Aira Force

Tucked away in a wooded valley between Ullswater’s Watermillock and Glenridding lies the picturesque waterfall Aira Force.  Aira is derived from the Old Norse words of eyrr and á, meaning gravel bank and river respectively, force being the English annunciation offors, meaning waterfall.  As such the literal translation is waterfall on   gravel-bank river.

The land surrounding Aira Force, Gowborrow Park, was obtained by the National Trust in 1906 and has since been landscaped, made wheelchair accessible and suitable for the thousands of tourists it attracts while maintaining its natural character and beauty.  The falls were frequented by the Lakelands poet-in-residence Wordsworth and mentioned in several of his poems, notable the final verse ofThe Somnambulist:

 

Wild stream of Aira, hold thy course,
Nor fear memorial lays,
Where clouds that spread in solemn shade,
Are edged with golden rays!
Dear art thou to the light of heaven,
Though minister of sorrow;
Sweet is thy voice at pensive even;
And thou, in lovers’ hearts forgiven,
Shalt take thy place with Yarrow!

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http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/aira-force-and-ullswater/

http://www.everypoet.com/archive/poetry/William_Wordsworth/william_wordsworth_850.htm

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Castlerigg Stone Circle

Situated just above Keswick and in the shadow of the imposing Blencathra, lies the mysterious Castlerigg Stone Circle.  Cautiously dated at being erected around 3000 BC (give or take a few hundred years) by the Neolithic peoples of Cumbria and is one of the earliest known stone circles in Europe.  Made up of several stones of local slate rock up to 5 feet tall (though some may have fallen over since its construction), it is a slightly off circle (one side is flattened) measuring about 100 ft in diameter.

Despite several archaeological digs to the site little evidence has been found to support the various speculations of its intended purpose, adding to its mystery and charm.  One of the favoured theories is that the circle represents a meeting place for travelling farmers.  Neolithic man in this region practiced ‘transhumance’ farming; moving back and forth between locations depending on the seasons.  Movement from the East to West Coast (only around four thousand years before Wainwright made this a popular leisure walk) would have been easiest along the fell ridges and the valley floors were dense woodland at the time.

 Other theories include the circle being a market place for trading, the axe industry being popular in the region at the time, or the obligatory attachment of religious or spiritual practices (more than often perpetuated by follows of the neo-pagan movement).  It is perhaps unfair to dismiss any religious/spiritual use too early though as one of the stones does form an alignment with the Threlkeld Knot during sunrise at the Autumn Equinox (though you can get most things to line up to the sun and/ or moon at a certain time and place so this could be coincidence).  Regardless of its intended purpose, it has been visited by the people of its land and from afar from the past 4500 years or so and remains a popular draw to this day.

 A more contemporary folk-legend is that it is impossible to count the number of stones in the circle.  The National Trust information boards at the site list the official number as 40 stones, their website lists 38 and I counted 42 (including the smaller ‘packing’ stones though).  Personally I don’t really care why my ancient ancestors built the circle, I just like the idea it has been visited by thousands and thousands of people for thousands and thousands of years, who will have all enjoyed the incredible views of some of the Lakes’ highest peaks Blencathra, Skiddaw, Helvellyn and Grassmoor.  It might have just been a lovely place to meet and enjoy the views, surely Neolithic man appreciated these panoramic views as much as modern man?

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http://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/england/cumbria/featured-sites/castlerigg-stone-circle.html

http://www.visitcumbria.com/kes/castlerigg-stone-circle/

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/article-1356396995166/

Lord’s Seat & Barf – Whinlatter, Cumbria

After a ‘rest day’ of strolling round Keswick and Aira Force, we headed out to Whinlatter Forrest to two ends, bag some more Wainwrights and have a treetop adventure at ‘Go Ape’ (but more of that later).

So after our treetop shenanigans, a pleasant lunch on a sunny terrace and some fine cake, we set forth up the woodland trail from Whinlatter’s visitor’s centre, initially towards Seat How.   The trail is well laid out and way-marked by the Forestry Commission.  It is a steep ascent through the heavily wooded hillside, that is home to many a family activity including storybook trails, play parks and various woodland walks.

