Northumbria and the Scottish Borders -Day Three

I am rudely awoken by my own alarm, that I have set every Thursday for work and curse for forgetting to switch it off.  My crabby mood is fleeting as sunshine pours into our Van and it has the signs of a glorious day.

The Dog now sleeps in the shower area, where I have to step over her (the Van has a rather quirky lay out). This Dog ain’t for moving – yet. We get up slowly – we have a plan of catching the bus up to Beadnell and walking back along the beach. On checking our phones for bus timetables, we conclude that there’s a bus at 11.37, so we chill, drink coffee, read, have cake and camper watch. It then suddenly dawns on us that we don’t know where to actually catch the bus! So I waddle over to the office and get informed that you flag the bus down outside on the road and by the way, there’s timetables around the corner.  It’s  the beginning of a small farce, as I read that there’s a bus at 10.35 – in about 10 minute’s time! I dash back, we leap up, chuck everything in the Van, grab The Dog and present ourselves on the road side. Then we start doubting the information, so we start scuttling backwards and forwards to the office, where there are two timetables pinned up, with one of us always on look out for the bus. We start to bicker slightly to which timetable is right and how much the Covid-19 has affected the bus services. Finally we have a lightbulb moment and actually call the bus company. We are reliably informed that the next bus is at 11.37.

We slink back into the campsite and plop back into our chairs for 3/4 of a hour and get chatting to another camper, who is also attempting to catch a bus. So we repeat the exercise and wait on a narrow patch of verge as cars speed past us. 11.37 comes and goes and it’s approaching nearly 12 noon. Where is the bus – can understand a few minutes late, but really? Just as we’re on the verge of abandoning the whole project and have a rethink, a bus finally comes around the corner and we flag him down. It’s a single decker with nobody on it.  We have to put on face coverings (compulsory on public transport) and take a seat.  The driver is obviously way behind schedule and gives us a rather startling ride to Beadnell.  He drops us off conveniently beside a cafe on the corner and peeling off our face coverings with relief and a big gulp of fresh air, we stagger across and take seats outside.  It’s now very warm and sunny.

We finally order our longed for full English breakfast, going through the new normal of sanitising everything, keeping distances and giving contact details.  What a weird world. Opposite is a rather splendid church, built from the brown stone of the area. It’s quite a pleasant, quiet corner of Beadnell and thankful for the bus stopping there.

With our stomachs full, we walk down towards the sea, down a lovely residential street of houses and bungalows. At the bottom, we spot a campsite that we stayed many years ago where, overnight, a vicious storm blew in early one August Bank Holiday, causing our little two man tent to collapse and the complete site to empty of campers by 6am.  We turn right and walk along past more houses and the sea. Some people have put clapboard on their homes in gentle pastel colours, making them look rather smart.  There’s a whole jumble of different housing – bungalows, chalets, houses. Behind the houses, a recent development of bog standard box houses has been squeezed in, a characterless build of monotonous houses overlooking their back gardens.  At least, they’re hidden I suppose.

We follow a footpath and drop down onto yet another beach. It’s fairly crowded with people enjoying the sun and making the most of it, after  enduring a few weeks of cool weather. The beach isn’t as nice as our beach further down, but it’s still a decent one. As the crowds thin, we let The Dog off for a run and to chase seaweed thrown into the water for her. We wade a river across the beach and later, have to leave the beach to cross over a headland. Here, there’s an icecream van in the car park, so we buy two 99’s with strawberry juice, and sit in the grass to eat them, giving The Dog the remnants. We carry on, through the grassy path before dropping down to Low Newton by the Sea and a pub.  We feel a pint of beer would be good at this juncture and turn the corner for the pub. Alas, there’s a huge queue outside and bodies all over the lawn in front.  Can we be bothered?  It’s another little honey pot for people to gather and we walk towards a little path to access the beach. Here, a young family are blocking the entire path while they wrestle their screaming baby into it’s buggy (can’t you do that somewhere else) and a few yards further up, a young couple stop dead in front of us to talk and despite seemingly noticing us, do not move. So much for trying to social distance here, people. No awareness at all – all got the holiday brain on. I have to say “excuse me” before the pennies drop and they move. Honestly.

