#35 – Not “The Coast to Coast Walk”

Robin Hood’s Bay from Ravenscar

 When Alfred Wainwright wrote his guide to “A Coast to Coast Walk” in 1972 he could never have imagined that thirty years later the route would be described as the second best trail walk in the world.  At 190 miles in length, and crossing three National Parks, it’s no pushover, and twelve days is considered a respectable time to complete the walk.   Chris and I didn’t have twelve spare days, but we were just down the road from the C2C finish point at Robin Hood’s Bay, so a circuit including part of the Cleveland Way was the plan.

The “Cinder Track” heading out of Ravenscar

 We started from Ravenscar and took the old disused Scarborough to Whitby railway line, known as “The Cinder Track”.  Next stop was to be the stunningly attractive fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay, where after dropping in at one of the pubs we would follow the Cleveland Way coastal path back to Ravenscar.  One good thing about railways is that they tend to follow gradual gradients; one bad thing about railways is that they literally go ‘round the houses’ to avoid said gradients.

Robin Hood’s Bay from “The Cinder Track”

Close up of the sprawling old village of Robin Hood’s Bay

 The total length of the walk was about 14 kms, but much of this was in the sinuous curves of “The Cinder Track” as it followed the route of the old railway.  The line was closed in 1965 as part of the infamous ‘Beeching’ cuts, which decimated the British rail network.  The old Scarborough to Whitby line now has a new lease of life as a track for cyclists and walkers, and we made rapid progress to Robin Hood’s Bay.

The old village of Robin Hood’s Bay almost tumbles downhill to the sea, and at high water you can just about step off the main street into salt water.  The old odd-shaped houses nestle next to one another, separated only by narrow ‘ginnels’ or passageways;  include the red roof tiles to the mix, and the village looks as though it should be in Italy, not in no-nonsense Yorkshire.  Unfortunately, the spin-off from looking picturesque is that many of the cottages are holiday homes, and in winter the place is a ghost town.

The old village, looking more Italian than Yorkshire

Our usual choice of pub…The Dolphin

The author and ‘Mist’ outside The Bay Hotel, ‘pretending’ that they have just finished the C2C

A hot days walking, and no pressure to be anywhere, meant that we had time for a ‘pint’.  Our usual choice of pub is The Dolphin, a place with great atmosphere, but as we had never tried the alternative ‘Bay Hotel’ with its ‘Wainwrights Bar’, we thought we would give it a go.  The end of the C2C is right outside The Bay Hotel, especially if you arrive at high water – even the ice cream van has to make a strategic withdrawal as the tide comes in.

The tiny cove at Boggle Hole

Ups and downs on the coastal path

Having done the pub and the beach it was time to be off again.  Don’t let anyone ever try to tell you that coastal walking is a soft option.  It’s great striding out on the high cliffs, but every stream that crosses your path almost always involves height loss and gain.  This was the case on our return leg with steep little valleys across our way at Boggle Hole and Stoupe Beck Sands.  We finished on an uphill as well, having to gain height to get back to Ravenscar.

Looking back across Robin Hood’s Bay to the Old Village

The day was hardly a high-mountain challenge or the C2C, but I reckon we earned that ‘pint’ at The Bay Hotel.  We also knocked off a small section of the Cleveland Way on our return leg – all that and good weather as well!

On the Cleveland Way, with Ravenscar in the distance

p.s.  Thanks to all my regulars for reading the latest post, and welcome to those who have recently found the blog.  If you have enjoyed it why not share on Facebook, Tweet on Twitter or subscribe for email updates.  Here every week, first thing Monday morning.

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

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#34 – The Other Borrowdale revisited

Looking west up "The Other Borrowdale"

I had finished blog #31 (The Other Borrowdale) with the words, “…This walk only followed the northern ridge, and as we returned to the car there was already talk about coming back for the southern ridge…”  3½ weeks later we were back.  Last weeks prediction of heat-wave conditions for Ingleborough had ended in rain, but once again the Met-Men were forecasting fine weather, so a return trip to the Howgills was on.