Tree lines forest trail

Tree lines forest trail

In his pictorial guide to the North Western Fells, Wainwright is almost disapproving of the ascent from Whinlatter noting:

‘This is one of the oddest fell climbs of all, five-sixths of the distance being along forest roads engulfed in dense plantations, walking ‘blind’ and with little sense of direction… a delightfully easy ascent – but gloomy forests aren’t everybody’s cup of tea!’

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As we reach the edge of the first plantation, we happen upon a small clearing and come across a familiar character (at least familiar to those of us with young children), lovingly sculpted from wood and presented for our enjoyment.   We stop for a few obligatory photographs before heading onward.

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It’s the Gruffalo!

The next mile or so unfortunately is largely gravel fire roads lined with dense forest of pine and fir trees, which makes for a fairly uninteresting walk and I can see where Wainwright was coming from.  Fortunately the sun is shining and I am in the wonderful company of Kelly, so all is not lost. Occasionally the trees clear a little and we’re treat to a view.

View through the trees

View through the trees

We continue our ascent by-passing the trail for Seat How and taking the path out of the forest and towards the open heather strewn plane leading to the summit.

Finally out of the trees

Finally out of the trees

The final part of the trail is reasonable gentle and we arrive at the top of this underrated but fine Fell.  The view is beautiful, presenting a fantastic panorama of some of Lakeland’s most famous and iconic sights.  The view east presents our next summit, Barf and behind it Dodd, Skiddaw, Little Man, Blencathra and both Great and Little Mell Fell.  Round to the South we are treat to our previous walk of Catbells, High Spy, Causey Pike, Robinson and the imposing Grisedale Pike.

Panorama from the summit

Panorama from the summit

It’s a beautiful sunny and calm day and the summit incredibly peaceful and we’re not in any rush, so take the time just to enjoy the view and the serenity.  There’s not much to mark the summit, no cairn or significant geological features, just an old iron fence post stood in a loose hole at the highest point.  There’s also evidence of some other long gone iron posts and evidently three old fences used to converge right here at the summit.  They have long since been replaced by modern wire fences further down the fell now.

Old iron fence post marking the summit

Old iron fence post marking the summit, Seat How in the background and Skiddaw, Little Man et-al behind.

I also use the opportunity to show just how accurate AW’s guides and illustrations are.  For all the wonder of modern technology; pinpoint accurate GPRS , high definition satellite imaging and topography, worldwide databases of accurate mapping delivered to our smartphones, it’s refreshing that a cantankerous middle-aged man from Blackburn was able to walk these fells and with nothing but a pencil, notebook and cheap film camera create guides so accurate they are still in use 50 years later.

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After enjoying the rest in the sunshine we head on across the top of the fell towards the neighbouring (and unfortunately named) Barf.

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For the life of me I cannot find any references to cast any light on why this fell is called so, but I presume when it was named the word barf wasn’t an unfortunate euphemism for vomiting.  Regardless of its peculiar nomenclature we head across the peat-bog ridden plane between the two summits.  The path isn’t always clear (or more accurately I make up my own route) and I’m thankful the weather has been as dry as of late otherwise we’d be ankle deep in bog.

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Viewto the West from the Summit

It is only about half a mile walk across the wide ridge between Lord’s Seat and Barf and only a gentle change in height.  As we reach the pinnacle, the path suddenly becomes much a much steeper ascent upwards through the now rocky outcrop that makes up Barf’s summit.

ascent to Barf

ascent to Barf

The views from Barf as are stunning as from Lord’s Seat, though the Fell lacks the serenity of its neighbour due to the busy A66 at its foot.

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Catbells from Barf

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Consulting AW

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Looking out over Bassenthwaite

Looking out Westwards over Bassenthwaite, we can see the coast and distant fells still sporting snow caps from the winter.   We find ourselves in company of the woolly variety as three Herdwick sheep join us at the summit to graze.

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Herdwicks

Herdwicks

Herdwicks are a breed of sheep synonymous with the Lake District and indeed 99% of the breed lives in these Cumbrian hills.  Herdwick comes from the Old Norse word  herdvyck which more-or-less translates to ‘sheep pasture’.  More evidence of the huge influence the Norse had on this land when they abandoned their Viking ways in favour of settling.  Herdwicks are a hardy breed, able to survive the extreme geography and climate of the Lakes and nourish themselves on the relatively little forage present.  Their wool too is also apparently known to be a hard wearing material, almost a reflection of their environment.  But enough sheep talk…

View back towards Lord's Seat

View back towards Lord’s Seat

We head down the south face into a small valley with Beckstones Gill at is bottom.  There is a small set of waterfalls where the gill is narrow enough to cross with little effort and sufficient stepping stones to keep our boots dry.

