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

Heysham Village

The Dog and I were overdue a big walk and with the forecast looking good, we headed to the coast.

We didn’t head to our usual haunt of Hest Bank, but decided to head further south to Heysham near Morecambe. It’s an easy drive with by-passes around Lancaster and Morecambe, so there was no need to fight our way through both towns. The dual carriageways cross seemingly flat scrubby marshland, with farms scattered. You feel it’s about to be built on by the likes of Amazon and their huge warehouses. Pylons marched across the landscape from all angles, converging on the edge of Heysham to an enormous electrical substation. I was sure my hair briefly stood on end and wafted to the left. We approached a roundabout on the edge of Heysham and dutifully turned right.

I was after Heysham Village, but I was driving along a main road flanked by post war, pebble dashed housing that seemed to go on for ages. It didn’t seem very villagey. A road sign pointed left marked Heysham Village and took us down into the original Heysham settlement.

The Dog and I parked in a large deserted car park and paid £1 for 4 hours. We walked towards Main Street, past an ugly toilet block and it still felt very modern. But once on Main Street, it all changed – we walked past little cottages with date lintels marked 1629. Wow, nearly 400 years old. Most had been sadly pebble dashed (that should be a criminal offence in my world) which didn’t reflect their antiquity – they were stone buildings. It was a narrow street, with a one way system for cars. There were little shops (mainly cafes) and the Royal Hotel in the middle. It was all rather charming. Further along, off the street was St Peter’s church staring out to sea. The road swung round to the right and ended about a hundred yards, the little cottages petering out and large 19th century villas taking over. Many years ago, it was probably a sleepy isolated fishing village, miles from anywhere and self sufficient. Now it was attached to the modern world by housing estates and had been subsumed into the greater Heysham area.

We took the path by the side of St Peters church, pointing the way to the Chapel and up onto the headland. Here a ruined chapel stands, facing the westerly winds and looking across Morecambe Bay. Only a few walls remain and the stone coffins – open to the elements and the contents gone, but the shapes still held.

It was an exposed spot here and I wondered what it was like to come here especially during storms, being lashed by wind and rain. In the murky distance you could see the south Lakeland fells. It just added to sense of loneliness this place once had.

The Dog was excited and galloped down to a little sandy bay. This was her heaven. The sun popped out sporadically and there was a chilly wind. The tide was heading out. We headed south along the grassy headland along with numerous other dog walkers, the dogs enjoying the freedom of running free. We followed the well worn paths as Heysham Nuclear Power Station and docks hoved into view. I’m not completely happy with nuclear power stations for some reason, expecting to meet people with a green glow and a third eye slap bang in the middle of their forehead. There were some fancy houses on the ridge line on our left and I wondered why you would buy one. Look right to see the glorious fells of the Lake District, look left and the imposing rectangular twin bulks of a humming nuclear reactor.

We dropped down onto the pebbly sandy beach and wandered along. The ferries for the Isle of Man departed from here as well so the foreground was quite industrial. At the end of the beach is a cracking little cafe. It must serve all the workers from the power station and ferry terminal. We didn’t stop, but turned to walk back to the village. We stopped to look at the newly installed Ship monument, which was quite stunning, but seemed strangely out of place, on this seemingly remote straggly part of coastline next door to dock lands. There was a little sign on it, but gave no information why it was built and it’s significance.We headed back to the centre of the village and had a poke around. It was mainly a huddle of 17th cottages, with 19th century interruptions and the odd 1950’s bungalow squeezed in. The village was kind of growing in its own right before Britain launched the massive house building after the Second World War.We wandered around the church yard, full of gravestones old and new. It dropped down towards the sea and had a wonderful view of Morecambe Bay. It was a lovely spot. The church itself was dinky, with a slate roof and not particularly tall. I poked my head into the church as The Dog wasn’t allowed in. It was enchanting, with timber beams, lanterns and stained windows. It was so cosy and welcoming, a lovely little place of worship.

What a great place to be buried – overlooking the sea!

We then went into a little woodland opposite which delighted The Dog as there were unsuspecting squirrels to be chased and she spent a happy half hour on red alert. It was a pleasant little diversion, full of rocky crags in its small acreage and offered a view of the surrounding urban area between the trees. We did a lot of exploring, up and down steps and following paths.

The Dog was impatient for her beach walk I had promised, so we ambled back past the church, onto Main Street and strolled further down the road, turning down a little alleyway to the promenade. It stretches all the way to Morecambe. We walked along until steps allowed us access to the beach itself. The Dog was elated. We strolled across the wet sand, the sea on one side and the edge of civilisation on the other.

To prevent flooding, huge sea defences in the shape of massive boulders had been built along the length of the promenade. They were impressive and not a eyesore at all. They were also built out into the sea, probably to break up the power of the waves, so the beach was in sections. Every so often, we had to leave the beach and walk along the promenade before we could drop back into the beach, but the access points were few and far between. In consequence, we missed large chunks of beach. However, on our visits to the promenade, we found these little plaques giving little bits of information. There was lots of them, embedded in the path. We spent some time reading them.

We could of walked to Morecambe, but we had gone far enough. We turned around and retraced our steps. From this angle, we could see the little village cascade down from headland to the edge of the beach, sheltering in a natural valley. You could imagine it being a tiny isolated fishing hamlet now, tucked away from the heaving Atlantic storms.

We got back into the Main Street – there were a few people wandering around, but there seemed to be an overwhelming amount of cafes vying for our business. Perhaps I come at the wrong time of year, but never seen it heaving or the car park full and wondered how they stayed in business. For a not so obvious tourist destination, the retail outlets seem to be thriving and good for them! Maybe it was a mixture of locals, dog walkers and visitors that came to Heysham Village time and time again and supported the local economy.

This was hanging on a wall. No explanation, but just wonderful

The Dog and I had now exhausted Heysham Village and lunch was beckoning. She was very reluctant to jump into the back of the car, but she finally did, not looking impressed. We drove through Morecambe with its impressive frontage and promenade, but distinctly struggling in its shopping area and surrounding areas. It’s all rather sad – a typical British seaside town suffering from the lack of investment and unable to reinvent itself. We drove home as the sun disappeared and the clouds took over. It had been a good morning’s walk.

A Winters Stroll

1st December. It’s officially winter, meteorologically.

And what a start. Yet another beautiful clear sunny day. A high pressure system was sitting over our little island nation and thus was the third day of sunniness. And the third day of hard overnight frosts, an accumulation that made it looked like there had been a flurry of snow.

We had to take The Dog for her daily exercise – if you don’t, she pesters you until you do. So we had a little walk from the little village of Low Bentham, some 15 miles east of Lancaster.

We were trying to avoid the fields which were sodden and squelchy, so we stuck to the roads. We walked up Mill Lane where many years ago, a thriving silk mill employed the local people. It’s now long gone and replaced by a small attractive development of flats and houses. The road inclined upwards and soon Ingleborough hoved into view – tall, majestic and watching over the little communities around it. The frost was thick up here, hanging off the grass. It felt like Christmas. The road dropped down again and bore left, where water had snaked its way across the road. It had frozen and had become an ice rink. We took it steady, checking where our feet were going and hoping not to do a Bambi. We traversed it without mishap and carried on to the next corner and studied the vista across High Bentham, Ingleborough and the Yorkshire Dales. It was stunning. Not a cloud in the sky.

We walked a little further and then plunged left down a bridle way. The trees were bare and stark against the sky, a few final brown leaves hanging on. Towards the Lake District, the distant fells had little caps of snow on them. It had been a cold few days.

We crossed a couple of fields – any mud had frozen solid and we crunched our way across. There was no fear of sinking knee deep into gloop today, though there were a couple of springy spots. We dropped down towards a terrace of houses and onto another road. Another great view to admire. The road headed downwards towards High Bentham – we stopped to look at a small cemetery and what looked like pigeon lofts. Just love coming across little things like that.

At the bottom by the river, we turned left again and into the entrance of the Riverside Caravan Park, through a little coppice of trees and into the park itself. It’s quite a big caravan park, the vans in regimented rows, empty and silent. It soon would be time for the annual close down for a couple of months. It was quiet and ghostly, only a few residents spending time there. In the summer it’s a hive of activity and bustling. We sauntered through towards the riverside footpath that would take us back to Low Bentham.

The Dog was excited. Water. Her ears drooped as we forbade her to go swimming, telling her that it was far too cold, as if she cared. She compensated by going for a paddle anyway and didn’t seem bothered by the chilly waters. She was now off lead and loving it, trying to chase rabbits who were safely behind fencing and running after a passing train (one of her obsessions – train chasing. Weird). We went over stiles with caution, but the sun had melted the frost here. Again, a huge churned up part of the path had thankfully frozen hard saving our trainers from clagging up.

We followed the river, flowing high and fast. The sun was starting to lose height and its warmth. It was chilly in the shade. We sauntered back under the railway tunnel and back into the village. We walked up a little incline and got a fantastic view of the Forest of Bowland, a vast moorland stretching down to Slaidburn some 12 miles south. Despite the name, there is no forest – it’s an ancient name for hunting grounds – apart from small patches of Forestry Commission woodland. With the sun setting, it was just a dark silhouette with distant wind turbines turning lazily on the tops.

The smell of wood burning smoke hung in the air making it all very atmospheric. Love that smell in the winter. It reminded us to head home ourselves to our own fire, with a warming mug of coffee and a chocolate Digestive and snuggle up on the sofa.

So we did.

A gentle dog walk out of Clapham

It’s been quite cold and wet recently. Dog walks lose their appeal when it’s lashing down.

So The Dog was due a decent walk.

So we headed to Clapham again. There’s a lovely organic shop, called Growing With Grace, just off the A65, where I like to shop. It’s small, sells only seasonal fruit and veg, but has a good stock of other organic foodstuffs. There’s also a quirky little cafe where you sit in one of the huge greenhouses. It’s really sweet. So I decided to kill two birds with one stone and do a shop and another dog walk out of Clapham.

The day had started off pretty bright, but as I got ready to leave, it was clouding up. We arrived in Clapham and I had a quick look at the Vintage Shop there. Of course it’s closed on Tuesday (never time it right) but she had left lots of crockery outside of her shop. I toyed with getting a couple of items and posting the money through the letterbox, but decided against it. I wanted to look inside too.

So I got The Dog sorted and we waddled up the road towards the Ingleborough Cave entrance.

On previous visits, we have walked through the estate paying our £1 entrance fee, but The Dog has to be on her lead. It’s a pleasant stroll through woods on a purpose built path and it takes you up to the cave and Gaping Gill and Trollers Gill beyond, but I wanted to circumvent it today. So we ignored the entrance, continuing around on the road until we came to a footpath sign on the right, pointing to Ingleborough Cave.

It was a tarmacked track with walls either side so I unleashed The Dog. It was a steady pull up. It was here that it started to rain. Yesterday on our walk, I had waterproof coat and trousers, gloves, hat, scarf on – I looked like a Michelin Man – as it had been raining pretty hard all day and then, after all that wrapping up, it hardly rained on the walk. Today I had rejected the trousers, hat, scarf and gloves and was starting to regret that decision. Could be a big mistake.