Borrowdale with the slopes of Whinfell Common on the left

Yes, I did say the Howgills.  For those who haven’t seen post #31, this Borrowdale is in the old county of Westmorland, and runs from the A685 (between Tebay and Grayrigg) to the A6 (between Kendal and Shap).  These are quiet, lonely hills, where you rarely see a soul, and they are not really typical of the Lake District or even their nearby neighbours, the Howgills; this is quite simply, “The Other Borrowdale”.

Near the start of the easy valley track

Flower meadows near the ruins of High Borrowdale Farm

We started at the A685 by following an easy track that runs all the way up the valley to the A6.  The walking was easy and a height gain of over 50 metres in the first 2 kms was not even noticed.  We soon passed the farmhouse at Low Borrowdale, followed soon after by the ruins at High Borrowdale.  Not far beyond there we came to the flower meadows we had admired 3½ weeks ago – they had impressed then, but since our visit they had, literally, bloomed.

The flower meadows, looking towards Borrowdale Edge

...the gradual height gain became a little more serious

The view from the first summit of Ashstead Fell

When we reached the A6 there was a feeling that the walk was about halfway through – this was far from the case, though, and the gradual height gain became a little more serious.  We started with Ashstead Fell with its three separate summits.  From the third summit we had a good view of the next objective – Mabbin Crag, our highest point of the day at a mere 482 metres.  However, a surprise lay in wait as we left the summit, in the form of a ten-metre rock step.  The downclimb was easy enough, and too short to be a difficulty or, unfortunately, an attraction.

The ridge heading east to the third summit of Ashstead Fell

View to Mabbin Fell from the third summit of Ashstead Fell

An easy climb down the 10 metre rock-step near the summit of Ashstead Fell

From there it was a switchback of a ridge walk.  Tree-clad Mabbin Crag came next, with a devious and damp descent to the next col.  From there it was up again to Castle Crag.  ‘Complete-ists’ will probably make the short detour to the summit, but we didn’t bother.  A descent followed to another col before climbing again to Whinfell Beacon.  The beacon has been used as such in the past, and there is a small plantation of trees below the summit, once used to provide the wood for the signal fires – the only issue is the 50 metre ascent with half a tree on your back.  From the beacon an easy track led us on to two modern day beacons – the repeater station and mobile phone masts near Grayrigg Forest.

Looking east from the summit of Mabbin Crag

The view east from Whinfell Beacon towards the repeater station mast

The repeater station near Grayrigg Forest

If you drive much in the North of England you will have seen these masts silhouetted on the skyline as you drive north on the M6 between junctions 37 and 38.  They don’t look any prettier close up, but you do have a mobile signal to call your mates to tell them where you are.  The masts also gave us a clear signal of something else, that it was time to return to the valley.  It had been a hot day, and with more up and down than expected, and we were more than ready for the steady descent pointing us back down to Borrow Beck, and the start point.

Final view of Borrowdale before the descent to the valley

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Text and images © Paul Shorrock

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#33 – Ingleborough from Clapham

Ingleborough from the southeast

It’s not often that the weatherman predicts a two-day heat wave for the UK.  At 22° Celsius, it was shaping up to be our hottest day of the year so far, but not everywhere, though.  The Lake District was forecast to be cloudy in places, with rain likely later on.  On the other hand, West Yorkshire was predicted to have temperatures rising to the mid-twenties.  So, somewhere in the Yorkshire Dales seemed to be a good idea.

Approaching Trow Gill

The Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District are fairly close in places, and sometimes they even share the same weather pattern, so why did I think that Ingleborough (Western Dales, and near to the Lakes) would be a better bet than  the eastern side of the Dales?  As we arrived at Clapham the temp was showing 21°, but the sky was overcast, and the air felt like a warm, moist blanket.