Tiny waterfalls at Beckstones Gill

Tiny waterfalls at Beckstones Gill

We then ascend back up the other side of the valley into the forest paths of Beckstones Plantation.  The trail snakes though the shady woods (a welcome relief from the sun on my pale, pale skin!) and it is only when we come across a brief opening we are privy to one of Barf’s quirkier features, the Bishop Stone also known as the Bishop of Barf.  The stone is a whitewashed pillar around 7’ high situated about a third of the way up the Fell’s rocky eastern face.  Legend has it that the visiting Bishop of Derry drunkenly bet he could ride his horse up the steep incline and died trying, as did his poor steed.  They were buried on the hillside close by and for reasons only known to the perpetrators; the staff of the near-by Swan Hotel whitewashed this pillar as a monument.  The hotel has since gone but the tradition is continued by members of the Keswick Mountain Rescue Team to this day.  It seems a fanciful tale, but it makes for a good landmark and is easier seen by passing motorists on the A66.

Bishop of Barf

Bishop of Barf

The path down is much like the path up, lined with trees and largely uneventful but pleasant none-the-less.  We eventually find ourselves back at the visitor’s centre from where we started.

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It’s been a lovely day and a lovely walk.  Different to the ‘usual’ fell walks I have done as it was largely wooded and you only really get a sense of your surroundings once at the summit, but still worthwhile and certainly worthy of AW’s inclusion in his guides.

Unrelated to fell walking, here’s a few pictures of the day’s earlier activity at Go Ape.  I heartily recommend it to anyone!  It was a lot of fun.

Monkeying around at Go Ape!

Monkeying around at Go Ape!

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Further Reading/References:

http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/WhinlatterWalkingMapSept2014.pdf/$file/WhinlatterWalkingMapSept2014.pdf

http://www.walklakes.co.uk/walk_33.html

http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=11614

http://www.goape.co.uk

Catbells, Lake District, Cumbria

Blessed with fine spring weather and a week with no other commitments, I headed to the Lake District with my wonderful lady Kelly.  The Lake District is perhaps my favourite region of this Fair Isle, certainly my favourite region outside of Yorkshire!  I have been visiting the Lakes for my whole life and I never get tired of the place, I genuinely love the area and savor every visit.

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View across Derwent Water, Blencathra in the background.

The Lake District has a lifetime’s worth of attractions but the main draw for me is the abundance of beautiful mountains, hills and peaks (know in the Lake District still by the Old Norse term of Fell) to walk.  Of course, this is no secret and the walks of the Lake District are world famous largely due to one man, the inimitable Alfred Wainwright, whose guidebooks have inspired many generations of fell walkers since they were first published in the fifties and sixties.  In his seven guide books, he covers no less than 214 fells in the Lake District, in his own unique, humorous yet concise style. These fells have since been dubbed ‘Wainwrights’ and ‘Wainwright bagging’ has become a hobby/sport/obsession to many a walker.

Catbells (behind Derwent Island) from the launch at Keswick.

Catbells (behind Derwent Island) from the launch at Keswick.

It is one such Wainwright that we choose to trek on this mild April morning; Kelly’s inaugural Lakeland Fell and my first wander up one of the most popular summits of the Lake District, Catbells.  One of the ‘family fells’ situated around Lake Derwent with a ‘modest’ height of 1481’, it seemed like an ideal introduction to fell walking for Kelly.

The only way is up

The only way is up

We set off from Hawse End in mild temperatures and cloudy skies.  The trail begins at a cattle grid at a junction on the road from Portinscale to Grange.

Cattle Grid marks the beginning of the walk

Cattle Grid marks the beginning of the walk

The gravel path immediately becomes a steep ascent of about a mile towards the first ‘peak’ of the fell.  The path is well kept but punctuated with sections of rock outcrops and we are accompanied for most of our journey by an overly enthusiastic Labrador of another couple matching our pace (approximately).  We are soon at the rock escarpment of the first ‘peak’, marked with a memorial tablet to Thomas Arthur Leonard, a pioneer and activist largely responsible for making outdoor holidays available and popular to the ordinary working public.