We followed the lane up. The cloud was low and there was no real views. We went past fields and a pretty wood, it’s floor covered with brown beech leaves. It just looked very inviting, but a stern notice informed us it was private and to keep out. We were overtaken by a farmer on a quad bike, his collie dog balancing on the back. Then the lane forked – the left hand side to a gate with private on it and the right, our path, now stony and gravelly. The Dog went back on the lead and we went through the gate.

We plodded along, the rain gently splattering on the hood of my coat, as a farm hoved into view. We had to go through the farmyard and the farmer was there, sorting out logs. He grabbed his collie dog. I held our hound close too, but neither dog reacted. We reached another gate and as I was closing it, I realised that the farmer had released his dog and it was hurtling towards me. It leapt up, really excited to meet me. It was so friendly and so I made a real fuss of him. Usually collie farm dogs look like they want to rip you to shreds or at least give you a good nip on the ankles but this one was lovely, bouncing around excitedly. He was also very wet and muddy.

We branched right here, down a steep hill on wet shiny limestone steps. I took it carefully. It was steadily raining. We followed the path until it dropped down to the Ingleborough Cave path. The cave was a few hundred yards further up. I’ve walked past it before so had no urge to check it out again – it has an entrance charge too, so I would only admire the front of it anyway. We turned left. The Dog was excited as there was the river, but it was high and flowing fast.

We walked a few more yards to a gate, so we could drop down to a little wooden bridge across the river. The Dog paddled here. It’s far too cold for a swim for her. The ground veered sharply up, and I carefully made my way up by the side of the wall. The Dog made a half hearted attempt to round up the sheep, but she was on lead and thwarted. The sheep still ran so she got some satisfaction out of it. We came up to a stone wall, with a stile built into it. The Dog ignored my request to wait and bounded over, still attached. Lucky she was on her extendable and made it to the other side without being garrotted or yanking me over with her. She leapt over nimbly despite her advancing years and watched me lumber over without an inch of elegance.

I took The Dog off lead here as it was another walled lane and we headed back down to Clapham. The rain had kind of stopped, but it was still damp and wet. We followed the path back where it joined the path we had walked on our last trip. We turned right and strolled down, under the two tunnels and burped back into the village. It was a typical November day – dank and miserable. We had a quick wander round. The little waterfall next to the Ingleborough Cave entrance was in full spate, water gushing down in a torrent.

Feeling chilled and discovering my shoe had developed a leak and I now had a soggy sock, we headed to the organic shop for provisions before heading home for lunch. And typical, as we drove home, the sun poked its head out through a gap in the dark brooding clouds and lit up the surrounding countryside in the most gorgeous autumnal colours. The gloominess has lifted, so you could see for miles – the sharp definition of the Lake District and The Howgills, in the distance, bathed in a beautiful deep purple hue. The contrasting colours and the angry sky was stunning. I soon forgot that I got wet – this view made me feel so much better . This is why I love Britain – it changes so quickly and can be so dramatic. I was very happy with life.

Down South

Travelled a little further afield this weekend to visit relatives in the county of Essex.

Essex is a funny county. It’s got this awful reputation that its citizens are brash, blingy, wide boys with trophy high maintenance girlfriends and wives who have got less intelligence than a bacteria and who dance around their handbags in white stiletto heels, thanks to dreadful TV programmes like “The Only Way Is Essex” and other tasteless programmes. It may of started back in the 1980’s with its proximity to London and all the so called Yuppies and high City earners making their homes there, but it’s got this label and the poor county can’t shake it off.

In reality, it’s a lovely county in its own right. Okay, the southern end blights it slightly with heavy industry and docks, but as you travel further north, it becomes more charming and delightful. Londoners have always emigrated to Essex, especially the Eastenders. They used to buy little plots of land, build a little cottage and use it as a holiday home. Then as London became more of an attractive workplace, they moved in permanently and commuted in. North Essex still retains the rural and rolling countryside that has been lost further south and its here that we stayed.

We had booked a little cottage just outside a little village called Little Baddow, near Chelmsford. It was in the middle of nowhere and trying to find it in the dark was a bit of a challenge, down tiny dark lanes. In the morning, we found ourselves looking out into a ploughed field with trees and fields in the distance. Partridge birds pecked in the soil and got The Dog in a froth. It was pretty in the autumn sun. In the front, was another cottage and a large farmhouse, built out of the traditional black clapboard which is common in Essex. Hubby went investigating with The Dog and found the river and a pleasant circular stroll.

The Old Calf House

The view from the kitchen

The day was spent with our relatives, but later we drove to a place called Rayne near Braintree for a walk along the Flitch Way. It’s a disused railway line and stretches for 15 miles from Braintree to Bishops Stortford. We started at the railway station, now a cafe and where a railway carriage has been converted into museum. The Dog wasn’t allowed in so she and I lurked outside. I peered in through the windows. There was a very small miniature railway and lots of old pictures telling the history of the line. The family spent about ten minutes in there – the elderly curator want to engage them in conversation but they managed to make their excuses and we went for our stroll.

We walked off the end of the platform and onto the rail bed. It was a pleasant walk along a tunnel of autumnal trees. There was rain in the air. The Dog was off lead and had found an abandoned football, so we kicked that around for her. That kept her occupied. We crossed a busy dual carriageway by bridge and skirted another bridge that was under repair. We walked up to a certain point – Bishops Stortford was a little too far for today – and so turned around just as the light was starting to fade.

(And somehow, I failed to take any photos – my apologies)

Despite this part of Essex being relatively rural, I was dismayed to see huge housing estates being built on edges of towns and communities. Years ago I lived in Essex and contemplated in living in Witham, before I came to my senses and moved to Yorkshire. Now my heart sank as I came across two large developments where before there had been green fields. One development, admittedly had made an effort by giving the houses a little 1950’s character and chimneys, but still another piece of England had been nibbled away. On the other side of this pretty little town was another field earmarked to be buried under concrete. Witham does abut the main A12 road into London and it’s all very commutable with a railway line, so people want the best of both worlds – live out in the country and work in London. Ironically, they all live in brand new houses on monolithic dull cramped estates, that’s just eaten the very countryside they crave.