Trow Gill

Our route started by heading for the impressive Trow Gill.  The experts are undecided whether this is a melt-water channel or a collapsed cave, but the argument is, literally, academic.  Most of us just enjoy the sense of majesty, whilst sport climbers will head for some of the bolt-protected routes on the side walls; definitely out of my league, though we had an interesting trip here 1½ years ago, when a sharp freeze turned the upper part of the Gill into a minor ice route!

The upper section of Trow Gill

Out on the open fell - near Gaping Gill

After the gill, a short walk by a wall brings you to a pair of stiles giving access to the open fell – one of the main points of interest is the nearby pothole of Gaping Gill, or ‘GG’ as it is known in the caving world.  From the outside it just looks like a large hole.  What isn’t immediately obvious is that you are looking into on of the largest underground chambers in the UK, with a volume comparable to York Minster – the water plunging in free-fall down the hole is England’s highest unbroken waterfall.

Gaping Gill Main Chamber – © Bob Smith

Gaping Gill – © Peter Smyly

Ordinary mortals can enter ‘GG’ without risk to life or limb – every year the Bradford Pothole Club and the Craven Pothole Club organise winch meets where, traditionally, you get a free ride down.  To get out again you have to pay, and most people do!  There are also other cave entrances nearby, with routes of varying difficulty leading to the Main Chamber of ‘GG’

***

Forty years ago I was a member of a minor (now long forgotten) caving club.  As we didn’t have a permit to go caving in the area, we decided on a ‘pirate’ trip.  These were great fun at the time, usually involving a quick pint before closing time, then setting off across the hillside in the dark – if you think about it, potholing at night is no more difficult than in the day.  Our route was the fairly modest ‘Bar Pot’ with a long ladder pitch of 30 metres, which led us eventually to the Main Chamber of ‘GG’, and the whole thing was completed without incident, followed by a long lie-in the next day.

***

Looking back to Gaping Gill from the Little Ingleborough path

Heading up to Little Ingleborough, our pace a bit too slow for ‘Mist’

Having seen ‘GG’ many times, Chris and I carried on heading up to Little Ingleborough, our pace a bit too slow for ‘Mist’ – situation normal, then.  This route isn’t the most popular, but was still fairly busy.  The ascent continues gaining height gradually until you suddenly appear on the summit plateau.

The path to the summit, looking back to Little Ingleborough

Remains of the hill fort walls, 2000 years old

Ingleborough is one of the most recognizable mountains in the North of England, and can easily be picked out from several directions.  Two thousand years ago the Brigantes built a hill fort here, and the remains of their walls can still be picked out as you reach the plateau.  Another pile of stones marks the site of a ‘hotel’ built in 1830 to provide refreshments to visitors.  At the official opening a drunken mob started to demolish the building, a task later completed over several months by other visitors and the weather.

The shelter at the summit of Ingleborough

The path to Horton from the summit plateau of Ingleborough

As a refreshing ‘pint’ was clearly out of the question, we settled for our sandwiches before heading off down the Horton path.  The popularity of the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge is evident by the eroded state of the path.  The subject of path “improvement” is controversial, but I would rather see a well-laid stone ‘causeway’ path than a ten metres wide swamp.  Some disagree with that view – they are usually the ones wearing muddy gaiters and unhappy expressions.

Eroded path below the summit

The descent to Sulber became wetter and muddier, and as we headed past the head of Crummack Dale the rain arrived.  Apparently back in Bradford ‘the sun was cracking the slabs’, but at least we had warm rain – roll on the next heat wave.

"Waterproofs out" - on the return section looking back towards Ingleborough

Text and images © Paul Shorrock – Images by Bob Smith and Peter Smyly from the Geograph Project and reproduced here under Creative Commons Licence.

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#32 – Fountains Fell

The twin cairns on the Pennine Way near the summit

 Went up Fountains Fell – didn’t see one fountain!

In fact, there aren’t any fountains – The mountain is named after Fountains Abbey near Ripon.  The abbey owned quite a bit of land in this area and Fountains Fell and the surrounding area was used for sheep grazing.  The monks also had a fishery at Malham Tarn, and used the “Monks Road” from Arncliffe to Malham Tarn as part of their route from the fishery to the abbey – very handy if the Abbot fancied a trout for his tea!

