairs, albeit made of metal, but none of the grating underfoot. The Dog, just about recovered from the last set of steps, declined to join me and decided to stay put at the bottom to watch me waddle up to take photos and have a look around. Reunited at the bottom, we headed off back into parkland and found a high spot to have a good look at the town surrounding the hill. You could see why it was built up here, you would of seen the marauding mobs heading your way at all angles – it had a 360 degree vista. The Dog and I just stopped and stared – the sun was shining in a practically cloudless sky, admiring at the Lakeland fells in the not too far distance, looking very inviting. Nestling in the valley, the town of Kendal – I was looking out for familiar landmarks, working out where the town centre was, the roads and other features. Kendal looked a lot smaller from up here – almost snug and cosy. We found a gravel path and walked along the edge of the moat until the path plunged down into a thin slice of woodland towards a residential side road. We continued onto the grass as the hill gradually fell away towards a cemetery at the bottom. Checking both watch and map, we decided we’d better retrace our steps back to hubby. We headed back to the Castle and down the wide grassy track, towards the kissing gate. The sun was strong and warm, but there was a still chill in the air – a winter coat and scarf was still required with the breeze, though there were braver souls in lesser clothing. It was just simply a gorgeous day to go out and have a walk.

We reached the kissing gate, I put The Dog back on the lead and wandered back down the sunnier side of the streets, admiring the houses. This time, I start to notice that quite a few properties had flood gates on their doorways and even on their windows! The River Kent flows through the centre of town which isn’t very far from these houses – it was startling to think it could rise above their downstairs windowsills. I’m not sure I would be happy living there with that threat hanging over me. I also was amazed how far reaching the flood waters were – this would be a vast area of Kendal flooded if it did happen. And with that thought in our heads, we re-joined the busy and bustling A road and went off to find hubby.

Grimwith Reservoir near Grassington

With this current very cold, but beautiful sunny weather, we decided to venture further afield and headed to Grimwith Reservoir in the Yorkshire Dales and find some proper snow!

The snow hadn’t reached us so there were still green fields, with the odd dusting of snow here and there and thick frost where the sun couldn’t reach, but in the distance the tops were covered in a blanket of the white stuff. As we carried on into the Dales, the snow got thicker and covered even the valley bottoms. We arrived at Grimwith Reservoir, owned by Yorkshire Water and stopped at the gate just off the main road. Beyond, the road to the car park looked like a skating rink and we erred – the actual car park is quite a way along this road. Taking stock, we decided to park on the other side of the gate in a little layby and walk in and not risk getting stuck or sliding off the road.

We wrapped ourselves up so we looked like Michelin Men and even The Dog donned her coat. The sun shone and the snow glistened as we walked up the road towards the car park, keeping on the verge for grip. The road was solid ice. Several cars passed us, making us feel wimps for parking by the gate, but there was a steep incline and the cars took it slowly and steadily. We came up to the edge of the reservoir and the final climb to the car park which had quite a few cars considering. A snow cloud came over, dropping light snowflakes on us, swirling in the light breeze as we followed the track out the other side and found a footpath that dropped us down towards the water’s edge. Snow crunched under our walking boots and we watched where we put our feet – it was quite safe, but it was an uneven gravel path. We came up to a small thatched building which is a very unusual roof covering in the Dales – in the sunshine, with the snow laden cloud moving on, it looked almost Scandinavian. We couldn’t get close to it to check it out, but presumed it was part of the water company’s maintenance buildings.

We carried on, The Dog on her lead, her nose heightened by the cold, was on full sniff alert. She loves the snow- we made snowballs for her to catch and chomp – nothing makes you feel colder than watching your hounds eat snow with relish. We walked on, following the edge of the reservoir, past clumps of hardy pine woodland, adjacent fields and fells. It was an easy trail to follow and relatively flat, a few steady pulls up, but nothing too strenuous. When the sun disappeared behind a lingering cloud or we ducked into shadow, the temperature dropped considerably and a couple of times, the wind picked up on the more exposed area and caught our breath.

But the views were stunning and it was lovely to walk in crunchy snow on a mid winter’s day, the sun shining with blue sky – the sort of day that makes you appreciate being alive and enjoying nature’s raw beauty. You felt you could flick the sky with your fingers and hear the satisfying ping of crystal, it was that crisp and clear.

Soon we were walking on the top of the dam itself with views reaching south across the fells of Wharfedale and beyond. We reached the road again and started back towards the car – the ice had melted considerably since we had arrived, turned into slush by car tyres, but on a steep hill, where the sun hadn’t touched it, the ice remained hard and compact – we agreed that we wouldn’t like to drive down that. As we strolled back, several cars had abandoned the idea of reaching the car park, parking along the road instead – tucked into little laybys and flat areas of exposed gravel and dirt. Cars were still coming in – it was getting quite busy – but several of them soon passed us again, having turned around and seeking another place to park. Perhaps that icy incline was putting people off. Incredulously, a motorhome appeared and we gasped in surprise – what was he thinking!! We advised him of the state of the road and within minutes, he had turned around and slunking back. Our own little parking spot had become full with four other cars and that made us feel better and not so wimpish after all. We had walked some 4.5 miles around the reservoir and it had certainly shook off the Christmas cobwebs and got us vitalised again after a 10 days of slothiness and lethargy which comes with a festive week of overeating, drinking and not really doing much. Even The Dog appreciated the longer walk, happy to be out somewhere different and not being dragged around the same block again by owners, reluctant to leave the warmth of a blazing fire and the chance of a mince pie or sausage roll.