The next day, we all piled into cars and headed towards Saffron Walden and in particular, Audley End House, an magnificent pile set in acres of countryside. We put on the satnav and it took us along a rather exquisite route through rural Essex. We followed a back lane through tunnels of trees, along ploughed fields and rolling countryside. With a weak sun, there was just another light to highlight the colours. We drove through little villages, past century old buildings and thatched cottages. We passed through Finchingfield, a well known tourist hotspot, with its chocolate box houses and delightful duck pond in its centre. Just doing the drive made our day. There was a lot of oohing and arring going on.

We drove through Saffron Walden, another gorgeous town stuffed with old and quaint buildings. There is just an abundance of beautiful buildings in this area.

We followed the brown tourist signs for Audley End, past a high brick wall for seemingly ages, thinking someone had to build that and actually it’s Audley End’s back garden wall. We pulled in and gave English Heritage a huge chunk of money for admittance and parked up.

The back of Audley End

We parked on the grass that faced a modest man made water course, another expanse of highly maintained lawn and then the stately home, a beautiful solid building. It was impressive. We wandered around the grounds, admiring ancient trees with thick gnarled trunks and splendid majestic canopies which almost reached the ground. We kicked the autumn leaves, exciting The Dog and strolled across the Falconry display where a husband and wife team, dressed in Victorian garb, oversaw a group of falcons, hawks and owls. We asked questions and waited for the display to start, which was excellent. Four birds flew, whilst their handlers gave a detailed and interesting commentary, the birds swooping over our heads. The Dog got sent on a walk as she spotted one of the hawks and kept barking. We were very impressed as a group.

When it finished, most of our group wanted to go into the House to look around. Hubby and I are not ones for looking around stately homes and The Dog wasn’t allowed in so we went for a walk through the gardens and up to the folly higher up in the grounds. It was large grassy area with lots of trees and very pleasant.

We headed back to the main area and found a little cafe where we refreshed ourselves with a cuppa and a rather large scone and waited for the others. They reported on their return, that the House was excellent and had not seen all of it. Once regrouped we wandered off into the organic garden, laid out in Victorian orderliness with beautiful white glasshouses. It had clouded over since we had arrived, but now the sun made another appearance and lit everything up.

We sauntered around to the various outbuildings and stables on the estate, very impressed. It was well worth the money. We wished we could stay longer as there seemed more to explore but it was on the verge of closing for the day. More than satisfied, we jumped back into the cars where the satnav took us on a magical mystery tour, briefly into Hertfordshire and back home for tea.

The next day was our final day and to give The Dog a stretch of the legs before being stuffed into a car for 5 hours, we strolled out of the cottage, down the track and along a footpath to the little River Chelmer. It was quite warm – we were only in jumpers – as the sun was out and made it all very pleasant. It was all farmland with little copses of trees. You felt you were in the middle of nowhere.

Eventually we had to leave. We packed up, said our goodbyes, stuffed The Dog in the boot (not impressed) and began our long journey back to our little corner of England.


I’ve succumbed.

Yep, the wellies have finally made an appearance. It’s that time of year and I have resisted, believe me. But one too many walks in walking trainers ending up with soggy feet has made me reluctantly dig them out.

The Dog and I headed off to Ingleton to walk around the countryside there. It wasn’t going to be a particularly long walk, but got us out into the fresh air.

We parked just outside the village centre, on the road. I donned the wellies and we trotted off towards the main A65 road which runs from Leeds to the M6. It catches the western edge of Ingleton and is lined with light industrial units and housing. It’s a busy road, taking people to the Lake District. I’ve never found this stretch of the road very inspiring and feel for Ingleton. It just doesn’t look nice and inviting.

With an OS map, I tried to work out where the path was. There were no finger posts so I took a gamble as I led The Dog over the A65. It turned out to be the track I wanted, past a small static caravan site and out into fields. We followed the track, passing fields with small sheds made of metal and the odd large caravan. It was a bit unsettling. We came to a house, and the track turned into a grassy path. Since we got onto the path proper, it’s been clearly marked with little footpath badges nailed to gate posts. Makes life easier.

The surrounding land was just rolling farmland, but it offered great views of Ingleborough, majestically watching over the town. We wandered through squelchy grass, having to duck under an enormous branch that had sheared off a nearby tree and blocked the path. We looked out for our left turn and wandered into a sheep field. The Dog was on her extendable lead and headed off to the right as she had heard water. There was a ditch covered in long grass which she didn’t realise wasn’t solid. She stood on it and sunk up to her chest in it. She looked a bit shocked as she tried to figure out what had happened. She’s a water lover, but doesn’t like being surprised. She stalked out unimpressed, shook and trotted off as if she meant to do that all the time.

We hadn’t gone far when we came up to a stone stile. The Dog leapt up to go through and got briefly wedged between the stones. Just not her day. Her shoulders and chest area got stuck and she had to wiggle through. I laughed as it was comical. Payback after all those times I’ve got wedged in stiles and she’s watched in some kind of awed embarrassment.

We crossed another field towards a cluster of buildings. It was one of those farms that had heaps of junk everywhere and many different vehicles parked haphazardly, few of them looking like they haven’t moved for years. These places are always deathly quiet and a touch creepy. They always feature in TV series involving murder and intrigue. We didn’t linger. We studied our map and bore right into another field, but despite the path clearly defined on the map, I just couldn’t find it on the ground. There was no signs or stiles, only twine tethered gates which don’t give you much encouragement to go through. After a couple of minutes of discussing it aloud with The Dog, who was more preoccupied with having a good sniff of something disgusting, I decided to take the easier option of following the track and cutting through another field further up.

It was a good call. It was easy to find, and you could see other people’s footprints which is comforting. We were burped out straight back on the A65 with juggernauts and other large vehicles whistling past us, making my hair dance. Luckily there was a pavement opposite and we walked a couple of hundred yards to the next fingerpost pointing towards Ingleton across the fields.

We strolled across a field, skirted a little woodland and then across a scrubby field towards a modern housing estate, back into Ingleton.

Ingleton is a funny place. I feel quite sorry for it. It’s got a sweet little centre, with a church perched up high, the disused railway viaduct striding prominently across the river and little independent shops selling mainly tourist gifts. But on its periphery, it’s dominated by pebble dashed or faux Yorkshire stoned square, featureless housing, spread haphazardly, with large swathes of open land, ideal for filling in with more housing. It looks like it’s been dropped from a height and splodged. It just seems messy and incoherent, but saying that, Ingleton seems to attract visitors. Ingleton Waterfalls is a big attraction in the area as well as White Scar Caves and the start of several walks up Ingleborough just outside the town – I haven’t visited these places for years, so check out the links below. Ingleton is also a popular base for cavers and potholers – it has a couple of great outdoor shops. There are several caves including Gaping Gill, where on certain days of the year, the cavers will lower members of the public down on a bosun’s chair, into the cavernous depths of Gaping Gill. That’s one on my bucket list to do.

As I say, the village centre is very pleasant and just outside the village centre, you can find Ingleton’s popular outdoor heated swimming pool by the river which opens during the summer months. The Dog and I wandered past it now, but it was shut. I was a bit alarmed to see the pool uncovered, full of water, the tiles green and slimy. It looked like it hadn’t been used for ages. There was a board by the gate informing the public that there were plans to extend it. Perhaps work had already started and they hadn’t bothered with the main pool. It looked very neglected. Let’s hope the work is done quickly and the pool gets back to its usual vibrant self. It’s a little treasure.

We strolled back into the Main Street. I was going to take photos, but the Co-op’s ugly frontage and a tacky Indian sign put me off. There really should be a law that stops businesses putting up gaudy, bright and totally out of synch with their environment signs on their shops. There’s nothing more disheartening that pretty little row of shops, then a big company putting its national corporate badge slap bang in the middle, regardless of its surroundings. Tone it down, it’s not difficult. And while I’m on this brief rant, people should also be banned putting cheap modern white plastic doors on little cute cottages. One of my bugbears.

Another one of Ingleton’s little treasures is its 1940’s weekend in July where the village becomes overrun by all things WW2. There’s soldiers, ARP wardens, Americans GI’s, Home Guard and Land Girls wandering around – old jeeps, motorcycles and cars arrive. There are stalls, music and dancing in the square. It’s all great fun. Sadly in this day and age of overwhelming PC, the Germans are apparently not welcome anymore, so nobody’s allowed to dress up as a German commandant, Gestapo or SS which is rather sad in a weird way. They were part of the story, so shouldn’t be erased out, however uncomfortable it is, which is odd as if we were going to be uncomfortable, it would of been years ago, not in 2019. Anyway, it’s touched somebody’s sensitive nerve and Germans no longer strut through Ingleton in July.

The Dog and I sauntered around, noting the butchers had gone and there was no bakery, though I then remembered that there is Seasons Bakery on the outskirts which is a oasis of bakery products. It’s one of those places so full of pastry delights, you spend ages cooing and choosing. Many a time I’ve gone in there for a loaf and come out with an armful of cakes, buns and tarts. Very yummy. We dropped down to wander under the viaduct, a magnificent piece of Victorian architecture and past Ingleton Pottery, full of ceramics at very reasonable prices. It’s tucked away, so how it gets visitors I don’t know, but they do sell their wares in other shops.

We had just about exhausted Ingleton, and with nowhere else to check out, we wandered back to the car. Another glorious, though chilly day, the sun shining through the clouds. The trees were now showing their full autumn glory – it seems someone has flicked a switch and they’ve all turned from green to gold, orange and red overnight! It made a very pleasant drive home.

Clapham to Austwick

Another glorious day and with our fickle weather, you grab these days and make the most of them.

The Dog and I drove to Clapham, a pretty little village just off the A65 and just inside the boundaries of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It was quite busy with cars. We parked up and wandered towards the Cave Rescue HQ on the Main Street and found the footpath between two buildings. We followed the narrow ginnel to a kissing gate and popped out in the middle of a farmyard.

The fingerpost pointed to the left so we crossed the yard and went around the corner. A wide concrete track went up between between fields and turned right by some glorious trees in full autumnal colours. We followed the fencing, as instructed and started crossing fields. The views were far reaching and beautiful. In the distance I spotted a group of cows. I sighed deeply – they were in our field, they were actually on the path we needed and right next to the gate that we needed to exit.

I didn’t want to abort this walk – it had taken me ages to decide to walk it in the first place. Let’s see what happens when we’re closer. We were now in their field and they were not for moving. Two walkers came through the gate – the cows were right next to the fence so the walkers had to divert up the steep incline next to the path. The cows hardly moved. I felt slightly happier, but I had a mad dog who liked to bark and round up large animals. I shortened her lead, gave her a stern warning and started to clamber up the incline. I hoped The Dog wouldn’t take off as I would go flying. She must of felt my vibes as she was very self controlled and we passed the beasts without incident.

We carried on, crossing through stiles with little gates, strolling across wide meadows. We came across medieval terracing in a field where small holders cultivated small strips of land. Finally we dropped into the small village of Austwick, a mile and half from Clapham.

We walked through Austwick, another pretty village. I was pleased they had retained their bright red telephone kiosk. Many years ago, BT decided to update their boxes. They chose a design of complete ugliness, all glass and steel, with the charm of an urinal. It looked like it had been designed on the back of an envelope, late on a Friday afternoon after a liquid lunch. BT decided to blight the country with these monstrosities – they’re bad enough in the middle of a city – so many pretty villages suffer the indignity of these dreadful boxes, usually in a prominent place. Luckily, Austwick has resisted somehow and hung onto their original one. Usually they are turned into a mini library or hold a defibrillator or some other useful community project.

We strolled up the Main Street towards the little dinky primary school. It was full of little stone cottages, but here and there some thoughtless developer, back in the 70’s, had been allowed to build a squat little bungalow or boxy house with no imagination whatsoever. Thank God for planning permission today, so new homes today are built out of stone and got some character though there seems to be an aversion to add a chimney, even just for aesthetic purposes.

We turned into another lane and started to climb. It was a steady pull. I could stare at the houses better – one of my favourite hobbies while walking. They were all pretty, with lovely gardens and views.

Our pull up the hill was short and we branched off onto a field via a wall stile which took some effort. I paused to take off my coat. It was pleasantly warm. We walked across a couple of fields to a ladder stile, where The Dog totally misjudged it and fell back onto the grass. She’s usually pretty good on all stiles, but occasionally she makes a dogs dinner out of it. She recovered and gave me a look of “I meant to do that” before a more successful attempt.

We jumped down into a lane lined with stone walls. The Dog was off lead and we trotted together back towards Clapham. The views were splendid – Ingleborough peeked over the fells and Robin Proctor’s Scar, a limestone cliff, was prominent on our right. It’s a good climbing area. Not far from here are the Norber Erratics, where during the last Ice Age, boulders were dumped by the glacier on top of limestone. The limestone has weathered away so now boulders balance on boulders. It is a natural phenomena.

We came up to woodland, a path to our right. We carried on and dropped down on a steep path down between a wall. At the bottom we passed under two long tunnels, dark and dank, before being popped out back into the sunshine and back into the village.

The Clapham tunnels were constructed by the Farrar family to provide a route underneath the Ingleborough Hall Estate connecting the village ofClapham with Fell Lane, which leads along Clapdale.

We wandered down to the beck for The Dog to have a paddle and then I went to the village shop for a loaf of fresh bread. It’s a brilliant little shop, stocked full of everything – groceries, gifts, fruit and veg, jams, tourist books, cards and all sorts. I ended up getting all my shopping I had planned to do the next day. I’m very much into supporting these small little enterprises – they are usually run by the community and staffed by volunteers and I shop most of the time in such places. I even got a free cloth shopping bag made by the locals and donated to the shop. I was very happy.

We wandered back to the car, I had to cajole The Dog into the boot. She looked tired, but wanted to stay. She finally jumped in and we drove slowly home.

Wrayton circular walk via Melling

The sun was out!

After a period of unsettled weather, the sun shone across the countryside, highlighting the fells and valleys. There was a chill in the air first thing, so The Dog and I waited and had our lunch before heading out.

We parked in the little hamlet of Wrayton in Lancashire and armed with an OS map, we walked through the village to a footpath on the left. It was a narrow, slightly overgrown path – a garden fence on one side and shrubs on the other. Trees had grown on the path, so we had to skirt round them. The garden fence gave way to a field of sheep and shortly after, we clambered over a stile to join them.

We strolled across the field, The Dog ignoring the sheep who watched us warily. Suddenly The Dog barked and a few of the sheep skitted off. Feeling pleased she barked again, despite me remonstrating her. Between us, we managed to spook the sheep and they all took off en masse down to the other end of the field. The Dog wore a very satisfactory look on her face.

We came to a gate and steps in the corner of the field and were burped out by the A683, next door to the road bridge under which the River Greta flowed. A short walk to the footpath opposite, down steep stone steps, a quick check for livestock and The Dog was unleashed. She galloped off straight into the river for a paddle. It was still high and fast flowing after the recent rains. We strolled along a low embankment, following the river on its way to join the River Lune. The Dog was very happy, a big grin on her face. The sun was now quite warm and I was regretting wearing my jacket. It was a beautiful autumn day.

The River Greta

We turned an abrupt left and came up to a stile. I consulted the map – straight ahead. The path went through a small corpse of trees, but on the ground, there was no defining track. It was a mass of mounds and dips. I headed into the general direction, looking for some sort of sign. We headed towards a fence in the distance and ended up on the edge of a rather soggy area. The sun was directly in my eyes. I was juggling a dog lead, a map, my glasses had steamed up whilst on my head, keeping one eye on the dog and squinting at the scene ahead of me. I caught sight of a railway viaduct which we needed to be heading towards as well as a stile. I squelched across the bog, and realised the stile wasn’t actually a stile, but a random piece of fencing and impossible to clamber over. I wandered to the left – nope, there were cows there, so wandered the other way where the path (and The Dog) plunged into a deep body of water. The field in front of us was being liberally sprayed with muck.

I was getting cross and frustrated. Muttering, I declared to The Dog that we were going to retrace our steps and return to the car. I tiptoed across the boggy bit and clambered back up the little bank, where I found a faint path worn into the grass heading to the right. I looked at the map again. I realised then that I shouldn’t of crossed the boggy bit and kept to this side and I was actually focussed on the wrong section of viaduct as well, which hadn’t helped. I followed the path feeling rather silly and it suddenly all made sense. “As you were” I declared to The Dog who rolled her eyes and peed on a nettle.

We popped into a lane lined with hedges. It was heavily used by tractors and other farm vehicles as there were deep ruts where the wheels had sunk deep into the mud. It was still very muddy. My foot sunk deep in the quagmire and there was a brief struggle as it hung onto my boot before I managed to yank it out. I tried to walk on the grassy section, but that was uneven , narrow and gloopy too. It was a bit of a slog. I was glad I had my proper walking boots on.

It was halfway down this lane when I remembered that I had walked this way before. About 4 years ago, this area suffered a lot of flooding. Hubby and I went for a walk one day with The Dog and our daughter’s Spaniel and ended up on this lane. It was full of water, totally flooded. Hubby ended up clinging onto the hedge as he took the edge of the lane. I waded through with my wellies with a stick poking the ground, hoping I wouldn’t disappear down a hole, The Dog was up to her chest in water and the Spaniel just swam. The dogs loved it, leaping around, creating bow waves which crashed against my wellies and threatened to overflow into my shoe. It took us ages to walk through it.

The Dog and I heard a cow moo from the other side of the hedge, and a sound of hooves as cows trotted alongside us. At a gap in the hedge, they slithered to a halt and stared at us as we stared back at them. The Dog woofed and they took a collective step backwards. Then one barged forwards again. They were inquisitive, but skittish. We carried on and the cows followed, chasing us to the next gap. They were comical.

Our Cow friends with Ingleborough in the background

We left our new friends, and went under the railway (ahh, our viaduct) and walked up towards the village of Melling. We patted two horses who had their heads over the gate and walked to the main road. We strolled a few yards and turned off the main road, down a little lane lined with houses and big gardens. We passed the little village school looking for the green lane. We passed a patch of grass in front of a large garden wall which had a sign. “Private Land – no right of way”. I frowned. How territorial. How snobby. It even had white painted rocks on the edge. It reminded me of a little sign stuck in a plant planter in a nearby town “please do not let your dog wee on my planter”. Oh for goodness sake. But then I changed my judgment. It’s not nice having dogs wee up your stuff and perhaps these poor residents had found people picnicking on their land or unwanted cars parked on it. Perhaps they had no choice but to defend it because of other people’s thoughtlessness. I quietly apologised to them and headed on.

We followed a tarmac lane before turning off into a field, climbing uphill. On the brow, a wonderful view of the Barbon Fells and up towards the Howgills. It just glowed in the sun. Just gorgeous.

The Barbon Fells

The Dog discovered pheasants in the field and gave chase. She got yelled at, but not before she managed to get them airborne. She went back on the leash as we went into a woodland surrounded by high fencing. Initially I thought it was where pheasants were raised, but think it was deer proof fencing for this little wood. At first I thought it was full of conifers – those dark, dank, creepy trees that overwhelm everything and creak loudly, but it was a mixture of trees and was reasonably pleasant. A bit agoraphobic, but I was too busy watching where my feet went. The Dog, still excited by the pheasants, was on red alert and was keen to seek them out. She was forgetting I was on the end of her leash and didn’t have her four paws or lower centre of gravity for stability. I slithered, squeaking in alarm, through the mud and slime a few times, berating The Dog. It was like waterskiing.

The Forest of Bowland moorland

We left the little wood behind and strolled along another little lane, with puddles and mud that didn’t look deep, but was. I followed The Dog and watched how far she sunk. We dropped back into Wrayton, opposite where we started. We read the Parish noticeboard before walking back to the car, feeling quite pleased with ourselves. We had found a rather pleasant circular walk (now we knew where we were going) and it would be one we would do again – when it had dried out!

Feizor to Stainforth and back!

It had been raining all morning, but the forecast said the sun would come out by midday.

And it did! The low miserable clouds gave way to blue sky and their fluffy relations. We decided to head to the little hamlet of Feizor, just outside Settle. We drove down a little dead end lane to the cluster of buildings which included a small tea rooms called Elaines. As it was going to be a circular walk, we promised ourselves a celebratory cuppa when we finished. Parking was a bit tight, so we parked in the tea rooms car park (basically the farmyard opposite) and asked the staff nicely if we could leave the car there. Not a problem.

We followed the path through the farmyard and into a field beyond. The ground rose upwards and it was a steady heave. The Dog was with us and was totally giddy despite her advancing years. The sun was out, the views behind us absolutely gorgeous. It was lovely to be out after days of rain and overcast skies. We climbed stiles, went through gates, pulled ourselves over ladder stiles and reached the brow of the hill.

Here was Big Country and Big Skies. We wandered downwards as the landscape opened up before us. Pen-y-Ghent, one of the Three Peaks of Yorkshire hoved into view, majestic in the distance. The Dog tried to round up sheep, thwarted by her leash, making them take flight and trotting briskly across the tufty grass. We were starting to drop into the valley and towards Stainforth.

It was stunning. The trees were starting to reveal their autumnal colours and the shadows were long. After the recent prolonged rains, the grass was vibrant. It was one of those days when you felt you could ping the sky. We found a track which dropped us to the edge of the village and after being chased by an extremely large tractor, we sauntered down to a single track lane past a caravan site and picked up the river.

We had feared that the walk would be a quagmire after days of rain, but the ground had been quite firm. There was a rather muddy bit by the river, the result of many feet traipsing along the path, but it soon petered out. People had wandered off towards the falls and today there was a cluster of people watching salmon leaping up river to the spawning grounds.

We joined the group and watched. Suddenly a large fish leapt out of the water, flying against the flow, desperately trying to reach the higher level. It seemed futile. He sploshed back into the churning water, having achieved nothing. Another appeared from the frothing maelstrom and hit the rock with a sickening slap. We gasped as he slithered back into the water. How on earth did they ever get up and this was the third tier of the waterfall. They must be exhausted. Another fish leapt up and landed high on the rock, his body writhing madly as he tried to push himself further up, but the water was too strong and he lost the battle.

We stood there for ages watching. Photographers sat there, cameras poised to catch the perfect picture. It was just fascinating. We pulled ourselves reluctantly away and continued our walk. We followed the riverside walk, past a fisherman fly fishing further downstream. The Dog was unleashed and she bounded down to the waters edge, very happy. We clambered over little streams, balancing on stones and boulders before climbing up to another stile.

We took a slightly unofficial route here and got ourselves onto the back lane and picked up another path. We walked across the fields, through a cow field where the cows lazily lifted their heads, chewing the cud. We squeezed through stiles and crossed a sheep field. They scattered as we walked past them, The Dog straining at her leash. The sheep regrouped further down and watched us warily as we continued our walk. Suddenly they started to come towards us, getting a little trot on, moving as one large group. We were a bit unnerved as usually sheep are so flighty. We stopped and they stopped. They then crept towards us, getting nearer. Then they checked themselves. They were nervous, but equally intrigued. We clambered through the wall and tried to encourage them closer, but they stood their ground. They were funny creatures.

A plane flew over our heads moments later, on a practise run through the dales. A lot of military aircraft fly across the fells and valleys of this area, flying low and noisily. We carried on and started to climb back up over the hill, back towards the car. It was a steady pull. The sun was getting lower and hazy. We came up to a field with a scattering of cows. They were large. We started walking, watching warily. A big black cow appeared and started to take an interest in us. The Dog barked madly. We shushed her as we went past the beast. The cow refused to move as we made noises and waved arms. It was then, as we carried on, she started to follow us. Our pace quickened somewhat as we tried to stay outwardly calm, but panicking inside. Cows have been known to charge and trample people so we didn’t really want to participate in a stampede. The big black cow sauntered sedately up an incline, parallel with us, watching us all the time. It didn’t help ease the rising panic – it felt that she was getting extra advantage. Was she going to charge towards us at any moment, gaining momentum from her vantage point? It would be very messy if she did.

A couple of her fellow bovines started moving too, but they soon lost interest including our big black instigator and they left us to trot across the field, glancing behind us on regular intervals, straining our ears to the noise of thundering hooves. We were soon back with the sheep and the hill sloped downwards, back to Feizor. We picked up the pace. It was now gone 4.30 and we feared our planned visit to the cafe would be thwarted.

There was a couple sitting on the outside picnic tables, but the sign told us they closed 4.30 ish and now it was a quarter to five. The door opened and we went inside. And God bless them, though they were practical finished, they made us tea, coffee and cake as long as we were prepared to sit outside to eat it. That seemed a deal. It was warm, out of the wind and we were making the most of this splendid afternoon. We sat, sipping our drinks, making lots of approving noises over the cakes and dropping titbits to The Dog, who was equally approving of the food. Happily fed and watered, we sauntered over to the car and headed home, pleased to find such a lovely, gentle walk with such spectacular views. Perfect.

Hadrian’s Wall Walk – homeward bound ☹️

Our last morning was bright and sunny. A glorious morning.

We went for breakfast and was joined at our table by a middle aged brother and sister who had just finished the walk too. It transpired that they were slightly ahead of us yesterday as it was them, from Worcester and Banbury, we had replaced on the white finger post with our village.

Our feet couldn’t quite believe that they were in normal pumps and it was nice to wear jeans and a top, looking vaguely smarter. We realised that we hadn’t really taken photos at the finish, so we headed down there again. And what a difference. It was beautiful. The view stretched across the Solway Firth, towards Annan and Dumfries. That was Scotland. Towards the west, mountains rose towards Stranraer. It was glorious – early autumnal colours. So different from yesterday. We took our photos and went on the pebbly beach. Lovely.

We retrieved our bags and waited for the little Hopper Bus to Carlisle. We admired the scenery on the trip back. It was bright and pretty. We were pleased to see how beautiful it was and erased the gloom of yesterday.

We were dropped off at the bus station and wandered through Carlisle town centre again. There were several shopping malls that were architecturally fashionable in the 1980s, full of Saturday shoppers. We found John Watts, our little cafe and enjoyed a lunch there. On trips to the toilet, you had to pass through a cavernous cellar full of antiquities of the tea and coffee trade. It was like a little stuffy, dusty museum that had been forgotten and really demanded more attention. It had low ceilings and dark corners, a little spooky – I half expected to meet Jack Nicholson hiding there, welding a axe. I hoped the cafe didn’t suffer a power cut while I was on the loo and the furthest from the exit. I would of had a good look but with someone holding my hand.

We waddled down to the railway station, dragging our cases noisily behind us. The railway station was busy and I was delighted to see it was a lovely Victorian edifice, all mellow brick and high curved glass ceilings and ornate ironwork. It was lovely and airy. A steam train with a long line of dining cars with little table lamps in each window, hissed patiently as people boarded. What a great way to dine. We studied the departure board. We had two trains to catch to get home, but the second one had been cancelled due to a mud slip on our little line. It wasn’t really an issue, but then we saw a departure on the famous Carlisle – Settle route. We looked at each other and made an instant decision. Let’s conclude this really great trip with a ride on this train.


Court Square, Cumbria, Carlisle CA1 1QZ

0333 103 1031

The Settle – Carlisle line was nearly lost when British Rail deemed it expensive and unviable, some 20 years or so ago. But it was saved for the nation and what a spectacular journey it is. Through the heart of the Eden Valley, past heather moors, wide rivers, little towns, farms and green fields, with a backdrop of big blue skies and fluffy white clouds, it is beyond beautiful. Past Pen-y-Ghent, across the Ribbleshead viaduct. It was just perfect.

And then, at Settle station as we waited for a taxi to get us home, another steam train hurtled through, chuffing billows of white smoke into the air. Such a romantic sight. Such a perfect ending.