A steady and gradual ascent

Repaired path with steps and stone footbridge

Most of the people walking around here nowadays are following the Pennine Way rather than the Monks Road.  The PW crosses Fountains Fell almost (but not quite) at the summit, and most of the ascent is steady and gradual.  The route has taken some hammer over the years though, and in several places the path has been repaired and improved.  It was a bit like rush hour on our walk up, as we were passed by two groups of teenagers well loaded down with big rucksacks.

Rush hour! Group of youngsters on the Pennine Way

Satisfied customer at the top - 'Mist' taking time out

The twin cairns next to the Pennine Way are the nearest that walkers on that route get to the summit, which is around 10 metres higher.  Today, though, we were on a mission.  First of all we had a wander round the old mine shafts on the summit plateau.  The miners were after coal, used to smelt lead also mined in the local area – not far from the shafts we found what looked like a stone shed, but was in fact an oven for ‘coking’ coal.  Not far beyond there is the aptly named ‘Pile of Stones’ very near to the real summit at 668 metres.

Open mine shaft

The ‘Pile of Stones’

From the summit a track by a stone wall descends southwest, heading towards the main potholing area on Fountains Fell near Fornah Gill, with Gingling Hole and Magnetometer Pot being perhaps the best known.  Not for us, though.  Instead, we were heading southeast, first of all along the plateau then eventually descending to the Trig Point above Knowe Fell, giving views across to Malham Tarn in the distance.

Start of the descent

The view across to Malham Tarn in the distance

However, the best of the views were behind us as we walked this section, namely the view back to Pen y Ghent.  I’m more used to seeing Pen y Ghent from Horton in Ribblesdale, and the less than familiar view towards the east side of the mountain provided constant interest – the eroded path up through the crags of the South Ridge was clearly visible, even without using zoom on the camera.

Pen y Ghent to the northwest

Close up of the eroded path up the South Ridge of Pen y Ghent

The gradual descent down the fell was over fairly featureless ground, but a stone wall followed by a wire fence provided a good navigational handrail.  Before long we were at the Trig Point, and we stopped briefly for a photo before heading over to the wire fence to descend Knowe Fell.

Trig Point above Knowe Fell

Here the afternoon was livened up somewhat when I found that the fence was electrified!  A crossing point nearby saw us over without further incident, though we thought it wiser to pick the dog up and pass her over.  From the fence it was all downhill back to the car. The last time we were here we hadn’t seen much at all, but today the views stretched northeast to the hills of Swaledale and southwest as far as Pendle and beyond, but the stars of the show were, as usual, the ‘Yorkshire Three Peaks’ – Ingleborough, Pen y Ghent and Whernside.

The Yorkshire Three Peaks – Ingleborough (left) Pen y Ghent (centre) and Whernside (right)

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

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#31 – The Other Borrowdale

Looking southeast down Borrowdale, in the old county of Westmorland

 We went walking in Borrowdale last week in good weather, and saw only two people all day…What?!!

I should add that it was “The Other Borrowdale”, otherwise known as Westmorland Borrowdale.  The Cumberland Borrowdale, near Keswick, is the one that most people know well, drawing in walkers, climbers or people who just want to admire one of the most attractive valleys in the English Lake District.  Its namesake in the old county of Westmorland is quiet and neglected, and a good thing too!

Looking northwest up Borrowdale

The reason for the neglect is simple – most walkers don’t know that these hills exist. Borrowdale beck rises in the backcountry that is dismissed with the broad title of “Shap Fells”.  Just to confuse fans of the Lake District, there is a Wasdale and Wasdale Head just up the road about three miles away, but these are not Lake District hills really – they are more reminiscent of the nearby Howgills, and share the same sense of peace and quiet.  I have only been here on two other occasions, and that’s in forty years.

