#45 – Wide open spaces! – Whitendale in the Forest of Bowland

Wide open spaces above Whitendale

If you like your spaces to be ‘wide open’ ones, you could do a lot worse than the Forest of Bowland, a tiny bit of wildness tucked away between Lancaster and the Yorkshire Dales.  Go expecting trees and you will be disappointed, as it’s an ancient hunting forest.  Instead, expect to find empty peat moors with isolated gritstone edges.  It’s not particularly pretty (though it does have a wild grandeur) and there’s little drama.  For me, though, these are the hills of home.

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Posted in 4. Northern England, Aircrash Sites, Border Collies | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

#44 – On the edge – Walking the Saddleworth Edges

Raven Stones Edge above Greenfield Reservoir

Let’s face it, you either like walking on gritstone moors or you don’t – I do! I started walking in my mid-teens, on the gritstone moors of the Forest of Bowland, the nearest hills to where I lived.  Perhaps the term ‘gritstone moors’ is a bit of a misnomer though, as most gritstone moors have more peat in evidence than gritstone, which makes this kind of walking an acquired taste.  I’m a Lancashire lad, but I had never walked in the Saddleworth area, so a visit seemed long overdue.

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Posted in 4. Northern England | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

#43 – Blencathra – A Lake District gem

Blencathra - Early morning – © Peter Johnson

It’s a question that I get asked a lot – “What’s your favourite mountain, then?”  Blimey!  My stock answer to get me off the hook is, ”The one I’m on at the moment”.  Well, to start with, how do you chose between areas?  The wilderness feel of the Highlands, the stark drama of Snowdonia, the quiet of Mid-Wales, the beauty of the Lakes or the cosy, welcoming feel of the Dales, just how do you choose between them?  But, OK, if I’m pressed I’ve got to pick Blencathra.

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Posted in 2. Lake District | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

#42 – A quick walk up (and down) the High Street

The Riggindale Ridge, seen from Mardale Banks (JB)

 A walk up and down the High Street might not seem to be the first choice for a mountain day, but lovers of the Lake District will soon put you right.  On the eastern side of the Lake District National Park, a long high route over the mountains runs from Troutbeck near Windermere to Tirril near Penrith.  It is mostly famous for being a route that the Romans used between their forts at Brocavum (Brougham) near Penrith and Galava at Ambleside.  It became known as ‘High Street’.

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Posted in 2. Lake District, General Interest | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

#41 – Smearsett Scar

Smearsett Scar with Pot Scar beyond (JB)

Until about ten years ago, my knowledge of walking in the Yorkshire Dales was limited to the Yorkshire Three Peaks (Y3P) Challenge route, and the paths to various holes in the ground that my potholing club had visited.  However, there is far more to the Yorkshire Dales than just a challenge walk or the fixture list of a caving club, and over the last decade I have got to know the ‘Dales’ much more closely.

Smearsett Scar from near Stainforth (JB)

Approaching Smearsett from Little Stainforth (JB)

It still took me a long time to come across Smearsett, though with a height of a mere 363 metres the hill doesn’t exactly sell itself.  There is a surprise view on the Stainforth to Helwith Bridge section of the B6479, though if you are driving it’s probably best to stick to piloting your vehicle.  Smearsett is also quite prominent from the bits of the Y3P near to Horton in Ribblesdale – although small, the hill suddenly rears up like a wave breaking on a beach.  Thousands must see it every year without having a clue what they are looking at.

The author at Smearsett – 2008

Pot Scar from Smearsett summit

The second trip – snowing again!

My first visit was in 2008, researching a route for Walking World – their database for the Dales is considerable, so finding a gap on the map that indicates a potential walking route is a rarity.  Our first outing was just an excuse for a couple of hours walking in the snow – although the hill is small it catches quite a lot of ‘weather’.  It looked interesting enough to return to, but the weather on the second trip was almost as wild – these small hills are often full of surprises.

* * *


Steam train on the Settle-Carlisle line near Stainforth (JB)

My photographer mate, John Bamber, has been visiting the Yorkshire Dales as long as I have, so it was good to find that Smearsett was a gap in his forty years experience.  As there was little danger of the day becoming a high mountain epic, we were joined by Chris and Miv.  Final member of the party was Border Collie ‘Mist’, who appears in this blog so frequently that she is thinking of starting her own.  We had barely started out when we came across lurking photographers by the Stainforth railway bridge.  Round here that means only one thing – a steam train!