We headed down to Grassington and found the Yorkshire Dales National Park car park where we ate our packed lunch and drunk our flasks of hot sweet tea, before making use of their toilets, which were thankfully open. Finding public toilets open in the middle of this pandemic is a bit of a hit and miss affair, so it’s a pleasure to find such a facility rather than loitering behind a bush and exposing your nether regions to the biting cold. The sun was sinking towards the distant fells and we decided to head home before it got dark and icy again. It had been a cracking day out.

A stroll from Clapham to Feizor, North Yorkshire

I had errands lined up over Clapham way today, so grabbed The Dog for a morning stretch of the legs and headed to the little village of Austwick, just off the A65.

It was an overcast day, but with no rain forecast. We parked up on the road by the bridge, opposite the Traddock Hotel and sauntered over the aforementioned bridge to the bridleway marked Feizor.

I had walked this path before and knew that The Dog could be let off lead. It’s a farmer’s track with sturdy dry stone wall on either side with sheep, lazily munching grass beyond. There were a few dog walkers out and we nodded and said hi to each other as we passed. We came to a point where the path split into several different directions – we turned sharp right and wander up towards a farmhouse up a narrow path. The farmhouse sometimes has produce out by the gate and an honesty box – last time I picked up potatoes and eggs, but today alas, there was nothing. The Dog was happily sniffing and trotting beside me as we passed a field of sheep which wasn’t particularly interesting except for one sheep who stood out as it was nearly completely covered in a deep hue of dark blue. It looked like someone had thrown a bucket of paint in its face. Okay it’s that time of year when the rams service the ewes, a pouch of coloured paint attached to their undersides so the farmer can tell when the ram has done his business, but this was the completely wrong end (unless the ram needs to go to Specsavers). Well, the sheeps fleece would be useless for wool, but it would make any sheep rustlers think twice about pinching him.

https://www.yorkshire-dales.com/feizor.html

https://visittheyorkshiredales.co.uk/elaines-tea-rooms-feizor.html

Looking towards Feizor

We carried on between the walls, passing derelict stone barns, their roofs missing and the stone starting to fall. It seemed a shame to see such buildings fall into disrepair. We walked over a tiny little bridge across a ford and approached the tiny hamlet of Feizor, a clutch of houses and farms. Usually we bear left here and head up towards “Elaine’s”, a lovely little tearoom for a coffee and cake, but with the current lockdown in England, I knew it would be shut and have to forgo my latte and scone today. Instead we bore right, pass barns full of cows lazily chewing their pellets. They watched us with interest, something different to see and we stopped to watch them back. The others poked their heads through too and joined in the quiet musing of each other. The Dog and I were getting quite an audience. We bade them goodbye and walked up the lane, out towards the A65. We were looking for a path on the right. We had great views of the limestone crags hanging over Feizor and Austwick – we were on the edge of the Norber Erractics that overlook this area and are worth exploring.

The little ford and bridge

https://www.visitsettle.co.uk/norber-erratics.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norber_erratics

We found our little track and wandered down between the fields, wishing it was sunny. We could see Austwick in the distance snuggling in the hills – we were technically within the boundaries of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The path joined our original path not far from the little ford and we retraced our steps. We were just approaching the farmhouse again, when I saw farmer on a quadbike herding sheep – at first I thought it was along the bridleway and quickly latched The Dog back on her lead (she is part collie) as I thought they were heading towards us, but they were all safely in the field. The farmer was manhandling a couple of the beasts into a small trailer as I peered over the wall. The sheep had all gathered together and I desperately wanted to take a photograph of them – they were each completely daubed in various colours! There were reds, blues and yellows slapdashed across their fleeces. I looked at the farmer to give him a friendly nod and maybe engage him in some light conversation, like why are your sheep so colourful, but he looked quite stern and didn’t look the type to want to talk to anyone except his sheepdog. I dithered about taking my photo, but decided to carry on my walk, wishing I was like my English sister in law who has an American accent after many years of US living, and who would of got away with taking a photo. The farmer would of scowled at her and thought her bonkers, but she would of got her picture and probably got a few words out of him too.

We got back to where the paths branched and much to The Dog’s delight, turned right and extended our walk. This was perfect. A low level, flat walk with no worries about the hound. We followed the path, me looking out for more multicoloured sheep to photograph, but alas they were all very clean. We picked up the road that goes towards Wharfe, a tiny gathering of houses up in the low hills. I wondered about wandering up there, but decided against it and turned to take the road back to Austwick.

We wandered into the village with its little primary school, village hall and little shop. It’s got another wonderful little shop that sells all things eco-friendly and where you can take containers and refill them. I’ve got my laundry liquid from here a couple of times – it’s quite tiny, but seems to do a trade and I like supporting small enterprises like these. It seems so unexpected in this small off-the-beaten track village. I just love finding places like these. Opposite, in the pub car park, there was gazebo where they were selling artisan breads and cakes – I looked around me, I was the only person in the street and I wondered who would be buying it. Maybe its a regular thing and the locals buy throughout the day (catches the mums getting their kids from school) or just word of mouth. Again, it was just so quirky and wonderful – someone setting up a bread stall in front of a closed pub in a small village on a Friday. Very British!