***

The first time nearly caught me out.  It was in the mid 1980’s, and I was out with Penrith Mountain Rescue Team on a training exercise.  As a search dog handler, and often working solo, I was expected to be able to navigate accurately.  My teammates obviously agreed with that principle, and I was elected to lead the first navigation leg – it might have had something to do with the thick blanket of mist covering the hills…

On the northern ridge - a bit more tricky when the mist is down

All was going well, with me on a compass bearing, timing the interval between two summits with a col in between.  The col seemed to arrive too soon, and the next top was roughly where the col should have been.  I kept quiet, thinking it best to “front it out”, but preparing myself to admit that I was lost.  We then went down again, before going up to the next top, which was exactly where it should have been.  The map I was using from the team Landrover was an old edition – the re-surveyed newer edition showed a ring contour missing on the older map, indicating a small rise…

***

No mist on this walk though, apart from ‘Mist’ our Border Collie.  We set off from Roundthwaite near Tebay and took a gently rising path up to Roundthwaite Common.  From there it was big skies and easy walking to Winterscleugh then on to Whinash, passing en route the small unnamed lump at 454 metres height that had nearly caught me out all those years earlier.  From there we headed for the intriguingly named “Breasthigh Road”.  In places the track has been washed out by storms, and at times we walked in the track, not on it!

On Breasthigh Road heading for the valley and Borrow Beck

From here we had to drop down to Borrow Beck, to return down the valley bottom.  I couldn’t remember how I had crossed the beck on what had been my second visit to these hills in the mid 1990’s, but there was no bridge marked on the map.  When Chris asked how we were going to cross, I muttered something about carrying her across if necessary, but the day (and my face) was saved by the biggest stepping stones in the world.

...the biggest stepping stones in the world

The easy track heading back towards the start point

From there it was a pleasant walk down an easy track heading back towards the start point.  We passed quickly through flower meadows that you would never find in the tourist traps of the Lake District, then on to the ruined farmhouse at High Borrowdale followed by the next farm at Low Borrowdale.  From here we had intended to continue down to the A685, with a 1.5 kilometre road walk to follow.  Chris and I agreed that this was a poor way to finish, and instead we set off upwards once again, re-crossing the ridge to return direct to Roundthwaite.  The dog wasn’t given a vote, but appeared to support the decision.

Flower meadows below Borrowdale Edge

Low Borrowdale Farm - about to re-cross the northern ridge ('Mist enjoying the shade')

p.s. – On my second visit here in the 1990’s, I had run both the ridges on each side of the valley, out on one and back on the other.  This walk only followed the northern ridge, and as we returned to the car there was already talk about coming back for the southern ridge…

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

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#30 – Mynydd Mawr

Mynydd Mawr from the Beddgelert road

The welsh language is bewildering for an english speaker, on first sight.  Like scots gaelic, it looks like an ‘alphabet soup’ of consonants, but unlike gaelic it is a logical language where every letter has a sound and every letter is used.    It also translates fairly logically as well, especially where place names are concerned.  So, Mynydd means mountain and Mawr means big, so we have Big Mountain.  Simples!

Mynydd Mawr from the Nantlle Ridge

Although Mynydd Mawr seems to live up to the title on the approach from Beddgelert, the mountain isn’t really that huge – at 698 metres altitude it is much more at home amongst the hills of the Nantlle Ridge than the higher hills of the Snowdon range, the Carneddau or the Glyderau.  That being the case, one of the best start points for Mynydd Mawr is the village of Rhyd Ddu;  the village is not only the start point for the Nantlle Ridge and Mynydd Mawr, but is also the home of the excellent Cwellyn Arms.

Through the forest to start with...

...before leaving the trees behind

 However, the visit to the pub has to be earned, so off we set in great weather conditions.  There are possibilities for a circular route, but I was recording the route for Walking World, and wanted to keep things simple for anyone downloading the walk.  This meant that a linear route was going to be an easier option.  The route starts out through forestry land (not my favourite) but before too long we were out above the trees.

Getting steeper...