The River Ribble on a quiet day…. (JB)

…. and on a more lively day

With the ‘steamer’ out of the way we carried on over the bridge across the River Ribble.  The river was quietly behaving itself, though when the water level rises, the cascades 100 metres downstream become a raging torrent.  After that it wasn’t long before we reached the summit of Smearsett.  Fortunately things don’t end there – a long limestone ridge continues over the top of Pot Scar, before doubling back under the climber’s crag then finally heading towards the hamlet of Feizor.

The summit of Smearsett Scar, with Pen y Ghent in the distance (JB)

Summit of Pot Scar, with Smearsett behind

The climber’s crag of Pot Scar

On other visits, Feizor has always been quiet.  Today the tea room was well busy, but we didn’t linger long, other than to get the ice creams in.  Our return route took us on greenways to Stackhouse, and from there along the river path back to Stainforth.

'Elaine’s Tea Room' at Feizor

On the way to Stackhouse

The day was a great outing with good friends and good weather.  In fact, we seem to have been blessed by good weather on most of our trips out this summer.  To stop us getting too cocky, Chris, dog and I followed up Smearsett with a trip to Langdale a couple of days later – we have just finished drying the gear!

Stickle Tarn in Langdale – what a difference a couple of days can make!

Text and images © Paul Shorrock – Images tagged (JB) © John Bamber

Posted in 3. Yorkshire Dales | Tagged , | 6 Comments

#40 – A double helping of West Yorkshire moorland

Stoodley Pike Monument, near Todmorden

 Wales has dominated the scene for last few weeks, both in the blog and on the walks, and no bad thing either.  However, a rich diet of Welsh hills sometimes needs something a bit simpler as a contrast.  We had to visit Hebden Bridge a couple of times during the week, so a couple of walks on the moors of West Yorkshire seemed to be indicated.  In 2005, Hebden Bridge was described in the British Airways magazine as “the fourth quirkiest place in the world”, probably due to the influx of artists, writers, photographers and green activists in the 1980’s – the town is also surrounded by great walking country.

The “Two Lads” cairns on Higher House Moor

Just line up the cairns and go….

 The first walk started from Crag Vale, just down the road from Hebden Bridge.  The main objective was Stoodley Pike Monument, which is usually tackled from Todmorden, making a shorter walk.  First landmark of the day was the “Two Lads” cairns on Higher House Moor.  We had to cross rough, untracked Pennine moorland to get there, but distinctive features like this are great for navigation.  Before we left the Lads I noticed that if you sighted along them, they pointed directly to the next landmark – how convenient is that?

The “Cloven Stone”

On the Pennine Way, heading for Stoodley Pike

The next landmark being the Cloven Stone – well, no mistaking that then!  No danger of losing the way from hereon either – The route follows a path next to a drainage ditch collecting water for one of the nearby reservoirs, and links up with one of the best known trails in the country, The Pennine Way.  On the Pennine Way we crossed over a much older way, the packhorse route from Crag Vale to Todmorden – the causeway stones marking the route looked as though they had survived several decades of horse traffic.

Crossing the old packhorse route from Crag Vale to Todmorden

Stoodley Pike Monument

Soon after that we were at the monument at Stoodley Pike, built to commemorate victory in one war (the Napoleonic war) and rebuilt during another (the Crimean War) following it’s collapse after being struck by lightening – it now has a lightening conductor, apparently!  The last section was an easy wander down towards the reservoir at Withens Clough.

Withens Clough Reservoir in the distance

Two days later, looking across the Calder Valley towards crag Vale and Stoodley Pike

Our next trip, two days later, started from near Hebden Bridge, high above the Calder Valley.  We were heading for Warley Moor, passing the standing stone known by the unusual name of “Churn Milk Joan” – theories abound about the stone, but it is most probably a boundary marker.  Not far after that we had an obstacle in our way – the Luddenden Valley!  To get to Warley Moor we had to lose 100 metres of height, which then had to be regained.

“Churn Milk Joan”

The descent into the Luddenden Valley

As with most things in life, it wasn’t really all that bad – the descent was steep, but a winding track helped us regain the lost height.  A lengthy stretch of plodding up a gradual rise brought us to Warley Moor Reservoir, where the dam was a useful link for the return route, following another drainage ditch (well named as “Catchwater Drain”) high above Luddenden.