We carry on along the beach, coming into our little area. We walk past the houses in the sand dunes, thinking how lovely it must be to have a home here overlooking the sea and with such fantastic beaches to walk on. Can imagine being there on a stormy day, snug in your little house as the wind rattles the windows. Today, it’s been a lovely sunny day and quite warm – we’ve been walking in t-shirts and actually caught the sun. Fingers cross for more days like this.

We find our little gap in the sand dunes, up towards the holiday cottages and fields and back to our site.  We’ve walked about 6 miles today, just about right. The Dog however, has probably doubled that and shows it, by first gulping down her breakfast (she’s decided to have only one dinner a day, rather than two and will only eat it if there’s cheese in it as an added incentive).  She then crashes out on the grass by the Van, not even attempting to move when our neighbour returns with his motorhome to park on his patch.

For us, the chairs are out and we catch the last of the sun, before making tea and relaxing. A rather lovely day.

Northumbria and the Scottish Borders – Day One.

We’ve hired a motorhome.

It’s a rather large one – it’s like a flipping bus. So we’re off for a week to Northumbria and the Scottish Borders for a change of scenery and set off towards the M6 at Lancaster. We have a plan (well, more of a mission) – full English breakfast at Shap to start our day. We know a lovely little cafe cum bakery in the centre of the village and we normally make a beeline line for it when we’re heading north. so in excited anticipation, we pull off the motorway and drive down the exceptionally long High Street of Shap.

So imagine our disappointment as we pull up slowly to check it out and discover that not only is it shut, it looks like a permanent closure. Our hearts sink and our stomachs grumble as we wonder where we can get breakfast on route. We continue on, realising there’s nothing worse than getting excited about something and then getting it cruelly whipped away.

We stay on the A6, going through little communities, looking out for a cafe,  but of course, you don’t see one when you need one. We’ve also got the added dilemma of having to park our oversized vehicle. We end up in Brampton, one of our overnight stopovers on our Hadrian’s Wall walk last September – we had rocked up after a monster day and basically stayed in the B&B and didn’t move. As we drive into the busy town centre, it’s nice to see that it’s got a thriving little shopping centre with parking around the little square and along the road.  However, our home on wheels is far too large to park here (even if there was a parking space). So we turn around and head out of town where we had seen a good spot to park and walked back into town.

It’s nearing lunchtime now and we suss out a little cosy looking cafe in the corner,  with a small queue outside – another new order of Covid.  So we wait outside and choosing our brunch while we wait. The lady in front gets served and we shuffle forward, ready with our order. The second blow of the day occurs when we’re told that the cafe needs to close for 20 minutes for cleaning and catching up on washing up etc. Nooooo. Another Covid-19 phenomena – less staff and the need to disinfect the place regularly.  This time our shoulders sag along with our hearts and we troupe off, not in the best of moods. We scout around town for an alternative, but Brampton is not awash with food outlets catering for the all day breakfasts.  We end up buying a takeaway pie and chips with coffee and head back to the Van to eat them, tragically passing a pub that’s offering all day breakfasts……………

Suitably refreshed, we followed the A69, going east towards Newcastle, running parallel with Hadrian’s Wall and start reminiscing about our walk last year. At Chollerford, we pulled away from the A69 and headed north east.  The landscape is fantastic – fields and moors, big wide spaces and sky, gradually changing to rolling foothills, trees and fields full of sheep and cows, passing through pretty villages. We drop down into the town of Rothbury, nestling in a pretty valley and manage to park on the road in the centre of town. The Dog is relieved to have a stretch of the legs and a  wee.  We wander the shops, looking for provisions and nibbles – local butchers, a little deli and bakery, our favourite sort of independent shops. Again, Rothbury is an attractive little town, with the main road running through it, but with wide grassy tree lined banks separating vehicles from pedestrians. The dapple shading enhances the stone buildings and adds to the character of the town.  It had a lovely community feeling.