...and even steeper

Out above the trees also meant a change of gradient, from ‘fairly level’ to ‘getting steeper’.  The view above was a steep upward slope, though the views back towards yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) were good for adding some variety.  Then, all of a sudden, we popped out onto the small subsidiary summit of Foel Rudd.  From here we had a view, at last, of the summit of Mynydd Mawr.

The view to Mynydd Mawr from Foel Rudd

Long drops down to the Nantlle road

A broad ridge leads round in a wide arc with some long drops on the left down to the Nantlle road.  Not far beyond is the summit, with the remains of an ancient burial cairn, its stones now plundered by walkers to build shelters.  Pick a good day, and the views are outstanding.  Being a linear route, our return route was familiar ground, but the views weren’t – the constantly changing outlook made the route look like a completely different walk.  And being a relatively short walk, it didn’t seem long before we were back at the waiting Cwellyn Arms.

The summit cairn

On the way down – the Cwellyn Arms awaits

p.s. For those wishing to view the walk on Walking World, it should be going live within the next couple of weeks – search for Route ID 6086

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

Posted in 5. North Wales | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

#29 – Binsey, lonely sentinel of the Northwest Lake District

The windswept summit ridge of Binsey

For forty years I managed to avoid walking up Binsey.  It wasn’t a conscious decision – I just didn’t know that Binsey was there!   “OK then”, I hear many of you say.  “Where’s Binsey?”  Good question.  There’s a village called Binsey near Oxford, but for the hill called Binsey you have to head north.  Binsey stands alone on the northwest edge of the Lake District,  like a lonely sentry watching over the Solway Plain towards Scotland.

The view north to the Solway, with Scotland beyond

Looking north towards Scotland isn’t what Binsey does best, though.  Binsey does a much better job of providing a viewing platform for the Northern Fells of the Lake District.  Being isolated from the mass of the Lake District hills gives the ability, literally, to stand back and admire.  Taking centre stage you have the Skiddaw hills.  Most hill goers are used to seeing Skiddaw and the Northern Fells from the south, usually from Keswick, so this different aspect is new and unexpected for many.

The Northern Fells of the Lake District from Binsey

Close-up view of Whitewater Dash waterfall, to the northeast of Skiddaw

The constantly expanding view from Binsey to the south does introduce one problem, however.  The ability to walk backwards uphill doesn’t come naturally for most of us, so on Binsey there is a constant need to stop and look back, rather than miss something.  Looking forward again, the hill looks like a grassy lump, so it’s a bit of a surprise to find that the summit is a rocky ridge that feels higher than a mere 447 metres.

The summit ridge, with the Trig Point and Bronze Age cairn behind

The summit might be less than impressive for those used to higher hills, but Binsey has been of greater importance in the distant past – the stones just to the north of the Trig Point were originally a Bronze Age cairn, set in a commanding position.  Continuing over the crest of the summit gives a great view down to Bassenthwaite Lake, and on a good day it’s possible to pick out the Scafell group of hills and Coniston Old Man.

The view south to Bassenthwaite Lake

Driving past Binsey on the A591 from Keswick to Bothel, it’s easy to see why the hill doesn’t command a bit more respect – in fact, it’s easy to drive by without even noticing it, which is why I had never really registered that Binsey was there.

Binsey from the A 591 road

The view from our friends garden near Wigton gives a great long distance view towards Skiddaw, which is easy to pick out when caught by the late sun in summer or when snow-covered in winter.  But what’s that to the right of Skiddaw?  Connie wasn’t in any doubt whatsoever when asked – “That’s Binsey”, she said.  And of course she was right, and I’ve been looking at Binsey for years.  Sometimes you have to make a bit of effort to see what’s there.

Skiddaw (left) and Binsey (right) from Lessonhall, near Wigton

p.s.  The walk up Binsey happened a few weeks ago – such is the unassuming nature of the hill that Binsey has been shoved to the back of the queue whilst I’ve been blogging the North Wales trip.  So, at last, I’ve done the decent thing.

p.p.s.  Those of you who use the Walking World website will find Binsey as Route ID 6022

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

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