The little eco shop, Green Living

We found a small ginnel (alleyway to the rest of you) and followed it down where it popped us out right next door to the car. That wasn’t planned, honest. We had done 4.7 miles on a sort of a figure of 8 route and I was getting hungry for lunch. We jumped in the car to do some shopping at the local organic shop and head home for something to eat.

https://www.greenlivingonline.co.uk/pages/about-us

Organic Veg Box Deliveries to Lancaster Area,South Cumbria & Craven

A wander along Lancaster Canal and other distractions

The Dog and I were getting fed up pounding the same tarmac (if you did any cross country walks around here, you’ll be up to your knees in mud, it’s rained so much lately – one of the downsides of living in the North West) and decided to set off to the towpath of the Lancaster Canal at Hest Bank.

We parked in our usual spot, in a road of large prosperous detached houses with huge gardens and dropped down onto the path from a narrow horsepack bridge. It was an overcast day with a stiff wind and we sauntered mindlessly along this familiar route, my neck bent at right angles as I studied people’s gardens and houses who backed onto the canal.

I stopped at one particular spot, as many people had done before, considering the bare muddy patch in the verge, to peer over the hedge to a magnificent building gradually coming to fruition. I call it the “Grand Designs” house after the TV programme and half expected Kevin McCloud to come stomping over in his wellies and hard hat. It’s typical of its design – zinc roof, larch panelling and huge floor to ceiling windows and bi-folding doors. I stood admiring it and the separate indoor swimming pool for many minutes, wondering the size of it and how much it cost. Then it struck me – in my world, I would of built this beautiful house on top of a hill with far reaching views or on the coast itself (which was minutes away). Instead it was nestling in a dip in the field, surrounded by housing, some up on a nearby hill who would just stare down on it. But hey ho, at least here, I could stand and admire it every time I came for a walk.

The Dog charged off in delight after my musings and we carried on towards Carnforth. While The Dog was having a monster sniff by the water, my gaze caught sight of a wooden noticeboard on the other side and on impulse, we trotted over the bridge to check it out. It was a wooden board and a simple map of the woods carved into it, so not much to go on, but an interesting diversion to the walk. So we started to investigate. We set off to walk one way, but soon realised the woodland was petering out into a sliver of trees, so we turned around and took the opposite path that climbed up and turned left. Once up there, peering down towards the canal, I realised that wooden fencing has been put up, keeping visitors firmly on the path. So much for a woodland walk. Out of interest I carried on as the path took yet another left. I consulted my OS Map app on my phone and discovered that we got spat out onto a back road which took us to Bolton le Sands – it was taking us back to the car. Perfect.

We followed the back lane, sprinkled with little private stables and horses. It was a lovely lane with little fields and woodland on either side. We came to a T junction, went right and walked in the original hamlet of Bolton le Sands, with traditional terrace cottages, fine houses and a rather impressive church tower. I could imagine this being an isolated, self sufficient little village many years ago, before being overtaken by a mass post war building programme that surrounded this little place. From Hest Bank to Carnforth, there are many large estates of identical housing dating from the 1930’s onwards, in fact you could take a stroll through time here and chart the recent history of the buildings. We moan today of modern estates popping up, but this seemed to be on an epic scale – imagine being a local then, seeing your countryside being concreted over en masse. It’s not out of place now, but when you really look, you realise how recent this has happened.

What a fantastic lintel!
Bolton le Sands impressive church tower!

But here was Bolton le Sands to remind us how it looked centuries ago and I was pleased to see it. There wasn’t much here, but I paused to admire the street and a splendid door lintel before plunging down a side street to rejoin the canal path again, much to The Dog’s pleasure as she was off lead and could ignore me again. We trotted back to our bridge, but decided to carry on towards Lancaster. There was housing on either side, some with gardens that ended at the water’s edge and had built little jetties. How lovely to sit there in the evening sun with a glass of wine, watching the sun set. Canal boats were moored up along this section, smoke pouring out of chimneys and wind turbines whizzing in the wind. It looked all very snug.

Love this house, they always dress up mannequins and have a theme! Very dedicated!

The Dog looked like she could walk the 4 miles to Lancaster town centre, but I had no inclination as it was coming up to lunchtime. We clambered up to another bridge and followed a muddy, puddle filled track back into the houses. This was Hest Bank/Slyne and the roads were lined with big imposing houses as well as handsome 1930’s semis set in big gardens. It just had an air of prosperity and orderliness – I liked it very much. Again, my head swivelled from side to side – about three 1970’s houses were being modernised, their brickwork covered in cream render and black framed windows added, which was a vast improvement and made them very smart indeed.

We finally reached the car and a quick check of the phone’s pedometer showed us that we had walked 5.8 miles – not bad for a 12 year old dog who looked like she could walk further. However, she leapt into the boot and I hadn’t even started the engine before she crashed onto her mat. I drove slowly home, going a completely different way home and was happy with the different route we had found. Like days like those!

A walk around Hackfall Woods, near Masham

My eldest daughter wanted to meet up, but as she lives in Lincolnshire, we decided to meet up halfway, at a suitable place where we could exercise the dogs too. Hackfall Woods ticked the box.

A couple of days before our trip, our area of the North West suffered heavy rainfall and so in consequence, several rivers broke their banks. Our planned route through Wensleydale seemed to be in jeopardy as the main valley road was flooded in several places and seemingly impassable – it would mean a longer journey to get there.

However, on the morning of the trip, we decided to risk that particular route and so youngest daughter and I shoved The Dog in the boot and set off over the tops to Hawes. It’s a great road, passing the infamous Ribbleshead Viaduct of the Settle Carlisle railway and over some quite remote countryside with the odd farmhouse dotted here and there. We dropped down into Hawes, a lovely little market town where Wensleydale cheese is made and which attracts hordes of visitors every year. We followed the road out and swallowed – between here and Hackfall Woods was the worst of the reported flooding. The road was still quite wet, but with the odd puddle huddling the verge – it seemed alright until we got further along and then the puddles stretched right across the road. I slowed right down and crawled through them – I didn’t know how deep they were and didn’t fancy aquaplaning into a solid dry stone wall. What was unsettling was the measuring posts along the verge indicating the depth of any flooding and nearby fields turned into temporary lakes. There was a lot of gasping in wonder in the car.

http://www.grewelthorpe.org.uk/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grewelthorpe

We safely made it to Masham and drove the final three miles to the little village of Grewelthorpe and parked at the back of The Crown Inn car park. A good marketing ploy here – let people park in your grounds and when they finish their walk, they’ll be wanting a quick pint or a meal and look where the car’s parked. Good for them! Thought it was a great idea, though sadly it was shut due to winter opening times and Covid 19 restrictions. Daughter and I were after a coffee and some cake of some description, so we wandered around this pretty little village, admiring the little cottages and houses and giving The Dog a stretch of her legs. We walked past the wonderful Community Hall, a rather grand building, stopping to read the parish notices and discovering with delight and then dismay that there was a cafe here – which was shut. We tried a door in hope, but to no avail. We slunked down towards the village pond where ducks swam and preened themselves by the side of the water and commented what a lovely sight it was. Signs warned motorists of crossing ducks which was equally lovely. Admittedly we were quite early (just in case of a watery diversion) and then Eldest Daughter had just texted to say she was running late. We were at very loose end, not too sure what to do. We wandered back towards the centre, hoping for a shop that sold chocolate or even wrapped sandwiches, but it wasn’t looking hopeful. We bumped into the local postwoman, swapping pleasantries and asking her about the chances of some form of refreshment in the village. She immediately advertised the Community Hall cafe; but it’s shut we wailed. With cheerful heartiness which is part of the job description of being a postie, she declared that it opened at 11 and with a synchronised check of our watches, we worked out we had a 25 minute wait. With Eldest not due for another 45 minutes, it would work.

http://www.grewelthorpe.org.uk/village-hall

Grewelthorpe Village Hall - Randall Orchard

There was a chill in the air, despite the sun popping out between the clouds, so we decided to sit back in the car and wait. A big black rain cloud came over and released its contents upon us which was quite dispiriting – this wasn’t in the forecast. We hoped it was a quick shower rather than in for the rest of the day! Dead on 11, we leapt out of the car just as the rain cloud decided to move on and waddled back to the cafe which was now definitely open. Two volunteers stood on duty as we asked if we could come in with the dog. The woman misconstrued my question and said that we couldn’t eat in because of Covid restrictions and we would have to sit outside. After a bit of prattling around, Daughter held The Dog while I ventured in (the woman didn’t invite us all in, so assumed dogs weren’t allowed after all). Behind the screen was a selection of wrapped cakes and a small menu of sandwiches and other refreshments – I tentatively ordered a decaf latte, half expecting a mug of Nescafe instant, but no, my request was granted and she set about making it as I drooled and dithered over cake. Daughter had had a lightbulb moment, had tied The Dog to the fence and wandered in too where we started making small talk. The two assistants were lovely, warming up to us and we commented how wonderful it was that this place was open. I asked for the loo, which ended up in a long “Covid dance” detour around and outside the building to the back door and being let in, to comply with the covid 19 rules. It was all a bit silly as we were the only ones there and a quick nip down the corridor would of sufficed, but it was that great British quality of following rules to the letter regardless.

We took our food outside, now supplemented by two free bags of out of date cheese and onion crisps, kindly offered and kindly accepted. The coffee was really nice and the homemade fruit cake delicious. You just can’t beat a bit of homemade village fruit cake. We ate slowly, looking out for Eldest, ready to flag her down, but now we looked suspicious as we lurked by the fence, looking left and right. Finally, I decided to get her food too and re-entered the cafe. In the middle of the transaction, I get a yell that Eldest has arrived and we greet her with a cup of tea, a slice of fruitcake and three more free bags of cheese and onion crisps. Should of just given us the box, it would of been easier.

We changed our shoes for walking boots and wellies, introduced the dogs – one boisterous 18 month old Labrador and our 12 year old grumpy girl is not a good combination really. We walked down the track by the side of the pub and followed the signs along a muddy footpath, before dropping into Hackfall Woods. Well that was relatively easy. The Dog is let off leash and with a little persuasion, the Labrador is launched too. Luckily he knows our hound’s folibles and keeps his distance, though one or two of his headlong charges bring him into our dog’s short tolerance orbit and gets a resounding wuff in his passing ear as a response. We all relax once the dog’s have found their equilibrium and are happily running through the undergrowth and up and down the banking. We are on a high narrow path with a steep slope slithering down to the river below and can just about see across the tops of the trees to distance views. The sun has come out and brought out those fabulous autumnal colours in the trees. It’s just gorgeous.