We drove towards Craster and our camping site for the night.  We’ve booked in the Caravan and Camping site at Dunstan Hill, near Embleton. After we’ve checked in, we launched into getting out table and chairs, connecting to the electric and getting the kettle on – we have our priorities. We sit outside, diving into our snacks that we have bought and spend the time camper watching.  It is a fascinating occupation watching other campers – fighting with awnings, fiddling with their caravans – some actually giving them a wash, setting up chairs outside, but then disappearing back in their homes, door firmly shut. Its quite entertaining. After our nibbles, we go for a walk and The Dog, her promised beach. There’s a little footpath running down the side of the campsite, through a narrow strip of trees which leads into a field of barley. Down a cinder track, past some delightful holiday bungalows and crossing a rather busy golf course. Then over some sand dunes and to The Dog’s delight, one of Northumbria’s stunning beaches.

The Dog was in heaven. A wide beautiful soft sandy beach, gently sloping to the sea, with hardly anybody on it.  Despite being 12 years old, she’s galloping around like a puppy. Dunstanburgh Castle is to our right, sitting on a grassy headland. On our left, in the distance, peeking over the sand dunes, a straggly line of beach houses. We stroll towards them, walking in the surf.  It’s quite cloudy and there’s a stiff cool wind. Everybody’s wearing shorts in homage to the non existent summer we’re having and thick chunky jumpers and coats on top. Typical British summer wear. We wander up to the little houses and turn back. Instead of retracing our steps, once past the golf course, we follow the road, through the little hamlet of Dunstan Steads, admiring the little cottages. It is very nice. We cut across the fields, back to the treelined footpath and back to the van. We finish off our nesting and head to bed.  The Van has a fixed bed so no need to build it before you go to sleep, but it is quite high up. We settle down. For some reason, The Dog joins us on the bed, completely out of character. But she couldn’t get comfy and tries to get down, but can’t due to the height and the narrow passage. I tried to pick her up to help her, but got growled at for my troubles. We spent the next 20 minutes of Dog settling down again, then wanting to jump off, growling at my attempt of assistance and repeat. Finally (why I didn’t think of this earlier?) I put on the light and she jumped off unassisted with a heavy landing and a harumpf. She ended up sleeping in the shower area on her mat and we all fell into a deep sleep, our first night in our Van and a week of adventure!


River Lune, Caton

It was a quick walk before the rain set in for the afternoon. The Dog and I headed to Caton and the metalled Millennium Path where we were guaranteed not to get blathered in mud.

We parked up just off the roundabout and picked up the Path. We sauntered along, The Dog sniffing and splashing through water. It was reasonably pleasant and the sun tried to push its way through the clouds. The few brief times it managed it, there was a definite warmth – it was nice to feel some heat.

We stopped a couple of times to pass the time of day with fellow dog walkers. It’s a pleasant stroll through the edge of Caton, past sheep fields and rows of trees, just following the path, an easy stroll. We crossed the River Lune as it meandered one way and then the other way, walking across the old iron railway bridges with splendid views of the river and beyond. We carried on walking up towards Halton following the river. Here it’s more wooded, but you could see civilisation. We reached the old railway station freshly painted and looking smart. Here we turned right and crossed into Halton via a single track vehicle bridge. The river was running fast and the weirs making a thundering sound.

At the end of the bridge, we turned right again and into a modern housing estate. There were two separate new estates going up, one across the field and another further up river, peeking over a high hill. The estate butts the river and we soon left the brick and mortar, to drop down by the fishing area and past the eco houses. We were soon back into countryside.

I was startled to see the river bank had been washed away quite severely. The power of the water is unbelievable. Recent weeks has seen heavy rainfall and with water pouring off the Dales, the rivers have been at maximum levels. It makes you stop and think how dangerous water is when it’s in full flow and how much damage it can inflict. Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with.

The sun had gone in for the day, but bright yellow gorse was out and brightening up the riverside. Birds were singing in the trees and as we entered woodland, I realised that the floor was green with foliage. It was like spring was in the starting blocks. Just waiting for the sun’s heat and then it would burst forth. I love the anticipation of everything coming to life and the delight of seeing new growth. I had seen lambs and the daffodils are at their peak. It was lovely to see.

We picked our way through the woodland and up towards the road. The Dog was back on her lead as we briefly followed the pavement and into a field. I kept her on lead in case of any sheep were hiding around the corner. We came up to a picnic site with lovely old benches carved with animals. They were in a great spot looking up the valley towards Ingleborough and the Dales, though Ingleborough has been consumed by low cloud.

We stopped here briefly to look at the information boards and look at the white stumpy installation with Witches 400 written on it. It is one of several way markers on the Lancashire Witches Walk which ends in Lancaster, remembering the women back in the 17th century accused of being witches on the most flimsiest of ludicrous charges. This one commemorates Jane Bulcock, one of the women accused of witchcraft, along with her son John, in the Pendle Witch trials of 1612. I had seen other commemorative stones in Clitheroe too.

After our musings, we dropped down back onto the Millennium Path and sauntered back to Caton. A nice stretch of the legs, some 4 miles. I noticed that the hawthorne bushes were starting to sprout too with that vivid bright fresh green. A brilliant colour. Spring is definitely around the corner, but I wished it would hurry up!

Hoffman Kiln, Stainforth

I discovered this place out of the blue last year, when I was doing a circular walk out of Stainforth. I was walking with my daughter and The Dog, when we came up to what we thought was a singular lime kiln and was in for a pleasant surprise.

It wasn’t what we expected at all and was quite breathtaking. We had a quick look around, not expecting to be distracted like this on our walk. It needed more than just a cursory look around that we could give it that day and promised to return and check it out thoroughly……..

A reasonably dry morning beckoned and we took our chance. It’s a completely hidden gem with no road signs or any hint it was there. Luckily I had checked on a map beforehand, but even as I turned the car down a small single track road and under a railway bridge, I had a hint of uncertainty. We followed the road down a bumpy lane, past derelict buildings and broken fencing. Daughter started to voice her concerns but suddenly, tied to a post, was a sign that said car park and we sighed with relief.

On a cold winters morning, it wasn’t exactly heaving. We were the only car apart from a faded caravan parked long term opposite. It wasn’t exactly screaming tourist attraction. It looked more like an ideal place for a thriller film, where the hapless hero is brought in the boot of a car and given a heavy work over by big burly heavies in black leather jackets and dark shades on. I quelled my daughter’s reservations with what I hoped was a careless nonchalance, but briefly wondered if my car would still have its wheels when I got back. We checked out some noticeboards and worked out that you followed a trail. So we clambered up some steep steps, and contoured along, where more information boards told us that the old lime quarry was once the local rubbish dump and where kiln buildings once stood. We walked down to the lane where we had first came in and back towards the car park. Old derelict barns stood on our left and at the end was a white house obviously lived in. We went through a wooden gate and towards the Hoffman Kiln itself.

It was here last year, when a young family popped out, dad spooking the kids, that we initially thought it was a singular cave-like kiln and you peered up the chimney. We walked into the gloom, expecting a small circular space, but as our eyes became accustomed to the gloom, we realised it was a long corridor extending into the depths with openings on one side. It was basically a long elongated oval. It was truly amazing and totally unexpected. This was making lime on an industrial scale. Apparently they lit two or three of the furnaces and got them going, before lighting another three and so on, so they had a continuing supply of lime production. It was incredible. Now it was dark and damp, puddles on the floor and the need for torches. Water dripped through the brick roof and formed stalactites, water droplets accumulating on the tips. A multitude of colours ran through the brickwork as minerals seeped through. It was spooky, but truly fascinating. It’s own little natural art gallery. We spent ages taking photos and studying the nooks and crannies.