Memorial tablet

Memorial tablet

Approaching the first 'peak' of Catbells

Approaching the first ‘peak’ of Catbells

View over Derwent from the first 'peak'

View over Derwent from the first ‘peak’

The view is spectacular and only the bracing wind serves to distract from the beautiful panorama of Grisedale Pike round to Skiddaw, Blencathra, et-all, onto Catstycam, High Seat and Helvellyn.

Selfie at the first Peak, the summit in the background between us

Selfie at the first Peak, the summit in the background between us

We press on along the ridge path to the summit.  The immediate approach to the summit quickly becomes quite a scramble with the pathway dissolving into almost sheer rock faces.  This sounds fairly daunting, but in reality there are any number of routes up this final twenty feet or so of rock and it makes for an exciting approach to the fell’s summit.

Trail to the summit of the Fell

Trail to the summit of the Fell

We reach the top and marvel at the incredible panorama.  It’s easy to see why this is such a popular fell and indeed we are in company on the rocky outcrop that forms the summit.

I can recognise many of the iconic fells making up the view, but am not sure of a few so try and identify them from my OS map.  At about the same time the wind picks up and blows it everyway except the way I want to read it, so I resort to plan B using my Wainwright guide.  This also proves tricky as my £2.99 compass apparently doesn’t point north!  Still, AW must have anticipated this and his excellent line drawings and diagrams suffice to identify the beautiful scenery.  The views are incredible with many of the iconic fells bordering the two beautiful lakes of Derwent Water and Bassenthwaite.

Panorama from the summit of Catbells.  Path towards Black Crag and Bull Crag centre

Panorama from the summit of Catbells. Path towards Black Cragg and Bull Cragg centre

View back over our approach, Bassenthwaite in the background

View back over our approach, Bassenthwaite in the background.  To the left of Bassenthwaite you can see Barf and Lord’s Seat (blog coming very soon) and to the right Ullock Pike and Longside. 

We stop for a little while and talk to the other walkers before dropping down the other side of the rocky peak and along the ridge trail leading towards Black Cragg and Bull Cragg.  This is an appealing looking walk itself that could lead to many attractive destinations around Borrowdale, but that’s for another day.  Today we reach the crossroads in the dip between the fells known as Hause Gate and begin the gentle ascent towards the Lake shore.

Footpath down from Hause Gate towards Manstey Wood

Footpath down from Hause Gate towards Manstey Wood

We stop as a pleasant little plateau about half way down just as the sun breaks through the clouds and enjoy our lunch.

Lunch site, good view

Lunch site, good view

The path then continues, past a memorial tablet and bench for Hugh Wapole, an early 20th Century author who made his home at the bottom of this very fell overlooking Derwent Water.

Memorial tablet

Memorial tablet

A wee rest at the Hugh Wapole memorial seat

A wee rest at the Hugh Wapole memorial seat

View from just above the  the Hugh Wapole memorial tablet.  the blooming spring Daffs in contrast to the looming rain clouds!

View from just above the the Hugh Wapole memorial tablet. the blooming spring Daffs in contrast to the looming rain clouds!

It offers a fine view and after taking it in we continue our descent before coming to the Old Green Road as noted in Wainwright’s guide.  The road runs alongside the tarmac road to Grange and the footpath branches into a variety of routes.  We choose the path that drops down through Brandlehow Wood and skirts the shore of the lake.  It’s a lovely end to a fine walk, with the sun just beginning to peak through the trees.  As an added bonus we come across and interesting wooden sculpture at the end of the woodland trail, two beautifully carved hands entitled ‘Entrust’.  It’s a celebration of 100 years of the National Trust and a fitting symbol.  Rather than try and explain it, I’ll let the pictures do the talking and you can reach your own ideas on the matter.

'Entrust'

‘Entrust’

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We loop round through the remainder of the wood trail that takes us back to the cattle grid where we began.  A fantastic walk, with beautiful views and excellent company.  I can see why Catbells is so popular and I resolve to return and use it as a starting point for a horseshoe walk around Borrowdale, but there’s another 213 Wainwrights to go before then…

View of Catbells from across Derwent Water

View of Catbells from across Derwent Water

If you have a few spare minutes, take a look at this amazing video showing most of our trail taken with a drone cam. (credit to youtube user savedpurplecat)

Further Reading/Reference:

http://www.wainwrightroutes.co.uk/northwesternfells.htm

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Pictorial-Guide-Lakeland-Fells-Western/dp/0711227128

http://www.visitcumbria.com/peaks/Catbells/

http://www.douglashope.co.uk/T_A_Leonard

http://www.spectator.co.uk/books/9334791/the-herries-chronicles-by-hugh-walpole-review/

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/7887/7887-h/7887-h.htm

Mam Tor, Peak District

Gaz: Shorts Col?  That’s brave.

Col: There’s nowt more waterproof that your legs is there?

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After picking up on my re-kindled passion for walking, my good friend Colin offered to guide me on one of his favorite treks through the Peak District.  Our route would begin in the picturesque village of Hope, follow the River Noe along to Castleton then ascend Mam Tor and walk a section of the ‘Great Ridge’.  I was very much looking forward to this walk as it was to incorporate quite a few interesting areas of the Peak district, as well as bagging four ‘Peaks’ in the process.

We arrived in Hope at around 0930 and it was wet.  Wet, grey and misty.  Hardly ideal conditions for taking in the beautiful views of the Hope Valley and Edale, but you can’t win them all as they say and I wasn’t going to let this spoil a promising adventure.  Hope is a village seeped in history, originally being a Roman settlement (there are the remains of a fort somewhere, I shall investigate on another day), then being occupied by Norse settlers and the Saxons under King Ǣthelstan.  It seems that Hope and Castleton must have had some significance in ancient Britain and I make a note to research this further sometime in the future.

We set forth from Hope and headed up to the footpath from the village that followed the River Noe and along to Peakshole Water reservoir, which on reflection is more of a large pond.  It’s a gentle and reasonable level walk across the fields, with the ever present monolithic Hope Valley Cement Works looming over to our left.  After a few steady miles we hit Castleton, which is a fine day out in its own right, but today’s business is walking and there’s a Peak to climb.  The path leads us out of Castleton and past the ‘Devil’s Arse’ cave which rests just below Peverel Castle.  We cut across a series of fields along a path called ‘Odin’s Sitch’ which leads to the Odin Mines at the foot of the Peak.  Between ‘Castle-town’, the ‘Devil’s Arse’, the castle on the cliff side, Odin Mines, the promise of a disappearing road (more of that in a bit) and the ever present ominous Winn Hill that looks like Mount Doom (Orodruin) from Middle-Earth, this trek already has a distinctly Tolkien feeling about it.

Hope Valley Cement Works

Hope Valley Cement Works

Onwards towards the Odin Mine, an old lead mine that has been present since Roman times.  The exact dates of the mine opening are unclear, but the name certainly indicated Norse settlers opening a shaft and naming it after their chief deity.  In fact older maps and records show then name as ‘Oden’ mine, more in common with the original Nordic translation.  There are plenty of ruins and features to explore, but I resolve to return in more clement weather and investigate properly and take some decent photographs.  Unfortunately it is definitely not the weather to stop and soak in the atmosphere, it was just the weather to stop and soak so we press on and begin our ascent of the Tor.

Millstone at Odin Mine

Millstone at Odin Mine

The next section of the walk has an interesting history.  It follows what was the old A625 road which originally circumvented the old pack-horse route on Winnats Pass and linked Sheffield to Whaley Bridge.  Constructed in 1819 by the Sheffield Turnpike Company, this section of the road was embroiled in a (futile) battle against a 4,000 year old landslide that blights the Tor from its foot to its summit.  The land the road was build upon has deep lying ‘geological flaws’ in that its underlying foundation is weak shale and soft sandstone are ‘constantly’ giving way, resulting in the debris flow from the foot of the mountain upwards.  The resulting nick-name of the ‘Shivering Mountain’ emerged, though today I am inclined to call it that for more meteorological reasons. These landslips, common in this region of the Peaks, result in the distinctive appearance of the Tor with its ‘fallen away’ side.  We will happen upon an even more severe example at Back Tor, a few miles further along the great ridge.

A625 in a sorry state of repair!

A625 in a sorry state of repair!

Because of this slippage, pretty much since its inception the original A625 was constantly subject to repair work.  Major repair works were carried out in 1912, 1933, 1946, 1952 and 1966. On the latter occasion, the road was closed for 6 weeks. In 1974 large parts of the Mam Tor section collapsed during a massive landslip, repairs were successful but subsequent years of heavy rain caused even more landslides and eventually the road was abandoned for good in 1979.  Walking up the road is quite peculiar, seeing these mighty great chunks of asphalt and concrete (still complete with markings and cats-eyes) warped and twisted by the ever moving mountain.  Though oddly beautiful, it’s a profound reminder that although we like to believe our human mark on this earth is indelible and lasting; we are but a speck of dust in the sands of geological time and might.  I think old J.R.R. would have liked that;

“It is not the not-man (e.g. weather) nor man (even at a bad level), but the man-made that is ultimately daunting and insupportable. If a ragnarök would burn all the slums and gas-works, and shabby garages, and long arc-lit suburbs, it could for me burn all the works of art–and I’d go back to trees.”

–       JRR Tolkien, Letter #83

As we approach the entrance to the Blue John Caverns, we come across a newly built café and it seems entirely appropriate to stop for a quick break to dry off a little and slurp something warm.  No time to explore the Caverns today (but a must for a future visit), it’s onwards and upwards (literally) towards the summit.  As the road gives way (literally) to the earthen trail, the wind and rain cut across the mountain side as if blown by Njörður himself and the path becomes steeper with every stip.  Looking over our shoulders; despite the weather we are afforded a spectacular view of the Hope Valley, complete with cement works nestled in its basin, but its not the time, weather or place to stop.  After a final few thigh-burning meters of muddy, almost vertical ascent we reach the summit.  517 meters above sea level with views down the Hope Valley, across Edale, over towards Kinder Scout and beyond.  Spectacular.  Spectacularly wet and freezing also. 

Final ascent to Mam Tor

Final ascent to Mam Tor

Mam Tor summit once was home to ancient hill-top fortress from the Bronze Age/Iron Age.  Research has suggested that it was occupied as early as 1200 BC, they must have had bloody warm animal skins! There are some interesting markings in the rocks that celebrate the Tor’s ancient heritage but there are too many people milling around to really take them all in.  A project for a return trip in more clement weather on a quieter day methinks.  I grab a few pictures but they don’t really come out due to the conditions, make a note of the Trig Point and we press on along the Great Ridge.

Trig Point at the summit

Trig Point at the summit

The Great Ridge of the Peak District is a footpath approximately 2 miles long, beginning at Mam Tor and finishing Lose Hill (or vice versa depending on your direction).  It takes in Mam Tor, Hollins Cross, Back Tor and Lose Hill along with spectacular panoramic views the whole way.  It has been paved by the National Trust which may not be the preference of walking purists (one can only imagine the grumpy AW’s musings on such a thing), but does preserve the path from erosion.  This particular walk is possibly the most popular one in the Peak District and without such reinforcements the state of the land would be surely diabolical, so such compromises must be made to ensure enjoyment for all. 

Footpath along the Great Ridge

Footpath along the Great Ridge

As we trek along the ridge I muse that even on a day with such dreadful weather conditions, the Peaks are still crowded.  There are literally hundreds of people walking on the ridge all at the same time as us, braving the wind and rain to enjoy the views, the walk and the challenge.  On a sunny weekend in August, this place must be like Piccadilly Circus!  This really highlights the popularity of the Peak District; by comparison I have often walked the Yorkshire Dales on a fine day and seldom come across another sole.  It leads me to philosophize a little on why I like to walk; is it for the solitude? the peace and quiet? the escape from the bustle of the town? It’s maybe all of those things that I yearn for, yet seeing so many people braving the elements to enjoy the simple pleasure that the countryside has to offer us makes me happy. 

View back towards Mam Tor from the Ridge

View back towards Mam Tor from the Ridge

Enough philosophy!  Onwards we heard to Hollins Cross, the lowest point of the ridge.  Hollins Cross is so called because it once originally had a cross raised at this point, but that apparently vanished some 100 years or so ago.  From Hollins Cross the gentle descent turns back to a gentle ascent towards Back Tor.  The gentle ascent soon turns to a fairly severe one and the well maintained pavement gives way to a worn and broken stony path.  Back Tor is a striking feature of the ridge with its North-West face severely fallen away and solitary tree atop its rocky summit.  Facing back South-West we have a fine view of our route here from Mam Tor and North-East we can see our final Peak of the day Lose Hill.  There is a legend that Lose Hill and its neighbor Win Hill are so named after the ancient Kingdoms of Wessex and Northumbria did battle here.  The Northumbrians’ encampment was situated on Win Hill and the forces of Wessex on Lose Hill.  The men from the North supposedly triumphed from their superior positioning and as such that hill was the winner, hence Win Hill and the other the loser, so Lose Hill.  Fanciful, unsupported, undocumented and almost certainly a tall tale, it makes for a good story though.

Back Tor

Back Tor

 Speaking of Lose Hill, we are soon 476 meters above sea level at its summit and finally the rain and wind begin to ease off.  There are some interesting rock formations of grit-stone and some lovely views, but again the crowded summit prevents any serious photography and we soon resolve to descend the fell and head back towards Hope.  My praise of the maintenance of the footpaths along the ridge does not extend to the trail back to the village.  Unfortunately they are of a condition I would more associate with another outdoor pursuit of mine, Tough Mudder obstacle running.  Regardless we are soon back in Hope and able to look back over our shoulders at this impressive range of fells we have traversed.

The 'view' towards Kinder on a somewhat grey day...

The ‘view’ towards Kinder on a somewhat grey day…

A fine walk indeed, though we ended up a little wetter and muddier than is socially acceptable we were still completely satisfied with our day of trekking.  We rounded off the day’s proceedings with a pint of North Yorkshire’s finest Black Sheep Ale in the Millstone at Hathersage before wearily retreating back to the confines of civilization (well, Sheffield). 

View of the old A625 road from afar.

View of the old A625 road from afar.

The more I venture into the Peak District the hungrier I become for further adventure.  Kinder Scout is likely to be on the horizon in the near future as it my unfinished business with Higger Tor.  With Spring and Summer creeping up on us (slower than I’d like), there’s also the prospect of getting back to my beloved Lakeland in the coming months too, so keep coming back.  I’d like to thank my good friend Colin for introducing me to this walk and joining me, he’s certainly got a decent working knowledge of the Peaks and I’m sure it won’t be our last day out walking together. 

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Reference/Further Reading:

http://www.sabre-roads.org.uk/wiki/index.php?title=A625

http://rural-roads.co.uk/winnats/winnats5.shtml

http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2600027

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/article-1355779894277/

http://www.stone-circles.org.uk/stone/mamtor.htm

http://www.trekkingbritain.com/mamtorandthegreatridge.htm

http://www.peakdistrictview.com/?page=place&placeid=505

Saltburn Pier, Saltburn-by-the-Sea, North Yorkshire

Saltburn Pier. The last remaining Pier in Yorkshire and one of only 55 still standing and open around the United Kingdom. Built between 1868 and 1869, the pier was the brainchild of local man John Anderson, who capitalised on the new influx of tourists from the recently completed Darlington to Stockton train line. The pier opened in May 1869 and aside from a brief few years in the 1970s, has remained open ever since; forming part of my and countless other thousand of children’s fond seaside memories.
The pier itself is elegantly simple in its design, perhaps why it has stood the test of time and the harsh barrage of North Sea waves for nearly 150 years. As it stands now, the pier is 206 metres long, less than half its original length of 458 metres. The length was eaten away by severe storms, the most notable ones 100 years apart, 1875 and 1975, the later reducing the length to its current statistics. In 2001, a ‘National Lottery Heritage Grant’ allowed a full restoration of the pier’s trestles and deck beams. This preserved the original look and safety of the pier for many future generations to enjoy.

I find the pier on a sunny but windy spring day somewhere between tides. Regardless of the time of year I visit Saltburn, I always enjoy a walk down the boards out towards the raging North Sea. Saltburn fascinates me, not just as a favourite seaside haunt of my youth but of its rich history of smuggling. However, that’s a blog for another day…

http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/features/prized-pier-of-the-realm-1-2345515

Saltburn Pier

Saltburn Pier

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