Just hidden in the trees!

Hackfall appears today to be a natural wood, a ‘beautiful wilderness’. In fact, it is very much a landscape moulded by people. Famous landscaper John Aislabie bought Hackfall in 1731. His son William set about transforming Hackfall into an ornamental landscape that would appear completely natural to the visitor.The design was developed around views of both the built features and the natural features. Several scenes even featured on a dinner service, known as the Green Frog service, which was commissioned by Catherine the Great from Wedgwood and Bentley for one of her palaces.Hackfall then went through a long period of decline, and in 1932 was sold to a timber merchant who clear felled it. A period of general neglect followed, resulting in the gradual decay of the buildings; while flooding eroded the water features.

https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/woods/hackfall/

http://www.hackfall.org.uk/

We came across one of the follies that dot Hackfall, built for no reason apart from the owners were so rich they could build pointless, but beautiful buildings. It wouldn’t happen today. This one allowed us to see across the countryside with its high point across the treetops. We trotted down the steps back onto the path and followed it as it dropped down to the river. The dogs were itching to get in, but it was fast flowing from the recent rains and we called them away – this was the River Ure that had flooded Wensleydale a few days before and they would of been swept to Ripon before you could say Hackfall Woods.

This step was built over a tree root!
A better profile! Love the effort put into doing that!

We kept to the lower path, past workmen clearing brash, shrubs and unwanted invasive plants. The path was muddy and slippery. At one point, us humans had to stop and pause – a side stream was in full spate and any stepping stones were under water. The three of us looked for a way over while the dogs looked on bemused on the other side. Youngest had wellies on, probably the most sensible footwear and got over, while Eldest and I dilly dallied. We finally found a spot narrow enough to hop over and with a helping hand from Youngest, leapt over and fought our way back to the path, much to the delight of the dogs. We must of walked for over two hours in the woods and with The Dog showing weariness and the sun dropping, we headed back to the cars. It was a lovely pretty woodland of deciduous trees, and we had walked only a little part of it and hadn’t found all of its hidden treasures. It was certainly a place to explore more.

We decided that tea and cake isn’t much sustenance for woodland walking and headed to Masham to a little cafe for a very late lunch. We parked the cars in the handsome square (parking charge – an honesty box with a suggested fee of £1 – I just love that, so we emptied our purses of spare coinage which probably was more than a £1, but every little helps). We wandered across to the Johnny Baghdad cafe in the corner, windows and doors painted yellow and read the Covid instructions. No dogs allowed, so we were consigned to outdoors where there were little tables across the pavement with umbrellas. So we sat down and ordered hot coffees and paninis and enjoyed each other’s company. The dogs looked knackered after their non stop running through the woods and we agreed that it was the perfect halfway point for the family – a perfect place for getting a picnic, walking for miles, exploring and investigating , and when everything is back to reasonably normal and the pubs are open properly, a pint in The Crown!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masham

Home

https://www.yorkshire.com/places/yorkshire-dales/masham

The light was now starting to fade and rain had started to fall again. The shops were shutting up and it was getting cold. Time to head home. With great reluctance, we said goodbye to each other, noting how time seems to whizz by and jumped into our cars, waving furiously at each other. Daughter, Dog and I retraced our steps up through Wensleydale again as night took over the hulking hills of the Dales and we headed home for tea.

A Wander Around Endmoor near Kendal

It was a nice bright Saturday for once and with a DIY chore to deal with in Kendal, The Hubby and I decided to tag a dog walk onto it too.

So after stuffing the boot of the car with our DIY purchases, squashing The Dog into a tiny corner in the process (she was not impressed, believe me) , we drove the little way down the A65 to the village of Endmoor and parked up on a residential street. We put on our walking gear, clipped The Dog on the lead and walked across the road.

Facing us was a very steep hill in a sheep field, which isn’t good when you haven’t warmed up. So we plodded up, stopping to “admire the view” while we gasped for breath and rested burning legs and The Dog watched impatiently. But once at the top, we had splendid views across the south Lakelands before immediately plummeting back down towards the farm, as skittish sheep galloped off. We squeezed through wall stiles and contoured along before coming to a field full of cows. Cows can be a bit unpredictable and there had been recent news reports of people being killed by them. So we kept close to the wall with one eye on the beasts, but they were more interested in eating the grass and we were thankful to reach the other side. We wandered through fields and along footpaths and lanes before we came to the pretty little village of Stainton and a little humpbacked bridge across the little beck. We then picked up another field and wandered across towards the Lancaster canal. The sun was now out and picked up all the autumnal colours which were glorious. We found the canal and walked along a small footpath through trees, looking for a bridge that would take us to the main towpath opposite. We found one bridge where animals had congregated, their hooves had churned up the mud and turned it into a gloopy soup where we slipped and slid, and got a bit grubby. So we continued to the next bridge and to our delight, managed to cross and drop down onto the gravel path. The Dog came off lead, much to her delight and sauntered along back to the community of Crooklands, passing the Westmorland County Showground where we got a canal trip along the Lancaster Canal and discovered from the volunteer historians that this area was a main port of call with warehouses, jetties and coke ovens. There’s nothing here now to suggest that it was an industrial area at all – just information boards surrounded by fields.

https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/canal-and-river-network/lancaster-canal

We crossed over the A65 and wandered down a back lane, picking up the footpath which passed alongside the Peasey Beck. A level footpath with the odd muddy bit, but it was very pleasant. We walked along an old disused tram line from the warehouses – just a long hillock running through the field. We finally came up to a stile and peeked over to discover another field of cows who were a little distance away. The Dog squeezed through and I clambered over into the field, just as one of the cows bobbed his head up and decided to investigate the humans and their dog, teeling his friends as he did so. He started trotting at a pace, with his mates following too and they started to assemble into an uncomfortable group of skittish beef. The Dog got yanked back through the gate by Hubby and I was pretty nifty at jumping back over. The cows skidded to a halt by the gate, snuffling and sniffing noisily, snot drooling from their noses. They were a bit frisky, very nosey, but if you made a move towards them, they all took a few steps back. They weren’t that brave, but we still didn’t want to test the theory.

We were now in a dilemma as this was the last field before Endmoor and the car – some 300 yards of field separated us from the car. We could almost see it! The other options were to retrace our steps back to the A65 and walk along an extremely busy country road or find an alternative route. With the sun sinking, we looked for another way round and discovered, by walking further up the field we were in, another gate into an adjacent field. We clambered over and started walking, hoping not to meet the farmer as we were technically trespassing now. We saw another gate further along that actually went back into the cow field, so we headed for that as that would get us ahead of the cows. But as we negotiated the hill down, the cows spotted us again and quickly worked out our cunning plan. They all started to trot towards us, delighted in the thought of having us for company again. Oh for goodness sake! We abandoned the plan of entering the field, but walked parallel to it, along the hedge line, hoping that there was a gate at the other end. The cows still continued to follow us, but gradually their interest waned as they realised that we weren’t coming into their field to play and even the more determined ones gave up and resumed their grass consumption. However to our dismay, we found cows in this field too, but luckily they were high up on the hill and calmly continued eating the grass, unbothered by us traipsing through. With a big sigh of relief, there was a gate and we happily squeezed through onto a tarmac road. From here, we walked past fields and the waterworks before finding the car, and jumping in with relief.

As we drove back home along the A65, we discovered that there was a pavement along the side of it, so we could of walked it, but was happy that we were able to negotiate those last few hundred yards rather than add another couple of miles and how much time onto our walk. Anyway, it had added a bit of excitement to the day!

Arnside, Cumbria

I owed The Dog a big walk and had a plan of going to Hest Bank on the Lancashire coast, do a big circular walk and then to treat myself to an afternoon tea at the Shore cafe. But then I had a 2am moment and realised the county of Lancashire has been put into Tier 3, the highest Covid lockdown measure in England at the moment and thought better of it.

So we tweaked the plan slightly and decided to head to Arnside in Cumbria instead, a place we visit fairly regularly. We would walk along the river and out towards the estuary of Morecambe Bay and around before walking up Arnside Knott. I packed a sandwich, a piece of cake, a flask of tea and a bag of dog treats, with the intention of eating them at the viewpoint at the Knott and off we set.

We arrived about 11:30 to find the place heaving with people and full of cars – it was an overcast October day with a bit of a chill and it was busier than summer. Was it that everybody had the same idea as me – with Lancashire out of the running, they had all come into Cumbria? I went down to my usual parking area, but it was full. I turned around at the bottom and as I crawled back up, someone motioned that they were leaving. So I bagged their spot despite an old boy trying to sneak in. Chuffed, The Dog and I gathered our gear and headed to the river.

The River Kent is quite wide here and tidal. I kept The Dog on the lead as there were fisherman on the quay, but soon let her off, puzzled by the amount of oozy mud everywhere. It covered the path and came right up to the embankments, inches thick and gloopy. I had never seen it like this before. We kept to the edge of the wall, away from the worst of it and carried on as the people thinned out and the path became rocky. It was here that two groups of people had stopped and were staring out into the estuary, watching four canoeists. First of all, I couldn’t figure out the fascination until a siren sounded across the water and finally it dawned on me – it was the Arnside Bore

https://www.arnsidesilverdaleaonb.org.uk/discover/things-to-see-do/explore-villages-aonb/arnside/

The Bore is a tidal wave that rolls in very quickly on high and spring tides. I could just about see it in the distance, but within minutes it was covering the sandbanks and causing birds to scatter. No wonder there was a warning siren. It was amazing to watch this unstoppable roll of water charging up the river, the canoeists riding in its momentum. The power was unbelievable and anyone caught up in it would be in serious trouble. I stood there for about 10 minutes watching the tide gushing in behind it. It was an incredible sight, a reminder how powerful, how dangerous nature can be.

The Dog and her small stick

We eventually carried on, The Dog finding a large log to carry, attracting attention and laughter in equal measure. I just rolled my eyes. We walked round a little bay up to the entrance of a caravan site with the intention of following the river again. I wasn’t sure how high the tide would be and didn’t want to get caught out, but people were walking along there so I followed. I did note any escape routes and where the tidemark was, as I wasn’t sure these people were locals and knew what they were doing. We got quite a way – to the edge where the river opens up into Morecambe Bay itself, but here the sea was lapping against the edge of the cliff, the sandy beach submerged and we could go no further. So we all took a detour up into the woods, following a narrow muddy path until we dropped down onto the shingle beach beyond. The Dog and I then plunged into the quirky caravan park hidden in the woods, all the vans perched higgly piggly. We bobbed out back at the entrance of the caravan site and rewarded ourselves with a tea break, suddenly realising that our path we had taken only about 40 minutes previous was now underwater! Actually the whole little bay was underwater. I was agog – I just didn’t realise the tide came up this far. We walked along the concrete road, noticing that the puddles had got larger during our short stop and looking closer, saw the water insidiously creeping across the road, slowly filling up gaps and indentations. You could see how people get caught out and trapped on sandbanks and such like. This area and Morecambe Bay beyond, with its miles of flat beach, fast tides and quicksands, is notorious for trapping people and many people have lost their lives. You don’t mess around here.

Our path is under there somewhere!

We walked around to the beginning of the Knott, a wooded eminence owned by the National Trust. It’s a gentle ascent, through deciduous woodland, riddled with paths. The Dog and I sauntered up, long distance views opening up in between the trees. We stopped a few times to take in the view and lamented that it wasn’t a gorgeous sunny afternoon to bring out the best of the autumnal colours. We got to the viewpoint overlooking the River Kent and sat on a bench – me to finish off my sandwich and cake and to feed The Dog biscuits, though she successfully scrounged the last of my egg sandwich. A woman walked past, commenting on the enormous piles of poo left by cows that roam freely here and as a conversation starter, it was a good one as we ended up chatting for at least a hour, if not longer. She was in an ancient VW camper van touring around for a few days and we chatted about our various trips. She was great fun and I felt I could be good friends with her – was even tempted to exchange phone numbers, but in the end we parted with best wishes after I suggested that she should visit Swaledale for her last few days.

Looking south towards Morecambe
View across to the Lake District

The Dog and I wandered further up towards the trig point, marking the summit of the Knott. I was beaten by a group of older walkers I had seen on and off all day. They sort of barged in and overtook the trig as their own. I had noticed that the more mature members of the public were out to test my patience today – on the way over, they were either glacial slow in their driving or just plainly drifted across onto my side of the road, totally oblivious that they were hogging the country lanes. They were reluctant to thank me when I let them through at pinch points and patently tried to nick my parking spots even when I was actively indicating my claim on that piece of prized tarmac, so this lot weren’t helping my opinion of their generation today. I was determined to touch it with The Dog as a sort of celebration of achieving today’s objective, so we did our own sort of socially distanced barging in to dab it with tips of fingers and a wet nose. Satisfied, we descended down back towards town, via a large broad field, onto a back road and nipping down a footpath leading back to the riverfront. Here The Dog found freshwater to gulp and we squelched back through the gloopy mud – which I now worked out had been deposited by the incoming tide. We tiptoed back onto the concrete path and back to the car. The tide had turned and was now rushing back out to sea. We had now exhausted Arnside – there was nowhere else to walk really – the rivers edge towards town was equally wet and muddy and the village centre was heaving with people and parked cars which was frankly off putting. So we jumped into the car and on the way home, stopped off by the Lancaster canal and did another hour’s walk before heading home for tea.

Torridon – Day Six

Up early and very excited. We’re going kayaking!

We had booked this trip originally with three couples going, but it has shrunk down to us two. The company (which turns out to be a one man band) is not very good at communicating and only acknowledged my frantic email about our group size til last night! And it’s steadily raining – we take a chance that the trip is still on, pack waterproofs, dry clothes and large towels and set for Shieldaig. On the way, we spot some of the elusive deer – yes, can cross them off our list of creatures seen!

We’re not too sure where to meet the kayaking guy as our friends have made most of the arrangements, so we drive along the main drag of the village looking for signs. There are two jetties at either end and we check both of them out, but there’s nothing obvious. We are quite early so park up and look out over the loch, to wait. Just before 9, we head to one of the jetties and strike lucky, a tall lad in wetgear is waiting. It’s Tom our kayaking guide, friendly and chatty. He works out of an ancient Land Rover ambulance, (hence no signs) which pleases us very much being Land Rover lovers ourselves and tosses us cagoules, lifejackets and kayak aprons after we’ve all agree that we’re happy to go out in this weather. We slip into lime kayaks and tentatively paddle out into the water to get use to the kayak before heading towards a large uninhabited wooded island. We skirt around it, taking in the scenery, when we spot a large bird sitting in the tree. He’s hunched against the rain (he reminded me of the Jungle Book’s vultures) and looking peeved. Tom tells us it’s a juvenile sea eagle who’s probably been pushed out of the nest, like an overgrown teenager. Oh wow, we are in awe. As we turn round the island, we spot one of the parents, keeping guard and making sure the youngster doesn’t return. It’s wonderful. We had left our phones in the car, fearing about dropping them in the water so couldn’t take photos of these beautiful birds. So we settled with being extremely happy to see them.

We paddled out towards other little islets, the water clear and deep, a lovely greeny grey. The mountains are shrouded in cloud and there’s a steady pitter patter on our waterproofs. Tom keeps up a steady commentary as we paddle into inlets, looking at cottages peeking through the trees, sailboats gently swaying in the water, eyes a-bobbing for any other creatures. We notice a solitary seal is stalking us – bobbing up and watching us at safe distance and when we turn around to look at him, nonchalantly looking away and then sinking without a ripple. Tom points to some porpoises in the far distance but by the time, we’ve acknowledge Tom, they have gone. It’s a moody, broody atmosphere on the loch and just so special. It couldn’t of been better. We end up having about 2 and half hours kayaking and have thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, despite the rain which strangely hasn’t bothered us at all. We yank the kayaks up the beach, thank and say goodbye to Tom and walk back to the car. Our legs are wet and now we have stepped out of the kayaks, we start feeling the cold of the day, the light wind cutting through our leggings. We quickly jump in the car, towels on seats and drive up the other end of the village where there’s public conveniences, grab our clothes from the boot and begin a convoluted shuffle in the front seats, trying to peel damp clothing that stick viciously to you, while maintaining your dignity under large bath towels. Of course, all of a sudden, people turn up out of the blue and seem to linger, as underwear is flung and you’re at your most vulnerable. We have no option and successfully complete the operation, albeit looking rather dishevelled.

There’s mountains out there somewhere! Not the best day for stunning views.

We now are quite hungry and head to Nanny’s, a lovely little cafe on the bend that we know, but they are only doing takeaways and there’s a herd of motor bikers lining up for warming coffee. We don’t fancy sitting in a damp and steamy car for lunch. Then we have a lightbulb moment – about 10 miles away, there’s a little place called Kishorn and a lovely seafood restaurant. The weather is now closing in and we think we’ve had the best of the day. So we set off and find the restaurant on the roadside, park up and walk in – it’s a large blue and white wooden building with a lovely veranda. We note the two picnic tables here are already occupied and stop at the entrance – there’s the usual long list of Covid instructions and we tentatively walk in. It looks like another takeaway after all this, but we are talking lobster and other expensive crustaceans. (Not exactly what we envisioned, but most places around here are doing takeaway and they’re few and far between anyway.) So we hatch a plan of getting a takeaway and driving to the nearby loch to eat it. So we order the food and told to go and wait in the car, which we do. After about 5 minutes, a young lady comes trotting over, bearing a tray through the rain which we accept through our open window. As we take it in, we realise that our proposed lochside meal has just been scuppered – the food and drink are in cardboard containers, but the milk and condiments are in china pots together with metal knife and forks. We can’t exactly drive off with their cutlery, crockery and tray. So we end up sitting in the car park, watching people trying to park Volvo’s and motorhomes in the soggy conditions, munching our lobster, langoustines, salad and bread, washed down with coffee. Such a weird situation. We reflected on that all the café food and drink that we had consumed so far, regardless where you sit, comes in cardboard packaging rather than on china crockery – all this extra waste because of Covid security! We finish our lunch – delicious, wipe our fingers and hand back the tray and wonder what to do next. The cloud and mist has dropped down to such a point that it’s obliterated all the mountains and remaining scenery, so it’s no point having a drive around. We drop down to a little hamlet of Arddorrach, hugging a lovely little bay because we’re nosey and it kills some time, then decide to head back to Shieldaig. We stop here again, as we need provisions – the little village shop is shut for lunch, so we sit in the car watching the rain steadily patter down and scan the loch through binoculars, looking for seals, sea eagles, porpoises and an otter. I spy a pod of three porpoises on the far side, but trying to tell hubby exactly where they are is not easy. He thinks I’m making it all up. The shop opens and we scamper over, determined to beat any other customers to the 2 customer rule. (How sad), and pick up bits and pieces – we have no real food plan. We drive slowly home, our mountains are missing – it’s only 3pm. Seems too early to go back, so on a whim, we carry on to Diabaig where we walked to on our first day. The rivers and waterfalls are full, swollen and spectacular. The road rises up and you briefly lose which way the road goes – a little bit hair-raising, and we’re so pleased we didn’t come along here in the dark trying to find the Northern Lights! We drop down into the village – the road is long, twisty and tortuous, relieved that we walked up the gorge instead, chopping this enormous extra bit off. We park outside the Gille Brigdhe and look out across the water.

https://www.gille-brighde.com/

We were up there walking over that rock!

The Gille Brigdhe is shut, so no chance of a quick pint. So we wander around – it’s still raining and look at the wall of rock we negotiated down – takes a little while to figure out where the path goes. We walk down the little stone jetty and peer over the edge into the beautiful clear water. It’s so serene and pretty. We’re still alert for creatures. We wonder how these people get provisions – they’re 8 miles from Torridon and there doesn’t seem to be a shop. It seems quite isolated. Nice for a holiday, but to live here permanently would be a complete change of life, but it can’t be that bad as there are quite a few houses scattered around the bay (unless they’re holiday lets). We noticed that the temperature is now dropping and it’s getting chilly – so we thinks it’s time to head back to the cottage. So we drive back, hoping not to meet anything larger than a car on this narrow road and empty the car of all our damp gear. The heating system seems to be working properly, so we drape our wet kayaking clothes across the radiators to dry. At around 5pm, the rain finally gives way, the clouds lift and the mountains reveal themselves once again. Rivers and waterfalls that you couldn’t see all week, are now gushing down the mountains opposite. The power there will be incredible. Our own little gurgling stream has turned in a raging torrent and the noise is incredible. Just proves how much rain has fallen today. All very impressive. We just snuggle down.

The Moon bobs out yet again and lights up the loch. With the gentle scudding clouds, it’s just beautiful. We could sit here and watch the changing colours and scenery all day and night. Who needs a television…….?