We came out into what seemed blinding light, but was in fact a rather overcast day. We wandered around the grounds – past ruined winch houses and other mechanical artefacts. We stood on top of another lime kiln – this time, three in a row, tall and towering. They were built right next door to the Settle Carlisle railway line and a picture showed workers with wheelbarrows walking wooden planks to dump the material straight into the rail wagons – not a safety helmet, goggles, hi-vis or a health and safety notice in sight! The working conditions must of been atrocious here, though it was probably a very welcomed source of work for people living in this remote valley.

We were stunned that it wasn’t more well known as a tourist attraction and more made of it. Money had been invested into it as there were information boards galore and also an audio system whereby you pressed a button on a post and listened to bygone stories of the men who worked there. But apart from the wonky car park sign nailed by the car park, nobody would know it was there. It all seemed a bit odd and we wondered who had put the time and effort into creating it. The signs and boards advertised that Lottery money and other organisations had funded the site, but the adjoining area wasn’t welcoming at all. Perhaps that land was owned by the house we saw and was a separate area. It was certainly an enigma – money invested into a project, but no highlighting of its existence.

We wandered around a little more, fascinated. We had spent a hour and half here mainly taking photographs in the main kiln and reading boards, but threatening rain clouds were gathering and we headed off, down to Settle for a warming cuppa and a piece of cake. We would come back in the summer, no doubt dragging an unsuspecting relative along, hoping for more visitors and bright sunshine.

Claughton, Lancashire

For many months now, I’ve driven through the little village of Claughton in Lancashire and watched the aerial ropeway transport little yellow buckets of clay down from the wooded fellside, over the main road and into the brick factory opposite. It was intriguing and I wanted to find out where the quarry was. It was up there somewhere, hidden in the trees.

Claughton Ropeway pylon

So recently, with the winter wind and rain finally giving us a window of longed for sunshine, The Dog and I headed to Claughton, armed with a map. The car said it was 4 degrees outside, but it was glorious. It’s not easy to park in Claughton, but we parked in the car park of the little ramshackle building which I presumed was the village hall. There were other cars parked but the hall seemed closed and shut up. No signs said I couldn’t park, so I got The Dog on her leash and we set off.

We walked towards the Fenwick Arms pub, where opposite there was a little tarmacked lane. We strolled up between houses and hedges, dodging puddles. A little way along, the road forked and after a quick check, we took the right hand one. It was a steady pull up, the wood on our right, sheltering us from the stiff breeze and on our left, opening out to fields. I kept my head down and plodded up. The woods seemed to be enclosed by high deer proof fencing, but gates were open. Between the trees, a large house could be glimpsed at. It seemed very isolated, the sort of place that would be a location managers dream for a thriller. It looked like a large Manor House or Hall surrounded by those tall trees that creak and groan. We passed some double gates and a large sign that said private. I could just see the top of the house. It looked very intriguing.

We carried on. The road bent right and dismayingly dropped down, before swerving left and clambering up again. The sun was out and out of the wind, I was starting to shed layers. The lane had now become a rough track. It must of been an ancient track as underneath the decaying top layer, there was cobbles and another surface of small stone flags. It was obviously cheaper just to chuck some cheap asphalt on top than retain the flags underneath.

Finally, we could see the brickwork’s ropeway. Stubby rusting pylons stood at regular intervals, the steel rope hung between and a bright yellow bucket sitting silently in mid air. The brick factory obviously wasn’t open today, so the ropeway was stationary which was a shame not to see it working. It was kind of spooky. The silence and the stark ironwork of the pylons imposing on the scrubby landscape. At the entrance of the quarry, there were the usual abundance of health and safety notices, so The Dog and I scrambled up a nearby mound to see if we could see into the quarry properly. But to no avail. You could see part of it. I read later that it had got an extension to continue quarrying til 2036 as there was another 1.2 million tonnes of material to excavate or 50 million bricks a year! Mind blowing figures.

The path carried on upwards towards the wind farm on the summit. We turned at a hairpin and was startled to find an isolated farmhouse up there as well, braving the elements. We trudge up. The road had suffered damage, so the solution to the massive potholes and deep ruts was to fill them with red bricks from the works. I smiled to myself – how many times I had stumbled across woodland with hints of Victorian industry poking through – the odd gate post, a pile of stones, a foundation and here was history in the making. In a 100 years time, when the brickworks would be gone, people would find these red bricks and wonder what was here. Now they were fresh and bright and recently laid.

Future archaeology.

We walked up to the farmhouse and met a man mending a dry stone wall. The view up here was outstanding. A complete 180 degrees from a snow capped Ingleborough, along the Lune Valley towards Morecambe. You could see Heysham Power Station, Grange Over Sands in the south Lakes and Barrow on the edge, far out in the Irish Sea. You could see for miles, though it was quite hazy. The man told me that you could see the Isle of Man and Ireland on clear days. I decided to come up here again, armed with some binoculars when it promised to be clear. It would be fantastic. I chatted with the old boy for ages, until I realised the wind was cutting and very cold. It was piercing my waterproof and three layers underneath. I took my leave and wandered further up towards a gate, trying to get some body warmth back. It kind of opened up here. The track turned back into a proper road and dropped down towards the village of Brookhouse. I was tempted to make a circular route out of the walk, but hadn’t taken any photos for the blog as well as not being prepared for such a walk. I checked the area out. There was a information board about the wind farm, picnic tables and a stone compass. I discovered that local children from a primary school had named the turbines. How sweet.There was a track going up behind the turbines and I wanted to get really close to one. I wandered up a little way, but the wind was relentless and I was losing the feeling in my fingers. This needed more investigation. I wasn’t sure if The Dog was allowed up this track as it was on the edge of access land where dogs aren’t allowed. I took a couple of photos and decided to head back. I would return with binoculars and a packed lunch on a hot summers day, to sit up here and admire the stunning scenery munching egg sandwiches and drinking hot tea. Perfect.

The Dog looked relieved as we retraced our steps, stopping to talk to the dry stone waller again. I could of talked with him all day as he was a mine of information, telling me stories of 50 years ago. Really fascinating. But the wind had no mercy, howling down the track, nothing stopping it until it hit me. We continued, thankfully all downhill. Past the quarry and the silent ropeway, the tall trees swaying in the wind. On the way down, I could see the Lune Valley properly, where the River Lune had broken its banks and flooded the surrounding fields. It is a flood plain and it had obviously done its job. The old boy had told me that it had looked like a one huge lake stretching the length of the valley. I wished I had seen it.

The River Lune and the flooded fields.

As we reached the lower end of the lane, the sun disappeared abruptly behind black clouds and it started to rain/hail. We quickened our pace and reached the car just as the hail intensified and pelted the roof with an alarming noise. Wow. It really meant it. We couldn’t of timed it better and glad I wasn’t up by that farmhouse. We had our tantalising dose of spring after weeks of heavy rain and ludicrously high winds – it has seemed endless. We drove home for lunch as rain showers seemed to approach us at all angles, like a pincer movement. I was happy. I had found another walk to do.

The ropeway over the main road.

Burton in Lonsdale

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.

Burton in Lonsdale and Ingleborough

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.

Burton in Lonsdale’s imposing church.
A lot cleaner from a few days ago when it was a turbulent angry rush of fell water.

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.

The cloud that got us!

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.

Richmond, North Yorkshire

We were after a Lucy Pittaway picture. With her gallerys being based in Yarm, Richmond and Brompton in Swale in Yorkshire, we thought we’d make a day of it and jumped in the car with The Dog.

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.,_North_Yorkshire

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.

Kingsdale, Yorkshire Dales

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!

There’s seems to be a connection with the Pendle Witches