The dam at Warley Moor Reservoir

High above Luddenden

The Catchwater Drain path allowed fast, easy walking, but after almost three kilometres of this we were ready for a change.  A gentle climb brought us to “High Brown Knoll”, our highest point of the day at 444 metres, before a steady descent back towards Hebden Bridge.  Two typical Pennine days except for one thing – no rain!

Start of the descent from High Brown Knoll

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

Posted in 4. Northern England | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

#39 – Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) via the Rhyd Ddu and the Snowdon Ranger Paths.

The east side of Yr Wyddfa from Llyn Llydaw

With mountains, being the biggest is often enough to attract walkers, though sometimes a hill is so eye-catching that it attracts attention anyway, regardless of height  – With Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) you get the double whammy of being the highest UK peak south of Scotland plus being a beautiful mountain on top of that.  Perhaps that’s a triple whammy, as Yr Wyddfa is also an icon of all that is welsh.

The west side of Yr Wyddfa from near Rhyd Ddu

The east side is the head turner, with the lakes of Glaslyn and Llyn Llydaw nestling below dramatic crags.  The main attractions are the PYG and Miners Tracks, with the Snowdon Horseshoe winning the honours as the most challenging (and for some, scary) route on the mountain.  Consequently the east side is the busy side, and is certainly not for those who seek mountain solitude.  For that you need to go to Rhyd Ddu on the west side.

On the Rhyd Ddu path approaching Bwlch Main and the summit of Yr Wyddfa


I had been contacted a couple of weeks earlier by Ian who wanted to book a day on Snowdon for him and his son, Barny.  Part of the brief was that Ian preferred a quieter route.  No contest, then – up the Rhyd Ddu Path and down the Snowdon Ranger Path.  There is probably not as much drama here as on the east side, but there’s enough to be going on with, and it’s usually much quieter.  With good weather it’s nigh on perfect.

Summit of Yr Wyddfa under mist, viewed from Llechog

The trouble is, you can’t book the weather in advance, but the day we had picked was shaping up to be the best day in a wild, wet week.  Best was a relative term, though.  The day was overcast as we set off from Rhyd Ddu, and as we reached the top of precipitous cliffs of Llechog the mist was already creeping down onto the summit of Yr Wyddfa.

Ian and Barny above the Llechog cliffs

Admiring the (considerable) drop from the top of the Llechog cliffs

The path above the cliffs is wide and secure, with no sense of exposure or drop, but on the final approach to the summit of Yr Wyddfa, the path crosses the narrow col of Bwlch Main – this translates roughly as ‘the Narrow Pass’, and it ‘does what it says on the tin’!  It’s nothing like as long or scary as Crib Goch, but it is definitely not a place to stumble, and in high winds would be quite dangerous.

Ian crossing Bwlch Main

Beyond the bwlch, with the Llechog cliffs behind and on the right

Beyond the bwlch we were still just below the cloud line, but as we went up the mist came down, until visibility was considerably reduced.  I had originally suggested this route to Ian on the grounds that it was less busy than the popular routes on the east side.  Despite this, it was busier than I have ever seen it, though nothing like as crowded as we found the summit of Yr Wyddfa.

Low cloud on the final slopes to the top – Barny in action as photographer

Barny and Ian at the summit of Yr Wyddfa

It was cool at the summit, so we didn’t linger too long over summit photos.  Our lunch break was taken behind the shelter of one of the walls of the visitor centre on the summit, which was the only option – the visitor centre itself was packed, wall-to-wall.

Crowds just below the summit

…and more crowds above the zig-zags of the Miners Track

The route off the mountain stayed busy until the top of the zig-zags above the Miners Track, as this is where several routes come together.  Descending to the right the PYG and Miners tracks were the busiest, ascending half right was the path to Garnedd Ugain on the Snowdon Horseshoe, and straight on several walkers were following the path by the railway, heading down to Llanberis.

Quiet at last! The Snowdon Ranger Path, with Mynydd Mawr in the distance

The small lake of Llyn Ffynnon y Gwas on the descent route

Our route was a descent to the left down the Snowdon Ranger Path.  From here we regained the peace and quiet (and the views) that we had enjoyed on the ascent path – a great way to finish the day.


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Text and images © Paul Shorrock

Posted in 5. North Wales | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments